Are Mormon Apologetics a Gateway to Ex- or Anti-Mormonism? Or….Why I Support Sunstone

Last week I was counseling a friend who had left the LDS church. As he recounted to me his story, it was interesting to note that apologetics (FAIR and FARMS in particular) were a precursor to his leaving the church–and a strong source for his abiding anger/resentment, and resistance to returning.

I probably get at least 2-3 emails a week from folks who have left the church–and I’m surprised at how many of these people not only delved into apologetics before they left–but also look back upon their experience w/ apologetics in almost disgust. Is it possible that the general approach/effect of arch-apologists like Dan Peterson and Louis Midgley–is actually NEGATIVE with respect to helping people retain their faith in the LDS Church? I am sure that they get short-term emails expressing gratitude for what they’ve done–so I’m speaking more in the medium-long term.

Recent postings by Lou Midgley and Dan Peterson in the bloggernacle are benign examples of what I mean. If you want the full banana….check out the FAIR Message Boards. Blech. Yuck. I almost feel dirty linking to that post.

I have had some VERY good experiences with a few apologists (John Lynch and Greg Kearny being 2 very important exceptions–these strike me as really sincere, thoughtful, kind-hearted men), and I know that there are others, but overall, I continue to be saddened by how often, when I engage in, or observe an apologist conversation, I end up feeling sick and disappointed. For me, the reasons include:

  • The tendency to attack, denigrate and even mock the individual who disagrees with their view of the world.
  • The tendency towards anger, hatred, sarcasm, and mean-spiritedness.
  • The general unwillingness to express things like, “That’s a valid concern.” or “Yep…that’s a tough one.”
  • The apparent willingess to defend at all costs…sometimes with little trace of a desire to remain objective.
  • The tactic of avoiding the overall “mosaic” of an issue, by delving into obscure details and justifications.
  • In summation, a lack of credibility in the eyes of many of they honest, open, sincere, thoughtful folk I interact with.

Now….one thing that I will openly acknowledge is that many/most anti-Mormons act the same way–which is also very, very disappointing. I will also acknowledge that I am grossly generalizing to a large degree–which is also very dangerous.

Still–these 2 poles testify to me as to why a forum like Sunstone must be supported. Neither of these sides (apologists or anti-LDS) are considered fair, balanced and credible by most of the sincere, humble, good-natured, intelligent folks that I continually interact with on the Internet–and I know for a fact that Sunstone (under Dan Wotherspoon) is working very, very hard to remain a more neutral, credible source for exploring and resolving LDS issues, in the house of faith. Sunstone may have stepped over a line or two years ago–but I find them (along w/ Dialogue) to be the rare voices of faithful objectivity and reason in an otherwise arena of shrill, hateful, negative voices.

Sorry for the rant. Please tell me if you disagree. Do apologists represent their cause well, and are they effective?

153 comments for “Are Mormon Apologetics a Gateway to Ex- or Anti-Mormonism? Or….Why I Support Sunstone

  1. Doc
    July 4, 2006 at 2:02 pm

    John,
    I was on the blog today that likely got you fired up and I totally agree with you. I really tried to as benignly and nicely as I could give some constructive criticism about lightening the tone of a conversation and promptly got the full blaze of their line of fire. I stick around here precisely because you insist on a different standard while, as I am quite sure you are aware, we certainly don’t see eye to eye on a lot of issues, I really appreciate what you are doing.

    That said, I think some of the reason these are the “defenders of the faith” with the loudest most boisterous voices. There seems to be some morbid entertainment value in sniping back and forth for sport in Anti-Mormon to mormon conversations.

    I think it has the same appeal that someone might find in Jerry Springer or Rush Limbaugh. Loud, insulting and boisterous gets you a platform. That does not mean there are not plenty of “apologists” or thoughtful members aware of these tough issues, yet maintaining their faith, that are out there. I just don’t think they are all that exciting to the outsider. Am I completely off base?

  2. paula
    July 4, 2006 at 2:09 pm

    I’m with you on this John. I don’t know that they’re a gateway to apostacy for me, but they do make me think that if they’re supposed to be valiant members of the church, then I don’t want to be a part of the church. I’ve made one comment on the FAIR board, in the Grant Palmer thread, mentioning that I thought that the discussion was not reflecting good behavior for members of the church, and was, of course, instantly attacked for being self righteous, and anti-mormon. I’ve been considering writing to BYU and telling them that I don’t support having tithing money used to support these folks. (I realize that FAIR and FARMS are separate from BYU, but they’re still faculty members.)

  3. July 4, 2006 at 2:34 pm

    I’ve enjoyed thchess and pistas3, but you are right, some of the people get embroiled into the same style as the people they confront.

    Each of us has his or her own style I guess.

  4. July 4, 2006 at 2:40 pm

    John: I have personally known Dan Peterson for about eight years, and your description of the “vices of apologists” do not match up with my impressions of him based on my conversations with him. It is possible that you are generalizing on the basis of an incomplete and self-selected sample.

    As for arguments about objectivity, fairness, and the like I am increasingly convinced that these sorts of meta-discussions are ultimately vacuous. It is much better to simply have arguments on the merits about particular issues, at which point I am sure that we will discover that most everyone is right some of the time and wrong some of the time. Ultimately, the merits and the genesis of an argument are logically seperate.

  5. fox_goku
    July 4, 2006 at 2:48 pm

    John, I mostly agree. Personally, I hope the caustic remarks of FAIR & FARMS peoples do not drive people from the Church. But, I do agree that there is too much dialogue from those people lacking in Christian charity.

    While there are important exceptions, I am also concerned about the pseudo-scholarship in much of the writing. Too many quotations are selective or out of context; too many explanations are post hoc; and too many arguments are fallacious.

    On the other hand, I think the LDS gospel has a stronger position than even its “FAIR defenders” realize. Regardless, I have a sneaking suspicion that the Church’s best defenders do NOT write for either FAIR or FARMS.

  6. Randy B.
    July 4, 2006 at 2:56 pm

    John,

    I have a slightly different take on things, though I don’t know that at the end of the day we disagree all that much.

    I do not think that apologetics, per se, is a gateway to ex- or anti-mormonism. Further, I think that those who marshall the scientific, historical, philosophical, and other evidence in support of the church are going important work. That this work is often directed at refuting anti-mormon arguments does not bother me at all. In fact, I tend to think that there are times when the use of sharp language in this effort is merited. I even think that those who hold themselves out to be “insiders” and who take controversial positions about the truthfulness of the church’s origins should not be surprised when they receive an inordinate amount of negative attention.

    The problem is not apologetics, but the way it is sometimes done. I think Lou’s post is a good example of what I mean. Lou makes (what appears to me anyway) to be several worthy substantive points in his post. Yet he cannot finish his argument without taking a completely baseless and scurrilous stab at RT’s faithfulness. That he knows virtually nothing about RT does not stop him. It is almost as though Lou gets stuck in a certain mode of argument and cannot help himself. Now he is disappointed that the conversation has focused on his baseless accusations and not on the substance of his post. But he only has himself to blame for that. False accusations of apostacy have a tendency to be distracting.

    Though, like Nate mentioned on Lou’s post, the rhetoric directed at FARMS is often overblown, I do find that the tone that Lou and Dan sometimes (though certainly not always) take can be needlessly aggressive and unpersuasive. Different strokes for different folks, I guess. That said, I have a hard time believing that anyone would actually lose their faith over such blather. Lots of mormons say stupid things. So do Red Sox fans, but I’m not about to start cheering for the Yankees. If I did, I’d soon have to turn back in light of all the ridiculous things Yankee fans say. Mormons and ani-mormons are both prone to exageration and scare tactics. I would only hope that we would strive, whenever possible, to take the highroad. On those score, mormon apologists sometimes fail. As they are engaged in a human endeavor, we shouldn’t be too surprised.

    The real danger here, in my view, is that people will be put off by the overzealous efforts of certain comments (like Lou’s post) and simply write off all of mormon apologetics. In that sense, I think Lou’s post has done his cause — a cause I happen to endorse — a disservice.

  7. Abner Doon
    July 4, 2006 at 4:22 pm

    I don’t think apologists drive people away from the church. Or if they do, I think it’s usually just “one more straw” on an already burgeoning stack of issues. The issues themselves are what drive people away, along with the perception (right or wrong) that there are no adequate responses. I think apologists face much the same problem you do, John. How much information can they provide in defense of the church without also exposing problems that may not so easily be answered? I learned just about every anti-Mormon claim by means of apologetic web sites. I was looking for answers to one or two questions, and I eventually got the whole ball of wax. Were they wrong to put out so much information? I don’t think so. If I hadn’t gotten at least some answers, I would likely have lost faith long before I did. Apologists are operating on the same premise you do–let all ideas be heard and both sides told, and in the marketplace of ideas the truth will win out. If the church were true, they’d be doing exactly the right thing.

    Perhaps debating with some of the more sarcastic or rude apologists can fuel the fire of an impending loss of faith, but there’s no reason why questioning members should rely exclusivly on FAIR and FARMS for answers. Local leaders and the Brethren are the first line of defense, although its true that their failure to give substantive answers is what makes much of apologetics necessary. If they were more willing to really work with doubting members–or indeed, if satisfying answers existed to enough of these questions–we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

    I don’t think it’s fair to lay the blame of apostasy at the feet of Daniel Peterson, Lou Midgley, and other outspoken apologists. Questioning members make their own decisions, and I think there is a certain heroism in what apologists are doing. I believe they’re well-intentioned and intelligent, and truly believe they are fighting in a true cause. They are the kind of people everyone likes to have on their side. To me, the tragedy is not that their occasional negativity and bitterness may result in more disaffection in doubting members, but that the failure of church leadership and the facts of church history and doctrine basically give them no other choice.

  8. Kevin Barney
    July 4, 2006 at 8:48 pm

    There seems to be a basic misunderstanding of what FAIR is in this thread. The message boards are *not* FAIR. We have a huge disclaimer on them indicating this fact. Most of the participants on the message boards are not members of FAIR; in fact many of those who write on the message boards are anti-Mormons.

    FAIR as an organization does not engage in debates. Our focus is almost exclusively on members and investigators who have encountered anti-Mormon literature and have questions about the Church. We answer there questions directly through e-mail, and we provide literature on our website. And we sponsor an annual conference, which develops pro-LDS literature.

    We make every effort to avoid engaging in the fallacy of argumentum ad hominem. If anyone is aware of an instance where we have fallen down in that respect, please write us (the address is given at our website, fairlds.org) and point out the lapse so that we can remedy it.

  9. Ray Gorham
    July 5, 2006 at 12:19 am

    I have no problem with apologetics, although sometimes their tone is a little harsh for most actively attending LDS church members. I cut them some slack for the reason that they are often responding to anti-mormons who often are more shrill, dishonest, and seeking only to destroy faith for whatever motivation. There have been several times that using FAIR or FARMS has helped to resolve some that had been very disconcerting. I understand that they probably won’t ever be able to address every issue, but having those resources out there do much more good than harm (however imperfectly done it may be). If we’re looking to identify what websites can cause problems with an individuals testimony, there are probably a few hundred more dangerous than FAIR or FARMS.

    Personally, John (and whoever else), I’d recommend a person spend some time in those sites reading what information is out there. I get the impression from your podcasts (and I’ve listened to most–although I had to shut down Grant Palmer in the third episode) that you discount most of what is presented by TBMs because they are TBMs. While I admit most LDS members are probably not aware of a lot of the issues you raise, it doesn’t mean that whatever they say is of no value. I would love to hear more podcasts from those actively involved in the faith–whether apologists, General/Area authorities, scholars, everyday members or whoever. You focus too much on those disaffected or with an issue or axe to grind, and while that reflects your experience and is representative of some, it isn’t reflective of the majority of the mormon experience. That being said, I do appreciate the work you do. The podcasts on Masons and Blacks have been excellent–please do more along those lines.

