In 2004, the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) celebrated twenty-five years of research and publication about the scriptural heritage of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Our projects approach the scriptures from a vantage point of faith and focus on understanding the ancient contexts out of which these holy records emerged. Through our periodicals and Web site, we respond to questions about the Book of Mormon and other LDS scriptures. In this way, the Maxwell Institute embodies BYU's mission to reach out to members of the church with products and research that are spiritually strengthening and intellectually enlarging.
In Book of Mormon studies, we are continuing a careful study of the Book of Mormon texts, which began with the publication of a detailed transcription of the original and the printer's manuscripts. The culmination of years of research has seen landmark documentaries on Lehi's journey and the famed incense trail, with plans for a similar treatment in the New World.
Book of Abraham studies continue with conferences, text analyses, and related Egyptian research. Two works by Hugh Nibley fit into this area. As always, Nibley's research is varied and exhilarating. His magnum opus on the Book of Abraham, One Eternal Round, is finally taking shape, and a second edition of Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri was published in 2005. From ancient Egypt, we come forward to work on the New Testament and the Great Apostasy.
These are just a few of our research areas, and it is important to note that while a small research staff is employed to develop new proposals and to support and pursue work on some projects, most of the research supported by the Maxwell Institute is conducted by volunteers—scholars from BYU and other institutions and independent researchers.
Approved projects are eligible for modest grants that can be used to hire part-time student research assistants or pay for other project costs. The Maxwell Institute also fosters interaction and collaboration between scholars, coordinates peer review and other forms of helpful criticism, funds the Nibley Fellowship Program to help promising graduate students pursue their PhDs in relevant fields of study, and provides clerical, administrative, and editorial assistance.
While insights from scholarly studies are of secondary importance compared with the scriptural truths revealed by the Holy Spirit, we believe, nevertheless, that careful academic research on the scriptures, done from a faithful perspective, can nurture an environment in which interest in and acceptance of the scriptures can flourish. A better understanding of the various religious, historical, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds out of which these sacred records come to us enables us to more easily make these "voices from the dust" relevant to our present situations.
BYU faculty and others associated with the Maxwell Institute bring their expertise and training to bear on a broad range of subjects related to these sacred writings. They adhere to established canons of scholarship, abide by a rigorous peer review process, and present their findings and conclusions in a qualified, balanced manner. The result is a particular kind of scripture scholarship, one that results in knowledge and insights about these sacred texts that can be obtained in no other way.
Since 1985, we have published a broad range of books, most dealing directly with the scriptures, many of them focusing exclusively on the Book of Mormon. We are particularly proud of our periodicals: The Journal of Book of Mormon Studies presents clearly written articles and full-color illustrations that enliven the research. The FARMS Review is a much-read periodical with insightful essays on publications that have to do with our scriptural heritage. The Occasional Papers are original scholarly papers and monographs typically too long or technical for the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies. In addition to the Journal, subscribers receive Insights, a Maxwell Institute newsletter that contains research updates and news of projects, events, and publications.
The Maxwell Institute Web site contains a vast library of papers, articles, and books, cataloged according to research topic. The casual visitor can find our archived periodicals, papers, and articles, while subscribers also have access to book chapters. Increases in the number of subscriptions and registered visitors show us that this is the right direction for our Web presence.
Our goals for the future include:
We want to continue to lay a solid foundation of scholarship about the scriptures on which future generations of faithful scholars can build. We will work to encourage and mentor the next generation of scholars devoted to this vital field of study.
Without neglecting the need of scholars to speak to each other, we also want to present these findings in a way that is accessible to the membership of the church, including eager students of the scriptures whose native language is not English.
While the Maxwell Institute is fortunate to have thousands of subscribers worldwide, there are many others who could benefit from our services. We will work to build a larger core of subscribers and find and better serve a larger audience throughout the world via the Internet as well as by other means.
Most of what BYU hopes to achieve will require support from many individuals. Those in a position to contribute time and resources will have the satisfaction of knowing that they are helping the university expand the Maxwell Institute agenda and are thereby furthering BYU's efforts to strengthen the scriptural heritage of the church.Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies