Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies

Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies
The Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS)
Formation 1979
Type Research Institute (Mormon studies)
Headquarters Brigham Young University
Location Provo, Utah, USA
Director Paul Y. Hoskisson
Parent organization Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship
Affiliations The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) is an informal collaboration of academics devoted to Latter-day Saint historical scholarship. The group is formally part of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, formerly known as the Institute for the Study and Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts at Brigham Young University (BYU), which is operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church).

FARMS supports and sponsors what it considers to be "faithful scholarship", which includes academic study and research in support of Christianity and Mormonism, and in particular, where possible, the official position of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This research primarily concerns the Book of Mormon, the Book of Abraham, the Old Testament, the New Testament, early Christian history, ancient temples, and other related subjects. While the organization allows some degree of academic freedom within these topics, FARMS is committed to the conclusion that Latter-day Saint scriptures are authentic, historical texts written by prophets of God. FARMS has garnered criticism from other scholars and critics who consider it as an apologetic organization that operates under the auspices of the LDS Church, which fully funds and operates BYU, its parent organization.



FARMS was organized in California in 1979 as a private not-for-profit educational organization. In 1997, FARMS became part of Brigham Young University after an invitation by Gordon B. Hinckley, President of the LDS Church and chairman of the BYU Board of Trustees. In extending the invitation, Hinckley noted: "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. I wish to express my strong congratulations and appreciation for those who started this effort and who have shepherded it to this point."

In 2001, Brigham Young University consolidated FARMS with the Center for the Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts (CPART) and the Middle Eastern Texts Initiative (METI) to form the Institute for the Study and Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts (ISPART). ISPART was renamed as the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship in 2006.[1] FARMS still existed as a nominal sub-unit of the Maxwell Institute, but without a distinctive cluster of BYU faculty and staff, and was largely replaced by the Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies.

As of September 2008, the new Director of the Willes Center and of FARMS is Paul Y. Hoskisson, an American Assyriologist and former Associate Dean of Religious Education. The Director of the Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship is M. Gerald Bradford. He is Hoskisson's superior.

In late 2010 Daniel C. Peterson, editor of the FARMS Review, announced the journal would be renamed Mormon Studies Review, reflecting "readjustments over the past several years in what is now known as the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship; the old title, FARMS, no longer reflects the way we're organized. ... We look forward to continuing under the new name." He also noted that the FARMS name had sometimes been mistaken for involvement with agriculture.[2]


The Middle Eastern Texts Initiative consists of three sub-parts to date. These are the Islamic Translation Series, the Eastern Christian Texts and the Medical Works of Moses Maimonides.

The head editor of the Middle Eastern Texts Inititative is Daniel C. Peterson. D. Morgan Davis is the editor over the Islamic Translation Series Project and Carl W. Griffin is the directing editor of the Eastern Christian Texts project with Kristian S. Heal as associate editor. Muhammad S. Eissa is the Editorial Consultant for the project.[3]


FARMS has also been a focus of some controversy from both within and outside the Mormon community.

Critic Matthew Paulson argues that the research activities of the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) are not subjected to peer review, that FARMS limits peer review only to members of the LDS Church, and that FARMS's primary goal is to defend the LDS faith rather than promote truthful scholarship.[4] Molecular biologist Simon Southerton, a former LDS Church bishop and author of Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA, and the Mormon Church [5] said, "I was amazed at the lengths that FARMS went to in order to prop up faith in the Book of Mormon. I felt that the only way I could be satisfied with FARMS explanations was to stop thinking.... The explanations of the FARMS researchers stretched the bounds of credibility to breaking point on almost every critical issue".[6]

FARMS supports and sponsors what it considers to be 'faithful scholarship', which includes academic study and research in support of Christianity and Mormonism, and in particular, where possible, the official position of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.[7]

After corresponding directly with Neal A. Maxwell, former Mormon Steve Benson (grandson of Ezra Taft Benson), quoted Maxwell as saying that "one of the purposes of F.A.R.M.S. was to prevent the General Authorities from being outflanked by the Church's critics."[8]

Peer review and scholarly credentials

Work produced under FARMS's auspices has been critiqued by Mormons, ex-Mormons, secular scholars, and evangelical Christians.[citation needed]

FARMS states that the work it supports "conforms to established canons of scholarship, is peer reviewed, and reflects solely the views of individual authors and editors."[9] John A. Tvedtnes, formerly with FARMS and now retired, claims that "the academic credentials of people who publish with FARMS are questioned only by the critics, never by bona fide scholars," noting that "[t]he list of articles and books published in non-LDS scholarly presses by FARMS authors is impressive indeed. If the critics do not accept FARMS authors as scholars, those authors are at least so acknowledged by the world's scholarly community."[10]

