271-274: LDS Apologist – Dr. Daniel C. Peterson

Daniel C. Peterson is a professor of Islamic Studies and Arabic in the Department of Asian and Near Eastern Languages at Brigham Young University and currently serves as editor-in-chief of BYU’s Middle Eastern Texts Initiative. He is a member of the executive council of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship at Brigham Young University.

Peterson is known for his work as an apologist and scholar on subjects dealing with claims of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon), of which he is a member. He has served as the editor of the FARMS Review, a periodical produced by the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies. Peterson is a regular participant in online fora about Mormonism where he discusses the LDS faith and its apologetics. One of his most recent projects has been the development of a website featuring the testimonies of LDS scholars.

408 comments for “271-274: LDS Apologist – Dr. Daniel C. Peterson

  1. danithew
    August 19, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    I’m very happy to see that these interviews have happened.  Just partly into the first one now.

  2. cubee2006
    August 19, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    Mormon Stories is really on a roll right now. Haven’t listened to the interview, but the interviewees have been great.

  3. Dude from the South
    August 19, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    The one common theme with Mormon Stories is empathy.  You end up with empathy for Gay Mormons, Atheist Former Mormons, Ed Decker, and now Daniel Peterson.  I don’t agree with Dr. Peterson most of the time, but I respect him and dare I say, have charity towards him.  If I judged him solely on his internet board battles, I would have been poorer for it.  PS — I think the Mission President he recently helped (from the Bible Belt) is Richard Holzapfel of the Birmingham, Alabama mission.  Did I guess right?

    • jmb275
      September 4, 2011 at 8:32 pm

      Best comment in this thread!

  4. Dude
    August 19, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    not on iTunes yet?

    • Anonymous
      August 19, 2011 at 5:45 pm

      It’s working for me on iTunes.

  5. August 19, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    I am really enjoying this podcast.  For the record, I don’t think that (1) being inspired by God and (2) acting immorally are mutually exclusive (thinking about early Mormon polygamy, especially the secretive practices in Nauvoo).  I also don’t think that Joseph Smith was a brazen, cynical deceiver.  He thought he was doing good (at least some of the time), and on some level did the best he could.  But is his good the good I want for myself?  (What about continuing revelation, personal revelation, inevitable conflicts between the individual and the community?)  More to the point, how do I find a place where I can be comfortable at church as someone who doubts?  How can I be honest about my own approach to “spirituality” (which increasingly shies away from magical experiences that I have not personally had)?  How do I deal with people (especially leaders) who believe that they speak for God directly, leaving me no recourse (and demanding that my faith be absolute, uncritical, and simplistic)?  I am not asking these questions here because I expect them to be answered, really.

    At one point in my life, I could have been Dan.  I was born outside of Utah.  I like rhetorical arguments, civil disagreement, and being part of a community that can thrive with these things (not merely endure in spite of them).  My Achilles’ heel was believing what people said in Sunday School, sacrament meetings, priesthood classes, seminary, and even institute.  The faith history I had from these venues was not merely partisan (which like Dan I don’t have a problem with, prima facie): it omitted crucial facts (not because the church never said anything about them, but because nobody in any of the classes I attended knew or cared enough to say anything).  By the time I met the uncomfortable facts (at BYU of all places), I was already committed to an impossible stance: I really liked objective history (with all of the facts), and I was emotionally attached to the correlated (and too often fictional) history I was given over a lifetime of church meetings.  In the end, I had to choose between real history (all the facts) and fake history (only nice facts), and I went with the former (while recognizing that both are just highly wrought fiction, imperfect approximations of something larger than narrative can capture).

    I really like what Dan said about the Mountain Meadows massacre.  Those murderers were good people (just like me).  How do I avoid letting myself become as they were when that atrocity was committed?  How do I tame the human beast within?  I believed my church leaders had a formula for this, something tried, tested, and true.  Unfortunately, in my particular case, the medicine they provided was more like psychological poison (requiring me to subject myself to them in a way that made neither of us better people: healing for me required putting a lot of distance between myself and church leadership).

    I still consider myself a Mormon, since I understand Mormonism as embracing all truth (abstract and concrete, general and particular) and demanding personal revelation.  I can even support the church leaders as administrators of church property.  But I confess my faith in their knowledge of the human condition (especially as it relates to me) has been shattered.  I don’t doubt they wish me well, but I very much doubt their ability to treat me well.  I don’t doubt that they believe in the historicity of certain things (such as the Restoration), but I don’t think they have good reasons.  Or, to say it better, the reasons they give (feelings, uncritical readings of scripture) do not warrant the (high) level of respect (and obedience) that they expect from me.  Anyone could produce bona fides as good as theirs; in fact, people do every day (as I discovered when I started listening to authorities in other religions).  I see all people as prophets: what separates me from the president of the LDS church is not priesthood or authority or knowledge, but historical accident; he is president of a large corporation, and I am a younger, poorer (in more ways than one) graduate student.  But we are both human beings, with emotions, intuitions, and reason to sort these out to the best of our individual abilities.  For a long time, I did not productively deal with my own emotions, intuitions, and reason because I was wrongly deferential toward the president’s.  I treated him (and his local spokespeople) like God, when I should have treated him more like my grandpa (a nice old guy with lots of experience, but nothing any other old man might not possess, and certainly not an exclusive mouthpiece for ultimate reality).  I admit my worship of church authorities was a personal mistake, but in doing so I have to say that it was largely a result of teachings that I took in over years of Sunday School, sacrament meetings, priesthood meetings, seminary, and institute.  It was never discouraged by my leaders.  Quite the contrary.

    Maybe if I had learned a few things earlier on in my faith journey, I might have avoided building my trust in the LDS church on an insecure foundation.  Maybe.  I am really, honestly glad that things have worked out for Dan.  I really enjoyed listening to his personal life story (which was very interesting) and his apologetic approach to Mormonism (which I find more convincing when he isn’t arguing sympathetically for the historicity of scriptures modern or ancient).  I agree that all history is in some sense fiction, and that Herodotus and Thucydides are rhetorical (and, certainly in the case of Herodotus, quite fictitious: has anyone proven that there was not in Herodotus’ time or thereabouts some tribe of one-eyed men living in the far north, stealing gold from griffins [3.116]? assuming that this story is true, should we follow the oracle its teller delivered 240 years after his death and worship Apollo [4.15]? what reason do we have to deny Aristeas or Apollo?).  

    I am really grateful to Dan for reaching out here with his story and ideas.          

    • Anonymous
      August 19, 2011 at 5:49 pm

      Amen, and amen.

    • mypeace
      August 19, 2011 at 8:57 pm

      “”how do I find a place where I can be comfortable at church as someone who doubts?  How can I be honest about my own approach to “spirituality” (which increasingly shies away from magical experiences that I have not personally had)?  How do I deal with people (especially leaders) who believe that they speak for God directly, leaving me no recourse (and demanding that my faith be absolute, uncritical, and simplistic)?””
      Thanks for your comments.  My response to almost anyone with the above questions is that you were unlucky–you were a rational walking through an irrational, opinion-filled culture.  However, culture can change in an instant, or it can take centuries to change.  Once human culture changes form, it has already began its next phase, during which it might become stronger and stronger; and then suddenly it changes again, or not.
      A truly spiritual process, on the other hand, must be solid.  Upon such a principle the universe itself depends.  If you have an experience which gives you rational and experiential evidence of god, jesus, the purpose of life, etc…, trust that experience and nothing else.  Let your soul be strong and then you will be amused at the culture you find yourself in.  Having overcome the counter-culture, you’ll be that much stronger, and you might look back and find out that you weren’t the unlucky one afterall.

      • Thewhiteknight82
        August 21, 2011 at 6:14 am

        ” If you have an experience which gives you rational and experiential evidence of god, jesus, the purpose of life, etc…, trust that experience and nothing else.”  This is madness and stupid advice and could easily be said for a Jim Jones cult.  My response use reason, get the hell out of there, and trust in reality, not religious delusions.  

  6. Dude
    August 19, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    thanks John, got it now.  while I’m here, wanted to thank you for all you’ve done.  these podcasts have been a Godsend.  However, part of the main appeal for me has been, in part, that with you conducting the interview and posing the questions, you were an ‘insider’ asking the questions so many others like myself like to have asked.  It felt good knowing that a participating member of the Church was willing to have this discussion out in the open.  I always enjoy that discussion more that those outside of the Church, whether or not they were once part of it, conduction the discussion.  I have missed hearing your voice doing the interviews.  Is this because you’re too busy with school, or do you not feel comfortable doing it anymore in that vein?  It is my understanding that you have taken steps away from, as it were, being ‘in’ the Church.  Am I right about that?  Either way, God bless you John.  Can’t wait to listen to this one.

    • Anonymous
      August 19, 2011 at 6:33 pm

      Dude,

      I’m always in flux, but since you asked — I would classify myself today as semi-active. I attend sacrament meeting at least once a month, and sometimes more. In terms of my belief — I would say that I’m super liberal belief-wise, in that I am not very invested in the church’s exclusive truth claims, and have major concerns/doubt/reservations about many of them (maybe most of them). I do still believe in God, however (though in a very broad sense), and I do believe that “God” works through Mormonism….in the same way that she/he works through other faiths, atheists, scientists, etc.
      Regarding me doing more interviews — I’ve been away mostly because of busy-ness at school, but I’ve made arrangements that I hope will allow me to do more interviews going forward (and am excited for that). And I feel pretty confident that I can still do a good job w/ the interviews…especially because I have done many interviews in the past feeling both better and worse about the church than I feel today…which makes me think that I can still approach the interviews semi-objectively.
      Thanks for writing.

      • Thewhiteknight82
        August 21, 2011 at 6:16 am

        John have you turned into a postmodernist?  Because the ‘God’ wishywashyness approach seems like it.

  7. Anonymous
    August 19, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    Daniel is an affable guy for sure.  I enjoyed his arabic courses.  I highly doubt he would be employable outside BYU.  As a supposed scholar, would he write a critical analysis of his work?  Would he criticize the work of Michael Coe?  He could not survive as an independent scholar at another university…. he could claim his faith and hide behind the notion that you can’t prove truth, but he lacks credibility outside the realm of Mormonism….and can get quite mean spirited (by his own admission).  

    • Thewhitenight82
      August 21, 2011 at 6:17 am

      I think all of what you said goes without saying. :)

    • Mr. F
      August 21, 2011 at 10:30 pm

      He did say some mean things, and sounded pretty angry at times (he called some people liars, and then tried to justify it by saying “they’re not all crackpots”) even though he said he doesn’t get angry. Maybe he’s just a very passive aggressive person. He didn’t come across as a compasionate person, but he sure tried to make himself look like one

      • Daniel Peterson
        August 21, 2011 at 11:12 pm

        “Pretense” is my actual middle name.  (The “C” is just deceptive cover.)

        I’m curious about the “mean things” that I said, and the places where I “sounded pretty angry.”  I don’t recall feeling any anger at any point during the interview.  Could you supply some references, so that I can listen to these mean and angry things?

        Incidentally, I may well have called some people liars.  I believe that there are liars.  They really exist.  I don’t think one has to be angry to recognize that fact.

      • August 22, 2011 at 6:25 pm

        If this doesn’t help, feel free to ignore it.  I think that we are all liars to one degree or another, but that some of us (among whom I would count Dan Peterson) at least try to tell the truth as we see it.  This can make us obnoxious, particularly when someone comes at life from a position that our truth cannot see.  But what can we do?  

        Don’t expect Dan (or anyone) to give you understanding he does not possess.  He cannot tell you that the LDS church is false, the myths an impossible tissue of lies, the prophets sadistic manipulators, etc.  He cannot say that because he does not know that.  That is not his experience.  That is not his truth.  Maybe it is yours.  If you want someone to validate it, there are many of us out there who are happy to oblige you.  If you are more like Dan, then the same rule applies.  We “apostates” (a nebulous category which some of us would deny) cannot tell you that the LDS church is true, the myths factual histories, the prophets mouthpieces of God, etc.  We cannot say that because we do not know that (any more).  That is not our experience.

        The most any of us can do is share our perspective honestly and completely, and then let the dice fall where they may.  Dan Peterson has done that here, and I respect him for it (even if there are several important things about which we do not agree).  If we are not careful, it is all too easy to pass through life thinking that everything is simple, that every one around us is basically on the same page, that we all know the same truth (especially if we grew up in the same neighborhood, attended the same school, or went to the same church).  Then, lo and behold, one of us has a really strange experience and the rest are incredulous.  That’s life.  We have to get over it, and move forward from things that we really do have in common.  We have to see that someone else can have an experience very different from ours, a truth unlike our truth, and that this does not make that person automatically a deliberate liar out to destroy us.  The world is big enough to accommodate all kinds of crazy: it has to be.

  8. Carl Cranney
    August 19, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    Reposting a comment from FB, with some minor additions to make sense here (hopefully) without the context: 

    I just have to add my voice that I really enjoyed the section from Part 2 starting at about 34:15, where they talk about the history of the church and how it is presented. While I agree that the church could be better about presenting the issues, I’ve also known about the “hard” issues since I was a teenager. If, as someone said in the Facebook thread on this podcast, it’s possible to be an EQP and not know that Joseph Smith had multiple wives, I am NOT going to blame the church for that man’s clear ignorance. Or that bishop a few months ago who posted his “farewell” letter to his SP on his personal blog. The man didn’t even know that polygamy was illegal, if memory serves. What the . . . seriously? At some point we have to acknowledge that there have been faults on both side. The church could be more transparent, but I’m sympathetic to writing a world-wide curriculum and think we sometimes give the correlation committee a black eye for doing a difficult job, but members could also be more informed. I have never felt that the correlated material was the end all be all of gospel study. And I grew up in Orem. Took religion classes at BYU from good professors and learned about all this stuff. It’s not as hidden as some think, but it’s also definitely more hidden than it should be.

    • August 19, 2011 at 6:25 pm

      Have you ever reflected that your awareness of church history came with living in Orem, where the historical faces of Mormonism are readily accessible?  If I remember correctly, the former bishop whose ignorance you abhor was a convert from the UK, meaning that his lifelong exposure to Mormonism might easily be much less than yours (i.e. it might have come mostly from correlated materials, which provide little intellectual depth as a rule, and missionaries, who with rare exceptions offer even less).  He didn’t have knowledgeable descendants of pioneers on hand, university archives, or bookstores with all the latest scholarly titles in Mormon studies.  

      Born to a family of first-generation converts, I myself grew up far from Utah and did not even know that Joseph Smith was a polygamist (as far as I knew, the doctrine was revealed to him in D&C 132 but never really practiced) until I made it to BYU and got my hands on some real historical writing (e.g. Todd Compton’s book In Sacred Loneliness).  Before I did this, I served a mission to Europe during which I spread correlated stories (no significant Nauvoo polygamy) as the one and only gospel truth, because no one told me any better.  I could easily see some of the few converts I knew over there having moments of crisis similar to those of your “ignorant” bishop.  Their ignorance reflects the degree of trust they put in the church (as an institution which produces historical materials for members to use) and in missionaries (like me).  They had too much faith.  They were too gullible.  They should have just slammed the door in my face like everyone else.  But the idiots let us in and believed what we had to say.  (I hope you can tell I am not being too serious here.)  

      • Carl Cranney
        August 19, 2011 at 7:41 pm

        Hermes, forgive me, my words were mostly aimed at the stereotypical “I am a 5th generation Mormon, raised in the church, served a mission, grew up in the Mormon Corridor, went to all 4 years of seminary, then did institute, and I never heard of this stuff.” I got totally blasted on FB for it, and apologize. My words have caused some offense, and for that I apologize. 

        I still feel that the “stick to the manual” version of Mormon gospel study is one that I’ve never heard and never held to. And I was definitely in a position to hear it. 

        Also, logging in via google seems to not email me the replies that are posted, so I’m trying a different login. Sorry for the mess. 

        • August 19, 2011 at 7:49 pm

          No worries.  I should have read all the way to the end of your comment, which was less mocking than I thought at first (since you acknowledge the church making information “more hidden than it should be”).  Also, I feel bad for all the problems I may have caused by giving bad (or at least incomplete) information to people who trusted me as a missionary.  That, coupled with my own longstanding ignorance of much church history, makes me a little excessively defensive.  Sorry!

        • Thewhiteknight82
          August 21, 2011 at 6:24 am

          Carl are you incapable of accusing the Church?  You appear to me to be worst than a member that knew nothing and went along to get along.

      • Brad
        August 26, 2011 at 10:51 pm

        Just a recent example. There are 2 young women in our ward who did not know JS was a polygamist. When my daughter told them, one of them refused to believe. So yes, disinformation is alive and well today.

      • Andrew Blomfield
        September 2, 2011 at 2:41 pm

        Just a quick word regarding the ignorance of us Brits…  I’ve lived in England my whole life and can never remember a time that I didn’t know plural marriage was practised in the church.  I may not have knowledgeable descendants of pioneers on hand, but i can assure you we have access to the same books in Mormon studies that you have over there.

        The Bishop you refer to was from the UK, but I don’t think he or anyone else here could use that as an excuse for not knowing about these things.  I agree that the church doesn’t go shouting about controversial issues from the roof tops, but it’s not hard to stumble across plural marriage in an institute manual or on Wikipedia.I think there has to be an element of responsibility on the individual to study and learn for themselves.  When studying at University you are given the basic material to read… but there is always a further reading list.

        On a side note I thought Dan Woothspoon done a great job grilling Dr. Peterson and gave his best interview I have heard him give yet… in my humble opinion.  Top marks Dan.

      • LL
        September 8, 2011 at 11:24 pm

        Hermes, you’ve passed your comment quota.  chill. 

        • Anonymous
          September 9, 2011 at 4:25 am

          LL,

          Hardly. Hermes rules.

    • August 19, 2011 at 8:24 pm

      I would not dare to say that anyone *should* have known all the Church’s dirty laundry stuff. However, sometimes I feel like I grew up in some alternate universe because I remember IN SEMINARY learning about most of the items that are continuously brought up here as taboo subjects. And yet a lot of peers who attended the same seminary classes that I did became somehow shocked when they heard about these things later.

      Why hadn’t they remembered these things? I got two theories:

      1) In high school, they “knew the Church was true” and so dismissed the stuff quickly from their minds. By contrast, I did NOT have a testimony, so had reason to remember those things.

      2) Parents were the greatest influence: I was treated like the black sheep semi-apostate by one of my friend’s parents for simply saying that “I don’t have a full testimony of the Church, yet.” Five of the six kids in that family left the Church when they discovered that non-Mormons were good too! Contrast that with my parents. The taboo subjects in my family were racial jokes and ANY disrespect for people of other faiths. And when I had an anti-Mormon question, my dad’s reply was usually something like, “You know. I’m not sure. But I’m proud of you for trying to find out.”

      But which attitude was taught at Church? Gaining testimony or having a testimony? My parents’ attitude or my friend’s?

      Unfortunately, it depends on whether you ask me or my friend.

    • Thewhiteknight82
      August 21, 2011 at 6:21 am

      Carl if the Church hides anything it is the responsibility of the Church to tell the whole truth.  If the Church creates dependence (that is follow only what we say and learn history only from us) you cannot blame the victims the members you MUST blame the Church.  What the hell is wrong with you?  

  9. Ilike
    August 19, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    I’ve not yet listened to the entire podcast, but I take
    issue with the sentiment that, “if people don’t know about the
    history, it is their fault.”As
    someone who grew up extremely active in the church (my Father was a
    Bishop and Stake Pres and my mother was ward then Stake RS Pres),
    graduated early-morning seminary, served a full-time mission, took
    institute classes, and served in ward and stake leadership callings, I
    never heard the slightest peep of the historical issues that have come
    to my attention in the past two years. A discrete mention in an article
    of a single edition of a church magazine (or even two or three mentions
    over a span of decades) hardly qualifies as being forthcoming. Our church is not forthcoming about problematic historical
    “anomalies”. These things are not discussed in Sunday School lessons,
    addressed over the pulpit, or even acknowledged in a meaningful way by
    church leaders. I have talked to several Bishops who don’t have the
    slightest clue that there are multiple first vision accounts, and have
    never heard mention of JS peering into a hat as part of the translation
    process. They only knew the official versions of these stories. The ones
    promulgated by church leaders and taught in SS classes. These issues
    are hidden in shadow and addressed only in nuance in the church. And
    instead of seeking revelatory clarification, church leaders seem content
    to leave attempts at synthesis to others (like FAIR and FARMS).
    Apologists postulate theories which insulate the church from further
    attention to these areas, yet which the church can later disavow should
    they be proven inaccurate or the theories fall out of favor. As
    someone who devotes much of his life to this area of thought and study, I
    can appreciate that it all seems so “out there” to Brother Peterson, but that is
    just not reality for the average church member. Most members in the area
    I’m from have no real idea who FARMS and FAIR are or what they do. A friend
    recently went to the bookstore to pick up a copy of Rough Stone Rolling
    and was discouraged by the store clerks who told him that the book
    caused too many people to question their testimonies and that they
    didn’t know why the church allowed the book to be sold. They stated
    their belief that RSR is a rather anti-mormon publication. This type of
    thinking is the norm where I’m from. The unspoken church policy of never
    questioning or doubting, and the culture of “knowing” that exist in the
    church today are, in my opinion, obstacles to faithful members learning
    about the uncorrelated history of this church. If they don’t know about
    the history, I suggest it is probably because they are trying to be
    good members and do what they have been told by their priesthood
    leaders. That is why I see this as not only a personal issue, but an
    institutional one as well.

    • Carl Cranney
      August 19, 2011 at 7:45 pm

      Ilike, would you be comfortable with the statement “if people don’t know about the history, it is PARTIALLY their fault?” Because I think that’s what Dr. Peterson (and I, among others) would be more comfortable saying. 

    • August 19, 2011 at 8:29 pm

      How about air the dirty laundry section in the Ensign. Should it be a monthly article? Or would you recommend every two months or severy six?I know I sound a little sarcastic, but I’m actually serious.

      • Guest
        August 27, 2011 at 12:55 am

        Monthly

    • Mike
      September 9, 2011 at 6:38 am

      I don’t understand why anyone would expect a self-interested corporation like the church to publicize uncomfortable historical facts.

      • david packard
        November 8, 2011 at 1:12 pm

        Two reasons:
        1.   Because it’s the right thing to do.  (I know you weren’t getting at that, so how about the next reason below:)
        2.   Becasue it’s in its best interest to do so. For example, in opening statements defense attorneys (trying to win votes) often start by telling the jury that they will hear evidence that their client has done activity X, which is true.  Then they will proceed to provide a information which may help jurors assimilate such facts in a realistic context.  Plus the jurors often think the Lawyer is attempting to conceal relevant information (which of course he ALWAYS is if it is permissible and if it helps his case).  But coming forward is perceived to be a gesture of good faith and even honesty, with payoff in the end, because it may increase credibility of the rest of the story.

  10. Michael
    August 19, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    Haven’t listened yet, but one question I’d love for him to answer with his knowledge of Islam is why Mormonism is true vs the true faith of a Muslim in Allah and His final and greatest prophet Mohammed revealed in the perfect Holy Qur’an that denies the divinity of Jesus Christ.

    • August 19, 2011 at 8:21 pm

      Professor Petersons talk at the most recent FAIR Conferences a couple weeks ago dealt directly with that. Not sure if it’s up yet.In the meantime, here are a few thoughts:

      “The one true religion cannot overlook the existence of other beliefs and practices that have been followed by the vast majority of the human race over many centuries.  It cannot be a localized provincial religion such as Roman Catholicism and the extremely limited Protestant sect.  That does not meant that it must have a large membership, but that its doctrine should acknowledge and seek to understand the full scope of human experience.  Thus Abraham treats the knowledge of the Egyptians and the morality of Pharaoh with reverence and respect; he doesn’t share their beliefs but understands their position.  Today the existence in prehistoric times of an “archaic religion” or “ancient wisdom” is ever more strongly suspected as comparative studies to accumulate.  Mormonism is not only a world religion, it is the World Religion.” Hugh Nibley

      First Presidency declared in 1978, “The great religious leaders of the world such as Mo-hammed, Confucius, and the Reformers, as well as phi-losophers including Socrates, Plato, and others, received a portion of God’s light. He gave them moral truths to enlighten whole nations and bring a higher level of un-derstanding to individuals.”

      Back in 1855, Apostle George A. Smith declared that Mu-hammad “was no doubt raised up by God on purpose” to preach against idolatry. This is one thing that seems totally obvious when you study the history of Arabia.

      For more I refer you to an Ensign article, “A Latter-day Saint Perspective on Muhammadhttp://lds.org/ensign/2000/08/a-latter-day-saint-perspective-on-muhammad

  11. Guest
    August 19, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    Thank you Brother Peterson for giving this interview, and great job Dan!

  12. August 19, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    Great interview, Dan and Dan. I love episodes like this that are inspirational without having to “turn it off.” I especially like that this one and Michael Coe were done back to back. Nice job.

  13. August 19, 2011 at 7:19 pm

    I’m going through it now.  Bro Peterson just mentioned how it was revealed to him that David O. McKay was the prophetic successor to Joseph Smith.  So he had a vivid dream about the death of Joseph Smith which left a big impression on him when he awoke.  And he turns on the radio and hears that Pres. McKay has passed away. And he interprets that as evidence of Pres McKay’s calling.  If he is comfortable with evidence coming in that way then that’s awesome for him.  But for me, I find it really strange that God would intend to communicate knowledge that way and yet leave counter evidence like lack of archaeological evidence for the BoM (that one is fresh in my mind still :) ).

    • Cliff
      August 19, 2011 at 10:51 pm

      I don’t see it as strange at all, Michael.  Its just a different paradigm concerning evidence.  Both are valid, within their sphere. 

  14. August 19, 2011 at 7:25 pm

    Dr. Peterson, thank you very much for taking the time to participate in these interviews, and to engage discussion and questions. Thank you, also, for the work you have done to promote an understanding of Islam within the LDS community, and to build bridges with our friends in the Muslim world.

    Reposting a question from Facebook–with respect to the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, do you concede that the source text now known as the Book of Breathings originated from
    the same mummy that Joseph Smith claimed to be carrying the writings of
    Abraham?

  15. Skipper
    August 19, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    Awesome interview. Great job to both Dan’s. Segment four was outstanding

  16. Daniel Peterson
    August 19, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    A small point, just for the record:  I have never admitted to being “quite mean spirited.”

    I’m not.  Not even occasionally.

    Satirical?  Yes.  Ironic?  Yes.  Combative?  Yes.  Sometimes fairly fierce?  Yes.  But mean-spirited?  No. 

    Some definitely view me that way.  I don’t.

    And I have privileged access to my own inner states.

    There’s no point in arguing about this, of course, any more than there is a point to arguing about whether a joke is funny or a piece of music is beautiful or marzipan is icky (which, objectively speaking, it is, though some benighted people plainly don’t seem to realize it).

    • Anonymous
      August 19, 2011 at 7:32 pm

      So happy to see you here, Dr. Peterson.  Thanks so much for doing this interview, and for taking the time to respond to questions.

    • JT
      August 21, 2011 at 1:33 am

      Dr. Peterson,

      There is a ton of hard scientific evidence that should convince you that you do not have privileged access to your own inner states.  

      I recommend to popular books written by excellent writers who happen to be leaders in the field.  I found them fascinating, humbling, liberating, and humanizing.

      Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious, by Professor Timothy Wilson (Social Psychologist, U.Va)

      Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain, by Professor David Eagleman (Neuroscientist, Baylor College of Medicine)

      JT

      • Daniel Peterson
        August 21, 2011 at 1:52 am

        Okay.  You win.  Consciousness is an illusion. 

        I don’t have privileged access to my own thoughts.  Other people know them just as well as I do, and probably better.

        Next time, just ask yourself what I think.  (Don’t bother me.  I’ll be imagining that I’m imagining I’m busy.)  Your guess is every bit as good as mine.

        But wait a minute.  If consciousness is an illusion, what about . . .   No.  You know best.  I’m just going to go with that.

        • Thewhiteknight82
          August 21, 2011 at 6:31 am

          This is how BYU Professors get tenured, act arrogant and pretend to be funny; lie a little either to oneself or the masses and take the pay checks. 😉

        • JT
          August 22, 2011 at 5:33 pm

          Dr. Peterson,

          You misconstrued what I am referring to – it has nothing to do with consciousness being an illusion or others having better access to your thoughts than you do.   I do not claim I know best – I was referring to the cumulative works of hundreds of scientists over the last 30 years that is “looking under the hood” of our minds and learning some fascinating things about the relationship between conscious and unconscious processes, with the latter being, by definition (and demonstration), inaccessible to introspection and more important than anyone ever imagined. 

          If I were to rewrite the line I would have said: “We do not have as privileged access to our inner states as we intuitively sense.”

          I hope others will not dismiss all that what modern science can offer in terms of deepening our self-understanding – in particular how unconscious cognition affects the thoughts and emotions that do percolate up into our conscious awareness (from which position we can rationally choose corrective and productive courses of action).  As I said, this understanding is humbling and humanizing and supports greater patience and understanding of others.  These two books are excellent introductions to the subject – they are grounded in objective evidence – not speculation and intuitive beliefs.  

          With regard to being seen as mean-spirited – On those occasions when I discover that people take my behavior to be insensitive or offensive, I now assume that they have a good reason.  I feel bad about it and try to understand what they see that I don’t.  There is usually something worth correcting in me.

          After all,  most of us are prone to seeing ourselves in an overly favorable light and inclined to rationalize and self-justify to perserve a positive self-image.  Claims of good intentions are an easy means of accomplishing this with are also totally beside the point as far as human relationships matter.   

          Best wishes,

          JT

          • Cliff
            August 23, 2011 at 3:24 pm

            JT, what do you think or Robert Burton’s “On Being Certain:  Believing You’re Right When You’re Not?”

          • JT
            August 23, 2011 at 9:43 pm

            I enjoyed the book.  I think there might be something to his basic idea of a “feeling of knowing” that can exist independent of the actual veracity of object of knowing to a degree that we might not believe without crushing evidence to the contrary (and even then … the “where were you on 9/11 journal study.”)   

            His idea obviously relates to the scientific claim we do not have complete access to those unconscious processes that give received knowledge their salience – their “ring of truth” – and our sense of conviction.  I find this humbling and wonderful.Burton would admit (as a former clinical neurologist) that his ideas need further work – that they need to be framed in a way that can be tested and that this is best left to cognitive science and neuroscience (I think I remember making such qualifying remarks).  So my evaluation of the “ring of truth” I heard in his propositions can certainly go no further than his own.  But research along these lines is on-going. None that I’ve seen refer to Burton as their point of departure.   

        • Randy Snyder
          August 29, 2011 at 2:48 pm

          You couldn’t have misunderstood JT any more than you revealed here.  But what made it even more entertaining was the snarkiness you displayed in your misunderstanding which then allowed you to ignore the evidence and dismiss the arguments without dealing with them. But the fact that 14 people liked your post is the funniest part of all to me.

        • Randy Snyder
          August 29, 2011 at 2:48 pm

          You couldn’t have misunderstood JT any more than you revealed here.  But what made it even more entertaining was the snarkiness you displayed in your misunderstanding which then allowed you to ignore the evidence and dismiss the arguments without dealing with them. But the fact that 14 people liked your post is the funniest part of all to me.

    • Thewhiteknight82
      August 21, 2011 at 6:29 am

      Hey DP:  Question do you ever seriously doubt?  Also if you did could you admit it without risk of being fired by BYU?  What’s BYU’s policy on that issue?

    • W.Sheldon
      August 23, 2011 at 3:50 am

      As a scholar do you have any sway in opening the church archives? I really want the “so on and so forth” [deHoffmanized of course], and not the, “and this is the way I think it came to pass”.  

  17. August 19, 2011 at 7:41 pm

    Just finishing up the last two segments.  

    I agree that the Book of Abraham “tastes old” — like the ancient pseudepigrapha upon which it was probably based and the folk magic that Joseph practiced (which explains the geocentric universe).  Peter Kingsley has done a lot of good work demonstrating the continuity of ancient Mediterranean magic tradition from antiquity to the middle ages.  From what I have seen,  I am pretty sure there are solid connections to be made between the sources Quinn has gathered for early American folk magic and these older magical traditions (connected with Pythagoras and other ancient philosophers mediated through various interpreters, including medieval Arabs).  That being admitted, I am really skeptical of the Book of Abraham being vindicated as more of a translation of ancient history than Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings (which also contains some genuinely old material that scholars of early British literature get excited about).

    I like the universalist reading of the temple.  Cool stuff.  I think that the truth in the Mormon temple rituals exists also (and in no lesser degree) in mystical religious traditions the world over: it is the truth of myth, a truth that attempts to unite the rational and the irrational (with varied success: some myths fare better than others as vehicles for meaning that transcends the gap between the abstract and the concrete, the general and the particular, broad scientific theory and one’s personal life with all of its practical limitations).

    I think we are moving past the day when Joseph Smith can be dismissed as a dumb yokel who couldn’t tell a good story or use the pieces of his own rich culture as effectively as other medicine men (who are no less brilliant when we see through their magic).

    I agree that Mormonism is rich.  As with any ideology, the stifled people are those who enter the faith with too much trust in the absolute knowledge of leaders.  The less seriously you take people’s claims to speak for God–especially when they say, “thus saith the Lord”–the more open you are to reality as you really experience it.  Mormonism provides a perfectly wonderful mythical language for expressing real truths.  It is unfortunate, from my perspective, that many of our leaders are afraid to let us speak.  I am glad that Dan can speak.  I am sorry that I cannot.  I am sorry that General Conference gives us David Bednar instead of Dan Peterson (whom I am really starting to like).  

    • Sean
      August 20, 2011 at 6:18 pm

      I am very curious, O Diaktoros: what feels so “old” about the book of Abraham?  It felt old to me as a stout believer but ten years of reading genuinely old things in old languages has dulled that impression.  It seems to me that this is a kind of reader response question.  If one wants the luster (or grime, depending on one’s view) of antiquity, one will find it.  If one wants a nineteenth century patina there, well, voila!…it will be there.  It is a mirror of its readers’ hopes. 

      “I am sorry that General Conference gives us David Bednar instead of Dan Peterson…”  Well, one must admit that Bednar has good taste in neck-wear, but otherwise I share the sentiment.  I wish I had some exposure to people like Prof. Peterson a decade or more ago when I started going through my…that….well I don’t properly know what to call it.  Instead I got a thick and constant dose of meanness and arrogant put downs from two Judges in Israel (neither of whom had a law degree; one was an Institute director, the other ran a sweat shop in Guatemala, helping the Lamanites, no doubt).

      • August 21, 2011 at 1:25 pm

        Sean, old is a relative term.  Having read a bit about the history of Hermeticism (ancient, medieval, and even pre-modern), I think there are legitimate (“old”) elements of it that turn up in Joseph Smith’s Mormonism (especially the folk magic).  (I could be wrong: I am just a fool who likes reading books.)  This does not change the fact that the original text of the Joseph Smith Papyri has nothing to do with an historical Abraham (assuming for the moment that he existed as more than a convenient totem).  Furthermore, a lot of the Hermetic stuff is most certainly a lot younger than anything you (with your love of the really, really ancient) would consider old.

        A confounding element here is the similarity of certain bits of human culture the world over.  How much of what “feels old” in Mormonism is just our human heritage (which “feels old” similarly in every other culture of record, even though the latest form of it might have been decanted yesterday: in the right frame of mind, Disney World “seems old” to someone who reads ancient literature all of the time and looks assiduously for parallels to modern life)?  A lot of the magic (i.e. religion) that we practice is pretty similar, even when we dress it up a little differently (putting the sun in a new place on our star charts, giving our astrologers new robes, changing the creeds that define the one and only truth, etc.).  As far as I can tell, ever since the Neolithic, one medicine man looks a lot like another (though some are definitely more reliable than others when it comes to telling truths that other people can verify and/or put to good use).

        I was essentially trying to show that I see the rabbit hole down which Dan wants to go in making the Book of Abraham ancient, and that I think there might be something to that, even though I don’t believe for a moment that Joseph Smith translated any ancient record.  From my perspective, Smith used folk traditions (which might have some legitimate pedigree to genuinely “old” stuff, e.g. Hermetic magic) to produce modern fairy-tales which he pretended to find (and/or convinced himself that he found) in physical artefacts (plates, seer-stones, papyri).  His work looks old the same way Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings does.  

  18. August 19, 2011 at 8:09 pm

    I would not dare to say that anyone *should* have known all the Church’s dirty laundry stuff. However, sometimes I feel like I grew up in some alternate universe because I remember IN SEMINARY learning about most of the items that are continuously brought up here as taboo subjects. And yet a lot of peers who attended the same seminary classes that I did became somehow shocked when they heard about these things later.
    Why hadn’t they remembered these things? I got two theories:

    1) In high school, they “knew the Church was true” and so dismissed the stuff quickly from their minds. By contrast, I did NOT have a testimony, so had reason to remember those things.

    2) Parents were the greatest influence: I was treated like the black sheep semi-apostate by one of my friend’s parents for simply saying that “I don’t have a full testimony of the Church, yet.” Five of the six kids in that family left the Church when they discovered that non-Mormons were good too! Contrast that with my parents. The taboo subjects in my family were racial jokes and ANY disrespect for people of other faiths. And when I had an anti-Mormon question, my dad’s reply was usually something like, “You know. I’m not sure. But I’m proud of you for trying to find out.”
    But which attitude was taught at Church? Gaining testimony or having a testimony? My parents’ attitude or my friend’s?
    Unfortunately, it depends on whether you ask me or my friend.

    • August 20, 2011 at 4:09 am

      Incidentally, my seminary teacher was a bishop and then, just after I graduated, was called to be in the stake presidency. And he was very straight-laced. Not someone you would consider liberal, closeted or uncorrelated. He was just honest.I knew that not all seminary teachers were like him when I attended a seminary graduation for another school and the seminary teacher there bore his testimony of JS with these words:”Joseph Smith translate the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God. He did NOT put his face into a hat.”I remember that statement because I was a bit confused by this false dichotomy. I knew about the hat thing from seminary. Incidentally, my wife wasn’t aware of the hat issue, but when I related that story to her, she had the same reaction as I did: What did his method of translation have to do with it being translated by God or not?

  19. tld
    August 19, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    Enjoying the interview. Regarding the experiences of the  witnesses as evidence for the validity of the BoM, one possibility that is generally ignored is materialization. If what the witnesses handled were real physical objects, then, to me at least, it is hard to explain how those objects could suddenly appear and disappear. But if what they experienced was a temporary materialization of physical objects then their experience becomes more reasonable. Assuming a spirit world and spirit beings, who is to say what they are capable of. There are those who speculate that we live in and are a part of a virtual reality that is run by a huge, advanced computer. If so, materializing Gold Plates as part of that virtual reality would be an elementary feat.   

  20. Paul Nurnberg
    August 19, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    I’m listening to the interview now. I’ll tip my hand. I don’t believe in Mormonism. I don’t believe that Joseph Smith is a reliable witness. However, I am one who cut my spiritual teeth, so to speak, on the Book of Mormon. I loved that book, in as much as it pointed me to Christ. Towards the end of my mission, I began to have serious doubts about the authenticity and historicity of the Book of Mormon as a historical text. When I returned to Utah, I immediately subscribed to the Journal of Book of Mormon studies, because I was convinced that the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith would be vindicated and proven to be everything that is claimed for them.
    One of my major issues, then and now, with the Book of Mormon is the anachronism of pre-Christian peoples knowing of and referring to the Savior as “Jesus Christ”. Most arguments about anachronisms in the Book of Mormon focus on horses, steel, etc., but those are side issues for me. But the idea that God revealed his plan to save the world in perfect clarity to Nephi, et al. while leaving the O.T. patriarchs, prophets and kings with only vague, less-specific prophecies seems to me to be extremely problematic historically.God can do what God will, and I understand that many apologists would (and have) put this concern back on me by claiming that the real issue at hand is my lack of faith that God can do whatever God wants to do. To be clear, I do not lack that faith. But the argument typically goes like this: If God chooses to send an angel/guide to Nephi to reveal to him the name of Jesus Christ 600 years before His birth, and chooses not to give Isaiah the same level of specificity, who am I to claim that God cannot do that? That’s nice, but it’s not a very convincing argument for the Book of Mormon.I am enjoying the interview with Dr. Peterson, and I understand that he is an Islamist, but he is very well versed, and by his own admission, very interested in ancient texts. I would appreciate it, if Dr. Peterson has the time, if he would address this concern. Does the idea of a pre-Christian era people having such a post-Chistian era worldview bother him at all? If not, why not? Would it bother him, if he found in another ancient text, such specific details about an event that had not yet taken place? Would such specificity in a supposed ancient text not cause him to question the source of the text? Especially when the supposed ancient text itself cannot be checked and all that exists is the “translator’s” manuscript?

    • Kevin Christensen
      September 1, 2011 at 12:44 pm

      On the issue of the Book of Mormon demonstrating too much Christianity in people rooted in 600 BCE Jerusalem, have you read Temple Theology: An Introduction, by Margaret Barker?   You can get an idea of her approach at http://www.margaretbarker.com.

  21. August 19, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    Although it looks like we’ve dropped the arrogance thread here (see the MS Facebook page), here’s a quote that reminds me of Prof. Peterson:

    “If you meet a really humble man…. probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.”
    -C.S. Lewis

  22. Daniel Peterson
    August 19, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    Incidentally, somebody somewhere wanted to know whether I really bear the title of “Chief Apologist” for the Church.

    No.  I don’t.

    There is, mercifully, no such title.  And, even if there were, I don’t think that I would necessarily be the person who would get it.

    I have no official calling in the Church right now except as a gospel doctrine teacher — my very favorite calling.

    Incidentally:  I love The Sabre Rattlers’ album “Now Let Us Rejoice.”  Great stuff.

    • Thewhiteknight82
      August 21, 2011 at 6:33 am

      Blah.

  23. Daniel Peterson
    August 19, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    Ugh.  Two “incidentallys” in the same post.  My apologies.  I hang my head in shame.

    • Thewhiteknight82
      August 21, 2011 at 6:33 am

      Double blah.

  24. Brian K.
    August 19, 2011 at 9:26 pm

    This was an amazing interview! Daniel P. I had been checking the site every day since this interview was announced, and it lived up up my high expectations. I have been a fan for a while, and now am even more. Thanks for coming on!

  25. jg
    August 19, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    I
    find it really funny (only because laughing hides the pain) when people
    say that the church has not hidden anything and that the members
    should have done more. In addition to funny I find this offensive and
    nothing makes we want to turn my back on mormonism more than this
    argument. Though, it is still funny. :)Important to note that
    while some (usually apologists) are making this argument, the church
    excommunicates people like Grant Palmer and D. Michael Quinn for
    highlighting questions or troubling parts of church history. The church
    does this without ever challenging directly the truth claims of these
    individuals. Where was Quinn historically wrong? But then
    again we do get these gems as a consolation: “Some things that are true
    are not very useful.” It is certainly explains why no single church
    sponsored movie has ever been made of Joseph’s life showing a wife other
    than emma. Apparently, the other 32 weren’t all that useful :). You
    can’t have it both ways. I find apologetic efforts that begin with the
    members should have done more to be among the weakest apologetic
    techniques–and the most offensive. If the church wants to have an
    open dialogue and cast a wider net, many will be excited, but I think we
    all know that BKP is right. BKP is right! The whole truth isn’t all
    that helpful to putting butts in seats and dollars in the envelope. But
    if the church decides to be more open and allow for more diverse
    dialogue, don’t be surprised when we’re a little mistrusting–because
    the quinns and palmers, and sept 6s of the world are questioners and
    explorers that will not be soon forgotten. As they proved, in this church sincerity and real intent are not valid excuses for unorthodoxy.

    • August 20, 2011 at 12:12 am

      “The other 32 weren’t that useful.”  haha. Good one!

  26. AlysonMansfield
    August 19, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    My only comment right now is I think the title of the podcast should be changed.  I think “LDS Church Chief Apologist” is disrespectful and demeans both Peterson’s work and Mormon Stories intent.  I’m starting with Part 4 and enjoying it.  

    • Anonymous
      August 19, 2011 at 11:44 pm

      Alyson – Fixed! Thanks for the feedback. No disrespect intended.

      • Alyson Mansfield
        August 20, 2011 at 2:17 pm

        John,  first, I was in a hurry and hope my comment didn’t come across as overly critical.  My point is that people who are familiar with Dr. Peterson’s work, probably know of him because of his work with Islamic Studies and the whole “apologist” thing disregards his primary life work in my opinion.  When I’ve attended his lectures, I’ve gone to learn about Islam and about the different ways Muslims interpret the Koran and practice their religion.  I’ve never sought him out as a defender of the Mormon faith, although he may see that as one of his roles in life.  I think the title of the podcast, especially when you search for it on iTunes, could better represent his life’s work and give people some clue from the title that this is indeed the Daniel Peterson involved in Islamic Studies.   Thanks!

  27. Cliff
    August 19, 2011 at 11:00 pm

    jg — you may want to check your facts on Palmer & Quinn — you’re wrong on both points. 

    And as for BKP —
    “Many things can be true and yet harmful to man.  Not all truth is useful.” 
      (p.43 Lectures on Logic, (translated by J. Michael Young))
                               — Immanuel Kant 

    :-)  –  he was paraphrasing Kant.  :-) 

  28. Cliff
    August 19, 2011 at 11:04 pm

    jg – my comment was too ambiguous, sorry – Palmer wasn’t ex’d last I heard, and Quinn was not ex’d for what you say he was. 

    • Carl Cranney
      August 19, 2011 at 11:43 pm

      And they’re clearly warming up the oil and banging down the doors of Richard Turley, Ron Walker, Glen Leonard (Massacre at Mountain Meadows), Richard Bushman (Rough Stone Rolling), Grant Hardy (Understanding the Book of Mormon), and Todd Compton (In Sacred Lonliness), to name a few off the top of my head from the last decade. I find the church’s treatment of its scholars to be more even handed than only concentrating on a few exceptions (though not denying those exceptions) would indicate. 

      Also, when Hugh B. Brown said “We must preserve freedom of the mind in the church and resist all efforts to suppress it. The church is not so much concerned with whether the thoughts of its members are orthodox or heterodox as it is that they shall have thoughts” I find that completely inspiring. Why is it that we can only quote BKP’s “what is true is not always useful”? Can we agree that 1) being an apostle does not guarantee you are always right, and 2) therefore, sometimes they will disagree or even (gasp!) contradict each other. I find no light and knowledge in BKPs statement, and if Pres. Packer meant “milk before meat” (which I think is a fair reading given the context) then I agree in principle, though finding the proper balance is fiendishly tricky at best, soul destroying and damaging at worst. 

    • Anonymous
      August 19, 2011 at 11:45 pm

      Cliff,

      I’ve spoken w/ Michael about his excommunication. Are you privy to information that he isn’t?

      According to Michael, homosexuality had nothing to do with his excommunication (if that was your inference).

      John

      • Cliff
        August 20, 2011 at 5:32 am

        I am not. 

        I was not aware of Michael’s position.  I apologize and will not comment further on that point. 

  29. jg
    August 20, 2011 at 12:17 am

    Cliff, I stand corrected on Palmers current church status–though it hardly matters.

    You’re correction has little impact on my point.  Does the church ONLY
    disfellowshipping GP denote open dialogue?  The church will not allow
    grant palmer to partake of the sacrament.  He cannot go to the temple. 
    He cannot renew his covenants.   He cannot partake of the cleanzing
    power of the atonement that supposedly the sacrament offers.  In
    addition, he’s been made a public example.  He lost his employment.  He
    spent his life serving this church and the church made an example out of
    him.  Why?  Because the truth and asking questions is not helpful?  How
    does BKP quoting Kant matter?  Are you suggesting that Kant is more
    authoritative than BKP?

    I’m not sure where I’m wrong on Quinn.  Perhaps you can be more specific? 

    • Cliff
      August 20, 2011 at 5:44 am

      You might want to double check on the losing employment thing.  I think the way Grant chose to ask questions, as you say,  was not helpful.  I do think you might want to consider what BKP quoting Kant might mean.  I think perhaps you don’t give President Packer credit where it is due. 

      And I have apologized already for my statement concerning Michael Quinn’s church action; and I am being silent on Michael’s statements concerning it. 

  30. August 20, 2011 at 2:06 am

    Thank you for this podcast. Dan Wotherspoon, you did a great job with the interview. My hat off to you.
    Dr. Peterson surprised me at the end when he discussed how his beliefs are somewhat universalist. I felt more of a kinship with Dr. Peterson than at any other point in the interview.
    I was relieved to hear an apologist discuss his disappointment with certain persons in the church who are young earth creationists. I have often been embarrassed by members of the LDS church, my brethren, who discount solid science as unreliable because it is not from God.
    One more thing: In the introduction to the 1998 edition of “Early Mormonism and the Magic World View,” Dr. Quinn distinguishes between ‘apologist’ and ‘polemicist,’ categorizing Dr. Peterson and some of his colleagues at FARMS as the latter. I would like to have heard Dr. Peterson’s response to this; not in the spirit of contention, but as a, hopefully, honest response to Quinn’s self defense.

  31. Carey
    August 20, 2011 at 2:15 am

    Both of the Dan’s say the Proclamation to the Family isn’t canonized.  Anyone have a link to that claim? or a article/blog where its discussed further.

    • Carl Cranney
      August 20, 2011 at 5:22 am

      I’ve never heard the claim that it is canonized. We don’t print it in the standard works, and that’s probably the definition that both Dans are using. 

      Then there was the interesting moment in general conference when Pres. Packer called it a “revelation” in his spoken talk, but the printed version called it a “guide.” I’m much more inclined to believe the second version. I do not want to move to revelation by committee. The correlated manuals (written by committee) are bad enough. 

      • Cliff
        August 20, 2011 at 4:33 pm

        Agree! 

      • Anonymous
        August 27, 2011 at 8:51 pm

        The proclamation is printed in the standard works today, is it not?  

    • Cliff
      August 20, 2011 at 5:49 am

      That’s interesting.  I thought the Church’s 2007 statement on doctrine clearly stated that the proclamations and declarations of the First Presidency was 1 of the 3 sources of doctrine.  I’d like to hear more about this. 

      • Carl Cranney
        August 21, 2011 at 5:05 am

        Just because it is a source of doctrine does not mean it is in the cannon. As I understand the LDS use of the term “cannon” that includes the standard works, which we have all voted on in the general conference of the church. To my knowledge, there has been no such public vote on the Family Proclamation. 

    • N.
      August 23, 2011 at 12:19 am

      If it says “Doctrine and Covenants Section 139” or “Official Declaration 3” in front of it it’s canonized.  It’ll be presented in General Conference and asked for a sustaining/ratifying vote, just like the other sections and ODs were.

  32. Erico
    August 20, 2011 at 2:31 am

    Dr. Peterson, thank you for the podcast.  I really appreciate your stance on wishing wedding ceremonies among the LDS could be performed in a manner that is less exclusive, as is done internationally.  I also appreciate your pro-transparency stance on getting the problematic issues out to the lay members so that they can be dealt with.  I am also encouraged to hear that you are not a proponent of young-earth creationism and anti-evolutionism.  Also, that you believe that prophets sometimes see through a glass darkly like the rest of us.  Also, your universalist leanings resonate with me, as does the temple as a symbol of ascent into the heavens. 

    Whereas before I listened to this podcast a large gulf existed between us, I now think we are a bit closer in our ideologies than I had previously thought.  Thanks for taking part in this program.  I’m still not buying the historicity of the BofM, but I certainly buy its spiritual message.  But maybe the spiritual aspects are what matter the most anyway.   If you are not a fundamentalist that means that you are willing to see the metaphor where others are not.  Seems like the only difference between us is the length in which I am willing to stretch the metaphor.

  33. Miketh1234
    August 20, 2011 at 3:29 am

    Now I understand the significance of deeming it the SALAMANDER Letter
    Here is a definition from the “The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Signs and Symbols”
    The religious meaning of the salamander is of a person who can keep their composure, their moral certitude and their peace of mind, while enduring constant attacks.
    The “while enduring constant attacks,” is perfectly akin to the Mormon Persecution Complex.

  34. August 20, 2011 at 3:38 am

    Listen to a few of these, including the last one. Really enjoyed them a great deal. I forgot how much of the world Dr. Peterson has actually seen. The part I really loved was at the end where he viewed Mormonism as something expansive and that he also trusted God enough that others outside of Mormonism who try their best to stay true to God, as they understand God, will in some way be part of something great that God has planned for us all. Very good interview and I am glad that Mormon Stories got probably one of the most famous, if not one of the most infamous, apologists is Mormonism to do an interview.

  35. Evan
    August 20, 2011 at 3:45 am

    Dr. Peterson talks about many of the positive characteristics of Joseph Smith–though he admits that Joseph Smith was still human and still made mistakes. I actually think the case of Joseph Smith may be more grim than this. In psychology there is the concept of psychopathy. Clinicians use Robert Hare’s psychopathy checklist (PCL-R) to diagnose inmates (and others) for psychopathy. Assuming that the Book of Mormon was a fabrication (and maybe even without this assumption), I think one could make the case that Joseph Smith satisfies many of the items on the checklist. Here is a list of some the items…
    – Promiscuous sexual behavior
    – Many short-term marital relationships- Juvenile delinquency- Pathological lying- Grandiose sense of self-worth- Superficial charm/glibness- Parasitic lifestyle- Failure to accept responsibility for own actions- Cunning/manipulativeCan you think of any incidences in Joseph Smith’s life that would satisfy these items?

    • Evan
      August 20, 2011 at 3:47 am

      Sorry for the formatting. I had newlines after each bullet item that was somehow lost after the post.

    • Cliff
      August 20, 2011 at 5:53 am

      I second Dr. Peterson’s recommendation to read “Remembering Joseph” by Mark McConkie. 

  36. Daniel Peterson
    August 20, 2011 at 6:09 am

    Thanks to Erico and Michael Nelson and others for their kind comments.

    Let me respond to the question regarding the terms “apologist” and “polemicist.”

    I’m perfectly willing to accept the designation of “apologist,” even though it by no means exhausts what I do.  (My work in Islamic studies is not apologetic, of course, but not all of my work on Mormon issues is apologetic, either.)

    As to being a “polemicist,” I’ve never invested that term with the strikingly negative connotation that Mike Quinn plainly does.  To me, a polemicist is simply somebody who battles for or against a position.  (The Greek word “polemos” is essentially equivalent to English “war.”)  One might be a polemicist for or against abortion, women’s suffrage, American entry into the League of Nations, increased benefits for teachers, or for or against a host of other causes.  The term is neutral in my lexicon.  The cause of a polemicist might be good or bad.  The polemicist may be effective or ineffective, rational or irrational, honest or dishonest.  To be called a “polemicist” is, in my sense of the word, no more a condemnation than to be called a “fighter,” “soldier,” “crusader,” “advocate,” “arguer,” “campaigner,” or any of a host of other related words

    • Thewhiteknight82
      August 21, 2011 at 6:39 am

      Would you say you are a irrationalist polemicist or a lying polemicist or simply a delusional polemicist?  Or a bit of all three?  Get back to me on this I really need to know for my psychology research. 

  37. Stan
    August 20, 2011 at 6:59 am

    Dr. Peterson is so smart about  stuff and speaks real good about all that stuff he’s figured out from going to Egypt and books.   I was waitin for him to explain about Jesus, but he never come up.  Did I miss it somewhere?

    • Daniel Peterson
      August 20, 2011 at 6:22 pm

      I talked about what Dan Wotherspoon asked about.

      Does that mean that Jesus is secondary in my worldview?  Absolutely not.

      I’m tinkering with a short manuscript on the Beatitudes.  I’m also puttering away at a lengthy book manuscript arguing for the historical authenticity of his resurrection — a book that I intend to come out as the third in a series of four related volumes, all of which are still some time off — and I’m absolutely committed to him as my Lord and Savior.

      During my service as a bishop, to say nothing of other parts of my life, the atonement was always front and center in my counseling.

      I’ve spent a full year living in Jerusalem, and have led five tours to Israel on top of other visits there.  I always devote as much time as I can to visiting sites associated with the life of Jesus.

      Sorry.  I don’t emote on command.  I hope the lines above are enough, however, to provide some inkling of my attitude toward Jesus.

      • Stan
        August 21, 2011 at 1:48 am

        That’s a lot of tinkering, puttering, visiting and good attituding.  For me, I can’t afford going to Jerusalem.  I got two books about Jesus already and that’s enough. And I also got prayer – did you mention prayer?  Just kidding you.  I’m sure you do that as much as all the other stuff.

        Stan

        • Thewhiteknight82
          August 21, 2011 at 6:45 am

          You give him too much credit. 

      • Thewhiteknight82
        August 21, 2011 at 6:43 am

        Have you read Thomas Paine’s “Age of Reason” care to address his concerns about the historically facts or lies rather of the resurrection story-fraud?  By the way if you do believe in Jesus why are you spending all that money on Jerusalem tours and not helping the poor like Jesus of the New Testament said?  

        • Thewhiteknight82
          August 21, 2011 at 6:44 am

          ***historical facts

  38. August 20, 2011 at 8:17 am

    I appreciated this podcast, as I do all the others. I feel, Dr. Peterson, that it is important for me to ask something.
    I was born gay. This is not a challenge for me.  It is a challenge for the organization of the Church. I couldn’t help but notice your studder when asked whose challenge this is.
    This is only a hard issue, because most of the Church membership doesn’t know what to do about it. They sit and wait for a revelation, that has no real impact on their lives, and is therefore, low on the list of their priorities.
    I cannot help but look back on the accounts of history I have read, that show the men and women of the Civil Rights Movement who fought so hard for our African American brothers and sisters in this nation. Also for men like George Romney, who stood opposed to at least one apostle in the Church for his pro civil rights stance of the 1960’s. You as a historian would be familiar with the vastly racist attitudes by many in the membership during this era of American History.
    I reflect on those documents I have read, and I see the distinct parallel between them and the Civil Rights Movement taking place today. There are but a few in this Church who are courageous enough to stand for those who have been kicked to the curb;  this time by the collective force of the Faith community, including the Latter-day Saints.
    Life does not have to be difficult for Latter-day Saint LGBTQ youth and adults in the Church. And the wonderful thing is that many members of the Church have found this revelation for themselves. They know in their heart Proposition 8 was a mistake, and that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters are sorely mistreated by the rhetoric of not always infallable Prophets from the Church.
    You’re an intelligent man. Dare I suggest you take the opportunity and challenge to really find out for yourself, through personal revelation, like so many of us already have within and without the Church, whether the LGBTQ community is worthy enough to have the dignity of marriage and all other rights? Separate never was equal, in the eyes of the Constitution, and in the eyes of the Lord.
    I challenge you.
    Mark Wade

    • JT
      August 20, 2011 at 5:03 pm

      Thank you Mark for your powerful and moving comment.
      It seems to me that contingencies of birth and life circumstances have always presented problems for religions that depend on hierarchies of human authority to channel the mind God to the masses.  The history of direct and collateral injustices and suffering despite (or because of) the self-perception of pious righteousness is along and sad one – and here it remains.  The oft repeated LDS excuse that God’s chosen prophets were just human always comes across as more an apologetic that serves the status quo than a call to repent and become more humble and forward seeking, both spiritually and intellectually.  So, I second your challenge, and invite others to third it, and fourth it, … and extend it throughout the LDS Church until the expediency of retaining it finest members (if nothing else, but hopefully more) will force the leadership to get a revelatory update on this matter.Best wishes,JT

    • Daniel Peterson
      August 20, 2011 at 6:24 pm

      I wish you all the very best, and I hope the best for you.

    • August 21, 2011 at 4:41 pm

      Mark, I’m not gay, but up until the question on Prop 8, I thought, “What an arrogant and intelligent person!”  But the Prop 8 answer was definitely the moment when Oz’s curtain was pulled away to reveal there was nothing there.  It put all of the “I’ve been called racist, homophobic, etc… How ridiculous!” comments in context.  One thing I most want from religion is a methodology that leads to moral outcomes.  If Daniel Peterson’s religion doesn’t lead him to a moral outcome on issues relating to identity, then I’m not interested in his religion.  And since I’m no more interested in ancient Islamic texts (or indeed history) than I am in the many other topics I’m pursuing (and even if I were, I certainly wouldn’t limit my scope to the guy for whom there would be no competition for an endowed chair at BYU!), I don’t think he has anything else to offer me.

  39. Bill
    August 20, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    Thanks for the podcast and thank you Dan (s) for your work.  I truly enjoy Dr. Peterson’s perspective and enjoy listening to him speak.  I love FAIR conference talks but almost never listen to them because they are so dang expensive to download! (Execepting Blair Hodges’ freebies that he tosses out occasionally….)  If Sunstone is able to offer 3-year-old symposium talks for free, why can’t FAIR!?  Surely FAIR has more large donors than Sunstone….

  40. JT
    August 20, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    Let me add my thanks to Drs. Wotherspoon and Peterson for this marathon interview and, as always, to John Dehlin for providing the forum that makes such unique offerings possible.

    I would like to offer for consideration and response by Dr. Peterson the following comments drawn from a 2004 FAIR Conference address by the LDS historian Davis Bitton entitled “I Don’t Have a Testimony of Church History.”  These comments seem to provide an “under the hood” peek of the LDS apologetic mindset and strategy.  I found them problematical on a few levels and it is for this reason I invite responses, apologetic or otherwise.

    “There is nothing that requires the conclusion that Joseph Smith was a fraud.  How can I say this with such confidence?  For the simple reason that the historians who know most about our Church history have been and are faithful, committed members of the Church.”

    “[For] many Latter-day Saints it is sufficient to know that faithful historians … do not accept the interpretations and conclusions of would-be destroyers of the faith.”

    “I suppose this is a message to those Church members who have such tender eyes and ears that the real history of real people comes as shock and awe. ‘Oh, no’ they whine. ‘This can’t be true.’ … My message in many cases is, ‘Please! Don’t speak until you know what you are talking about. Or, if that sentence is too long, try this: Grow up.”

    “There is nothing in Church history that leads inevitably to the conclusion that the Church is false.”

    Best wishes,

    JT

    • Daniel Peterson
      August 20, 2011 at 6:26 pm

      Davis Bitton was a close friend of mine, and I miss him greatly.

      I agree with his sentiments.  We even reprinted that FAIR presentation in the FARMS Review.

      • JT
        August 21, 2011 at 12:38 am

        Dr. Peterson,

        I empathize with your loss and respect your revealing admission, but I cannot respect the mindset reflected in these statements.

        While such a mindset running LDS software may be relatively benign, the same cannot be said for many religious and secular ideologies that provide their most avid users with the feelings of privileged authority and exclusive truth with ready justification for acting in any way deemed necessary to replicate and defend it.  Examples are too numerous to mention, some quite close to home.

  41. JT
    August 20, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    The issue of creationism and evolution came up in this discussion.

    Over the years I have listened to many Mormons and other Christians assert that the Gospel of Jesus Christ can accomodate scientific evolution. By this, I assume they include the mechanism of natural selection in all of its chance-driven contingency (which is what makes the theory scientific).
    I read one serious attempt at harmonization.  It is found in the book Finding Darwin’s God by the renown biologist Kenneth Miller.  To his credit, Miller explores the full implications of natural selection.  I doubt many faithful Christians would follow the path his intellectual integrity leads him down.  

    So two quick questions.

    If you feel you have rationally harmonized evolution with the Gospel, have you really thought it through?

    If you have, can you point me to a good reference?  I would be particularly interested in work by LDS scholars.

    My gut tells me that many people are shamed out of the creationism “pan” without realizing the intellectual “fire” that actually puts them in.   Part of the reason why scientists are far less religious than the general population is that they fully appreciate the evidence and its implications*.

    The LDS Church takes no official position on evolution and I have no sense whether the GAs are seeking harmonizing doctrinal revelation on the matter.  The Catholic Church has arrived at a form of “theistic evolution” that introduces superfluous (scientifically speaking) theistic interventions.  I don’t imagine the LDS faithful would be satisfied depending on this (it’s not revelation).

    I bring this up because the issue seems much more fundamental than intellectual arguments over the ancient origins of LDS scripture … 

    Which brings to mind the role of Higher Criticism of the Bible, which is relevant to LDS scripture claims, but was not acknowledged in this interview.

    Does Dr. Peterson’s work merit a seat at that table?  Until it shows it does I will have a hard time taking seriously his claims of “resounding” echos of antiquity in LDS scripture.  Not being an expert on the ancient world, and not being disposed to simply go along with LDS experts, I must depend on the scholarship of peer reviewed non-apologetic professional journals (or popular distillations thereof) for the most accurate approximations of reality.

    * 72% of elite scientists self-report as atheist and 21% agnostic; see http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v394/n6691/fig_tab/394313a0_T1.html

    • Daniel Peterson
      August 20, 2011 at 6:35 pm

      I can’t say that I’ve worked out a final reconciliation between evolution and my faith, nor that I even expect to do so in mortality.  I’m not even sure that I’ve come to a final conclusion about what evolution entails by itself.  That said, I read considerably on the topic, and have some tentative ideas that I may well publish at some point.  I’m content to bracket certain issues for future resolution, based on the confidence that I have about other, related, matters.  I do this in life generally, not just with regard to my religious beliefs.

      Elite scientists do indeed tend to self-report as atheists.  There are probably various reasons for that, not all of them purely intellectual or substantive.  Scientists as a whole, however, have pretty much the same level of belief in a personal, intervening deity today that they did a century or so ago, and that level is considerably higher among scientists generally than among the elite.

      As for your disinclination to take my position seriously, I can only say that I put my arguments out there.  Those inclined to consider them will probably do so, and those disinclined to consider them probably won’t.  The arguments themselves will, I hope and (to some extent) trust, stand or fall on their merits.

      • JT
        August 20, 2011 at 7:46 pm

        Dr. Peterson,

        Fair enough.  Thanks for your thoughtful response – it underscores the similar (or same) points you made in your interview.

        Best wishes,

        JT

      • Thewhiteknight82
        August 21, 2011 at 6:49 am

        Daniel there is no reconciliation between evolution and Mormonism.  The sooner you realize that the sooner you can stop living in a delusion.  

  42. Deceivedelect
    August 20, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    I find the continuing argument that the Church has not tried tried to hide its unfavorable history to prevent doubt among the membership to be odd considering that Elder Oaks admitted as much in his interview for the PBS documentary, “The Mormons.” The following exchange took place between Elder Oaks and Ms. Whitney (all caps are mine if you want to just jump to the parts that seem to eliminate the apologist’s argument that there was not a concerted effort to prevent doubt):

    HW: Just one more question on that. In every church, in every person, there’s a shallow territory usually explained away through context. Many find information through the Internet — some would rather find things out about the Church history, doctrine through teachings, rather than the Internet, or other resources.

    DHO: It’s an old problem, the extent to which official histories, whatever they are, or semi-official histories, get into things that are shadowy or less well-known or whatever. That’s an old problem in Mormonism — a feeling of members that they shouldn’t have been surprised by the fact that this or that happened, they should’ve been alerted to it. I have felt that throughout my life. 

    There are several different elements of that. ONE ELEMENT IS THAT WE’RE EMERGING FROM A PERIOD OF HISTORY WRITING WITHIN THE CHURCH [OF] ADORING HISTORY THAT DOESN’T DEAL WITH ANYTHING THAT’S UNFAVORABLE, and we’re coming into a period of “warts and all” kind of history. Perhaps our writing of history is lagging behind the times, but I believe that there is purpose in all these things — there may have been a time when CHURCH MEMBERS COULD NOT HAVE BEEN AS WELL RPEPARED FOR THAT KIND OF HISTORICAL WRITING as they may be now. 

    On the other hand, there are constraints on trying to reveal everything. YOU DON’T WANT TO BE GETTING INTO AND CREATING DOUBTS THAT DIDN’T EXIST IN THE FIRST PLACE. AND WHAT IS PLENTY OF HISTORY FOR ONE PERSON IS INADEQUATE FOR ANOTHER, and we have a large church, and that’s a big problem. And another problem is there are a lot of things that the Church has written about that the members haven’t read. And the Sunday School teacher that gives “Brother Jones” his understanding of Church history may be inadequately informed and may not reveal something which the Church has published. It’s in the history written for college or Institute students, sources written for quite mature students, but not every Sunday School teacher that introduces people to a history is familiar with that. And so there is no way to avoid this criticism. The best I can say is that we’re moving with the times, WE’RE GETTING MORE AND MORE FORTHRIGHT, but we will never satisfy every complaint along that line and probably shouldn’t. 

    Link to interview:

    http://newsroom.lds.org/article/elder-oaks-interview-transcript-from-pbs-documentary

  43. JT
    August 21, 2011 at 1:23 am

    I’m trying to dig down to the bare bones of LDS apologetic argumentation.  I see three basic “moves.”

    A.  Draw on the available documentary evidence to argue that miraculous explanations for foundational beliefs are more plausible than naturalistic ones.

    B.  Use this as the basis for accepting the truth of Biblical historicity on which LDS beliefs depend without evaluating its veracity on its own evidentiary merits.

    C.  When faced with incomplete or contradictory evidence discount it (“bracket it”) and claim the primacy of a spirit-based epistemology.

    To the degree this is an accurate representation of apologetics (I invite criticism), it has no rational justification in terms of getting one closer to the truth.  (I am trying to be precise in my use of the word rational.)  This is because:

    1. Move A is merely an “argument from incredulity.”  It is born of incomplete information (perhaps God wants it that way) and is compromised by demonstrated frailties of human cognition (biases, limited imagination for alternative hypotheses, susceptibility to social attachments and commitments, intolerance for ambiguity, existential psychological fears, etc.)  Beliefs sustained by such arguments have a long track record of collapsing (or radically adjusting) over time and have NEVER been a safe haven for religious belief.

    2.  Move B cannot be rationally justified on the basis of A because any uncertainty left from A will be compounded by any uncertainty associated with B, since prior facts stand on independent evidence (again, rationally speaking).  Doing B puts the proverbial cart before the horse.  Mormon apologists need to first address the evidence generated by Biblical higher criticism – for example, the 2nd Isaiah anachronism in the Book of Mormon.

    3.  Move C is simply a methodology that has o rational constraints.  There is also no rational basis for a person privileging the Mormon priesthood endowed Holy Ghost over any other religion’s analogue.  This follows from the simple facts that (i) the best predictor of a person’s religion is that of his parents (or culture), and (ii) there exist a staggering number of religion with conflicting beliefs.

    Given this it seems reasonable (and I dare say moral) to suggest that people who feel mover to embrace spirituality within a particular religion should bypass moves A and B and jump right to C AND practice circumspection and skepticism toward A and B movers.

    There is nothing inherently misguided with the C move as long as it leads to a moral life – let’s say by broadly adhering to the golden rule. After all, isn’t this what Jesus Christ taught?  To approach Him as little children.

    Again, I invite criticism – this is just a first stab at this topic.

  44. Jacob Brown
    August 21, 2011 at 1:58 am

    Great interview. I’m so glad that Daniel Peterson came on. The interview compelled me to think about the motivation for apologetics and its effectiveness in Mormon culture.

    Apologetics is by definition “speaking in defense.” What are LDS apologists defending when they speak? Whether they are defending the image of the institutional church or their personal reputation I think neither addresses what is most at stake. Faithful members are struggling with tough things they find out about from sources other than the church.

    Some of the most influential apologists are very dismissive of people who have a faith crisis. (Hugh Nibley, Blake Ostler, and Daniel Peterson come to mind.) They boast about how they knew these issues when they were young. They complain about how members don’t read or don’t study these things themselves. I think that once you adopt this attitude, you have already allowed the potential fruits of apologetics to rot. You can’t expect to help people that you dismiss like that.

    Mormon Stories is an example of an approach I believe would be much better at addressing the needs of struggling members. I hope it is not too late before the institutional church realizes that they need to do something, and the operation Daniel Peterson is running is at least not enough. I wouldn’t be surprised if it does more harm than good, even though I enjoy some of the work they do at FARMS.

    • jg
      August 21, 2011 at 4:42 am

      “They boast about how they knew these issues when they were young. They
      complain about how members don’t read or don’t study these things
      themselves. I think that once you adopt this attitude, you have already
      allowed the potential fruits of apologetics to rot.”

      I think you’re right.  I’ve heard Daniel Peterson do this on a few occasions, including in this interview. 

      • Ella Menno
        August 21, 2011 at 5:51 am

        Agreed.  There is also the problem of those members who did know many of the problems that finally have their “shelf” collapse.  I grew up during the period when we had the “Know your religion” series.  My parents knew many of the problems and were very good at “inoculation”.  Despite this, there were many things that made little sense that ended up on my shelf.  Finally, my shelf collapsed, leaving me with a huge mess to put back together again.  Each thing on that shelf had to be examined again, and many of them I found to be lacking even though I read the books and knew the apologetic arguments.   I appreciate what Dan has attempted to do, but it just doesn’t work for everyone. 

        • jg
          August 21, 2011 at 1:54 pm

          I would describe my experience as one similar to you. 

          I don’t believe inoculation is possible at scale, and most mormon apologists have no idea how ineffective they are.  They don’t realize how much their “style” and tactics detract from their supposed mission. 

          • Daniel Peterson
            August 22, 2011 at 2:39 am

            Entirely possible.  But, since we’re operating in the realm of anecdotage here, it’s also possible that most critics of the Mormon apologists have no idea how EFFECTIVE those Mormon apologists are.

            I constantly receive e-mails and letters and phone calls from people who are thankful for this or that apologetic item, and — this is going to sound prideful, which is not how I intend it — my Mormon-related firesides are extremely well attended and, judging at least from the very many comments that I receive after each one, gratefully received.  I doubt that my experience is unusual.

          • jg
            August 22, 2011 at 3:48 am

            The thing that makes your personality and style such a perfect fit for
            mormonism is that you get to operate in the world of plausibility.   

             I find it funny and at the same time sad that the “church’s chief
            apologist” responds to a criticism of his style (which is often called
            arrogant) with willful boasting. 

          • Daniel Peterson
            August 23, 2011 at 4:17 am

            Well, it seems that there’s probably nothing that I can do to defend myself against your perception of me as arrogant, so I’m not going to try.

            Best wishes to you.

          • jg
            August 23, 2011 at 11:33 pm

            Dan,

            While I dislike your style, many of your views, and even your arrogance (as I perceive it) ; I want to acknowledge that I think you are honestly doing what you think is right.  Further, I sincerely and genuinely appreciate you doing this interview on Mormon Stories. 

            On a closing note…

            I would love to see Mormonism flourish as it continues into the digital age.  I have my doubts that it can, but if it has any chance to do so I think it will be because it finds a way to make people feel welcome.  If Mormonism is to ever have 18-30 years-olds become active above a 20% rate, or if Mormonism wants the next generation to be full tithe payers at a rate anywhere close to today,  it will be because our world view focuses on inclusion, not exclusion.   The church  will have to be honest about its history, and not blame its members for at times being surprised by its history.   The church cannot hide behind pablum lessons and sanitized, correlated history.  

            I think Mormonism needs to have a better dialogue.  It needs to be OK to ask questions and to even challenge the answers.  We need to find a way to welcome people to church regardless of which box they checked on prop 8.  We need to become more inviting.  Not the kind of inviting where we say “change everything and fall in line.”  The kind of inviting that says, “come as you are to the table and feast upon the good word of God.” 

            I think Mormonism has become too rigid as the world has become more
            tolerant.  Both approaches  have their pros and cons, but one down side
            to rigidness is that it breeds a culture of exclusion.   Most mormons define them selves by what they don’t do.  We don’t drink coffee, don’t have premarital sex, etc.  I think mormonism needs to create a new world view in order to grow and really represent God. We need to define ourselves by what we love, by what we embrace, and not by what we don’t do. 

            As we approach the world differently, it is my hope we meet at this place.  Perhaps both of us will have a bit more humility when we get there. 

            God speed.

    • JT
      August 23, 2011 at 3:54 am

      Thanks Jacob,

      I agree with you.  “Rot” is an apt term.  Smugness and arrogant dismissiveness, whether projected intentionally or unintentionally, discounts the real difficulties of honest people struggling with disillusionment and feelings of betrayal.  It dishonors them. It comes across as self-serving and un-Christlike.

      You’ve got to wonder where this is coming from.  Perhaps some of these guys are struggling with their own frustrations.  Years of getting little respect from the community of scholars they hope to be counted among – not having the emotional IQ to make it up an ecclesiastical hierarchy which devalues intellectuals even as it uses them.

      I’ve noticed that the brightest lights in Mormonism don’t play this kind of game.  I can think of the examples of a Grant and Heather Hardy and William Bradshaw.  They are intellectually honest, humble, generous, and deal with those struggling with warranted difficulties with sensitivity.  They are not defensive.  Their egos don’t get in the way of their caring.  

      A friend of mine who knows next to nothing about the Mormonism came into my office today.  I asked him to watch 1 minute of Dr. Peterson’s interview.  I gave him no context.  He shook his head and remarked what a self-satisfied arrogant jerk Dr. Peterson seemed to be.

      I do not say this as an attack on Dr. Peterson.  If he reads this I hope he would consider it worthy of some reflection and whether he is really helping the Church.   On the other hand, you don’t get that way over night.  Perhaps he’ll just turn on the self-justification nob and see it as the misperception of a deluded anti-Mormon (and his friend) who just can’t see how brilliant and righteous he is.  

      JT

  45. Daniel Peterson
    August 21, 2011 at 2:13 am

    I’m not dismissive at ALL of people in faith crises.  I’ve spent many hours trying (sometimes successfully, sometimes not) to help such people.

    • Thewhiteknight82
      August 21, 2011 at 6:50 am

      Umm.  

    • Tyson
      August 22, 2011 at 3:25 am

      Why is the term “faith crisis” a pejorative in matters of religion?  Were I to take the definition of each term, is it not the “instability or upheaval” of “beliefs that are not based on proof”?  Shouldn’t it be designated such that it is, an embrace or acceptance of evidence and reason – or what “others” have termed “Enlightenment”.  

    • Observer
      September 7, 2011 at 11:53 pm

      Brother Peterson,

      You would remember me if I revealed my identity, but I cannot do so for many reasons, ecclesiastical and social.  But I have to disagree with your claim, based on personal experience. Whether you intended it or not, in my conversations with you, you came across absolutely and undeniably dismissive of my struggles in my “faith crisis”. I know you like to think of yourself as not “mean-spirited”, but there is no question in my mind (a rare thing for me) that your fallibility includes an element of impatience, judgmentalism, and condemnation of some of us who haven’t “tried hard enough” or “studied enough,” or “repented enough” to arrive at the testimony you have “achieved”. At least you acknowledged your trying to “help” is not always successful. With me it was not successful at all.

  46. Daniel Peterson
    August 21, 2011 at 2:16 am

    What the heck.  While I’m at it, I might as well mention one of my little projects, to which I’ve dedicated quite a bit of time and effort over the past twenty months or so:

    http://mormonscholarstestify.org/

    http://mormonscholarstestify.org/category/testimonies

    • Thewhiteknight82
      August 21, 2011 at 6:54 am

      Not sure what this proves.  So if we made a website catholicscholarstestify would that impress you D. P.?  How about muslimsscholarstestify?  What exactly is so impressive about our fellow apes testifying?  This proves only that human beings are capable of mass delusion on such a scale as to make space aliens if they were looking down at us think we were a rather stupid animal.  That being said what all the glorifying of scholars?  How is there ‘faith’ in delusions any better than the man on the street’s delusion?  Oh I know they know they are evolved animals.    

    • Tyson
      August 22, 2011 at 3:29 am

      These projects are just special pleading and appeal to authority positions.  Everyone has them, including some “other” really smart people http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s47ArcQL-XQ&feature=player_embedded

      • August 25, 2011 at 3:15 am

        To the contrary, I’ve been fascinated by many of the testimonies on the basis that they offer a variety of thoughtful articulations of how Mormonism has played out in their personal lives. These, too, are “Mormon stories,” and ones I’ve been happy to read. If the only purpose of the website was to say “smart people people believe it” it would be a giant waste of time. I don’t personally think the site is intended solely or perhaps even primarily to make that claim. I’ve just really enjoyed a lot of the stories. 

        • Tyson
          August 30, 2011 at 1:33 am

          I see your point, and raise you the challenge to find a “mormon accountants testify”……

  47. Jen
    August 21, 2011 at 2:28 am

    Thanks for making this happen Dan. Thank you Daniel Peterson for doing this. I really respect that you did this interview. I have been a big fan of yours for a while. I have a great appreciation for your brilliance and all the work you do. I just went to education week and got to hear you there. I always enjoy your lectures. :)

  48. Daniel Peterson
    August 21, 2011 at 2:35 am

    Thank YOU.

    Glad you enjoyed the lectures, too.

    • Anonymous
      August 21, 2011 at 4:46 am

      Dr. Peterson,

      Many thanks for the interview – personally I found it funny, intelligent and refreshed and you replenished to some extent my hope in the expansive, universal and boundlessly hopefully worldview of Mormonism that was the fertile field in which I grew up and which I thought was how Mormonism really was.  

      My hope in that view has deteriorated disastrously in the last several years as I like so many others come up against the brick wall of reality where the monolith that has become the corporate church seems to crush under its correlated granite wheels all the life and brightness in our beloved belief system.  Now that you know my position,  my question to you specifically is: You mentioned at the end that we are NOT just ‘fundamental protestants, with another book and another wife’ – ironically I have felt this exact same way for years now. My feeling has been that your description of us as protestants I think in many ways is exactly how many church leaders (of the highest levels) actually are pushing the church.  We’ve become watered down and diluted, desperate, seemingly to fit in with evangelicals in their political camp – so that we keep dumbing down our ‘peculiar people’ status through various means.  Do you see this ‘protestant-creep’ happening (even if you don’t want to admit that it does doctrinally, perhaps then culturally – at least)? 

      I guess I can’t hope that you can actually address this issue directly as it would be too dangerous. Maybe you could answer it by addressing how you can stomach the uninspired and endless bureaucracy in the church.  You hinted at this briefly in the interview via comments about boredom in meetings in the church – but as a bishop you couldn’t have escaped the hours of endless, pointless, useless bureaucratic drivel inherent in the corporate church.  You don’t strike me as the kind of guy that tolerates this kind of silliness – so how did you do it? 

       Personally I’m at a point in my life where I nearly feel physically ill trying to sit through any basic meetings at all, and have been repeatedly turning down any callings at all because I can no longer stand the spiritless, energy sapping, colossal waste of time.  Sorry for the hyperbole but it’s nearly accurate of how I think things really are. 

      • Thewhiteknight82
        August 21, 2011 at 6:57 am

        My advice resign your membership. :)

      • Daniel Peterson
        August 21, 2011 at 7:11 am

        I sympathize with your plight, and have no magic solution to it.  I myself struggle with many of the meetings we attend — and, as I think I mentioned in the interview, always have at least one book with me.

        Here’s a column that I wrote, trying to put a positive spin on the problem of boring meetings:

        http://www.deseretnews.com/article/705369275/Defending-the-Faith-Getting-the-most-out-of-church-meetings.html?pg=1

        And I’m concerned about assimilation, assimilation of Mormonism to some form of slightly deviant Protestantism, at least culturally.

        Years ago, I was in a joint worship service in the late Provo Tabernacle for the regional meeting of the Society of Christian Philosophers, which was being hosted by BYU that year (something, incidentally, that the Society will no longer permit us to do).  It had been going pretty well, with BYU’s then-Provost Bruce Hafen delivering a “sermon” that managed to be both substantive and non-denominational, which is no small feat.  But then the meeting began to go down what I felt was a really slick and cheesy ecumenical path that I found quite off-putting, and I found myself wanting to jump up and yell “Adam is God!”  I am not, and don’t aspire to be, an Evangelical.

        I’m all for interfaith dialogue, and have done quite a bit of it myself.  But I don’t aim for mergers.  I want my dialogue partners to be real Muslims, real Catholics, real Protestants, not so squishy that it’s hard to know what they believe.  And I want us to be real Mormons.

        Part of my ideal solution would be for Latter-day Saints to be more deeply immersed in the scriptures and in their own history.  I don’t want us to be insular, but I do want us to sink deep roots into our own tradition.  The now rather trite slogan “Be the change you want to see” does have some real merit.  Make yourself the kind of Latter-day Saint that you want to see replicated throughout the Church.

        It’s late, and the wisdom isn’t exactly flowing right now.  But those are some thoughts.  I would be happy to correspond with you further on this matter, which concerns me a great deal, if you ever feel like it.  Just drop me a line.

        • Tyson
          August 22, 2011 at 5:03 am

          Dan, 
          At what point will you consider “erwad” an apostate?  Assigning a pejorative connotation (like “sin”) to his un-belief or disobedience, when, if he follows your counsel, and is the change he wants to see, and ends up challenging or, Thor willing, leaving the fold?  It seems there’s a doctrinal corner true believers paint themselves into with having to uphold the standard of “real mormons” when you have to turn on your friends as they are persuaded by the preponderance of evidence.

  49. Verminpants
    August 21, 2011 at 6:47 am

    This podcast was awful and Peterson was allowed to get away with far too much. I thought Wotherspoon was better than this, his crawling pandering of Peterson was difficult to watch. Is Mormon Stories getting insipidly compliant in it’s old age?
    What kind of scientist is Peterson anyway? Does he, as a scientist, really believe that ‘water dowsing’ is a legitimate method? What kind of scientist is he?? I have seen dowsing tested under controlled conditioned and it is demonstrably a load of bollocks. If there are valid prophetic powers within divination, why doesn’t Monson use a crystal ball or use voodoo dolls? Peterson has done nothing to strengthen the Mormon position, rather he has weakened it and his own reputation as a scientist. This man cannot be taken seriously but I guess one can get away with such crap at BYU.

  50. Aaron T.
    August 21, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    I think this podcast was an excellent example of what can happen when you take time to simply listen to others.  While the evidence relative to most of the issues discussed in this podcast leads me to conclude differently than Dr. Peterson (especially the BoA and polyandry), I found myself really liking him as a person.  Thanks all for putting this together.  

  51. Brian
    August 21, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    I would listen to Dan W interview a rotten potato. (No reflection on you Dan P.)

  52. Brian
    August 21, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    Whenever I hear an LDS apologist talk about the translation of the BofA, I think of Richard Gere as the tap dancing attorney in the movie Chicago.  We are supposed to believe in the depth and wisdom of his words, yet somehow Joseph didn’t know what the word “translate” meant.  I believe that Joseph Smith believed he could say anything he wanted and his followers would believe.  Zelph is the perfect example.  I am also reminded of Bill Clinton’s infamous “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” I am a firm believer in Occam’s razor.

  53. Daniel Peterson
    August 21, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    I’m a firm believer in Ockham’s Razor, too.  We are, thus, co-believers.

    I didn’t realize, though, that we’re supposed to believe that Joseph didn’t know what the word “translate” meant.  Of course, I don’t have access to the new edition of the Church Handbook.

    • Jordan
      August 22, 2011 at 8:43 pm

      Daniel, 

      I really really liked your interview. I’ve been following FARMS for many years and this was probably one of the most uplifting and honest encounters I’ve had with it thus far. Well done! I still don’t this Ockham’s Razor has really been addressed. You kind of mention in the interview how your faith is cumulative and how it’s appropriate to bracket some questions or problems (I’m totally with you on your explanation of that), but I’m curious how you really address Ockham’s razor. It seems that after being presented with two hypothesis about the nature of the restoration there is a lot more mental gymnastics done on the side of trying to reinterpret Joseph Smith’s role, the nature of the Book of Mormon, and the Book of Abraham. I’m not suggesting that there isn’t gymnastics involved in explaining away the witnesses and the plates, but it does seem like you have to do a lot more surgery to Joseph Smith and the roles of translation, revelation, and prophets to get him to fit in the box. I’m a believer and have always chalked this up to the fact that faith demands complexity, but I think this Ockham’s Razor issue is at the heart of many people’s problems. It just doesn’t sound likely after so much balks in the face of at least the popularly received evidence, and so many levels of explanation have to be employed. Also it seems like a lot of the evidence presented by you in the interview is just homology (in the structuralist sense). Just because something looks and feels ancient doesn’t make it so. I’m in an anthropology graduate program with Levantine and Mesoamerican archaeologists and not only do they balk at the idea of the Book of Mormon (which many Mesoamerican archaeologists have read and are surprising familiar with), they aren’t sure Abraham, much less David, were historical figures (and certainly nothing like how they are portrayed in the Bible, their civilizations don’t match up at all to the archaeological record). Also just because there’s three authorial voices in the Book of Mormon doesn’t means there’s three authors, I can think of plenty of great works of fiction with multiple narrators or voices were I’ve thought, “wow, this is a real person distinct from the author” (doesn’t make it so). That said, I think critics have a heck of job on their hands explaining why Joseph Smith was able to write the Book of Mormon. I know that you are a very serious person about your faith and that homology is probably a serious method for you but it takes some explaining and justification that I just didn’t hear in the interview. It just sounded like skirting around the issues. That said, I really appreciated the honesty in which you grappled with the issues and in particular the gay marriage one. You didn’t compromise your views and expressed the need to have differing views, but you definitely tried to convey empathy. Congratulations on one of the most interesting podcasts I’ve listened to in ages.

    • Jordan
      August 22, 2011 at 8:43 pm

      Daniel, 

      I really really liked your interview. I’ve been following FARMS for many years and this was probably one of the most uplifting and honest encounters I’ve had with it thus far. Well done! I still don’t this Ockham’s Razor has really been addressed. You kind of mention in the interview how your faith is cumulative and how it’s appropriate to bracket some questions or problems (I’m totally with you on your explanation of that), but I’m curious how you really address Ockham’s razor. It seems that after being presented with two hypothesis about the nature of the restoration there is a lot more mental gymnastics done on the side of trying to reinterpret Joseph Smith’s role, the nature of the Book of Mormon, and the Book of Abraham. I’m not suggesting that there isn’t gymnastics involved in explaining away the witnesses and the plates, but it does seem like you have to do a lot more surgery to Joseph Smith and the roles of translation, revelation, and prophets to get him to fit in the box. I’m a believer and have always chalked this up to the fact that faith demands complexity, but I think this Ockham’s Razor issue is at the heart of many people’s problems. It just doesn’t sound likely after so much balks in the face of at least the popularly received evidence, and so many levels of explanation have to be employed. Also it seems like a lot of the evidence presented by you in the interview is just homology (in the structuralist sense). Just because something looks and feels ancient doesn’t make it so. I’m in an anthropology graduate program with Levantine and Mesoamerican archaeologists and not only do they balk at the idea of the Book of Mormon (which many Mesoamerican archaeologists have read and are surprising familiar with), they aren’t sure Abraham, much less David, were historical figures (and certainly nothing like how they are portrayed in the Bible, their civilizations don’t match up at all to the archaeological record). Also just because there’s three authorial voices in the Book of Mormon doesn’t means there’s three authors, I can think of plenty of great works of fiction with multiple narrators or voices were I’ve thought, “wow, this is a real person distinct from the author” (doesn’t make it so). That said, I think critics have a heck of job on their hands explaining why Joseph Smith was able to write the Book of Mormon. I know that you are a very serious person about your faith and that homology is probably a serious method for you but it takes some explaining and justification that I just didn’t hear in the interview. It just sounded like skirting around the issues. That said, I really appreciated the honesty in which you grappled with the issues and in particular the gay marriage one. You didn’t compromise your views and expressed the need to have differing views, but you definitely tried to convey empathy. Congratulations on one of the most interesting podcasts I’ve listened to in ages.

  54. August 21, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    I have never had any interactions with Daniel Peterson, and didn’t know the name until now, but found him more arrogant than Nephi.

    • Daniel Peterson
      August 21, 2011 at 5:15 pm

      Probably true.

    • Anonymous
      August 21, 2011 at 7:23 pm

      John – Please speak respectfully to my guests.

  55. Ella Menno
    August 21, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    I must disagree with Daniel on the point that sin is the reason people question and leave the church.  In my experience that is not so.  Please clarify.  Do you mean they sin by not doing everything the church tells them to do?  For example, if a person doesn’t attend the temple regularly is that a sin?  What about not believing everything the prophet says?  What about questioning policies or programs the church supports?  You mentioned the one time a couple left and wrote an open letter against the church.  You found out they had been cheating on each other.  I believe this probably happened, but I think it is disingenuous to lump all people who leave into one group, with the one example of sexual impropriety, and call them all sinners.  Perhaps there are some for whom this is true but I don’t think for a moment that it is true of all, or even most that leave.  It is this idea among active members that leads to us versus them mentality and distrust on both sides.

    You say your answer to those who question is to read the scriptures and pray.  What about those who still do that but have come to the conclusion that God isn’t listening and the scriptures are not true with a capital T?   Where do those people fit within the church?  You say if a person wants it to be true you can help them.  It sounds to me that you advocate just keep doing what the church tells you to until you feel better.  I wish that were true.  I wanted it for a very long time. 

    • Daniel Peterson
      August 21, 2011 at 11:05 pm

      Did I actually say that sin is THE reason that people question and leave the Church?  If I did, I’m quite astonished, because, while it’s certainly A reason in some cases — can anybody seriously deny that? — I’ve never believed it to be the sole or universal reason in ALL cases.

      If I said it this time, this will have been a first for me.

      Did I really lump all people who leave together into one group and call them all “sinners”?  I don’t recall doing so, and don’t believe that to be the case.

      If I did this during the podcast, it will be a new roll-out for me.

      Did I actually say that the all-sufficient answer for all who question is simply to read the scriptures and pray?  If I did, I really won’t know how to account for that, because I’ve never believed any such thing.

      If I said it during this interview, I must have been on drugs.

      • Ella Menno
        August 22, 2011 at 12:35 am

        You did not say that is the “all sufficient” answer, but that is the answer you recommend first.  I understand that.  That was not my question.  My questions were:

        1- What do you consider sin? 
            
        2- Where do those who still pray and still read scriptures but no longer believe the scriptures are 100% true and question whether or not God is listening fit into the church?

        • Daniel Peterson
          August 22, 2011 at 3:37 am

          1.  What do I consider sin?  That’s a huge and difficult question.  A short-hand answer would probably be a more-or-less deliberate violation of the commandments of God.

          2.  Where do doubting members fit into the Church?  They will have to decide that for themselves.  There is no simple rule.  I certainly don’t have one.  I would hope for them to stick with it, and that a stronger conviction would come.

          • Ella Menno
            August 22, 2011 at 5:02 am

            This all depends upon your perspective.  If I am to understand what you mean, you will have to define what you consider to be the commandments of God.  How do you determine which commandments are those that make you sinful?  If you read the Bible, you will note there are many commandments we do not recognize.  Frankly, we are all sinners, there is no doubt about that.  No one can possibly live up to all the commandments we are given, but we are expected to do so lest we fall away.  If we do fall away, there is always the pat answer that the reason was sin, whatever sin that may be.

            I have lived as an active doubting member of the church.  It is uncomfortable, to say the least.  But there is really nowhere to go when you are doing everything one can do to get answers that never come.  When they finally do come, and they are not what you are expected to receive, all of the sudden your world is rocked.  Please do not discount opposing spiritual experiences.  Well meaning bishops, like you, don’t have the answers to the conundrum.  People like me, who may still be willing to attend church if there was a real place for us, lose their community and their family all at once. 

          • Verminpants
            August 22, 2011 at 7:11 pm

            When does the words (or commandments) of the prophets expire? Never? Until a succeeding prophets changes it. Brigham Young breathed out horrific punishments on those who committed adultery. Nobody has ever corrected him so is that still part of God’s commandments?
            What exactly are the commandments of God?

      • August 25, 2011 at 3:18 am

        Incidentally, the FARMS Review, which Dan edits, contained a review which addressed the very question regarding “apostasy” and sinning. Here’s what it says:

        ‘Reacting to doubt with hostility, indifference, or accusations of unworthiness can be destructive to both faith and relationships. In light of how McCraney discusses his own drug and alcohol abuse, he seems to believe that some Saints inevitably attribute apostasy to sin. He is quick to explain at the outset of the book that in presenting such an “unadulterated expose” [sic] he risks “jeopardizing the small amount of credibility more anonymous authors generally enjoy” (p. ix). While there is scriptural warrant that various sins can lead to apostasy,31 there is also abundant scriptural precedence indicating that, if such were invariably the case, there would be no faith in God—for example, “All we like sheep have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6) and “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).’ 

        http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/review/?reviewed_author&vol=21&num=2&id=774

        I happen to know the author of that review, he’s an odd fellow, but nonetheless, there it is, in Dan Peterson’s own publication. 

  56. August 21, 2011 at 8:56 pm

    Apparently thinking others are idiots, and convincing third-parties of their idiocy is acceptable, not only for the discussion board, but the thousands of podcast listeners; whereas calling someone arrogant gets scrubbed, even when that person agrees.  As you’ll notice, this is my 70th comment, so I’m a mere infant, and I’m clearly weilding a club ax since I made my accusation directly.  I’m sure Daniel could quickly dispatch me with his rapier if he wanted to.  No worries, though.  I said my piece.

  57. Brian
    August 21, 2011 at 9:57 pm

    Ella:

    It’s a big world out there.  Find your place in it.  There is a reason that only .2% of the world is LDS.  There are many reasons that approximately 70% of the worldwide LDS membership is not active in the church.  I am the same moral, honest man as an inactive member that I was for 40 plus years as an active member of the church.  I just choose to not believe the LDS stories any more.  Listen to what is within you, not what others say.  In the end, loving those around it what will bring you happiness.   The desire for truth is what led me away from the church.  The same desire that led me there as a naive 18 year old.

    • Ella Menno
      August 21, 2011 at 10:43 pm

      Brian,
      I agree with you, although I can point you to plenty of families and friends who have willingly shunned their own when disbelief crept into their loved ones.  It is painful to me and I know it is painful for plenty of others out there that can no longer believe the way the members of the church expect.  How is it helpful for people to believe, without any other evidence, that their disbelieving relations are sinners?  My entire family, as well as my husband’s, are members.  Is it okay for them to assume there is some huge sin hanging over our heads because we no longer believe?  Unfortunately, this idea is unwittingly promoted both in this interview and in church classrooms. 

      • Daniel Peterson
        August 21, 2011 at 11:07 pm

        Could you please direct me to the precise location in the interview where I “promoted” this idea?

        • Ella Menno
          August 22, 2011 at 12:24 am

          Segment #3 beginning at 7:30, specifically at 9:33.  I said it is unwittingly promoted, not that you mean to do so.  When people in authority say “the main reason” or “most” people leave because of sin, members take notice.  No, not all people leave because of sin.  Some do, that is not the issue.  The problem is I know many people, myself included, that did not leave because of sin, but it is assumed because of statements like these. 

        • jg
          August 22, 2011 at 12:33 am

          You promote this idea starting at the 9 min 40 sec mark of section 3 (on the you tube above).  Essentially, you say that not all people leaving the church do so because of sin “but a lot of them do though.”  Then you go on to tell a story that essentially underscores what appears to be your point.  A point I would summarize as: “a lot of people say that sin isn’t the reason people leave the church but here is an example when people said that and they were lying.”   

          This is a horrible example to provide if the message you are trying to make is that sin isn’t often the reason people leave.  Your words are accurate–“not always, sometimes, etc.”  and i suspect your story/example is true.  but of all the stories to tell, you choose this one.  your example perpetuates the myth that when people say they leave for reasons other than sin that they are often lying.   Your tone, your emphasis, and your example unfortunately promote a myth that could have been addressed at that moment.  You had a opportunity to show empathy and counter that myth.  Instead, you reinforced it. 

          it is hard to conceive of a better story to reinforce the myth than the one you choose. 

          • Daniel Peterson
            August 22, 2011 at 2:23 am

            Well, okay.  If that’s the extent of my offense, I’m going to stick with it.

            The majority of people who go inactive, in my experience, don’t leave the Church over historical or theological issues at all.  They do so because they would rather golf or stay in bed on Sunday, or drink, or do drugs, or sleep with their girlfriends, or whatever.

            The vast majority of people, Mormon and non-Mormon, simply don’t live their lives worrying about historical issues or engaging in intellectual debates.

            Perhaps I actually have a bit of an advantage because I grew up in a nuclear and extended family with very few intellectual pretensions or academic achievements, and because I worked construction through grad school.  I have no illusions that everybody is an intellectual or is motivated by intellectual issues.  Half of my relatives are non-Mormons, but virtually all of the rest of them are, at the very most, marginal members.  In fact, the majority are completely inactive.

            None of my relatives, so far as I’m aware, have left the Church over any crisis of faith.  They’re gone because they don’t live, and don’t care to live, a Mormon lifestyle.  In fact, I’m inclined to think that part of the problem is that they (and many others like them) were mediocre-to-bad students who hated school and got out of it as soon as they possibly could, and that the Church, with its three-hour block of (essentially) lectures and its seminaries and institutes and its other meetings and its difficult-to-read scriptures (which should be studied every day), is, in many ways, uncomfortably (for them) like a program of perpetual adult education.  I like them all, but they’re not exactly wrestling with the problem of divine foreknowledge, or agonizing over whether Spalding’s wordprint shows up in 3 Nephi, or struggling to come to grips with how to meet the challenge of the Neo-Darwinian synthesis.

            When I was a bishop of a UVU-related  singles ward, I ran into only one person who had rejected the Church because of theological disagreements.  The OVERWHELMING majority of the inactives with whom I came in contact have gone missing for much earthier reasons.

            I suspect that many who have left the Church over historical or doctrinal concerns have re-created those others who have dropped out of participation in their image.  If they do, though, they’re mistaken.

            Do people leave the Church because of purely intellectual, historical, and/or spiritual concerns?  Yes.  I have never denied this, but have actually said it on numerous occasions (including this podcast),  But I think they’re in a distinct minority.

          • jg
            August 22, 2011 at 3:49 am

            What a surprise!  he’s sticking to it. 

            What a disappointment!

            Here you are speaking on mormon stories–a place for the disaffected and uncorrelated.  Here you have an opportunity to clarify your poor example from the podacst.  You have a chance to say, “you’re right.  I missed a chance to dispel a dangerous myth–a myth that keeps the church from making a bigger tent, and I want to do it here.  I acknowledge that this myth causes people to demonize the disaffected and is not helpful to Christ’s church”  Instead, you stick to your horrific story and again recite your resume and resort to the same personal references that Ella found so unpalatable at the beginning of this thread.  

            Let me try to address this one thing: “They’re gone because they don’t live, and don’t care to live, a Mormon lifestyle.” 

            I make this attempt because if ever you find the humility to consider that you’re wrong on this issue, I think you could be so much more helpful.  I make this attempt because of what is at stake, not because I think it is probable that you’ll change… unfortunately. 

