BYU Professor Daniel Peterson Fired as Editor of Mormon Studies Review at BYU’s Maxwell Institute

After rumors circulated earlier in the week, BYU’s Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship confirmed today that Daniel C. Peterson and his associate editors would be removed from the staff of the Mormon Studies Review, previously the FARMS Review.  The periodical, which publishes articles and reviews on LDS-related topics and books, was founded by Peterson 23 years ago. Along with Peterson were also dismissed his associate editors Louis C. Midgley, George L. Mitton, Gregory L. Smith and Robert White.

In a brief, anonymous statement posted on the Maxwell Institute’s website today the Institute stated, “For many years the FARMS Review has filled an important niche in the intellectual life of its many readers under the vigorous editorship of Professor Daniel C. Peterson and his associates…. We thank these colleagues and the many contributing writers to the Review for their industry and scholarship over the past twenty-three years.” The Institute also stated that publication of the Review would desist indefinitely until a new editorial team was formed and that subscribers would be receiving a refund.

In a leaked e-mail sent June 17, Maxwell Institute director M. Gerald Bradford wrote to Peterson, “The time has come for us to take the Review in a different direction. … What we need to do to properly affect this change in the Review is to ask someone else, someone working in the mainstream of Mormon studies, who has a comparable vision to my own for what it can accomplish, to edit the publication.”

The Review has been criticized in the past for ad hominem attacks in its publication. Reportedly the tipping point for Peterson’s dismissal was a personal 100-page article targeted against John Dehlin, the founder of Mormon Stories, which often focuses on controversial topics within Mormonism such as homosexuality and apostasy. Bradford has the article pulled reportedly after being requested by multiple General Authorities and University President Cecil O. Samuelson, who apparently read at least portions of it. Peterson claims that Bradford and others never read the article.

Almost immediately after the Maxwell Institute’s website posted the public statement, Peterson posted about his dismissal on his personal blog. Peterson stated that he was not receiving the change “enthusiastically” and that he has “deep concerns about the significance of my dismissal (and the reasons behind it) for the future direction of the Maxwell Institute.” Peterson also suggested that the reason he was fired from the Review was because of insinuations “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.”

Peterson also complained about the manner in which he and his associate editors were fired, saying that the e-mail notifying him of his dismissal came “completely out of the blue” and that the other editors “didn’t even receive an e-mail” notifying them of their removal from the staff. He stated that one of them even inquired of Bradford days earlier but did not receive a response. Another claims to have called Bradford but also received no response. Peterson himself says he has e-mailed Bradford several times but received no acknowledgement. According to Bill Hamblin, another BYU professor who has published many times with the Maxwell Institute, “Bradford fired Dan [Peterson] by email while Dan was on a multi-week journey in the Middle East specifically so Dan could not be in Provo to defend himself.”

Hamblin goes on to say that the firing came as “the culmination of a long-term struggle between radically different visions for the future of the Institute. Peterson wishes to continue the traditional heritage of FARMS, providing cutting edge scholarship and apologetics on LDS scripture. Bradford wants to move the Institute in a different direction, focusing on more secular-style studies that will be accessible and acceptable to non-Mormon scholars. Bradford is especially opposed to LDS apologetics, which he wants to terminate entirely as part of the mission of the Institute.”

Bradford and the Maxwell Institute are currently not making public statements regarding the situation, other than the previously cited statement posted on their website.