Two evangelical Christian scholars, Carl Mosser and Paul Owen, closely examined the scholarship produced by FARMS. Their subsequent report at the April 25, 1997, Far West Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, lauded the high quality of FARMS' scholarship, concluding that their fellow evangelicals had lost the apologetic battle against the Mormons largely due to excellent research and publication by FARMS.[11] The same conclusion was reached independently by Roman Catholic scholar Massimo Introvigne.[12]


Some have accused FARMS of engaging in mean-spirited polemics. One example of this occurred with Signature Books' publication of Grant Palmer's book An Insider's View of Mormon Origins. The publication of this book immediately resulted in five negative book reviews by FARMS.[13] Ron Priddis of Signature Books responded to these reviews by stating: "Is nothing beyond the reach of sarcasm by FARMS polemicists?" Priddis refers to the book reviews by FARMS as "tabloid scholarship." [14]

Some authors associated with FARMS have been accused of making ad hominem attacks: attacking someone personally, rather than analyzing the merits of their ideas.[15] FARMS has also been accused of labeling someone an "anti-Mormon", and then discounting their works as biased, based largely on this pronouncement.[16] In a speech offered before the Sunstone Symposium (titled "Why I No Longer Trust the FARMS Review of Books"), John Hatch said, "After reading the (FARMS) reviews myself, it appears to me, and is my opinion, that FARMS is interested in making Mormonism's past appear as normal as possible to readers by attacking history books that discuss complex or difficult aspects of the church's past. As one who hopes to some day contribute to the body of the New Mormon History, I am deeply troubled by what I see as continued efforts to attack honest scholarly work."[17]

"Metcalfe is Butthead"

William J. Hamblin published an essay in a FARMS publication entitled Review of Books on the Book of Mormon criticizing an essay by Brent Metcalfe, a writer who criticized the Book of Mormon. The point of Hamblin's essay was that Metcalfe criticized the Book of Mormon using circular arguments and by applying uneven standards.

Hamblin's review included an "acrostic" spelling out "Metcalfe is Butthead," a reference to one of the two title characters in the popular cartoon Beavis and Butt-head that aired during the mid-1990s. (The acrostic was made up of the first letters of paragraphs spanning nine pages of the essay.) After the 1994 publication went to press and a few early issues were distributed, it was caught by a FARMS editor who stopped the press run, recalled the issues, and edited part of the acrostic out. Portions still remained, with the post-editing acrostic spelling out "METWHSFE IA BUTAHEAT."[18]

Associated Press writer Vern Anderson wrote an article concerning the matter which was published in the Deseret News:

"The salvos contained in the 566-page 'Review of Books on the Book of Mormon' come as no surprise, given the longstanding animus between scholars associated with FARMS, many of them professors at church-owned Brigham Young University, and those published by the independent Signature Books.... Recently a review by BYU history professor William Hamblin containing an encrypted message 'Metcalfe is butthead' — was hastily edited out after the 'Review' had gone to press."[19]

Upon learning of the acrostic, Metcalfe responded, stating:

"When I heard rumors that William J. Hamblin, FARMS board member and BYU historian, had a caustic encryption in his review... I summarily dismissed them. Surely no legitimate scholar would stoop to such an inane level. However, it seems that I underestimated Hamblin's 'scholarly' prowess."[20]

"Do Hamblin and Peterson's methods typify the brand of 'scholarship' FARMS, BYU Department of History, and BYU Department of Asian and Near Eastern Languages cultivates and endorses? Evidently some have shifted from apologist to misologist."[21]

Those critical of FARMS use the incident as primary evidence of the mean-spirited nature of what FARMS produces. Those supportive of FARMS counter that the critics seem unable to look beyond the incident to address the actual scholarship in FARMS publications.


While scholars associated with FARMS often resist being characterized as apologists because of that term's pejorative connotations, FARMS has been an important center for producing work that critiques claims by many, including amateur Mormon enthusiasts and antagonistic opposition movements of evangelical Christianity, especially through the organization's longest-running journal, the FARMS Review.

