It is something you hear all the time—“Mormon scholars have no credibility among mainstream scholars!” I’ve addressed this silly notion here on this blog before. In a recent edition of “Ask a Scholar,” on the Maxwell Institute blog, John L. Sorenson was specifically asked about how non-Mormons view his work. His response is rather interesting:
|Dr. John L. Sorenson|
How have non-LDS scholars reacted to your work? How do you feel about it?
I wouldn’t know. I suspect all but a few ignore what I write. If they are steadfastly professional in their reading, it would be easy to be completely unaware of my work. A few may read a bit of it, but do not care enough to communicate what they think to me, after all. I suspect I would be classed by most such scholars with that fairly large class of marginal writers who can safely be allotted no attention. There may, however, be a few people “in the closet” who have paid some attention to my and other scholarly Mormon work, but they may feel that to draw attention to it by commenting on it, even negatively, would serve no useful purpose, in their calculus.
A case in point might be Dr. Michael Coe, the widely published Mesoamerican archaeologist at Yale. We have known each other for years. A few years ago after he had lectured at BYU, I approached him to exchange greetings, whereupon he said to me, with a smile, “Hello, John. I don’t want to talk to you. You’re too formidable.” More recently I sent him a copy of my book with Carl L. Johannesson, World Trade and Biological Exchange before 1492, which documents at vast length that very many plant and animal species and diseases were exchanged by boat between the Old and New Worlds before Columbus. He responded in a personal letter, “It’s an enormously impressive piece of scholarship. …. So much of this evidence, I think, is irrefutable …. If I had another life, I’d devote much of it to proving the interlace between the religions and cosmologies of Southeast and South Asia, and that of Mesoamerica.” More recently I sent him a copy of Mormon’s Codex (which cites 21 works by him in its bibliography). His pleasant letter of thanks revealed that he had not read significantly in it. It is not surprising that he (or other non-LDS archaeologists) would be unlikely to find time to examine an 800-page volume of doubtful professional value to them.
The scholarly work I have reported in Mormon’s Codex is the best effort I am capable of. I consider it as sound, both in general and in detail. It fulfills my responsibility to the scholarly community as far as am able. At the same time it displays my understanding of the Book of Mormon. I recommend that truth-lovers consider it carefully and advance beyond it.
Of course, that most non-LDS scholars are simply unaware or ignore the work of LDS scholars comes as no surprise. Far more interesting is the comments Sorenson reports here of Michael D. Coe—the foremost expert on the ancient Maya. Coe perceived Sorenson as “too formidable” to engage, at least in person. Regarding his work on pre-Columbian transoceanic voyages (which ties into his Book of Mormon research), Coe thinks is “enormously impressive” scholarship which has marshaled “irrefutable” evidence. Coe finds it so compelling that he would have taken his career in a completely different direction had he known of this decades ago. Doesn’t exactly sound like Sorenson lacks credibility in Coe’s eyes, at least.