Of Gratitude, and Its Expression


Since it has now been publicly announced, I suppose that I can break the self-imposed public silence that I’ve maintained, with only a couple of minor exceptions, regarding my dismissal as editor of the Mormon Studies Review, published by Brigham Young University’s Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, after founding it and directing it for twenty-three years.


This will be brief.  I may or may not have other comments on the topic in the future, depending on how and where things go.  I still want to be careful.  I have no desire to injure either the Maxwell Institute or the University, and I’m not particularly interested in a glorious martyrdom.  (There will, I fear, be grievous damage to the Institute, but it won’t come at my hands.)


It’s scarcely a secret that I haven’t received my dismissal enthusiastically.  Thanks to somebody’s leak of two emails, this has already been all over the Web and I’m told it will soon appear, without my participation or involvement, in the mainstream media.  I have personal reasons for being displeased, but this isn’t about my hubris: I know that nobody is indispensable.  Much more importantly, I have deep concerns about the significance of my dismissal (and the reasons behind it) for the future direction of the Maxwell Institute.  Moreover, on behalf of the roughly two hundred and fifty writers who have contributed to the Review over nearly a quarter of a century, I vigorously reject the insinuation that the Review was in a crisis that necessitated emergency mid-volume intervention, and that it now requires a post-Peterson “detoxing” period before it can be permitted to resume publication.


I was notified by the Maxwell Institute director, Dr. M. Gerald Bradford, of his desire for a change in the direction and approach of the Review slightly more than two weeks ago, just prior to my departure for Israel.  He and I spoke for several hours, as I attempted to figure out precisely what he had in mind.  I had some very substantive concerns, and was still rather uncertain about exactly what he was saying.  However, he said nothing at that time about dismissing me as editor.


On Thursday, 14 June, though, I received an email, while I was in Jerusalem, notifying me that he was removing me as editor of the Review.  It arrived completely out of the blue; I never saw it coming, though I now suspect, for various specific reasons, that it was the culmination of a long-prepared plan.  Today, just slightly more than a week later, my removal has been publicly announced.


The formal statement mentions my associate editors — Louis C. Midgley, George L. Mitton, Gregory L. Smith, and Robert B. White — and pretty clearly implies that they, too, have been dismissed.


They didn’t even receive an email.  The newly-posted statement on the Maxwell Institute’s website, I suppose, constitutes their notification and their thanks for, cumulatively, many years of service.  (They have been absolutely wonderful.)  One of them had written Dr. Bradford several days ago, asking whether he was to be canned along with me, but received no answer.  Another called Dr. Bradford by telephone, but his call was not returned.  One is traveling in Europe without Internet access, and still knows nothing about any of this (though his earlier calls to Dr. Bradford, regarding a matter that now seems to have been related, also went unanswered).  My own emails to Dr. Bradford received no response, and their receipt was never even acknowledged.


For those of you who may be managers in either the public or private sector, a word of counsel:  Don’t treat your employees this way.


Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland




"Getting kind of bored"
"How churches can attract the 'nones'"
"The gospels as ancient biographies"
Von Bayreuth bis zu Nürnberg
  • http://www.mormonmomma.com Alison Moore Smith

    I don’t know anything about the politics involved, Dan, but concur. This is scummy, cowardly behavior.

  • Quickmere Graham

    I’m not sure why you think there was a leak; the email you sent was cc’d to 17 people. CC is considered open dissemination in most cases, whereas bcc is a way to send a mass email without the connotation of dissemination.

  • Brock Mason

    What direction do you feel they are taking the journal?

  • http://blakeostler.com Blake

    Inexcusable. WE may call ourselves, but I wonder if we need to change the name to “would-be Saints.”

  • Brian Thompson


    i had the misfortune of seeing Dr. Bradford’s email to you and your reply. Both Jan and I are appalled by how this was carried out. As a professional manager (MBA-Management Science) I would never handle this in the unprofessional manner that it was. My only thought was that he, like many academics masquerading as managers, didn’t know any better although anyone with a stitch of common sense and decency should have recognized that this was not the best way to handle things.

