The latest issue of the FARMS Review (volume 22, number 2), which appeared at the end of 2010, features a transcript of last year's Neal A. Maxwell Lecture given by Mark H. Willes, president and CEO of Deseret Management Corporation. Willes illustrates the kind of creative thinking required for the LDS Church's media outlets to eventually reach hundreds of millions of people worldwide. For a full report of this lecture, see Insights 30/2 (2010).
Five essays deal with the Book of Mormon. Two are reviews of Bruce H. Porter and Rod L. Meldrum's book Prophecies and Promises: The Book of Mormon and the United States. This book holds that Book of Mormon events took place in the central and eastern United States and that the Book of Mormon prophecies about the land of promise refer exclusively to the United States. In two separate reviews, Matthew Roper shows why the "heartland theory" is untenable. The first takes up several key issues such as what Joseph Smith knew about Book of Mormon geography through revelation and whether his use of certain terms like "this land" supports only a limited North American setting. The second review addresses the authors' narrow interpretation of the terms "land of promise" and "remnant of Lehi."
An essay by Robert F. Smith demonstrates that several letters in the Book of Mormon adhere to a subtle yet significant feature of ancient Near Eastern epistolary form that was unknown in Joseph Smith's day. He also refers to research suggesting that professional bilingual Israelite scribes since the 10th century BC had been using hieratic (shorthand) Egyptian, which developed separately from the Egyptian tradition. In his discussion of territorial symbolism in the Book of Mormon and how it informs the book's covenantal theology, Steven L. Olsen asserts that the concept of a promised land is best understood not so much as a specific location but as "places where sacred covenants govern human relations and where the blessings of the gospel are realized by covenant-based communities" (p. 153).
Readers desiring perspective on the ongoing Book of Mormon historicity debate will find it in Kevin Christensen's assessment of one writer's series of criticisms nearly three decades ago. Christensen shows how subsequent developments have vindicated the Book of Mormon and teach a cautionary lesson about keeping a broader perspective that can accommodate revised assumptions and conclusions.
John Gee mines the data from two books by evangelical sociologists on the influence of religion in the lives of "emerging adults" (college-aged youth). The findings are from a 2005 study of U.S. youth and religion (in which LDS teenagers were ranked highest "in a variety of sociological measures of religious vitality and salience," p. 195) and also from follow-up studies of the same group. Gee cites the statistics on religious devotion, alcohol consumption, and promiscuity and offers insightful commentary. He concludes with a list of behaviors typical among Latter-day Saints that "seem to correlate most closely to faith playing an important role in an emerging adult's life" (p. 228).
In the editor's introduction, Daniel C. Peterson opines on the Christian (and therefore LDS) obligation to "apologize"—that is, believers' individual responsibility to defend the faith's truth-claims through evidence and reason. He distinguishes between positive and negative apologetics (i.e., affirmatively advocating vs. rebutting and defending), argues that the former requires no special training or expertise to demonstrate that the gospel is desirable, and points to the Internet as a convenient and effective means of doing that.
Peterson also notes that this issue marks the end of the FARMS Review title. The next issue of this publication will bear the title Mormon Studies Review, which, according to Peterson, reflects "the periodical's expanded vision and scope" as well as "readjustments over the past several years in . . . the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship." This issue is available to read online (click here).