Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship
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|Type||Research Institute (Religion, Latter-day Saints)|
|Headquarters||Brigham Young University|
|J. Spencer Fluhman|
|Philip L. Barlow|
|Brigham Young University|
|Affiliations||The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints|
The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, or simply the Maxwell Institute, is a research institute at Brigham Young University (BYU) made up of faculty and visiting scholars who study and write about religion, primarily The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). The Institute's namesake, Neal A. Maxwell, is a former LDS apostle, known by Latter-day Saints and others for his writings and sermons. The Latter-day Saints' sectarian BYU's mission statement reads: "The Maxwell Institute both gathers and nurtures disciple-scholars. As a research community, the Institute supports scholars whose work inspires and fortifies Latter-day Saints in their testimonies of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and engages the world of religious ideas."
The LDS Church identifies the Maxwell Institute as one of several third-party church affiliates offering gospel study resources.
The Maxwell Institute was established in 2006 as an umbrella organization for several of the BYU's academic initiatives, including: the Middle Eastern Texts Initiative (METI), the Center for the Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts (CPART), the Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies, and the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS). By 2013, FARMS had become fully absorbed into the Institute's Willes Center.
In 2012, debate was sparked when the Maxwell Institute's then-director, Gerald Bradford, removed Daniel C. Peterson from a long-time editorship of the FARMS Review shortly after it had been renamed the Mormon Studies Review. Peterson retained his position as editor of the Middle Eastern Texts Initiative (METI) until resigning in September 2013.
Under new leadership following Bradford's retirement in 2015, the Maxwell Institute underwent a series of internal and external reviews to determine its future direction. J. Spencer Fluhman was appointed director in 2016 and the Maxwell Institute began restructuring. Together with BYU administration and a new advisory board, Fluhman announced a new mission statement in March 2018.
As part of this restructuring, METI was transferred to the international publisher Brill. CPART completed its final project in 2017. The Institute also published the Mormon Studies Review from 2013 through 2018 when complete ownership was transferred to the University of Illinois Press.
In November 2018, BYU announced plans to move the Maxwell Institute to a new facility closer to the center of campus. The Faculty Office Building will be replaced by the new West View Building, which is scheduled for completion in spring 2020. The Maxwell Institute will temporarily be housed in BYU's Clyde Building until construction is complete.
The Maxwell Institute provides research positions for full-time faculty, visiting scholars, post-doctorate researchers, and other temporary research fellows who study the LDS Church, as well as Christianity and other religions more broadly. Institute scholars occasionally publish in-house, but most of their work is placed in other venues.
The Maxwell Institute also includes two initiatives:
- Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies, which deals principally with the Book of Mormon in ancient and modern settings, in addition to other LDS scripture.
- William (Bill) Gay Research Chair, which focuses on study directly related to the ancient world and LDS scripture, particularly the Book of Abraham (the chair's current occupant is Egyptologist John Gee).
The Maxwell Institute frequently sponsors guest lectures at BYU, as well as symposia, workshops, and conferences on religious topics. Wednesday Brown Bag discussions allow scholars to workshop current projects, prepare for conference presentations, discuss recently published works, and examine the dimensions of "disciple-scholarship."
The Maxwell Institute also employs a small staff of office assistants, communications personnel, and a large number of student interns.
Criticisms of objectivity in light of Institute's non-independent status
Commentator Michael Austin, reflecting on the Institute's status as an officially sanctioned venue for Latter-day Saint theological studies, opined that resources cited within the Institute's 2019 Study Edition of the Book of Mormon are "carefully curated to include only official Church sources and scholarship that supports the [LDS] Church’s conclusions," adding that he believes that "the Church has produced and authorized a version of its signature scripture that is orders of magnitude more helpful, and more scholarly, than anything it has produced before. But officialness comes at a cost. Official books must tell official stories, which means that honest discussions of controversies and pressure points—no matter how important they may be to the study and interpretation of the text—cannot become part of the apparatus.
Commentator John H. Brumbaugh opined, "In a sense, New Mormon historians challenge the foundational beliefs of Mormonism in a quest for professional rigor. [...] Faithful historians never challenged foundational beliefs; instead they are intended to build the devotion of Church members. BYU Studies and Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship are prime examples of Faithful history outlets. Renouncing objectivity, these organization functioned to 'Describe and defend the Restoration through highest quality scholarship.'"”
Although the Maxwell Institute is not primarily a publisher, it maintains a publishing imprint and produces a handful of books and periodicals each year for both general and academic readers. Periodicals include the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies (published in partnership with the University of Illinois Press) and Studies in the Bible and Antiquity (currently on hiatus). Other books include the "Living Faith" series.
One of the Maxwell Institute's notable past publications is Royal Skousen's Book of Mormon Critical Text Project. Work from the Critical Text Project was incorporated into the Maxwell Institute Study Edition of the Book of Mormon, edited by Grant Hardy and published in partnership with BYU's Religious Studies Center and Deseret Book in 2018—the first study edition of the scripture ever published by an official Church affiliate.
The Maxwell Institute Podcast features interviews with resident and visiting scholars and lecturers of the Maxwell Institute. In the past it has also featured religious and textual scholars from a variety of religious traditions beyond the Institute, including N. T. Wright, Marilynne Robinson, Martin Marty, and James Kugel.
The Maxwell Institute's work is made financially possible primarily by support from BYU.
- "About", mi.byu.edu, Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship
- "Gospel Topics, Essays, and Other Resources". ChurchofJesusChrist.org. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
- "BYU renames ISPART to Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship".
- Stack, Peggy Fletcher (June 26, 2012), "Shake-up hits BYU's Mormon studies institute", The Salt Lake Tribune, retrieved 2013-08-15
- Peterson, Daniel C. (September 7, 2013), "The Middle Eastern Texts Initiative: A Retrospective and a Farewell", Sic et Non (Daniel C. Peterson blog), Patheos, archived from the original on October 23, 2013, retrieved 2014-03-15
- "BYU initiates search for next Institute director". Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
- "BYU names Spencer Fluhman as Maxwell Institute executive director". Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
- "Our new mission statement: Gathering and nurturing disciple-scholars". Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
- "Middle Eastern Texts Initiative moving to Brill". Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
- "CPART's season at the Maxwell Institute comes to an end". Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
- "'Mormon Studies Review' heads to University of Illinois Press". Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
- Hollingshead, Todd (2018-11-15). "BYU announces construction of new West View Building". BYU News. Retrieved 2018-11-16.
- "We're moving even closer to the heart of BYU". Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. Retrieved 2018-11-16.
- "About". Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
- "Willes Center for Book of Mormon Scholarship". Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship.
- "William Gay Chair". Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship.
- "About". Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
- "Brown Bag". Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
- "Scholars & Staff", mi.byu.edu, Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship
- Michael Austin (Summer 2019). "'Reasonably Good Tidings of Greater-than-Average Joy': Grant Hardy, ed. The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Maxwell Institute Study Edition." (PDF). Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought: 173–181.
- John H. Brumbaugh (2010). "Innovation and Entrepreneurial Spirit: Leonard J. Arrington and the Impact of New Mormon History" (Arrington Student Writing Award Winners. Paper 5.). Cite journal requires
- "Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship Mission Statement".
- "Enns, Kugel, and Moss in latest Studies in the Bible and Antiquity". Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
- "Living Faith Books". Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. Retrieved 2018-03-15.
- Petersen, Sarah (March 19, 2013), "BYU professor Royal Skousen concludes his discussion on changes to the Book of Mormon original text", Deseret News
- "Coming in December—The Maxwell Institute Study Edition of The Book of Mormon". Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
- "Maxwell Institute Podcast". Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship.