There are 35 thoughts on “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants”.

  1. Professor Sorenson was one of my favorite teachers when I was an Anthropology student in the early 70’s (along with Myers, Nibley, and Van Wagoner for Arabic). I recall the excitement when rumor was repeated of a planned organization for the application of scholarly tools to achieve deeper insights into the scriptures and religion generally. Voila! There was FARMS, and I have loved it ever since, though the recent change in tone has been noticeable. It has been thrilling to stumble across The Interpreter and discover the same excitement that was there 40 years ago. The feeling is back. (Hmm–forty years. Doesn’t that have some significance?) Best Wishes, and keep up the good work!

  2. I have often pondered the original mission of the Church as established by the Savior. so many things that have been restored did not survive such as the priesthood ordinances of the temple and even the exact words of the Savior. nevertheless I believe there was a great mission for those early since and I believe many of them were very valiant in their efforts to become the Church as they understood it.

    Remarkably, to me, the words of James, or at least somebody claiming to be James, echoed throughout the centuries and reached Joseph Smith. because of that the Prophet was able to receive the message and go into the Grove and pray and give us the Restoration could begin. remarkably too, the main event of the meridian of time, i.e. the atonement, with its component of seeking forgiveness for sins and invoking the atonement,
    is what led Joseph to seek to find the right church in the first place. praise be to the early Saints and for those good men over the ages iwho were able to preserve those important parts of the message.

  3. I don’t recall how or when I became aware of Dan Peterson but I read or listen to anything he puts out whenever the chance presents itself. Keep up the good work Dan! I have a tremendous appreciation for the work you do and others who also participate. You make a difference in people’s lives. I don’t have any bobble heads but if there were a Dan Peterson bobble head I would get one.


      • Ha Ha! Don’t worry, The Dan Peterson bobble head doll will counteract all the Dan Peterson voodoo and effigy dolls owned by the critics and your head will turn out just the right size.

  4. When I joined FARMS in the early nineties it had an intimacy and openness feel to it that I enjoyed. As it grew, that feeling dissipated and I eventually quit being a member. I’m glad that the Interpreter is around because it meets a need that I have to explore gospel ideas and concepts in an open environment beyond what is taught in Sunday School. Sometimes I feel that as a people we limit our thoughts too much for fear of becoming doctrinally misaligned. There is so much to explore and understand. Over the past years my exploration has been a solo journey but it is nice to have the Interpreter around to help me.

    • I know exactly what you’re talking about. That was one of my laments about the way FARMS developed. I’m hoping that, at Interpreter, we can foster and continue the original spirit of FARMS.

    • Doug, I agree, wholeheartedly. I enjoyed Farms in those early days. One of the highlights for me was a visit to our stake in New Zealand by Dan Peterson and Louis Midgley. I wish the Interpreter every success and will certainly be spreading the word.

  5. My general feeling is that the effect of technology is to speed everything up so things can happen in one’s lifetime that otherwise would have taken hundreds or thousands of years. For example, computers allowed Family Search to index one billion human records in seven years, and that indexing in turn will facilitate thousands, perhaps millions, to be re-acquainted with their ancestors who never otherwise could have done so in this lifetime.

    However, sometimes God uses revelation to bridge the gaps in human knowledge and ability. For example, in the early days of Christianity, there was a terrible drought and famine, and a prophet predicted it in advance so that the saints in Antioch could provide timely relief for the saints in Jerusalem. (Acts 11:27-30) Another example, rather than wait for us to discover and translate a certain hidden parchment containing writings of the apostle John, the Lord revealed it directly to Joseph Smith through the Urim and Thummim (D&C 7). As a software developer I’m glad that my work can be used to hasten the work of the Lord, but I’m humbly aware that the Lord can do his own work, and that His technology is better than mine.

  6. What no one seems to want to talk about is why FARMS was allowed to falter (as you state) and who decided to clip its wings. If it was a GA then I for one hesitate faulting its previous posture, and the need to reinvent it by going over the head of sanctioned leaders.
    I also hope “Interpreter” is not trying to pick a fight with FARMS, or those who curtailed its functions or those who set parameters chosen by some unnamed GA.
    I do enjoy following “Interpreter” and Bro. Peterson I think a lot of you and this attempt to bring great Gospel in sights to church members.
    But, let’s let keep it friendly and inspiring. Thank you

    • “Interpreter” is absolutely not trying to pick a fight with FARMS — or, more accurately, with the Maxwell Institute. (We have, in fact, posted announcements for every new Maxwell Institute publication and every conference or speech sponsored by the Institute.) We don’t even want to go over the particulars here about the recent changes at the Maxwell Institute.

