Here’s an interesting news item: http://www.maxwellinstituteblog.org/salt-press/.
During one of my last conversations with the current leader of the Maxwell Institute, he handed me two or three Salt Press books and commented that they represented the kind of thing that the Maxwell Institute should be doing. And, now, as it turns out, this is the kind of thing that it will be doing.
I got the impression that he thought me an obstacle to a Maxwell Institute move in that direction, but, actually, I’m not at all opposed to this sort of work. In fact, for what little it’s worth, I was actually a member of Salt Press’s advisory board until it was dissolved as part of the merger into the Maxwell Institute yesterday. (I was never actually asked to do anything, but that’s a separate matter. It’s often the case with advisory boards that they exist largely if not solely as window dressing. I rather expect that that will be so with the new Mormon Studies Review advisory board, though I could be wrong.) I wanted to encourage studies of Mormonism and Mormon scripture from every methodological angle, and, so, was perfectly happy to lend my name to the enterprise. I would have been entirely comfortable with the idea of absorbing Salt Press into the Maxwell Institute (as the Institute existed pre-June 2012) and allowing it to persist in its particular approach.
I do not, however, think that studies at the intersection of “theory and scripture” — the term theory, as Salt Press used it, refers to a particular kind of critical social/literary method that is usually connected with continental philosophy — are what FARMS or the Maxwell Institute was founded to pursue, or what the volunteers and donors during those years thought they were building, or what Elder Maxwell wanted us to do, and I’ll be very disappointed if such studies are permitted to replace, or even significantly to displace, the kind of work that the organization fostered and published for its first thirty-five years.
Incidentally, although I tend libertarian on economic matters, and libertarian/conservative on other political issues, I’m not accusing my friends who do “critical theory” of being Marxists, let alone Communists. And — this may surprise some — I think that, although Marxism is fatally flawed and has been historically catastrophic, Marxist approaches can occasionally lead to important insights, as can feminist and other methodologies. I don’t object to critical-theoretical approaches on those grounds, and, in a sense, I don’t object to them at all. I simply don’t believe that the Maxwell Institute was or is obliged to choose between literary-critical/theoretical approaches to scripture, on the one hand, and, on the other, the more historical/philological/archaeological approaches (in the manner of Hugh Nibley, John Welch, and John Sorenson) characteristic of “classic FARMS.” I would happily have supported, and sought to raise funding support, for both. But, if such an either/or choice is indeed forced, I think it obvious for a multitude of reasons that the “classic FARMS” approach is the one that should be preferred.