While compiling the latest issue of our newsletter Insights, I spent a little time looking through a few back issues. Our on-site archive begins with the July 1981 issue of what was then called the FARMS Newsletter—the first issue published after FARMS relocated along with founder John W. Welch from California to Provo. (If you happen to have copies of any pre-Provo newsletters, send me a note through our Facebook page. Welch is checking his files as well.)
For a trip down memory lane, you can download a copy of the July 1981 newsletter here.
The robotic typewriter font, the pasted borders of ancient scripts, the gratitude expressed to donors (one of whom supplied a “TRS-80 [computer] system with 48k capacity,” complete with monitor, two disk drives, and printer) are hallmarks of FARMS’s enthusiastic beginning. During these early years, FARMS focused largely on reprinting and distributing articles on the Book of Mormon published elsewhere, while also creating a network of scholars to formulate new research projects. FARMS also distributed “Preliminary Reports” in hopes of spurring further research and engagement with the Book of Mormon. The first three in this issue include an analysis of possible Hebrew roots behind “and it came to pass,” as well as various Book of Mormon names, and John Sorenson’s take on wheels in pre-Columbian America.
The newsletter promised periodic reports, “if only of the hospital style: ‘doing as well as can be expected,’ or ‘the operation was a success but the patient did not survive.'” This particular issue mentions a few projects that ultimately faded out, such as “Mark Hofmann’s 1980 recovery of what looks to be the original Anthon Transcript.” The writer notes they may never discover enough additional examples of reformed Egyptian script in order to “pin down a definitive translation,” but they planned a working conference to go over a few proposed translations. The winter 1987 issue alerted readers about the forgery.
Of course, not all of the projects were doomed. This issue also announced the acquisition of the uncollected papers of Hugh Nibley, “a mouthwatering assortment of his work for the past twenty years.” Perhaps a comprehensive book would be compiled, or they might be divided into a series of FARMS reprints. Ultimately, they became the backbone of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, copublished with Deseret Book and currently standing at 19 volumes.
As ever, Insights will continue to provide updates on the expanding areas of research at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. Subscribers to any of our three periodicals should receive the latest issue later this month. What’s more, in the next few weeks we plan to make all of our past newsletters and other periodicals available on the brand new Maxwell Institute website in a variety of formats, including scanned PDFs. Converting everything and transferring it all to the new site has been a huge task that we couldn’t have accomplished without our outstanding production team. We’re excited to make our past publications more easily accessible than ever!