    Good luck to you and keep fighting the good fight.


  • Sherlene Hall Bartholomew

    Very sad. My prayers will be that this closed door opens to something much brighter–for you and for us, your indeed grateful friends and readers.

  • Silviano Arteaga

    Bravo to the Maxwell Institute and Dr. Bradford for the change in direction. It is much needed and will be good for BYU, the MI, and the Church.

  • LBRussell

    I am shocked. And upset. This was very poorly handled and odd.

  • The Old SGM

    Thanks for your years of service and dedication to defending the kingdom. It is a pity that the FARMS saga had to end this way. The Maxwell Institute will just become another obscure journal read by few and cared about by even fewer. At least they will have the proceeds from the earlier FARMS publications to keep them afloat for a while. It is unfortunate that there are those who lack the courage to defend the church, especially during a year when the mainstream media will be attacking the church as a means of discrediting the republican candidate for president.

  • http://toothsomefamily.blogspot.com Janice Johnson

    Dan, you have my full support and I am heartbroken about this.

  • John Mason

    Sorry to hear of your dismissal. You are one of my favorite scholars.

  • http://nathanrichardson.com Nathan Richardson

    I’m an average, run-of-the-mill reader who has enjoyed and personally benefited from reading your stuff for years. I’m really surprised and disappointed at how others have handled themselves toward you on this matter. I hope it resolves very quickly, with minimal fallout, so you can go back to doing the important work you’ve dedicated your time to. Thank you for innumerable ways you and your work has blessed my life.

  • Raymond Takashi Swenson

    Dr Brother Peterson, thank you for your many years at the helm of a publication which has demonstrated over and over again that Mormonism has abundant intellectuall ammunition in its favor and many stalwart faithful scholars who are ready to use it to defend the saints against the assaults of religious bigots. Please keep us informed of further developments.

  • Kim Walker

    I”m sickened by the way this story seems to have unfolded. I’ve been a member of FARMS and received their publications since 1990. I’ve listened to Dan Peterson speak in person many times and have always been impressed with his self deprecating humor and indefatigable defense of LDS doctrine and thought. Like Dr. Peterson says, no one is irreplaceable but then no one deserves this kind of backhanded treatment. FARMS will apparently continue to exist in some fashion minus the likes of Dan Peterson, Louis Midgely and myself and countless others who wonder, “what were they thinking?”

  • http://adrr.com/ Stephen M (Ethesis)

    Dear Dan,

    We have not had much in common. I knew FARMS when it was just a table in an office in the law school, but I have been gone a long time.

    That said, my heart goes out to you.

    God bless.

  • Mavin Swapp

    Wow! I would hope that a Church run organization would do a better job of running it. I would think that we would have room in this big world for two organizations that have different ideas about apologetics without destroying one to start another one. Can we get Daniel to start a second organization run under his rules? I would think that Daniel would have a lot of support from people that feel the same way as we do. Maybe Daniel needs some greener pastures, meaning a new green startup. Green, meaning new as in new life, not one lacking in CO2. How many of the roughly two hundred and fifty writers would still like to write for Daniel in a new apologetics organization?

  • http://GentlyHewStone.com Huston

    I made a Facebook group to support you: http://www.facebook.com/IStandWithDan

  • http://www.eldenwatson.net Elden Watson

    Dan: Have you considered the possibility of creating a new organization for the publication of LDS apologetics and scholarly studies? It could be completely independent of Brigham Young University and of LDS Church involvement. It could even be called something like FARMS (I understand that name is not currently being used by anyone. ) I can think of a lot of people who would support such an organization. At least consider it as a possibility for the future.

    • Jeff Walsh

      Elden I think that this is a great suggestion, we really could do with a forum, independant of the Church as many accuse those of us defending Joseph Smith and the Church as apologists and then cast doubt upon our motives. I think Daniel’s comments about the publisher of the anti-mormon stuff written by excommunicated ex BYU professors and disaffected members with very large axes to grind, should be promoted. I can understand the Leadership of the Church not wanting to personally get involved with answering the attacks upon the Church, as they are busy enough with guiding the growing Kingdom and taking care of the ninety and nine, so a forum along the lines you suggest would be able to take up the cudgels. So How about it Daniel.

      By the way Eldon I really enjoy all your “Different Thoughts” articles. Jeff

  • Robin Finderson

    Dan, in this announcement you write that “I never saw it coming, though I now suspect, for various specific reasons, that it was the culmination of a long-prepared plan.” However, in your leaked response to Dr. Bradford, you specifically note that “My wife predicted that you would pull this while I was out of the country — just as you used my absence last year to suppress Will Schryver’s writing without discussion — and, in fact, you have.”
    So, can you please clarify how it is that you never saw this coming, yet your wife had predicted that it would happen while you were out of the country. On the face of it, these appear to be contradictory statements.
    Best wishes in your future projects.

  • http://itsthepermanentthings.wordpress.com/2012/06/12/a-statement-of-first-principles-and-general-observations/ Loran Blood

    Does this represent, in some sense, the Sunstoneization of the Mormon Studies Review? Is this the end of serious scholarly apologetic work, and the rise of serious scholarship on Mormonism, but without an underlying apologetic ground?

  • Loudmouth Mormon

    Prof. Peterson,
    I started seeking out criticism of my faith back in the late ’90′s. I was most fortunate to encounter FARMS publications along the way. Ten years later, I got two or three of the fine folk at the UK-based Reachout Trust countercult forum to admit to the possibility that I just might be a christian. That was the high point. But a few years before that, I also had the distinct honor of having you offhandedly call one of my points “salient” in some random argument at MADB – and that was a pretty good second place.

    I won’t bother saying goodbye, you have too many other outlets for your opinions and efforts to be silenced by just one setback. (Although if I could express a wish, I think Hugh Hewitt would make you a weekly guest on his radio show in a heartbeat.)

  • Wade Ardern

    Dear Jerry,
    Good luck filling those shoes.

    • Daniel Cruz


  • Phillip Linford

    Dr. P. You have helped me and countless others solidify our faith in the face of challenges, and are an example to me of a great marriage of faith and intellect (and sarcasm!)

    Sorry you and your colleagues were so poorly thanked for your services. Please know many are grateful!!

  • Warren Aston

    Elder Maxwell must be rolling in his grave…I’m appalled and saddened that an organization with such a unique, sacred mission handles things in this way. It leaves me wondering about the oversight that should have at least seen changes made in ways compatible with Gospel principles. This is the most shocking development yet in a steady stream that continues to take the Institute away from its original mission into a more insular, exclusive and reactive body of rapidly dwinding influence. No wonder the number of subscribers has dropped to a record low. The time is well overdue for the Son of FARMS to arise.

  • Kam_pletely Puzzled

    God bless you for your many years of service. I was shocked by the news of your dismissal. I will continue to support you by buying anything in the future that you will publish. I can only think of one good thing that comes to mind through all of this rubbish; Dr. Bradford’s incompetence and leadership flaws have been exposed. I pray that some of the Brethren will see the lack of vision in these firings and that truth will once again prevail. God speed Dan!

  • Walter Reade


    So sorry to hear this news. I’ve always been highly impressed with your work.

  • Truth will set us Free

    In the spirit of defending what is right I quote The Prophet Joseph on this day-the anniversary of his death:
    “The object with me is to obey and teach others to obey God in just what He tells us to do. It mattereth not whether the principle is popular or unpopular. I will always maintain a true principle, even if I stand alone in it.” (Discourse in assembly room, February 1844; DHC 6:223.)
    “I combat the errors of ages; I meet the violence of mobs; I cope with illegal proceedings from executive authority; I cut the Gordian knot of powers, and I solve mathematical problems of universities, with truth . . . diamond truth; and God is my ‘right hand man.’”
    (Letter to James Arlington Bennett, November 1843; DHC 6:78.)
    “When things that are of the greatest importance are passed over by weak-minded men without even a thought, I want to see truth in all its bearings and hug it to my bosom. I believe all that God ever revealed. …”
    (Discourse to Saints, June 1844; DHC 6:477)
    Keep up the good work Bro. Peterson

  • Daniel Cruz

    It was complete bush league, Mr. Peterson. I have always enjoyed your work. May God bless you in your future endeavors.

