Mormon Studies at Claremont

The LDS Council for Mormon Studies, which has been involved with the creation of a chair in Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University, has issued the following press release:

Claremont University to Establish First Chair for Mormon Studies Outside of Utah

On April 28, 2006, Claremont Graduate University will formally announce the establishment of the Howard W. Hunter Chair for Mormon studies. This will be the first academic chair for ongoing Mormon studies at a non-Mormon university anywhere in the world. When endowed, the chair will honor the legacy of LDS Church president Howard W. Hunter, who lived many years in Pasadena.

At a time when news events seem to be increasingly focused on religious tension, Claremont’s action is both timely and farsighted. “The more we examine and understand a religion’s true beliefs and practices, the more we can respect its differences with our own,� says Joseph Bentley, chairman of the Council for the Study of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is raising funds to endow the chair.

Over the last 50 years, the study of religion has steadily lost ground in most universities as an academic emphasis. Claremont bucks that trend. “In actual fact, religion continues to be a powerful motivator of human actions,� says Karen Torjesen, Dean of the School of Religion at CGU. “To ignore it is to get both history and the current context wrong. This is part of a bold effort to make a positive contribution to the community and our nation.� CGU now works with eight councils to promote comparative studies of the faith traditions of Indic, Jewish, Islamic, Catholic, Protestant, Middle Eastern Orthodox, Zoroastrian, and LDS religions.

To date, the Council and Claremont have sponsored several major events on the study of Mormonism, including lectures by leading scholars on the study of Mormonism, Richard Bushman (Columbia University) and Jan Shipps (Indiana University—Purdue), and academic conferences in 2004 and 2005.

Howard W. Hunter, for whom the endowed chair will be named, is the only LDS Church president from California. Both of his sons currently reside in California and his widow resides in San Clemente, Orange County.


185 comments for “Mormon Studies at Claremont

  1. Nate, since some of the best Mormon studies scholars have no chance to be hired for these chairs, I fail to see how they can be a contribution to religious understanding. Rather it seems to me that the funders have identified an elegant way to push their agenda.

  2. “some of the best Mormon studies scholars have no chance to be hired for these chairs”

    Care to clarify?

  3. Last week, the Wall Street Journal published a piece about Michael Quinn’s inability to get hired in religious and Mormon studies departments. The problem appears to be that his excommunication would deter donors.

  4. There is quite a bit going on behind the scenes. The Wall Street Journal was trying to make the Studies a *bit* more controversial than it really is. The donor isse does create some problems, though there still remain several highly qualified scholars for the position. Unless things have recently changed, most would be pleased with the person chosen to fill the chair.

  5. Helmut: Would you say the same about Dialogue and Sunstone, both of which are heavily funded by George Smith, an avowed atheist and humanist?

  6. Hellmut: Nonsense. Your ability to create stark dicotomies is really breath taking. The idea that there can be no advance in understanding because the selection process does not perfectly correlate with some idealized notion of perfect academic freedom is silly. You might think that the fact that Quinn will most likely not be hired by Claremont is regrettable, but the notion that this fact alone deprives the position of intellectual worth strikes me as utterly unsupportable.

  7. Hellmut: BTW, the nefarious funders of these positions consist of people willing to volunarily donate large sums of their own money in order to foster the intellectual discussion of their religion. I suspect that they want a discussion of Mormonism that is rigorous but sympathetic rather than hostile. This does not correspond perfectly to the idealized notion of academic discussion where sympathetic and hostile voices are funded equally by the same people. As for the donors themselves, I have met at least some (but by no means all) of the people who have made contributions to the funding and creation of this chair, and the notion that they are interested in some sort of lock step orthodoxy or of secretly transforming Claremont in to the MTC, or whatever else you seem to think constitutes their hidden agenda strikes me as extremely uncharitable and uninformed.

  8. I can only add that Joe Bentley is in my HP group, and, it should go without saying, is a stand-up fellow.

  9. “Rather it seems to me that the funders have identified an elegant way to push their agenda. ”

    Hellmut is putting his finger on a real concern. I disagree with his conclusion that no “religious understanding” will result, but I think he is right to pose the question of the link between private contributions and religious chairs.

  10. Jed: I think that it is a legitimate concern, but I think that to wax apoclyptic or paranoid about it is unwarranted and unwise. One interesting thing is the extent to which the Claremont connection is being seen as a “conservative” ploy by people like Hellmut, while at the same time Claremont is co-sponsoring the Sunstone west symposium. In some ways, it seems to me that what we are seeing is a raprochment within Mormon studies after the rather toxic period of the late 1980s and 1990s. What I find troubling about Claremont sponsoring Sunstone is not ideological but professional. If the Claremont position simply becomes Sunstone with academic office space, then we will have squandered an important opprotunity. However, to the extent that it serves as a force to further professionalize the academic study of Mormonism, all to the best. One of the big questions is not so much ideological but institutional, namely is there enough demand — both academically and economically — to support more disciplined and focused study of Mormonism. Here, my fear is that the answer is, “Probably not.” I don’t know to what extent (if at all) my fear is justified.

  11. BTW, my understanding is that the Claremont-Sunstone connection has more to do with the personal contacts between the organizers and folks at Claremont than it has to do with any more substantial institutional ties. I also don’t want to sound paranoid or apoclyptic.

  12. No, I do not, Blake (4). I have not seen evidence that anyone’s submission at Sunstone and Dialogue has been rejected for their point of view. Even if your unsupported assertion about the funding of Dialogue and Sunstone were true, it does not matter until there is discrimination.

    Nate (6), you are attributing statements to me that I have not made. Only you are talking about lockstep and nefarious funders. The fact remains that Michael Quinn who is considered the number two Mormon studies scholar cannot get a job.

    Whether the unwillingness of departments reflects proper caution or donors’ actual preferences is hard to tell. However, the Wall Street Journal has identified several instances where funders have talked disparagingly about Quinn. Have you read the Wall Street Journal’s report?

    Here is a citation: “Mr. Fulton, the donor, says he doesn’t get involved in faculty hiring. He calls Mr. Quinn a ‘nothing person.'” From a Christian perspective that’s troubling language about a fellow human being.

    In light of the conflict of interest uncovered by the Wall Street Journal, I wouldn’t make too much of the Claremont chair. It’s a measure of Mormon wealth.

  13. Hellmut: I have already read the article, and even hashed it out a bit on this thread and this thread, including my ideas about why Quinn can’t get a job, ie I think he is the victim of a couple of reinforcing problems.

    You did create a dicotomy between “religious understanding” and agenda’s elegantly pursued. I take it that the implicit accusation here is that while claiming to be interested in religious understanding, the donors are actually interested in something else, ie “their agenda.” This is an accusation of dishonesty that is not warranted.

    Fulton, to my knowledge, doesn’t have anything to do with Claremont as all of his academic donations of which I am aware have been to ASU. I also think that statement about Quinn was harsh and un-Christian.

    I think that you are wrong to believe that the Claremont chair is simply an attempt by the Mormons to buy respectability for themselves by manipulating the academy. (I take that this is what you mean by saying — “In light of the conflict of interest uncovered by the Wall Street Journal, I wouldn’t make too much of the Claremont chair. It’s a measure of Mormon wealth.” — if I am wrong, then please clarify.) The people who are putting this together — Joseph Bentley, Robert Briggs, Armaund Mauss, etc. etc. simply are not doing that. To the extent that the WSJ article creates this impression it is simply inaccurate, a not uncommon occurence in journalism. The folks at Claremont are — in perfect good faith — trying to do something that hasn’t been done before: create an endowed position in Mormon studies at a non-Mormon institution. In doing this they have to negotiate a very complicated political situation (and the politics come in both directions from Mormons and non-Mormons). You might want to cut them a little bit of slack rather than casting out snide insinuations about their motives.

  14. [Nate #11] In some ways, it seems to me that what we are seeing is a raprochment within Mormon studies after the rather toxic period of the late 1980s and 1990s. What I find troubling about Claremont sponsoring Sunstone is not ideological but professional. If the Claremont position simply becomes Sunstone with academic office space, then we will have squandered an important opprotunity.

    Nate, I’d be interested in hearing you elaborate on your views here. Am I right in reading you as saying Sunstone fails to qualify as academically neutral b/c it’s overly hostile (I can’t think of a softer word right now) toward the church?

    Hellmut (#1): Can you make a case that Quinn should be considered for this chair? I certainly didn’t get that sense from the WSJ article. The article indicated that Quinn has taken several marginalizing stances. If this is true, I don’t care what discipline you’re talking about, if there were only a few chairs in the discipline, they wouldn’t go to someone who has marginalized themselves (I think a useful analogy would be to think about the selection process for editors of top discipline journals; although often a heated and politically-divisive process, usually those with middle-of-the-road stances are awarded those positions, probably for the same reason moderates tend to be elected, opinions of George W. as an extremist notwithstanding…).

  15. Okay, so as I see it here, some people are upset because certain persons who might be qualified for the position might not get it. I fail to see how this doesn’t happen in a LOT of situations. A lot of donors at certain law schools have clout in that they can request that a lightning rod does not get their endowed chair – perfectly understandable. Whether or not they have a say in who actually gets the chair is a different story, but that doesn’t mean that Quinn, or anyone else for that matter is certainly the best for this position.

    Indeed, Quinn is near or over 60 – I’m not sure how productive at that point a scholar might be. He is definitely an impressive scholar on what he writes about – Early Mormonism and the Magical World View, Mormon Hierarchy, etc, and he has been prolific according to the Wall Street Journal. That doesn’t mean, however, that he is the best person for that particular chair.

    I think it is rather shortsighted to say that just because he isn’t a member of the church then he isn’t being seriously considered. There are a lot more factors to consider when deciding who to bring in to fill a chair, and the donors of that chair are just one factor among a host of many.

  16. Jed, if two instances make a statistically significant sample, john f.‘s use of the word “stupid” as a weapon of choice for the briefest of drive-by comments seems to be his standard M.O. Or, maybe it’s just a reflexive nervous tic.

  17. “Am I right in reading you as saying Sunstone fails to qualify as academically neutral b/c it’s overly hostile (I can’t think of a softer word right now) toward the church?”

    No. This what I meant by saying that my concern about Sunstone is professional rather than ideological. The problem with Sunstone is not that they occasionally have panels that are hostile or critical of the Church. I don’t think that this is a problem per se. Rather, the problem with Sunstone is that it is an odd pastiche of rigorous academic presentations, wild amateur intellecutalizationing (I am trying to come up with a pithy way of describing presentations that aim for the academic and don’t quite make it), fiction, pop culture, and devotional exercises (albeit of a liberal and leftie variety). None of this is wrong per se. Sunstone is what it is, and it has considerable virtues. On the other hand, it is not quite the same thing as an academic conference. In many ways it looks like one and in many ways it does not. To the extent that this is what we present to the academic world as “Mormon studies” it will become more difficult to persuade universities and university faculty’s that Mormon studies is a legitimate academic sub-discipline. In this sense, Sunstone runs into the same sorts of the problems that the LOC conference on Joseph Smith ran into. There is so much devotional (or anti-devotional) stuff mixed up with it that folks like Douglas Davies end up saying, “What are we doing here? Is this an academic conference?”

    Again, I don’t want to sound paranoid or apoclyptic here. I don’t think that Sunstone is an anti-Mormon plot. I don’t think that it is an intellectual or academic wasteland. Far from it. On the other hand, at the end of the day it is an “insider” forum, even though “insider” in the context of Sunstone has rather convoluted definitions.

  18. “What I find troubling about Claremont sponsoring Sunstone is not ideological but professional.”

    I understand the argument, but I do not see what is so troubling in this case. Foundations, corporations, businesses and private interests support academic or mixed academic-public conferences and professional associations of all kinds; quite obviously the donations are not necessarily endorsements of every presentation or even the particular association in question. The money can be construed as an endorsement of the subject and its discussion.

    “If the Claremont position simply becomes Sunstone with academic office space, then we will have squandered an important opprotunity.”

    Can you honestly conceive of anything remotely like this happening? I think you may be underestimating the power of big money to dictate the terms of the hire.

  19. Robert C.: Let me put it in even starker terms. I would like to particpate in conferences on Mormon studies. I think that I could get William & Mary to foot my bill if the conference is suitably “academic” — ie sponsored by a university, run by professors, some connection to my legal scholarship etc. I don’t think that I could get William & Mary to foot my bill to a Sunstone symposium.

  20. “The fact remains that Michael Quinn who is considered the number two Mormon studies scholar cannot get a job. ”

    The fact may actually as much about the current state of Mormon studies as it does about Mr. Quinn’s credentials.

  21. Jed: Both of your points seem entirely fair to me. I really don’t want to imply any thing sinister or even permanent about Claremont sponsoring Sunstone this year. I think it really is mainly about the particular constellation of planners this year. Heck! To the extent that it is evidence of diminishing ideological tensions around Sunstone I think it is a great development! You are right that mixed academic and non-academic conferences happen all the time and this needn’t be a problem. Sunstone probably fits this characterization. Furthermore, I agree with you that there is really zero possibility that the Claremont position will become Sunstone with academic office space. If Mormon studies is to be a fully respectable academic subdiscipline, however, the conferences where it occurs cannot consist mainly of mixed events like Sunstone or the LOC conference with the occasion ordinary academic conference — e.g. the Yale conference — that we all ooh and aaah about. Maybe MHA is the best example of this, but the ordinary academic conference needs to become the norm. Hopefully Claremont can push things in that direction. I actually think that they will…

  22. CYC, that was gratuitous. But I suppose I deserved it.

    I just thought “farsighted” implied vision impairment. It was simply a stylistic observation, likely wrong (I often am), and entirely a threadjack.