      I can assure you, though, on the highest possible authority, that the leadership of the Church did not order those recent changes.

    • I think that is a very important distinction, and in far more than name only: MI is NOT FARMS.

      I’m sure many of us are not happy with the current “regime” at the MI, nor with some of the directions they wish to pursue, but they seem to (finally) be getting in gear. The announcement (which, incidentally, I saw here first) of their work on the New Testament I most heartily cheered!! Which happily brings us back to the topic of the OP. I hope that as this NT project progresses it will shed further light on the early Christian Church.

      Another point, that is well made in the OP—copies of the scriptures & rapid communication were rare commodities. I find it striking when we talk of the apostasy that these things seem to go by the board. The general tone in discussing the apostasy seems to be something of condemnation for those rebellious early saints. Well, how about the folks who did the best they could with what they had? I know that sounds simplistic, but we’ve all heard stories where GAs have had to go set things aright in a Ward, etc. Not so easy to do when, a) you have to walk for days on end to get to you destination and b) you can’t find the members of the local congregation once you get there! (“Where’s the membership clerk when you need him?!)

      • Just a minor note: The BYU New Testament commentary isn’t closely tied to the Maxwell Institute, if indeed it’s really associated with the Maxwell Institute at all. It’s pretty much a stand-alone project. It would have been a perfect thing to do under the auspices of the Institute, but that isn’t the way it’s happening.

  7. We have been traveling in Israel and Europe. As I look at the beautiful Cathedrals, Mosques and Synagogues built over centuries, I see a love of God by many diverse and honest-hearted people.

    • I think that one of the (very many) attractive aspects of the restored Church is its willingness to acknowledge the good in those other communities.

      Some Christian traditions are less open to doing so.

      Some are very open, but, in their openness, essentially abandon their own truth claims.

      I think that Mormonism falls in the perfect middle, unashamedly proclaiming that the fullness of saving truth and authority is to be found within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but, at the same time, freely granting that truth, goodness, and beauty are to be found in other faiths, as well.

  8. Thanks for your continuing insight into the history and development of the early Church. I have felt very deeply that we need to express heartfelt gratitude to those early Christians and Church leaders who kept the foundational faith in Christ alive so that the truth would someday be able to find a “home”,

  9. On the topic of the difficulty of maintaining consistent teachings and policy in the early Christian church, a rebuttal to our LDS belief in an apostacy asserts that “God would not let His Church expire, ergo, it did not.” Which raises a legitimate question, What did God intend to accomplish, knowing the Church on earth would stray without real revelation to apostles?

    There was clearly benefit in the preservation of the Bible, and a tradition of belief in Christ. It had a large positive effect on society that mitigated the natural tendencies to abuse of authority.

    But I think it helps to understand that the early converts to the Church were not lost, but took the Church with them into the Spirit World, and carried on the work of conversion in a realm where the communication problem does not exist. All of the original apostles and the faithful saints are there, continuong their work among the billions who have lived and died, in a true and living Church of Jesus Christ that has been in continuous existence since the visit of Christ between his death and resurrection. We Mormons don’t think about the doctrines of salvation for the dead as related to the doctrine of the ancient apostacy, but I think they tell a unified story that explains why the missionary efforts of the early apostles bore fruit despite the earthly Church apostacizing. When John the Baptist, Peter, James and John, and Moses and Elijah came to earth to restore priesthood authority, they were reestablishing a connection between a living Church on earth and the continuous Church in the spirit world, one that is embodied in the temples.

  10. One thing that FARMS had was a nifty logo, combining aleph from the Hebrew alphabet with omega from the Greek, and meso-American and Egyptian writing symbols, to indicate its orientation to both the Lord (Alpha and Omega) and to cross cultural scholarship. I was told there was a specific decision made to not “commercialize” the logo through sale of shirts, bags, rings or pins that would help fund FARMS. (I got a polo shirt with a FARMS logo only by being a pest.)

    But I think there is a good reason to create and “commoditize” a logo for Interpreter, namely, to enable those of us in the Interpreter fan base to recognize each other, so we can enjoy sharing our appreciation for Interpreter. We can hardly go around at every Church meeting verbally trolling for fellow Interpreter geeks. A discreet lapel pin or tie clip to wear on Sunday, or a t-shirt to wear during Church basketball or service activities, would help build up the network of Interpreter supporters. It would also be a conversation starter so we could make our neighbors aware of it.