            I’d like you to consider that maybe this is “plausible”:  people often FIRST come to the conclusion that the church is not true–that is to say that they don’t believe that Joseph saw God and Jesus.  That there were no gold plates.  John The Baptist and Peter James and John never appeared to Joseph.  Polygamy was not instituted by an angel with a flaming sword.  The witnesses really were spiritual Gypsy.  There was no Zelph.  Missouri doesn’t look much like garden of eden.  The book of Mormon geography that your organizations defend and hypothesis about all of the time is non-existant.  There are no steel swords.  No Hebrew DNA in Guatemala.  Etc.

            To be clear, these conclusions need not be reached after reading 100’s or 1000’s of books.  It is very possible that these conclusions are reached by just considering the likelihood of all of this happening to a single person.    This conclusion can be reached by just growing up and having independent thoughts.  Then, AFTER this change in belief–after settling into the fact that this is not true–a person says “I don’t want to live the Mormon lifestyle.” 

            Often, they are not gone because they don’t care to live the Mormon lifestyle.  They are gone because the Mormon lifestyle is not appealing to the 99+% of people that don’t believe Joseph’s story.  

            Joseph said several times in his life that “I don’t blame any man that doesn’t believe my story.  If I hadn’t lived it, I wouldn’t believe it myself.”  Yet, YOU (in a position of power that you reference endlessly) perpetuate a myth that people leave because of lifestyle or sin.   You seem to rarely (if ever acknowledge) that a well meaning, sincere, God believing prayer-giver can/will often ever reach a conclusion other than “this church is true.” 

            It happens all the time. 

          • Ella Menno
            August 22, 2011 at 6:18 am

            I am disappointed as well.

            I agree with most of what you said jg, but a faith crisis happens for all people differently.  The experience is not uncommon, although it is entirely possible that many that go through it do not discuss it in depth with ward members.  The stigma is already attached once a person admits they are questioning.  People already wonder which sin it is causing them to doubt.  In fact, there are those who question who revert into scrupulosity because they think they sinned without even realizing.  I can understand why, as a bishop, Daniel did not have many people discussing their crises of faith with him.  No one wants their experiences degraded into an argument of which sin they are committing.  That is not anything against Daniel as a person or a bishop, but I do not think bishops are really trained to deal with intellectual faith issues. 

             In my experience, there are those who just go inactive for the reasons Daniel mentions.  That’s fine, but I don’t hear many of them saying they have “left the church”.  Those who use that term are often  those who have voluntarily distanced themselves because of a crisis of faith.  I don’t say I am inactive, although that would be what members would say I am.  I say I left the church.  I have had a profound crisis of faith, and I expect that those who listen to Mormon Stories will understand what that is.  I don’t know what the numbers are, but I am sure the listenership of this program is more that just a few, and more than just a few of those understand the crisis.  Those who do not understand are those who hear all about how “most” or “the main reason” people leave is sin in the church setting and it is people in authority that perpetuate that myth. 

            My point for Daniel, and all other priesthood leaders, is to stop allowing people to believe this.  There is a wonderful opportunity for teaching and understanding when someone goes through a faith crisis.  I understand there are those who sin and leave, but they do not need the stigma attached.  There is no reason for the inadvertent airing of dirty laundry.  That is not what Christ taught, and it should not be what is taught in church or by those in authority.

          • jg
            August 22, 2011 at 6:30 am

            I wholeheartedly agree. 

            I hope I didn’t imply that people only leave for one reason.  Or that everyone follows the same progression. I just think a substantial amount–perhaps even the majority of the MS audience–follow this sort of pattern.

            I just think Dan’s emphasis on this issue is meaningfully off–especially given the audience.

          • Anonymous
            August 22, 2011 at 6:14 pm

            I don’t agree because I’ve seen different. Real people who do have sins unrepented and choose to leave rather than solve the problem, which by the way is the reason why Satan tempts them in the first place, for them to sin and drop out of church.

          • jg
            August 22, 2011 at 10:53 pm

            How do you know the reason Satan does anything?  

          • Anonymous
            August 26, 2011 at 12:34 am

            He told me so!!!!

          • Tyson
            August 22, 2011 at 7:23 am

            Ella, 
            I posted this previously, but have a few more thoughts after reading your post…

            Here’s my original post “Why is the term “faith crisis” a pejorative in matters of religion?  Were I to take the definition of each term, is it not the “instability or upheaval” of “beliefs that are not based on proof”?  Shouldn’t it be designated such that it is, an embrace or acceptance of evidence and reason – or what “others” have termed “Enlightenment”.

            Here’s my follow up.  We need to move away from the term “faith crisis” or “sin” and challenge the derogative application applied from apologists.  In reality, the crisis is “faith” itself, and moving away from it, although painful, like removing a tumor, leads to real knowledge and understanding.  “Sin” from the LDS doctrinal perspective is theocratically subjective.  Wielding the term “Sin” against it’s membership, from a philosophical and objective perspective, is immoral.  Apologists have been granted the high ground only through concession, not through diligence in thought and practice.  When challenged on things that matter….Morality, intellectual honesty, explaining the reason and meaning of our existence….theology scatters into the shadows from the light of reason and evidence.  Your point is well reasoned, and genuine ethics are now in your corner.  I just think you give too much credence to an imaginary authority, when they have none.

          • Daniel Peterson
            August 23, 2011 at 12:19 am

            “I can understand why, as a bishop, Daniel did not have many people
            discussing their crises of faith with him.  No one wants their
            experiences degraded into an argument of which sin they are committing.”

            I don’t think you’ve really listened to what I’ve said.

            “That is not anything against Daniel as a person or a bishop, but I do
            not think bishops are really trained to deal with intellectual faith
            issues.”

            LOL.  If there was any bishop in the CHURCH who would have been willing and (in a very poor and inadequate and probably dishonest way, of course!) able to engage intellectual faith issues, it would have been this one.  In fact, to be candid, compared with the usual problems that I had to face, I would have actually ENJOYED it.

            Only one such person ever approached me.

          • Ella Menno
            August 23, 2011 at 4:48 am

            My bishop(s) didn’t know what to do with me.  All any of them did was throw articles or books at me and tell me to pray and read the scriptures more.  I did what they asked but still found myself with opposing spiritual experience.  It’s not their fault.  They were good men trying really hard to do their best, as I am sure you did. 

            If only one person in a faith crisis ever approached you, do you think there may have been more that did not?  Is it possible that people in a faith crisis did not come to you because they may have been intimidated?  Or they may have thought you would not understand.  Being bishop of a poorer ward with blue collar workers would be difficult because you were from “different worlds”.  A well educated, well paid bishop may not have been as approachable as one that was more like them.  I am not saying you are not affable or kind but there is a certain perception that comes with relative wealth and position in the church. 

          • Daniel Peterson
            August 23, 2011 at 3:17 pm

            I don’t think that my ward members were intimidated by me.  In a typical week, I interviewed and counseled almost all day on Sunday, into the evening and through Sunday school and priesthood/Relief Society, and on Wednesdays from 6:30 PM to roughly 1 AM.  People were lined up in the hallway at all times, along with miscellaneous counseling by phone and in person on other days.  And old members of the ward still drop by to visit me at home.  I got along quite well with members of that ward.  I grew up in a largely working class family; I worked construction through graduate school.  I’m not even slightly uncomfortable talking with poorer people and blue-collar workers.

          • Anonymous
            August 23, 2011 at 3:58 pm

            Dr. Peterson,

            I’m a bit torn between wanting to delete these personal/ad hominem criticisms of you, and letting you respond to them to defend yourself and dispel the rumors/attacks.

            Regardless, I hope that you won’t feel obliged to respond to the less substantive comments/attacks…and if you would like me to start moderating them more closely, let me know.

            Thanks again for doing this interview.

            John

          • Daniel Peterson
            August 23, 2011 at 6:29 pm

            Thanks. 

            I notice that you did delete the personal attacks from one very prolific poster the other day, and, to be honest, that was perfectly fine with me.  There seemed to be little in his comments — most of them, anyway — beyond sneering.

            For the moment, beyond that, I’m okay.

            I’m more puzzled and bemused by some of the comments here than I am hurt.  Despite the enormous turnover in a singles ward such as the one over which I presided, I’ve been invited back at least three times by the ward members to speak at ward parties and get-togethers since I was released.  I still get phone calls and wedding invitations from people who came to me for counseling, etc.  The thought that the members of my ward might have been terrified of me because I was rigid and unpleasant and unsympathetic toward them is really quite weird.  Oh well.  Apparently there is, with some people, simply no way I can convince them that I’m not some sort of monster.

            Thanks for the opportunity to do the podcast.  I enjoyed it.

          • Anonymous
            August 23, 2011 at 6:44 pm

            Daniel – My goal with all these interviews (yours, Shawn McCraney’s, and Grant Palmer’s included) is to help show that (within reason) pretty much everyone means well, has at least some substance to their position, and is generally good-hearted.

            I think that anyone who is open-minded to your interview will see this…and I know that many, many have.

            Thanks again for entrusting us with your story. You deserve respect for doing so….and I believe that your intelligence, wit, sincerity, and good-natured-ness comes through in spades….for those with eyes to see, and ears to listen.

          • Verminpants
            August 22, 2011 at 12:11 pm

            Well said jg. The majority of disaffected Mormons I know leave the church because of the doctrinal, historical and archeological aspects you mention, rather than for motives of shallow self satisfaction.
            I have left the Mormon Church (I’m a 2nd generation member), I have never cheated on my wife nor do I intend to, I don’t take drugs (other than aspirin when required) I do not drink alcohol (though I have tried it and rejected it). And I have never played golf. Most ex Mormons I know are like me.
            There are people I know who have done those things after leaving the church but they originally left the church for the same reasons that I left the church.

          • Tyson
            August 22, 2011 at 7:15 pm

            There is no sin worse than playing golf.  The condemnation from the Norse god Odin be upon you!

          • Randy Snyder
            August 29, 2011 at 5:59 pm

            “…I have never played golf.”  

            When I type LOL I am not lying.  I laughed out loud with golf being listed with sins like having sex with a woman who is not my wife (without her permission).  Remember that the scriptures say,  “…the course of the Lord is one eternal round…”   The sin is NOT golfing my friend and may Shiva curse you for your ignorance…  :-)

          • Tyson
            August 29, 2011 at 6:24 pm

            Will I need to sacrifice a goat, or will a turtledove do?

          • Randy Snyder
            August 30, 2011 at 2:20 am

            I’m thinking a goat in the similitude of the demise of Tiger Woods’ career.  Tiger’s private life is in similitude of Joseph Smith’s private life, sans the “an angel with a sword made me do it.”  Don’t think that would have flown at the press conference…

          • Daniel Peterson
            August 23, 2011 at 12:14 am

            In my boundless arrogance, I’m quite confident that I’m right:  The vast majority of members who don’t come out to Church any more are absent because they don’t want to live their lives (for the present, at least) as Latter-day Saints.

            Many of them, in fact, if you were to ask them, would probably even still say that the Church is true.

            That’s certainly the case with most of the inactives in my extended family, and with most of the inactives with whom I spoke in my UVU-adjacent singles ward.  And it’s been my experience over a now absurdly long lifetime of hometeaching inactive members in California and Utah and various other countries.

            In saying this, I don’t for a moment deny that there are people who leave the Church primarily or solely out of disbelief, because of theological disagreements, because of historical issues, and the like.  But, in my experience, despite the heavy focus in my life precisely on issues of belief and theology and history, such people are a clear minority.  Most people generally, not just inactive Mormons, aren’t NEARLY as focused on matters of religious history and doctrine as the residents of a place like this are.

            And no, I won’t admit that I’m wrong.  My general practice is not to say that I’m wrong when I think I’m right.  I’m weird that way.  I think it would be dishonest.

            Can I prove the points I’ve made above?  No, I can’t.  They’re just based on my experience as a member of the Church who has spent much of his life in both California and Utah and who has substantial experience living as a member of the Church in three foreign countries — and who is probably as heavily involved with those who HAVE left the Church over intellectual issues as ANYBODY is.

            All I have is anecdote, as I acknowledged already.  But, since I’m aware of no serious social-scientific studies of the question, that seems to me all that ANYBODY has.

            Best wishes to all.

          • jg
            August 23, 2011 at 1:10 am

            It seems to me that if theological and historical reasons for leaving are so rare that your efforts in apologetics should be spent elsewhere. 

            On a personal note, I for one can say that your humble approach has brought me closer to the church and to Christ. 

            God speed. 

          • Ella Menno
            August 23, 2011 at 1:57 am

            “Most people generally, not just inactive Mormons, aren’t NEARLY as
            focused on matters of religious history and doctrine as the residents of
            a place like this are.”

            That may be true.  I’m glad that you realize that.  Mormon Stories has been a lifeline to me, and to many others like me.  Perhaps we are an anomaly, although my experience, anecdotal as it is, tells me we are not. 

            I don’t expect you to admit any wrongdoing.  I hold nothing against you.  What you have shared is your perspective.  I am glad you came on Mormon Stories and I appreciate the interaction on the board.  I also follow the practice of not admitting wrong when what I believe is right, so I hope you will understand that I will continue to live by my integrity. 

          • Tyson
            August 22, 2011 at 4:36 am

            So there’s no intellectual power involved in reasons to leave other than theological, (or historical, academic, etc…)?  

            When I get invited to attend a “party” at a friends house who wants to introduce a new “business opportunity” to me, I need not just attend, but spend a significant portion of my future time and money, then evangelize and do my own public presentations (I wish this was all hyperbole) before I’ve got a reasonable explanation for discarding the “business opportunity”?  

            I’m disinclined to think that theres an absence of serious thought or probability analysis involved,.  Couldn’t the invitation to spend multiple hours a week listening about, and in service for, an invisible deity(ies) be construed as vacuous without needing to delve any deeper?  And in this scenario, which person was more intelligent, the one who spent 40 years in and finally left, or the one who only needed to 15 minutes?  

          • Anonymous
            August 22, 2011 at 6:12 pm

            Yes2; in my experience too the inactive go inactive because of a lifestyle choice while those who opening start fighting against the church and call the church names like fraud, dishonest, all lies etc do have some serious sin in the background. You don’t find out about it usually until a few years later, like in the case of Elder Geoge P Lee, but eventually the true comes out. And that includes sins of homosexual nature. It has always amazed me how someone like Bruce Bastian can call LDS history bluff when he’s bedding some dude!  Those who leave over pure historical reasons are a small minority imho.

          • jg
            August 22, 2011 at 6:48 pm

            And the myth lives on. 

          • Anonymous
            August 22, 2011 at 8:07 pm

            As long as you keep writing…….sure, myth lives on…

          • Verminpants
            August 22, 2011 at 7:00 pm

            What you and Peterson say is wrong, just wrong and you only serve to remind the rest of us why we walked away from the church. Such mean spiritedness was never the intention of Jesus.

          • Tyson
            August 22, 2011 at 7:12 pm

            Well, actually Jesus did have a bit of a chip on his shoulder for those not of his Jewish faith…and for fig trees.  Can we pick another historical figure who was filled with transcendent ideas?  The list is rather long and less controversial.

          • Anonymous
            August 22, 2011 at 8:06 pm

            didn’t Jesus go after Pharisees, hypocrites, temple
            commerce, the  many local high
            priest?…..he did talk down to many people actually and accused Jews of
            sins giving them as the reason why they lost their contact with God and didn’t recognise
            him as his Son…like you guys who can’t recognize a Prophet when you see him in the deseretnews….(ie that Monson in case you didn’t realise it)

          • Tyson
            August 30, 2011 at 1:21 am

            Well, if we define a prophet as one who prophesies, then you are correct, I do not recognize anyone who fulfills that definition within the LDS faith, Mr. Monson included.

          • anonymous
            August 25, 2011 at 9:34 pm

            Are you saying that just because I happened to be born into this church that there is no honorable way to separate myself from it?  If so, wow.

          • Anonymous
            August 26, 2011 at 12:46 am

            No, not at all, but just what my experience has been with the people who left. .There are those who leave over history somewhere I guess  but I haven’t met them.

            There are ways to leave honorably. Typical way is to write that letter asking for one’s name removed however some people go through the process and find themselves still in the ward lists years later when some home teacher shows up. But it is worth trying I think. The other is to just leave and don’t come back and whenever someone visits just say pollitely ‘im not a mormon anymore’ and ask them to respect that.

          • Randy Snyder
            August 29, 2011 at 6:18 pm

            I find your name, “dark matter”, ironic.  You sound more like an inbred, homophobic Christian fundamentalist than someone who even would know what dark matter is.  Unless…unless your name is meant to be metaphorical for the vacuous space that exists between your ears.  Keep hate alive my friend.  And keep hiding behind an anonymous moniker. 

            My name is Randy Snyder, and I approve this message…

          • Anonymous
            August 29, 2011 at 10:13 pm

            Now that certainly isn’t an honorable way to leave the church!!…..

            “You sound more like an inbred, homophobic Christian fundamentalist”…….Wow, you called me a ‘Christian’ !!

            My name is ‘Darkmatter’ and I approve this message……

          • Observer
            September 8, 2011 at 12:40 am

            How in the world would you even know people’s private “sinful” activities? At least Peterson was in a position that authorized him to delve into such matters. Why would people share such personal things with you?

            As for an honorable way to leave the Church, the majority of people I know (my esoteric non-random sample trumps yours!) go “inactive” when they no longer believe, and don’t waste the time to write a letter asking for their name to be removed.  Once there is nothing in which to believe, as I wrote above, they do not believe many of the activities and behaviors “required” by the “LDS lifestyle” are “sins” anymore.  So they can be accused ex post facto of leaving the Church “because of sin” (as I suggest Peterson has done, and I believe you are doing).

            This is an immoral bias and misattribution on both your parts, and you should seriously consider the problematics of it.

          • Anonymous
            September 8, 2011 at 2:12 am

            Five years as bishop, plus previously counselor to 4 bishops, plus other priesthood leadership roles where one actually visits the person and is told what is wrong -many members don’t necesarily wait for an interview with the bishop by thw way, to say what the problem is like they are now living with their girlfiend or similar.  That’s why I said ‘In my experience…’ I’ve never known someone to leave church over these controversies in church. Yes, many don’t want to or don’t bother writing the letter but if you want to make sure no one from church visits later on, say 12 years down the road, then the letter is the way to do things properly. But the only ‘immoral’ problem here is what many who leave the church need to address themselves, if they become sincere one day when judging their life, there is no misattribution here at all.

          • Person
            August 24, 2011 at 1:45 am

            Dan,

            I also served in a bishopric of a UVU student ward and I rarely saw anyone leave the church for “intellectual” or “historical” reasons.  It is  exactly as you said, because they don’t care about living like a Latter Day Saint…church is too long, the law of chastity is too strict and they certainly don’t want to go home or visiting teaching.

            I have read through some of the comments and listened to some of these podcasts and I think the perception of why the youth leave the church is wrong.  I don’t think most of the kids are reading history books (or googling history), i don’t think they are reading much of anything except facebook and text messages and watching movies and listening to music.  I think the culture of the world is much more of a problem then the history of the church will ever be. 

            If the brethren address historical problems, then they have only saved a few.  I think the brethren are inspired by focusing on faith and repentance, because it is the only thing that addresses the biggest problem.

          • eliza
            October 2, 2011 at 4:20 am

            I just turned 30 so  maybe I’m not a “youth” anymore.   I can’t tell you how many friends from my past have  approached me about doctrinal and philosophical issues and attributed those issues to the beginning of their disaffection with the church.  (I’m an RM who is openly liberal so perhaps I’m an easy target for such conversations.)  I think the leadership of the church is out of touch with the reasons young people are leaving the church.  My friends don’t go to their bishops, because they think their issues will be immediately attributed to sin or a lack of faith.  (Most of them have loosened their standards now, but their questions came first; not the other way around.)  Many of my friends are well-read, good people who cared deeply about the church.  I would say I’m recovering from a crisis of faith that began as a gospel doctrine teacher in a BYU ward.  I started checking church history books out at the Provo library to be a better teacher and increase my faith.  The cognitive dissonance I feel from reading stuff I never was taught about the church  has sent me down a lonely road.  I haven’t loosened my standards and I never intend on leaving the church. I’m so Mormon I’m positive I’d do much worse anywhere else.     Reading my scriptures, temple attendance, and prayer have not lightened my burdens but websites like Mormon stories have.  Go figure. 

          • Observer
            September 8, 2011 at 12:24 am

            I think your inferences also ignore the possibility (and probability) that a number of people do not “leave” (lose faith) because of sin; rather, they “sin” because they lose faith. Once you no longer believe in “the LDS Lifestyle” (which suggests much more of a cultural connotation than I would expect from you), what counts as “sin” changes: coffee and tea are no longer “sinful”, not attending meetings or paying tithing are not “breaking the commandments”, and on and on.

            Moreover, it fails to take account of the fact that, as you and many LDS admit, “nobody is perfect” (except those of us who do not believe in the myth of “sin”), and yet all these “sinners” in the Church still claim to receive spiritual manifestations and “testimonies” despite those “sins”.  How can a god who is no respecter of persons, and a “Holy Spirit” that testifies of truth, abandon only some people BECAUSE OF their “sins”?So your assumptions about the “OVERWHELMING majority of the inactives” very likely begs the question: why did they lose faith in the first place, in virtue of which they ceased complying with the rote rituals and ecclesiastical machinations such that they “sinned”? And your assumptions likely misattributes their inactivity to “earthier reasons”.

            The fact is, the LDS Church corporate/ecclesiastical structure, especially as regards youth, tithing, and the role of Bishops as “common judges”, is highly invasive into the personal and private aspects of people’s lives.  In the face of such assumed authority, anyone is going to feel “sinful” and pressured to “confess” regardless whether they truly lost faith because of sin, or “sinned” because they lost faith.

  58. Eliza
    August 21, 2011 at 11:16 pm

    Thanks so much for interviewing an LDS apologist.  Dr. Peterson seems like a good guy.  It’s a little ironic to me that Dr. Peterson was being ridiculed by Mormon Stories people for FARMS not being “objective” enough.  Do you guys really think John Dehlin and his Mormon Stories peeps are objective in their interviews and presentations?  PLEEAAASSSEEE.  The questioning always goes in the same direction.  What you ask some people is just as important as what you don’t ask others.  Like Dr. Peterson, I don’t believe in objectivity.  The church’s position is that Joseph Smith was a prophet.  Of course they’re going to defend that.  What a surprise.  As long as people are open in admitting their bias- they should have a pulpit to say whatever you want.  I agree with Dr. Peterson’s position that those who want to ridicule the prophet have enough pulpits as it is.  I’m anxiously awaiting more candid church history along the lines of RSR and the Joseph Smith Papers, but the LDS church doesn’t need to invite their critics to tell the story for them. And please don’t fool yourselves into thinking that because you interview all types of people that your interviewing techniques are unbiased.

     

  59. Ashleymerback
    August 21, 2011 at 11:37 pm

    Thanks to all involved here!  I actually enjoyed the podcast much more than I thought I would and find that Dr. Peterson and I are more alike than I expected!  Thanks so much for braving the wolves that some of us can be and coming on Mormon Stories!  I respect you very much as a person.  

    I do have one dispute with your definition of “scholarship” as taking a position and defending it infinitely or bailing on it completely.  I’ve never understood that to be the way that science or scholarship work at all.  I’ve always understood that one begins with a question and then attempts to answer that question by going where the evidence leads.  Would you say this is how FARMS, FAIR and The NAM Institute works?    Sure, you didn’t set out saying, “There is chiasmus in the Book of Mormon,” and then look until you found it but I sense that rather you set out to find proof of your conclusion that The Book of Mormon is a historical book.  Thanks for you time!

    • Daniel Peterson
      August 22, 2011 at 12:23 am

      Thanks for the note.

      I don’t, though, recognize what you term my “definition of ‘scholarship as taking a position and defending it infinitely or bailing on it completely” as reflecting my views.

      As to scholarship and research, one begins with a question or with questions, but also, inevitably, with at least an inchoate kind of hypothesis.  That’s what yields the questions, defines interests, allows one to distinguish relevant and significant facts from among the essentially infinite background of irrelevant facts, etc.  There is a dialectic between data and researcher-model.

      We at the Maxwell Institute set out, in the applicable situations, with the working hypothesis that the Book of Mormon is what it claims to be, in order to flesh that hypothesis out and to determine how fruitful it is.  We are, quite admittedly, working within a paradigm.  So is everybody else.

      • Ashleymerback
        August 22, 2011 at 1:11 am

        Thanks for your reply.  I am glad for the clarification.  I must have misunderstand your meaning in the podcast.  I did want to add that I appreciate your thoughts on the depth and richness of Mormonism as a theology, and how intellectually valid it is as a religion.  I totally agree with you and learned more about its depth from your assessment.  Thanks again.

      • August 30, 2011 at 4:26 am

        And what would be an example of the null hypothesis in the scenarios that the Maxwell Institute investigates?  That seems to be the difference between your paradigm and that of “everyone else.” I don’t think you or any believer of any religion out there is able to form a null hypothesis with regards to the evidence.

        And that puts you in the exact same position as the doubters you described in the podcast… only willing to hear one answer, the one that confirms what you want to hear.

  60. Kevin
    August 21, 2011 at 11:58 pm

    An extraordinary interview, gentlemen. Nimble, far-ranging,
    entertaining. (Please don’t take offense to my characterization of the
    interview as entertaining. I simply enjoyed it a lot.)

    I’m thrilled to see serious Mormon mind power and heart
    power applied to our Moslem friends and their faith traditions. After 9/11
    there have been way too many members of the Church who have drifted into an
    ethnocentric pit of blanket mistrust and castigation of all things Moslem. Your
    Islamic studies work mark you as a man for our time Dr. Peterson. Do persist!
    Surely God has a work for you as he does for us all.

    It doesn’t trouble me that I think you’re on the wrong side
    of history concerning Prop 8 and the Heartland model of Book of Mormon
    geography. I embrace your vision of disagreeing with folks then being willing
    to go out to lunch with them. Shalom.    

  61. Ray Agostini
    August 22, 2011 at 1:53 am

    I have had no
    hesitation in the past, nor do I now, in admitting that probably 50% of the
    reason I left was because of sin. I like beer and freedom. I like to be
    independent (“self-willed”?). I find Church meetings, for the most part, boring
    and repetitious. I actually planned to go inactive in 1979-early 1980, but they
    called me as a bishop, so I thought I should at least give it a fair go. I did,
    for three years, then asked for a release.  Does that mean that the other hypothetical
    50%, the “intellectual investigations” are invalid? Not at all. So when I’m
    accused of “wanting to sin”, I’ll happily plead guilty.  I fully realise that this does not, and cannot
    apply to all, but the point is that Dan does have a valid point in this regard.
    I think he was quite balanced and fair in this realistic assessment.

  62. DRaw
    August 22, 2011 at 2:32 am

    This was a good set of  interviews.  I just finished listening to all of them.  I have admired Dan’s work and it has helped me deal with some issues.

    I was hoping to hear more about how apologists feel about how members should deal with disaffection.  I was glad to hear Dan Peterson admit to not having all the answers, but how should the church handle disaffected members going through faith crises?  Do apologists see any validity in a someone experiencing strong cog dissonance of church history or doctrine that can last a long time? I kind of get the sense that apologists believe that the criticisms against the church’s history or truth claims are not strong enough to merit any serious disaffection, which makes me feel like I am the fool or that I must be so easily persuaded by the criticism.  John Lynch denounced the idea of staylds.com at a FAIR conference awhile back on the basis that one should not advocate a medium for people to remain in disaffection but instead should continue to find the answers.  Are the answers really that easy to get??

  63. disqusboom
    August 22, 2011 at 6:31 am

    It is important to remember that Dan P.  is a very skilled apologist. In this case he is using every tool he has to be an apologist for himself. The church issues are secondary to himself in this interview. It has become a game for Dan P. He has become an intellectual troll enjoying the mind games at the bridge. A troll does not spend time integrating the information into a sensible world view. They simply enjoy the experience of being a troll without much, if any, self reflection, There is no time for it. Much to busy for that!

    I pity the church if Dan ever leaves it -they should and probably do fear it. That would be something interesting to look into – how much the apologists have the church over a barrel and how much the chief apologists know it.

    • jg
      August 22, 2011 at 2:33 pm

      You make an interesting assertion, and one I don’t totally follow.  How do apologists have the church over a barrel?  What would make the church so pitiful if Dan left?

      • Ubikboom
        August 22, 2011 at 11:53 pm

        Anyone that can defend an untenable position such as this so effectively would be I think as effective on the other side – if not more. Imagine we this powerful mind could do on the rational side of the fence. The church has to realize this.

        • jg
          August 23, 2011 at 1:03 am

          In my view your assertion assumes that they are effective, which I don’t see.  Certainly the internet has not been kind to mormonism.  In my view apologists and the church lose ground everyday–since the disaffected and evangelicals are telling the mormon story more and more more everyday. 

  64. Mj
    August 22, 2011 at 10:38 am

    Not listened to all installment just yet, but forgive me if this question was asked

    Why did Daniel do the interview? Was it because of his friendship with the interviewer? Was it an olive branch to the Exmo community? Was it a challenge?

    A curious Brit….

  65. Daniel Bartholomew
    August 22, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    I think I’ve gone through all the podcasts now – perhaps missing some minutes here and there due to interruptions of various sorts.  But I have enjoyed the experience thoroughly and it has only increased my esteem for Daniel Peterson.  I particularly enjoyed (maybe emphasizing this because I just heard it) the end where Bro. Peterson is asked about his testimony and why he is a Mormon.  I simply loved the things he had to say.

    On another note, I was pleasantly surprised to hear DP say that he recently learned he is a descendant of Joseph Knight Sr. and Jr.  I’ve been told all my life that I too am a descendant of these men.  I am trying to dig out genealogy records to trace the actual lines (embarrassed to ask my Mom/Dad to do this yet again for me) but am not finding it as easy to figure out as I hoped.  But I would like to figure this out a little better.  Anyway, if we are very distantly related, I don’t mind that one bit.  (I posted the first comment here under the moniker danithew)

  66. Daniel Bartholomew
    August 22, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    Interesting, it changed my name as I had written it out.  Just a note to Daniel Peterson that danithew is a moniker for Daniel Bartholomew.  I took a class from him many years ago at BYU and was attending the BYU Jerusalem Center when he was there for one of the intensive Arabic sessions held there.  I hometaught at least three of his students during that time (Axl Bromley and others) and learned a bit about that program during the process.  About a year later I took up taking a bunch of Arabic classes at BYU (almost completing a minor) but never had DP for a professor.

  67. Greg H
    August 22, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    DP is not saying all of you left because of sin.  Some of you might have left because you’re a “fundamentalist.” 

    Nice.   

    DP, is it possible, in your world view, to accept that people leave the church because they are rational human beings who are troubled by such things as Nauvoo ahem, “polygamy”, or other restorational history that does not stand up to scrutiny?  Or, for you, is it a case of – it wasn’t sin, it wasn’t because you were a fundamentalist, so it must have been because you were “offended?” 

    Are the honest, good, grieveous sin-free, un-offended people who leave like 2% of those who get outa dodge?  Besides your antecdotal experience as a Bishop in a UVU ward, do you have any evidence to back up your impressions?  Has the church done any research in this regard?  It would be an interesting study to be sure…..and I think you’d be surprised. 

  68. Anonymous
    August 22, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    Re: Temple Marriage problem in video 3.

    Most of the rest of the world has the same problem as the US has, because where civil marriages are required by law, people have the custom of  civil ceremony down at the registry in the morning dressed in suits and and then go and have a typical religious ceremony before God with the white dress and the holyness in a church. Every girl wishes to be in that church wedding with hair done up and the white dress with a train and the bridesmaids etc. All of that is a part of the church wedding not the civil courthouse or registry wedding where the certificate is handed out.

    But then Catholics et al will see their children married in their church but not the mormons. A mormon girl who’s parents aren’t members has to tell them that they can’t see the church wedding because they aren’t mormons, which leads to tensions and resentments through the rest of their lives plus their non-mormon family have a good excuse to call us, that American Religion, a ‘sect’ because we wont let their daughters marry in church and its all secret and so on…..

    So it isn’t quite true that those outside the US don’t face those problems with part-member families and Temple wedding issues. In fact, in many south american nations, its probably worse because you have that added “American religion or sect” stigma to deal with, and some rumours too that all missionaries work for the CIA!!!

    • Ella Menno
      August 23, 2011 at 1:34 am

      I attended a civil wedding in Italy that was held in an LDS church.  It was all white lace and flowery stuff.  After the wedding and a lovely luncheon, the couple was off to the Swiss Temple several hundred miles away.  How could that couple have the wedding with their non-member families present and then have the opportunity to be sealed in the temple the next day if what you say is true?

      • Anonymous
        August 23, 2011 at 4:26 am

        Did the Bishop marry them with the states authority? Some countries have that option of the the civil wedding performed by any qualified minister as in Australia’s case where the church signs off Bishops and Stake Presidents as ‘ministers’ so that they can do a government course and then the government gives them authority to mary people legally as recognized marriage celebrants, (note that the priesthood office of Bishop doesn’t have the keys to marry in the church sense). However in Australia’s case if a couple chooses a  marriage performed by a Bishop, with all their relatives there, then they have to wait 1 year before the Temple marriage. Other countries, like Holland, have the option of bringin in a qualified marriage celebrant to a mormon church to perform the legal and lawful marriage and then the couple travels to Frankfurt or London overnight for the Temple wedding. Others like England, require marriage performed in ‘open and public buildings’ so the couple must be married in a ward building -to be legal- and the family can see that wedding and then they travel to the Temple for the sealing.

        But in all south american nations that I know off and in the Phillipines, where there are more members, governments don’t recognize our bishops, catholic priests or pastors or  rabbis for marriage purposes so couples must to go to a Registry first for their legal civil marriage -no matter what their religion- and that ceremony is typical with the questions of ‘do you take blah blah to be your lawfully wedded etc’  then people have a religious ceremony whereever they want to and all the family typically goes to that ceremony -usually in a catholic church due to the people typically being catholic.

        For example I was married on a Friday morning at the states Registry with only some 8 people there but my wife didn’t use the white dress but a suit as all brides do, and we then traveled overnight to the Temple for the church marriage, with the white dress etc, but my wife’s mother and my inactive mother couldn’t see that church wedding. This has caused some stress with my wifes relatives and us because both they and especially her mother couldn’t see the daughter married ‘by church’ as they say (ie por iglesia) and they now argue that our church separates the family and points to this as proof of cult status and so on….