  • Tim Corless

    If you remember me at all from our missionary days together (Jan-July 1974 in the Mission Home in Zurich) then it may not be with fond memories for I surely must have been the worst possible companion. I have enjoyed your work very, very much through the years. My only criticism is that I need a huge dictionary and the World Book Encyclopedia readily at hand to understand some of your vocabulary and references. I hope you will find another venue to defend the faith and that this episode will not be painful personally and embarassing professionally. Viel Gluck!

  • clau

    Br. Peterson, thanks for strengh our testimony all these years. Please stand on, and dont become an “anti”!!

  • Jeff Walsh

    It would be enlightening to be given the reasons behind the dismissal of this great defender of the Prophet Joseph, because we are having a tough enough time already without giving the anti-mormon crowd more reason to make mischief!!!!!!!

  • TJ Thompson

    I’m sorry to hear about what happened.
    I think how they did it was awful.
    I agree with those who sugjested you start your own research group, I’m sure many will follow.
    If you build they will come!

  • Horacio Alvarez

    I’ve been following and supporting FARMS and the MI since it’s inception, both in the US and when abroad. I did notice the decline in quality and quantity, I confess that I even doubted you until I received an issued of the Journal that gave me reason to predict this as I discussed it with my wife and friends… I appologize to you, I’m deeply appreciative of what you have done and specially of what you tried to do (how may things have gone unpublished?)… I’m reminded of a scene in the Temple whose significance took me some time to understand but clearly illuminates this situation… A memory alive in my family of some happenings at the nazi getto where some were taken comes alive too, but it will be impolite for me to say… Well, if this soldier shall fall, who will lift and carry the flag? Please, pick yourself up and carry it again, I, for one, will follow you… And I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is.

    • danpeterson

      Thank you, Horacio Alvarez, for your very kind note.

      The new venture that I and others have founded “Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture,” has been functioning thus far on essentially no money, just volunteer effort. And our needs won’t be, for the foreseeable future, anything even remotely on the level of the Maxwell Institute. But we do have expenses, and don’t want to keep exploiting those who’ve volunteered their time and expertise so generously. So, fairly soon, I’m going to have to go into fundraising mode. I really don’t much like doing it, but I believe in this effort, and, so, I will. Thank you for your willingness to help. If we all pitch in, we’re thinking, the burden on any one person shouldn’t be unreasonably heavy.

      • Wayne Bergeron

        Dr. Peterson,

        I have recently begun to read and research the field of Mormon apologetics and I find you to be exceptionally candid, prepared, and simply put, the best defender of the faith out there. When I watched the four-part interview on Mormon Stories, everything you said, especially the part where you wished more members of the would actually learn the history of the Church resonated with me.

        Unfortunately, I found out you and your editorial colleagues were dismissed from the Mormon Studies Review and I was shocked. I struggled with some aspects of Church teaching and history and I learned more about Church after converting 13 years ago. Then as I read your articles and watched videos on YouTube where you explained certain aspects, especiall about the Book of Abraham, it strengthened my testimony of the Gospel and of the Church. Your work played a huge part in making me a more informed member and one who wanted to engage others to not only defend the faith, but to teach it.

        I happened across the Interpreter app on Google Play entirely by accident, but I read and listen to the essays, reviews, and critiques daily. I had no idea that you were involved in it and I am so grateful you are. I don’t pretend to understand the organizational politics at BYU or whether it involved your paper on John Dehlin [sic], but what I can say is that you have been an inspiration for me to continue learning of the Church so I can strengthening myself and others. I wish you the absolute best with Interpreter and I look forward to more articles and talks.

        P.S. – Let people know when you’re going to be in the L.A. area. I would love to see you speak!


        Wayne B. Bergeron

        • DanielPeterson

          Thank you, Brother Bergeron, for your very kind note. It’s much appreciated.

          I do get down to Southern California occasionally. It’s where I grew up, although I no longer have immediate family there.