    Thanks again

  10. KLC
    July 5, 2006 at 1:55 pm

    John,

    I discovered the so-called bloggernacle about a year ago and since that time I’ve taken the time to read the old and the new on a variety of LDS themed blogs. Over that year I have noticed a recurring theme that you demonstrate once again here.

    There seems to be a kind of morality play repeating itself where the devil, in the person of Midgely, Peterson and FAIR is roundly hissed and booed by the more enlightened (read liberal) citizens of LDS cyberspace. And just like in a morality play, it matters not what those devils actually say because they function not as real people but as symbols of all that is terrible.

    After reading your “blech, yuck. I almost feel dirty linking to that post.” comments above and reading your “I felt sick and dirty for the next two weeks with the hatred and mean-spiritedness I felt there.” comments on the Redelfs post you linked I had to go the the FAIR post you referred to. I slogged through all 11 pages. There was some heat, a little mild invective. But I saw nothing even approaching hatred, nor did I feel even remotely dirty or sick after reading it.

    An overriding theme that can be found in much of the bloggenacle is a rejection of the close minded world view found among so many LDS and a passionate plea for more open minded acceptance of differences. And yet the open minds of the bloggenacle snap shut as soon as Midgely, Peterson show up. I find them both erudite, passionate, literate and quite funny. Do they mock? Of course they do. But the bloggernacle is full of mockery. But that mockery is always turned toward the traditional and conservative in LDS culture. When someone shows up with the same wit and mocks the mockers…well that’s just being mean spirited.

  11. larryco_
    July 5, 2006 at 2:51 pm

    re: Kevin. I attended a FAIR conference about 2 1/2 years ago. Overall, I found it valuable, particularly presentations by two professors dealing with DNA and the BOM. As I recall, you also gave a fine presentation. But I do remember several of the speakers, particularly Dan Peterson, being very disparaging to any and all opposing viewpoints. Peterson used humor throughout his speech to belittle, to the apparent glee of the conference attendees. This memory has kept me, a “true to the faith” LDS, from wanting to attend the past two conferences, even though the topics chosen have been of interest to me.

  12. July 5, 2006 at 3:30 pm

    I’d made a bunch of comments but somehow they didn’t make it through. Rather than repeat them I’ll just redirect folks to my blog post here.

  13. July 5, 2006 at 5:44 pm

    I disagree. FARMS scholars represent their cause well, are effective, and are credible.

  14. July 5, 2006 at 6:24 pm

    By the way, John D., what service does it do you to focus solely on what you perceive as a distasteful characteristic of Midgley’s writing and ignore the several substantive and frankly devastating points Midgley makes both against Palmer’s views in Insider’s View (re the supposed Golden Pot similarities and White Salamander connections, the supposed use of a different Hoffmann translation and the facts surrounding the Carlyle translation, and the coincidence of the Paul Pry pseudonym)? Where will the “other side” answer those substantive points? Forget Midgley’s personality and writing style. Let’s here these substantive points addressed. What I am missing from the whole extended fight between anti-Mormons and FARMS/FAIR (instigated by anti-Mormons) is a rebuttal after the “apologists” finish defending against the antis attacks. Certainly, it happens sometimes, but all too often the faithful counter-arguments are simply ignored, even when the substantive points they raise essentially dispense with the anti position altogether. What kind of “honest dialogue” is that? What is Tom Kimball going to say about the Carlyle translation issue? Nothing? Why is that?

  15. July 5, 2006 at 6:28 pm

    In the last comment, I meant to say noone is addressing either Midgley’s substantive points against Palmer’s Insider’s View or his points against RT’s review of Midgley.

  16. Mike Parker
    July 6, 2006 at 1:24 am

    I’m disappointed with your most recent post, John.

    FAIR accepted you as a member of its private email list, where members respond to questions and discuss issues among themselves. You’ve seen these messages. You’ve seen the sincerity and honesty of the people who volunteer for FAIR. You’ve seen the time we put in. You’ve seen the pain we feel for people who struggle with anti-Mormon criticisms. You’ve seen us disagree amongst ourselves. And you’ve even seen us both agree and disagree with your own point of view, on the few occasions you’ve raised it.

    But instead of voicing your concerns with FAIR, you stab FAIR and its volunteers in the back in public?

    FAIR and its volunteers are not perfect. We have made mistakes. We learn and grow, like everyone else.

    Your bullet-point list is simply unfair and untrue.

    Shameful.

  17. July 6, 2006 at 7:26 am

    This is like saying “Public relations drives people away from Coca-Cola”.

    So?

  18. Blake
    July 6, 2006 at 7:30 am

    John: I agree with those who point out that your bullett list is unfair and one-sided. You also engage in the fallacy of the ad hominem of smearing all aplogetics with the brush of guilt by association. In other words, your post does precisely what you accuse FAIR and FARMS of doing. It seems that your own set of biases is all that you see in these discussions. Count me disappointed in your comments here. However, do by all means continue to call on the carpet all those who get out of line. One cannot win over a heart to return to Christ by spewing vitrolic comments.

    I would also ask if your friend was in fact really swayed in his faith by the tone of these conversations rather than by some more substantive issues. If so, it seems to that you owe it to those in the dialogue to give a more honest appraisal of the motivations involves. If your friend truly lost faith over these types of issues (which I doubt) then his faith was so shallow that to call it faith at all is to misunderstand faith.

  19. Cody Clark
    July 6, 2006 at 8:41 am

    John,

    Whoa! You’re getting it for this one. As for me, I will only speak from personal experience: Yes, the FARMS and FAIR approaches, generally, were very instrumental in my growing disillusionment with the church. There was a time when I used to go there for support and help to resolve concerns but even then, when I had, or thought I had, a very orthodox testimony, I became frustrated with their approaches. As I learned more about church history and contemporary issues I would stop in at FARMS and read a book review on a book I was investigating. My wife, who is still very believing, has also visited both sites, FAIR more than FARMS, and she wasn’t impressed with them either. Okay, long story short, I haven’t left the church. I still attend although my “testimony” has gone through a demolition period followed by some reconstruction. But what keeps me connected to the church are not the apologetics or even polemics of these two institutions but forums such as Sunstone, Dialogue, Mormon fiction such as the stuff Signature Books publishes and the writings of Eugene England and others like him. John thanks for all you’re doing. I believe in your ministry. I will continue the support with what I can. Thanks so much!

  20. FreeAtLast
    July 6, 2006 at 9:59 am

    Mormon self-righteousness is a common complaint of former church members, and often comes through loud and clear on various apologist websites. It’s rooted in the ego-massaging church doctrine that originated with Joseph Smith (and has been passed down to successive generations of Mormons) that the LDS Church is the only ‘true’ church of God and Mormonism is the only ‘true’ religion of God. Take away the belief and the foundation of that self-righteousness disappears.

    Thankfully, nowadays many Latter-Day Saints don’t adhere to the belief in Mormonism of its ‘spiritual’ exclusivity. They recognize that there are far too many historical and scientific facts that don’t support fundamental aspects of the LDS religion (e.g., the Book of Mormon, the official version of the origins of the church). Various apologists have attempted over the years to trivialize or explain away faith-disrupting facts, yet those truths/realities have remained unaltered.

    During the past decade, the LDS Church has been undergoing a revolution of sorts, not of it own making, but thrust upon it as a result of the information about Mormonism available on the Internet. The inability of LDS apologists (who publish online and have message boards on their sites) to adequately account for the lack of congruence between many facts and aspects of Mormonism only exacerbates the doubts of members about the LDS Church and religion. Some leave the church, some decrease their participation, and others modify their belief system, but remain ‘fully active’. The religious ego and lack of critical and rational thinking of various apologists, which is apparent in their writings, only causes questioning church members to go “Hmmmm….”

  21. Blake
    July 6, 2006 at 10:16 am

    AtLast: which various apologists do you have in mind? All of them? Some of them in everything they argue, or some of them in some of what they argue? Which “facts” have apologists tried to explain away that remain unaltered? Why isn’t your post just another instance of self-righteous and intellecutally superior snobbery that you seem to dislike in apologists?

  22. July 6, 2006 at 10:46 am

    The religious ego and lack of critical and rational thinking of various apologists, which is apparent in their writings, only causes questioning church members to go “Hmmmm….”

    This sentence exhibits the same type of lack of critical and rational thought that FreeatLast is accusing FARMS and FAIR of. The truth is, many or most FARMS and FAIR studies are critical and rational. What is lacking is any reply from the other side once FARMS or FAIR has treated an issue. There is plenty of support for drawing conclusions that cast negative aspersions on the inferences one chooses to draw from a spotty historical record. But there is little rebuttal of FARMS treatments once the positive interpretation or inferences are highlighted that can be drawn from the same “facts”.

    Where critics and antis place an inordinate, perhaps even blind, faith in the inferences they choose to draw from the historical record, FARMS and FAIR “apologists” avow their faith and therefore interpret the facts through that faith to draw inferences that are informed by that faith. If their faith is that the Angel Moroni was real and did deliver the plates to Joseph Smith, then the historical record can just as plausibly be read to support inferences in harmony with that faith. Those who do not believe in the Angel Moroni simply put their faith in other inferences that can be drawn from selectively viewed circumstantial evidence.

    In other words, FreeatLast might think that the Church is being forced to change because of “information” available on the internet, but my view is that the Church is not changing because of that. Many or most active Church members still believe in the “one true Church” doctrine based on their understanding of how priesthood authority works. Many or most active Latter-day Saints never espoused the ego-centric view that FreeatLast wishes to portray in which Mormons supposedly self-righteously approach all other religions. Rather, if I am correct in my observations of faithful, active Latter-day Saints, they believe in the maxim taught by Joseph Smith and Brigham Young that we seek truth wherever we might find it and incorporate it to the extent possible with the Restored Gospel.

  23. July 6, 2006 at 12:56 pm

    I am puzzled. I agree with Kevin that there are those who seem to think that the FAIR message board IS FAIR. Frankly, the message board has people–LDS included–that members of FAIR do not agree with in style or content.

    I am also puzzled, John, because you are a member of FAIR. So if you criticize FAIR, you are criticizing yourself. FAIR is an all volunteer group, and any needed changes can be brought up at any time. We even have two non LDS members of FAIR who bring things up from time to time.

    There was completely seperate issue mentioned on Dan Peterson’s FAIR conference presentation. Dan does have a sharp wit and not everyone appreciates his humor. Here are his various FAIR conference talks. Since I wasn’t sure which year was being referred to, I thought I should include them all. People can read the talks and judge for themselves.

    2005 Conference
    http://www.fairlds.org/FAIR_Conferences/2005_Reflections_on_Secular_Anti-Mormonism.html

    2004 Conference
    http://www.fairlds.org/FAIR_Conferences/2004_Autobiographical_Notes_on_My_Testimony.html

    2003 Conference
    http://www.fairlds.org/FAIR_Conferences/2003_Random_Reflections_on_the_Passing_Scene.html

    2002 Conference
    http://www.fairlds.org/FAIR_Conferences/2002_Protean_Joseph_Smith.html

    2001 Conference
    http://www.fairlds.org/FAIR_Conferences/2001_Divine_Source_of_the_Book_of_Mormon_in_the_Face_of_Alternative_Theories.html

    2000 Conference
    http://www.fairlds.org/FAIR_Conferences/2000_Easier_than_Research_More_Inflammatory_than_Truth.html

    1999 Conference
    http://www.fairlds.org/FAIR_Conferences/1999_Apostasy_and_Restoration_in_the_Big_Picture.html

  24. Mike Parker
    July 6, 2006 at 1:14 pm

    Blake and John:

    You’re forgetting Nibley’s Rule #25 from How to Write an Anti-Mormon Book — “Attack not the
    thing but the image.”