        • Ella Menno
          August 23, 2011 at 6:19 am

          It seems to be different everywhere.  There is no reason the church can’t say, go be married how your government requires,  then go be married in full view of your family members, then go straight away to the temple. 

          • Anonymous
            August 23, 2011 at 8:07 pm

            I completely agree.

            We should be allowed to bring in a marriage celebrant to church, to a ward building, for the wedding before everyone, and then later on send the couple to the Temple to be sealed. And the first presidency could delegate the power to marry for time ie mortality only, to all Bishops if they wanted to since they did delegate the sealing power to just some old dudes in each Temple who aren’t general authorities or anything high like stake presidents etc. There’s no reason why they can’t delegate the keys to marry for life to each and every Bishop, ie for church records, and leave the Temple sealings for eternity separate. But they currently want even marriages for life to be done inside the Temples in places where the government recognizes our church marriages.

            And this affects many people who don’t complain much, like the wife of Elder Ballard, the Apostle. Her dad was inactive and so couldn’t go to the Temple when they married back in 1950 something, and listening to her tell the story, the tone of her voice, you can sense her disapointment and this some 50+  years later. (They did a podcast some time ago on the mormon radio channel)

  69. Anonymous
    August 22, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    Excellent podcast (and Video) Thank you for sharing it.

    This interview will probably be one I’ll listen to again and again for some answers to the various critics’ questions. I didn’t know that Dr Peterson was so into all of this (ignorant me) but I’m relieved to hear someone who knows so much offering explanations on these ‘controversial’ issues. I’m sure no apostle could do better.

    Thanks again for uploading this.  

  70. Anonymous
    August 22, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    The most frustrating aspect about an apologist such as Dr. Peterson is that he can never concede any point–even in the face of insurmountable evidence (e.g., the translation of the Book of Abraham). This is understandable in a sense because, if he were to do so, he would be in jeopardy of losing his livelihood and career at BYU and FARMS. That’s what makes apologists in the employ of the Church (e.g., FARMS, the BYU Religion Department, etc.) so frustrating. Added on top of that mess is that, if they were to lose their job at FARMS or BYU, they would be unemployable elsewhere. By involving themselves with FARMS, they realize that they have sullied their academic reputation outside of BYU and, essentially, are stuck.

    With this in mind, it’s easier to understand the magic tricks that Dr. Peterson (and apologists like him) employ in interviews like this. They are experts at dancing around questions and not answering questions directly. They are lawyers dressed up as academicians. For example, instead of conceding that the actual papyri that the Book of Abraham was translated from has absolutely no relation to JS’s translation, they dodge the question by talking about crocodile pictures they took in Cairo that were lost in the mail. (And did he actually defend the Book of Abraham by stating that it SEEMS ancient? In that case, I believe The Davinci Code because it SEEMS real.)

    That said, I commend Dr. Peterson for doing this interview. He does seem to be a very likeable person. I truly hope that FARMS is getting further and further away from the apologist game (it’s so 1970s). I’m fine with a BYU Dept. that studies ancient texts and ancient languages, but its use as a defense agency for the Church is pretty outrageous (especially at an institution of higher academic learning–even BYU).

    • jg
      August 22, 2011 at 9:03 pm

      For example, instead of conceding that the actual papyri that the Book
      of Abraham was translated from has absolutely no relation to JS’s
      translation, they dodge the question by talking about crocodile pictures
      they took in Cairo that were lost in the mail.

      LOL. 

      Well said. 

      • Elderfrost
        August 24, 2011 at 1:59 am

        ya, If you go on the historical facts alone the Book of Abraham is a deal breaker for me!  No spin, no hypothetical crap, no redefining what “translation” means.  Just as in Book of Mormon anthropology JS is wrong in what he said, and is just as wrong in what he didn’t say!  What is completly clear is that “God” is not the author of this confusion, else he would have answered the questions long ago through his prophets, seer and revelators and not the appologists they hide behind.

  71. August 22, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    If I could ever give advice to D. Peterson, it is now – learn to like the smiley face man! :) It would save you a lot of time explaining your intentions. :)

    I’m always amazed at how MS leaves me thinking better of the interviewee than I did before – even the ones in whom I already had a high opinion. Thanks to the Dans and JD!

  72. Verminpants
    August 22, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    This may have already been covered but I shall again. DP, you suggest in part 4 that Joseph’s poylandrous activities were a means of establishing ‘bonds of kinship’, a suggestion I was uncomfortable with. Isn’t it true to say that there may have been easier ways of doing this? If acquiring multiple wives was the only way of achieving this, wouldn’t it have been better to marry a woman from that family who was already unmarried? Even better, could he not have sealed himself to other families as a brother? If you can have multiple wives, can’t you have multiple families in a brotherly, sisterly kind of fashion. Better still, could Joseph not have established bonds of kinship like the rest of us by just making friends with people?  To marry another man;s wife may not be the best method of fostering kinship. More than this, one could argue that Joseph’s polyandrous practices fell well outside the remit of his own revelation. Section 132 says that … (a) additional wives must be virgins. (b) The first wife must give her consent, (c) she must be vowed to no other man. Emma Smith was very much opposed to plural marriage and did not often give Joseph her consent and Marrying a woman who was already married meant that the woman was not a virgin and clearly she was already avowed to another man.

    • Cliff
      August 23, 2011 at 4:17 pm

      You speak of marriages.  Does this imply weddings?  Why or why not? 

      Making friends does not usually include a priesthood sealing ordinance.  Unless, I suppose, you want it to be an Eternal friendship that is closer to a family relationship than anything else. 

      • Observer
        September 8, 2011 at 1:01 am

        As far as I am aware, there was never any official, canonized “revelation” from god to anyone, including Joseph Smith, that supports the idea that marrying him (or any other LDS apostle, prophet, or important person) would result in any eternal, spiritual benefits (such as Celestial Glory, etc.) for the women, much less for their husbands and “kin”.  Yet Joseph Smith promised such things as an incentive for many (all?) of the women he took as plural wives.  The simplest explanation for this lack of doctrine supporting Joseph’s promises is simply that he was abusing his ecclesiastical (and charismatic) power and authority in order to get sexual access to women, and to obfuscate such otherwise obvious motives with revelatory pretensions and notions of “the New and Everlasting Covenant of [Plural] Marriage” being required for “exhaltation”.

  73. mypeace
    August 22, 2011 at 8:59 pm

    “I don’t care if you call yourself a Mormon or not.  Although, ‘Mormon’ is a pretty stellar person, and you shouldn’t be ashamed to be associated with him.  But anyway, when it comes down to it, people say a lot of things and they call themselves a lot of things, and many will say Lord, Lord, drawing near to me with their lips, but their hearts were removed far from me.  Therefore, what is binding upon you is that you practice pure religion, and that you don’t….. judge…… anyone!”  

    –(what I think “Jesus would say”)

    The fact is, not very many people ”know” empirically and rationally that the testimony of Jesus according to the Book of Mormon is true.  But we’ve given the capacity to find out, because we can all become rational creatures.  The only way to know something in the human frame of mind is through obtaining empirical and rational conclusions to logic-based experiments.   “Experimenting with God” is how you can know what God knows.  This is what Jesus was all about — ask and ye shall receive, knock and it shall be opened.  Set up improbable, non-coincidental, conclusive experiments in your mind when you pray, and watch and see if your faith turns into knowledge.  Then you’ll really know one way or the other.

    • mypeace
      August 22, 2011 at 9:10 pm

      make a ”faith-attempt”  memorize 3 nephi or something as the ‘intervention’
      compare your ‘spirituality’ (humility, love, hope, etc…) before intervention and after intervention.
      If your spirituality significantly increases or decreases — you’ll know empirically that you’re more or less spiritual, and you’ll know rationally that it was because of the intervention.  
      Obviously this isn’t 100% conclusive, but it would give evidence one way or the other.

  74. Jason
    August 22, 2011 at 9:16 pm

    At the 14:25 mark of #273, Dr. Peterson mentions a pamphlet by Oliver Cowdery. I think he is actually referring to the pamphlet “An Address to All Believers in Christ,” published by David Whitmer. Whitmer states “If you believe my testimony to the Book of Mormon; if you believe that God spake to us three witnesses by his own voice, then I tell you that in June, 1838, God spake to me again by his own voice from the heavens, and told me to “separate myself from among the Latter Day Saints, for as they sought to do unto me, should it be done unto them.” As we all know, Whitmer never came back to the mainline LDS church. He supposedly wrote this in 1887 to promote his Whitmerite church. Can anyone here verify the authenticity of this pamphlet? Does anyone have evidence that it is a forgery?

    • Anonymous
      August 24, 2011 at 5:17 pm

      Jason, this pamphlet is not a forgery. In fact, it has even been quoted by current leaders of the Church. Elder Russell M. Nelson actually quoted from Whitmer’s account of the BoM translation (from said pamphlet) in a talk:

      “Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man.” (David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ, Richmond, Mo.: n.p., 1887, p. 12.)

      This talk is found at the following link: http://lds.org/ensign/1993/07/a-treasured-testament?lang=eng

      • Jason
        August 24, 2011 at 9:37 pm

        Thank you! If Elder Nelson accepts the pamphlet as authentic, I see no reason why I should not, considering what the pamphlet says about Whitmer’s testimony. On the one hand we have Whitmer testifying that he saw the plates, and on the other we have him testifying with the same level of certainty that the mainline LDS church has been in apostasy since 1838. If this pamphlet is actually authentic, it becomes a logical fallacy for believing members to use the three witness’ testimony as evidence that the church is true.

      • Jason2
        September 2, 2011 at 4:55 am

        Thanks for clarifying this! When I heard Dr. Peterson attribute the quotation to Cowdery and then argue it was a forgery, I had to say, “huh?” If you are correct, Dr. Peterson made a pretty big mistake here.

  75. Anonymous
    August 22, 2011 at 9:21 pm

    I wonder what Dr Peterson thinks about honesty?

    • Jason2
      September 2, 2011 at 4:56 am

      Even though I don’t believe in Mormonism anymore, I have to accept that Dr. Peterson was sincere and honest throughout the podcast.

  76. Daniel Peterson
    August 23, 2011 at 12:20 am

    I’m in favor of it.

    I appreciate the many kind comments here.  Thanks.

    As for certain others, I think I’ll just leave them alone.

    Best wishes to all.

  77. Warmpickles
    August 23, 2011 at 2:28 am

    Like most Mormons, Dr. Peterson is just Mormon because he doesn’t want to perform salah, observe Ramadan and other commandments. Mormonism is easier for him so he would rather be lazy.

  78. Jerjam
    August 23, 2011 at 3:14 am

    You all crack me up. The Bible says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We all sin and that includes Daniel Peterson. We are all pitiful sinners. Everyone of us is a liar, thief, adulterer and murderer. Mormons act like they are more righteous then those outside the church. You have to be very prideful to say someone left the church because of sin in their lives when everyone of us sins probably hundreds of times a day. Do you think your sin is somehow not as bad as my sin? James 2:10 says, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” Did you understand that. If you tell a little white lie you break the whole law. We are all law breakers. The law was given to convict us of our sins and to bring us to the blood stained foot of the cross. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me.” I don’t see the name Joseph Smith in that statement. And that is because he is not needed. Jesus completed all the work needed to get us to heaven. If you try to add to what Jesus did, you don’t believe that Jesus did it all. That is a big mistake!!! Galations 2:21 says, “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” If you think you can earn your way into heaven by do good works, paying tithing or going to the temple—-good luck. You take the grace of Jesus Christ out of the equation and you are just like the Pharisees. You have to keep the whole law to save yourself. Jesus cannot help you anymore.  I love Mormons but you are not as righteous as you think you are. The Bible says that “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” Our righteousness comes from  Jesus Christ, not from anything we can do.

    • Jason
      August 23, 2011 at 4:03 am

      “I love you Mormons but you are not as righteous as you think you are.” – Really? The irony of this post is hilarious. Jerjam, you have managed to make yourself appear even more arrogant than the Mormons I know.

    • Anonymous
      August 23, 2011 at 4:34 am

      “We all sin and that includes Daniel Peterson. We are all pitiful
      sinners. Everyone of us is a liar, thief, adulterer and murderer”

      Hmmm………food for thought………..adulterer and murderer………..is that why Dr Peterson is so pale and white? all the murders he’s done???? maybe he drinks their blood too……….!!!   :)

      • Jerjam
        August 24, 2011 at 2:48 pm

        Jesus said that if you even look at a woman with lust you have already committed adultery in your heart and if you get angry with a brother you have already committed murder in your heart. God doesn’t look at our outward appearance. He looks at our heart. We can easily deceive the people around us if we want to appear righteous but God knows the truth. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Only God, and that is why it doesn’t do a bit of good to follow a bunch of rules and regulations that a man has made or that some church has made. If you are doing works because you think that you need to do them to get to heaven or that paying tithing is fire insurance, the Bible teaches otherwise. If you are doing works because a church says you have to do them, you are in bondage. Jesus came to bring us out of bondage. In John 6:28-29, the people asked Jesus, “what must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this, to believe in the one He has sent.” We are told to put our total trust in what Jesus has already done for us. He suffered and died for our sins, and rose again so that by believing in Him we have eternal life. It’s that simple. Love you!

        • Anonymous
          August 24, 2011 at 4:20 pm

          “Jesus answered, “The work of God is this, to believe in the one He has
          sent.” We are told to put our total trust in what Jesus has already done
          for us.” …

          Very true and I completely agree.

          However you said before that Peterson was, as we all are, ‘adulterer and murderer’ which isn’t true.

          I’m glad you have clarified what you really meant to say, ie the murder in your heart when you are angry with a brother etc. However there isn’t even proof that Peterson looks at a woman with ‘lust’ in his heart. I don’t think it’s fair to randomly accuse a man of these sins.

  79. JT
    August 23, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    Dr. Peterson,

    You replied to Stan, “I’m also puttering away at a lengthy book manuscript arguing for the historical authenticity of his resurrection.”

    Do you intend to use the Book of Mormon as a primary source text?  I would guess that you would see this to contain the most accurate information on the matter.  Perhaps you intent to use Joseph’s first vision as well?

    Or, perhaps you can you share just a couple of other documentary sources you would draw as an historian.     

    Thanks

    JT

  80. Lance
    August 23, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    I disagree with Daniel Peterson on a host of things and there have been times where I’ve been disapointed with the approach he has taken in defending the Church but with all that said I really enjoyed the interview and really appreciated the candid responses Dr. Peterson gave in the interviews.  Thanks Mormon Stories and thanks Dr. Peterson for being willing to do the interview.

  81. jg
    August 24, 2011 at 12:00 am

    I posted inline, but it gets buried with strings this long.  I wanted to make this message clear and end at least my portion of the discussion ends on the note I want it to:
    Dan,

    While I dislike your style, many of your views, and even your arrogance (as I perceive it) ; I want to acknowledge that I think you are honestly doing what you think is right. Further, I sincerely and genuinely appreciate you doing this interview on Mormon Stories.

    On a closing note… (at least for me)

    I would love to see Mormonism flourish as it continues into the digital age. I have my doubts that it can, but if it has any chance to do so I think it will be because it finds a way to make people feel welcome. If Mormonism is to ever have 18-30 years-olds become active above a 20% rate, or if Mormonism wants the next generation to be full tithe payers at a rate anywhere close to today, it will be because our world view focuses on inclusion, not exclusion. The church will have to be honest about its history, and not blame its members for at times being surprised by its history. The church cannot hide behind pablum lessons and sanitized, correlated history.

    I think Mormonism needs to have a better dialogue. It needs to be OK to ask questions and to even challenge the answers. We need to find a way to welcome people to church regardless of which box they checked on prop 8. We need to become more inviting. Not the kind of inviting where we say “change everything and fall in line.” The kind of inviting that says, “come as you are to the table and feast upon the good word of God.”

    I think Mormonism has become too rigid as the world has become more tolerant. Both approaches have their pros and cons, but one down side
    to rigidness is that it breeds a culture of exclusion. Most mormons define them selves by what they don’t do. We don’t drink coffee, don’t have premarital sex, etc. I think mormonism needs to create a new world view in order to grow and really represent God. We need to define ourselves by what we love, by what we embrace, and not by what we don’t do.

    As we approach the world differently, it is my hope we meet at this place. Perhaps both of us will have a bit more humility, a new world view, and (God willing) a friendship when we get there.

    God speed.

  82. Person
    August 24, 2011 at 1:46 am

    Dan,

    I also served in a bishopric of a UVU student ward and I
    rarely saw anyone leave the church for “intellectual” or “historical”
    reasons.  It is  exactly as you said, because they don’t care about
    living like a Latter Day Saint…church is too long, the law of chastity
    is too strict and they certainly don’t want to go home or visiting
    teaching.

    I have read through some of the comments and listened
    to some of these podcasts and I think the perception of why the youth
    leave the church is wrong.  I don’t think most of the kids are reading
    history books (or googling history), i don’t think they are reading much
    of anything except facebook and text messages and watching movies and
    listening to music.  I think the culture of the world is much more of a
    problem then the history of the church will ever be. 

    If the
    brethren address historical problems, then they have only saved a few.  I
    think the brethren are inspired by focusing on faith and repentance,
    because it is the only thing that addresses the biggest problem.

    • Anonymous
      August 24, 2011 at 1:57 am

      Person,

      I agree that for both young adults and for the LDS membership broadly….historical issues/disillusionment only account for a small percentage of LDS disaffection (maybe 5%…I’m just guessing).

      I happen to really love that cross-section of LDS members, of course…because (in my experience) these people really love(d) the church, really took it seriously (serious enough to dig deeper), were truly intellectually curious, and often had/have very high levels of integrity in that they were/are willing to face all sorts of negative consequences for following the truth….wherever it leads. In some sense….they are deeply Mormon (since these are some of the founding values of Mormonism, in my opinion.

      Also (In my opinion)….it is a real shame for the church to be losing this particular cross-section of people. It seems to me like a highly intelligent, creative, courageous bunch. But Person…I agree with you. I think the brethren have made a strategic decision to “leave the 1 to protect the 99”. It’s a strange interpretation of Jesus’ teachings…but one that definitely makes sense statistically. I honestly can’t blame them.

      But it makes me sad on some level nonetheless.

      • Evan
        August 24, 2011 at 6:33 am

        John Dehlin,

        I think it’s premature to conclude that disbelief accounts for a small percentage of inactive/resigned Mormons. Remember that Dr. Peterson is an LDS apologist. And apologists of any religion are notorious for distorting the data (perhaps unconsciously) in favor of their religion. By saying that people leave the church for “personal” reasons instead of intellectual reasons, the apologist is implying that the historical/scientific foundations of his religion are perfectly sound.
        What we really need is a study. A large random sample of inactive/resigned Mormons should be located–and they should be given a thorough survey. The survey should include questions like…

        * What was the primary reason you left the LDS church? What was the secondary reason?
        * Do you believe that the Book of Mormon is a historical document?
        * Do you believe that Joseph Smith was a real prophet and communicated with God?
        * Do you believe that Jesus is a supernatural being?
        * Do you believe that God exists?
        * Would you ever consider becoming active in the LDS church again? Under what conditions?

        Of course, the survey should be anonymous and should include a bunch of biographical questions (age, gender, education, socioeconomic status, born vs. converted into the church, race, religiosity of parents, etc.). I would even like to see a short personality assessment in the survey (perhaps the NEO-Five Factor Inventory).

        A study like this is the only objective way to understand why people leave the LDS church. Apologists and LDS leaders should not be relied upon for this information.

        • jg
          August 24, 2011 at 2:22 pm

          I feel like the conversation is a little off track, and I think I’ve contributed so I want to clarify something.  No one does ANYTHING for one reason, or even two reasons.  Let’s consider the fact that I had pizza for lunch.  What was the PRIMARY reason I had pizza for lunch?  I don’t know.  My brain doesn’t work that way; no ones does.  Here are a FEW of the reasons I can think of that I ate pizza:

          1. i was hungry
          2. i like pizza
          3. the pizza didn’t have mushrooms on it.
          4. the pizza was from meridians and not dominoes or papa johns
          5. my body needed protein and there was pepperoni and cheese on the pizza.
          6. i needed to buy pizza for the whole office and this was cheaper.
          7. last time my assistant ordered the chicken parm from meridan’s it was burnt.
          8. i haven’t had pizza in weeks.
          9. i know that pizza is true :) (ok i threw that in for good measure).
          10. my assistant hates ordering from menus where everyone in the office selects their own item.
          11. going out on my own seemed like it would take too much time
          12. i wasn’t in the mood for other restaurants in town.
          13. my favorite burrito shop takes too long.
          14. my favorite fish taco place takes too long.
          15.  i don’t like salad for a full meal.
          16. i have a conf call at 1PM PST and pizza is fast.
          17.  meridians pepperoni is really good. 
          18.  i have good memories of meridians. 
          19.  meridan’s pizza has good crust.
          20.  i had the best pizza when I was in italy and i’ve idealized pizza ever since, even though i won’t admit it.
          21.  i knew my wife would have vegetables at dinner. 
          22. our office is mostly men and they all like pizza.

          What is the coefficient on any of these variables?  Of all of these variables NONE of them are independent variables–making it almost impossible to call any of them primary.   They all effect each other.  There are probably more items like item 18 and item 20 which are playing subconscious as well as above.

          Now let’s ask an infinitely more complex set of questions: why do you go to church? why are you mormon? why do you believe the things you do?

          The myth that is being perpetuated is: sin and lifestyle are the only reason or even the primary reason that people leave the church.  This myth fabricates a world wherein no rationale, and most importantly no righteous person, would stop attending the church.  The myth implies that no one can be well intentioned, faithful, righteous, and simultaneously stop believing.  The myth is created by the active latter-day saints in part to feel better about their  history, about individuals shelf’s, about being peculiar, about their desire to stay, and about their own identities.  I think it plays an important psychological role in making them feel better about all the abstinence (not just sex) that mormonism requires.

          It is out of reverence to this myth that Thomas B Marsh gets reduced to a lesson on pride.  This lesson makes believers feel better.  This lesson also dodges a bullet–because 99% of mormons don’t know anything about danites and salt sermons.  In part because of this myth, members of the church demonize dissenters.  They simplify their stories.  THEY BLAME THE DISAFFECTED (as apologists do when saying your surprise about church history is your fault).  According to sanitized LDS history,  William Law was a bad guy.  He was an apostate.  He wrote horrible things about a true prophet.  He contributed to Joseph’s death.  99% of Mormons never get around to really examining the claims of the Expositor, which are mostly all true.  (I mostly doubt the claim that joseph was once a prophet.)  The myth prevents nearly everyone from knowing and understanding the complicated nature of reality. 

          Here is why I’m so passionate about this: the myth in its extreme contributes to people becoming danites.  Or like the people of the 17th century who hung my grandmother as a witch in new England, the myth promotes intolerance for disbelief, and ignores sincerity and the good in people that don’t share our beliefs and opinions. 

          Now, another point, I’m not saying that church history is the primary reason that people leave the church.  I would never say that.  Instead, I would say that in my list of reasons I ate pizza for lunch, some of those are about who I am (my experiences, etc).  They are foundational.  In matters of religion, there are some central questions, central attributes, or variables that impact what we will do and what we will believe, which often relate to our experiences. 

          When I asked the Bishop why the church wouldn’t give me an accounting of what its has done with the large amount of tithing (at least to me) I’ve paid while the church asks for an accounting of my contributions every year.  He had no good answers.  I was bothered by that.  He then said (a few weeks later), I would like you to speak in sacrament meeting on tithing.  I felt uncomfortable doing so (even though I paid a full tithing) because I had may doubts about how the church manages its  funds.  I did a lot of soul searching and I came up with this, which is to say that my talk could be summarized this way–tithing brings us blessings because of the major pillars of the church.  if joseph is a prophet, if GBH is a prophet, if the BOM is true–we should pay tithing. 

          Now I tell this story to illustrate my major motivations for paying tithing, which i discovered only after soul searching.  One of my TBM friends has this on her facebook page: “It’s true isn’t it? Then what else matters?”  No doubt, she has done like I have.  In moments of trial, in moments that you want to violate the church’s morality code or not pay tithing or whatever, she asks herself, “what do i believe?”

          If you think what you believe doesn’t impact (probably) all of your major decisions, I don’t think you realize how enmeshed Mormonism is inside of you.  It is who you are, which effects what you do.  Perhaps a deep understanding of this only comes when you try to take it out.  It may only come when you try to untangle your Mormonism from who you are or who you want to be. 

          Is belief the primary reason people don’t go to church?  Is lack of belief on historical and truth claims the primary reason people resign their membership? 

          I think the question is simplified and flawed and therefore should be reserved for Mormon Sunday School. 

          BTW, to see the myth in action.  check out the top of my google search. Look at the section on pride:

          http://lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?locale=0&sourceId=bc6f9207f7c20110VgnVCM100000176f620a____&vgnextoid=32c41b08f338c010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD

          • Evan
            August 24, 2011 at 6:18 pm

            I agree with much of what you say. However, I still think we should TRY to disentangle the factors (and the sequence of events) that leads to inactivity/resignation. A study is the only reasonable way to do this–otherwise we are just speculating.

          • anonymous
            August 25, 2011 at 9:54 pm

            Thanks for articulating this.  As I have been peeling back layer after layer trying to understand why I am dissatisfied with mormonism, I am appreciating just how complex our motives and beliefs are.

            And this is a great point you made: “I think it plays an important psychological role in making them feel
            better about all the abstinence (not just sex) that mormonism requires.”   Yes, abstinence truly loves company :-)

            Cheers.

  83. Elderfrost
    August 24, 2011 at 1:48 am

    Dan

    I just finished listening to the podcast and wish to thank you for coming on mormonstories.  I found myself laughing and really enjoying the discusion.  I almost posted my response last night when you seemsed to put the blame on members that had not read more, like you had, and in that way learned the tough issues of church history earlier in thier lives.  Well, in my mormon upbringing those kind of books would have never been found in our house.  How was I supposed to be looking for something that I did not know existed?  No, I trusted the leaders that God had called to do just that, lead!  There is much that we could go back and forth about, but the result would be the same.  In the end, you have strenghened my belief that apologists will spin the evidence any way necessary to arrive at their pre-determined conclusion.  At this point apologists are providing the strongest evidence for me that the church is in no way what I was taught it was or what it claims to be.

  84. Michael Carpenter
    August 24, 2011 at 2:12 am

    I hate to comment before I’ve listened to the whole thing — I’m ONLY 3 hours in. And, I haven’t read all the 189 comments ahead of me, but I must say 3 things. 

    1. CAGE MATCH!! CAGE MATCH!!! CAGE MATCH!!!! I want a podcast with Michael Coe and Daniel Peterson together to discuss Book of Mormon historicity. 

    2. The main reason I can’t wait to comment is that my head is about to explode with Mr. Peterson’s confirmation bias. Someone with his academic background should know better. He speaks of dreams that came true. How many didn’t? Same with the patriarchal blessing. How much of his blessing has not been explicitly fulfilled? How many people are told, “That blessing may not come true in this life”? Same with the example of the person who didn’t believe, but was having an affair. What about the bishop who is having an affair? Or the stake president caught in an underage sex sting? They still believe, but they are sinning. 

    3. I don’t think I ever got his definition of a prophet. He certainly believes strongly that Joseph Smith was a prophet. But, on Mohammad he isn’t so sure — “he might be a prophet.” What’s the difference? Both had spiritual experiences that cannot be confirmed or proven. So, why give Joseph Smith the nod, but not Mohammad? To me, it is a case of starting with the answer, then working backward to the question. 

    • Jason2
      September 2, 2011 at 5:05 am

      I believe Dr. Peterson addressed this. Smith makes a claim in the physical world, i.e. the golden plates, that Mohammad does not. Mohammad’s experiences were entirely personal, and therefore potentially fabricated or delusional. Smith, on the other hand, has witnesses and tangible plates that other people felt and accounted for. Dr. Peterson is correct that critics have to perform some mental gymnastics to get around this issue. I must admit that I still can’t totally get around it. Did Smith throw rocks into a chest to deceive the 8 witnesses? Did he make a prop of some kind? I believe critics have some difficulty with this issue.

      • Evan
        September 2, 2011 at 8:08 pm

        Listen to Mormon Stories podcast #032. In that episode Grant Palmer explains his theory about the 8 witnesses.

  85. Stone
    August 24, 2011 at 4:16 am

    Dr. Peterson,
    I haven’t even listened to this yet but I want to thank you for coming on and sharing your story.  We need the full breadth of experience/belief within this type of format. 

    Despite some of the personal attacks here I would hope that you will continue to share your perspective in a venue such as MormonStories.  I want to hear about ALL aspects of Mormonism and I appreciate you doing this.  I wish others like you would be willing to come on in the future as well.

    As for those that want to beat you up – Folks, grow up!

    Thanks Dr. Peterson!  Please consider coming back for a follow up interview.  I can’t wait to listen to all 4+ hours!

  86. Ray Agostini
    August 24, 2011 at 7:55 am

    I live in Australia, which has a higher inactivity rate
    than America,
    to the tune of some 70%-75%. Verifying this, I was also the bishop of a ward
    which had some 400 members of record, but only (on a good Sunday) a maximum of
    100 attending (more like 60-70 most Sundays). Of that 100, I’d estimate about
    1/3 to be “true believers” (those who willingly accept callings and do all the
    work). Just before I left the Church for the last time, I belonged to a ward of
    nearly 800 members, with an average attendance rate of about 100 (120 on a good
    Sunday). There are serious (troubling) problems on both the “intellectual” and “spiritual”
    planes. What I have discovered is that although the vast majority of Saints in Australia would
    never have heard of “heretical” publications like Dialogue and Sunstone, and perhaps
    only marginally more have heard of “FARMS” (incidental references in Church
    manuals), none of them take these seriously in Sunday School. The root causes
    of disaffection, though, seem to stem back to “core issues” which are “intuitively”
    perceived and need no justification/explication in “scholarly journals”.  In other words, no matter how you express it, “troubling
    matters” will always come back to haunt many (“uneducated”) members. While the “Dialoguer”
    can articulately express this discontent, average members (the majority) just
    leave on “common sense” or the intuitive feeling that some thing is wrong here.
    So in that way it’s kind of arbitrary in deciding who leaves for what reasons. The
    inertia of inactives/apostates (using the Australia example) doesn’t necessarily
    need “intellectual stimulus” to “get going”, though “intellectual stimulus” may
    hasten exit. Ultimately the bottom line equation is that the Church has a
    serious inactivity/disaffection problem, very serious, and the core of this
    problem can’t be relegated to “enlightened people educated in the issues”.
    People lose faith for real personal reasons, and most of those reasons don’t
    need “scholarly exegesis” as a form of “justification”. They just fade away,
    never to be heard of again, and they are *the majority*, the “silent (disaffected)
    majority”. Even if this is largely due to “laziness”, it’s clear that the “doctrine”
    failed to stimulate them enough to remain “valiant”. So “causes” are both
    intellectual and “mundane”, and neither, ultimately, is superior, or “more
    worthy of justified exit”. What is patently clear is that the Church has a
    serious disaffection problem, and unless it takes steps to rectify this, it
    will forever be one step forward, three steps backwards. “Straight and narrow
    gate” beliefs pacify this concern, and “Elect” beliefs, in which case we should
    expect the Church to be a continual shrinking class with more and more
    divisions between “us and them”, until the “honest in heart” (true believers) triumph
    over “evil”.  Speaking for myself, I have
    a far broader and more charitable view of life and the universe, not captured,
    or held captive by religious “only truth”. At the serious risk of sounding like
    the heretic that I truly am – Mormonism is only one spoke in the universal wheel
    of progress, but not an unimportant one as far as it contributes to things like
    encouraging “better families” (as one example), and its clarion 13th
    Article of Faith:

     

    “We believe in being honest, true, chaste,
    benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we
    follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we
    have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is
    anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after
    these things.”

     

    Here, I’m willing to press “add” (for a
    better world, but not exclusivity).  God bless Mormons.    

    • August 24, 2011 at 1:18 pm

      I tend to agree.  People don’t leave in droves because someone tells them something they did not know about world history.  They leave because something is rotten in the state of Zion, and they can smell it (in the fakeness and shallowness that pervades too much of our modern LDS culture).  A truly useful product sells itself; a useless product requires lots of marketing to make it look better than it really is, and even then only certain people will buy and keep it.  

      For a great many people, the Mormon gospel as imagined by the Correlation Committee is simply ineffective.  People don’t feel fed by hours of “worship” that leave them jaded and beaten down.  They don’t feel morally improved by continuous injunctions to pay tithing, pray for forgiveness, and obey priesthood leaders (whose human frailty did not vanish magically at the end of the nineteenth century).  They don’t like having to skip family time so that they can learn how important it is that families be together forever.  They don’t like people poking around in their bedrooms and judging them harshly if they find anything sexy there.  They don’t like pretending that priesthood authority has made their lives better when it has not.  (What happens when someone takes a real moral dilemma to priesthood leaders and they give really, really bad advice? Historically, the church always blames the victim, never itself.)  They don’t like having no voice of their own at church, where everything that is said has to be approved (on some level) by the brethren (i.e. the Correlation Committee).  They don’t like pretending that superficial appearances are really important: they couldn’t care less what shirt you are wearing, how many earrings you have, what kind of bodyart you may sport.  They don’t feel like discussing intimate personal decisions with suits whose job is to manipulate them into looking good with guilt, shame, and fear.  (It was a bad idea in the nineteenth century, and it still is today.)  They couldn’t care less about impressing right-wing Christian wackos with how similar Mormon craziness is to their craziness.