  23. “Rather, the problem with Sunstone is that it is an odd pastiche of rigorous academic presentations, wild amateur intellecutalizationing”

    But this is true of many middle-teer professional societies and associations. Take the Western History Association as an example. WHA has a journal housed at a university. It has a board of directors who are mostly academics. It has an annual conference where many tenured professors, including several big prize winners, deliver papers and comments. In short, it shows all the evidences of being an academically legitimate organization. But anyone who attends a conference can see that buffs and non-professonals of many stripes are also a driving force. They give papers alongside the academics. On occasion they offer comments. They hock the book tables. They even sit on the boards. The reason for their presence is that history as a discipline has traditionally derived much of its energy from its reading base (which always includes many lay people) more than specialized disciplines like law. Religion is the same way–the buffs read it and want to talk about it. The academic people in power at conferences in these disciplines tolerate the presence of the lay people so long as the lay arguments are sound or appear to be so.

    The academic-public overlap can be seen in Sunstone as well, not necessary because Sunstone has made terrible mistakes (although to be sure there have been mistakes) but because the subject itself draws out the buffs and the small and fledgling nature of Mormon studies requires that the conference organizes not turn them away lay. Mormonism is the sort of low-barrier-of-entry subject which, like cowboys and Indians but unlike law, probably, allows buffs to make an argument. Thus the problem at Sunstone is not so much the odd pastiche, which is exactly what we should expect at the intersection of religion and history. Rather the problem is the absence of a larger professional ethos that comes from strong connections to the university and careful vetting of papers. If Sunstone worked harder to cultivate this ethos, harnessing the buffs but not eliminating them, perhaps more academics would appear and the conference’s legitimacy would be enhanced. The ideological grudge might then disappear naturally, as a matter of course.

  24. “If Mormon studies is to be a fully respectable academic subdiscipline, however, the conferences where it occurs cannot consist mainly of mixed events like Sunstone or the LOC conference with the occasion ordinary academic conference — e.g. the Yale conference”

    I think what you’re talking about is the need for a new organization, based at a university, with an institutionally-based governance structure.

  25. So who do you think it is going to be? Also, aren’t Bushman, Ships, Givens, and Mauss the most prominant morman scholars? Do you think it will be one of these four?

  26. Would it surprise people to know that — sit down if you need to — money influences research and publishing in *every* field, including “objective” science? Tell me, when you read an article about the latest scientific study that has found milk or eggs to be the greatest and healthiest food known to mankind, then hear that the study was funded by the Dairy Farmers of America Foundation, doesn’t that explain a thing of two for you? And let me just confirm that (1) every academic needs money, and (2) they understand the politics (and political views) of donors and funding agencies. Really, they do.

    While I think the extent of the influence of the donor communities on the Claremont chair is a valid issue, it is a minor issue and it is quite manageable. It is certainly not unique to Mormon Studies or to religious study in general. To claim otherwise is to adopt a rather naive view of the world and of academics. And since other fields manage to maintain scholarly standards and publish useful research despite the presence of money and politics, so can Mormon Studies.

  27. Jed: I haven’t thought about this angle but for, but now that you state make it explicit it makes a lot of sense. The only interlopers at law conferences are professional historians, economists, sociologists, or philosophers. You don’t really ever have “lay” participation except for the occasional practioner who will always have a JD.

    I suppose that the low barrier to entry for Mormon studies is one of the reasons that I get to dabble in it from time to time, so I shouldn’t complain!

  28. “The people who are putting this together — Joseph Bentley, Robert Briggs, Armaund Mauss, etc. etc. simply are not doing that. ”

    Does the formal announcement on April 28 mean all the funding has been obtained?

  29. So, aside from the whole Wall Street Journal controversy, what do you all think of Mormon Studies as an emerging field? I’m concerned, myself.

    I think it’s great, of course. I love all the new stuff being published. At the same time, I think the field’s potential domination by Mormon academics (current or ex, practicing or nonpracticing, pro-church or anti-church) is at least as serious a problem as any possible funding-induced bias. I think it would be hard for any of us to put aside our pre-existing schema as we study Mormon culture or history. If there aren’t enough nonmembers involved professionally, it will really limit the scope of research undertaken.

    Of course, maybe I’m overestimating the ratio of Mormons to non-Mormons getting into the field?

  30. Interesting Jed (#27). That makes me feel somewhat better about the state of Mormon history and Sunstone. I confess that I do hope for more rigour in Mormon Studies than I think has been there the past few decades.

  31. “what do you all think of Mormon Studies as an emerging field?”

    How are you defining Mormon Studies? How does what you take to be emerging differ from what has come before? Does an endowed chair bring the field into being?

  32. john f., yes it was gratuitous, and I regret letting the wrong guy sitting on the wrong shoulder get the best of me. I’m glad you explained what you meant, since I hadn’t “gotten” it.

    Nate, the two instances constituting a statistical sample is an old joke at astronomers’ expense, who in days of yore were known to make grand claims based on single events or observations. A related one was that for an astronomer being within a factor of ten was a “precision measurement.” (Thankfully, there is now much more data nowadays.)

  33. SV: My own opinion is that it is probably not a good idea to think of Mormon studies as a wholly autonomous field. The danger is for scholars and other writing in the area to focus only on Mormonism, without some sort of outside expertise. The best Mormon stuff is done by those who have serious expertise in some cognate field with which they then leverage their Mormon stuff. Frankly this is why Bushman is ultimately a better historian than Quinn.

    I do think that there is a problem if Mormon studies is soley occupied by those who are Mormons or ex-Mormons. There will be a tendency for the field to then be dominated by wholly “insider” questions, see e.g. the battles over “faithful history” in the 1980s and 1990s. The best way of combating this tendency, however, is to show that Mormonism is a fruitful topic outside of Mormon studies. In part this consists of getting non-Mormons interested, but more important than this, I think, is linking Mormonism up with broader discussions in other disciplines.

    Ultimately, it is less about the religious identity of the particpants than about what they are saying…

  34. Robert, the WSJ article did not say that Quinn took marginal stances in Mormon Studies but has been marginalized in the Mormon community.

  35. Jed,

    Sorry, I’m using ’emerging field of study’ here to mean a professionalized academic field of study distinct from its parent fields (for example, western U.S. history or the study of religion), and overlapping several disciplines (history and sociology, for example).

    Gee, you want defined terminology? What’s your next outrageous request, coherent rhetoric? Reasoned argument?

  36. Hellmut: Part of Quinn’s problem is that he is also marginal within the broader academic community. He is positioned to be a controversial star at the MHA, but that is playing to too narrow an audience to land an academic job. Notice, Quinn has not only had a difficult time getting a job that had some sort of “Mormon” angle, but also of getting any sort of an academic job at all. He was not denied a place at Yale because of underhanded lobbying by Mormon donors or Yale’s fear of the hegmonic wealth of the Mormon church.

    This is not because Quinn is a bad scholar or a bad person. It is because he is badly ghettoized professionally, a fact that I suspect has much, much more to do with his current academic joblessness than does the fact of his excommunication, regrettable and painful as that is. This fact, however, did not emerge from the WSJ story because an unemployed Ph.D. suffering from a tight academic job market and over-specialization in an academically marginal field is simply not frontpage news. It is, however, probably the dominant reality behind Quinn’s employment woes.

  37. Jed #33, my understanding is that, no, all the funding has not been obtained. In many ways this marks the beginning of that process, not the end. I think they’re looking to have a professor in place for the 2007-2008 academic year.

  38. Quinn is not usually criticised for his research, which in my opinion is solid, but for his interpretation of it. He seems to come in with new angles that go against stated motives or against all of evidence that that is out there – not too different than Ms. Brodie (let’s discount this source because it doesn’t support my hypothesis). He seeks to push the envelope (whether good or bad) on what Mormons can believe about their history. Some angles are refreshing, some are strange and uncomforable, but each give a new way to look at things. Not neccissarily how things were most of the time.

    I expect that had Quinn branched out in his research he would have been more successful as a Professor. BYU seems to like when people to be narrowly focused like he was, but he didn’t branch back out after leaving – a side effect of his BYU career is the joblessness. I believe in both the Utah State and Yale cases, this is what was decided by the hiring boards. Too narrowly focused, and too controversial in his interpretations of past events.

    This is one reason why there are so many amateur Mormon historians. They don’t want to branch out, yet they want to be published.

    I for one am pleased about the new program, and think it will be good for both sides of Mormonism arguments.

  39. I don’t know, Nate. Even if everything you say is true, Quinn should still qualify for a Mormon Studies chair. Personally, I distrust programs that circumscribe what scholars are allowed to say. It raises the suspicion that it’s not so much about scholarship but about a community’s status symbol.

  40. Hellmut: I suppose that the proof will have to be in what comes out of the program rather than in your suspicions. For now you might want to withold judgment until the program is actually up and running…

  41. Hellmut: Since Mormon Studies is an emerging field that is comprised of mostly those from the Mormon community, I think in marginalizing himself in the Mormon community he’s effectively marginalized himself in the Mormon Studies community also. Don’t get me wrong, I think marginalized views are often what propel a field foward. And if there are two people in a group of three that agree with each other, the third person will most likely marginalize himself if he doesn’t agree. So my comment about Quinn marginalizing himself (or being marginalized, I don’t mean to assert he’s not a product of some bad luck or perhaps ill treatment) has a lot more to do with the small nature of the Mormon Studies community and funding thereof at this stage of development than anything personal about Quinn.

  42. Robert, that makes a lot of sense to me. And for that reason by itself the advantages of tenure outweigh its costs.

    I am not going to withhold my judgment in the face of discrimination, Nate. If people prefer fundraising over independence that’s their choice but they deserve to be called on it.

    This is a big deal with far reaching implications for quality scholarship.

  43. If such things as an “independent” chair can navigates the shoals needed to generally keep Mormons’ approval, such cross-pollination might end up influencing Mormonism itself — which possibility motivates my own fascination and curiosity (as “for ex” the Renaissance did Christianity. But even so there’ll inevitably end up being incidents rousing the peasantry to assemble with torches?)

  44. #

    I don’t know, Nate. Even if everything you say is true, Quinn should still qualify for a Mormon Studies chair. Personally, I distrust programs that circumscribe what scholars are allowed to say. It raises the suspicion that it’s not so much about scholarship but about a community’s status symbol.

    Comment by Hellmut

    First off, when you are talking about forty or fifty people competing for two or three positions, it isn’t “a Mormon Studies chair” it is “the only currently open Mormon Studies chair.” It is one thing if there were a couple hundred positions, sure, you would expect Quinn to get one of them. But when there is only one (since he missed out on the other two) left, and it is intended to be foundational, I don’t see your point, unless you are marshalling arguments rather than engaging in discussion.

    Bushman, Ships, Givens, and Mauss would all come before Quinn in Mormon Studies.

    If you read the bloggernacle times posts, you got the one by the non-LDS UofU professor who commented on the problems Quinn’s scholarship had when subjected to rigorous reviews and my comments about the issues his age causes. If you want a chair who will give you twenty or thirty years of productive leadership, you will probably not get it from a scholar in his 60s.

    Anyway, if you’ve followed the full discussion and the links, what is happening makes a lot of sense. If you haven’t, you are coming across as an ex-LDS critic whose general approach is to reinterpret things in ways that are useful for attacking the LDS faith, but that often lack completeness or proper application.

    That does tend to be annoying sometimes, just FYI.

    If it is your intent to come across the way that you do, fine. But if it is an artifact of nationality, native language and context, you might want to think about it.

    Note I’m not judging your intent, merely pointing out the impression you leave.

    Your criticisms, btw, basically mean you have denounced 99% of academics and academia. Fine, if that is your intent, but I suspect that you did not mean to go there.

  45. Hellmut: You are taking a very complicated situation and turning it into a simple morality play. This allows for moral posturing, but it probably obscures the reality of what is going on and makes it difficult if not impossible to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of any particular approach or arrangment.

  46. If Claremont were to make a Mormon Studies graduate program available through online delivery or other distance education means, I for one would be very interested in pursuing a formal degree in the subject (I have a degree from Monash University here in Australia with a major in Religion Studies). This may sound a little far-fetched at this stage, but I reckon such an approach would prove successful.

  47. Hellmut, It doesn’t seem to me that you’re being strident or simplistic. I don’t think you’ve gone into the production of morality plays either. Your calling for the inclusion of Quinn – really the most qualified of the candidates, especially when retirees like Mauss and Bushman are put up as possible rivals – instead of his a priori exclusion is a standard for judgement that would help to navigate the “complicated” reality that Nate seems to perceive to be at work.

  48. Aletheia, what evidence is there that Quinn has been excluded from consideration a priori? Hunches (a priori?) about what funders might think? One quotation from one guy who gives to a school in another state, with no known connection to the Claremont position? This is very sketchy. On the other hand, there are lots of reasons why he could be carefully considered, and still not make the short list for this position–most notably the competition. It only takes a couple other people on the short list for him to not be. And if you want to talk about a priori biases, it’s amazing how much more attractive a candidate can suddenly look to a committee when they know s/he has another job offer (or just has another job), as irrational as that may be.

    If it needs emphasizing, I would be very surprised if ability in Mormon Studies were more than about half of what Claremont is looking for here. It is a position for a scholar who does Mormon Studies, but if this person only teaches Mormon Studies, who is going to take all those classes? In the whole country there might be enough students with that level of interest, but Claremont is one program, with one program’s worth of students. Even if someone was going to do a degree emphasizing Mormon Studies (which it would seem professionally unwise to do, considering there is essentially one position right now for such people), I wouldn’t think it would be wise to base that degree on one person. This position is a step forward for Mormon Studies, but we are still quite a distance from there being a serious Mormon Studies program into which someone who does little else would comfortably fit. I’m conjecturing, of course. That’s what blogs are for, right?

  49. Depends on who is defining “best” Hellmutt. I think the WSJ article left me with more questions than anything else. Without much evidence it inferred that Quinn was not getting hired because he wrote radical histories about LDS Church. I think this is simplistic. There is clearly a lot more at play in University hiring decisions.

    First of all, Quinn is pretty old, so his age was likely the biggest factor in any hiring decision. How many universities would choose to hire a senior scholar at high cost who is nearing retirement rather than, let’s say, two promising new PhDs at a bargain-basement price? Whether or not Quinn was seeking tenure would likely have weighed into the decision as well.

