The Real Issue on Paul Owen and the Maxwell Institute

The Real Issue on Paul Owen and the Maxwell Institute April 3, 2015

John Gee recently published a critique of Paul Owen’s “Theological Apostasy and the Role of Canonical Scripture: A Thematic Analysis of 1 Nephi 13-14,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 23 (2014)

The Maxwell Institute was concerned enough to publish two rejoinders to Gee (despite the fact that Gee works for the Institute): a house divided …

(The second is no longer available as of this writing.  I’m not sure if this is a glitch, or intentional backpeddling.

Blair Hodges and the Guest interviewer have misunderstood the issues, or intentionally obfuscated them.  Hodges claims the issue at hand is “publishing perspectives of scholars from other faiths.” It is not.  No one I know of objects to non-Mormons or anti-Mormons published books and articles.  There are numerous venues in which such scholars can publish.  They often produce interesting and insightful work.

The first issue at hand is whether BYU, and by extension the LDS Church, should publish articles—by Mormons, non-Mormons, or anti-Mormons, it makes no difference—whose arguments and conclusions undermine fundamental faith claims of the LDS Church: such as the reality of Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling (as opposed to him being a religious genius), the ontological existence of Golden Plates (as opposed to Joseph lying, or hallucinating about such things), and the historicity of the Book of Mormon.  There are numerous venues such as Sunstone and Dialogue where such articles can be published; it’s not clear why we need another at BYU.  Be that as it may, the Maxwell Institute, is certainly free to publish whatever scholars or claims they’d like on these issues.  They are not free, however, to ignore the implications and ramifications that arise from their decision to publish articles whose conclusions reject fundamental LDS truth claims.  Whining about this issue is not a rational defense of their policy.

The real issue, however, is why would the Maxwell Institute choose to publish idiosyncratic and poorly conceived articles, by either Mormons or non-Mormons.  So let me ask one simple question: Is there anyone besides Paul Owen—Mormon, non-Mormon, or anti-Mormon—who accepts Owen’s theory and explanation for the origin of the Book of Mormon?  I suspect there is not, but if anyone would like to defend Owen’s position (in their own name), I’d be happy to let them make their argument here.  If I am correct that Owen’s argument is so idiosyncratic that no one else accepts it, why would the Maxwell Institute choose to publish it?  Do they have any scholarly standards or peer review on such matters?

William Hamblin

Strathisla Lodge, 

Near Matale, Sri Lanka

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