    • “We can hardly go around at every Church meeting verbally trolling for fellow Interpreter geeks.”

      Actually, I’ve had pretty good luck doing this. 😉

      • I guess I will have to take on that challenge, but I still would like to have logo bearing items. If it is OK for BYU it ought to be OK for this. It is not like we are going to have Dan Peterson bobble head dolls, although …

          • I LOVED the original logo & it’s symbolism. I don’t remember why it was changed, not that it matters anymore.

            While part of me would *really* like to see it’s return (here), a new day has dawned and maybe it wouldn’t be quite right for Interpreter. (Besides, it’s probably “owned” by Bradford, er, I mean MI.)

            Talent abounds, I’m sure something wonderful will be forthcoming, but somehow keeping the substantive message of the original logo’s symbolism could be a goal.

            I know! A contest for the best design. Winner gets free access to all published materials for a year… Oh wait, that’s no good since its all free to everyone all the time anyway!!

            [No, you don’t get to make Bryce come up with something! Give the kid a day off now & again!]

            Now here’s the thing about the new venture: Maybe it is not the original intent of the DARPA Internet, but certainly the hopes for the World Wide Web was the free, unlimited exchange of ideas, collaboration, and information. Interpreter fits nicely into that ideal.

            Being disaffected and displeased with the lethargy that seemed to be plauging the MI (this being well before I’d ever heard of the coup), I was ecstatic upon learning about Interpreter!

            The infrastructure in place for disseminating the work of Interpreter, and the quality/quantity being produced, truly none of us (founders & “consumers” alike) could have hardly conceived in bygone days.

            Just do us one favor, keep a sharp eye out so this work cannot be usurped, and please STAY INDEPENDENT (no offense to the Y or other Church affiliated organizations, but if any of them ask you to “join”, please politely (and insistently) decline.)

    • Many years ago, once, when I was representing FARMS in a meeting with the BYU Board of Trustees during the process of bringing it on campus — a fateful move, as we now know! — President Hinckley turned to President Packer and asked whether he had any objections to us. “No,” President Packer responded. “But you’re not going to be selling FARMS keychains, are you?” He was half serious, and I assured him that we had no such plans. (He really, really, really doesn’t like commercialization of the gospel.)

      • it is not the commercialization of the gospel, but the commercialization of a means of understanding the Gospel through scholarly. I have often thought that a good logo for Mormons (to put on the back of cars or on ties, for example) would be a fish that instead of the word ICHTHES or Darwin inside would simply have a Moroni blowing a trumpet inside. I thought of that idea because it combines the ancient Christian symbol and the modern Mormon symbol at the same time.
        perhaps that or something similar to be used for Interpreter.

  11. The notion that the Interpreter Foundation is virtually FARMS in exile reminds me of the theological split within the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod in the 1970s, which led to the exile of most of the students and faculty of Concordia Seminary, their off campus location then becoming known as Seminex.

    Only time will tell whether Interpreter can provide the elan and substance of classic FARMS.

    • I’ve explicitly referred to Interpreter, sometimes, as “FARMS in exile,” and, doing so, I had precisely this Lutheran episode (and Seminex) in mind. Hence the “in exile.”

      Yes, it remains to be seen whether we’ll be able to capture and, if so, to keep what you call “the elan and substance of classic FARMS.” I hope so. But that was a specific historical moment, and a few of us, at least, were younger then. Still, I’m optimistic.

      I’ve long missed the sheer volunteer enthusiasm and excitement that were there in the first years, even in the first two decades, of FARMS. And I’ve regretted the bureaucratization that crept in, reducing its agility and sapping its energy, and that has now, in my judgment, come absolutely to dominate the Maxwell Institute with endless memos and mission statements and sharply reduced productivity. I see that energy, excitement, volunteer enthusiasm, and agility reborn in Interpreter, though, and I’m optimistic. So far, so good.

      Some of us have done this before. We built FARMS up, with the assistance of wonderful volunteers and donors and many contributing scholars. I hope we can do it again — though I regret the fact that we NEED to do it again. You, frankly, are among the crucial people I’m counting on to help with this. And we need others.

      • I can only speak for myself of course, but I have found the Interpreter every bit as thought provoking and exciting as FARMS. So much show that I’ve been trying to share it with anyone I can. When I first heard about the Maxwell Institute incident I was extremely concerned and The start of Interpreter allowed me to breathe a sigh of relief. The work you all do changes lives and strengthens testimonies and all I can do is say thank you and keep up the excellent work.

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