  25. Equality
    July 6, 2006 at 1:23 pm

    john f.:

    I think in your last post you may have unwittingly made FreeAtLast’s point.

    I do agree with you that the church is not changing because of information available to people on the Internet. Most church members are still blithely unaware of the information on the Internet and from other sources and are still happy to rely on the sugarcoated version of church history they are spoonfed by the hand of the correlation committee. The Brethren have not yet responded to slowing church growth (indeed, the church may be suffering a real decline in membership; it certainly is experiencing a decline relative to its most vibrant competitors) that can be at least in part attributed to some members getting access to information not previously made available to them. And the numbers of disaffected members still remain low relative to the entire church population. I expect the Church will change only if enough tithepaying members become disaffected and a critical mass is reached.

    My experience and observation in the church over the last 17 years tells me that your last sentence is, sadly, far from accurate. Would that it were so. Truth wherever we may find it? Are you sure you aren’t confusing the Mormons with the Unitarians?

  26. Equality
    July 6, 2006 at 1:28 pm

    john f. said: “I disagree. FARMS scholars represent their cause well, are effective, and are credible.”

    One word: tapir.

  27. Steve EM
    July 6, 2006 at 1:37 pm

    It’s simple. Orthodoxy always leads to apostasy. I’ve seen it over and over again. It really is that that simple. Faith is a journey, not a destination.

  28. July 6, 2006 at 1:42 pm

    Equality, I am sure that I am not confusing Latter-day Saints with Unitarians. As BY said, we gather in truth wherever we might find it, but that does not mean that truth is what we subjectively want it to be. That’s a different issue.

    My last comment did not make FreeAtLast’s point. He or she did that already in his or her comment, as I pointed out in my last comment.

    As to the loads of information that you believe Latter-day Saints are starved of, I disagree, or I should say that I disagree with your implied conclusion that if they were reading about those things, they would make the same (negative) inferences that you make about them. Rather, I think that many or most would retain their faith and draw positive inferences that fit their faith. Is the “sugarcoated” “version” of Church history, as you put it, really inaccurate in any way, or is it just a matter of drawing equally plausible–although informed by faith–inferences from the same evidence. It might be a case that you choose to emphasize disproportionately some selectively chosen piece of evidence to the exclusion of other evidence that lends support to other inferences. The point is, either way it is still faith. You have an (in my opinion) undue faith and confidence in the inferences drawn by Vogel, Quinn, et al while others do not draw the same inferences from the same historical record. For example, it remains only inference or speculation that JS wrote out the BoM in advance over years during the 1820s drawing from sources that were only very speculatively available to him, then memorized it so that he could dictate it without revision in one go during an approximately two and a half month period. That is only speculation and inference from what people guess might be likely based on a choice not to believe JS’s own account of how it went down. Another conclusion to draw is that JS told the truth about it. Either one is based on the historical record. Either one takes faith to believe. Each individual has the choice which to believe. The internet won’t change the outcome, necessarily. The choice remains the same, no matter what inferences or speculations become available on the internet. If we follow the inference that JS lied about it, then that also impugns many others, such as Emma Smith and the Three Witnesses on the BoM example. If we choose JS’s account, then that only impugns the views of the detractors, and the backgrounds and motivations of the detractors come legitimately in issue when that happens. The question must be answered in such evaluations why such and such detractor is trying to show that JS and the many others who gave their word in support of JS’s claims were lying. This is why some “apologetic” treatments include a rhetorical prong that appears to be “ad hominem.” That is, the prong is “ad hominem” but only because that is a legitimate prong of the argument against people attempting to impugn the word of JS and his followers. In the end, however, it remains a matter of belief. We should be careful about placing too much confidence in the inferences that those hostile to the beliefs of Latter-day Saints choose to draw from their selected historical evidence.

  29. July 6, 2006 at 2:19 pm

    john f.,

    Of course, you know I was joking with the Unitarian comment. I do, however, take issue with your initial point on the topic. I once thrilled to hear Truman Madsen describe Joseph Smith’s Mormonism as a “religion for the space age” that was expansive and open to all truth from whatever source. Joseph Smith said “Truth is Mormonism” and also that a man could not be saved in ignorance. The 21st-century church seems to have little zeal for truth outside the truths it already believes it possesses. For example, how many members of the church believe in the scientific truth that life on earth has been evolving for many millions of years and that man himself has evolved? Truth that conflicts with received dogma is suspect. Need I point you to Bruce R. McConkie’s Seven Deadly Heresies speech? Likewise, historical truths (i.e. facts that are known with great confidence, not the interpretation placed on those facts) are actively, intentionally suppressed by church leaders who explain the suppression by saying that some things that are true are not useful.
    You are correct, john f., that some members of the church are able to maintain a trestimony in the foundational truth claims the church makes regarding the Book of Mormon, priesthood restoration, and the prophetic mantle of Joseph Smith even after learning many of the suppressed facts about church history. But it is also true that many members of the church, when encountering such facts, re-evaluate their previous beliefs and come away from that experience with a diminished testimony, not only from the facts themselves but from the sense of betrayal they feel at having never been told those facts. I have written on my blog about my own experience in going from a TBM with knowledge of much of church history to being disaffected with the church. So, I know first-hand that the historical issues can be viewed from different persepctives and people can reach different conclusions about them.

    I would argue, though, that not all viewpoints are equally valid based on the historcal record. And that a viewpoint informed by faith, as you say, subjectifies truth in a way that I thought you were arguing against att he beginning of your comment. I think the “unbiased rational inquirer: standard is a good one to use for establishing truth. You are correct that people with preconceived notions, pro or con, about Joseph Smith can argue ad infinitum about what the history means. But how many without a dog in the fight come away from an inquiry into the history of the church with a belief that Joseph Smith was a true prophet? You don’t have to look to those with an axe to grind about the church to come away believing that Joseph was not what the Church claims he was. Just ask any rational, dispassionate student of the hisptorical record.

  30. Mayan Elephant
    July 6, 2006 at 2:23 pm

    “if I am correct in my observations of faithful, active Latter-day Saints, they believe in the maxim taught by Joseph Smith and Brigham Young that we seek truth wherever we might find it and incorporate it to the extent possible with the Restored Gospel.”

    That is absolutely NOT true. if you care to point me to another place to discuss that assertion i would be happy to do so. but, please, that assertion in no way reflects the leadership of the church currently, joseph smith or brigham young as it implies that they incorporate any truth and reject anything that is not true. just plain not the case. sorry to burst your bubble.

    John, i like your list. i think you make great points. i appreciate you and your work very much.

    i found this bullet – The general unwillingness to express things like, “That’s a valid concern.” or “Yep…that’s a tough one.” – to be very iteresting. as it is somewhate quantifiable. if the folks at farms or fair disagree with the bullet, let them show me where they confess anything being tough or valid. i never felt their concern for the complexity of the issues as i read their stuff. i simply felt dismissal. along with the “everybody knew that” and “he was speaking as a man not a prophet” rationalizations.

    my bigger issue lies in the experience. actually two experiences. first, the experience of living as a member of the church. it aint all peaches and cream. its tough. its demanding. its not always rewarding. for some women it is oppressive. for gays it is miserable. its challenging and full of compromises. it is a huge sacrifice and for some, the rewards are small and the negative feelings and experiences are huge. there is no apology for this. and apologists that dismiss ones feelings are quite frankly, just jerks. i realize this isnt the role of farms or fair, but it is certainly common in their audience and online defenders. even my own mother said i feel the way i do and say the things i say because i have turned my life to satan, its a common response in the church. its conditioned.

    the second experience i want to highlight is the one that comes as a jolt to our souls. that is, the experience of realizing one has been betrayed or duped. i will not apologize for that description, it is real duping. so many face it. that special moment where one is forced to say…. i have been here over 30 years…. i have been loyal…. why didnt i know about joseph smith’s wives, or the book or abraham, or the politics behind the racial ban/unban….why didnt i know that homosexuals feel as natural as one feels about being left handed…why didnt i know that my church fought against the ERA…. why didnt i know that there was a rock in joseph smiths hat? those questions come with some shame and guilt, especially when one has passed all the correlated answers to a prospective member or a child. its sickening. its hollow. its scary. the best people feel fear and shame and guilt upon realizing they were part of a lie, a sham, a misrepresentation…especially to a child!!!!!

    so, the apologists may have silly excuses and explanations. they are stretches of the imagination, logic and zoology, if tapir fiction can be considered zoology. but even then, it pales in the sickening dismissal of real feelings that good, wholesome, diligent people may have.

    the fairboards may be independent, but are certainly endorsed by the apologists, especially by the active participation of their mentor DCP.

    and i agree with abner. shame on the leaders of this church. shame them all to hell. how can they allow these responses to be carried out by a so called neutral party, without their own positions being boldly laid out. and shame on the leaders of this church for encouraging its members to equate the harsh experience of questioning the correlated mormon story to abiding with the devil at eventide.

  31. Mayan Elephant
    July 6, 2006 at 2:33 pm

    “Rather, I think that many or most would retain their faith and draw positive inferences that fit their faith.”

    Thanks john, you made my point better than i did. this is a common response and suggestion, and was even part of the preface to rough stone rolling: if you hear something ugly or ridiculous or just concerning, and it causes you to question your experience or the explanations, then YOU have no FAITH (or as you say, faith in the wrong..er…bad stuff), and you have embraced the darkside.

  32. July 6, 2006 at 2:39 pm

    john f. said: “I disagree. FARMS scholars represent their cause well, are effective, and are credible.”

    Equality said: One word: tapir.

    Fascinating how ~30 years of research and publishing can be dismissed with a single word.

    Well, that’s scholarship for you! 🙂

  33. Blake
    July 6, 2006 at 3:00 pm

    Steve E. M. Strangely enough, I agree with you. If what you mean by “orthodoxy” is faith that must be a certain way or not at all, it is bound to fail and it isn’t really faith at all. Faith is a journey, and an on-going negotiation and growth in relation to the life of the mind and spirit. Such faith ought to be challenged because the challenge is all about growth.

  34. July 6, 2006 at 3:08 pm

    Equality and awyatt: the stale criticism of horses in the BoM invalidates all of FARMS scholarship and FAIR writings? What an interesting position. Now, what were we saying about choosing your inferences?

  35. July 6, 2006 at 3:15 pm

    No one said it invalidates “all of FARMS scholarship and FAIR writings.” The tapir comment was used to show that your statement that FARMS scholars are effective and credible is not necessarily so. Do you find the tapirs=horses argument effective and credible, john f.? True, some of what FARMS and FAIR puts out is informative, interesting, and sometimes thought-provoking. Much of it, however, is not only bad scholarship but bad apologetics, which, if I am not mistaken, was John Dehlin’s original point: faithful members of the church encounter material from FARMS and FAIR hoping to find “credible” and “effective” answers to troubling questions only to come away disappointed and disillusioned. That this was not your experience, john f., does not erase the fact that it is the experience of some or even many. You may need to explore a little on the fringes of the Bloggernacle and even bravely venture forth into the DAMU for confirmation of my statements.

