Saturday, October 20, 2018

Quality Book of Mormon Scholarship

In my volunteer role as Executive Director of Book of Mormon Central (BMC), I get proposals frequently from aspiring scholars seeking collaboration or support. BMC's mission is to build enduring faith in Jesus Christ by making the Book of Mormon accessible, comprehensible, and defensible to the entire world. We accomplish our mission with quality scholarship. Shoddy work does not endure. We like Pres. Dallin H. Oaks' comment at a FARMS banquet decades ago "a bad argument is worse than no argument at all." The Book of Mormon deserves our best effort. This is how I evaluate proposals:
  1. Quality people. Are credentialed specialists working in their area of expertise? Most good science and history come from well-trained, experienced people working in their discipline.
  2. Quality sources. Are the authorities credentialed specialists working in their area? Are the publications peer-reviewed? Have the citations been source-checked for accuracy, completeness, and appropriate context? Are the sources up to date? Scholarship that stands the test of time is source critical.
  3. Quality thesis. Is the proposal disprovable? Relevant? Important? Falsifiable hypotheses can be scientifically tested with reproducible results. Relevant proposals matter enough to secure resources. Important studies advance the state of the art.
  4. Quality data. Have sites been ground-truthed and competently studied? Are artifacts provenanced? Do texts have verifiable transmission histories? Are key data points statistically significant? The Book of Mormon is already such a controversial proposition that trying to support it with fakes and outliers does great harm.
  5. Quality exegesis. How closely is the proposal tied to the text? Are referenced passages abundant? Explicit? Vague, subjective textual links create ambiguity.
  6. Quality tone. Is the proponent respectful to peers? Responsible with the data? Conspiracy theories seldom hold. Over-claiming is a huge red flag.
  7. Quality presentation. Is the proposal well edited? Well illustrated? In today's digital world, high production values engage audiences. 
Quality Sources: High Impact Journals
At BMC, we strive to publish quality content.
Quality Data: Within Two Standard Deviations of the Mean