Today was the first day of the Mormon Media Studies Symposium. I presented at the one two years ago but have been ordered never to present again and any record of my having done so was deliberately expunged from the Neal A. Maxwell Institute which says something about the management of the Institute's actual attitude toward Mormon Studies.
I was only able to make a few of the papers. One of them was of particular interest. Rosemary Avance is not a Latter-day Saint but she is trying to follow the conversation between apologists and dissidents. As an example of apologists, she gave the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (www.fairlds.org) as an example of dissidents she gave John Dehlin. She clearly has not mastered the intricacies of the discussion (for example, she confuses certain of the players and does not seem to care about the intellectual content of the discussions), but she has been trying to figure out what is going on and has some interesting things to say.
Avance told the story of how a response to Dehlin was suppressed at the Maxwell Institute giving Dehlin's version of the story. She summarized the article that was suppressed but admitted that she had not read it or even seen it.
Avance also said in response to a question that she sees no indication that the Maxwell Institute will be continuing with apologetics after this past summer. To the contrary, she says that they got rid of their major apologetic publication and have abandoned apologetics for Mormon Studies. I am still under interdict of talking about what may or may not be going on at the Maxwell Institute, but I thought that her take as an observer who is trying to follow the discussion closely was telling.
Although I cannot say more, I will say that I think Dehlin's version of the story grossly distorts his own role as a convenient and incidental pretext to what happened. Avance in a casual aside in her presentation hit somewhat closer to the truth than the Dehlin myth. We will have to see if her observation makes it into any sort of published version of her remarks.