  36. Mayan Elephant
    July 6, 2006 at 3:27 pm

    “the stale criticism of horses in the BoM invalidates all of FARMS scholarship and FAIR writings?”

    nah. i would say no. it does however invalidate their integrity a wee bit. donchya think? what i think is rottenerish is the implication that if you dont believe in tapir chariots, you dont have faith. or, if you do subscribe to tapir whispering, you somehow can feel the whisperings of the spirit.

    oh, forgive me, i already made this point. sorry folks.

    another bummer about the experience, is that there really isnt a place in the church for one to be open in disagreement with these details of the book of mormon. its all or nothing. narrow path. if you believe in families are forever then you must believe in cumoms, tapirs, flaming swords and the marriage amendment.

    a big shame of apologetics and their endorsement by the church leaders via tolerance and financial support, is that they are simultaneusly endorsing this narrow and judgmental path. it harms many. it divides families. it just plain sucks. but, it keeps the core faithful base in tact, so i suppose thats a good thing for a few million people.

  37. pete
    July 6, 2006 at 3:30 pm

    Equality:

    How we are to recognize a “rational, dispassionate student of the his[o]torical record” when we see one? Neither you nor I, nor any other mortal besides JS was present when, for example, Moroni either did or didn’t appear to JS. The evidence is extremely limited–JS’s own testimony on one hand, and the collective body of humanity’s “scientific knowledge” on the other (ie, conventional wisdom: “everybody knows there is no such thing as angels”).

    Eyewitness testimony is problematic because it can be misobserved, misremembered, or simply falsified. But don’t kid yourself, scientific knowledge is just as flawed because it can only be based on facts actually observed (usually duplicable ones) and therefore has very little to say about anomalous, unusual, or one-time events. It is also based on numerous assumptions and inferences, which may or may not be correct.

    Just as the affirmative denial of God’s existence is not rational because there is no evidence that *requires* us to conclude that there is no God, so is it irrational to affirmatively deny events like Moroni’s visit. In the mean time the debate will go on between the apologists, who maintain that there is sufficient evidence to believe that Moroni’s visit could have occurred, and those who think the evidence requires us to conclude that the visit did not and could not have occurred. Which is the rational position?

  38. FreeAtLast
    July 6, 2006 at 3:35 pm

    John F. posted: “Where critics and antis place an inordinate, perhaps even blind, faith in the inferences they choose to draw from the historical record.” ‘Faith’ in so-called inferences of the historical record is not required because the facts speak for themselves.

    For example, no one need have ‘faith’ in any type of inference relative to the many historical facts about Joseph Smith that the LDS Church has concealed from its members and potential converts for generations, including:

    – his fascination with magic and use of ‘seer stones’;
    – his treasure-seeking using occult methods (for which he was tried and found guilty in 1826);
    – his conflicting versions of his ‘First Vision’ experience;
    – his attempt in 1828 to join a Methodist group (after God supposedly told him in 1820 to not unite himself with any church);
    – his false claims about the Book of Mormon and Book of Abraham;
    – his involvement in Masonry and his adaptation of Masonic rituals to create temple rites;
    – his extra-marital affair with 16-year old Fannie Alger (and other women);
    – his polygamous marriages to female church members who were already married and girls as young as 14;
    – his violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution when he ordered the press of the Nauvoo Expositor destroyed.

    Again, these historical facts speak for themselves. They provide us with a much more comprehensive understanding of the founder of Mormonism than does the LDS Church’s propaganda.

    Latter-Day Saints, like all religious people, are free to believe whatever they want about Smith, the LDS Church, ‘priesthood authority’, and other aspects of Mormonism. But the foundation of Mormonism is not people’s faith, it’s what the church has presented to the world for generations as truth about its origins and its keystone (the Book of Mormon). And that foundation is unable to withstand close scrutiny.

  39. July 6, 2006 at 3:42 pm

    Equality said:

    No one said it invalidates “all of FARMS scholarship and FAIR writings.” The tapir comment was used to show that your statement that FARMS scholars are effective and credible is not necessarily so. Do you find the tapirs=horses argument effective and credible, john f.? True, some of what FARMS and FAIR puts out is informative, interesting, and sometimes thought-provoking. Much of it, however, is not only bad scholarship but bad apologetics, which, if I am not mistaken, was John Dehlin’s original point: faithful members of the church encounter material from FARMS and FAIR hoping to find “credible” and “effective” answers to troubling questions only to come away disappointed and disillusioned.

    Awyatt says:
    To what do you attribute that disappointment and disillusionment? I know some people who find the tapir comment helpful, and others who don’t. The fact of the matter is that there are numerous lines of reasoning relating to horses in BoM times, and only one of them has to do with tapirs. Yet, it continues to be brought up as if it is the only line of thought.

    Perhaps some (but not all) of those looking for answers are actually looking for someone else to tell them what they should think. When they go to FARMS or FAIR and find that there is no monolithic way of thinking about any given “troubling issue,” they only see chaos, despair for the easy answer they were seeking, and go away to find someone else who can give them a pat answer they really desire.

    Pity.

  40. July 6, 2006 at 3:56 pm

    And that foundation is unable to withstand close scrutiny.

    This isn’t true. The Book of Mormon can and does withstand very close scrutiny. This is the point that FARMS continues to make as it applies methodologies of ancient studies and other disciplines to the content of the Book of Mormon. Again, if you choose to believe the inferences/speculation that JS wrote in over a period of years in the 1820s and then memorized the 500+ page book so that he could dictate it without revision with his face in his hat (Emma Smith herself said that he would dictate in that manner for hours without revision and she emphasized he had no manuscript present while doing so), then that inference can certainly be drawn when the alternative is believing that he was a seer and he was telling the truth about seeing the characters in the stone with the English equivalents.

    Equality and FreeAtLast, I think that you overstate your case with what you classify as “facts” that are simply universally accepted as the historical record. The truth is that historical evidence can support any number of alternative conclusions. The interesting aspect is identifying which historical conclusions square with the statements of the actors involved. That is, what reason do you have to draw inferences that contradict JS’s own accounts? Why would those inferences be more valid than inferences that correspond or support JS’s account? Why must we assume that JS was lying rather than assume that we are coming to improper conclusions based on the evidence we are viewing? Are you both really so certain of the historical record and what the “facts” are that you can say with confidence that JS is lying? If so, then you are very remarkable people as far as insight into the past is concerned.

    Take the death of Philip II’s son, Don Carlos, in 1568 for example. Documents and historical facts exist, even abound, about his incarceration and death and yet historians of the highest calibre debate whether Philip II or someone else poisoned him or had him killed. Some draw this inference from the historical evidence or facts. Others draw the inference that Philip II had nothing to do with it. Neither camp can really say for sure, despite the historical record.

    If you disagree doctrinally with early LDS teachings, that is one thing and a solid reason to reject the teachings of JS. But to say that the “historical facts” categorically condemn the “orthodox” teachings of the Church on its own history (i.e. JS’s account) is misplace because it simply is not so.

  41. July 6, 2006 at 4:00 pm

    Equality said You may need to explore a little on the fringes of the Bloggernacle and even bravely venture forth into the DAMU for confirmation of my statements.

    And why, exactly, would I want to do that? I do not doubt that many, such as you, choose to draw negative inferences from the historical evidence. Whether those inferences are justified, or are more valid than opposite, positive inferences from the same evidence, is another question, and the one that I am more interested in.

  42. July 6, 2006 at 4:02 pm

    Pete,

    1. A rational, dispassionate observer of the historical record would be one who is not adamant about Joseph Smith one way or the another; someone who is not emotionally invested in the notion that Joseph Smith is or is not a true Prophet.

    2. It is true that no one but Joseph Smith ultimately can know with absoulte certainty whether Joseph (a) saw real angels and other heavenly personages, (b) believed he saw such but was deluded, or (c) was aware that he never saw such and lied about having seen such. Nevertheless, as FreeAtLast points out, there ARE many historical claims the church makes that can be investigated rationally and about which reasonable people may form a consensus. One example (among a great many): the historical record concerning the translation of the Book of Mormon from a variety of sources establishes that at no time were the gold plates laid on the table in open view of Joseph’s scribe. All accounts agree that the plates were hidden from the view of Joseph’s amanuenses. The Church, however, in its Gospel Art Kit and in videos and films depicting the translation, often show the plates in plain view on a table between Joseph and his scribe. So while some events (the visions) really are beyond the historian’s ability to determine whether they actually occurred or not, many other events are well within the purview of historical inquiry.

    3. I agree with your assessment of eyewitness testimony–it is imperfect to be sure. Which is one reason I am not persuaded by the testimony of the three witnesses or the testimony of the eight witnesses published in the front of the Book of Mormon. However, I think it is just absurd to say that scientific knowledge is “just as flawed” as genuine scientific knowledge. I think if you reflect upont that statement for a moment you likely will agree with me.

    4. You also, IMO, erroneously equate the “irrationality” of an affirmative disbelief in the assertion that an extraordinary event has taken place with the “irrationality” of affirmative belief in the same assertion. I think I can show where you have erred. Suppose someone asserts that Orrin Hatch is not a human but is actually a space alien disguised as a human. Well, it is impossible to completely “disprove” such an assertion, isn’t it? I mean, we could say that “everybody knows Orrin Hatch is not a space alien” or that “science can’t explain anomalous, one-time, unusual events.” I would submit, however, that if I affirmatively disbelieve the proposition that Orrin Hatch is a space alien, my affirmative disbelief is not irrational at all and is certainly not as irrational as someone else’s affirmative belief in the same proposition. Where such an extraordinary claim is made, it is incumbent upon the person making the extraordinary claim to provide extraoridnary evidence in support of the claim and unless such evidence is forthcoming, a person acts rationally in affirmatively disbelieving such a claim.

  43. Mike Parker
    July 6, 2006 at 4:07 pm

    FreeAtLast:

    For example, no one need have ‘faith’ in any type of inference relative to the many historical facts about Joseph Smith that the LDS Church has concealed from its members and potential converts for generations, including….

    FreeAtLast, precisely HOW has the Church “concealed” these things from members? The issues in your list have been discussed in LDS-oriented books and periodicals, and the Church has not attempted to censor them or discipline their authors. Some of them have even been discussed in official Church magazines — the First Vision accounts have been covered in the Ensign, and the Joseph Smith Papyri were discussed and illustrated in the Improvement Era within two months after their discovery and translation.

    There is an enormous difference between choosing what material to put in a Sunday School manual for devotional purposes, and attempting to suppress or conceal information. The LDS Church does the former; it does not do the latter.

  44. mparker
    July 6, 2006 at 4:11 pm

    FreeAtLast:

    For example, no one need have ‘faith’ in any type of inference relative to the many historical facts about Joseph Smith that the LDS Church has concealed from its members and potential converts for generations, including….

    FreeAtLast, precisely HOW has the Church “concealed” these things from members? The issues in your list have been discussed in LDS-oriented books and periodicals, and the Church has not attempted to censor them or discipline their authors. Some of them have even been discussed in official Church magazines — the First Vision accounts have been covered in the Ensign, and the Joseph Smith Papyri were discussed and illustrated in the Improvement Era within two months after their discovery and translation.

    There is an enormous difference between choosing what material to put in a Sunday School manual for devotional purposes, and attempting to suppress or conceal information. The LDS Church does the former; it does not do the latter.

  45. Mayan Elephant
    July 6, 2006 at 4:13 pm

    The facts aren’t the facts but the facts can be facts for both sets of fact collectors, if they were ever facts in the first place, so its factually facetious to facilitate an argument with facts that are factually fictitious.

    ugg. and i dont mean boots. i mean holy cumom this is crazy.

    john f, your god should have just made all his kids pass a dajare test instead of understanding these confusing “facts.” fail dajare – telestial, pass dajare – polygamy. perfect.

    hey john dehlin. excuse the sarcasm there. ill just sign off now. thanks for getting this going. i think all the points have been exclaimed. it seems some people think the mops are good and some dont, shocker. some think people that are searching are inspired and some think they are possessed. oh well. i think people are generally good but some suck. its a shame that a church would be as divisive as me.