      I used to believe fervently in the power of correlated LDS truth.  I beat myself up for years because I was not righteous enough.  I maintained a squeaky clean outer facade.  And then one day I woke up, exhausted, burned out, and disillusioned.  I was not improving.  Church made my life worse instead of better, saddling me with all kinds of tough chores and then blaming me for being a wicked sinner (because I could not make wet dreams go away, or convince other people to convert in droves, or maintain a good balance between work, family, and church without shortchanging callings).  I was listless.  Worse, I had made the mistake of trying to increase my faith by studying early church history, which led me to realize that I had spent years of my life learning fairy tales in Primary, Sunday School, seminary, and institute (not to mention the mission field, where I bore solemn witness that these fairy tales were as factual as anything in American history).  Probably most inactives don’t bother to go as far as I did.  As Tyson said above, they jump ship because the snake-oil salesman feels slimy and/or his wares didn’t seem right for them, not because they bought into his scheme hook, line, and sinker and then spent years gathering their own private databank to prove that it was true (oops!).  Confronted with my own spiritual stagnation at church and the lack of anything solid in the church’s truth claims, I finally stopped coming.  I still serve in a calling.  I have good friends at church.  I like Mormons who are happy in their beliefs, and I even like Mormon history (more since I stopped looking to it as some kind of anchor for my personal sanity).  I consider myself a Mormon (since I cannot wish the last 25 years away), and there are times when I am really happy among the Saints.  But I cannot in good conscience defer to church leadership when deciding what course my life will take; their record with me is spotty at best, and their historical record (if anyone chooses to examine it) is even worse.  This is not because they are evil, in my mind at least, but because they are dedicated to a false view of human culture, a view which sees all of the good that comes from hierarchies (which are necessary, to some extent) and none of the bad (especially if the hierarchy in question is the modern LDS oligarchy).  As leaders in Zion, they mean very well, and cause more damage on that account, especially among those who take them most seriously as spokespeople for ultimate reality.  

    • Anonymous
      September 8, 2011 at 4:23 am

      Perhaps if the church actually acted like Christ would act, the name the church gives itself wouldn’t feel like so much false advertising to new converts.

      Treat people as you would want to be treated. Don’t lie. Don’t take what doesn’t belong to you. Be fair and consistent. Practice what you preach.

  87. wildbri
    August 24, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    I have not had a chance to read all the comments yet, so I apologize if this has already been discussed. Mr. Peterson made a comment about the different versions of the first vision being published in the Ensign. Does anybody have a reference for this article? I would love to read it.

  88. jg
    August 24, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    Why do people leave Mormonsim and/or go inactive?

    I feel like the conversation is a little off track, and I think I’ve contributed so I want to clarify something.  No one does ANYTHING for one reason, or even two reasons.  Let’s consider the fact that I had pizza for lunch.  What was the PRIMARY reason I had pizza for lunch?  I don’t know.  My brain doesn’t work that way; no ones does.  Here are a FEW of the reasons I can think of that I ate pizza:

    1. i was hungry
    2. i like pizza
    3. the pizza didn’t have mushrooms on it.
    4. the pizza was from meridians and not dominoes or papa johns
    5. my body needed protein and there was pepperoni and cheese on the pizza.
    6. i needed to buy pizza for the whole office and this was cheaper.
    7. last time my assistant ordered the chicken parm from meridan’s it was burnt.
    8. i haven’t had pizza in weeks.
    9. i know that pizza is true :) (ok i threw that in for good measure).
    10. my assistant hates ordering from menus where everyone in the office selects their own item.
    11. going out on my own seemed like it would take too much time
    12. i wasn’t in the mood for other restaurants in town.
    13. my favorite burrito shop takes too long.
    14. my favorite fish taco place takes too long.
    15.  i don’t like salad for a full meal.
    16. i have a conf call at 1PM PST and pizza is fast.
    17.  meridians pepperoni is really good.  
    18.  i have good memories of meridians.  
    19.  meridan’s pizza has good crust.
    20.  i had the best pizza when I was in italy and i’ve idealized pizza ever since, even though i won’t admit it.
    21.  i knew my wife would have vegetables at dinner.  
    22. our office is mostly men and they all like pizza.

    What is the coefficient on any of these variables?  Of all of these variables NONE of them are independent variables–making it almost impossible to call any of them primary.   They all effect each other.  There are probably more items like item 18 and item 20 which are playing subconscious as well as above.

    Now let’s ask an infinitely more complex set of questions: why do you go to church? why are you mormon? why do you believe the things you do?

    The myth that is being perpetuated is: sin and lifestyle are the only reason or even the primary reason that people leave the church.  This myth fabricates a world wherein no rationale, and most importantly no righteous person, would stop attending the church.  The myth implies that no one can be well intentioned, faithful, righteous, and simultaneously stop believing.  The myth is created by the active latter-day saints in part to feel better about their  history, about individuals shelf’s, about being peculiar, about their desire to stay, and about their own identities.  I think it plays an important psychological role in making them feel better about all the abstinence (not just sex) that mormonism requires.

    It is out of reverence to this myth that Thomas B Marsh gets reduced to a lesson on pride.  This lesson makes believers feel better.  This lesson also dodges a bullet–because 99% of mormons don’t know anything about danites and salt sermons.  In part because of this myth, members of the church demonize dissenters.  They simplify their stories.  THEY BLAME THE DISAFFECTED (as apologists do when saying your surprise about church history is your fault).  According to sanitized LDS history,  William Law was a bad guy.  He was an apostate.  He wrote horrible things about a true prophet.  He contributed to Joseph’s death.  99% of Mormons never get around to really examining the claims of the Expositor, which are mostly all true.  (I mostly doubt the claim that joseph was once a prophet.)  The myth prevents nearly everyone from knowing and understanding the complicated nature of reality.  

    Here is why I’m so passionate about this: the myth in its extreme contributes to people becoming danites.  Or like the people of the 17th century who hung my grandmother as a witch in new England, the myth promotes intolerance for disbelief, and ignores sincerity and the good in people that don’t share our beliefs and opinions.  

    Now, another point, I’m not saying that church history is the primary reason that people leave the church.  I would never say that.  Instead, I would say that in my list of reasons I ate pizza for lunch, some of those are about who I am (my experiences, etc).  They are foundational.  In matters of religion, there are some central questions, central attributes, or variables that impact what we will do and what we will believe, which often relate to our experiences.  

    When I asked the Bishop why the church wouldn’t give me an accounting of what its has done with the large amount of tithing (at least to me) I’ve paid while the church asks for an accounting of my contributions every year.  He had no good answers.  I was bothered by that.  He then said (a few weeks later), I would like you to speak in sacrament meeting on tithing.  I felt uncomfortable doing so (even though I paid a full tithing) because I had may doubts about how the church manages its  funds.  I did a lot of soul searching and I came up with this, which is to say that my talk could be summarized this way–tithing brings us blessings because of the major pillars of the church.  if joseph is a prophet, if GBH is a prophet, if the BOM is true–we should pay tithing.  

    Now I tell this story to illustrate my major motivations for paying tithing, which i discovered only after soul searching.  One of my TBM friends has this on her facebook page: “It’s true isn’t it? Then what else matters?”  No doubt, she has done like I have.  In moments of trial, in moments that you want to violate the church’s morality code or not pay tithing or whatever, she asks herself, “what do i believe?”

    If you think what you believe doesn’t impact (probably) all of your major decisions, I don’t think you realize how enmeshed Mormonism is inside of you.  It is who you are, which effects what you do.  Perhaps a deep understanding of this only comes when you try to take it out.  It may only come when you try to untangle your Mormonism from who you are or who you want to be.  

    Is belief the primary reason people don’t go to church?  Is lack of belief on historical and truth claims the primary reason people resign their membership?  

    I think the question is simplified and flawed and therefore should be reserved for Mormon Sunday School.  

    BTW, to see the myth in action.  check out the top of my google search. Look at the section on pride:

    http://lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?locale=0&sourceId=bc6f9207f7c20110VgnVCM100000176f620a____&vgnextoid=32c41b08f338c010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD

    • August 24, 2011 at 2:57 pm

      Nice play with the pizza.  Even simple decisions resist reduction to strict determinism.

    • JT
      August 26, 2011 at 3:04 am

      jg,

      Thanks for the post.

      I liked the lesson plan. My favorite part was

      As appropriate, use the following activity or one of your own to begin the lesson.

      ——————————–
      “Write the following phrases on the chalkboard:

      A pint of cream
      A misspelled name
      No available seating at the Kirtland Temple dedication

      Tell class members that these phrases all have something in common. They are all reasons given by early Church members for their apostasy from the Church.”
      —————————

      I left the Church for a pint…but it warn’t no cream!
      Just kidding…that was a joke… (I don’t want to feed the myth)

      Cheers

      JT

      P.S. You comments about the perpetuated myth … good points all in my opinion. You may be interested in the aspected added to this line of thought by “Terror Management Theory” (from social psychology). I recommend the articles written by the three pioneering researchers (they pop upnat the top of a google search). If you want to watch a documentary film on the subject, it’s is called Flight From Death. The researchers wrote a popular book on the subject called In the Wake of 9/11.

  89. Anonymous
    August 24, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    These anti-intuitional arguments feel like a brick to the brain. What happened to plain and simple truth?  This is the why the T. Paines of  any dispensation have such visceral reactions to the smug arrogance of any apologist. I come in good faith to any position, but when I get to feelin’  wool in my eyes I invoke George W Bush, “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice…I…I…you can’t be fooled again”. It goes against my god-given grain.
     
     I try really really hard to read FARMS/FAIR positions but they reek of a Bernie Madoff Prospectus. They ooze with the too good to be true, but are mostly really really confusing.   I am not edified by the alchemy. Has anyone ever really known what Nibley was saying/doing, except M. Beck? Compare the previous podcast with  Dr. Coe. Amazing (great job John). Wonderfully intelligent and intuitive, a real winner. Now contrast the “so-on-and-so- forth” of this podcast. I find DP’s bracket position weak and nauseating in the light of “revealed truth” from modern day prophets:  “Hold on all ye faithful I’ll come up with something in my officially unofficial position toute suite that makes this mysteryloaf taste a little more like meat, by the way how’s that 30+ year old correlated milk tasting?” What is the aramaic for scientistic?  
     
    I find DP’s view on Jefferson/Sally hemmings laughable yet sadly predictable. Fawn Brodie was lambasted for her view that Jefferson was helping himself to the help…even when modern revelation validates Fawn’s work, DP denies her any comeuppance because I assume he doesn’t like NMKMH. Where’s the love for a fellow scholar? It’s almost disgusting.
     
     Anyhow. Why do I even know who DP is? DP is not the sustained prophet, why listen to him if he doesn’t represent the Church? According to the church, any evidence from an unoffical position is immaterial to the shinola we get on sunday. Where is an official statement from the church on these controversial subjects? Is anyone else tired of reading the disclaimers about unofficalhoodednesslessness? Why was I never taught the controversy in church or early morning institute? Instead all I got in church was to keep a picture of jesus and/or the 1st presidency near the computer to allay temptation. I’m lactose intolerant, I want real meat, sacred cow is the only thing that can nourish and strengthen my body. If the pantry is bare so be it, if it’s full, great, but don’t be queer about it…just give it to me straight. I recognize the parallel of the Danites (any relation to DP) and the official clean-hands-off approach, but when Jesus is riding shotgun with this church why do I need a dose of geocentric abrahamic cosmology to keep my faith (1.)? Is not Our Lord’s aim true?  Why hasn’t any apologist been Ex’d for scurrying around doctrine when a critical light gets flipped on?  It seems to me, and I’ll hold fast to this position, that all the ancient parallels, texts and phds (pronounced fuds) will never transform a foundation made from fecaliths into any majestic monolith (unless you’re a termite. oh wait that’s a good apologetic position….damn you searchfortruth!).  Keep up the good work Mormon Stories…
     
    1.: http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/books/?bookid=40&chapid=161

    • Stan
      August 26, 2011 at 2:30 am

      K.

      lactose intolerant. Sacred cow..fecaliths into monoliths.

      Your not playing nice,but thanks for the laugh. I didn’t get the fecalith right away (I’m not ashamed to say I tried looking it up before it dawned on me.

      Stan

  90. Michael Carpenter
    August 24, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    I always bristle a little when apologists say, “Well, you were lazy if you didn’t know that. I ready Fawn Brodie when I was 14. The first vision article was published in the Ensign.” 

    Well, #1 when I was 14 Fawn Brodie was being demonized in the church. My mother would never have allowed such an anti-Mormon book in the house and my seminary teachers warned against reading it. (Dr. Peterson and I are almost the same age, but Utah County was a different church than California. I know because I moved from CA to UT when I was 9.) 

    #2, the First Vision article was published in 1996. At that time, I was working 60+ hours a week at my full-time job, was spending 10+ hours a week on my church calling (scoutmaster/YM presidency, then a year later, bishopric), plus trying to keep up with my 3 kids and their school activities, sports, etc. Sure, I’m supposed to read the Ensign, but when? Sunday? Ha! 3-hour block, plus preparing next week’s lesson, plus another 3-4 hours of meetings, firesides, etc., PLUS that’s the day I’m supposed to spend time with my family doing scripture study and family activities. Saturday? Double HA! One Saturday a month I’m out with the scouts camping. The other 3, I’m trying to get all my yard work and household chores done so I don’t need to do them on the Sabbath. 

    So, don’t imply that I was lazy. While in the bishopric, I closely tracked my time at church and calling-related activities over a two month period of time. I averaged 15 hours a week. I could essentially have a part time job with that amount of time. I’ve tried working on a graduate degree twice and both times I just got buried in the first year because I couldn’t find the time. 

    My biggest regret in not leaving church years ago? I would have liked to spend more time with my kids, but I always felt like they came in 2nd after the church. 

    I agree with “jg”; Can we lose the Thomas B. Marsh nonsense? I think we can do better than, “a woman’s quarrel over milk strippings caused the Missouri Mormon War.” The church manuals suck from Primary through HP group. And, when a member of the stake SS presidency tells me I’m not supposed to stray from the manual, I can’t say, “Well, I’m on the committee that writes them.” No, instead I get a followup discussion with the bishop about how I’m supposed to stick to the manual. One time teaching priest quorum, I read part of a quote from the manual, but stopped short of saying we are against mixed-race marriage. (That has no place in church in the 21st century.) But, the bishop (who was following along in his manual) finished it out for me. I looked around the room and of the 7 priests 4 were from mixed race families. What does that tell those kids? That their parents disregarded the teachings of President Spencer W. Kimball, Prophet, Seer and Revelator? 

    Yeah, maybe it isn’t “Thus Saieth the Lord” but it was said at General Conference and then correlated into the priesthood manual. So, on what grounds do we ignore that? 

    • notknowingbeforehand
      August 25, 2011 at 1:15 am

      First of all, I though that this was great – one of my favorite MS podcasts yet.  At the intro of John’s interview with Richard Bushman he observed that Dr. Bushman had “nothing to gain and everything to lose” by coming on the MS podcast – same goes for Dr. Peterson.  I just didn’t see the arrogance everyone here is ascribing, and I’m hypothesizing that at least some of those comments are carry-overs from previous internet battles.  
      I hesitate to offer any criticisms because the bulk of the responses have been, on whole, more critical than I would like, but my one  critique is what Michael said above.  I think that Dr. Peterson actually said he was “aggravated” by members who don’t know the troubling parts of church history.  Until the church publishes these difficult elements in all correlated materials, especially in our missionary materials, the fault will still reside mainly with the organizational church that isn’t forthcoming and actively discourages the pursuit of truth outside of correlated materials.  I appreciate that Dr. Peterson has given some effort to have more context in correlated materials, but until there is further disclosure in the materials we use daily/weekly in church, I still have nothing but sympathy for the 32 year old, active faithful member who discovers Joseph Smith’s polygamy for the first time on the internet.  

  91. Person
    August 25, 2011 at 4:33 am

    notknowingbeforehand

    “the fault will still reside mainly with the organizational church that
    isn’t forthcoming and actively discourages the pursuit of truth outside
    of correlated materials.”

    I have been in the church a long time.  I have heard and read quite a bit, but i have never heard or felt any discouragement from reading or pursuing truth outside of church materials. 

    Can you provide us with some evidence where the brethren has discouraged us from this?…anything, something from general conference, from the manuals, the scriptures, ensign…etc.

    You aren’t the first that has said this.  I’d like to know where this kind of thinking is coming from.

    Thanks  

    • notknowingbeforehand
      August 25, 2011 at 12:46 pm

      Person – I notice that you didn’t disagree that the church isn’t forthcoming about difficult elements of its history.  I am 32 years old and the bulk of my church experience comes from 3 hours of talks/lessons each Sunday, 4 years of seminary, 6 years of MIA, 2 years of missionary work, etc.  So I can’t quote every speaker, teacher, Bishop, counselor that has, for 32 years, discouraged me from reading or pursuing truth outside of church materials.  I left the “Mormon belt” 8 years ago, and as an adult outside the Mormon belt I have felt considerably less discouragement from reading non-approved materials.  The best representation of the counsel that I received for my first 24 years is found here: http://lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=024644f8f206c010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=74a870cb7de63110VgnVCM100000176f620a____&hideNav=1.  I had also heard specific prohibitions from reading Sunstone, from seeking information on the Book of Mormon history/geography (see current and previous teacher/student manuals), and from researching the live’s of early church leaders in “non-faithful” ways.  The basic idea was that “non-mormon” literature about Mormons equals anti-mormon, and that reading it would subject me to lies and Satan’s influence and the loss of the Holy Ghost.  

    • August 25, 2011 at 12:48 pm

      Here is one piece of evidence, President Packer’s talk to Church Education employees in which he tells them to suppress truth that isn’t “useful” — .

      Here is another piece of evidence, an Ensign article that calls church manuals “well-researched, correlated, and approved lessons” to which a teacher adds “prayerful study, the testimony, the setting, the enthusiasm, and, often, an adaptation of explanations and illustrations” (not extra research adding useless details like all of Joseph Smith’s other wives or the real translation of the Book of Abraham) — .

      Elder Holland encourages us to “avoid a temptation that faces almost every teacher in the Church; at
      least it has certainly been my experience. That is the temptation to
      cover too much material” — .  Stick with the script (from your well-researched, correlated, and approved lesson manuals), people!

      The official Instruction for Curriculum includes no mention of ancillary research: “Leaders should see that all instructors teach the scriptures and the
      words of the prophets by using approved curriculum materials.”  .

      The official Primary teaching manual encourages teachers to “help the children understand that the people you are talking about really lived and that the events actually happened” () because we all know that everything in all the scriptures is to be taken literally (no matter what you may have learned in university, even if that university happened to be BYU).

      Another Ensign article confirms that the officially approved sources of factual information for lessons are scriptures (which we read literally, not metaphorically or critically) and manuals, to which teachers and students alike add their personal conviction (not extra research) — .

      Last but not least I offer my own personal experience, which has been that we LDS consistently teach from the scriptures (which we consistently read as literal history, even when that makes reason stare) and the manuals, and that we have a tendency to look askance at outside stuff, particularly when it adds details that aren’t “useful” (i.e. promoting complacency in our naive understanding of reality).

      • August 25, 2011 at 12:50 pm

        Sorry for the HTML mess.  I am not adept at entering hyperlinks, apparently.

        • August 25, 2011 at 12:53 pm

          I would delete it if I knew how.  Maybe someone more adept can answer your question.

  92. August 25, 2011 at 4:36 am

    For me it was very refreshing — even inspiring — to listen to an in-depth interview with someone who is still a believer yet open to — and even embraces — honest conversation and exploration about some of the thorniest question of church history and doctrine. Love to hear more interviews like this!

  93. Matt
    August 25, 2011 at 5:03 am

    I am one of those that has left because of intellectual issues.  I am a blue collar construction worker (steam fitter).   I don’t like it when people assume that I wanted to sin and that’s why I left.   Honestly, I want to believe. It has been a painful journey to come to the conclusion that the church is not “True”.  I knew the church was “True”.  I had a rock solid testimony, unshakable ( I thought). 
     I don’t know what percentage of people leave the church for the reasons I did.  However, it would be nice if the church would at least acknowledge that we exist, that it can and does happen. 
     I had much more to loose than to gain if the church wasn’t “True”.  I wanted it to be “True”, and it turns out it never was.

    P.S.  Daniel Peterson would you consider doing another interview with John Dehlin in detail with some of the big issues like he did with Richard  Bushman?  I think Dan Witherspoon was too soft on you.

  94. Anonymous
    August 25, 2011 at 5:47 am

    Reflections on Daniel C. Peterson’s Podcast Interview:

    There is nothing that Prof Peterson said about his Mormonism than what an erudite Roman Catholic professor counterpart couldn’t say about his Roman Catholicism to affirm belief and ‘one and only’ validity for his chosen path.  Sure the script and props are different, but the convictions and respective, biased ways to rationalize their brand of truth would be very similar.

    When Prof Peterson adamantly stated that most people leave the LDS church because they want to live a sinful lifestyle, that’s where he lost credibility for me.  That postulation is absurd in the extreme, unless his definition of sin is so broad and all encompassing that this too would be equally absurd.

    Form follows function.  Since leaving the church after having being an active participant in it (significant leadership roles as well many other assignments) for more than fifty years, I have enjoyed and remarkably benefitted from drinking some types of ‘real’ tea, but to be sure I didn’t leave the church to drink same.  As a result, I have come to the ‘adult’ and spiritually ratified conclusion that drinking tea is not and never, under any circumstance, could be considered a sin in the eyes of the Master, Lord and God of all creation.  But no doubt, to most any run-of-the-mill active Mormons who know me, if he or she were to see me drinking a cup of tea they would brand me as a sinner and conclude that this is one of the reasons why I left the church.  What a bizarre, narrow minded way to think.  And what’s even more bizarre is that no doubt I used to think along these lines as well!

    Principally, my wife and I left the church because it was so inadequate to enrich us spiritually in a meaningful, Christian way, and afforded us with no opportunities to enrich others in any meaningful, Christian way.  In fact, the LDS church became more of a source of inner turmoil rather than inner, Christ imbuing peace.  There are other reasons as well and I’m sure Prof Peterson remembers the old black and white TV day’s program that started out with the introduction, “There are eight million stories in the Naked City; this is one of them.”  To be sure, there may not be ‘millions’ of reasons why people leave the LDS church, but each has his or her story and most certainly they aren’t all about being offended or wanting to live a sinful lifestyle.

    *****

    A little girl on the street corner cries out, “Mormon kittens for sale!”
    The next day the same girl is crying out, “Former Mormon kittens for sale!”
    A gentlemen stops to enquire, “But just yesterday you said these were Mormon kittens.”
    “Yes sir, they were,” replied the little girl, “but today they have their eyes open!”

    Needless to say, the kittens didn’t become sinners.

  95. Verminpants
    August 25, 2011 at 6:42 am

    I wonder if DP would consider an interview with John Larsen.

  96. Mr Miller
    August 25, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    Ok, I feel like I should contribute here too, though there are already so many comments. For me, the process can be summed up like this……
    I had a difficult time on my mission, trying to overcome myself. This encompassed overzealousness, fanaticism, extreme shame for small things, among other problems which I had. The church tried to tell me all this crazy stuff on how to be successful, which didn’t add up to me but I took it and ran, because I DID want to be successful. They also told me to ONLY read correlated material, which was MADDENING. It truly felt like I was trying to stuff my brain into a very small box. After about eighteen months, the house of cards came down. All of the frustration and lack of sense of reality came together to form a perfect storm. That’s about the time that I received Rough Stone Rolling in the mail from my mom. I read it and felt truly perplexed by Joseph’s practice of polyandry. All of the issues that I had with the church were truly on a personal basis, however. I didn’t really discuss my problems and no one else really wanted to most of the time. I thought I was the only one, but I had serious problems with just about the entire plan of salvation, because it seemed so heartless and found myself walking down the streets, looking up in the sky, and cursing God on multiple occasions. Well, when I had pretty much given up faith, that’s when things started to get better for me. I just said to myself, “To hell with this all,” because I wasn’t happy. At that point, I was only living for myself and trying to find happiness. I determined to define God based on my own conscience, because my conscience CONSISTENTLY told me that polygamy and polyandry were nonsensical and I also felt that many other aspects of the church were simply unsettling or absurd at best. (I could say much more, but won’t). Well, when I got home, I had a very small resurgence of faith, but I quickly lost it after seeing what the church does to people – the amount of brainwashing, the control, the everything that it does to people. I then read even more about church history, lost my testimony and subsequently can now say that I did, in part, leave because of history, but also I left in part because of the negative experiences I had. One caused the other. I never would have read history without all the experiences that I had, but I don’t think very many people can know the ins and outs of the church and stay fully faithful. It’s like, something’s fishy here, I’m going to find out what it is……Oh, that makes sense now. 
    At some point, I don’t really care why people leave though. I just want them to. I don’t care if they sin their way out or if they read their way out or if they use any other combination of the two or other factors. I want to live around authentic people again. I want my family to treat me better. I want to have left not leaving my mother feeling like she can’t ever be with me in the afterlife. And when she says this, all I can do is shake my head. She’s sweet, but has long bought into the “blind faith is a virtue” nonsense peddled by the church and even told me that I am having my problems because of sin. I hate the church for what it does to people.  
    On a last note, I would say that the divide that you feel, Dan, on not learning of people’s experiences better is the giant taboo that exists in Salt Lake which prevents it. It’s like, I live on Earth, you live on Kolob, and we’ll never see eye to eye, so I’m not going to try. So-called apostates are very commonly vague and pretty tolerant towards believing Mormons because they know this and they also want to be cordial. I promise if everyone just started speaking their minds, you would see a whole different picture, but our culture doesn’t tolerate that kind of honesty and I’m sure you know that. It does upset me though, I don’t like being nice to Mormons very often, because they are pretty naive and crazy, some of them, but I do because their faith is important to them which makes that important to me. The biggest problem is being nice to my parents. I have heard them say so much crap, I want to just scream, but I’m by far too passive in regards to them, by not wanting to hurt their feelings. If you were to go around telling people you are an apostate, you would see a very different picture of reality. The difference in reality can also be summed up very nicely by following politics. It’s just a very different set of realities. The far right has vastly different concepts of the world than the left and it shows.
    I did appreciate your podcasts though. I almost found myself wanting to believe again, but you brought back to memory the parts of my personality that I do not wish to revisit, the parts that come about as a result of actually believing in Mormonism. But I do think that you’re a great person. Thank you so much. 

    • jg
      August 25, 2011 at 2:24 pm

      Well said.  I especially agree with: “One caused the other. I never would have read history without all the
      experiences that I had, but I don’t think very many people can know the
      ins and outs of the church and stay fully faithful. It’s like,
      something’s fishy here, I’m going to find out what it is……Oh, that
      makes sense now. ”

      I think I agree with everything except for the sentiment that you want them to leave the church.  Perhaps I’m just not there yet–though I don’t dismiss that is very reasonable for you and others to feel that way.

      I say leave them be in the garden of eden (aka stage 3).  Eventually, in this life or the next, they will eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. 

  97. JT
    August 25, 2011 at 10:16 pm

    The red herring about people leaving Mormonism because they prefer sleeping, beer drinking, or not reading got me to thinking about morality.

    It seems to me that Mormonism, like other theisms, relies on a brilliant cultural innovation. This is turning belief in propositional supernatural claims into moral imperatives.  In other words, they put belief on the same level as fairness and benevolence.

    Actually, they do more than this.  They bind the two together to make people think that they cannot be fair and benevolent without these beliefs, or vise-versa, which is worse.  Boy of boy, what mischief this conflation has wrought!

    But even this is not the full story.  Humans are innately attuned to this innovation.  This belief-based morality rests on on the innate human moral instinct to form hierarchal groups in which high status leaders (including their supernatural extrapolations) enjoy uncritical obedience as the default mode in the rank-and-file.  This is part of the group-selection theory of human (primate) evolution.  

    This is terribly oversimplified. But it does suggest we step back and face our violent past and plan our futures with a more enlightened understanding of ourselves.  As kokoaben put it, we don’t need a “geometric abrahamic cosmology to keep [our] faith.”  

    I would suggest if we really want a global community of people that can live peaceably, productively, and sustainably we should nourish a faith in evidence-based reason.  And you don’t need gods to find a desire for this.  It’s a completely natural one.

  98. Hairypatches
    August 27, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    Thanks John for bringing some balance to MormonStories.  I really appreciated this pod-cast.  I hope that in the future for every church negative pod-cast we bring on someone who is a believing member to try and balance out the arguments whenever you can.

    • Anonymous
      August 27, 2011 at 7:36 pm

      Hairypatches,

      The problem isn’t a lack of desire for balance. The problem is the difficulty in finding TBMs that are willing to face tough questions.

      Kudos to DanP for coming on, for sure. If you know of others (smart, interesting believers who are willing to take tough questions), please let me know about them.

      So glad you enjoyed.

      John

      • Carl C
        August 28, 2011 at 6:01 am

        *slowly raises hand*

        • Anonymous
          August 28, 2011 at 1:39 pm

          Seriously? If so, Carl….send me an outline of what topics you want to cover.

          Very cool.

          • Observer
            September 8, 2011 at 1:38 am

            Carl,

            Have you completed your credentials yet?  (I haven’t stayed up to date, sorry).  Perhaps you would like to be interviewed about “The LDS Argument Against Homosexual Marriage: Not A House of Cards, But Not Built on A Rock Either”?

  99. Guest
    August 27, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    I just finished this podcast. I found Dan Peterson to be much more likeable than my preconceived notions allowed me to believe going in. In fact, really, honest-to-goodness likeable. And I didn’t even really detect the arrogance, but maybe only because he won me over (in the same way I now really enjoy the arrogance of a Christopher Hitchens, but only *after* he had won me over.) To be clear, he didn’t win me over (or win me back) to Mormonism, but to a better understanding of where he’s coming from. Myself, I just haven’t been able to make Mormonism work for me, the water became too muddy for me to want to drink, to the point where now I find that agnostic-atheist is the best description of my worldview… but I must not be a very good atheist, because people like Peterson will occasionally cause me to doubt the non-existence of God. 😉

    I don’t think I could ever believe like Peterson, but I admired his honesty, and his willingness to do the podcast… and especially the last 10 minutes, where I thought he did seem rather compassionate in his view that people who honestly seek the truth, those who “fail to perceive that Joseph was telling the truth” (I assume he also includes former Mormons in that category? I don’t know…), “they’ll be just fine…” I don’t get that kind of compassion from the vast majority of my TBM friends and family. So thanks to Dan Wotherspoon for “taking him down that road”, and for conducting an excellent interview over-all.

  100. Just another number
    August 28, 2011 at 3:11 am

    I’m torn about even taking the time to post this.  I’m a MS contributor and an avid fan, but this podcast was infuriating.   I knew apologetic goop would be coming out of Daniel Peterson’s mouth, what I didn’t count on was Dan Wutherspoon eating it all up.  Dan W, you need some help with your interviewing style, plain and simple.  This was not an interview.  Even if you agree with the guest you should push a little.  You gave him a free pass and barely even glossed over some of the issues that you wanted to hit.  You let the apologist do what apologists do best, evade, smokescreen, filibuster, refer to some obscure book that has something in it without saying, false analogy, etc.  I’m not saying you have to bust his balls or be a jerk, but this was just a waste to listen to.  I give the host a 1/10 for this interview.  Sorry to be so harsh Dan but it is hard to listen when you let the guest run around in circles for 10 minutes and not answer your poorly formed question.  Also, comparing your style in this compared to the episodes with Randy and Tyson are night and day.  Those were higher quality, partly because you could actually ask a few tough questions while still letting the guest speak.  You had the guts to cut them off and re-direct. Not so with this one.

    Now to Daniel Peterson – so much I could say.   Daniel, the MAD board was one of the first places I turned after having my world rocked a few years ago, and you personally were a huge part of me losing my belief completely.  Let me explain, before learning any of the tough issues,  I was a fully active member and simply trying to learn more about JS and church history, with the express purpose of being a better teacher.  I’d read a few church history books and was thus probably better educated on church history than 90% of most active members.  When I discovered polyandry and the BoA controversies, I immediately sought out a safe forum to explain things to me, and landed at MAD.  The arguments presented, including your own, and I have read a great deal of your ‘scholarship’ on subjects like the BoA, are so absurd they turned me off faster than anything else possibly could have.  If learning about JS having sex with other mens’ wives cracked my testimony, it was the MAD board, FARMS, FAIR, and frankly, you personally Daniel Peterson who smashed it into a thousand small pieces.  I do not doubt that you are sincere.  But somewhere, perhaps consciously or unconsciously you seek to intentionally keep people from the obvious truth.  You are long winded and evade questions.  You reference projects or books that are either not published yet or are so obscure or your reference to them is so vague as to destroy any meaning to your answer.  I’ve seen these tactics so many times on MADB.  It is the apologist playbook and I don’t know how to better tell you, but it DOES NOT WORK.  I have mission companions, friends, neighbors, etc who have disaffected and have told me the same thing.  I hope you keep up your work because I genuinely believe you are leading more people out of the church than you are keeping in.  

    I could make many specific comments on infuriating things you said, but I will limit myself to one.  You insinuated over and over that it is the member’s fault for not knowing the history and the tough issues.  That is so unChristlike I hardly believe you can say it with a straight face.  You mentioned how the church has discussed some of these things in books sold at deseret book and still you are shocked people don’t know about it.  First of all, you are well-traveled but obviously have not realized there are not deseret book stores in every country or even every state.  Many members never have the money or opportunity to buy church history books.  The church has intentionally kept this information from being published in its printed material.  You admitted you are one of the people responsible for this!  When I asked my bishop about polyandry he replied that my sources were incorrect and that JS never married other mens’ wives.  My parents said the same thing.  These are life-long, dyed in the wool hardcore mormons Daniel.  They work in the temple and serve in significant capacities.  They are constantly bombarded by the church with asinine lessons and BS stories in the church news.  If the church wanted to come clean on any of this stuff or make sure members know about it they could do so in about a week.  The church is what keeps members from the truth, plain and simple.

    • Ubik1967
      August 28, 2011 at 3:51 pm

      What the tbm hears: bla bla bla … Stuff that makes me uncomfortable … Bla bla bla

      What the tbm thinks: Poor man is trapped in sin. Probably cheating on his wife because she cheated of him first.

      Great post – I agree about Dan. He so loves to roll around in the fantasy play. He could have drilled down to one hard fact – just once – at any point. Dan is an amazing intellectual flirt – he teases and teases but never actually touches.

      • Tyson
        August 29, 2011 at 6:30 pm

        Disquaboom – FTW

    • jg
      August 28, 2011 at 4:42 pm

      Other than your harsh review of Dan W, I agree and I’m glad you took the time to post.

    • Porter Rockwell
      August 29, 2011 at 8:18 pm

      I agree with what you say. I was also thinking to myself a couple of times that Dan Wotherspoon let DP away far too easy on many questions, and that JD probably would have done a better job. Dehlin is just a master at asking all the right questions… :). I generally like Wotherspoon’s interviews and panel discussions alot, and even if he missed the mark a bit on this one, it was still a great podcast.