    Secondly, it’s really not clear what kind of academic agenda or structure the various hiring committees considering Quinn were looking for. Did Quinn possess the kind of methodological skills that the hiring departments currently valued? What kind of criteria guided the hiring committees’ decisions? Would Quinn have been expected to straddle different subject areas or would he need a specific focus on one area of historical research (e.g. Western Folk History, Western Political History, Histories involving American Indians or the Settlement of the West, etc). If sitting in a Religious Studies chair, did Quinn need a PhD in theology, religious studies or philosophy to really have a chance of getting hired? Did the fact that Quinn abandoned Academia for a number of years in order to work as a private scholar, largely collecting material for Gay history affect how he was seen by the hiring committees? (I raise this not so much because of the “Gay” issue itself, but it may have given the impression that he wasn’t really a “seriousâ€? historian and was wrapped up in peripheral concerns).

    I think to infer that Quinn’s failure to find employment was somehow all choreographed by fear of controversy, financial retribution, or some sort of Mormon chicanery, without taking into account all of the complexities that are involved in even the simplest hire at a major university is a clearly a misguided endeavor. Most professors that I’ve spoken with seem to think that Quinn’s age (62), more than anything, was likely the deal-breaker.

    That said, it’ll be interesting to see who Claremont considers to fill this newly announced chair.

  50. Quinn is most certainly not under serious consideration, because whoever is chosen to hold the chair at Claremont will be done so in strict accordance with the one impulse that above all others drives Mormon thought and action, Vanity.

  51. Wow… that’s a loaded comment John T. I think that kind of inflammatory rhetoric is wholly unproductive and does nothing to add to any sort of honest discussion.

  52. Table it for now, then. But I think it could lead to the most honest of discussions.

  53. How is such a rash generalization to lead to “the most honest of discussions”? On what basis could you even claim to make such a sweeping statement? It seems to be more of an a priori assumption that you seem to be using in analyzing “Mormon thought and action.” You’ve moved beyond Mormon academia and seem to be indicting an entire faith. That doesn’t seem to be the makings for any sort of “honest” discussion.

  54. The public autopsy of a failed academic career is a ghastly spectacle. I have enourmous sympathy with anyone struggling to find an academic job. At the same time, I’ve learned to read a CV as cold-heartedly as anyone else. To put it plainly: is hiring an unemployed academic with only one book from a university press the best start for an endowed chair? Count me skeptical.

    Then again, maybe Quinn is the best applicant for the position. Gender studies is a hot field; if Quinn can claim to have interdisciplinary expertise–and it is the topic of his U of Illinois Press book–then maybe he’s the right man at the right time. Maybe Claremont wants someone who can explain Mormonism to a broader public, and so they’ll smile upon his Signature publications.

    The point is that there’s no way to know if Quinn or anyone else is the best candidate without knowing more about Claremont’s program and how the holder of the chair would fit into it. What do Claremont’s other similar endowed professors do? How important is teaching? The assumptions that govern hiring at the assistant professor level are probably very different from the issues raised by hiring someone as a tenured full professor in an endowed chair. I suspect that there aren’t many of us who have much experience with that kind of thing.

    It’s silly to assert that Quinn is the strongest candidate for any job anywhere in Mormon Studies, but it’s getting ghastly to keep listing the reasons he’s not, when the reasons for or against may very well not be relevant to this particular position. Can we move on? Does anybody have any information on the Claremont program, and how a chair of Mormon Studies would fit in with it? That might tell us something useful.

  55. I don’t think it’s an “a priori” assumption; I lived for four years in Salt Lake; 3 in Sandy (Hillcrest Second Ward) and South Salt Lake for 1 (Kimball Ward); commuting to Orem for half of that time, and have been an Investigator since November of 2002.

  56. How does that even remotely qualify you to make the mindboggling assertion that vanity, above all other impulses, drives Mormon thought and action?

  57. My assertions are based on my experience. The recitation of my address history doesn’t qualify me for much of anything, other than some Utah State income tax, for a partial year this year, at least.

  58. I basically agree, Jonathan, that this has been in many ways an unfortunate conversation. I have tried to keep in mind how this would be for Mike Quinn or someone who knows him well (like some of my friends) to read, and I think we all should keep that in mind on this blog. It is pretty much certain that some people who know him pretty well have read this.

    That said, when a paper like the Wall Street Journal builds an entire article around the claim that Quinn doesn’t have a job “not because he lacks qualifications, but because almost all the funding for the jobs is coming from Mormon donors,” well, we either ignore it, or we talk about his qualifications, and explain how they might actually be a big factor in whether he is hired for any particular job. The WSJ of course did acknowledge that the U of U dean involved said Quinn was not hired for standard academic reasons including, for example, that “most of his books weren’t published by university presses.” In any situation like this, there will probably be some politics, and there will also be some people who exaggerate how big a role politics played. Who do you believe, reading a newspaper or blog on the other side of the country? But the WSJ puts the weight on ideology, so the other had to be addressed.

  59. Ben, I’ve already said my piece on the subject of Quinn on other threads of Times and Seasons and don’t want to rehash. It seems that my use of “a priori” touched a nerve though.

    I wouldn’t be so confident that Claremont’s program will be a step forward. On the strength of the WSJ article alone, it will have to overcome the perception that it cowtowed to extra-academic pressures and donors and hired the least offensive and not the best prepared of the candidates. I hope that, when we finally see the curriculum vitaes of these unannounced candidates, they’ll be subjected to the same level of criticism (even, perhaps, with some of the same acidity of tone) as Quinn’s.

  60. I retract it’s being “funny” seeing the highly esteemed doctor Quinn depicted here as a ne’er-do-well and sincerely regret mister Quinn’s aparent inability to find employment within his very narrow acedemic specialty through [The] Church of Jesus Christ (LDS)’s Church Educational System.

  61. John T.: I think that you are mistaken. In my own case, I think that my involvement in Mormon thought and action is mainly about my desire for fame, money, and loose women…

  62. For the last of those three, might I suggest a membership in the Tree House Athletic Club in Draper, although as they say, your mileage may vary.

  63. “I wouldn’t be so confident that Claremont’s program will be a stop forward.”

    But, Aletheia, you’re expecting too much!

    If I’m reading you correctly, in your eyes, because a noncontroversial believer or an otherwise diplomatically moderate scholar would be likely to win out at Claremont, the program there’s doomed? And I think an opinion such as this would certainly be reasonable as, no doubt, scholars such as yourself have come to demand and expect a completely hands-off relationship in academia between it and the Church. As, for example, exists in present day reality between whatever the Christian studies program’s called at Oxbridge & Camfordford and “The” Church of England!

    Which is to say simply NONE. Fine. And, today, I’d certainly believe you’d find almost zero faculty members in the religion department of those institutions who are even nominally members of the Church of England, let alone devotedly so. Again: Fine.

    But Aletheia, for cryin out loud! the programs at these two universities have been going on like for centuries — can you imagine the very FIRST chair there going to a controversial figure even shook the boat all too much let alone called into questioned the very premises and bases of Christianity as the faculty members at Oxford and Cambridge do today?

    So, just for fun, let’s say that no chair in the Christian religion had somehow ever been created at Oxford University until the year of A.D. 1950 . Elethethia, would it truly have been so disasterous to academic research on religion forever if, say, this inaugaral chair had been filled by the reasonably-knowlegeable-about-matter-of-theology Clive Staples Lewis or some other reasonably competent figure who’d yet be unthreatening to the faithful?

  64. Nate Oman: In my own case, I think that my involvement in Mormon thought and action is mainly about my desire for fame, money, and loose women…

    Either you’ve chosen a completely ineffectual means of realizing your desire, or I signed up to participate in the wrong branch of Mormon thought and action.

  65. Quinn’s age is an issue but Mauss’ is not?

    Mauss isn’t trying to get a job … but if you are listing people who have stature in the area, he is on the list.


    The public autopsy of a failed academic career is a ghastly spectacle. I have enourmous sympathy with anyone struggling to find an academic job. At the same time, I’ve learned to read a CV as cold-heartedly as anyone else. To put it plainly: is hiring an unemployed academic with only one book from a university press the best start for an endowed chair? Count me skeptical.

    Indeed, it is a ghastly tragedy, which makes me sad.

    or I signed up to participate in the wrong branch of Mormon thought and action.

    Comment by DKL — 4/15/2006 @ 10:37 pm

    Darn, that was my mistake …

  66. I doubt seriously that failing to hire Quinn will have any significant effect on Clairemont. The Wall Street Journal is not generally seen as a top academic journal …

    Those who infer terrible consequences are marshalling arguments rather than exploring facts and discussing them.

  67. For what it’s worth I would think the necessary criteria for any such chair should include a clear lack of hostility toward the Church and the culture it has spawned, and a demonstrable affection for at least some things Mormon (in addition of course to formal academic credentials). It would be hard to imagine the holders of chairs in say, Jewish, Buddhist or Islamic studies at secular institutions securing appointment if they did not possess such attributes, wherever the funding for such positions originates.

  68. DKL and Stephen M: You must not know Nate Oman except through his writings. I like the guy very much, but I wouldn’t take advice for him about how to garner fame or money, and I especially wouldn’t ask him where the loose women are or how to make their acquaintance. (And that is not, unfortunately, a reflection of my virtue.)

  69. Kimball, I can understand why a certain constituency might want a candidate they consider more amenable, that some find Quinn too incendiary. I disagree that the position at Claremont (or the openings at Wyoming or the ones to come hopefully in the near future) should necessarily go to a practitioner, one who is in good standing with the church, or one who pulls back on the critical punches. I think in the context of a secular university (especially the state schools but I’d include Claremont) you run the risk of choosing a candidate that is proposed as a compromise by some but looks like a capitulation candidate to others. Given the “we don’t want any bomb-throwers” gaffe pronounced by one of the Claremonters responsible for the search and reported by the WSJ, I’d expect a number of outside academics are going to be giving the chosen professor the kind of unfriendly once-over that Quinn has gotten from some quarters.

    Speaking of which, when looking over C.S. Lewis’ curriculum vitae in our hypothetical, would the point be made that the Screwtape Letters wasn’t published by an academic press? [Besides, Kimball, even C.S. Lewis wouldn’t cut it for me. The only compromise candidate for me would be an apostate from the Greek Orthodox Church ;) ]

    Stephen, Until the Chronicle of Higher Education (the type of professional mag that would discuss such issues since we lost the more caustic Lingua Franca) comes out with an article that hits similar points and changes our minds, the WSJ front-pager will carry some weight. It certainly hampers the apparent Claremont plan to build the perception that it has a top religious studies program by endowing a series of narrow, identitarian chairs in religion. Just wait until the position in Sikhism or Coptic Christianity comes up…

    Anyhow, I’m generally happy that there are Mormon Studies positions opening up. I’m saddened that Quinn has apparently been nixed (from whatever quarter, avec ou sans justifications). I’m glad that this is a forum to talk all around and through these and other topics.

  70. I meant to put a wink and smile after my parenthetical comment in paragraph #2. I don’t often do it and I guess I did it wrong. It came out as a question mark.

  71. I could easily see Claremont selecting a prestigious “elder statesman” to hold the chair for a few years to establish its bona fides, and then turning to a comparatively younger middle-aged scholar for whom making the chair successful would be the culmination of his/her career. One reason to do this is that the three most obvious candidates for the position (Bushman, Mauss, Shipps) are at that point in their careers. I could also see them prefering to bring in in a non-Mormon (and non-ex-Mormon) from the broader religious studies field if he/she showed substantial interest in devoting major career time to Mormon Studies. This avoids the politics and could make the chair more high profile in the broader academic world. One reason to go the short-term “elder statesman” route is that there is no such non- Mormon or non-ex-Mormon candidate obviously out there right now. Personally, I think that such a move would be good for Mormon Studies by bringing it into dialogue with the larger academic community.

    On the other hand, it is simply going to be a statistical fact that more people from Mormon backgrounds are going to be attracted to Mormon Studies, and that is going to be true for a long time. How many scholars of Judaic Studies are not Jewish?

    Happy Easter everyone! Christ is risen!

  72. Nate Oman: Frankly this is why Bushman is ultimately a better historian than Quinn.

    Not an assertion I agree with.

    Jim F: I especially wouldn’t ask [Nate] where the loose women are or how to make their acquaintance.

    Who would you ask?

  73. The Claremont endowers’ gaffe “don’t want … bomb throwers” quoted by Aletheia* out of the WSJ rag
    *(Of whom in these quarters there’s been a vile innuendo re belief/ practice in faith of her birth — Oops innuendo’s her own — strike that.) ;^)
    by way of generative semantics (mumbles) learned at the (coughs) foot of Grimm brothers themselves (Who me — a crank?) transforms straightaway into such statements as the “necessary … lack of hostility … and demonstrable affection …” as was made by Jonathan (as — quite famously — mister Ronnie’s Afgan freedom fighters are mister W’s advisors’ paramilitarists as too inclined towards terror…… ).

    Anyways ‘n’ in any whys, when shadings idealizing nonpartisanship or else fearing there just being too many axes to grind are removed, we end up with the either (damnable or merely realpolitikal) fact that “Sit down if you need to …

    “Money influences research and publishing in every field”
    [ — Dave]

  74. By the way Aletheia, Happy Easter! (That is, unless you’re a partisan of the Old Calendarists.)

  75. Hey, Kimball, my compromise candidate was actually a compromise. Especially if the post was one on the Church of England at Oxford. That hypothetical professor would be just enough Greek Orthodox for me (I do practice, after all) and just apostate enough to not offend the staid members of the Queen’s Church.

    You are right. Things get reduced tremendously in the back and forth of discussions. Money does influence research and publishing, indeed.

    Happy Easter to you too. We actually wait to next Sunday to celebrate Easter (Today being our Palm Sunday, as you well know) but, my spouse being Catholic, I’m open to being ecumenical about it.

  76. Nate Oman: It is because [Quinn] is badly ghettoized professionally, a fact that I suspect has much, much more to do with his current academic joblessness than does the fact of his excommunication, regrettable and painful as that is.

