There are 14 thoughts on “Twenty Years After “Paradigms Regained,” Part 2: Responding to Margaret Barker’s Critics and Why Her Work Should Matter to Latter-day Saints”.

  1. Pingback: What More Can We Learn From 1 Nephi 1? « Meridian Magazine

  2. Note 77 states that control of Brigham Young University passed control of Book of Mormon Studies to the University of Illinois. I find that appalling. That BYU does not have the time and wherewithal to sponsor the formalized study of this Book of books speaks sadness and regret to me, not to mention the irony of it all.

    • I agree. And even more, I was disturbed by the sudden and consequential change to the Maxwell Institute Website in 2016, offering a new approach, discarding what existed rather than adding to it. That event draws to mind more Kuhn:

      “When it repudiates a past paradigm, a scientific community simultaneously renounces, as a fit subject for professional scrutiny, most of the books and articles in which it had been embodied.” (Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 167).

  3. Thank you, Kevin, for another incisive examination of what could be termed the rot that has set into certain parts of LDS apologia. While I have yet to fully absorb all of this piece, to me it bears all the hallmarks of commentary that will be seen as increasingly significant as time passes. Thank you for exposing the multiple weaknesses in the arguments of those LDS teachers who attack Margaret Barker’s ideas. We are not bound to accept her explorations (or those of anyone else) without measuring them, but we are bound to then accept Truth from wherever it comes. While I have never met Barker in person, our email exchanges have been a model to me of how a great mind can peer outside the walls of consensus dogma, while remaining open-minded, unpretentious and refreshingly down to earth. I wish I could say the same of some “scholarly/academic” LDS contacts I’ve experienced over the years.

    One very apropos gem leapt off the page at me:

    “The change at the Maxwell Institute was, in my view, fundamentally about preferred social commitments on the part of certain academics in administrative positions which was very different from that of the founders, the editors, hundreds of contributors, and many thousands of readers, aiming instead to please outside secular scholars while making the kind of scholarship Neal A. Maxwell had encouraged much more difficult at BYU.” 77

    That’s perhaps the best summary of the 2012 MI debacle that I’ve yet come across. Note 77 adds the kicker.

    • You are welcome. I’ve been amazed to be a part of it. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed your own exchanges with her. She can be amazingly generous with her time and attention. I’ve been blessed to meet her a half dozen times in various places, though I can think of several LDS scholars who have had more involved and lengthy contact with her over the past two decades. In 2000 talk “Reflections on Biblical Studies in the 20th Century” she commented that “We seek to stand where they stood, to look where they looked so as to glimpse what they saw,” though of course, she more concerned with the “vision” they had, their way of seeing things, more than the physical environment. It is very cool for Shauna and I to put on our Quest 2s, load up Wander, and travel in Virtual Reality to Khor Kharfot, and look around, perhaps seeing a few of your footprints, and yet, more important to recognize in reading 1 Nephi’s vision of the Tree of Life and see that “This revelation to Joseph Smith was the ancient Wisdom symbolism, intact, and almost certainly as it was known in 600 bce.”

      Thanks for your comments and longstanding contributions.

  4. Good essay as usual.

    Regarding Eliason’s charge that “temple themes” are missing from the Book of Mormon…I wonder if he’s factoring in Don Bradley’s “The Lost 116 Pages”? The upshot of that excellent book was that the Book of Lehi (and whatever else may have been on the lost pages) was chock-full of temple references. Indeed, I might revisit Bradley’s book with the intent to compare it with Barker’s; that study could be quite illuminating.

  5. Thanks for bringing balance to thoughts of Eliason et al., Kevin. As a trained biblical scholar at the feet of some of the finest teachers (Robert Alter, Jacob Milgrom, Jeffrey Tigay, Barry Eichler) at some pretty notable institutions (UC Berkeley, UPenn), I for one do not think Barker’s ideas should be dismissed so readily just because she does not comport with the “mainstream.” I would, however, like to state again something I think I have shared with you before that might bring additional understanding to those who struggle with her work. Rather than viewing Josiah and the Deuteronomists (both the Dtr1 and Dtr2 varieties) strictly as corrupting elements who eliminated the old ways in order to consolidate power as some understand Barker to be saying, I think it might be more useful to view Josiah and Dtr as akin to someone like Martin Luther. Luther, as you know, reacted to omissions and corruptions he saw in the old catholic way and sought reform by an appeal to the scriptures (just like Josiah). Although Latter-day Saints would agree that Luther had some salient points and the Reformation was important, we would also agree that Luther, and the other protestant movements, made some over-corrections and eliminated things that never should have been eliminated from the gospel of Christ–things like the temple, the hosts of heaven, priesthood, continuing revelation, etc. Joseph Smith cut through the errors in both traditions to restore the truths that each had abandoned. Viewing Josiah and Dtr as similar to Luther allows us to appreciate their goodness, as the Bible portrays them, attempting to eradicate the false forms of worship they noticed, but also allows us to understand Barker’s ideas that perhaps Josiah introduced errors of his own as he and others over-corrected and suppressed things that should not have been suppressed–i.e., temples, the heavenly family and other hosts of heaven, etc. With this perspective in mind, a perspective that perhaps only Latter-day Saints would fully appreciate, I think we can appreciate both the “mainstream” academics as well as Barker’s work together. We can still view Josiah as a hero who sought to do right but can also recognize, as Barker is helping us see, that even heroes have flaws and muddy the waters with their good intentions.

    • Thanks for the insights, here and elsewhere. (I remember citing an important Isaiah paper of yours in Paradigms Regained.) However a person chooses to frame Josiah, I think it important in a dialogue to recognize the particular details and issues that another person raises in defense of their reading, even, and especially if, you have your own way of framing and interpreting those details. We may interpret differently, (as in the famous cases of the rabbit/duck or old/young woman drawings) but we should at least consider carefully most of the same the key lines and pixels. In Eliason’s case, especially in the case of Josiah and Deuteronomy, he completely ignores what Barker and various LDS scholars have said to support their contrasting views in favor of being incredulous that anyone could reasonably imagine any other reading than unquestioning acceptance and adoration, given the points he offers on New Testament citations and the Pride Cycle in the Book of Mormon. Friedman makes a powerful case that the authors of the Deuteronomistic Histories thought of Josiah as a hero, the perfect king. If the case is going to stand, then there should be a serious attempt to “prove the contrarieties” so that what is really the case can be manifest.

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