There are 21 thoughts on “Looking Back, Almost Five Years On”.

  1. Thank you and all the contributing scholars for all your work. I was worried that the work of apologia put out by FARMS that was so central to helping me work through my concerns with the authenticity of The Book of Mormon would be scattered to hundreds of individual websites. Then you announced Interpreter and I knew then that the spirit of FARMS and the spirit of Neal A. Maxwell would live on in Interpreter even if it wasn’t named after him.

    It still sickens me to this day that the organization he so strongly supported, that led to it being renamed in his honor, was gutted so callously for the sake of scholarly ego.

    I’m glad you did not let the machinations of men with lesser vision, stand in the way of the great work you do here. Again thank you.

  2. Thanks for continuing to provide this wonderful journal, Dan Peterson. Your writings and thoughts have contributed greatly towards my growth and understanding of the Gospel, both spiritually and intellectually. I look forward to seeing what kind of films Interpreter has in mind! As always, keep up the good work!

  3. Please add me to the standing ovation. Most every day i look forward to email notifications from the Interpreter. The substantive output has been staggering and enlightening. The Scriptural Round Table videos have helped me to appear smart in Sunday School–no small feat. Prayers and blessings going forward.

  4. Let no one underestimate what good-willed people of talent and perspective can do with persistence and dedication! There is a place I suppose for academics to explore lines of reasoning and understanding. But there is an ongoing, crying need of faithful members to understand their place, their beliefs, and how they might interact with what the world or people of opposition are saying about their beliefs so they can navigate that faith and their lives in such a world. The Interpreter meets that need and for that I am grateful.

  5. Dan, since I brought you to the Pacific many years ago in my then role as Area Director of Public Affairs for the Church, I have long admired your work. Hearing you respond in such an eloquent and knowledgable way to the piercing enquiries about the Church by journalists from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation during those early visits began my own version of ‘old school’ loyalty to you individually and the organisations which you led at BYU and in later incarnations.

    The Middle Eastern Texts Initiative bore fruit of us, too, in our distant part of the world where Islam was becoming a constant part of the discourse in intellectual, academic and political circles.

    I have long felt the need for a robust apologetic approach by the Church, particularly through its academic organs. And, nowadays, with the sophistication of oppositional forces on the internet and in other forums – such that even some of the elect are being deceived – the need for strong Mormon apologetics has never been greater.

    Attacks by opponents need not be met with invective, of course, but they can be met with vigor, tenacity and assertiveness, calling out disingenuousness and falsehood for what it really is. And, in all the time I have observed your work, I have never seen you present the apologists’ case with anything but such a posture, and yet always maintaining professional courtesies.

    Following my retirement, I now serve with my wife as a senior missionary in England and, in part, am seeing the impact on some whose testimonies have not been adequately bolstered by strong defensive information about Church doctrine, practice and history.

    The Church’s essays on LDS.org are excellent but, of necessity, cannot tend towards the speculative in their presentation. If anything, they go out of their way to avoid the merest hint of speculation. In my mind, Mormon interpreter can fill that void. Not that we want speculation in the pure sense of the term, but we do need critical analysis and interpretation – effectively the provision of alternative opinions and options – if we are to defend our position against the many alternative viewpoints that are ‘out there’. It is not going to get any easier. Thank you, thank you for what you are doing.

    • Alan, thanks so much for your faithful voice. So welcome to the heart, especially when we recall the contempt for apologetics had by members of the Mormon Liberal culture.

      You know, I have a vision that won’t leave me. It is the creation of a set of PDF documents that answer and/or give Faithful Perspective to the spicy issues in Church history and practice. The docs would feature artistic headers maybe with a logo, and a format that would make for clear reading on handheld devices. I think of it: Seminary teachers, college Institute instructors, bishops, Sunday School teachers, etc, having these highly helpful docs right in their cell phones ready to beam to anyone in need.
      God bless you, and Salam Alaykum Dan.

      • Thank you, Glen. Good thoughts. I have similarly wished for some ‘pocket answers’ that one could pull out when required on the few challenging issues that arise occasionally.

        Shortly before we began our senior mission last year, I started reading Jesus the Christ again….a most enjoyable experience. As I’ve been reading, I believe I have understood more fully the processes Elder Talmage used as he wrote the book. He interpreted doctrine, scripture, history and practice according to the inspiration he received at the time, the writings of Church leaders and prophets throughout the ages, and the views of various Christian commentators from whom he quoted liberally. While being very careful to avoid speculation, nevertheless even he had to arrive at conclusions on scriptural meaning for which there would have been alternative points of view.

        To return to my earlier point, the Church’s essays on LDS.org are strictly factual in their descriptions of modern-day Church history and practice. In my opinion, it seems they describe WHAT happened but, unless there is clear evidence in Church records, they deliberately do not describe WHY the Church or its leaders took certain actions at certain times.

        This is what I attempted to explain in early 2016 to a friend who had left the Church. He was looking for the “why” in some of the essays but could not find it. Hence, here is where the Interpreter website has the capacity to fill the gap…not through questionable speculation of course but, in careful, detailed and credible analysis, presenting perspectives on our doctrine and practices which are alternatives to the “conventional wisdom” promoted by our opponents. No doubt this is not the website’s only purpose but surely it is one of them.

        If Talmage was able to faithfully weigh up alternative perspectives and come to conclusions on doctrine and history related to Jesus Christ, so too should Latter-day Saint apologists be able to offer faithful analysis and interpretation in a robust defense of our faith…coming to conclusions using whatever evidence might be available or weighing up options where the evidence is limited.