    I don’t buy this. You’re identifying factors for why Quinn may have trouble getting a job. In a tight academic job market, any one of these factors could be enough to cost him a position. There is little doubt that if the church hadn’t have excommunicated him, he’d be employed today. Let’s not loose sight of the real issues, which are, (a) he should not have been excommunicated, and thus his excommunication is a blot on the integrity of Mormon studies, (b) the church’s stance toward him (working against him and publicly saying that they regard him highly) is duplicitous even if the church has maintained some semblance of deniability to give apologists and spokespeople wiggle room, and (c) the main problem with Mormon studies is that the Mormon leaders in the Salt Lake City Headquarters have too much control over it (e.g., the Library of Congress Joseph Smith Conference, which had its moments, but never escaped the feeling that it was a heavy-handed dog-and-pony show for BYU apologists and their friends; hence Douglas Davies question, “Is this an academic or an evangelistic conference?”).

  77. Bravo, DKL. Someone else that doesn’t think his excommunication has become a benign act over time.

  78. DKL, between the years 1990 and 2001 what programs do you think would have hired Quinn had he not been excommunicated? BYU certainly wouldn’t have. What else was left?

  79. “There is little doubt that if the church hadn’t have excommunicated him, he’d be employed today.”

    I think that this is probably true, but mainly because he would continue to be employable at BYU. The problem is that in terms of academic positions devoted to the study of Mormonism, Mormon studies basically doesn’t exist. If you look at scholars of Mormonism outside of BYU — Bushman, Mauss, Hansen, Barlow, Givens, etc. etc. — they all have some substantial expertise outside of Mormon studies and have published in those cognate areas. This is not true of Quinn. In some ways, this is why he has been an important force in Mormon history; he has been able to focus his entire academic effort on Mormon history.

    I think that you are wrong that the main problem with Mormon studies is that there is too much Church control in the field. There are ways in which Church involvment can be problematic and counter productive, but I think it would be a huge mistake to think that this is the main or even central issue in Mormon studies. I think that problems of figuring out where its disciplinary home llies, finding useful new intellectual paradigms, etc. etc. are much more important. I do think that figuring out the role (if any) of the institutional Church in all of this is tricky, but I hardly think it is somehow the defining issue of the field.

    BTW, I don’t think that there is evidence that the Church has been working against Quinn. Do you know of instances in which the Church has some how intervened to stymie his professional prospects? The closest thing that I think you can find to a smoking gun is Noel Reynold’s reported efforts to keep him out of the Yale conference. (Incidentally, I understand that the WSJ’s claims about the contents of Alexander’s letter to the University of Utah are simply inaccurate.)

  80. Some look with pity upon Quinn’s disarray after his fall — their perceiving Quinn to have been bucked due to his measure of succes “to use his tethers” (as a prominent, insider scholar-intellectual) “as reins” upon the Church.

    Were the Church to rehabilitate him, it would provide as well the makings for an satisfying spectacle to the resounding cheers of many. But alas maybe this first “independent” chair will end up in less flambouyantly charismatic hands (those more of a tame husbandsman perhaps than those of a brave bronc rider?)

  81. How “objective” does a tenured professor in Mormon Studies need to be, particularly the holder of the FIRST such chair? We are not talking here of the appointment of a faith-promoting scholar (probably a contradiction in terms) or even necessarily a ‘believer’. Claremont is not BYU, and there is no indication (thankfully) that a “FARMS” type would seriously be considered for the role. It IS surely about striking a balance between a respect for Mormonism and authentic scholarship (not incompatible, as Jan Shipps, Sterling McMurrin, Eugene England et al. have shown). The eventual appointee should certainly not be afraid to ruffle a few feathers or indeed espouse radical ideas, which may well offend some or perhaps even many, Mormons. On this basis, Quinn may prove suitable given the limited number of realistic candidates. Let us not prejudge the parameters the potential fundees have set for themselves.

  82. Jonathan Maltz: Though I agree with the general sentiment of your post, I wonder what you could possibly mean when you refer to Eugene England as one who produced authentic scholarship. England was a very nice man. He had a lot of important influence on students. There are lots of good things a person could say about him. But what work did he do that made him a scholar, of Mormon Studies or anything else? And McMurrin was even less of a scholar. He had the distinct advantage of being the only fish of any size in a non-existent pond when he was writing about Mormonism. Were it not for that advantage, none of us would remember his name. It is genuinely funny to see you reject the “FARMS” type (whatever that is–lots who have published with FARMS are genuinely scholars, by anyone’s measure) and to accept McMurrin and England.

    How about Douglas Davies? He isn’t a Mormon and he is a scholar. Why wouldn’t he be a good candidate for the chair?

  83. Anon: Well, you have a point I suppose about England. He was though, a deep thinker who had a rare ability to articulate the potential that he saw in the faith; he saw the best as well as the worst in Mormonism and thought the former carried much the greater weight, if my perception is correct. But yes, you may be right in the strictest sense: he was more an intellectual than a scholar. I cannot agree with you on McMurrin: “The Theological Foundations of Mormonism” (if I remember the title correctly) is unquestionably a classic scholarly work, even if one does not accept his premise.

    The problem with the scholars at FARMS is that when they turn their attention to things Mormon they invariably switch to faith-promoting mode. After all, that is why they are published under the FARMS banner. I do not mean to suggest that there is nothing scholarly about their work (or that their PhDs on non-LDS topics do not qualify as scholarly): too often however, their publications lack balance in regularly having a markedly speculative tendency.

    As for Douglas Davies, I’d be happy to see him considered for the position, but I’d be surprised if he’d be interested in taking the job given his commitments in the UK, other academic interests,and his age.

  84. Further to my post above, I do not mean to infer that scholarship may not have the effect of being faith-promoting or be free of bias (as if that were possible), merely that true scholarship needs to be rigorous, subject to peer review,address problematic obstacles fairly and so on. It doesn’t seem to me that FARMS, much as I wish the opposite were true, effectively meets these criteria very often.

  85. Anon: I think it is a bit much to claim that McMurrin was not a real scholar. To be sure, his reputation has grown out of entire proportion to the quality of his work, precisely for the only-fish-no-pond dynamic that you identify. Nevertheless, both of his philosophical books on Mormonism were solid and important scholarlly contributions. This doesn’t mean that they were flawless or the end all and be all of Mormon thought on the topic. On the contrary, in certain places I think that McMurrin is really remarkably obtuse. This doesn’t mean that he wasn’t a real scholar, just that he was wrong.

    Jonathan: Does the fact that England published several pieces in FARMS, including explicitly apologetic works seeking to show the historicity of the Book of Mormon by finding in it information about the ancient Near East make him a “FARMS scholar” as well? Indeed, in the sense of presenting substantial original research, being extensively footnoted, and trying to rigorously work out an argument, his FARMS piece on Lehi’s Arabian journey strikes me as quite a bit more “scholarlly” than the personal essays for which he is generally known.

  86. Nate,

    I’m curious what you think of this discussion so far. Already around one hundred comments have been posted. Yet nearly everything is idle and/or ignorant speculation. What’s the point, really? Almost no one here has any involvement whatsoever in the academic study of religion. Most of the names being tossed about (Bushman, Shipps, Givens) are highly improbable occupants of the Claremont chair, while some of the most likely and obvious candidates (P. Barlow, K. Flake) are hardly even mentioned. The discussion has primarily turned into an unseemly spectacle of dissecting Quinn’s life and work. What sort of intelligent and/or useful discussion were you hoping for, given all of the above?

  87. “McMurrin was even less of a scholar. ”

    No. The assessment does not include his non-LDS writings, which are not insubstantial. His appointment to serve as Secretary of Education under Kennedy has to be taken as a measure of his scholarly repute at the time. This was a moment, after all, when JFK thought the best and brightest could influence the course of history. (And they did, though in hindsight not always fruitfully.)

    “The problem with the scholars at FARMS is that when they turn their attention to things Mormon they invariably switch to faith-promoting mode.”

    Invariably? FARMS has multiple, overlapping, and sometimes competing audiences, not all of whom are a target of faith promotion. Consider, for example, the recent publications on the ancient traditions of Abraham.

    “After all, that is why they are published under the FARMS banner.”

    Just because the scholarship is read primarily by Mormons, or promotes the faith of Mormons, does not make the work unscholarly. The FARMS work is uneven, but so is the work of Eerdmans or any other press with a religious emphasis. That the less overtly apologetic FARMS publications have not been engaged by outsiders need not imply that the work does not measure up to the usual canons of scholarship. Nor should the overtly apologetic material be rejected simply because faith promotion is an aim. Every piece of scholarship aims to convert its intended audience to a position, and there is no reason to believe that religious research should be treated with more skepticism than any other scholarly evangelicism. The arguments themselves can be refuted or sustained. The FARMS researchers have left tracks; that few outsiders have followed them may say as much about their lack of interest in the subject matter as anything else. After all, there is not much of an academic market for validating the claims of the Book of Mormon, or sustaining the clams of those who do.

  88. Jed, I’d say that non-Mormons do not follow the “tracks left by FARMS researchers” because the gross majority of their research is thinly disguised apologetics that is overly speculative and militantly pious. Add to the fact that their declared apologetics tend to revel in mean-spirited, often ad hominem attacks on the basic intelligence of doubters, dissenters and critics and you get an experience for the non-Mormon that isn’t very amenable or open. I battle through because it gives me insight into Mormon apologetics and current issues of theological-religiosu concern but not because it’s a first-rate scholarly institute.

  89. thinly disguised apologetics that ARE…

    theological-reiligiosu+ theological-religious

  90. Count me naive but–

    I’d myself be delighted were a prestigious Mormon studies post given some scholar whose reputation is weighted towards practice, such as apparently a Eugene England.

  91. “Add to the fact that their declared apologetics tend to revel in mean-spirited, often ad hominem attacks on the basic intelligence of doubters, dissenters and critics”

    What I hear you describing is FARMS Review at its worst, not FARMS Review at its best or the FARMS monographs taken as a whole. Most of us, I think, would not want a gossipy description of ourselves to rely on our worst moments, would we?

  92. Aletheia: I would have said of your own post that it is apologetic, mean-spirited and overly pious. Can’t you do better than name-calling regarding those you claim engage in the same tactics? I have written for FARMS and I do my best to be fair, charitable and scholarly.

    Let me add that Michael Quinn is a friend and I respect his work tho I often disagree. Part of what is required for a Mormon Studies chair is to be able to involve both non-Mormon and faithful Mormon scholars. It is a challenge faced by all chairs that adress any subject to be able to include a full diversity of views and hold together disparate political views. Mike would be a find chair in an established program. However, establishing a program takes administrative skills and money-building skills as well. I’d love to see Mike get a position to teach.

  93. Blake, I knew I would get this sort of reaction. I have no doubt that there are some sincere and fair contributors to FARMS. I read it because I find some. But, the negative side of FARMS I alluded to is also there and it glares at you (especially if you’re less willing to provide lee-way because you’re a correligionary) when you log on to the website. I don’t know how one can acknowledge it and disabuse people of notions like “Non-Mormons don’t read FARMS publications because they’re disinterested” without engaging in “name-calling”.

    Maybe I’ll try again by saying: the tone and form of argument of many articles are meant for a believing audience and not a scholarly one. Many of these are not convincing or pleasurable to read (but I slog through even these). My attenuations here and my willingness to travel along with articles I sometimes dislike are,in fact, the opposite of mean-spiritedness.

  94. Besides, Blake, I’m not advancing an apologetics at all. Just putting in my own two cents.

  95. regardless of who is chosen, one might want to consider how claremonte, as an academic religion department, will influence mormon studies and mormonism for good or bad? nate, if i recall correctly, in your open letter to dialogue you were hopeful of a day when mormon studies would leave the ‘ghetto’ of utah valley. part of me feels the same way. yet, i can’t help but think that many scholars of religion, employing a strictly rational methodology, will do to mormonism what they did to christianity, strip it of everything supernatural, which is not what i for one would like to see. the tubingen school of new testament studies provides a possible scenario of what might happen to mormon studies at claremonte.

  96. The assessment does not include his non-LDS writings, which are not insubstantial.

    I know about a few essays in the philosophy of education, a textbook on philosophy of education, and The Theological Foundations of the Mormon Religion. Can you refer me to more than that? Those don’t seem to be what you say they are. The first two don’t make up a substantial body of scholarly work. Several of them are reminiscences rather than scholarship. The last one is a comparison of one view of LDS theology with a view of philosophy that doesn’t go beyond what one would learn in an introductory course. Theological Foundations served an important purpose. It gives an alright introduction to comparing Mormon ideas and a number of philosophical ideas. But it is hardly a scholarly work.

    His appointment to serve as Secretary of Education under Kennedy has to be taken as a measure of his scholarly repute at the time.

    You are kidding right? You want us to believe that appointments as Commissioner of Education or as head of the Department of Education are evidence of scholarship? Since when? Margaret Spellings wasn’t appointed to the position right now because of her scholarly work (non-existent). She was appointed for the same reasons that any other Secretary is appointed, politics. I bet you that hasn’t changed since before McMurrin was appointed.

  97. “Margaret Spellings wasn’t appointed to the position right now because of her scholarly work (non-existent).”

    Compare the academic credentials of JFK’s cabinet with GWB’s cabinet. They aren’t even in the same solar system.

    My main point about McMurrin is that a man who is not here to defend himself should not be judged a nothing scholar simply on the basis of Mormon writings whose central theses may or may not have been refuted at this late date. He has published other work, and the merits of his scholarly life should be judged within the conspectus of the whole and not the part. Furthermore the refutation of theses now over forty years old may have nothing at all to do with the reception of the writings by the generation in which they were written. What one generation awards a Pulitzer the next generation ignores and eventually casts out. The easiest thing in the world to do is to poke holes in arguments who had the unfortunate circumstance of being born yesterday. The fact is no one in his generation attempted what McMurrin in actuality did. We should praise his bold undertaking not lament that he didn’t do it better.

  98. Jed: Compare the academic credentials of JFK’s cabinet with GWB’s cabinet. They aren’t even in the same solar system.

    No wonder JFK’s presidency was such a debacle.

  99. Nate (#90), do you really think Quinn wouldn’t have been forced out of BYU without the excommunication? There was quite a bit of tension regardless of the excommunication.