  46. July 6, 2006 at 4:17 pm

    john f,

    You keep talking about “inferences.”

    I feel a bit like Inigo Montoya in A Princess Bride. “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

    There are facts, and then there are inferences. The facts themselves interest me and the facts themselves are what are suppressed in church curricula. The facts themselves are hidden from view and even professional LDS historians are prevented from accessing salient materials, e.g., Bushman was not given access to Council of 50 minutes–that is a fact. One inference that could be drawn is that the church is hiding something. Another inference one could draw is that the minutes would have information that proves Joseph Smith a prophet so the church can’t show them to anyone because to do so would be to destroy man’s agency. You see, some inferences are more reasonable than others. It is true that the historical record can support a number of different conclusions. It is also true that some conclusions are more reasonable than others. And some conclusions can only be maintained by dismissing, ignoring, or “shelving” certain facts that would lead a reasonable person to a different conclusion antithetical to the conclusion a “faithful” person demands.

    BTW, I never said Joseph was lying about his visions and personal experiences, did I?

  47. July 6, 2006 at 4:50 pm

    The facts are what they are. You’re inferences about what they mean is what has made you skeptical of the Church’s truth claims.

  48. July 6, 2006 at 4:54 pm

    The Church, however, in its Gospel Art Kit and in videos and films depicting the translation, often show the plates in plain view on a table between Joseph and his scribe.

    This is really a scant reason to doubt the Church — because some artist took artistic license in a romantic depiction of JS sitting with the plates on a table between himself and the scribe. Is the claim being made that the Church is concealing the fact that no scribe saw the plates during the translation process (athough Emma reached out and touched them) by allowing the use of this heretical piece of art?

  49. July 6, 2006 at 4:57 pm

    And Mayan Elephant, your criticism of FARMS and FAIR is, exactly, what? Perhaps exactly the thing that you ably exemplify in your most recent comment?

  50. July 6, 2006 at 4:58 pm

    Equality, am I to understand that your answer to me is that I don’t understand the meaning of the word “inference”?

  51. Steve EM
    July 6, 2006 at 5:04 pm

    FreeAtLast, while often sympathetic to contrary positions, since you are so hung up on facts, I must point out that neither JS, nor any local or state authority could have violated the First Amendment prior to the 14th Amendment, which was enacted long after JS’s death. The first amendment in Smith’s time was an injuction against the Federal gov’t, period. That doesn’t mean Smith’s actions were wise, but you did spout off about facts.

  52. July 6, 2006 at 5:08 pm

    Equality said

    Bushman was not given access to Council of 50 minutes–that is a fact. One inference that could be drawn is that the church is hiding something. Another inference one could draw is that the minutes would have information that proves Joseph Smith a prophet so the church can’t show them to anyone because to do so would be to destroy man’s agency. You see, some inferences are more reasonable than others.

    Okay, I’ll see you that one and raise you one that I’ve mentioned twice in this thread already:

    The fact is, the Book of Mormon was dictated in less than three months with little to no revision. One inference that could be and has been drawn is that JS wrote out the BoM in advance over years during the 1820s drawing from sources that were only very speculatively available to him, then memorized it so that he could dictate it without revision in one go during an approximately two and a half month period. Another inference could be that JS was telling the truth in his account of translating through the power of God (which included looking into a seer stone in a hat) the BoM from Golden Plates obtained from an angel.

    To quote you, “some inferences are more reasonable than others.” And that is the whole point. The antis and critics think that the former is the more reasonable conclusion. The Latter-day Saints believe the latter is the more reasonable conclusion. The former put faith in their inferences from what exists of the historical record based on what they believe is objective, rational analysis of a far-from-complete historical record; the latter put faith in their inferences from what exists of the far-from-complete historical record and claim to do so based on personal spiritual confirmation of the same.

    So is the Church concealing something or is it taking JS at face value and believing his word? Each person must decide for themselves. I don’t see what is so controversial about that. FARMS scholars give JS and the Church’s “version” of its own history the benefit of the doubt and work from within that framework. I don’t see what is to fault about that.

  53. July 6, 2006 at 5:12 pm

    “Is the claim being made that the Church is concealing the fact that no scribe saw the plates during the translation process (athough Emma reached out and touched them) by allowing the use of this heretical piece of art?”

    Well, they don’t exactly include pictures of Joseph with his head buried in his hat in the Gospel Art Kit, now do they? True, this one picture, if that’s all there were, would be scant reason to doubt the foundational truth claims of the church. But it is representative of the church’s general “faith-promoting” version of church history which romamnticizes Joseph Smith and the founding events and ignores or whitewashes any inconvenient facts from church history. Is it accidental? A person could draw that inference. Is it intentional? A person could draw that inference, too. What do you think?

    “Equality, am I to understand that your answer to me is that I don’t understand the meaning of the word “inference”?”

    Methinks you would do well to seek to obtain a sense of humor, mon frere.

    “Equality said You may need to explore a little on the fringes of the Bloggernacle and even bravely venture forth into the DAMU for confirmation of my statements.

    And why, exactly, would I want to do that? ”

    Well, you might be surprised at who you find hanging out there. You never know who you might bump into….

  54. Steve EM
    July 6, 2006 at 5:20 pm

    I will add regarding FreeAtLast’s comments that Smith’s secret sex life is indeed troubling, but marriage to a 14 year old in his day is not. FreeAtLast is applying modern sensibilities to a past time, which is grossly unfair to Smith and leads me to conclude he has an axe to grind. For example, BY’s being a bigot doesn’t trouble me in the least; it was the norm for his time. JRC’s open bigotry in the mid 20th century is grossly embarrassing to the church.

    Anyone who knows my rep in the Nacle knows I’m as far from an apologist as you can get. Just think of me as an equal opportunity rottweiler.

  55. July 6, 2006 at 5:21 pm

    Equality, I have exactly zero sense of humor where someone is criticizing my faith. Sorry. We are all only human. Life would be wonderful if I could look at someone who tells me JS and the Church is full of s*&$ and just laugh.

  56. July 6, 2006 at 5:36 pm

    Equality, re exmo and antimo boards, the point is that I don’t need to go there to know that there are people who find the negative inferences to be drawn from the “historical record” more persuasive than JS’s word. Contrary to what you suggest, I would not be surprised about who is hanging out there, even if what is being said might indeed disgust and irritate me. Very little surprises me except, perhaps, the speculations that some choose to believe as an alternative to JS’s word. And yet, I realize that those (in my opinion) absurd speculations are easier for most human beings to believe than that an angel visited JS and showed him the location of Golden Plates.

    As to your repeated statement that the Church is “whitewashing” its history, I fully understand that this is a common claim made by ex and antimos. I see it differently. I do not believe the Church is whitewashing its history. The seer stone in the hat has never been a secret. It has been discussed by Elder Nelson in General Conference. It is there to know for whoever wants to know of it. JS’s multiple wives is not a secret (although the “facts” that are mentioned above about Fanny Alger are actually inferences drawn from opaque historical facts); in fact, I spent considerable amount of time on my mission, together with completely orthodox missionary companions, trying to convince a member of the RLDS Church that JS instituted polygamy and that he himself was a polygamist. That some people didn’t learn this and then assume that the Church has hidden it from them is an interesting phenomenon.

    Are we to believe that the Church is concealing “facts” because there is “Gospel Art” (if it can be called art) that shows JS with the plates in view of the scribe but no “art” depicting JS looking into his seer stone and using his hat to block out interfering daylight? Why don’t you remedy that and paint one?

    I grant you that the Church does not actively emphasize issues with its former practice of polygamy anymore since God has repealed that practice. But does the Church deny that it practiced polygamy? I have yet to see this happen. To the contrary, I have often heard talk of polygamous ancestors or of polygamous situations in Church history in Sunday School classes all over the United States and in Europe.

    I am guessing that there is nothing I could say that will convince you that the Church is not concealing history. So it must remain on an “I believe” vs. “you believe” level.

  57. July 6, 2006 at 5:38 pm

    It is interesting to take John’s “checklist” that represents his complaints against apologists and apply it to the apologetic critics on this page.

    I don’t mind criticizing as hurtful or unhelpful some rhetorical excesses. I probably agree with John in a lot of that. But there is clearly a lot of the kettle calling the pot black.

  58. Mayan Elephant
    July 6, 2006 at 5:40 pm

    john f.
    nobody is criticizing YOUR faith. dont flatter yourself.

    many criticize apologetics. thats ok. many criticize the church. also ok. many are critical of themselves and their participation in the church. fine. nobody is criticizing your faith. if it is enough to overcome challenges against the church, so be it.

    but you, on the other hand, with comments such as the one above about equality’s inferences, seem critical of him.

    listen closely. i despise much of this church. i despise the actions of many leaders. i despise what it has done to my own family. i despise the church for the anguish my wife has been subjected to as a leader in this church. some days, i wish this church would disappear.

    but, i allow for you and many in my family to choose that path, narrow as it is. all i ask is a bit of common sense and allowance from your kind, simply acknowledge that there is pain, heartache and differences of inferences.

    dont pretend that those that walk away are leaving a happy place, for them. it may be happy for you, fine. but for the love of god, allow all men to worship how where or what they may. and then go the extra mile, and allow all men and women to see the real facts, without shame, spin and apologies.

  59. July 6, 2006 at 5:41 pm

    If I paint Jesus as an anglo-saxon and his disciples as renaissance-era noblemen, and then the Church for some misguided artistic or aesthetic reason adopts it into its expansive and insipid “Gospel Art” collection, are we to understand that the Church is concealing something about history because the painting is fanciful and not realistic?

  60. July 6, 2006 at 5:42 pm

    but, i allow for you and many in my family to choose that path, narrow as it is. Well thank you, Mr. Elephant. How generous, tolerant, and truly enlightened.

  61. pete
    July 6, 2006 at 5:53 pm

    Equality:

    I enjoyed your response to my post. Regarding your points:

    1. While I understand the abstract notion of the “unbiased rational inquirer,” my point is that as a practical matter, no one meets that definition in the context of the debate between and among LDS apologists, exMos, bloggers, and MINOs–not you, RT, Mayan Elephants, or anyone else that has been commenting here.

    The LDS “apologists” are admittedly not neutral–I don’t think anyone at FAIR or FARMS would claim otherwise. In contrast, those who criticize the apologists or their methods like to pretend that are neutral, or at least that their opinions square with the mythical “unbiased inquirer” and are therefore more legitimate. Ultimately, however, they are mere opinions based on inferences drawn from the evidence–not truth per se.

    2. Your example of the gold plates not laying in open view to the scribes is a prime example of a purported *fact* for which we have no specific evidence–and for which “unbiased inquiry” simply does nothing to “establish truth”. At most, the unbiased inquirer can only conclude that there is no remaining evidence that the plates were lain in open view of the various scribes (assuming that is what the historical evidence indicates).

    3. I think I was pretty clear regarding the limits of scientific knowledge in explaining unique, anomalous, or one-time events. I would add to that list very complicated phenomena (the workings of the human brain and any number of natural laws come to mind). Science is limited. To the extent it yields “knowledge” vs. theory or conjecture, it is simply tautological and is based only on what has been observed. What is impressive about that?

    4. At some point, reasonable people tend to find consensus (of course, even that does not guarantee truth!). I don’t think its fair to say that reasonable people all believe the same things regarding religion, either its validity or particularities. That said, your example of Orrin Hatch being viewed as a space alien is good (and not just because there is a strong possibility that is true).