        Yet, no matter how careful the analysis, ultimately a testimony of the truthfulness of Gospel principles can only come from a witness from the Holy Ghost. There are so many claims and counter-claims about our faith (and indeed every other faith), our Heavenly Father has provided a spiritual vehicle for sorting out fact from fiction that sits above all of the intellectual analyses by pundits of every variety.

        Finally, I have often thought that Brother Peterson could have ascribed to him a title bestowed upon British monarchs since Henry VIII. He could well be described as one of our most capable “defenders of the faith.”

        • Thanks, Alan. I agree.

          What is crucial, I believe, is Faithful Perspective. Careful, detailed and credible analysis is much needed. And for those troubled by the effusive output by the more scholarly apostates and their Mormon Liberal playmates, Interpreter is such marvelous news for us. So thankful for it. Faithful scholar-voices like Dan Peterson’s, Louis Midgley’s, and Ralph Hancock’s just thrill me. Defenders, yes!

          In addition, I think responses to apparent problem issues should also be available in a more direct, capsulized format. The lds.org Church essays prove that brevity can be effective. And then, thorough treatments could immediately follow even in the same PFD document. This is the format I would favor — a synopsis ‘capsule’ essay followed by Thorough Thing.

          We lose too many of our youth and young adults. I wonder if it is sometimes only a single sucker-punch item—a distorted or skewed fact or non-fact, or cluster of uzi-spewed propaganda bytes. While adolescent testimonies are young, they can be vulnerable. I love that recent landmark talk by M. Russell Ballard, “Opportunities and Responsibilities of CES Teachers in the 21st Century,” that describes a need to have responsible replies to challenges.

          It dismayed me to see a Liberal LDS scholar-deity describe an alleged need to ‘re-write’ our Church history narrative, saying that our current one is not sustainable. I flashed on my own memories as a new convert during my college years. I remember hearing at our university’s LDS Institute about Fawn Brodie, the Tanners (Jerald & Sandra), seer stones, blood atonement, and other spicy issues. At the same time I came into possession of a handful of primary source documents on the Adam-God theory. None of these things threw me off the horse. So brother Brigham was spouting off about some strange thing! I had had a spiritual experience before being baptized, and somehow I decided to trust in it. This is why I am so glad to see you mention the Holy Ghost and the need for personal responsibility for our testimony. Faith is a choice.

          But re-writing our narrative? Faithful Perspective might rather be: our knowledge about our history improves and advances. And our emphasis and focus in Church education must broaden in the Information Age in order to meet the challenges that come from enemies and Liberal unfaithful’s.

          Joseph used a seer stone to translate. What of it? Moses used a burning bush that did not consume; what if the Prophet had used an ignited tumbleweed? What if he had used a talking horse?

          THAT is Faithful Perspective.

          Thanks so much for your thoughtful post.
          God bless,

  6. Dan, you are right to get this on the record and this is a most appropriate time. I hope that Latter-day Saints will read this carefully and see that this is an important moment for us. There is a persistent temptation for the Saints to find the meaning of their faith in terms of academic scholarship. On the face of it, an innocent temptation. But over time we come to expect that the Gospel will reflect the argument in a graduate seminar room rather than divine revelation, which often tries our faith because its truth runs contrary to scholarly expectations. It is at these moments that we find out where our loyalties are. Sometimes the distance traveled will not allow us to return. Mormon Interpreter never lets us forget this problem. Where our faith is consistent with scholarship, Interpreter provides us with a means of framing it. But it also serves to shore up our faith, showing its proper intellectual grounds, when the winds of academic fashion would steer us in the wrong direction. Your recollection is an important marker on the road we must travel.

  7. I love interpreter’s mission of promoting appreciation and understanding of our scripture through faithful scholarship, and I really like its model of free, open access and the ability to comment on papers. Thanks for your leadership over the years.

  8. Congratulations on the continuing vitality of The Interpreter Foundation. I was at the FAIR conference when all this came down. I didn’t understand then why it was done that way and still don’t understand it now. Be assured your invaluable service of defending the faith of the every-day, salt-of-the-earth Saint in the tradition of Elder Maxwell is much appreciated. In addition to reading and listening myself, I share many articles with family and friends. Thank you all for doing this. Best wishes for continued success.

  9. I was a regular user and supporter of FARMS and when the change came I noticed an evident difference in content. I am ‘old school’ loyal and don’t jump at something new right away. I visited your website and felt compelled to become a regular reader. It is nice to hear the “other side of the story” because I was very disappointed when I found out about the parting of ways. I commend your work and support it. I look forward to great things from you in the future. Thank you for all you do.

  10. While I have enjoyed many of the published papers at the interpreter I’ve also been a bit dismayed at times by the use of this form to publish articles like this — that well may be appropriate for a blog are not for a journal.

    • I disagree. I think it is quite appropriate for an article in a journal — particularly an article that is an introduction to a single volume of that journal — to provide a first-hand account of the history of the Foundation that publishes the journal.

    • I think nothing inappropriate at all in this article. It’s germane to this Institute – a brief reminiscence by its founding scholar. Scholarly journals will sometimes feature brief pieces like this.

  11. Bravo! Nice to hear the full details after all these years. Stay independent and never cede control to another organization.

    • Yah, Jason. I think there is greater strength now the autonomy Interpreter now has — something the faithful’s didn’t have while under BYU auspicious. A stunning irony, I think, that “the Lord’s University” allowed the 2012 hostile takeover of a faithful institution. Mormon Liberal culture wins in a fallen world — even in Provo.

  12. Thanks so much, Dan, for this delightful reminiscence and review of the genesis of the Foundation. Responsible scholarship with Faithful Perspective must live on. You, Br. Midgley, Br. Hamblin, and the others continue to bless the Saints with faithful word.

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