    Jonathan (#94), must disagree with you on The Theological Foundations of Mormonism. It was popular simply because nothing else was really written on it. I know some (like Geoff and Dave) like it. But I think as scholarship on Mormonism rather than a popularization it is worthless. That’s not to say he didn’t have expertise in other areas. Although I’m not aware of any significant scholarly expertise. (Which isn’t to say I’m wrong – just that they haven’t been publicized, and I’ve looked)

    As to criticizing FARMS for being too speculative… I’ll agree a lot of stuff is speculative. But surely so too is most Mormon texts. Are some of Quinn’s controversial works like Magic World View any less speculative than FARMS worst? I think there’s a double standard going on here.

    I will agree that I wish there was less speculation on all sides. Although I do agree speculation or at least showing possibilities has its place.

  100. (PS – sorry about the above post. One of the closing tags was screwed up. Also it tried to post way back before noon when the site was down)

    Jed: (#110) We should praise his bold undertaking not lament that he didn’t do it better.

    That’s fine in terms of looking at the history of theological work. In terms of work that is relevant however, it is severely lacking. As I said, perhaps it is somewhat helpful for introducing issues to readers unfamiliar with theology or philosophy. But as a serious engagement with Mormon thought it is a failure.

    I’m not opposed to praising trailblazers for blazing trails. However often the works of trailblazers are lacking sufficiently that they become dated quite quickly or are simply problematic as a text in and of themselves. We should be careful not to confuse relevance with historic importance.

  101. Maybe the double standard operative here is that the type of speculation on display at FARMS is church-sanctioned and supported (since its incorporation into BYU this is even more clear) while Quinn’s is not. I guess one of the things that distinguishes some FARMS scholarship for me (and, lest I rile too many feathers, I’ll say some) is that it is overly defensive, too dogmatic, and, especially in the reviews, too quick to cast aspersions on the intelligence and scholarship of others (nitpicking, using argumentative or rhetorical tricks, faulting authors in a “We would have said it better” sort of way). Are these only the worst moments of FARMS scholarship by which it shouldn’t be judged? Perhaps (although I’m not willing to indulge FARMS as an actor quite like I would a person for very long).

  102. A coming generation might well look at g. wesley’s concern (in 108) as prophetic.

  103. But isn’t the early 1960-63/ pre-Great Society John F. sometimes cited by free enterprisers, David K., for his “A sound economy lifts all boats”?

  104. Not that I shouldn’t assume you a nothing scholar as per native sons of Massachusettes.

  105. I think there is some of that Aletheia and I do wish FARMS would move beyond this. However I also simultaneously think this makes up a minority of what FARMS publishes. Further it’s hardly limited to FARMS. Look at all the polemical asides in Quinn’s own Magic World View. Perhaps he felt he was justified in a tit for tat. But just as it lowers FARMS and limits their effect, so to did it do the same for Quinn. It’s unfortunate that all sides can’t figure out who their audience is. Is it academics or is it a kind of insider club where one feels good for the perception of scoring points for ones team. In some ways Mormon scholarship in the 90’s was embarrassing because of that. It’s definitely time for all sides to move on.

    One hopes whomever Claremont appoints to the chair will be of the next generation of scholars on Mormon Studies who has moved beyond the provincialism that has unfortunately been a hallmark of Mormon Studies.

  106. Hey, from what I know about Mr. Quinn I have serious doubts about his scholarship. I was at BYU when he got canned. And I had friends in the History Department who were heart broken. I also knew some BYU professors who didn’t like his work because they felt he was a bad or weak scholar. Since leaving BYU he has published some good stuff and some bad stuff. One thing of Quinn’s I read (and then I read the FARMS reviews) was his book on “same gender dynamics” and Morminism. I was embarassed for him because it was bad and unsupported by any kind of actual data, history, or reasoning. I also felt that publishing his “Magic World View” with out major revision after the Hoffman forgeries were discovered was also a bad decision. Do any of you see him as a great scholar? I think he is smart, well read, and a decent historian, but a good scholar? He’s mostly famous for being ex’ed.

  107. Clark, I hope so. Like I said, I read FARMS articles and even subscribe to the site. It would be nice if, over time, it became a venue for serious faith-based discussion as well as a place where scholars that are LDS-sympathetic but not LDS can contribute and have their books reviewed without the fear of treading on the toes of an orthodoxy. [Which isn’t to say that some of the books reviewed – although we might differ on which ones – need to be roundly criticized. I think some of the evangelical tracts fall in here (I know my sympathies here are based on my own sectarian aversion to evangelical propaganda, however)]

  108. Deep Sea: I agree that the public disection of Quinn is unfortunate. I also think that you are right that Barlow or Flake (either of whom I think would be good choices; especially Flake — she is interested in law). I am curious as to why you think that Givens is out of the running.

    As for the value of the discussion, I was sent a press release, which I assume meant that those sponsoring the position were interested in publicity. I want to support their endeavor, so I provide — some limited — publicity. As for the value of the ensuing discussion it is mixed. (Open internet forums are like that, unfortunately.) Some is good, some is not. I do wish that more who were involved in the academic study of religion would post their thoughts, but they no doubt have their reasons for staying silent. Unfortunately, the WSJ article seems to have side-tracked most of the discussion of this issue and it unfortunately made Quinn’s woes an issue for the new position. That, however, is not really my fault.

  109. While I somewhat agree, I think it’s demonstrably false that there is an orthodoxy at FARMS. Folks disagree with each other a fair bit. I think there is far more diversity of thought among FARMS contributors than people are willing to admit.

  110. Deep Sea, while uninformed opinion can be ill conceived, it’s also a proven fact that open discussion serves as a very effective check on hubris, wouldn’t you agree? Indeed, it’s the very premise of both democracy and free enterprise.

    Yes, Blake, a consideration of administrative ability is so often key. Ambrose shows how the hyper brilliant Meriwether Clark, after his expedition for Jefferson, was rewarded by an administrative apointment in newly opened Lousiana, a position for which Lewis was too hyper sensitive to be qualified (with Lewis commiting suicide while in office).

    Come to think of it, there are PhD Senators — although I’d bet few of them are what those here would term scholars?) Speaking of which (as well of “open speech” and even of the academic study of speech!):

    The famed SEMANTICIST S. I. Hayakawa became a senator from my native Cali a into the Reagan “revolution” but even so he didn’t gain acclaim there for his becoming a highly effective legislator. But, “Sleeping Sam” was also by then slipping into senility. And also perhaps the press could never forgive him for his famously having jumped up on that hood of the car, back at San Francisco State, and turning off those protestors’ microphone.

  111. If Givens is interested, he should at the very least be a candidate. Not that publication by OUP is everything, but which other writer on specifically Mormon subjects has reached such giddy heights? No disrespect to Knopf intended.

  112. I don’t me to disparage Columbia, or Illinois, or even Signature, BTW. Perhaps its my English bias that causes such heady excitement at the mere mention of OUP. If I remember correctly wasn’t Davies’ “Introduction to Mormonism” also published by OUP? But maybe the fact that he’s non-LDS, not to mention Welsh, may count against him.

  113. “The same skepticism that has systematically dismantled the Bible would dismiss the Book of Mormon out of hand.” – An Approach to the Book of Mormon (1964 second edition), 10.

    although i am not a nibley disciple, i consider this indicative of what is likely in store for mormon studies at an academic religion department. on the whole, scholars of religion do not think as most latter-day saints. most do not believe in angels, miracles, or god. their scholarship is based on reason alone. accordingly, as mormon studies becomes a part of this academic field, it will be played out according to a certain set of rules which discount the supernatural if they do not preclude it altogether. is that desirable?

  114. g. wesley (#126): I’m not sure who Nibley was referring to when he spoke of the “skepticism that has systematically dismantled the Bible.” Did he have those in biblical criticism in mind? If so, I think that he was wrong to say they have dismantled the Bible. In fact, many Mormon biblical scholars have accepted at least part of the work of biblical criticism. And though I am not an “insider,” from the outside it appears that there are a good number of biblical scholars today who continue to be believers.

    However, for obvious reasons, I doubt that any non-LDS scholars in Mormon studies are going to deal with the Book of Mormon as a sacred text. They will deal with it as a text that is sacred for us but not as sacred. That isn’t dismissing “the Book of Mormon out of hand.” Nevertheless, it is an interesting and important question: what happens to a sacred text when it becomes the object of scholarly investigation rather than part of religious worship?

  115. john t (127). care to elaborate?

    jim f (128). nibley was referring to nt critics, namely bultmann. your observation that mormon scholars have begun to integrate biblical criticism is keen, but i don’t think it necessarily means biblical criticism is innocuous. when catholicism opened up to biblical criticism after vatican ii, some later considered it a mistake; others did not. it is the long-standing question of revelation and reason, faith and scholarship, something many scholars wrestle with no matter what their religious beliefs. what happpens to a religion when it becomes the object of scholarly investigation? that is what is at issue with the claremont chair and the future of mormon studies. in the case of early christianity, the results have not always been pretty e.g. ferdinand christian baur, rudolf bultmann, and james robinson (claremont).

  116. With regard to FARMS–there may not be an orthodoxy of opinion, but there is certainly the restraint on opinion imposed by orthodoxy.

  117. Please somebody say SOMETHING controversial (‘caus — although my Mormonism’s saved me from ever trying drugs, thanks God — this string’s un-cut horse to me ‘n’ I’m jonesing)!

    It seems the learned docs at Farms too often come off, like, “Well, when ya know a gajabazillion ancient languages (or whatever their fields of expertise) like we do, then ya can make some foray into Mormon studies we won’t dismiss out of hand!”; and then as well, the outsiders’ take on Farms is, like, “Wow, this stuff is, gasp!, apologetics! — who wudda thunk!” But the former’s camp’s about the biz of amassing knowledge to buttress the premises supplied by Mormonism’s founding prophet while the latter’s camp does the same to buttress claims without this premise.

    The pursuit of knowledge is a dance.

    While Christian lands were in dark ages, muslim ones were in the midst of the world’s only manifestations of a high “Renaissance.” Then the Muslims, in reaction to disconcerting trends too “dis-establishing” of orthodoxy, slipped into the establishmentarian orthodoxy of the Muslim’s schools of theological legalism (madrassahs of Shariah). Then after the torch of — well, “The” actual — Renaissance had thereafter passed to the West, and it followed by an age of Enlightenment, the lights of in the Church at first tentatively toed a line along their balance beam along with many “new” claims. But then reactionary “revivalists to the north” — read: the Prostestants — found this influence too destabilizing, among a host of other complaints; and the Church within a mode of Counter-reformation bacame less inclined to sanction threats to orthodoxy as might be derived from mere science.

    I’m no doubt completely wrong (I usually am), but I see a similarly fascinating dance being performed in such threads as the present one and await breathlessly for this ballet’s next movement.

  118. kimball: assuming that i understand the point of your analogy i think it apt. mormon studies and to some extent mormonism are entering what could be considered an enlightenment, e.g. the rise of (more) academic mormon historiography, a growing number of mormons with doctorates in fields such as biblical studies, books on mormonism being published by non-mormon scholars and/or big name universities, the creation of the claremont chair, etc. i have mixed feeling about it. and it is something i face regularly (currently i’m considering several graduate programs in biblical studies, and one of the big factors is whether i’ll come out absolutely jaded and skeptical; of course if i don’t go i may become anti-intellectual). so what do you think should be done, and what do think will happen in the future? are we headed for a ‘high Renaissance’ followed by a ‘dark age’? as for something controversial, i can’t really think of anything.

  119. Love your name, [g.] wesley! And the reason I respond the way I do to it I think will plug into what I’m about to say, somehow — and it’s also too bad your not able to think of anything controversial though, as my providing the controversy myself just doesn’t provide for me the same “kick”!

    There’s something that’s to me in my limited understanding a dichotomy that but to a wiser person is contradiction that’s resolved and that is that to me the idea of people being anti-intellectual and the idea of there being a Dark Ages seems to go fairly hand in hand, whereas free and open inquiry, even rank speculation, and then letting the chips fall where they may all according to the scientific method and not merely by resorting to appeals to authority would characterize a modus of Enlightenment?

    But here’s where the WESLEY part comes in!: Whereas my own bias is my “Unitarian Universalist” class of belief and whereas, as I’m a cultural Mormon, I’d root for a Mormonism thad would come by measures in line with such a stance (as, for example, one in which Christianity’s merely the a brand of Gnosticism that’s became orthodox, a la Elaine Pagels; & c–. ); IRONICALLY such a stance as mine is diametrically opposed to the true sense of authority, mission, and purpose as is found in any true revivalism, any true religious fervor — the sense for which I feel a great nostalgia and yearning (…& if what I’m saying here’s worded rilly awkward, kinsider its source — smiles).

  120. Kimball, I’m with you as far as you go. Maybe as a kind of compromise, you’d let me suggest an alternative to the Unitarian Universalist model of inquiry and some of the alternatives I think I saw voiced here at times which I’d characterize as the “faithful scholarship” model (I’m cribbing a bit on the terminology used by one of the panels for the Sunstone conference to be held at Claremont this weekend). In a passing comment in his Introduction to Mormonism, Davies (mentioned here) attributes some of the conflict between the Roman Catholic Church and the LDS not only to a competition for parishioners/converts but to a sort of institutional competition/emulation where the LDS can be seen looking towards the Catholic Church as an influence (to not say model) for what a greatly expanded Mormon Church might look like in part. Davies doesn’t go too much into it but… What if the Church, donors, etc. allowed for a level of engagement with trends in biblical and religious scholarship that was more akin to the Catholic stance? We can quibble later about the how the Catholic Church tries to control intellectuals through its institutions, its own history of excommunications, and the generall play of its authority later. Even with these, Catholic scholarship is able to allow for a wider range of dissidence and gives onto a more rigorous “mainstream” scholarship than its Mormon counterparts. Take a look at the New Jerome Commentary – a middle-of-the-road compendium of Catholic scholarship for our purposes here – and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Maybe if donors, church officials, etc. looked towards that sort of scholarship – especially when trying to insert a program in a university that isn’t religiously-affiliated and hopefully several thereafter – we’d have a sort of scholarly practice that was more acceptable to all. Who knows…

  121. OK (deep breath):

    (point A)
    if to me “an age of Enlightenment” is one in which people feel free to disregard authority and to rankly speculate and if “a Dark Ages” is where people are not free to disregard authority and to rankly speculate;

    (point B)
    I at the same time think there’s something to be said for people’s comfort and senses of duty and place within such a millieu of there being a great, overriding, earthly manifestation of spiritual authority: such as in, say, a Medieval Europe, or in cultures wherein a stringently legalistic religious orthodoxy is in place, et cetera.