      You could tell DW and DP where friends, so DW probably didn’t want to press him too hard, and I’m thinking DP probably wouldn’t have agreed to come on with JD (just speculating here…). Even so I enjoyed this very much, and think it gives a good image of the mindset of DP and the way he handles things. There wouldn’t be any ‘new’ information with deeper questioning, all the answers apologetics are able to give is readily available on FAIR boards and the like, so I’m not too annoyed that the interview didn’t dig deeper.

      At least we got a good taste of DP’s personality, and way of reasoning, in a way that is not possible in just written form. I’m more sympathetic towards DP now, even though I don’t agree on most of his opinions and reasoning.

  101. Person
    August 28, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    I don’t understand why the brethren are always blamed so much.  If I had decided to leave the church and was angry at some things, I would blame the scriptures.  I have had personal experiences with higher church authorities and the words from the scriptures seem to be the main motivation for what is done.  

    Alma, Nephi, Moses, Luke and John are never mentioned on this website as a source of blame.  If polygamy is a problem, why isn’t Abraham thought of first.  

    If the law of chastity is too strict, then why not think of Christ?  He held the highest standard by condemning lust.  Lust is the first thought, the first speck of unlawful sexuality.  He loved everyone, but he told the people to sin no more.

    If the church contains organization or correlation, then look to the book of Acts, where the church started making an organization and the saints burned books about “strange arts.”

    If someone has a problem with certain races not having the same privileges, then the old and new testament contain accounts of that.  

    The brethren don’t overlap the scriptures much.  And if the brethren had the choice, they would like the members to be reading the scriptures.

    What is the view on this?  Is this group throwing out the scriptures and the brethren.  Or, just the brethren.  I’m trying to understand this group. 

    • Anonymous
      August 28, 2011 at 8:39 pm

      Person,

      I think we’re just trying to make sense of it all. Personally, I’ll accept truth wherever it comes (in or out of the church)…but I’m also not scared to reject things (even from prophets or scripture) if those things violate my sense of right/wrong.

      John

    • August 28, 2011 at 9:48 pm

      Personally, I reject all authority whose only mandate is, “God said so.”  Scripture contains some really bad pictures of God.  (Read the Old Testament: Abraham is a problem, and he is by no means the only one; those ancient Israelites were often pretty insane.  Would you kill a whole tribe of people–men, women, and children–merely because God, in the form of an angry prophet, said so?)  Modern prophets also have drawn some bad pictures of God.  (Polygamy as practiced by our Mormon forefathers was pretty much a moral and social disaster, and it continues to be such among many of the Mormons who still practice it today.)

      When someone tells you to do something merely because “God said so,” they are tacitly admitting that they have no compelling reason to advocate for the behavior they want to encourage.  I don’t do things for which I can find no compelling reason.  I don’t kill, or have sex, or give away money, time, or resources on a whim (because someone says, “Do this!” and then invokes God).  If I am not personally, rationally convinced that an action is morally correct, I will never do it.  Never.  God himself cannot get me to do things for no good reason.

  102. Daniel Peterson
    August 29, 2011 at 12:33 am

    I’ve been away for several days, and haven’t been keeping up here.  I still haven’t read most of the new posts.

    I’m really baffled, though, by the way some here are reacting to my claim that most people are inactive in the Church because of non-intellectual issues.

    This seems utterly obvious and commonsensical to me.  Most people — Mormon and non-Mormon alike — are relatively UNINTERESTED in intellectual issues.  They don’t spend much time, if any, on reading about history or on seriously pondering theology and philosophy.

    I don’t deny for a minute, and have never denied, that there are people who do indeed withdraw from activity in the Church because of what they see as historical/theological or other (for lack of a better word) intellectual problems.  I know a number of such people.

    But I think such people are in a distinct minority among all those who are inactive in the Church — both because of my sense of people generally and because of my specific experience (as ordinary member, home teacher, bishop, etc., as an “apologist,” and as part of an extended Mormon family with lots of inactives in it) with people who have withdrawn from participation in Mormonism.

    There are a host of factors potentially contributing to a decision to distance oneself from Mormonism.  These include such things as violation of commandments, desire to live a different way of life, sheer lack of interest in religious issues, taking offense, dissatisfaction with meetings, peer pressure, desire to show independence from parents and family, desire to spend time differently and focus on different things, inadequate social fit, and etc.  Historical, theological, and other “intellectual” issues are certainly among those potential factors.  I do not, and have not, denied that. 

    • Anonymous
      August 29, 2011 at 12:54 am

      Dan – I think that you might solve a lot of problems simply by being a bit more careful/nuanced in your argument that many Mormons are uninformed of factual/accurate LDS history due to some fault of their own.

      I think that if you can get to an objective and empathetic place, you’ll concede that there are SIGNIFICANT institutional and cultural barriers that keep many people from learning factual church history….including the church’s own lack of consistent candor (especially CES and in the manuals). You touched on this in your interview (to your credit), but I think that you could be a bit more effective in showing empathy in this regard…to little negative personal or institutional cost.

      If you could find a way to do this, I think you’d produce a lot more light than heat in these conversations.

      • Ray Agostini
        August 29, 2011 at 3:17 am

        John, how would
        suggest that Dan be “more careful/nuanced”? He’s honestly
        calling it as he sees it. DCP wrote: “Historical, theological, and other ‘intellectual’
        issues are certainly among those potential factors.  I do not, and have
        not, denied that…I don’t deny for a minute, and have never denied, that there
        are people who do indeed withdraw from activity in the Church because of what
        they see as historical/theological or other (for lack of a better word)
        intellectual problems.  I know a number of such people.” I don’t see how
        he can be any clearer, or “nuanced”, unless he changes his position and says, “yeah,
        okay, most leave because of ‘intellectual’ issues”, which he clearly doesn’t
        believe.  I stated earlier that my
        position is something like 50-50, that I frankly didn’t like the “Church
        lifestyle” (meaning all the Church “demands” and requirements, many of which I
        found “Pharisaic” [i.e., not like Christ], and stated that in my name-removal
        request 24 years ago).  There are people
        who know all of the troubling issues, yet remain stalwarts in Mormonism. Maybe
        this goes back to “spiritual experiences” that keep them active, and over-ride
        the problems? It’s not a simple and straightforward issue, when you look at it
        from both sides.  

    • JT
      August 29, 2011 at 8:33 pm

      Dr. Peterson,

       

      For what it is worth, I agree that relatively few leave the church for “intellectual” reasons.

      But this “slacker apostate”statistic (for lack of a better shorthand term) is beside the point, especially in light of the utility that some members get out of it.  

      By this I mean
      the tendency to take these common motivations as evidence for the Church being
      true, or as a distraction from a lack of substance in their own faith, or as a distraction from the possibility that there may be valid (even moral) reasons
      for apostasy, etc.

      Maybe I’m reading too much into some conversations I’ve heard (and participated in), but I know it can be personally (not to mention institutionally) convenient to ascribe every loss of faith to a moral failing associated with worldly desires.  And if this were not enough, such simplistic explanations are central to LDS doctrine as delivered by its scripture,

      Which makes this statistic a red herring.  What
      matters more is whether a person can, in principle, leave the LDS Church based
      on an honest, reasonable, and circumspect assessment of its foundational claims, doctrine, and associated moral issues.

      I think there is ample evidence to conclude that a person can -and this constitutes the exception that disproves the facile
      rule.  I’d be interested in whether you agree or would add any qualifications.

      Perhaps the “push back” from these “exceptional” apostates (or their advocates) is a response to their experience of unfair prejudice stemming from this facile rule. Perhaps they feel demeaned by a dominant
      culture that would take them them as spiritual terrorists if they openly expressed their hard-won honest convictions.   Or perhaps they are simply frustrated by their own commitment to keeping their mouths shut out of concern for upsetting loved ones – while the same consideration is not extended to them.

    • September 2, 2011 at 9:23 am

      Dan,
      Don’t you think that many people stay in the church for the same reason?  Because they are UNINTERESTED in intellectual issues.

      Regarding the difficult challenges to our religion, one extremely bright friend admitted that he would simply “become an ostrich” and bury his head in the sand.  For a Mormon, the end game may not be certainty, but certainty is definitely the path; it is the way of life.  The Mormon Church has rebranded certainty, has named it “a testimony,” and has made it not only a virtue, but also a measurement of one’s spirituality and a badge of devotion.  In sermons and lessons, you will hear the rhetorical question, “How strong is your testimony?” or the assertion, “Your testimony in the gospel of Jesus Christ is your most sacred possession.”  It’s a measurement of a Mormon’s absolute certainty and personal commitment to the Gospel.  Most Mormons believe that profound doubt is evidence of a lost testimony which to them is really a loss of “light and truth” (e.g., D&C 93: “That wicked one cometh to take away light and truth, through disobedience.”).  In Mormonism, if a member of the church falls into sin and self-destruction and falls away from the church, it is said of him, “he has lost his testimony.”  There is a real fear of expressing doubt or pursuing studies of “anti-Mormon” literature that could possibly lead to doubt.  To the community and family and friends, doubt equals a lost testimony which is evidence of sin and disobedience and being deceived by Satan.  Consequently, Mormons cling to their certainty, their testimony, over just about anything—including the truth.

      In the Introduction to Pascal’s Penseés, T.S. Eliot noted:

      “The majority of mankind is lazy-minded, incurious, absorbed in vanities, and tepid in emotion, and is therefore incapable of either much doubt or much faith; and when the ordinary man calls himself a skeptic or an unbeliever, that is ordinarily a simple pose, cloaking a disinclination to think anything out to a conclusion.”

      A large portion of the world is hopelessly interred in the web of their lives, living honest, productive, but intellectually incurious and unquestioning lives. Intellectually asthmatic, they lack the endurance to defend their faith rigorously against criticism, or alternatively, to thoroughly deconstruct the illusions upon which their faith is built. As Eliot noted, this tepid existence neither doubts nor believes much.  Could it be that a Mormon’s rejection of doubt and skepticism is similar to the skeptic’s casual indifference toward faith? Could it be that a Mormon’s close-minded belief evidences an indolent disinclination to believe strongly enough to carefully consider legitimate challenges one’s belief?

    • Anonymous
      September 5, 2011 at 9:54 pm

      When I tried giving the church one last chance, after years of inactivity, I had an interview with the bishop. I stated my reasons for leaving specifically due to the loss of my belief and explicitly mentioned “anti-Mormon literature” (although most of it was really from church sources, but I was mostly trying to relate the concept to him) as the main reasons. His response to this was, “they make that stuff up because they want to sleep with other women.”

      I was shocked. It’s like this guy was living in another century.

      It was at that point that I knew trying to talk to this bishop about the myriad of issues that remained obstacles to my belief was pointless and would be a waste of time. I then appealed to different arguments that he *would* understand, the main one being “offended.” I shouldn’t have done that, unfortunately, because he eventually got the wrong idea about why I left. And I am 100% positive he relayed this “offended” bit to everybody else in various meetings. It makes me wonder how many other church members list being “offended” as their reason for leaving as well simply because the person they are talking with would not be able to understand anything else. I would bet there are many.

    • Observer
      September 8, 2011 at 1:44 am

      That you take it so for granted is the first sign it is a “hidden bias” in perception on your part. See my comments above for explication. Taken in the context of the ideas I presented, your position is simply a form of demonizing and dismissing MOST who are disaffected with the Church as “sinners”.  It is truly surprising to find you unable to wrap your highly educated mind around this problem.

    • Jeff
      September 11, 2011 at 6:18 am

      Dan- I think in addition to the distinction John Dehlin asks for in response to your surprise at the amount of reaction to your assertion that most are inactive because of sin, I believe one other distinction gets to the heart of the disconnect.  I think when you are asserting people go “inactive”, most of us are hearing “most people leave the church”.  These are not the same thing.  If we are going to talk about 18 to 24 year olds in your student wards, I’m sure your experience regarding why they went “inactive” was indicative of that demographic(18 to 24 year old singles after all, can’t easily fight raging hormones).  

      However, if we are talking about “leaving the church”, that is a different demographic.  People that have made the decision to so something as big as either officially or unofficially leave the church never to return, do so with conviction.  This conviction only comes through a powerful epiphany that the church is not what it claims to be.  In my own family, four of the five of my siblings and I have left the church in the last three years.  Each one of us arrived at the same conclusion that the church is not true without speaking to one another about these issues until after a year or so of church history study and personal turmoil.  My experience with others I have talked to that have left is similar.  My siblings and I are in our late 30s and 40s.  We have families and therefore stand much more to lose than gain as a result of leaving the church.  In addition we were all worthy temple recommend holders when we left and didn’t rush out to “sin” at the first chance we had.  My experience is that most people leave the church with this kind of conviction, only when evidence is sufficient to support such conviction.  

      If you want to say that many of the 18 to 30 year old singles even, go “inactive” because of lifestyle issues, I think I can live with that.  However, when most of the people I know share their pain and loss at losing what was such a valued part of their life, I think we have to acknowledge that.  Especially when the only reason these people that truly love the church would leave is because the church(and its apologists) couldn’t answer their questions.  Dan, do you know what the church does when you send in a letter with concerns over historical issues that are so consequential as to threaten a resignation of membership?  They send you a pamphlet inviting you to return.  In other words the church’s response was we will not/cannot answer your questions, so please “turn it off” and come back and the whole thing will be forgotten.  I would expect more from “the one and only true church”. 

  103. Daniel Peterson
    August 29, 2011 at 3:21 am

    I don’t do empathy, apparently.

    The fact is that most members don’t know much about their history. 

    Books on Mormon history sell a few hundred copies.  A few thousand if they’re really successful.  Journals devoted wholly or in part to Mormon history have subscriber lists in the same numerical range.  This in a Church with millions of members.

    Thus, it’s very easy for members to be blindsided by things that they could have known.

    A case in point:  I spent an hour or so on the phone with a very angry and profoundly disaffected member several years ago, who had just learned that there are multiple accounts of the First Vision.  The Church, he said, had kept this fact from him.  I pointed out that BYU Studies and Dialogue and the Journal of Mormon History and even the Ensign and other journals had published these accounts and had published discussions of them, and that at least two or three books from Deseret Book and Bookcraft had treated the subject and published the texts.  He continued, nonetheless, to insist that the Church had kept him in the dark.

    This strikes me as quite unjust.

    Could the Church do a better job of teaching its history?  Yes.  Could the general membership be more curious about the history of the Church?  Absolutely yes.  There are excellent resources that are very easily accessible.

    And, for the record, I should not close without saying that, in my judgment, a deep and detailed knowledge of Mormon history is not at all antithetical to a firm conviction of the truth of Mormon claims.

    • Anonymous
      August 29, 2011 at 4:35 am

      Dan – I agree that both the church and the members could do better.

      But I think you and I both know that the church could fix this problem in less than a year if it wanted to. It could simply craft curriculum that told a more accurate, complete historical story, and then ask its CES instructors, BYU religion faculty, sunday school teachers, etc. to “stick with the manuals” — and then dedicate a general conference or two to setting the historical record straight. Easy peasy.

      But the church doesn’t do this. And I believe that it doesn’t do this because (on average) “a deep and detailed knowledge of Mormon history…” IS QUITE OFTEN (for many, many people) “antithetical to a firm conviction of the truth of Mormon claims.” Thousands and thousands of people are losing their faith in the church each year over this stuff, and the numbers are only growing by my estimation.

      If the history didn’t diminish faith (on average), then I firmly believe that the church would teach it with vigor (what would it have to lose?). For example, when the church thought that Meso-American archeology supported the Book of Mormon, they proclaimed it from the proverbial rooftops (until credible archeologists spoiled the party).

      I believe that you and I both know that for the average member….learning about peep stones, polyandry, Mountain Meadows, Elijah Abel, the Masonic
      Stuff, Book of Abraham stuff, post-manifesto polygamy, Kinderhook plates,
      multiple first vision stories, Danites, ERA amendment backstory, Nauvoo
      Expositor, electro-shock therapy for gays at BYU, etc. (in aggregate) is
      quite often fatal to traditional LDS testimonies (more often than not). And
      that’s (in my view) why the brethren don’t encourage the teaching of the
      factual history. And I believe it’s why FAIR/FARMS folks and General
      Authorities tend to only speak publicly in places where they can control the
      conversation (as much as is humanly possible, anyway).

      Members could do more, yes. But I believe that the brethren could largely
      fix this problem in about 1 year…but they choose not to do so….for
      pretty clear reasons, I believe.

      Though I will grant you that there are exceptions to this rule…and I see
      you (sincerely) as a glorious exception…and I’m glad you are around. I,
      for one, want the church to succeed and thrive (though in a way that does
      less damage to people on the margins)…and candor like the type you are
      trying to display in this podcast is likely the church’s only long-term hope
      for this problem. So again…major kudos to you for coming on the podcast.

      • Kay
        August 29, 2011 at 5:11 pm

        Boyd K Packer in April 2011 GC said:
        “Around
        us we see members of the Church who have become offended. Some take
        offense at incidents in the history of the Church or its leaders and
        suffer their whole lives, unable to get past the mistakes of others.
        They do not leave it alone. They fall into inactivity.

        That
        attitude is somewhat like a man being hit by a club. Offended, he takes
        up a club and beats himself over the head with it all the days of his
        life. How foolish! How sad! That kind of revenge is self-inflicting. If
        you have been offended, forgive, forget it, and leave it alone.”

        Leave it alone. That is the message the church leadership sends. And why are we counseled to “leave it alone”? I think you nailed it above when you said: “And I believe that it doesn’t do this because (on average) “a deep and
        detailed knowledge of Mormon history…” IS QUITE OFTEN (for many, many
        people) “antithetical to a firm conviction of the truth of Mormon
        claims.” Thousands and thousands of people are losing their faith in
        the church each year over this stuff, and the numbers are only growing
        by my estimation.”

        Furthermore, it might be safe to say that many people would not be “offended” by the true historical narrative if it was presented in a way that is truthful and accurate. I think for many people, the trouble comes and people are “offended” when they come across this true narrative after being taught a whitewashed one for years.  

        • Kay
          August 29, 2011 at 5:19 pm

          I should also add: I believe we are told to leave it alone more for the benefit of the LDS church than for our own.

        • Tyson
          August 30, 2011 at 1:09 am

          Kay, when you’re feeling certain feelings that just don’t seem right, treat those pesky feelings like a reading light and turn it off!

          • Kay
            August 30, 2011 at 12:25 pm

            …and leave it alone…

    • Tyson
      August 30, 2011 at 1:03 am

      Now now Dan, in your interview you shared an experience about a gentleman who had a list of concerns that you felt were meager in comparison to the problems you knew of…and remember, this is for posterity, so be honest….Did you volunteer that more challenging information in light of being open and fair, especially in light of the counsel in our gospel principles manuals of, “We can also intentionally deceive others by a gesture or a look, by silence, or by telling only part of the truth.”?

  104. Daniel Peterson
    August 29, 2011 at 5:36 am

    I don’t believe that we agree.

    • Anonymous
      August 29, 2011 at 5:41 am

      Dan,

      I don’t expect you to ever admit publicly that you agree with me on anything. No worries.

      John

    • Anonymous
      August 29, 2011 at 7:00 pm

      Dan,

      Given your claim that “A deep and detailed knowledge of Mormon history is not at all antithetical to a firm conviction of the truth of Mormon claims.”….I have a question for you.

      Has FARMS/FAIR (or have you) ever considered providing a comprehensive, factual, yet faith-inspiring curriculum or treatment of LDS church history/doctrine — to help build awareness of accurate historical information (in a faithful way) amongst the general membership?

      It seems like that would be infinitely more valuable to the general membership than is the realm where you are currently dwelling (e.g. arguing about your own personality traits, focusing on the plausible deniability of somewhat esoteric minutia, etc).

      Just a thought. With deep respect.

      John

      • Verminpants
        August 29, 2011 at 8:03 pm

        Thankyou for this question John.

      • September 2, 2011 at 10:18 am

        As a red-pill Mormon who still attends, I would love to see a legitimate history like this, but this could not be faith promoting unless it were dishonestly incomplete as it remains today.  How would this endeavor be possible?  I just don’t get how a fully aware Mormon continues to believe in the context of the full truth. 

        I understand how it works for guys like Dan.  He’s fully baked.  Too old.  You can’t change the ingredients after the cake is in the oven; you can only change the ingredients while it’s still in the mixing bowl. 

        I’m listening to Dan discuss how he’s trying to reconcile the Adam God theory privately in his own mind and I just have to laugh.  He’s so baked.  If he’s trying to reconcile that, maybe he’s also trying to substantiate quakers on the moon, blood atonement, etc.  This helps me understand how he still believes in the BoM’s historical authenticity and still argues for it. Trying Trying Trying…

  105. DrPepper
    August 29, 2011 at 7:18 am

    Dan P wrote:  “Most people — Mormon and non-Mormon alike — are relatively UNINTERESTED in intellectual issues.  They don’t spend much time, if any, on reading about history or on seriously pondering theology and philosophy.”
    Wait — is this really accurate?  By the age of 21, a typical returned missionary who was active in church growing up, had some family home evening, graduated from seminary, and spent the required amount of time studying/teaching  during the mission will have spent somewhere along the lines of 5,000-10,000 hours engaged in the historical, theological, spiritual, scriptural, and philosophical underpinnings of the Church.  Contrary to what you’ve stated, this person is VERY INTERESTED in all of these things but wholly subscribes to the Church’s correlated approach to learning these things, i.e — follow the lessons, manuals, study guides, and conference talks and you’ve got everything you need.   I doubt the Church would say that this approach is somehow unintellectual or unserious —- to the contrary, the Church makes all of this really serious business, with constant reminders to focus on the most important things and not delve into “speculation”.  This person and his cohorts get up every Fast Sunday and testify about how grateful they are for their KNOWLEDGE and then proceed to list the things they KNOW.  They talk about how they wish the rest of the world could learn all of this TRUTH as well and how they have no idea where they’d be in life without this KNOWLEDGE.  If we believe what members say, their interest in this stuff is huge, but they stay within proscribed confines delineated by the Church.  If the Church suddenly switched gears and stopped deifying correlated materials and demonizing uncorrelated ones, you might see more exploration from the members (the kind of exploration you deem as INTERESTED).  But until such a switch by the Church, I believe it’s totally inaccurate to measure members’ INTEREST in these things by their extra-correlative activities.

    Maybe you are right, though, and I’m giving this hypothetical 21-year old and his friends too much credit  They’re probably just still in Church because of their desire to live a different way of life, sheer lack of interest in religious issues, peer pressure, desire to show allegiance to parents and family, desire to spend time differently and focus on different things, inadequate social fit, and etc. 

  106. JT
    August 29, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    B.H. Roberts had this 1922 comment to contribute to this discussion.    

    This passage is found in his “Book of Mormon Difficulties: A Study.”It comes at the end of his discussion of the problem Native American languages deriving from Hebrew (which includes a negative assessment of the limited geography solution based of textual evidence). Here Roberts is outlining possible responses for the Church in the face of this unresolved problem.
    “And further we say … we place our revealed truths in the Book of Mormon against the alleged facts resulting from the … the deductions of their science, and calmly await the vindication we feel sure that time will bring to the Book of Mormon.  Much could be said for the boldness and perhaps the honesty of such an answer, but is the reasonableness or wisdom of of such an answer equally apparent?  It certainly would have no effect upon the educated class throughout the world.  It would only excite ridicule and contempt in them…  What would be the effect of such an answer upon the minds of our youth?  Our youth, already so willing to follow in so many other branches of learning the deductions of the sciences in the high school and college coursesIs silence the answer? … Would not silence be looked upon as a confession of inability to make an effective answer?”B. H. Roberts wrote in a 1927 letter to the Apostle Richard R. Lyons

    “… I reminded you …that what I had presented did not constitute all of our B. of M. problems, that there were others.  You then asked, “Well, will these help solve our present problems or will it increase our problems.” At which you said (and I thought rather lightly) “Well, I don’t see why we should bother with them then.”

    Silence was the apparent official answer, whether in the form of not publishing Robert’s work, or taking “no official position,” or through “correlation.”

    And here we are a full decade into the 21st century.

    • JT
      August 29, 2011 at 3:35 pm

      I missed a piece of the portion of the B. H. Roberts to Richard R. Lyons letter.  The passage should read:

      “… I [Roberts] reminded you [Lyons] …that what I had presented did not constitute all of our B. of M. problems, that there were others.  You then asked, “Well, will these help solve our present problems or will it increase our difficulties?”  to which I [Roberts] replied, “It would very greatly increase our problems.”  At which you said (and I thought rather lightly) “Well, I don’t see why we should bother with them then.”

  107. Randy Snyder
    August 29, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    I do want to say to Dan, kudos for braving this forum.  Although I find some of your thoughts repulsive and/or ridiculous (I will only elaborate if Dan insists but I’m late to the message board), I appreciated the opportunity to finally hear a heavy weight LDS apologist give their take on the church and the world in the most candid forum I’ve ever seen an apologist brave.

    But I have to say one thing, if both the Dans on this podcast maintain credulity to the efficacy of “divining rods” I say with the utmost urgency that you both are absolutely blowing a golden opportunity to make one million dollars.  Do you not need the money?  I could certainly use it.  Go to James Randi’s website the jref (James Randi education foundation) and look up the million dollar challenge.  You both give lip service to science, but a simple, controlled SCIENTIFIC experiment would be set up by Randi to give you the opportunity to demonstrate how useful these magical divining rods just are.  Then we wouldn’t have to think how silly Joseph’s magical practices were.  I’m just saying…

    • Ray Agostini
      August 29, 2011 at 11:40 pm

      Randy Snyder: “But I have to say one thing, if both the Dans on this podcast maintain
      credulity to the efficacy of ‘divining rods’ I say with the utmost
      urgency that you both are absolutely blowing a golden opportunity to
      make one million dollars.”

      I’ve spend time on Randy’s forum, and I can tell you his money is safe. I think Victor Zammit’s is too: http://www.victorzammit.com/skeptics/challenge.html

      • Randy Snyder
        August 30, 2011 at 1:55 am

        Oh please Ray.  The claims of divining rods are absolutely falsifiable under controlled experimental conditions.  The body of anecdotal evidence for an afterlife means nothing scientifically and skeptics aren’t making any positive claims about any afterlife.  You seriously don’t have an understanding of where the burden of proof lies.   When someone makes a positive claim like divining rods find water and there is an afterlife, they need to bring forward more than stories and not say “neener neener neener, you can’t prove these amazing stories aren’t true”.  You could “prove” UFO’s with the exact same crap.  If these people had such compelling evidence of the afterlife, why isn’t it being published in peer reviewed journals.  What a pathetic and lame attempt to discredit James Randi who offers a simple challenge not some ridiculous nebulous challenge of “discrediting our secret bullshit that we won’t show publically.”  LMAO.

        • Ray Agostini
          August 30, 2011 at 2:29 am

          Randy Snyder: “If these people had such compelling evidence of the afterlife, why isn’t it being published in peer reviewed journals.”

          It is, and has been now for over 30 years. Have you read any of it? But more pertinent to the point of the commentary here on the DCP interview is the eagerness to dismiss out of hand anything one considers “impossible”. Maybe because it gets too close to the heart of Joseph Smith’s own claims? I don’t necessarily agree with all of the following review: http://www.2think.org/religionmagic.shtml but Thomas’ book “Religion and the Decline of Magic” (which I encountered in the ’80s) would, IMO, have to be a starter for anyone wanting to understand the phenomenon. Also D. Michael Quinn’s “Early Mormonism and the Magic Worldview”.  Quinn, the “hero” of many “ex-Mos”, would not dismiss this out of hand, but DCP is hauled over the coals simply because of who he is. I’ve noticed a lack of objectivity in many of the comments on this thread, and outright ignorance in some cases, of what the Church actually claims. And no, I’m not an “apologist”. 

          • Randy Snyder
            August 30, 2011 at 3:11 am

            I have looked into the “evidence” of an afterlife.  Do you think I don’t want there to be an afterlife???  You think I have some a priori desire to have my consciousness become extinct in no more than 50 years?  But there is nothing in the peer reviewed scientific journals that shows compelling evidence of it.  Please, give me links to studies and if you want, I’ll show you in detail why each one you send me is not evidence that is relevant or compelling.  

            I reject your straw man characterization of my position of rejecting claims out of hand simply because I have decided, without weighing evidence, that something is “impossible”.  Paint me as a rigid, dogmatic black and white thinker and then tear it down.  Classic.And I’m not sure if you are saying that you believe in divining rods too?  Am I correct there?  AND are you implying that if divining rods turned out to work, I would not like that because it would hit too close to the heart of Joseph’s claims?  Seriously?  So you think that if divining rods were real, then I’d have to reconsider my position that Joseph was a fraud?  How weak do you think the rational argument and evidence Joseph was a fraud is???  So if you are claiming divining rods are real, it couldn’t be more simple to set up a double blind experiment.  And no, I don’t accept DCP’s anecdote as real evidence.  If I have to explain why then you need to bone up on the scientific method.

            Are you Australian?  The most brilliant comedian in the world, Tim Minchin, hails from down under.  You should check him out.

          • Ray Agostini
            August 30, 2011 at 3:17 am

            Randy Snyder:  “Please, give me links to studies and if you want, I’ll show you in
            detail why each one you send me is not evidence that is relevant or
            compelling.”

            I don’t think this thread is the place to debate all this, and I’m sure John wouldn’t appreciate it either. Interesting, though, that you’re claiming that you can refute *every* study *before* you’ve read them. I rest my case.   

          • Randy Snyder
            August 30, 2011 at 3:35 am

            Come on.  Don’t back down now.  Just do this, give me your BEST study.  John won’t care.  Hell, I’ll give you my email address if you want.  I know I can display why you won’t be able to provide any study providing scientific evidence of an afterlife because nothing has ever been performed.  If it had, it would have been proclaimed from the rooftops.  And I have spent extensive time exploring this topic.  So please, don’t try to duck away with some lame quip.  

          • Ray Agostini
            August 30, 2011 at 3:59 am

            Randy Snyder: “Come on.  Don’t back down now.  Just do this, give me your BEST study.”

            I don’t consider any one study “the best”, but you’ll find hundreds of them here: http://iands.org/home.html

            It’s the same with the UFO phenomenon, dismissed out of hand by many who’ve *never* scrutinised it closely, nor with an open mind. That has been my experience on message boards, and I consider it a waste of time. If you consider that a “backdown”, then bear in mind that a “backdown” doesn’t disprove anything. I’m sure I can write your reply for you. I done this ad nauseam in the past, and the skeptics fail to be convinced, not because there’s no truth “out there”, but because they already have their minds made up. A very large number of NDE and UFO experts today began as total skeptics, including Raymond Moody (NDEs). Why some people become open to more objective investigation is not a phenomenon I completely understand – but I know that *many* do.  

          • Randy Snyder
            August 30, 2011 at 4:08 am

            I’ll check it out but for you, here’s an article assessing the progress (or actual lack of any progress) of the field of psi.  Breaks it down tremendously: http://www.imprint.co.uk/pdf/Alcock-editorial.pdf

            But if you believe in UFO’s (and I checked out further the original website you posted and there doesn’t seem to be anything that guy doesn’t believe in) then you have a level of credulity that isn’t healthy IMO.  Just don’t spend too much money on pseudoscience or alternative medicine and if you do contract some life threatening condition please, please put your life in the hands of evidence based medicine.

          • Ray Agostini
            August 30, 2011 at 4:15 am

            Randy Snyder: “But if you believe in UFO’s (and I checked out further the original
            website you posted and there doesn’t seem to be anything that guy
            doesn’t believe in) then you have a level of credulity that isn’t
            healthy IMO.”

            I don’t “believe” in UFOs. I’m 100% certain they are real. But feel free to add another You Tube clip if that makes you happy.

            I’m quite certain I’m wasting my time, once again (and I honestly don’t know why, but it won’t go on much longer), but here goes anyway: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7vyVe-6YdUk

          • Randy Snyder
            August 30, 2011 at 4:26 am

            100% certain UFO’s exist? I rest my case as well then. Good night.

          • Ray Agostini
            August 30, 2011 at 4:38 am

            Randy Snyder: “100% certain UFO’s exist? I rest my case as well then. Good night.”

            As they say, “seeing is believing”. And yes, it’s not “good night” for me, but it’s not long before I have to start work.

          • Tyson
            August 30, 2011 at 3:39 am

            Ray, I didn’t see if you’re a fan of the divining rod or not.  Can you clarify for me before I break mine out to see if it detects vapid evidence like what you have offered?  If you want to disprove Randy, give him some studies, I’d be interested if there are any.  I know there have been studies done on diving rods under controlled conditions, and they fared no better than chance.  Here’s just one article with some good references http://skepdic.com/dowsing.html as well as the best explanation for why it occurs, the Ideomotor effect, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ideomotor_effect  And here’s a fun video from Michael Shermer displaying the dangers of believing that divining rods actually work http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/michael_shermer_the_pattern_behind_self_deception.html.  Now you try…..

          • Ray Agostini
            August 30, 2011 at 4:02 am

            Tyson: “Ray, I didn’t see if you’re a fan of the divining rod or not.”

            I’m a fan of discovering the truth, wherever it may lie, and I keep an open mind on many things (maybe even most):

            http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,741023-1,00.html

          • Tyson
            August 30, 2011 at 4:18 am

            If you’re a fan of discovering truth, then your best tool is science.  An open mind means being open to all the evidence, especially the evidence that disproves your belief (, and when there is a preponderance of evidence (in dowsing, like all other ideomotor events) it has been tested again and again, but in an intellectually honest scenario, and always with the same result….negative.  Anecdotes (like the 1931 time article??) are the worst type of evidence (e.g. crop circles or floating lights over AZ a few years ago).   Since you’re fond of quotes, here’s one that starts out from a website where notable scientists discuss what they have changed their minds about….

            When thinking changes your mind, that’s philosophy.When God changes your mind, that’s faith.When facts change your mind, that’s science.

            Give it a whirl and ratio your beliefs to the strength of the evidence…..

            http://www.edge.org/q2008/q08_index.html

          • Tyson
            August 30, 2011 at 4:29 am

            Blast…My apologies.  I hate bad grammar, and the fact that that hating bad grammar is such a predictable precursor to my ideology.  http://blog.okcupid.com/index.php/the-best-questions-for-first-dates/

          • Ray Agostini
            August 30, 2011 at 4:32 am

            Tyson: “If you’re a fan of discovering truth, then your best tool is science.
             An open mind means being open to all the evidence, especially the
            evidence that disproves your belief…”

            On that we agree.

