Yesterday after days of rumors, BYU’s Maxwell Institute was rocked when it was announced director Gerald Bradford had fired BYU professor Daniel C. Peterson as the editor of the Mormon Studies Review, previously named the FARMS Review, which Peterson had founded twenty-three years ago. Peterson’s associate editors were also fired, some reportedly without notice. The publication has since been suspended.
BYU professor William J. Hamblin, who is a close friend of Peterson’s and has worked with the Maxwell Institute for several years, quickly took to the internet commenting on the scandal. Giving brief background to the scandal, Hamblin notes that FARMS — the previous organization that has effectively evolved into the current Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship — initially became part of BYU as part of what Hamblin calls “a hostile takeover” — Hamblin was on the board of FARMS at the time — and Hamblin says that he “resigned in protest” when the University effectively forced FARMS to merge with BYU, predicting at the time that a merger would prove disastrous for the organization’s future.
FARMS’ main work at the time was in “defending the faith” — a.k.a., Mormon apologetics — and Church President Gordon B. Hinckley approved of their work at the time saying, “FARMS represents the efforts of sincere and dedicated scholars. It has grown to provide strong support and defense of the Church on a professional basis.” However, since then Hamblin claims that anonymous higher-ups and the Maxwell Institute’s current director do not approve of Church or University-sponsored apologetics, prompting Hamblin to ask emphatically, “If the University does not want to sponsor apologetics, why in the world did it force FARMS to become part of the University?”
Hamblin called Bradford’s actions in firing Peterson and others “absolutely shameful.” “I feel that Bradford’s failure to contain months or years of ongoing leaks to apostate enemies of the church from within his organization shows disastrous negligence,” Hamblin says. “Let me be very clear. Gerald Bradford is not a bad person. … I sincerely believe he is doing what he thinks is best. And I sincerely believe he is dead wrong.”
Giving more commentary on Bradford, Hamblin writes,
“He was brought into FARMS as a manager to run the day-to-day operations of FARMS when it became too big to be administered on a part-time basis by the full-time BYU faculty on the Board. He was not brought in as a scholar to single handedly determine the future academic direction of the institute. That was the responsibility of the Board, not of any single individual. … [Bradford] is academically at home with 19th century Mormonism, but is by no means conversant with biblical studies, ancient languages, Mesoamerica, archaeology, etc., which were the bread and butter of FARMS scholarship. When he was the executive administrator for the Board this didn’t matter, since the Board determined academic policy; but now he is the sole director, with sole discretion to determine the future of the Institute.”
Dr. William J. Hamblin is currently a history professor at BYU who teaches classes on the Crusades, the Middle East, and various religious topics. He served on the board of FARMS until 1997 and has published scores of articles, papers, and reviews with the organization before and since then.