    So perhaps I’m trying to reconcile whatever the positives of chaos with whatever the positives of control here.

  122. Oh and “Wesley” to me means Wesleyism or what in my arm chair scholarship I take to be the intellectual advocacy of a controlled evangelism of the masses (as by the Cambridge schooled Wesley brothers eventually excommunicated from the Church of England for all their “methodist” scheme of bringing the masses to religious fervor and practice (blah blah blah as I try to wing this lol).

  123. kimball: that sounded good. thanks. if you get a chance, explain to me how gnosticism and pagels fit in. couldn’t the mormonism we have now be considered an orthodox–that is less speculative and more standardizied–version of nauvoo gnosis?

    aletheia: so do you consider raymond brown’s work a model for lds emulation?

  124. nate: i’m still curious to know whether (and why) you see the claremont chair as a step in a right, wrong, or ambivelent direction, per your hope of mormon studies leaving the ghetto.

  125. Aletheia:

    As a Unitarian Universalist, lol. I’m, of course, open to whatever model you suggest!
    & g. wesley:

    Since I’m citing saint Pagels merely as an example of an authority within an agnostic worldview whereas you’re actually extending her scholarship to an understanding of Mormonism, it’s I who must defer to you.

  126. I would vote for Raymond Brown’s work as a model for LDS emulation any day of the week.

  127. Kimball: That’s the problem with you Unitarians, you’re open to everything ;)

    Wesley, I do think that Brown, fellow editors and contributors did a fine job on the New Jerome. It’s not the only commentary on my shelf – I use the Oxford Bible Commentary as well with some frequency – but it’s one I can go to because it cites the Church Fathers within a pretty rigorous apparatus (One of the failings of the Greek Orthodox is that, in English at least, there isn’t a very strong tradition of scholarship and there’s Orthodox commentary, per se. Don’t get me started on the Orthodox Bible (good devotional but…)) In any case, guarding the differences that would obviously come from bringing a Mormon tradition to bear on scripture (and the multiplication of scriptures, of course) and recognizing the fact that Brown et al. were compiling a commentary, I’d say that it could be a model to follow. We’d have to wrangle over what to follow or not, of course.

  128. Kimball, What’s the secret to making all the smiles and winks and other typographical hints as to tone come out on the board? I ws winking at you with the jab on Unitarians.

  129. David O., the FARMS review is too often dominated by hatchet jobs. It’s some of the worst apologetics going. They tend to be dominated by writers who (a) lack any sense of perspective, (b) can’t see the forest for the trees, and (c) who will brook no criticism of the church or its history. The number Faulring, Anderson, and Bachman (writing for the FARMS) tried to do on Todd Compton’s book is probably the easiest example. Also, reading the old issues, you’ll come across stuff from years ago that causes them to get bent out of shape that is pretty much accepted stuff nowadays.

    And beware anyone from BYU who claims that Quinn was fired for weak scholarship–they’re either really, really out-of-the-loop or they’re dishonest.

    I know about him long before he was ex-d. I read his work answering the Tanners as “Dr. Clandestine” (their rather humorous name for him), his article on the succession crisis of 44, and the 1st edition of the Magic Worldview long before he was ex’d. But if he’s famous among most mormons for being ex’d, then this speaks volumes to the severity of the abuse of authority that triggered his excommunication, as does your reaction to it.

  130. since there seems to be some agreement on brown as a model for lds emulation, let’s explore that. he more than anyone else brought catholicism into what aletheia has called ‘mainstream’ biblical scholarship. but in order to do so he (willingly) jetisoned certain (supernatural) aspects of the faith, i.e. the virgin birth. again, this is the direction that i think mormon studies will likely take at claremont or any other academic religion program. rephrasing my previous comment, as mormon studies becomes a part of this academic field, it will be subjected to the orthodoxy of scholarship which discourages if not prohibits speculation about the supernatural. is that a good thing, a bad thing, or both? which is worse, the current orthodoxy that rules mormon studies or the orthodoxy of schoalrship? why?

    (on a strictly academic sidenote, i think a lot of brown’s stuff especially on the johannine corpus is so speculative as to be essentially worthless, e.g. community of the beloved disciple.)

  131. Wesley,

    I don’t think that it’s such a bad idea to have a scholarship that is sceptical of the supernatural. I don’t look to Brown or anyone else to confirm my belief in supernatural phenomena. In fact, in the context of a church like the Catholic one, where the Virgin birth is strengthened by the doctrines of the Assumption and the Immaculate Conception and these are reiterated across parishes and church documents, the presence of a Brown can be a nice alternative as well as a sign of the Church’s tolerance.

    As far as the LDS go, I think they need to stop being afraid of the academy and stop asking the academy to look something like a souped-up Institute as a backdrop to those fears. Outside BYU or other Mormon-affiliated institutions, the Mormon Studies professor will necessarily be forced to refrain from overt faith promotion and will have to nuance his supernatural claims (if for the simple reason that he will be dealing with students that aren’t always willing to grant the premises). It’s a good thing that will make for a more mature Mormonism (one that, besides, will be balanced and enriched by the authoritative, doctrinal stances of the LDS Church on matters of faith (both supernatural and otherwise)).

  132. good points. if the balanced picture you present becomes reality, then there may be nothing to worry about.

  133. I could kick myself. I fail to visit T & S for about a week and what happens? Nate posts an interesting post which I could have contributed to and now the thread is dead!!

    Anyway, I enjoyed reading/skimming through the posts. I think most questions have been answered but I’ll offer a few comments.

    “Funding for the Hunter Chair in Mormon Studies is Done” — No, funding is just beginning. After 3 years of preliminaries, the Hunter Foundation has been formed & it has reached agreement with Claremont about a POTENTIAL chair. We had to get to this point before funding could begin. Now it begins.

    “Bushman, Shipes, Givens, Mauss & Quinn” — I appreciated Hellmut’s concerns re Mike Quinn because I share many of them. I think his employment woes are a complicated issue. (BTW, Mike was at Sunstone West at Claremont this past weekend.)

    But re selection of the chair at Claremont: Assuming funding is forthcoming, then Claremont’s selection committee will begin its search. The most optimistic timeline would have the Mormon Studies program begin in fall 2007. No one including me has any idea who will be selected.

    But the smart money says it will be a promising scholar in mid-career who has many productive years ahead in which to create and build Claremont’s new program. That said, it’s not likely to be Mike Quinn who will be 65 by then and it certainly won’t be Bushman, Shipes or Mauss, each of whom will be in their 70s (and Armand will be pushing 80, I believe.) (Armand has been at the School of Religion for the past year or so as a “visiting professor.”

    “The Claremont/Sunstone West Connection” — Interesting thought. So far, I think, this “connection” has been largely a marriage of convenience. Dan Wotherspoon, Sunstone’s editor, graduated from Claremont’s School of Religion about a decade ago and still has ties to the School of Religion so I think that’s how they began holding Sunstone West at Claremont in 2004 & 2006

    Besides accommodating Sunstone West on campus in 2004 & 2006, the Claremont’s School of Religion has held 2 Mormon-related conferences and 2 additional lectures (by Shipes and Bushman). The conferences have been considerably different than the usual Sunstone fare. So as the Claremont program develops and it holds more Mormon-themed or Mormon-related conferences, they will follow the “comparative studies of religion” arc. The lay audiences which Claremont & Sunstone will draw will overlap, but the subject matter and methods will be largely different.

    BTW, Sunstone West just concluded at Claremont. Friday nite was the screening of “New York Dolls” — I hadn’t see it & found it fascinating. I missed Saturday day b/c of family commitments but wouldn’t miss Saturday nite: DNA & BoM. Bill Lobdell of the LA Times; a Stanford grad. on the DNA science; Armand Mauss, on assessing Mormon “canon” statements from lesser statements which are “official,” “authoritative” or merely “folklore; and finally, Clifton Jolley, who gave a rousing, fascinating, irritating, provocative and off-putting (by turns) defense of the traditional understanding of the BofM, all built around the central theme: Why would anyone believe anything written in . . . (dramatic pause). . . THE LA TIMES!!!” It was fascinating but also uncomfortable because of Bill Lobdell on the rostrum. You may want to visit in a couple weeks to order/download the tape.

    I probably saw some of you there.

  134. “As far as the LDS go, I think they need to stop being afraid of the academy and stop asking the academy to look something like a souped-up Institute as a backdrop to those fears.”

    This is a dead horse, but I know a number of the Mormons who are pushing for the position at Claremont and otherwise working on Mormon studies and this is a grotesquely inaccurate description of their views and motives.

    I actually think that Claremont is a good sign. I do think that there are a number of Mormons who are going to be uncomfortable, but on the whole I think forcing LDS intellectuals to play in the some pond other than their own will increase the quality of what they produce. I think it would be a disaster if Mormon thought occurred only within the confines of the non-Mormon academy. I think that you will always need Mormon intellectual fora like Dialogue that are niether officially part of the Church nor really part of the academy.

  135. Are we letting the dead horse rest undisturbed or are we performing CPR on the poor animal?

    Nate, I think I’ve nuanced and gone back and forth on this one enough. Those “well-intentioned” people can take my “grossly inaccurate description of their views and motives” with a grain of salt (afterwards applying a mixed material salve to their sensitive souls). Again, we’ll see what kind of compromise formation comes out of Claremont and if it turns out to be just right or overcompromised.

  136. To Mormon’s pushing for academic study of their faith in an environment not specifically faith promoting, I suggest they treat their wounds from naysayers with a salve mixt from half shea with half just-pressed aloe.

  137. Aletheia, I think some of the misunderstanding about the Claremont initiative arises from misconceptions of what the prof who holds a chair in Mormon Studies will do. S/he will be a member of the School of Religion; will teach a class or two related to Mormonism; will also teach a class or two in, for example, [Christian] Church History. S/he will publish; will participate in academic conferences on various denominations & religions; and every year or two, sponsor a Mormon-themed or -related conference.

    The comparative approach will be used to examine one aspect of (let’s say) Mormonism and compare it with Protestant, Catholic, Evangelical & Seventh-Day Adventist understandings. That is what happened last fall — the Mormon view of revelation was presented by Bushman with responses from the other traditions I mentioned.

    I for one don’t expect “faith promotion.” But I do expect that I and others will benefit from new perspectives offered by the comparative approach. And I expect we may gain a friend or two. I consider Jan Shipps a friend of Mormonism. I don’t think I’ve read or heard anything of hers with which I agreed completely. On the other hand, she has been incredibly even-handed in her treatment, especially when compared with the Rabid Anti-Mormons (RAMS). If we gained a friend or two of her caliber who, when appropriate, will deflect the RAMS’ rants and ravings, we’d be ahead. That is the extent of my expectations.

    It’s not about faith promotion. It’s about increasing the number of forums in which we can receive a fair hearing. It’s not about conversion. It’s about making new friends; friends who will insist on giving us a fair hearing and cry foul when others don’t.

  138. Rob, I agree that the final pick for the potential position – whoever it may be – will be faced with professional requirements and strictures. She will be call to profess in the academic sense and this profession of scholarship and office will look very different from a call to conversion (and it’s a good thing too). I do think that many here and elsewhere are fundamentally uncomfortable with this prospect (see commentator above who fears that Mormonism will be stripped of the supernatural and the faith-inspiring). I’ve also perceived here and elsewhere (the Sunstone pamphlet for the recent conference at the school) an attempt to encourage a faith-based model of scholarship for the position that seems to me a compromise. I have my doubts as to the appropriateness of gauging candidates by their faith or their perceived amenability to the Church (writ large or not). As a metric, I think it unduly guards against the unlikely apparition of that bugaboo of the rabid anti-Mormon candidate (I don’t imagine a candidacy, much less a serious one, from an Evangelical or an Ex/anti-Mormon of the “rabid” variety) while holding forth the academically dangerous possibility of filling the post with an insipid but faithful prof.

    If you are really hoping to find friends, gain connections and benefit from the power and authority of an academic voice on Mormonism outside Utah (things that I don’t think will hold much truck with the “rabid” set as I see them online or outside the local temple with pickets), a floating assumption that the position was packed is a worst possible outcome and one that needs to be defended against more vigorously. This is one of the more unfortunate effects of the WSJ article and one that has yet to be dispelled (despite the justificatory attacks on Quinn and alternative proposals).

    That said, I can sympathize with your hopes for a fair hearing for the faith and the creation of a bulwark against slander. I don’t know if this chair – or professors in general because they are, for many reasons, such poor and smallish actors on the public scene (Oh, the demise of the public intellectual!) – will effectively achieve those things nor if they should be maximum criteria in choosing candidates but they resonate with me.

    By way of the by the way, I do believe a good deal of what I read in the L.A. Times (as against Jolley) and hold to the Pullitzers as sign and evidence of my well-placed faith.

    And, Nate, Dialogue is a wonderful journal and will continue as a forum for publication and a resource for the interested reader. The question, really, is not whether faith-based scholarship will continue in a Mormon setting (it will at BYU, FARMS, Dialogue, in Sunstone, etc.) but whether, in this place called Claremont and others, you can have Mormon Studies in a non-Mormon setting at all.

  139. for the record, i’m not afraid of a mormon studies that is not faith promoting (frankly, i hate reading apologetics). what i am afraid of is a mormon studies that takes/demands a patently negative stance on the existence of the supernatural. for example, in my opinion there’s a big difference between an objective academic treatment of the origin/s of the book of mormon which evenhandedly discusses the claims of believers, opponents, scientists, historians, etc., and an academic treatment which claims to be objective while automatically dismissing the supernatural. (it seems to me that you are now arguing for the latter.)