FARMS has been cited as representative of a new trend within Mormonism: the emergence of progressive forms of Mormon orthodoxy. This trend is committed to the literal reality of Mormon faith claims, but is simultaneously willing to rethink traditional understandings of those claims. A prominent example of this trend is the work FARMS has produced supporting a limited geography model for the Book of Mormon: suggesting that the events chronicled in the Book of Mormon occurred in a much smaller region than the traditional understanding, which argues the same events occurred across the entire Western hemisphere. Supporters of this limited geography idea—including some high-ranking church leaders—believe this model is consistent with anthropological, archaeological and genetic findings about ancient American peoples, as well as with the Book of Mormon text.[22]


A number of periodicals have been published under the FARMS imprint, including:

Title Started Format Purpose Notes
Insights 1981 bimonthly newsletter latest FARMS research updates, current events, reports on symposia, scripture insights, and new publication announcements Originally titled FARMS Newsletter.[23]
Mormon Studies Review 1989 semiannual journal reviews of books and articles written about Mormonism and the Book of Mormon As the journal's purpose broadened over the years, so did the title: Review of Books on the Book of Mormon (1989–1995), FARMS Review of Books (1996–2002), FARMS Review (2003–2010).[24][25][2]
Journal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture 1992 semiannual journal the latest research on the Book of Mormon Was titled Journal of Book of Mormon Studies from 1992–2008.[26]
Studies in the Bible and Antiquity 2009 annual journal LDS research on the Bible and ancient religion Published under the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, which had assumed other FARMS periodicals.[27][2]

FARMS has also republished many of the writings of LDS scholar Hugh Nibley in the 19-volume Collected Works of Hugh Nibley. Numerous other books and papers have been published by FARMS, as well as audio and video recordings.


  1. ^ "BYU renames ISPART to Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship". 
  2. ^ a b c Peterson, Daniel C. (2010), "Editor's Introduction: An Unapologetic Apology for Apologetics", The FARMS Review 22 (2),, retrieved 2011-02-04 
  3. ^ Staff page for Middle Eastern Texts Initiative
  4. ^ Paulson, Matthew A. (2006). Breaking the Mormon Code: A Critique of Mormon Scholarship. Wingspan Press. pp. 27–29. ISBN 1595940677. 
  5. ^ "FARMS Review of Southerton's book". 
  6. ^ Gruss, Edmond C. (2006). What Every Mormon (and Non-Mormon) Should Know. Xulon Press. p. 119. ISBN 1600341632. 
  7. ^ BYU College of Religious Education
  8. ^ Web post by Steve Benson at - see subsection "Neal A. Maxwell" - [1]
  9. ^ "About Maxwell Institute". 
  10. ^ Tvedtnes 2000
  11. ^ Mosser & Owen, “Mormon Scholarship, Apologetics, and Evangelical Neglect: Losing the Battle and Not Knowing It?" Trinity Journal, 19/2 new series (Fall 1998), 179-205.
  12. ^ Introvigne, “The Book of Mormon Wars: A Non-Mormon Perspective,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, 5/2 (1996), 1-25 -- available online at This is an expanded version of his article in Douglas J. Davies, ed., Mormon Identities in Transition (London: Cassell, 1996), 25-34.
  13. ^ Cobabe 2003
  14. ^ Priddis, Ron. "A Reply to FARMS and the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute". Signature Books. Archived from the original on 2007-01-29.'s4.htm. Retrieved 2007-02-01. 
  15. ^ Tvedtnes 2000 Tvedtnes states, "I must admit that I have seen a few such arguments from Latter-day Saints, including some who have written for the FARMS Review of Books. Most, however, discuss the issues themselves. In fairness, I acknowledge that some anti-Mormon writers discuss the issues as well."
  16. ^ Southerton 2004, p. 148
  17. ^ Midgley 2004 Although Hatch's essay was present on the Signature Books website on 24 April 2004, it has since been removed.
  18. ^ Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, 6:1 (1994), 434-442.
  19. ^ Deseret News, March 22–23, 1994
  20. ^ Computer message by Brent Metcalfe, dated March 8, 1994 as quoted at
  21. ^ (Computer message by Brent Metcalfe, dated March 8, 1994 as quoted at
  22. ^ Sorenson 1985
  23. ^ "FARMS News". FARMS Newsletter (FARMS). Retrieved 2011-02-04. 
  24. ^ Peterson, Daniel C. (1996), "Editor's Introduction: Triptych (Inspired by Hieronymus Bosch)", FARMS Review of Books 8 (1): v,, retrieved 2009-07-28 
  25. ^ Midgley, Louis (2003), "Editor's Introduction: On Caliban Mischief", The FARMS Review 15 (1): xi,, retrieved 2009-07-28 
  26. ^ "Editor's Notebook". Journal of the Book of Mormon and Restoration Scripture (Maxwell Institute) 17 (1): 3–4. 2008. Retrieved 2009-07-28. 
  27. ^ "Editor's Introduction". Studies in the Bible and Antiquity (Maxwell Institute) 1 (1): vii. 2009. Retrieved 2011-02-04. 


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