    Regarding your last point that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence–I think a true spiritual witness from a divine being would qualify as “extraordinary evidence”–don’t you?

  62. July 6, 2006 at 6:11 pm

    ME wrote but for the love of god, allow all men to worship how where or what they may. and then go the extra mile, and allow all men and women to see the real facts, without shame, spin and apologies.

    Funny how you are assuming that I am not already doing this. Does my defending my faith make you feel that I am not allowing you to have your faith? And, again, I am at a loss as to why you cannot see that you are overstating your case with regard to “real facts”. You seem to ignore that your “facts” are also based on shame (shame on the church and its leaders for X supposed fact), spin (the Church can’t be true because of X supposed fact), and apologies (your view is the view of the rational observer who only looks at facts and not “whitewashed” history).

  63. Steve EM
    July 6, 2006 at 6:23 pm

    Regarding the BofM animals debate. What about the guy promoting a Malaysian setting? What if the BofM is divinely revealed allegory entirely? Smith’s clearly wrong interpretation of the BofM as describing continental events is good evidence to me that he indeed didn’t write the book, just as he stated. The linear thinking regarding the BofM promoted by our church’s established orthodoxy does needlessly harm the faith of many. I find parts of the BofM to be clunky and stiff and other parts open my spirit in a poetic fashion. In its entirety, I believe the book to be true, whatever that means, and it stands as another witness to the restored gospel. As far as the BofM witnesses, they signed their names to a written description of what they saw, the attempts here to explain them away are rather sad. Either they are fraudulent co-conspirators with Smith, or they told the truth. There is no middle ground, except for the soft headed.

  64. July 6, 2006 at 6:37 pm

    Soft-headed seems like a nice middle ground option option for the witnesses as well. 🙂

  65. John Mansfield
    July 6, 2006 at 6:58 pm

    Mayan Elephant, how did you NOT know that the Church opposed the ERA?

  66. July 6, 2006 at 7:04 pm

    Not speaking for Mayan but for myself…I’d say that I didn’t know that the church’s opposition to the ERA was anything but god’s will.

    Now I beleive that it was the church and NOT god that opposed the ERA.

  67. Blake
    July 6, 2006 at 8:18 pm

    AtLast says: “For example, no one need have ‘faith’ in any type of inference relative to the many historical facts about Joseph Smith that the LDS Church has concealed from its members and potential converts for generations, including:

    – his fascination with magic and use of ’seer stones’;
    – his treasure-seeking using occult methods (for which he was tried and found guilty in 1826);
    – his conflicting versions of his ‘First Vision’ experience;
    – his attempt in 1828 to join a Methodist group (after God supposedly told him in 1820 to not unite himself with any church);
    – his false claims about the Book of Mormon and Book of Abraham;
    – his involvement in Masonry and his adaptation of Masonic rituals to create temple rites;
    – his extra-marital affair with 16-year old Fannie Alger (and other women);
    – his polygamous marriages to female church members who were already married and girls as young as 14;
    – his violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution when he ordered the press of the Nauvoo Expositor destroyed.”

    Sometimes I just get a bit annoyed at the kind of ignorance displayed by those who think they know it all and are in a postion to judge. Of the list made by FAL, none has been concealed by the Church. Seer stones — yeah, that was really concealed. Such stone are repeatedly discussed in several sources published by the Church — and the Church was so afraid and so conealing that it published the original Book of Commandments w/o change that talks all about them.

    JS was not found guilty — tho he was tried for looking into seer stone. Speaking of violations of the 1st Amendment, did it ever occur to you that JS’s 1st Amendment rights were repeatedly violated and had he been found gulity (which is very disputable and I believe probably just false) then his 1st Amendment rights were in fact violated. The 1826 trial is also discussed in sources published by the Chruch as some length.

    Joseph’s aligning himself with Methodists is also discussed in several Church related articles — and what is the big deal?

    You’re going to have to do better than that with the BofM and BofAbr. What false claims? do you know something that I don’t? Do you read Egyptian. So let me give you the challenge: re: the BofM – explain how JS knew about the appropriate elements, form and cultic/social meaning of the prophetic call form; how we knew about the covenant renewal festival and its form and how he knew about Israelite legal procedures all displayed in the BofM and which I have written about. What is your explanation. As for the BofAbr., explain the elements of the transposition of the Abraham symbology as it was understood by Jews who actually wrote about Abraham’s visions using the Book of the Dead to illustrate them in the Testament of Abr. and the Apocalypse of Abr. — and just how did he get so many unique and extensive parallels to that Abrahamic literature? Put up FAL and give us an explanation that holds some water before you go accusing Joseph of just getting it all wrong.

    Joseph’s involvement in masonry has also been discussed at length in articles published by the church or affiliated journals — and his comments about the relation of masonry to the endowment are published in the Church History by B.H. Roberts. Wow, big cover up there.

    The marriage (not his affair) to Fanny Alger has been discussed by Todd Compton. I agree with E. M. that you are practicing cultural imperialism by imposing your own cultural mores on Joseph.

    Finally, the Expositor was declared a nuisance. Nuisances are not protected by the 1st Amendment. Therefore, Joseph didn’t violate the 1st Amendment (on top of that, the 1st Amendment was interpreted very differently in his day than post 14th Amendment America that applied the U.S. Const. to the states). This issue has also been reviewed at length by competent attorneys and judges (of which I am one) and you analysis is just misinformed.

    That is what drives me crazy — folks like FAL just throw out their opinion as if it were established fact and everyone else is just dence. And for the record, the ERA was useless because it was already implicit in the 14th amendment.

    So FAL, I’ll be wating for your explanation of the issues related to the BofM and BofAbr. that I raised.

  68. Blake
    July 6, 2006 at 8:23 pm

    Mayan Ele — I am just a bit confused about how it would ever even be possible for John F. to deprive you of the right to worship as you wish — or to assuage your pain that you blame the Church for causing. Are you accusing him of trying to force you to believe soemthing?

  69. July 6, 2006 at 8:24 pm

    Just curious…was the Church against the ERA because it was useless or because of what it represented?

  70. Blake
    July 6, 2006 at 8:38 pm

    Matt e. — The answer is easy enough: Both.

  71. Just for Quix
    July 6, 2006 at 9:14 pm

    To merely scratch the surface: It’s one thing to argue away Joseph’s dingle-dipping with other women, including propositioning other men’s wives, as beyond modern moralistic critique citing “modern cultural imperialism” and the like as a shield of defense. But when Joseph and his religion is held up as THE standard of truth and I am told God expects me to believe it, I feel I’m quite safely within my rights, of morality, reason and spirit, to examine the historical evidentiary record and say there is little there in Joseph’s record for me worthy of anything more than a sociological fascination how with skill, charisma and slight-of-hand he pulled off the fabrication of a new religion. I allow that other men and women may look at the same record and find something inspiring there. But it is quite foolish to assert that it is outside the realm of fairness and reason to apply my modern moral compass to Joseph’s character when what he represents today is not a balanced and flawed historical character but rather an archetypical facade held up as a bearer of a restored standard of Truth.

    An idealistic (but to me practical) notion, I’ll grant. 😉 But I won’t hold FARMS or FAIR responsible for my loss of faith. While Mormon apologia has been unpersuasive to me, my changed faith is soundly due to my own “imperialism” of ethics, morals and reason I have applied to the historical record as I understand it.

  72. Blake
    July 6, 2006 at 9:23 pm

    JQ: How would you judge a Muslim who presently has has six wives and married 16 year olds (and such practices are common in his culture)? Further, it is now common to argue that marriage is in fact a religious institution and that the State ought to get our of the business of marriage — indeed, that is my position. However, it was also Joseph position. State marriages didn’t have any validity as far as he was concerned — and I agree. I won’t justify marrying teen-agers. But it is legal to marry 15 qnd 16 year olds in several states even currently.

    As far as your right to judge Joseph and other — who made you the moral arbiter? You are of course forced to judge by your own best lights just like the rest of us — but let’s not forget that it is still a judgment by your own lights. Indeed, now let me ask just what moral theory or view of ethics you adopt and how it makes Joseph somehow less than worthy in your judgments? Just what is the ethical system you believe you can adopt as the way to judge?

  73. texasguy
    July 6, 2006 at 9:24 pm

    http://i6.tinypic.com/1z1h9ug.jpg

    John and Pete. Is this what lamanites riding horses looked like.

  74. Just for Quix
    July 6, 2006 at 9:40 pm

    Blake: As a Libertarian you’ll find I’m quite sympathetic to said Muslim having the right within his religion and culture to marry that many women. Nor do I support the right of the American govt to legislate _my_ morality which is that I find such practice, such as marrying such young girls and treating them as property, offensive. But when I am asked to grant my religious _belief_ as a Humanist I think it is quite within my right to arbitrate that which I find persuasive and worthy for said belief. Moral relativism makes for a winning debate but after the debate is finished my heart is no greater inclined to accept Joseph as a Prophet. Joseph’s extra-marital behavior, in that sense, is a deal-breaker for me.

  75. Just for Quix
    July 6, 2006 at 9:47 pm

    Blake: I’ll just reiterate: I can accept Joseph as a fascinating, even at times admirable, visionary historical figure. I just can’t accept his claims to religious Truth (with a capitol-T).

  76. Lunar Quaker
    July 6, 2006 at 9:53 pm

    Opinions that are based on evidence are more valid than opinions that are based on subjective experience.

    I can also conclude that there is no remaining evidence that Joseph Smith rode a horse bareback and naked through the streets of Nauvoo with a teapot on his head chanting praises to the god of Elkenah. But this made-up scenario is more likely to have occurred than the Gospel-Art-Kit version of the Book of Mormon translation process.

    The reason is that there is no counter-evidence to my made-up scenario. However, in the case of the Book of Mormon translation process, there is plenty of counter-evidence to refute the Gospel-Art-Kit version. The truth is that there are several eye-witness accounts detailing the Book of Mormon translation process. Among these, there is a consensus that the plates were not used, and that Joseph Smith used his seer stone which was placed in a hat. How many independent, eye-witness accounts does it take to establish something as a fact?

    A heck of a lot more impressive than “knowledge” that is based on things that HAVEN’T been observed. How’s that for a tautology?

    No, it doesn’t qualify. See my first point. Spiritual witnesses are entirely subjective, and do nothing to convince others. Evidence is worthless unless it is available to anyone for examination.

  77. July 6, 2006 at 10:02 pm

    LQ, noone here is arguing that JS didn’t use a seer stone and hat; indeed, those who believe JS and the Church here are arguing that he did and that the Church has not covered this up.

  78. Lunar Quaker
    July 6, 2006 at 10:03 pm

    (REPOSTED TO CORRECT PREVIOUS POST–INTENDED TO QUOTE Pete)

    “Ultimately, however, they are mere opinions based on inferences drawn from the evidence–not truth per se.”

    Opinions that are based on evidence are more valid than opinions that are based on subjective experience.

    “At most, the unbiased inquirer can only conclude that there is no remaining evidence that the plates were lain in open view of the various scribes (assuming that is what the historical evidence indicates).”

    I can also conclude that there is no remaining evidence that Joseph Smith rode a horse bareback and naked through the streets of Nauvoo with a teapot on his head chanting praises to the god of Elkenah. But this made-up scenario is more likely to have occurred than the Gospel-Art-Kit version of the Book of Mormon translation process.

