I've been reading a lot of the FARMS Review, and as I've mentioned in previous posts, there is a lot of result-oriented scholarship going on in these publications. This one might be the worst so far. As I continue to emphasize, I personally like the people at the Maxwell Institute. I think they are sincerely trying to vindicate what they believe Joseph Smith taught. But since they are defending statements he never made, they are working hard to defend nonsense. And in doing so, they are undermining what Joseph actually did say. I prefer a congenial approach in the spirit of collaboration, but, so far, no one at the Maxwell Institute has reciprocated. In this case, the paper is so flawed I can't find a way to salvage it.
Of all things, I came to this article through lds.org, at this location:
IOW, the Church is actually citing this paper. Regarding that, I'll just say, "I report, you decide."
In fact, the Maxwell Institute made a big deal about the Church citing this paper in their typical appeal to authority.
I use excerpts from this article in my presentations, usually eliciting gasps from the audience. One audience member said "Neal Maxwell would roll over in his grave if he knew what the Institute named after him was publishing." I completely agree, but to be fair, this was originally published by FARMS. Maybe one of these days the Maxwell Institute will scrub its site of this and other similar articles. But now LDS.org would have to do the same.
Which is my point. I hope to see that happen.
I'm not going to copy the whole article here. It's quite long, and much of it is an appeal to authority. But here are the two opening paragraphs, with the original in blue, my comments in red, and my editorial in purple.
ARTICLE TEXT BEGINS HERE:
The Book of Mormon describes the migration of three colonies from the Old World to the New. Two of these were small
[Nowhere does the text say how many people were in any of the three groups, but "small" is the favored term by Mesoamerican proponents who, confronted with zero evidence of Lehite peoples in their favored location, insist Lehi and his family were a "small" group that was completely absorbed into local populations without a trace]
Israelite groups that migrated to an American land of promise around 600 BC. Many Latter-day Saint scholars interpret the Book of Mormon as a record of events that occurred in a relatively restricted region of ancient Mesoamerica.
[Hopefully this will change soon.]
During and after those events, according to this view, peoples from this area—including some descendants of Book of Mormon peoples—may have spread to other parts of the Americas, carrying with them some elements of Mesoamerican culture. These Latter-day Saint scholars also believe that pre-Columbian populations of the Americas include within their ancestry many groups other than those small colonies mentioned in the Book of Mormon.1
[Note 1 consists of two citations to Sorenson's work, which of course requires "small colonies" that essentially vanished. Presumably other scholars agree, so I won't quibble with the plural here, but when my students claim plural sources and only cite one author, I mark them down.]