            Tyson: “floating lights over AZ a few years ago….”

            You’re talking about the “Arizona lights” which began in the late ’90s? You have a definitive explanation for that? Various explanations have been offered, including “flares”, “aircraft”, “illusion”, and the standard “weather balloon” explanation. Have you actually listened to eyewitness reports? Try this for a start: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mia70txRLXc&feature=share

             

          • Tyson
            August 30, 2011 at 6:59 am

            Ray, thanks for the link.  I watched your video with great pleasure.  Please feel free to reciprocate with another TED classic from Mr. Shermerhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8T_jwq9ph8k as well as consider the attached as a more probable explanation http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/08-05-21/#feature.  All the best to you in your UFO hunting!

          • Ray Agostini
            August 30, 2011 at 8:54 pm

            Thanks, Tyson. I subscribe to Shermer’s e-newsletter too (and I have seen the video you linked), and regularly keep up to date on his latest articles. I think he does mostly good work, but he’s also very cunning and has mastered the art of making something seem debunked when it hasn’t been. He mainly goes after pond fish, and leaves the more challenging issues in Ufology *untouched*. Anyway, from the article you linked:

            “(None of the UFO investigators bothered to ask for tapes from the FAA in
            Albuquerque, whose officials at the time told me they only kept tapes for 11
            days. So we’ll never know what the radar picture looked like that night.)”

            Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoenix_Lights#Governor  “Symington also noted that he requested information from the commander of Luke Air Force Base, the general of the National Guard, and the head of the Department of Public Safety. But none of the officials he contacted had an answer for what had happened, and were also perplexed.”

            Did the author explain that? It’s also noteworthy that Governor Symington not only appeared in the UFO video I linked, but is now an avid supporter of “disclosure”. 

            I really think it would be best if we take this debate no further on this thread. However, if you’re interested, I’ll leave one last link for you to peruse if you feel so inclined: http://thoughtsfrmwrongside50.blogspot.com/2010/10/governments-opening-secret-ufo-files.html  If you would like to discuss it further at any time: rayagostini3@gmail.com

            Cheers.

          • Randy Snyder
            August 30, 2011 at 3:17 am

            Actually, here’s a song of his that is apropo for our discussion:

          • Ray Agostini
            August 30, 2011 at 4:06 am

            Ransy Snyder: “Actually, here’s a song of his that is apropo for our discussion:”

            This is the second time I rest my case in regard to your “open mind”.

            “The discovery of truth is prevented more effectively not by the false
            appearance of things present and which mislead into error, not directly
            by weakness of the reasoning powers, but by preconceived opinion, by
            prejudice.” – Schopenhauer

    • JT
      August 30, 2011 at 1:24 pm

      Randy,

      You beat me to this – the $1 M Randi reference was more effective than my Nature reference.  But here it is anyway (Wiki also gives an overview)

      A 1986 article in Nature included dowsing in a list of “effects which until recently were claimed to be paranormal but which can now be explained from within orthodox science.”[10] Specifically, dowsing could be explained in terms of sensory cues, expectancy effects and probability.[10]

      Marks, David F. (March 13, 1986). “Investigating the paranormal”. Nature (Nature Publishing Group) 320 (6058): 119–124

  108. Randy Snyder
    August 29, 2011 at 6:48 pm

    Dan Wotherspoon,

    You referenced me in this podcast saying that polyandry was the one thing that drove me away.  I take most of the blame for this misrepresentation in that I failed to articulate what was really going on.  I had a fully packed shelf filled with blacks and the priesthood, face in the hat translation, BoA papyrus being found, and secret Nauvoo polygamy, all of which I found out at a BYU church history course but was inoculated very well by this professor as he bore his testimony after every troublesome doctrine.  But learning about polyandry was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back and especially since I couldn’t think of any apologetic answer for it.  That led to a VERY slow eroding of my faith as the high priest group leader that didn’t fully ripen for over 3 years.Daniel Peterson likes to paint with broad brushes and dismiss those like me who become atheists when we leave as “black and white thinkers” or “fundamentalists” but that is just a tactic to avoid dealing with secular arguments which apologists just don’t do well with.  They prefer taking on evangelical arguments.

  109. G.C
    August 29, 2011 at 8:04 pm

    *sigh*
    I love to tell people who ask me about the mormon cult that we are not a cult but we’re trying hard to look like one.
    Thank you for giving me hope that maybe there is a chance that in the end we’ll fail.

  110. Porter Rockwell
    August 29, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    Dan P, I basically agree with your conclusion that most members who leave are probably youth who don’t want to live the mormon life style. Or New converts who go sour after a little while…

    But I think an entirely new group of people are leaving now, that never used to leave before, with the information that is available over the internet now. And it’s rocking the boat a whole lot more. People who live 30, 40, 50 years, faithfully in the church just didn’t suddenly decide to leave in my experience. I live in scandinavia, far away from the mormon center, and here information just have not been available. No lds bookstores etc. Now I see former ‘pillars’ of the wards suddenly struggling, or leaving. RM:s who served as APs and zone leaders and other leadership callings in the wards. I see former stake relief society presidents, former bishops, (and even a former stake president and area authority) struggling! This was unheard of…

    Here in scandinavia, there are so few members, and over my whole lifetime up until the past 5-10 years most active members were really strong, dedicated, with firm testimonies. Church bound us together very tightly, since we were small in numbers. Now people have lost their footing in a way that I have never seen before (and it has happened to me too…). And when these people leave and struggle, it sends shock waves through the wards and stakes that the ‘majority’ of people who are leaving, whom you refer to, doesn’t do at all in the same degree.

    Last autumn we had an emergency meeting here, where Meryll K Jensen, Richard Turley and the Area authority president flew here on short notice, to have a meeting with all of us doubters. In that meeting there were almost only long time (life time, several generations in most cases) members. The kind of members who used to be the most dedicated type of members, who took everything seriously. For 2 hrs (which is way too little) we were allowed to ask any questions, and they (mostly Turley) would try to provide answers. While I appreciate their effort, there was nothing new in the answers other than what’s on the apologetics boards. And some vague promises to upcoming works (joseph smith papers etc) that would shed more light on our history. 

    To me, the answers provided by apologetics might be sensible in isolation on certain topics. But looking at the totality of the issues, the cumulative case is just a mountain of evidence against the truthfulness of the church. A mountain which apologetics manages to sweep away a few rocks from. To me, life would be a lot simpler could I accept the truth of the church, but looking at the stuff as objectively as I can, the foundation of my faith is just swept away – no matter how many prayers I say, it doesn’t change what I see with my eyes, and what, with the best of my reasoning, conclusions I can make of it.

    Anyhow, back to the meeting I was at, it was good of them to come… But, in my view, and many others, it ended with a disaster. At the end the area authority was given time to give some concluding remarks. He started out by minimizing many of the problems by saying that all answers are in the scriptures. Polygamy was difficult, but so was it in bible times when we read of Abraham, Isaac etc. Then he started talking about Korihor – he denied the truth but knew it. The implication I got from that was that he was comparing us to Korihor, that we were denying what we knew were true in our hearts. In my book, that example is probably one of the worst you could bring up to a group of people who have been serving faithfully their whole lives, but now feel betrayed by what the church has hidden, and are struggling. The room temperature dropped 10 degrees after his speech. 

    Anyway, I got a good impression of Jensen and Turley, they were sincerely trying to help, but the AA was…. well, put mildly, not agreeable…

    I’ve really enjoyed the discussions here, thanx all who are participating, and especially to JD for setting up this forum…

    • August 31, 2011 at 5:08 am

      I think the reason why more members are struggling is because as we get closer and closer to the return of Jesus, Satan is becoming more and more active and his attempts at temping us are going into overdrive. And anyone from a member of the Twelve on down is capable of falling.

      • jg
        September 1, 2011 at 3:22 am

        How does Satan know we’re getting closer to the coming of Jesus?  What is motivating him to get more active?

        • September 1, 2011 at 7:19 pm

          God’s plan for mankind has been known ever since the pre-existence. For Satan to have rejected God’s plan he must have known the details of it and that includes the time frame for the return of Jesus. (Of course, only God knows the exact date.) And part of God’s plan was to allow Satan to become more active as the end becomes closer. After all, the church has “latter day” in it’s name. I think we should all know that the end times are imminent.

      • loosingmyreligion
        September 1, 2011 at 12:38 pm

        sorry, john262…don´t say that satan is tempting us because we start to think with our own minds, a good friend of mine struggeld when she was reading the book of mormon, questions like: – this feels like someone made this up? -can this be true?. her bishop wouldn´t give her a templerecomend because she had some issues, and the she told her parents about her feelings….they said (like you) that she was listening to satan and that she needed to read and pray more!!! …after this experience she never talks to her parents again about faith and how she is really feeling in her heart

        • September 1, 2011 at 7:12 pm

          I will pray for this sister. Far be it for me to judge her; I dare not do that. But I do believe in the power of prayer, and my advice to her would be to get on her knees and pray to God for enlightenment on this issue.

        • Borg5575
          September 1, 2011 at 11:26 pm

          If she doesn’t believe in the Book of Mormon then why would she want to go to the temple anyway?

          • Anonymous
            September 7, 2011 at 6:06 am

            Same reason I wanted to still go to church despite my lost belief. Community. You don’t want to reject your community. But my bishop laid it to me plain and clear – if I did not believe in the restoration, I was in no way worthy to attend church-sponsored institutions and/or get married to or at least have the respect of another young woman in my community. Even if I do everything the church teaches (as I was doing). Just the lack of belief alone is enough to exclude me. This led me to abandon the community. How tragic! Since the vast majority of the community I lived in were worthy LDS, I moved elsewhere and lost the daily connection with family, friends, etc.

  111. Person
    August 29, 2011 at 10:53 pm

    It all goes back to the scriptures.  Why don’t the Brethren teach history in General conference?  Because they believe that they have a mandate from the scriptures to teach only faith and repentance.

    If the history promotes faith and repentance and if it is a true account then it is useful to them.

    If the history causes causes division or faith to falter, they won’t use it.

    That doesn’t mean they are hiding the history, though.

    • kokaubean
      August 31, 2011 at 3:04 am

      Which scriptures? the 1830 Book of commandments? the 1835 D&C? Which version of the Book of Mormon? Why the King James and not Joseph’s new translation?  You make a good case for the Chuch of Christ (at the temple lot). They still have the original toy and it’s still in the box…way more valuable to collectors.  I got an idea, why don’t the Brethern forgive all the he said he said,  cut those poor guys in Independence, MO a check and let’s  get to openin’ that toy so all nations kindreds and tongues-in-cheeks can turn the “good news” into the “good times”.

    • jg
      August 31, 2011 at 4:33 am

      If that is true, why does Joseph Smith get mentioned more than Christ?  Why do we hear so much about pioneers crossing the plains and skip the parts when they weren’t moving? Food storage? Genealogy? Temples?  So much about temples.  We’ve had 5 talks on tithing in the last 24 months in our sacrament meetings?

      For me, it is tough to argue that brethren avoid the history because they believe they’ve been directed to focus on faith and repentance.  I actually think repentance, forgiveness and tolerance are some of the basics that we’re lightest on.  But its not because we’re not willing to go into the weeds.

  112. August 30, 2011 at 4:03 am

    One shouldn’t have to venture beyond lesson manuals or missionary
    discussions to learn the truth of a religion. It should also be made
    evident BEFORE extracting a life-long commitment out of someone.  Is an 8
    year old really responsible for doing due diligence to discover that
    what she learns in primary are glossy half-truths?

    Furthermore, “Can I believe this?” and “Is this believable?” are two very different questions. Peterson really only addresses the first.

  113. Person
    August 30, 2011 at 4:11 am

    Another thought.  According to what I know as the doctrine of the church.

    Can a member of the church lead the people astray?  Yes.

    Can a bishop lead the people astray?  Yes.

    Can a stake president lead the people astray?  Yes.

    Can a member of the twelve lead the people astray?  Yes

    Can the majority of the twelve lead the people astray?  No.

    Can the president of the church lead the people astray?  No.

    Can a previous president of the church whose words we only have in writing or recording lead the present generation astray?  It’s possible.

    • jg
      August 31, 2011 at 4:36 am

      How do you know that a prophet can’t lead the church astray?  He said so?

      • August 31, 2011 at 5:01 am

        If he truly is a prophet who literally talks to God, how can he possibly lead us astray? God wouldn’t let him lead us astray would He?

        • Ella Menno
          September 2, 2011 at 4:19 am

          The operative word is “If”. 

          Of course you are also hypothesizing there is a god who literally talks to man, that god is the right god with whom to be speaking, and that god only literally speaks to one man.  None of this experiment is falsifiable, nor is it provable, at least not with the facts given.  We are left to rely on faulty logic for any of this to make any sense at all.

    • Jason2
      September 5, 2011 at 3:56 pm

      Your argument that the president of the church cannot lead the members astray runs into trouble in light of Adam God. Brigham Young taught that Adam was our God over the pulpit and even incorporated this teaching into the temple ordinances. Later presidents have disavowed BY’s Adam-God doctrine. How is BY not leading the membership astray? Even Peterson admits that he has difficulty resolving this issue.

  114. Gph055
    August 30, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    Mr. Peterson says that the Book of Abraham just feels old to him.  Well, I’ll be damned, how can I not believe it  now?  What I think is that this explanation just feels like bulls**t to me.

  115. Randy Snyder
    August 30, 2011 at 11:14 pm

    There is one thing I forgot to mention that I wish Dan W would have challenged him on (actually just one of many but this is at the core of it all).  Daniel Peterson tried to act like he is not really that different than empiricism or real scholarship.  He stated something to the effect of “we aren’t starting with a conclusion and working back.  For instance, we didn’t start with a conclusion of chiasmas and then go out and find them.”  

    I’m sorry Daniel, but I don’t think you understand the difference between a conclusion and a data point.  Chiasmas would be (what you consider) a data point to point to the conclusion the BoM is an ancient text.  So, you absolutely, unequivocally, and without shame start with the unquestioned conclusion the Book of Mormon is an ancient text delivered by an angel and you work back from there ignoring the mountain of convergent evidence from linguistics, archeology, paleontology, geological, textual criticism, DNA, and common sense that points to the conclusion of the Book of Mormon being a (possibly pious) fraud.  You cherry pick going forward from your conclusion and there is no window dressing you can do to make it not so.  But as an apologist, I guess window dressing is your specialty.  But please stop pretending to be doing something you are not.  Just own it man!  :-)

    • JT
      August 31, 2011 at 2:00 pm

      Randy,

      You might be interested in how the Mormon Matters podcast dealt with evolution (http://mormonmatters.org/2011/08/23/48-mormonism-and-evolution/).  The first half dealt with history of the LDS leadership’s pronouncements on the subject … but in the second half they discussed theological implications.

      The panelists (all BYU professor) are not apologists, but it was interesting to listen to what the enlightened LDS take on evolution looks like.  I think they are genuine and well-intentioned, and it would be unfair for me to expect to complete representation of their positions, but I saw some real weakness (and perhaps inadvertent misdirection) – which I attempted to address in three brief comments.  I’d appreciate your opinion.

      JT

      • Randy Snyder
        August 31, 2011 at 4:21 pm

        Downloading it now.  Will listen to it tonight.  Thanks for the tip.

      • Randy Snyder
        September 1, 2011 at 5:17 pm

        JT,

        I didn’t know if you wanted an opinion here or over there but decided on here for reasons I can’t seem to consciously access.  😉  Listening to that podcast was like a 2 hour high priest group meeting.  The LDS history was interesting but I learned a lot of that when I took Dr Jeffery’s course in the late 90’s at BYU.  He really opened my eyes about creationism back then and planted some good seeds so I will always be grateful to him.

        I don’t think anyone is going to respond to you over there.  Your arguments are sound and you exude erudition.   But, I pretty much agree with you on every post you made, including the new atheist post.  The only version of evolution that these men (Dan included since we’ve argued privately about this) is some variation of intelligent design which some scientist (name escapes me) called creationism in a cheap tuxedo.  Intelligent design is an intuitive conclusion that is absolutely superfluous in explaining natural selection.  It is not reflected AT ALL in the evidence and only serves to create more questions that IDers would need to address (almost an endless amount of them).  You posed one of those questions when you mentioned our “cousins”.  We all know that intuitive notions are often false but Dan’s argument to me when he argues about the material brain or intelligent design is “but I FEEL free” or “the Universe just SEEMS to be consciously guiding things”.  The fact is, natural selection is just fine all on its own.  If these BYU professors try to invoke the whole “Well, sure, it’s not like we are saying God (Elohim or Jehovah) is intervening at every step of the way, he just got it all started”, that takes them way over to a Deist version of God that simply is NOT being true to any recognizable Mormon version of an EXPLICIT anthropomorphic God that is concerned with your masturbation “problem.”  What generally happens is that in order to stay with the church (for whatever reason(s) that I doubt any of them are even FULLY consciously aware of) they end up making their own private version of Mormonism where they fuse evolution and LDS theology the best they can and where it doesn’t fit, they go to the tried and true appeal to mystery where it will all be revealed in the end so don’t worry about it.  That’s my opinion.  That doesn’t make me right but I think my metaphysical position of naturalism is certainly where the current evidence is pointing to.

        • Randy Snyder
          September 1, 2011 at 7:14 pm

          I should say that Dan does NOT believe in the anthropomorphic God of Joseph Smith as far as I understand his position.  Didn’t mean to imply that above.  From what I understand, he believes in a quantum consciousness type of natural god of the Penrose variety.

        • JT
          September 2, 2011 at 11:47 pm

          Thanks Randy,

          I appreciate your thoughts.

          A couple of points:

          1.  Steven Peck writes an interesting article that Dan W. linked in that Mormon Matters episode.  It is called, 

          “Crawling Out of the Primordial Soup: A Step toward the Emergence of an LDS Theology Compatible with Organic Evolution”

          Peck outlines several Christian theological attempts to harmonize full-blown natural selection and talks about how they may (or may not) be adapted to Mormon theology.   

          Early on says, “these are not statements of my belief. Rather I offer “‘toy’ models—ideas that we can play with to test their utility and durability.  

          I respect and gladly grant him this hedge, and would agree his assessment saying no more than I do not feel his enthusiastic final statements were merited.  In particular,

          “To me, evolution is an empowering idea. Linking it to our theology provides answers to several perplexing questions.”

          Given that, his most interesting suggestion is:

          “Perhaps the LDS conception of theosis … suggests a Darwinian selection process in which elements of trial, testing, and proving are inherent parts of progression through the first and second estates of premortal and mortal existence.”Now there is something to chew on in terms of heritability, variability, and selection.  Selfish spirit genes? (To his credit Peck points to a Christian biologist, Joan Roughgarden, who offers an alternative “cooperation” based model of selection in support)2.  Have you ever heard the argument that Mormonism really boils down to Pantheism?  It goes like this:All gods are “small ‘g'” gods because they were once men and there are so god-awful many of them.  More importantly, they all are subject to eternal natural laws (some Mormon theologians use this in their problem of evil solutions).  This means that natural law (including those governing “spirit matter”) stands, in meaningful sense, above these gods.  So we can call nature the “big ‘G'” God … or simply Nature.I  once made the sardonic comment “I’m not happy with Heavenly Father, I want to go one step higher and worship Heavenly Grandfather…no wait … not good enough…Heavenly Great Grandfather … no wait …”Now I’m inclined just follow this Mormon inspired logic and worship Nature… or Spinoza’s god , just like Einstein.  Now, here are a couple of chaps who had their heads screwed on straight.CheersJT

          • JT
            September 2, 2011 at 11:48 pm

            Can somebody tell me how to get a handle on the formatting?

          • Randy Snyder
            September 5, 2011 at 3:48 am

            JT,

            I would love to hang out w you in real life. We would have a lot to talk about. Peck needs to read The Blind Watchmaker an if he wants to extend natural selection to the spiritual realm, he’s opening a can of worms that would bury him upon any real scrutiny. That’s hilarious and hedging is appropriate when undertaking such a pathetically dubious task.

            As for pantheism, Brian Dalton’s whole Mr Deity series is based on the “small g god” Mormons so obliviously worship. But your snarky line of questioning had me laughing out loud. I’m gonna pose that question to my TBM brother and dad when we hang out for a weekend in October (my brilliant atheist older brother will be there too; quite the weekend but at least we are balanced). The infinite regression and the problem of answering who the hell is the big G God is something I will use. Thank you.

            Randy

  116. Person
    August 31, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    Jg

    If you want to find truth, you never trust a man.

    The only one who can tell you that a man is a prophet is God.  If you trust a man to tell you he is a prophet then you can’t have faith in him and you are trusting in flesh.  We should not trust in flesh.

    Faith is evidence of things not seen.  So you are going to have to have evidence or a witness.  A witness is personal.

    Because God is a private or secret.  He wants you to pray in secret and will give you answers in secret.    

    Once you try to find truth from God publicly, it’s over.  You have missed the mark.  (If you are trying to find God publicly, you aren’t really trying to find him anyway.  You are only competing and comparing with men.)  

    Nobody can tell you a prophet is a prophet, even a prophet.  You are on your own, as we all are.  It is only between you and God. 

    • Evan
      August 31, 2011 at 9:42 pm

      I’m sorry but personal, private feelings are NOT accurate either. If you study psychology in any depth, you will soon realize that.

      • Person
        September 1, 2011 at 4:01 am

        Evan,

        Personal private feeling cannot be compared or studied.  Nobody can feel what another feels.

        To understand what others feels, we fill in gaps by adding how we feel. 

        Life is a personal journey.  We are on our own.  

        • Evan
          September 1, 2011 at 7:01 am

          When feelings deal with truth claims, they can absolutely be studied. Suppose a person feels that the world will end in 2012. All we have to do is wait until 2012 and see if the world ends. If the world does not end in 2012, then that person’s personal, private feeling was WRONG. Another way of telling if personal, private feelings are accurate is by looking for contradictions. If one person feels that there is only one God and another person feels that there are 10 gods, then at least one of them is WRONG. Proving again that personal, private feelings can be in error. And there are countless examples of this happening throughout history. The only reasonable conclusion one can make is that, when dealing with truth claims, personal, private feelings are NOT accurate.

        • Ella Menno
          September 2, 2011 at 4:26 am

          Yes, we are on our own, but we do have a brain and we should use it to the best of our ability. 

    • Anonymous
      September 1, 2011 at 6:22 pm

      That is a great recipe for religious insanity.

    • Observer
      September 8, 2011 at 2:06 am

      Person,

      “If you want to find truth, you never trust a man.”

      Do you make this epistemological assertion… as a MAN? Or under some other more trustworthy (and less self-refuting) guise?

  117. Ellen
    September 1, 2011 at 8:32 am

    I also felt that Dan W was holding back a lot on the questions and almost “afraid” to ask in case he’d offend  That made me feel uncomfortable at times. I enjoyed the interview , apart from that . Dan P came across as a laid back kind of guy who doesn’t really give a damn what people think of his opinions etc. And why should he? I don’t agree with everything he said but I’m glad he agreed to do this podcast. I think he’s constrained in what he says too. If I work in McDonald’s I run the risk of losing my job if I say to people ” You know, you’re right. Burger King’s burgers really are tastier ” . I’m not saying he doesn’t truly believe what he’s saying himself but there is a limit to what he can say in public, I would imagine. He seems like an ok kind of guy though .

  118. Ellen
    September 1, 2011 at 9:03 am

    Oops, I meant restricted, not constrained !!

  119. Ellen
    September 1, 2011 at 9:05 am

    I’ve just been told I could have used constrained …

  120. Person
    September 1, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    What I think we are really talking about is, can someone feel a witness from God or the holy ghost?  

    If we try to work this out together, we will only come to one conclusion, that we cannot prove anything to each other.  There is no evidence for or against it.  If I believe in the Holy Ghost, I will try to find evidence for it, but will find none.  If you don’t believe you will try to find evidence against it, and will find none.  We may try to reach for science, but will find that science doesn’t cover this topic.  Either way science requires that the subject can be testable by two or more people.

    I think it is almost impossible to prove something to another person.  it’s like two dogs barking.  They will bark all day if you let them.  Even scientists rarely agree with each other.

    I think it may not help if the brethren address people who are doubting the truthfulness of the church.  What can be done?  So very little.  The only audience they have is those that believe or want to believe.  That is the only audience Christ had, almost everyone else wanted to argue with him or kill him.

    • Evan
      September 1, 2011 at 7:50 pm

      I disagree. I think that those kinds of feelings are testable in many cases. Suppose one person says that God (or the holy ghost) told him that the Mormon church is true. Now suppose a second person says that God told him that the Mormon church is NOT true. Again, one of them must be wrong. Or suppose a woman says that the holy ghost told her that she should marry George. Then, a month later, she says that the holy ghost is now telling her that she should NOT marry George. Well, the holy ghost (or her impressions of the holy ghost) must have been wrong either now or a month ago. There is an infinite number examples of this kind of thing happening to people. Ergo, personal feelings from “God” or the “holy ghost” are not reliable.

      • Anonymous
        March 18, 2012 at 9:45 am

        Let us consider thebtalk Thomas Monson gave in October 2011 genetal conference, relating how he was conducting a temple dedication service in Germany. He had an impression that a particular local church leader shoyld be called to speak at that session, but was told specifically that the man was at another location taking care of church business. The man was not called and asked to come, but Monson persisted in the feeling the man should be announced as a speaker anyway, and he did so. At the precise time, the man walked in and up to the podium. He had been engaged in other church work, planning to attend a later session of dedicatory services, but felt a sudden strong impression to rush to the current session, so he borrowed a car and got there just as his name was announced as the next speaker. There was no ordinary communication, and this is not such a likely scenario that it can be dismissed as mere coincidence. This was an instance of the miraculous impingeing on ordinary reality. If you do not believe in the possibulity of such things, you do not take a leap of faith and announce things that are about to happen, but seem impossible at the time. Having faith in a larger reality leads to experiences that can confirm that larger reality. Lacking faith avoids the real world evidence.

        Another example is a recent column by Daniel Peterson in Mormontimes.com, relating the experience of a colleague whose daughter had cystic fibrosis. When his daughter was age nine, they went on a river boat tour in Europe. As they departed one of the friends who saw them off was a good friend ill with cancer. Several days into the tour, the girl told her parents that she had been kneeling in prayer when she suddenly had the feeling that the young woman was there with her, assuring her to not be afraid of death. Days later, upon their return, they learned that the young woman had died a half hour before their daughter’s experience.

        Three years later, when their daughter died early one morning at home, they decided to wait a coypke of hours until friendsband family would be awake before theybstarted calling to tell them. They wete surprised when an early call came to them from an adult friend they had not seen for awhile, who was also suffering from cystic fibrosis. He related that an hour earlier their daughter had appeared at the foot of his bed, and he understood she was there to assure him that he should not fear death. His experience was less than a half hour after she had died. The man died about three months later.

        If neither the daughter nor the man had related to him their own “subjective” experiences, in a timely way, if they had lacked faith in the reality of those communications, the evidence for their reality as prophecies of things not known but real would have been lost. But in both cases people knew things, things that were teal that they otherwise could not know, and shared that knowledge in a way that showed they could have had the information from no other source. Acting in faith on revelation created evidence in the mundane world of the greater reality. Such evidence only comes to those who act on faith. The evidence you have at hand is dependent upon how much faith you can exercise.

  121. Person
    September 1, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    Yes that is possible, but you are talking about testing peoples actions or what they say and do, or the results of what they say is going on inside.

    • Evan
      September 1, 2011 at 9:57 pm

      I think in many cases these people are sincere. They really FEEL like God or the holy ghost is speaking to them. And sometimes you can even prove to yourself that your own feelings are not reliable. For example, when I was young I felt that the holy ghost was telling me that the Book of Mormon was true, and that Joseph Smith was a true prophet, and so on. Now, after looking at archaeology, DNA, history, linguistics, textual analysis, etc. I’m convinced that the Book of Mormon is a 19th century fabrication. From this experience I have learned that I cannot trust my own feelings–even if they’re from “God” or the “holy ghost”.

      I think the fundamental problem is that people in the LDS church (and many other churches) are taught to interpret certain feelings, in certain contexts, as coming from God (or the holy ghost). This teaching is so ingrained in many people that it is very difficult for them to consider other interpretations of their feelings. People’s feelings are very important and personal to them. Feelings are the primitives of conscious experience. Feelings are what drives and motivates us. Feelings are elemental and non-decomposable to consciousness. It’s natural that many people should promote their powerful feelings to a sacred level by interpreting them as coming from God or the holy ghost. It requires a certain amount of mental restraint and deliberation to realize that personal feelings are not so omniscient after all.

  122. Person
    September 2, 2011 at 4:30 am

    If you don’t believe in God or the Holy Ghost, you’re going to think your neighbor is crazy if he believes differently.  There is nothing any of us can do about that.

    As far as DNA goes, in my eyes, if someone says that DNA testing has proven this or that, my immediate reaction is to wonder how that conclusion was made.  I don’t know enough about DNA anything, to come to my own conclusions, but I certainly don’t trust someone else to tell me something like that.  It seems too far reaching and I wonder what ideas filled in gaps that weren’t known.  If I am to ever trust someones documented DNA studies, I would have to learn DNA from the ground up.  But, as you say, can I even trust myself?

    • Evan
      September 2, 2011 at 7:16 am

      I brought up the example of myself to illustrate how one can become skeptical of one’s own “spiritual” feelings. I probably should have used a different example to illustrate my point. I really don’t want to get into a debate about the historicity of the Book of Mormon. Suffice it to say that I find the DNA evidence PLUS all of the other evidence very compelling. In my opinion, all of the evidence CONVERGES to paint a picture of the Book of Mormon being a 19th century fabrication. But everyone must make up their own minds.

      And one last thing. This whole time I was talking about the dependability of personal, private feelings SANS evidence. Once evidence enters the picture, the situation changes. Obviously evidence, if it is sufficiently compelling, should be taken very seriously.

      • Evan
        September 2, 2011 at 9:35 am

        The third to the last sentence should read: “This whole time I was talking about the *undependability* of personal, private feelings SANS evidence.”

    • Mike
      September 9, 2011 at 7:10 am

      I believe the earth is flat.

      • Eddie Mazariegos
        December 19, 2011 at 10:36 pm

        and the sun revolves around it.

  123. Barb
    September 9, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    Dear Mr. Peterson:  There is a man who has replicas of the golden plates in Salt Lake City.  I’m sure he would love to show them to you to show you how they were made.

  124. September 9, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    My favorite remark came in video 4 and I was disappointed that the interviewer didn’t nail him on this comment about the Book of Abraham:

    “Let’s bracket the connection between the actual papyrus and the Book of Abraham.”  What?  Let’s bracket what the real problem is?  The real problem is that absolutely no connection can be made between the Book of Abraham and the ancient papyrus–the conclusion being that Joseph Smith didn’t have a clue about translating Egyptian; that he produced a fraudulent translation that is so errant that even Mormonism’s top apologist is admitting, “Let’s bracket this.” Then Daniel Peterson goes on to say this of the Book of Abraham:

    “It feels old to me.” 

    That’s when I laughed.

    He said it in a kind of goofy tone that added to the humor of the statement.  Somebody needs to do a riff on this, set it to music and an auto tuner (T Pain Style), and broadcast it on YouTube.  Similarly, someone set to music and auto-tuned the prayer of that southern preacher at the nascar event and it was awesome.  Boogety Boogety Boogety, Amen.  That’s what this whole interview feels like, “Boogety Boogety Boogety Amen.”

    • Eric
      September 15, 2011 at 4:16 pm

      100% agree.  Does Daniel Peterson really think Joseph Smith would be incapable of writing something that “feels old”?  Joseph was obviously obsessed with scripture.  If anyone could write something that “felt old”, it would be Joseph Smith.

    • Anonymous
      March 18, 2012 at 9:08 am

      In the one place where there is a direct connection asserted between an extant papyrus or image from a papyrus and the text of the published Book of Abraham, the meanings assigned, though not obvious to a modern reader, are in fact within the zone of meanings understood by modern translators, such as the four canopic jars representing various Egyptian gods also representing “the earth in its four quarters”. If Joseph Smith was guessing, he is a very lucky guesser. The most important object of testing is the text of the Book of Abraham itself, which makes all sorts of assertions about Abraham which are not found in the Bible but are well attested to in other sources which wete not easily available to Joseph Smith. Indeed, none of the critics over the years have demonstrated that any of his contemporaries were even aware of these corollary sources. The Maxwell Institute has published several volumes which present the relevant portions of obscure source documents from which a person conversant in Arabic, and Hebrew, and Egyptian might have been able to piece together a narrative using these elements for verisimilitude, but there is no evidence that anyone alive in the 1830s had both the skills and the access to documents that would be necessary to create the Book of Abraham out of whole cloth. If the text was not revealed, there is no naturalistic explanation for how its authentic content came together. Additionally, there is evidence that the few surviving pages of papyrus were only a small part of the original texts that were in the original collection.

  125. Anonymous
    September 12, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    I’m late to the game on this one.  But I wanted to point out that it’s believers who cast Joseph Smith as an uneducated yokel, not unbelievers.

  126. Eddie Mazariegos
    December 19, 2011 at 10:35 pm

    There should be a new english word for the kind of self deception that apologists are guilty of, but unaware of.

  127. January 30, 2012 at 11:51 am

    Truth claims of the church and I don’t always get along. After listening to this podcast and thinking a lot about what a truth claims means to me in relationship to the church, this is where I think I can comfortably stand.
    I think the church can maintain it’s truth claim that is it the one and only true church for 1 reason; I believe the LDS church has the capacity to receive all truth. I do not believe that the statement means that the church is 1)-the author of all truth. 2) That it is responsible to gather all truth. and 3) that it must be the distributor of all truth. 
    Thank you.

  128. John Weaver
    June 8, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    I’m a non-Mormon whose trying to understand Mormonism better so I can teach about it effectively at my university. I was wondering if anyone knows where I can get free or cheap resources by conservative and moderate Mormon theologians or thinkers, like Hugh Nibley (not sure if I’m actually getting Nibley’s position correct here, it’s hard to tell) and Givens. Although I’m not personally interested in converting I find your faith both fascinating and moving, and look forward to learning more about it.

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