    The reason is that there is no counter-evidence to my made-up scenario. However, in the case of the Book of Mormon translation process, there is plenty of counter-evidence to refute the Gospel-Art-Kit version. The truth is that there are several eye-witness accounts detailing the Book of Mormon translation process. Among these, there is a consensus that the plates were not used, and that Joseph Smith used his seer stone which was placed in a hat. How many independent, eye-witness accounts does it take to establish something as a fact?

    “Science is limited. To the extent it yields “knowledge” vs. theory or conjecture, it is simply tautological and is based only on what has been observed. What is impressive about that?”

    A heck of a lot more impressive than “knowledge” that is based on things that HAVEN’T been observed. How’s that for a tautology?

    “Regarding your last point that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence–I think a true spiritual witness from a divine being would qualify as “extraordinary evidence”–don’t you?”

    No, it doesn’t qualify. See my first point. Spiritual witnesses are entirely subjective, and do nothing to convince others. Evidence is worthless unless it is available to anyone for examination.

  79. texasguy
    July 6, 2006 at 10:05 pm

    How do you interpret a “spiritual witness” Why does a spiritual witness mean, “I am a part of the only true and living church?” I actually like “by their fruits you shall know them.” Mormonism fails big time with this. Are you sure that it wasn’t just cognitive dissonance kicking in? I mean really some of the stuff FAIR and FARMS dishes out is really unbelievable TBM or not.

  80. texasguy
    July 6, 2006 at 10:10 pm

    I actually prayed again, when I was looking at the evidence with the Book of Breathings and this is what I felt in my heart, “you have all the information you need.” Is this a apiritual witness, this was the strongest feeling I have ever felt concerning the church. Am I not sincere? What is my problem? Do I just not have enough faith?

  81. -Domokun-
    July 6, 2006 at 10:11 pm

    john f., what’s the difference between “covering up” something, and not teaching it? I grew up 6th generation BIC, went to seminary in Wasatch-Front Utah, graduated from BYU, blah blah blah, and I only remember a few tangential comments about seer stones, but was taught the traditional translation story as the origin of the Book of Mormon. Wow, come to find out the “traditional translation story” has never been documented as actually happening in the current version of reality I live in. If I wasn’t taught about seerstones in Primary, Junior Sunday School, Seminary, Adult Sunday School, and BYU religion classes, I would call that “the Church not teaching it”. So again, what is a cover-up? Does it have to involve Agents Mulder and Scully and the Trilateral Commission? Or does simply not ever teaching it count as a cover up?

  82. texasguy
    July 6, 2006 at 10:11 pm

    I actually prayed again, when I was looking at the evidence with the Book of Breathings and this is what I felt in my heart, “you have all the information you need.” Is this a apiritual witness? This was the strongest feeling I have ever felt concerning the church. Am I not sincere? What is my problem? Do I just not have enough faith? Are only answers that say Mormonism is true the only valid ones?

  83. texasguy
    July 6, 2006 at 10:23 pm

    Why doesn’t everyone get the same answer when they pray about the “truth” of the church? or no answer at all? John and Pete are you claiming moral superiority, or were you just more noble in the preexistance?

  84. texasguy
    July 6, 2006 at 10:24 pm

    I guess I was a fence sitter along with the blacks, gays, and intellectuals.

  85. Lunar Quaker
    July 6, 2006 at 10:25 pm

    *sarcasm*

    Domo, you forgot that the seer-stone-in-a-hat version of the history isn’t very useful. It’s not a cover up.. it’s just a practical matter.

  86. July 6, 2006 at 10:34 pm

    Domo, I was taught about seer stones in primary. My 5-year-old daughter was taught about them just a few months ago in her Primary class. Elder Nelson explained the method of translation with a seer stone in a hat for some of the time in general conference. Joseph also translated looking at the plates some of the time. Anyway, I just don’t see a cover-up.

  87. July 6, 2006 at 10:55 pm

    Blake wrote: “The answer is easy enough: Both”

    Ah yes, Blake. Touche.

    Allow me to revise a bit for clarity:

    Would the church have come out against the ERA if its substance would have had no impact? IE, if in fact all that it represented was already covered in the Constitution? I think not, and I think it’s ridiculous to suggest otherwise.

    The Church clearly disagreed with the substance of the ERA. The claim that the ERA was useless is contradicted by the fact that the Church found it sufficiently useful to some cause it disagreed with as to come out against it…to state the obvious.

    Domokun,

    The difference between covering-up and not teaching in a world where most receive/accept only what is taught is measured by the degree to which folks are taught to trust/treasure only what is taught. In the Church, this equals massive cover-up.

  88. July 6, 2006 at 11:05 pm

    PS.

    And I’m not talking about what is discussed in a single conference talk *after* the cat is already out of the bag. I’m talking about what is taught from the manuals every Sunday, what is presented in CHurch art, what is expressed in nearly every iteration of the Joseph Smith story, what is found in the Missionary Discussions, and what is in the mind of your average member. You know…what is actually taught with enough repetition that is becomes reality for most members.

    John F,

    Teaching kids in primary that JS used the same kind of seer stones in the same way as what is presented in the BoM (and I’ll flip if any Primary discussion had gone substantially beyond this level of teaching) is far from proof of full disclosure and/or accurate story-telling. It’s simply part of mythic story-telling as one would expect in Primary.

  89. July 6, 2006 at 11:09 pm

    Hey All!

    Really sorry I haven’t been able to respond to everyone. I’m on vacation.

    A couple of things….

    — Clark, I am not filtering your posts, so I have no idea whey they got excluded. Sorry about that. Must be akismet.

    — Scott Gordon, I found at least one of your posts in the spam blocker and have now passed it through.

    — John F: Personally, I don’t feel as though Grant Palmer’s overall mosaic/picture has been discredited at all. I have invited someone from FAIR to appear on my podcast to provide a compelling, faithful mosaic to Mormon origins, and would still love to see this happen. Are you interested? Scott? Blake? Anyone? I promise to be as respectful to you as I was to Greg Kearney or John Lynch. I know for a fact that I, and many of my listeners, would benefit from this. To some extent, by refusing to come on my podcast, FAIR does to me what was done to Sunstone–which is to create a self-fulfilling prophecy of “lack of balance” by pure virtue of the fact that only liberals will participate, because the conservatives refuse to.

    — I just got off the phone w/ John Lynch. What a great fellow, and a wonderful example of how we can move the ball in a productive way. Anyway, I just had to mention that.

    — Scott–I owe you a reply to your email and will send it soon.

    — FAIR Folks, I want to communicate 2 things really, really clearly: 1) I share FAIR’s mission. I spend an incredible amount of my personal time each week trying to help (some) people come back to the church–those who left for the wrong reasons, or are more miserable for doing so. You might be surprised at this, but I know that there are people who will confirm this. I hate it when folks leave the church for stupid reasons, and then end up making their lives MORE miserable. This is the main group of people I focus on, and I want you all to know that I share this purpose w/ FAIR.

    — I stand by my comments that I do not believe that folks like Dan Peterson and Lou Midgley represent LDS apologists well…I believe that for most of the people I work with, they are damaging to faith (I admit this is only my experience). I will also say that I believe that the public FAIR board does not represent FAIR well, and while FAIR has clearly made attempts to distance themselves from the board, I believe that this disclaimer is lost on most people (surely was on me), and that in the end, FAIR hosts and promotes and supports the board, and so they ought to consider whether they should take a more active role in moderating it. I find a lot of hateful, unChristlike speech there (admitting that this is only my selective, objective opinion).

    — Finally–for the FAIR folk who are angry or frustrated that I have been previously included on the FAIR internal e-List, I have a few things to say….. 1) I have not violated my promise to John Lynch to not share those posts externally, and I intend to keep that promise, 2) that said, I find that there is an unfortunately high amount of mocking and sarcasm even on that list (targeted at folks like Fawn Brodie, Grant Palmer, Brent Metcalf, George P. Lee, Jeffrey Nielsen, Sunstone, etc). If you will grant me permission, I’d be happy to post some samples of the type of mockery and sarcasm that I’ve read there as well–I have many, many examples of it. It has sincerely been disheartenting for me to see that type of discourse on the internal list. I will also add as a sidenote that I interact w/ the Sunstone folks weekly now, and find their tone overall MUCH more kind, and Christlike, and open than what I’ve experienced on the public and private FAIR lists. I believe that if you met Dan Wotherspoon, and saw how he acted and felt, you would agree. Finally, 3) Go back and look at my last few posts on the internal FAIR list. I feel like my posts have been largely ignored….so I guess I didn’t feel like there was much interest in my opinions internally to FAIR (outside of folks like Lynch and Kearney).

    Anyway, sorry if I offended. I sincerely believe the points I made, and stick by them. I actually would desperately love for FAIR to be more effective (in keeping people from leaving the church for stupid reasons, or in making their lives more miserable), and would even be willing to meet w/ you guys or talk personally with you to discuss. For me, the stakes are just too high for us not to be the best we can be in this arena.

    Where I’ve sinned, please feel free to hold my (or Sunstone’s) feet to the fire.

  90. July 6, 2006 at 11:15 pm

    PPS.

    And I don’t think anyone seriously expects the Church to teach the facts beyond the mythic story…just that apologists admit that if hte Church were to teach the factual account, it would cause a lot of trouble for the membership.

    This is all that I ask of apologists…just to acknowledge this troubling fact rather than work so hard to deny that the Church has chosen to tell only a part of the story.

  91. Quinn
    July 7, 2006 at 12:02 am

    This is just bizarre. Much of this thread, John, seems to be reflective of what you are complaining about. And it’s hosted by *you*.

    Hmmmmm…

  92. Mark Butler
    July 7, 2006 at 12:27 am

    A few comments, I can see how some might have occasional reason to criticize the work of FARMS, but that is hardly surprising. In general, though I find the work of FARMS thorough and well done, if sometimes with an overtone of frustration.

    Now Sunstone on the other hand, in its magazine form, sometimes has some useful information scattered here and there, but by and large it seems to be a club for members who have no faith – who get most of their kicks out of making fun of members who do. Certainly some members are uniformed, doctrinaire, and more than a touch overbearing – but does that really give license to propagate a periodical with no apparent purpose but discrediting and ridiculing not only them, but nearly the whole Church, indeed practically anything requiring even a modicum of inspiration to take seriously?

    The strength of any religion worth following, is not “faith” – it is inspiration. The strength of this Church, is not faith, it is not mere inspiration – it is revelation – the gift of prophecy. The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy, saith the revelator. No man can say that Jesus is the Christ but by the Holy Ghost.

    And the ultimate test of whether a person has the gift of prophecy in this dispensation, is whether he knows by the spirit of revelation, that Joseph Smith is a prophet of the Lord Jesus Christ, who translated the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints know that fact by the spirit of revelation.

    Some strange and unexplainable historical events that hardly measure up to even stranger ones in the Old Testament cannot make that revelation go away, not permanently, not in anyone who sincerely follows after the gifts of the Spirit.

    I can understand the criticism of folks who have never received such a revelation and grew up outside the Church, but for those who have and have wavered or lost the faith, or for those who are Mormons by culture alone, what is the point? Why the desire to mock those that believe differently? Why not just pick on Christianity in general? If Jesus Christ rose from the dead, than why can’t Joseph Smith translate a book without looking at it all the time?

    If one does not believe in a world beyond the understanding of the natural man, why bother with religion at all? Eat, drink, and be merry, for tommorrow we die, right?

  93. July 7, 2006 at 12:36 am

    Equality said:

    Well, you might be surprised at who you find hanging out there [around the “DAMU”]. You never know who you might bump into….

