I just read Professor Kent P. Jackson's article "Asking Restoration Questions in New Testament Scholarship," pages 27-42 in How the New Testament Came to Be, the published collection of the 2006 Sydney B. Sperry lectures (Deseret, 2006). It covers at greater length ideas later summarized in "Sacred Study," a short Jan. 6, 2007 Church News article by Jackson, examined at some length by Mogget at FPR in a three-part series (here, here, and here). I'm going to summarize Jackson's longer article and add a few personal observations.
First, Jackson urges LDS biblical scholars to
seek out the best professional training, use the best academic tools, examine the best available ancient evidence, be aware of the best of current scholarship, and ask the same hard questions that others ask. Ideally, this means that Latter-day Saint Bible scholars must master the historical and cultural sources that pertain to the world in which the Bible came to be, and they must know the languages of the original writers so they can study their words without having to rely on the scholars who translated those words into modern languages.
(p. 27). He continues by noting that "the restored gospel does not give Latter-day Saint scholars an excuse to be smug, lazy, or uninformed." Okay — he's raising the bar for LDS scholars, nothing wrong with that. But he then lists some additional constraints on LDS scholarship: "I believe that there is, and must be, a Latter-day Saint Bible scholarship, and I believe that in fundamental ways, it must be different from the scholarship of others." This LDS approach must embrace "revealed sources" and use them "at every stage in the process of understanding and interpreting the words of scripture." Furthermore, he suggests LDS scholars who do not use "all the sources available to them, which is a necessary scholarly practice," are engaging in "shoddy scholarship" and are "unfaithful to the Restoration and its blessings" (p. 28, 29 for all quotes).
Some examples might help flesh out what he has in mind. He thinks that "the historicity of the Resurrection [of Jesus Christ] must be viewed as a truth that is non-negotiable," whereas the authorship of the book of Mark "is fair game for continued exploration, interpretation, and examination of evidence" (p. 29-30). But he also notes that there are no explicit references to the authorship of the book of Mark in LDS scripture, whereas there are passages in 1 Nephi that explicitly identify the apostle John as the author of Revelation. That makes it sound like an LDS scholar must assert and defend John's authorship of Revelation.
If a question as simple and straightforward as authorship is political (in the sense that it is politically risky for an LDS scholar to raise and address in a serious fashion questions of authorship), this doesn't bode well for LDS biblical scholars. Consider this comment by Jackson:
The Prophet Joseph Smith endorsed both the New Testament's apostolic origin and its content. In his sermons and writings, he quoted or made reference to over three hundred New Testament passages, attesting to the fact that he ascribed real authority to them. We have no record of any authorship issues being brought to his attention, nor of him questioning the traditional authorship attributions. It appears that he simply took for granted the authorship designations printed in his Bible.
(p. 38; emphasis added). So Joseph simply absorbed contemporary Christian views of authorship. Yet earlier Jackson held that "Latter-day Saints are under no obligation to accept those [traditional] identifications [of the authors of the Gospels] simply because they are printed in modern translations" (p. 30). But how is an LDS scholar supposed to raise a question of authorship without having her faith called into question (possibly by a jealous colleague?) if Joseph Smith accepted traditional authorship? That's a problem, at least for BYU scholars.
It seems like Jackson is advocating two ideas. First, that LDS scholars should be scholars in every sense that others, whether secular or Christian, are scholars. Second, that LDS scholars should also incorporate LDS presuppositions (drawn from LDS tradition and LDS scripture) into their scholarship, and a suggestion that LDS scholars who do not do this are being unfaithful. He doesn't see any inconsistency in these two ideas. Personally, I think making LDS presuppositions binding on LDS scholars makes dealing with professional colleagues problematic and might even make their scholarship suspect in the eyes of non-LDS scholars.
As suggested in the title to this post, perhaps there is some confusion here between faith and scholarship. One can certainly have faith in things not supported by science or scholarship, and the reverse applies as well: One can apply in one's profession and scholarship things not strictly square with one's faith. For example, LDS doctors aren't required to treat bruises with tobacco despite the statement at D&C 89:8, nor are LDS financial managers required to avoid the use of debt with their clients or employers despite statements such as D&C 19:35 likening debt to bondage. Nevertheless, my impression is that LDS religious scholars (at least at BYU) are held to rules that don't apply to anyone else.