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I liked the question of what the most important thing FARMS has done. I'd say that the most important thing is to suggest a strong alternative to the literalism which was dominating Mormon theology. It also re-awakened an embrace of science and theology in a manner than hadn't been seen since the 1930's.

While some, especially those in the so-called "liberal" view of Mormonism have been highly critical of FARMS and the whole approach of apologetics, I think the strong sense that one can and ought be able to reconcile science and religion in a practical way is an important one. Further I think that this questioning by FARMS opened up a rethinking of a lot of theology. Many notions which we take for granted today, such as the limited geography, were rather uncommon back when Sorenson's work first broke onto the scene. In my experience even the brethren take a lot of the positions of FARMS for granted now.

I'd honestly say that FARMS is probably the most important historical event in LDS theology since the advent of correlation and the move away for 19th century theology dominated by Brigham Young's views.

The ability of FARMS to support the CPART project, interacting with world-class scholars on a growing set of ancient text investigations, is really impressive. It also seems like a sign they have started to downgrade the apologetic side of their activities and orient their research and publishing in other directions. As I recall, I have also seen explicit statements announcing a change in editorial policy at The FARMS Review away from exclusively reviews of books critical of LDS claims and toward inclusion of some substantive articles. If they throw in a poem or two, it might turn into a conservative version of Sunstone!

Dave, do you think that BYU Studies already qualifies as a conservative version of Sunstone?

Also, I don't see why cooperation in the sense of the CPART project has anything to do with FARMS's apologietic activities. It is almost as if you are saying that one can't be a defender of the faith against outside affirmative attacks on it while at the same time working with other, non-hostile, elements in a constructive project.

I don't see any need for FARMS to back off on its apologetic activities. Quite frankly, it mystifies me that these activities get a bad rap among "liberal" Mormons. I would have thought that liberal Mormons would appreciate information that places our scripture and religious tradition in historical and cultural context. The fact that it is apologetic in tone merely reflects that it serves to dispell mischaracterizations and misrepresentations of aspects of LDS belief and scripture.

John F, obviously there are different views about what the intentions and effects of FARMS have been on the organizational culture of the LDS Church. In addition, FARMS is not monolithic and the various scholars associated with FARMS no doubt have their own ideas on the subject. But I'm not really trying to open another dialogue on that subject. The three interviews I posted, in fact, do a nice job of showing what some of the FARMS people themselves think about FARMS and where the organization will be moving in the future. I'll let them speak for themselves. As I read the remarks, my impression is they are downgrading their apologetic work in terms of priority (although obviously not abandoning it) and pushing other scholarly projects. You may read their comments differently.

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