"Are there studies of ancient American ruins that will contribute to my understanding of the Book of Mormon?" "What is known about the Joseph Smith Papyri?" "How does the Sermon at the Temple in the Book of Mormon relate to the Sermon on the Mount in the New Testament?"
These are typical questions submitted to the FARMS Reference Service. This service has recently been reorganized to more efficiently provide FARMS members, as a benefit of membership, with reference information pertaining to all research that FARMS has published or distributed on the Book of Mormon, other ancient Latter-day Saint scriptures, and related topics.
Reference Service personnel use this research, which is carefully peer reviewed and updated, to prepare responses to individual inquiries and to assist scholars and others who are working with FARMS on various research projects. FARMS makes this information available, mostly in bibliographic form, to facilitate the serious study of ancient scripture.
Using the Reference Service is very simple. Acting manager Daniel McKinlay suggests that users first formulate their questions as precisely as possible so that Reference Service personnel can focus their search. It will be beneficial, he says, if users have access to a FARMS catalog, either in print or on the FARMS Web site, before making a query. This will enable staff to easily direct them to pertinent articles or publications listed therein.
Once their questions are narrowed, users can contact the FARMS Reference Service by e-mail, telephone, postal mail, or fax. Reference Service personnel will endeavor to match their response to the scope of the inquiry. Some questions may be adequately answered with just one or two references; others may require a more comprehensive bibliographic search.
Reference Service personnel are able to access references that have been amassed over the past 20 years in (1) every chapter in every book published to date by FARMS, (2) every article in every issue of the three scholarly periodicals published by FARMS (the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, the FARMS Review of Books, and FARMS Occasional Papers), (3) selected material from the Insights newsletter, (4) every preliminary report or reprint distributed by FARMS, (5) every entry in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, (6) FARMS Research Reports, which are online reports on selected research topics available on the FARMS Web site, and (7) every audiotape, videotape, chart, and other material published or distributed by FARMS.
The Reference Service does not do original research for people but rather provides information on research projects that the Foundation has supported and that have led to formal or informal publication on the Book of Mormon, other ancient Latter-day Saint scriptures, and related topics. If FARMS has published material on the topic of the inquiry or if it distributes such material, the Reference Service will provide only the references to those items, which may then be purchased from FARMS or from other outlets.
To ensure that users receive a thorough response, Reference Service personnel may share inquiries with scholars who can assist them. Because the focus of FARMS is on ancient LDS scripture, the Reference Service does not ordinarily deal with many aspects of LDS doctrine, many topics related to LDS Church history, matters pertaining to the policies and practices of the LDS Church, moral issues, teachings or topics related to other religions and denominations, or any other topic that falls outside of the Foundation's focus.
Daniel McKinlay and his staff oversee and coordinate efforts to respond to all inquiries. Their goal is to provide a helpful service that is reliable, comprehensive, and efficient. We hope this service will be beneficial to FARMS members, who can now be quickly directed to key information found in the extensive database that we have compiled over the years, says M. Gerald Bradford, director of research at FARMS. This is another way we are trying to be of real service to FARMS members, helping them to better understand and appreciate the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon. That's what FARMS is about.