People interested in studying the Book of Mormon can now turn to a newly established guide: "The Review of Books on The Book of Mormon" published by the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (F.A.R.M.S).
Issued annually, the Review attempts to cover all book-length items concerning the Book of Mormon that were published during the previous year."Our goal is to provide a comprehensive review not only of materials that discuss the ancient work, in Meso-america and the Near East, but also writings of a more devotional kind," says Daniel C. Peterson, an assistant professor of Islamic Studies and Arabic at Brigham Young University and editor of the Review.
"In addition, we will review items from the anti-Mormon camp," he says, "so long as the authors present arguments that can be taken seriously."
F.A.R.M.S. was established in 1980 as a non-profit corporation independent of BYU by John W. "Jack" Welch, a BYU law professor, and some of BYU's most respected scholars.
Dr. Stephen D. Ricks, president of F.A.R.M.S. and a BYU associate professor of Hebrew, maintains that the Review is an integral part of the organization's mission, which is essentially to get the word out about new Book of Mormon research.
As the number of books and articles appearing about the Book of Mormon increases each year, people are having to use more discernment in choosing what would be most worthwhile to read, says Ricks. "This is why it is necessary to have a scholarly forum where serious reviews of the current literature can be presented."
"We do not intend to simply stand back and attack all those who are attempting to contribute to our knowledge of the Book of Mormon," Peterson adds. "Rather, we intend to criticize in the pure sense of the word, which goes back to the Greek krino, `to separate, choose, decide."'
A serious review, however, does point out a work's strengths and weaknesses. "Yet in the Latter-day Saint culture, criticism is something we are wary of," says Ricks. "This is probably for the best, since too often it can be unhelpful. However, if we are going to be involved in the reviewing of books, we can't shy away from noting inadequacies presented in a writer's arguments. But we do try to offer criticism in a fair and genteel manner."
While many of the reviews are written by BYU scholars, Ricks emphasizes that reviewers are not restricted to those holding academic positions. Indeed, a variety of reviewers have participated, including an advertising copywriter from California and a chemical engineer from Illinois.
"Our one stipulation," says Peterson, "is that reviewers need to be committed members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who take the Book of Mormon seriously. Although at some point, if we feel a more diverse viewpoint is needed, we may ask a non-Mormon to review a certain work."
The third volume of the Review will be released in early 1991. For information on how to order the Review, contact F.A.R.M.S. at P.O. Box 7113, University Station, Provo, UT 84602.