  140. Wesley, I’m especially sorry that I didn’t cite the message number of the person I referenced who was afraid of the possibility that Mormonism might be stripped of its supernatural content by an academic treatment. I wasn’t able to quickly find it above earlier and I will pass on a second opportunity to do so now. In any case, it wasn’t you.

    That said, the fear that Mormonism will be stripped of the supernatural within the university is, in my opinion, really a false problem. What’s more, I’m really confounded as to what a “faithful scholarship” a la Sunstone might be. I think if we expect a sort of supernatural advocacy, faith-based apologetics or, even worse, make personal faith a criterion for sincere scholarship, we’re misunderstanding academia and misexpecting.

    Let me try to exemplify from my own tradition even though Claremont has left us out in the summit of all religions and persuasions that it plans for its department. If there were a Greek Orthodox Chair or even a pan-Orthodox chair in the works at Claremont, some of the same issues would surely come up. I would imagine that some would even hold that Orthodox-affiliation was a sine qua non (They have the example of Kallistos Ware to hold up there). Through my lense, it would be difficult to establish any reasonable expectation for faithfulness, practice or doctrine by which to disqualify or endorse candidates. Deciding what’s absolutely essential and what’s unsayable are difficult, fluxy tasks that I’d avoid. There also should be alien (but not always are) to work in a secular univeristy with a interfaith dept. of religion.

    Take the Theotokos. We Orthodox believe that she was a virgin before, during, and after the Incarnation. That’s why she is represented with 3 stars, one to a shoulder and one on her veil, and why she receives the appelation “Ever-Virgin”. This is also why we think the reference to Jesus’ siblings in the English NT is mistranslation and should read something like extended relatives. Now, do I expect my priest to endorse such a view? Would I expect a catechumen to express such a view? Would a seminary be right in policing the holding and transmission of such a doctrine? Yes, yes, and yes (although even then reservations might be allowed). Would I expect a professor in a religious studies dept. to do such endorsing? No, I wouldn’t and I’d expect that if he felt the Church’s take on the word “adelphos” was wrong or was attracted to dissecting historically the Church’s Maryology, he’d do it. The logic extends for the whole list of questions, concerns, doctrines, etc, from the trivial (Is Michael really the prince of angels? Can we be sure that St. Nektarios levitated?) to the not-so-trivial (pointing out the ugly side of the “symphonia” between the Emperor and the Patriarchate, putting a finger on misdeeds like the massacre of the Paulines, puncturing holes in the persecution complex of some Greeks vis-a-vis the Turks) to the serious and contentious in terms of our self-identity (the nature of the primacy of the Papacy, Trinitarian doctrine, abortion, the exercise of violence, and other points where the Orthodox think they are distinctive and the guardians of right opinion). With all of these and more, I would expect a professor to be able to give an account of convergences and divergences within Orthodox thought. I wouldn’t expect him to say “This is what I believe” or even always “The Orthodox view is such and such and it is very understandable that it would be so but…” Maybe he or she would say, “The Orthodox tend to say this, these others say this, I kind of like this” or, “You know the Orthodox, got to love ’em, just got it wrong here”. People might be offended (although these people would tend to be those outside and not inside the classroom). These would be well advised to develop their faith and cool their sensitivity to offense by opening up to discussion and realizing that all spaces are not those of liturgy and catechesis.

    Depending on the professor, this could mean someone claiming an objectivity “while automatically dismissing the supernatural”. It could mean a professor that believes in alternative supernatural events (say a Mormon teaching Eastern Orthodoxy or a Shiite who believes in the prophethood of Muhammad teaching Orthodoxy). The field should be (and generally is) open to such things and it should be the same with Mormon Studies despite fears (I think largely bugaboos) that the post will become the domain of the basher, the evangelizer, the renegade or whatnot. [And I know these aren’t everyone’s fears nor everyone’s concerns. I get it. But I see them strongly operative among some]

    Finally, if you want an alternative Orthodox opinion on things in general and the type that would disagree strongly with the above, you can check out some of the traditionalist/exclusivist/nativist/rightist stuff on sites like or even the Orthodox Research Institute. Of course, I don’t think such folks in any faith (more in the minority than not) should be making such decisions.

  141. Aletheia — What motivates your particular fascination with Mormonism? As I might speculate, is what you’re really interested in is RELIGION itself? So therefore you’re intrigued in Mormonism as a cult, using this word completely and wholly neutral-ly here, in an early stage of its development? ‘Caus, well, although scholars “pretend” objectivity and benign agendas, I think just as important as such essential ideals is a full disclosure of bias as is inevitable to arise from point of view. And — to use CULT in a very broad sense — what I’d say really defines if a cult’s well entrenched or not would be its expectations of where and when to find general bias in its favor.

    And then as well — each, um, /x/-and-/y/ coordinate of of “personality with zeitgeist” will be found to consist of some kind of heirarchical pecking order or another of an individual’s viewpoints and biases; for example, I’d conjecture for Nate’s to have Mormonism up on top with notions of a cult of objective scholarship up there pretty close to it?; while some other Mormons would have their cults of scholarship on rungs much, much lower down their particular laddars of paradigmatic hierarchies? Anyways, your beloved Wall Street Journal reporter-and-editors’ hierarchical thingamajig, no “fault” of their own, will be whatever /it/ is; and which we’ll instinctively take into account when deciding to root for or against whomever the Journal implies as good guys ‘n’ bad guys in this public drama of what ought to be the scholarly stature due doctor Quinn. Right? So, as a parallel with regard to /x/-and-/y/ coordinates of personality and zeitgeist: The Wahabbi’s tended to be the Imperial Brits’ friends aginn the Ottomans but these days — post 9/11 — the West finds them more suspect. Which means that if I were a T. E. Lawrence writing “objectively” about Wahabbism in 1920 or if I else were a Westerner doing so today my work might end up slanted completely opposite ways by my (un-?)conscious, self-/ societal interest. And I think whether somebody wanting acceptance in academia as a Mormon scholar can wear a traditional Mormon tribal headress or must don a generic mortar board and gown mandated by academic “republicans against the sultanate” is mostly a political question?

  142. What’s my interest in Mormonism? Nothing nefarious and nothing one-way or compartmentalized there. During my time as a graduate student, there was an unusual predominance of Mormon students in my department. I became friends with many of them and good friends with a few. As I’ve said elsewhere on this board, over time we came to discuss our beliefs in a pretty open manner. I then took some classes in Mormon history, read some books, subscribed to some journals, went to Utah a few times, applied to BYU law, etc. So, an immediate and personal cause for my interest is the presence of Mormon believers in my life (I’m a big believer in inquiry in general but especially in coming to know about things that are important to people who are important to you). More largely, in my family’s long history in the U.S. there were some practicing (and polygamous) Mormon members and there are still some practicing though more distant relatives (actually RLDS). I guess you could say I’m interested in Mormonism as an element in my family’s history and as a large and distinctive part of American history. Finally, I do have an interest in comparative religion that encompasses the
    Greek Orthodoxy I profess, the Catholicism that affects my field of study, the Judaism of many of my colleagues (one of my gigs has been at a private schule), and several other persuasions that are of interest for a myriad of other reasons.

    Now, I don’t know if you have to turn in a Mormon “turban” for a “generic mortar board”. Just don’t make a peculiar headwrap the evening wear needed to get into the party. Do the non-turbaned set have biases, peculiar objects of focus, etc.? I guess they do. I would imagine that many of these biases would be the same ones shared by any academically-trained candidate for the job (There are a slew of Mormon academics trained back East, at the UCs or Stanford or whatnot that have a lot more in common with their fellow professionals than with the un-doctored set in the Utah Valley. If this is not yet as true as it might be in religious studies as far as I can tell it’s true in other programs). Nevertheless, I would dare to advance the idea that their biases, conscious or unconscious, are not quite as stark, apparent or troubling as T.E. Lawrence’s gazing on the Wahhabis (as he figured out their strategic value for the Empire) seems to us now. Not even as troubling as the difference between T.E. Lawrence’s take and our own post-911 perorations on the dangers of Wahhabist Islam. It seems to me that non-Mormons and all shades between them and practicing believers can do justice to the subject (They won’t degenerate in Sir Richard Burtons, either and, for that matter, simply being Mormon is no guarantor of insight).

    As a final word on bias, I tend to believe that scholars can’t really make a full and clean declaration of their motivations and blindspots. This is so not only because some of these can be unconscious or unseen but because, just as a matter of rhetoric, such declarations end up being partial to become, shortly thereafter, fossilized, insincere and meaningless. If I had to sit through another literature conference where someone makes a declaration of their subject position – those ugly amalgams of personal history, romanticized recreations of the past and meter-measuring of oneself on a scale of oppression that allows one to speak – I’d simply kill myself. If I ever found such things helpful, I’ve been disabused over time as I realized that there wasn’t a correspondence between these narratives and ability to interpret/authority to speak. Besides, they’re often misused for what I’m warning about here: to disallow people in an outgroup from speaking because they somehow don’t share an experience that would allow them to know and tell.


  143. Aletheia. re: your remark about declarations of one’s subject position: The most dangerous people in the world are those who claim to know exactly who they are. Those claiming various positions in “the oppressive system” are no different. Their danger is more subtle than the danger of racism and nationalism, but it is no less dangerous intellectually. The rest of us are a lot less sure of ourselves.

  144. My point is it’d be pretty unreasonable to expect sincerely religious Wahabbis to fund a scholar who’d make such political statements as “dangers of Wahabbist Islam” in the inaugural Wahabbi studies chair.

  145. Jim F: The most dangerous people in the world are those who claim to know exactly who they are.

    What you say here about people is a fortiori true of teenagers.

    I’m not sure I understand what you mean about “those claiming various positions in ‘the oppressive system'” Are you referring to those who claim to be persecuted who have some special insight into their oppressors biases and motives?

  146. I’ve followed the thread closely and have, until now, been able to restrain myself from commenting. But Jim’s comment is irresistible.

    “The most dangerous people in the world are those who claim to know exactly who they are.”

    For some reason Jim’s comment produced an image of a roomful of primary children fairly screaming “I belong to the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I know who I am. I know God’s plan . . . ”

    Dangerous indeed ;)

    If I have to be in the office before 7:00, laughter is the best way to begin the day. Thanks!

  147. DKL: Are you referring to those who claim to be persecuted who have some special insight into their oppressors biases and motives?

    Exactly they opposite. They are among those who claim to know exactly who they are.

    You’re right that teenagers are an excellent example of those who know who they are–all the while searching to find out the answer to that question.

    Melissa: I’m always glad to brighten your day if I can. However, I exclude at least those under the age of accountability from my comment, and perhaps even those under 10 or 12. The naive confidence of my six-year-old grandaughter is completely different than the self-assertive, self-conscious self-confidence of the racist or revolutionary.

  148. To clarify another misunderstanding about Claremont’s goals. Traditionally, Claremont’s School of Religion has had ties to Protestantism and offers masters and doctoral degrees in fairly typical areas: Hebrew Bible, History of Christianity, New Testament, Philosophy of Religion and Theology, Women’s Studies in Religion, and Theology, Ethics, and Culture.

    To expand the dialogue they have recently formed councils with a variety of faith traditions in addition to Protestantism — Catholic, Indic, Islamic, Jewish, LDS, Middle East Orthodox & Zoroastrian. Ideally, they would like a chair in each tradition. I understand that the efforts to establish an Islamic chair are farther along than those for a Mormon chair.

  149. /\|’O^O7I/\ &OKPATOV&
    |..| uman wisdom is worth little or nothing
    | his one of you Beings is the wisest who like Socrates
    is aware that in truth his wisdom is worth nothing

    /-\nd is this ignorance the most reprehensible
    which thinks one knows what one does not?

    |> ut I Athenians also on this point perhaps
    differ from most people in that
    even if I were to say I am wiser it would be in this
    that not knowing enough about hades
    so also I do not think I know

  150. Jim, Declaring a full and clear self-knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Besides the difficulty of sincerely and accurately pulling that task off, the connections between such declarations and any claims to authority and insight are tenuous as I see it.

    Kimball, I always thought that Mormons were a more enlightened bunch than the Wahhabis. Nevertheless, I would expect an anachronism like the inaugural chair in Wahhabism to recognize the perception that Wahhabism was dangerous to Western civilization, secular values, religious groups that consider themselves best left outside the Dhimmi. He could very well rebut them (I think he’d have to blast into such malarkey as the “clash of civilizations”) but I’d be disappointed if he acted as if Wahhabism was a sectarian movement without political, economic and other effects that cause conflict and controversy. He’d be subject to other pressures as well (the which we’d all agree are reasonable and right). He wouldn’t be be allowed to discourage students from taking Hebrew Bible courses at Claremont on the basis of Quranic supremacy, for example. That said, we probably differ on our expectations for Wahhabite and Mormon Chairs.

    Rob, I’m aware that Claremont has some pretty typical, religious studies offerings and emphases. I’m still not convinced as to the direction or the value of its forming a stable of area-specific chairs. Besides being open to charges of being structurally incomplete (once again, where are the Greek Orthodox or the Mandaeans or the Druze or the…), it gives me the impression of there exisitng a program to amass an exotic array of traditions that will add flavor and the mark of diversity in the service of a department that will continue to be overmarked by the Protestant tradition.

  151. Hey Aletheia, it’s so cool you’ve got CoC relatives! I recall hearing that although my own dad’s-dad’s (Hunt/ Nanney) line came to southern Zion — “dixie” — via train from Kentucky however his uncles gathered up with the Reorganized at some point (I forget now offhand) father eastward.

    I grew up in Cali. In Sacra-tomato. And there was this Reorganized Latter Day Saints church (as they spell it) nearer to my home than the next Mormon chapel over. I mean other than our own stake center only a single block away. I used to admire as I walked by this relief picture this church had on their outside wall of a child standing next to the lamb and the lion lying down together without any ire. I’d figured this congregation had been thereabouts since the days of the 49ers and the goldrush. But, get this, I’ve never met anyone in my life who has visited this church or even who has even met anyone that has — weird huh!

  152. Hey Aletheia, it’s so cool you’ve got CoC relatives! I recall hearing that although my own dad’s-dad’s (Hunt/ Nanney) line came to southern Zion — “dixie” — via train from Kentucky however his uncles gathered up with the Reorganized at some point (I forget now offhand) father eastward.

