Jenkins Rejoinder 6: No ABMS

Jenkins Rejoinder 6: No ABMS June 25, 2015

Dr. Hamblin and I may differ on many things, but on two points we speak as one. I echo entirely his remark that there is indeed life outside blogging, and that one would be an idiot to let the activity dominate one’s life. (I hope I don’t put words in his mouth there). Also, he states precisely the reasons why the assumptions that divide us may be too wide to allow any kind of meaningful debate or exchange. “Until we can achieve common ground on those issues, debating the specific implications of a particular inscription is pointless.” Precisely.

Our basic area of contention is this: I think we have to start discussing proofs that support the Book of Mormon; Dr. Hamblin disagrees.

In my view, before we can speak of any meaningful area of study in any matter, we first have to agree that there is a real subject to provide a foundation for discussion and analysis. Before agreeing that Ancient Book of Mormon Studies constitutes a valid field, I first need to be convinced that there is any evidence whatever to support its legitimacy. Without that, I cannot agree that it is any kind of academic or scholarly discipline in which we can legitimately speak of “qualified experts,” any more than in Elvis Survival Studies or Bigfoot Biology. As I have said, I have quite minimal criteria for being convinced that there is in fact a “there” there, but these have not been satisfied to date.

I don’t therefore agree that “There are dozens, if not several hundred of qualified scholars publishing on ABMS.” There may be hundreds of interested and even devoted individuals, but until we have established that it is a legitimate field, we can’t agree that they are qualified in anything. They may be scholars in particular fields, but I don’t agree that they are “scholars of Ancient Book of Mormon Studies” because nobody has yet shown me that it is indeed a valid field of scholarship.

That may seem like a matter of individual preference or prejudice on my part, but my view is substantiated by the complete lack of recognition for the subject in any and all universities, colleges or like institutions, including the obvious BYU, and the absence of the slightest respect accorded to journals. There may be plenty of journals in the field, but as Dr. Hamblin himself remarks, they are ignored or despised even at BYU, the one institution that conceivably would give them any credence. Nor, as I have said, can you take an actual degree of any kind in the subject, not even an undergraduate minor, still less a doctorate.

If it is not an academic discipline, then it is irrelevant to note how many people work in the area, not how many books appear each year. It may well be a thriving area of interest and enthusiasm, but it is in so sense an academic or scholarly discipline. Old Persian emphatically is; Ancient Book of Mormon Studies is not.

I note what Dr. Hamblin says about the incorporation of Book of Mormon materials in Anthropology courses at BYU, but I have no basis of evaluating exactly how extensive or serious these perspectives are. I do note that the departmental webpage does not once incorporate the words “Mormon” or “Book of Mormon,” except in the description of the interests of the venerable John Sorenson. Se   


Likewise, Dr. Hamblin says that “One can major in Ancient Near East Studies or Archaeology at BYU, where the BOM is integrated into the curriculum.” Yet the words  “Mormon” or “Book of Mormon” do not appear once in the Ancient Near Eastern Studies webpage at  

If BYU departments do indeed cover these matters, they do so in a stealth way that strikes me as remarkable for the Mormon Mother-ship. Why are they so embarrassed? That attitude to the Book of Mormon’s historicity is in total contrast to the explicit coverage of Biblical matters in mainstream Christian institutions, or indeed secular schools. (And don’t read anything I write as expressing anything less than respect for BYU, an excellent school that is distinguished by fine academics and a deeply impressive student culture of study and service)

Ancient Book of Mormon Studies seems to be the enthusiasm that dare not speak its name. So I return to my basic question. If BYU does not treat these matters as a serious academic discipline, who does?

Dr. Hamblin notes that “One cannot major in Book of Mormon studies because it is not a viable career path for students.” That in itself is a significant comment. If you work primarily on the Bible, Old or New Testaments, you have an excellent chance of getting a job in a mainstream academic unit such as History or Archaeology in a secular university, as well as in religious schools. Now, why do you think that difference exists? Is it perhaps that no credible academic institution of any kind, Mormon or otherwise, views Ancient Book of Mormon Studies as an authentic or respectable academic discipline?

As to college politics and turf wars: if Dr. Hamblin ever has a long evening and a great deal of patience, I will be happy to share my own war stories in these matters. I may even display some scars.

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