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. 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.

  2. 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


      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.


    • 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.

  3. 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

      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”. 

  4. 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:
        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.

        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.”?

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

    I don’t believe that we agree.

    • Anonymous
      August 29, 2011 at 5:41 am


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


    • Anonymous
      August 29, 2011 at 7:00 pm


      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.


      • 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…

  6. 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. 

  7. 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.”

  8. 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

            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):


          • 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…..


          • 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


          • 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


      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

  9. 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.

  10. G.C
    August 29, 2011 at 8:04 pm

    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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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


      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.


      • 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


        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


            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.


  17. Person
    August 31, 2011 at 3:41 pm


    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


        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


      “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?

  18. 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 .

  19. Ellen
    September 1, 2011 at 9:03 am

    Oops, I meant restricted, not constrained !!

  20. Ellen
    September 1, 2011 at 9:05 am

    I’ve just been told I could have used constrained …

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. 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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