    I grew up in Cali. In Sacra-tomato. And there was this Reorganized Latter Day Saints church (as they spell it) nearer to my home than the next Mormon chapel over. I mean other than our own stake center only a single block away. I used to admire as I walked by this relief picture this church had on their outside wall of a child standing next to the lamb and the lion lying down together without any ire. I’d figured this congregation had been thereabouts since the days of the 49ers and the goldrush. But, get this, I’ve never met anyone in my life who has visited this church or who has even met anyone that has — weird huh!

  153. The diff between the theocracy of Brigham’s and that of the M. ibn Abd al Wahhab-ite house of Sa`ud is Johston’s army. And oil. Speaking of which have the Saudis gotten over their fear of Western “orientalist” studies to partially fund any academic study of Islam (at Claremont/ elsewhere? & what strings are effected there & elsewhere by endowments for secular religious studies from evengelical Protestant, devout Catholic, observant Jews?)

  154. Kimball, No one has yet brought out the divided loyalties of Californians in all this. I know I had mixed emotions when reading about the history of the Utah Territory during the Civil War period and there abouts. I couldn’t help but root for those federal troops coming out of my home state at times. Anyhow, spoken like a Californian ;))

    That said, you’re perhaps right that part of the difference I see between the Mormons and the Wahhabis is a result of federal political and military pressures on the faith. Even so, Mormonism has a diversity – which shows up for me with the United Order (and nostalgia for it), the Dream Mines, the swath of theological speculation before centralization and correlation, etc. – that the Wahhabis don’t just because, in my limited understanding, they are a more recent revivalist movement (I think of them as on the analogy of Xtian fundamentalists).

    I don’t know if the Saudis channel their suspicion of Western orientalism through Edward Said or not. I do know that the American academy – because of Said and other voices from the Middle East – is itself wary of anything approaching 19th Century Orientalism. The academic studies of Islam I’ve perused seem to me better for the wariness but…

    Do Evangelicals sponsor chairs in religious studies at secular universities? Aren’t the flows more towards bible colleges and unusual institutions like Regent’s and Orall Roberts Universities? Catholics and Jews (of the Reformed and Conservative varieties but definitely not the ultra-orthodox) fund chairs and whole universities in the States. There is definitely a politics there but, at least with Catholics at places like Notre Dame, things seem more open. Just my impression.

    Finally, you’ve yet to meet someone who has visited that RLDS church in Sacramento? I can’t say that I have (although a Californian, Sacramento remains something like a political Oz for me). Speaking from my observation of my relatives, it might be just an extension of the unobtrusive behavior of RLDS. When they first explained there religious affiliation to me, when pressed, they just said something like, “We’re Mormons but not the ones from Salt Lake”.

  155. So what I guess I’m saying, Aletheia, is that the same kind of political delicacy you’ve implied to be had with Said would be operative with studies of Mos. As with “Papists.” Good Newsers. Frum.

    E./g. in Protestantism “methinks” fundy Xtians will have much more to say about the future of America than the fossilized movements & schisms from the past that make up what we term the present-day Main Line. And Revivalist Islam, as presently’s so demonized, is winning the battle too. (Depite the “innovation” of the celebration of the nativity of God’s Messenger being officially celebrated everywhere except Saudi Arabia). So what really’s got to be done is to figure what the deal is with all the variety of fundy movements in all their ideosyncratic color — rather than to either promote fundyism or even to agitate for its softpedaling (e./g. by cheering for altruistic gospels that take whatever plumage of specific religious impulse as incidentals). Although either option is a valid political motive for believers (/disbelievers) of whatever stripe or “cult,” the most diplomatic/ neutral ideal is just to try and dispassionately understand?

  156. “add flavor and the mark of diversity in the service of a department that will continue to be overmarked by the Protestant tradition.”

    Could be. I was skeptical when I first heard of it. What has impressed me, though, is the School of Religion’s (SOR) work with the councils of different faiths. Not content to trade academese with fellow academics at one arcane conference after another, Claremont’s SOR has descended from the ivory tower to mixed with the unwashed masses of, in American terms, some mighty “weird” faiths (Mormonism included). Their “quest” (& I think that’s what it is) is greater understanding — and greater tolerance — not simply in the academy but in the community. They’re looking to advance the public good by challenging religious stereotyping and intolerance.

    Who’s not for that? And who’s not impressed by cloistered academics striving to become public intellectuals and impacting the public good? Call me a cock-eyed optimist but I can think of worse uses of academic resources.

  157. I’m a good American, I guess I’ll vote for tolerance and the dismantling of religious stereotypes. I’d even vote for academics making the switch to becoming public intellectuals and agitating for the public good (although it’d be a sort of swing vote subject to revision on the next election cycle; The academics I know just want to be public intellectuals a little too badly, assuming the role of authorities that will tell the public what is good for it. The former demise of the public intellectual was, all around, not such a bad, bad thing). More seriously, Rob, I’ll have to keep the SOR under closer observation. Surely, they’re doing many things right and commendable (even for a sideliner, member of the masses like myself who has no real power over departmental decision-making or policy at all and who is uncomfortable with instruction)

    In any case, I think an opening up to other traditions is a fine ideal. As long as it doesn’t become a sort of collecting where exotic religious flowers (no hybrids, no mixed breeds, no controversy makers, please, just nice, pure samples of the Zoroastrian, Mormon, Coptic Christian kind) set off the normalcy of the mainline tradition.

    Kimball, no doubt that “political delicacy” would be the rule for any of these groups. I admitted as much when I began trying to exemplify my position with Greek Orthodoxy. In fact, some sectors of the Orthodox would probably be a lot more vitriolic and a lot more sensitive (There’s nothing like a Russian monastic who is fighting the West, Ecumenism and anything less than 3-hour masses and full Lenten prostration for these questions. Surely some of them would speak out vociferously, violently and nowadays, even from a hermitage, via Internet). I guess I have been arguing for a bit more hardiness on the part of people of faith involved and something like the possibility of engagement with the “object of study” that doesn’t have to be faithful by academics that don’t have to be always, forever and publicly “sympathetic”, “believing” or whatnot.

  158. Some have expressed concern about the shape of the “new” Mormon Studies.

    If history is any guide, in some sense it will be a continuation of what we’ve seen in the past 50+ years. That is, in some ways it will be a continuation of the New Mormon History. From Arrington’s Great Basin Kingdom, Brook’s Mountain Meadows Massacre and Brodie’s No Man Knows; to Arrington & Bitton’s The Mormon Experience; to Bushman’s Rough Stone Rolling; not to mention the hundreds of books pouring out of dozens of academic presses in the past decade and many theses and dissertations to boot.

    One continuing criticism of the New Mormon History is that it hasn’t been sufficiently “comparative,” thus, it has never entirely rebutted the charge of insularity. But one of the hallmarks of the religious studies programs is the comparative method. This should act as an important corrective and may actually reinvigorate the New Mormon History.

    It’s true that paradigms shift, academic fashions change and no one can foresee what questions or methods will prevail 50 years hence. But in the short term, we have an excellent idea of what the new Mormon Studies will look like.

  159. If a “jack something” is something that’s not it but you’d almost mistake for it, then a “non” who’d nonetheless defend the church sometimes is a jack mormon. And that’s me. And we’re perhaps seeking some kind of inward — as well as outward — accomodations of some kind? With I guess our schiz making us like moths to a porch light whenever it’s rocked by secular forces. Ambivalently fascinated.

    The two mostly jacks who wrote the swell 1913 treatment of Brigham — Cannon & Knapp — are all bully about Connor too: the wiley coronel’s setting up fort Douglas right above Salt Lake’s city center, his artillery pointing down on B’s houses; but Connor was also complicit in the tragic slaughter of Shoshone at Bear River.

  160. Kimball, I have Cannon & Knapp on my bookshelve & I’ll have to pull it down & persue it.

    I agree about Patrick Edward Conner and the 1863 massacre of the Shoshonis in the Bear River Massacre. The Indian dead numbered between 200 & 300. The number killed was higher than at Sand Point or Wounded Knee and may have been the worst single Indian massacre in the West. (Except, of course, California where the ongoing slaughter in the 1850s and ’60s was nearly genocidal.)

  161. If some of the great unwashed like me (Hmm — ya know, that priest DID wave that censer of incense pretty close to me in church this morning. Just kidding!) are gonna champion essayists like England, why not T&S’s own doctor Faulconer! Faulconer:
    . . . “SUPPOSE, HOWEVER, THAT one cannot accept the argument that symbols are best understood incarnationally,** that one still feels that symbols must still be understood as references, as a kind of sign. Even then, it is impossible for us to refer adaquately and accurately to the history of the world. Human understanding may hold some few points of that history together, but it cannot hold them together as a whole, especially as an ordered whole. For human understanding the /kosmos/ becomes, at best, a blur of amorphous shapes in an ancient mirror (See 1 Cor. 13:12). If the /kosmos/ can be comprehended, only God can do so. Therefore, even if scripture were referential rather than incarnational, for a believer only the divine revelation of history–in other words, scripture–could be an accurate reference to and representation of that history as a whole, something, something that scientific history neither attempts nor wishes to give. The events of history can be understood only as they fit into the whole of which they are a part. Thus, even the particular events of a divine history could not be understood except from within the perspective of a divine revelation, the perspective purportedly offered by scripture and a perspective purposefully and necessarily unavailable within the parameters of modern historiography.
    . . . . . .
    . . . “This is /not/ to criticize scientists for that attitude |[viz., not accounting for the divine (/ — ed./)]| or to suggest that God ought to be part of science. A great many other important things also do not exist in a world habited scientifically, things such as morality and value or, of less consequence, good taste in food or clothing. That absence is the consequence of the specialized incarnation required of science and is only a problem if scientists (or more often those who idolize science because they know too little of it) forget that such a specialized incarnation is not the only one, the best one, or the final one. See Martin Heidegger, ‘The Age of the World Picture’ and ‘Science and Reflection,’ in /The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays./”
    From James Faulconer’s “History as Incarnation” (58-59, /Historicity and the Latter-day Saint Scriptures, Relig. Studies Ctr. Monograph Series/). ( ** My own definition: “considered deeply infused with meaning IN ITS VERY ESSENCE”?)

  162. Hmmm…I’ve attended CGU off and on for the past ten years. I have no doubt that Quinn is well qualified but so are many others…there is already an up and coming young (non-LDS) scholar who is doing Mormon Studies in the Chicago area. Quinn was up for a position in the religion dept at CGU in the late 90s…he was not selected then and this was long before Mormon Studies was a twinkle in their eye so I find the conspiracy theories a tad over wrought. The scholars they started with were Kathleen Flake, Catherine Daynes, Teryl Givens and Philip Barlow. They held a conference for them a couple of years ago. What has been said since the beginning is that it is no longer adequate to just know something about Mormonism…you HAVE to know something else. Part of that first conference was to position Mormon Studies…it can fit in denominational history, American religious history, history/literary culture or history of Christianity….but at the very least it will be approached as comparative religion study. The purpose of all of the “Studies” programs is to serve the community as well as to promote scholarship. Of course they are going to start with a qualified insider and that was disclosed at the beginning and is hardly scandalous let alone sneaky. I also find the expection that contributors who fund something can control it *forever* a little strange. Those LDS contributors are taking a risk that the chair will not always be held by an insider once it is funded. As for Sunstone, my bet is that it is seen as a service to the Mormon community…has another group been refused or have they just not asked? A couple of speakers at Sunstone made very critical and angry comments and accusations like I am seeing here as the Dean walked in…something I thought to be in very poor taste. Free speech is obviously not being stifled. The Dean has made an appearance at each Sunstone I have been to on the campus…on a Saturday. She is interested…she is excited..she is sincere and open to suggestion. It really would be refreshing if the back seat gripers would make the effort to obtain some information.

  163. Juliann,

    You were rather a late-comer to the discussion. Since I participated in the discussion earlier on and certainly did have some “gripes”, I thought I might respond. At least for me, it wasn’t a question of a conspiracy at work per se but a tad bit too much complacency in the faculty’s acceptance that a qualified “insider” was necessarily the best candidate for the job. Since this acquiescence has been given the stamp of a natural and reasonable position, I guess I’d be doubtful that donors would be doing much risk-taking that the position (or other, subsequent positions) would open up so that other, less savory candidates would be allowed to occupy them. It sounds to me more like talking about risking your capital on Treasury bonds than playing several rounds of roulette with your cash riding on a single number.

    About the Sunstoners: Why would you be surprised that there were uncharitable and snide comments at an academic conference? That’s par for the course. Maybe they were in bad taste. Maybe they were an indication of tensions that won’t be allayed as easily as you might like. Maybe there not convinced by the declarations of “openness”? Think free speech doesn’t only mean that of pre-approved “insiders”? Maybe need some active convincing that, hey, they’re taking it all wrong that goes beyond a bald statement of such? We can’t really adjudicate that here since you were the one to hear the comments and we can’t really interview them now. But, sometimes we should listen to gripers if only for a little while.

    Again, the Dean may be sincere and enthused. However, making appearances at academic conferences is harrdly a sign of being open to suggestion. Who she invites back to her office for pow-wows and who she listens to when coming to decisions are more indicative of the character of her openness.

    Finally, Aren’t discussions on boards like this one conducive to the exchange of information that you’re chiding some for not seeking out? Won’t your message be read? Couldn’t the Dean, various faculty, students, donors, and everyone involved themselves seek out forums like this one if they were willing? Barring an effort by Claremont to do the same or similar (How about some outreach that moves beyond a press release?), I’d say the onus lies on them and not contributors here.

    But, now I’m getting snipy and gripey…

  164. If ya want something from somebody else (like for example an “A,” lol) sometimes you’re gonna have ta kiss some — insert Mormonsesque euphemism here. That’s the way of life. It’s unfortunate that there’s such a thing as political correctness, so that in one context only an “Under the Banner of Heaven” type of a thesis would be smiled on approvingly and in another would be only the type of fare available at Deseret Book; and to appeal to a higher ideal is wonderful. Sincerely.

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