    Equality- if you are referring to me, John f. already knows that I have spent time around the DAMU, because we have discussed many of these things at length. He is, after all, my brother. So that would not be a big surprise for him. He also knows, as do you from discussions elsewhere in the bloggernacle and in the DAMU, that I also choose to put faith in the “positive” inferences from historical facts surrounding the foundational events of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, leading me to conclude based on that faith that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and a worthy vessel in His hands to restore the Church of Jesus Christ in these last days of the earth as we know it. I know you feel this belief is irrational, but I think it is no less rational than using faith to believe in the negative inferences, as you have chosen to do.

    I know the Church teaches that one can know for certain that these things happen (for example, that Joseph Smith actually saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, in answer to a prayer, in or around 1820); or that Jesus Christ actually lives today as a resurrected and glorified being, and I hope that one day this may be the case for me. For now, I have faith that it did, that He does, and am convinced right to the cusp of only ephemerally lingering reasonable doubt that events such as this really did transpire. And for that reasonable doubt, I proclaim my belief, and pray to the Lord that He “help thou mine unbelief.” And He has and He does.

    Now- about apologists. I have never really been part of the apologist camp- I think apologists generally have good intentions, but too often they end up promulgating faith-promoting rumors which, when debunked, spell disaster for those who mistakenly built testimonies on such things. I do not believe the Church is actively conspiring to hide anything or behave in the sinister manner some seem to ascribe to it. While I personally see no reason why the Church can’t be more like Richard Bushman in its presentation of its fascinating history, just because it does not openly proclaim every historical detail does not mean it is actively hiding anything.

    I also disagree with the notion that if members were suddenly “confronted” with details regarding Joseph Smith translating using a stone in a hat, or the fact that he was sealed to other women (a fact that was taught in my BYU Church History class, of all places!), or the “issues” surrounding the papyri from which the Book of Abraham has been believed to have been translated (admittedly problematic issues that have been addressed in official Church publications), or even the fact that Joseph Smith had a six-shooter and John Taylor a “rascal beater” in Carthage Jail and used them, successfully causing injury to several of the attackers (described in great detail in at least one Ensign article commemorating the 150th year of Joseph Smith’s murder)- I disagree with the notion that members “confronted” with these details for the first time would, for the most part, not leave the Church over these and similar things.

    Rather, they would stay for some of the very reasons posited by Equality on Equality’s blog- they see absolutely no reason to “shelve” their testimonies to evaluate these facts.

    And “shelving” a testimony to evaluate certain facts in “pure light” as posited by Equality is not as objective as he paints it. It necessarily means accepting, on faith, the inferences from those facts which lead to the conclusion that Joseph Smith must have “made it all up”- either to justify “lusts” for women or to gain power or whatever other reason their faith leads them to believe. Because they must accept such on faith, where they can only measure what happened using the same facts to which faithful believers such as John F. and myself are privvy. But my faith leads me to believe that Joseph Smith was a man of God who really did what he claims to have done.

    More importantly, my faith leads me to believe those inferences stemming from scanty historical facts which state that Jesus Christ truly lived on the Earth, that He died for my sins, and that He was resurrected on the third day.

    With that in mind, I agree with John Dehlin that apologetics are unnecessary and often unnecessarily contentious, sometimes causing more harm than good, as cogently pointed out in the initial post. And, it can really damage peoples’ “testimonies” when apologists- whether intentionally, inadvertently, or something in-between- teach the results of their largely academic (in the trivial sense) inquiries as Church doctrine of sorts.

    Here the Book of Mormon rings all too true when it discusses the dangers of thinking that “all is well in Zion,” which apologist rhetoric can lead one to believe (“Oh, the people at FARMS have an explanation for that one, so I don’t need to work it out in my own mind and/or struggle with it…”) In my mind, the journey towards faith in the truth claims of the Church REQUIRES the very struggle with doubt which FARMS and other apologist entities seem (probably inadvertently) to try to prevent. I welcome that struggle.

    I really do not think one needs apologists to develop a firm belief in the restored gospel. One needs only to make a choice- a choice to believe Joseph Smith at his word, and to act accordingly, struggling mightily with doubts that will necessarily arise during ensuing odyssey of faith. That choice will probably be based on a desire that the truth claims of the Church be true, and hopefully buttressed by experiences with the divine which transcend any mortal feeling of “rightness” that might accompany any sort of “confirmation bias.”

    Despite any curious and/or lost ramblings in the DAMU or elsewhere, and despite apologetics, I have made that choice myself because I desire all that the “mormon” gospel (realizing that there are other gospels) teaches, and I believe that choice to be buttressed by sublime experience with the divine as I struggle to work out doubts with the prayer in my heart for the Lord to “help mine unbelief”.

  94. July 7, 2006 at 12:43 am

    I disagree with the notion that members “confronted” with these details for the first time would, for the most part, not leave the Church over these and similar things.

    This SHOULD read: “WOULD . . . leave the Church . . .”

    And one more thing- I think people should stop beating up on John Dehlin for struggling in his own way with his reasonable doubts about the Church. In my opinion, all “true-believing mormons” should have cause at some point to struggle with their faith. The scriptures speak often of such struggles. In the end, I have faith that such internal struggles can vanquish the doubt which, for example, so often unnecessarily hinders my way or the way of other “true-believing mormons”.

  95. July 7, 2006 at 12:45 am

    Quinn…

    I don’t really see your point as much more than an attempt to discredit through vague allusions.

    But to acknowledge that there is some kernal of truth behind your allusion…Why is it so bizarre that a post concerning the challenges of Apologetics would contain a thread that demonstrates some of those challenges?

    Do you seriously expect the topic to be discussed between apologists and critics without some portion of the problem appearing?

    Does this fact mean that John is guilty of duplicity as you seem to be suggesting?

    If so…that is bizarre.

  96. July 7, 2006 at 1:23 am

    I actually prayed again, when I was looking at the evidence with the Book of Breathings and this is what I felt in my heart, “you have all the information you need.” Is this a apiritual witness? This was the strongest feeling I have ever felt concerning the church.

    I think this is, indeed, a spiritual witness, especially if you feel like it was. I certainly do not think John f. or Pete are any more entitled to personal revelation than you are (and I doubt he meant to imply that). It sounds like you were sincere and had a genuine spiritual experience, but only you can know (and I am taking your word for it because I have no reason not to- you seem like a good guy 😉 ) How you choose to interpret that experience is your perogative.

    I tend to think that there may be more than one way to take that feeling in your heart, and if it came to me under similar circumstances I might accept it as an open invitation from God to pit what I had learned about the book of breathings with other things I knew. felt, and/or desired about the Church. But I am not you and would not pretend to know what a spiritual impression you received means for your own life, I can only posit what it would mean for me.

    Please do not take offense at John f. I do not think he is trying to proclaim his moral superiority. Is everyone who claims to have an answer from the Lord that leads them in a different direction than you claiming to be morally superior? I sincerely doubt it.

    I can almost guarantee that nobody here thinks themselves morally superior to you. In any case, something tells me that if we knew you, we certainly would not think ourselves morally superior in any way.

  97. DKL
    July 7, 2006 at 1:25 am

    Well, I know several people willing to vouch for Dan Peterson. And I’m sure that he’s perfectly nice on a personal level and very knowledgeable, too. From what I’ve seen of Dan Peterson’s writings, he’s just not intellectually honest. This doesn’t mean that he sets out to actually deceive. He just doesn’t have the integrity to address things square on. It’s the difference between (a) someone who says, “the check is in the mail” and then immediately mails the check, and (b) someone who says, “I’ll mail the check as soon as we get off the phone.” It’s not that doing (a) makes you a terrible person, but it does reflect on your integrity and makes your word less reliable.

    Reading, for example, the way that Lou Midgely described John H’s Sunstone career (and the way that Frank McIntyre and others defended it on a thread at Times and Seasons) lead me to immediately despise him (and those who defended him), and very strongly too. For a bunch of people who maintain such a nuanced view of history (viz., the Mormon apologetic interpretation of early Mormonism, ancient America, and Old Testament Israel), I was dismayed by the smug dishonesty of their claim that, “Well those are the facts, aren’t they?”

    Just another easy example: Midgely has argued strenuously that Brodie’s landmark biography of Jefferson was proof that she was a rotten historian, since the critics panned it. But now that history has been much kinder to Brodie’s biography than it has been to her critics, do we see Midgely recanting? (even if both major Mormon biographies of Smith [Donna Hill and Richard Bushman] in the past 40 years
    agree far more often with Brodie’s conclusions than with Nibley’s effort to answer her?) No, he just moves on in silence.

    But the principle problem with their integrity regarding apologetics is this: They sometimes have interesting insights into solutions to common gospel problems, but they pretend that their plausible alternative explanations somehow repudiate the other alternatives.

    We see this in the analysis of Palmer’s book. It’s not enough that they disagree with his opinions; they’ve got to show that Palmer is an idiot and a rogue. Problem is, Palmer is neither (nearly every thread that I’ve seen about Palmer gets bogged down in issues surrounding his employment at CES–as though there were a question of whether he did something illegal; and then there’s Dan Peterson’s despicable little quip about whether or not Palmer was really an insider). So the bottom line is this: When these apologists argue that Palmer is an idiot or a rogue, they’re displaying a basic lack of intellectual integrity. And this is typical of their overall approach.

    So I say, screw the apologists. Let’s spend the tithing money that goes to FARMS via BYU on something more productive.

  98. DKL
    July 7, 2006 at 1:42 am

    And don’t forget about that time that Lou Midgley showed up unannounced at Lighthouse Ministries and rudely interrupted George Smith having fondue with the Tanners.

  99. Blake
    July 7, 2006 at 7:47 am

    Matt: The charge of cover-up is simply a lack of perspective. When I teach lessons in SS, priesthood etc., the full story gets told because, well, I know the full story. We go into seer stones, the use in translation, the fact that the plates were not used directly for at least a part of the translation process, the nature of translation and so forth. I believe the issue is really that most members aren’t interested in the details and it is really beside the point. No one has even ever suggested that it was news to them.

    The fact is that if the Church were covering up it wouldn’t be discussed in Church publications (it is) and it wouldn’t be openly discussed at FARMS and so forth. It is really a matter of self-selection. I just don’t see giving a lesson on the nature of translation to 12 year olds — but I do with college aged students. The Church leaves the discussion largely to the individual teachers and those involved in research. It is a wise choice. It would be absurd to discuss the few third hand statements about the 3 witnesses that suggest they saw the plates only with spirtual eyes in Sunday School when we have their contemporaneous and attested statement printed right in the BofM.

    John, I appreciate the invitation. I just don’t know about your site and I haven’t seen your podcasts. So with all due candor, I just don’t know if I want to lend my efforts and time to your project. Frankly, I don’t give a woof about Palmer’s employment, his paychecks and so forth. I care about the issues. Anyone who believes there is some “official” version of LDS history just hasn’t read much. I have read Palmer’s work and was not impressed at all. In fact, it was laced with such opinionated and uninformed assumptions and ill-supported conclusions that I don’t see wasting time on it as a valuable discussion.

    However, let me ask, what did you have mind John?

  100. Blake
    July 7, 2006 at 7:57 am

    Quix: Just for the record … if your morality or ethical theory is ethical relativity, such a position makes it really hard to critique Joseph or anyone else on moral grounds because morality reduces to something equivalent to: “Polygamy … uughh, I don’t like it.” “Love and kindness, mmmm, I like that.” Not much of a basis for accepting or rejecting anything really, is it? It is kind of like — I don’t like chocolate and joseph did, so I disagree with him. That is the problem with moral relativism ungrounded in anything, it just leaves us with no basis for making moral accusations or judgment.

  101. paula
    July 7, 2006 at 8:43 am

    When this topic comes up, on the FAIR boards or blogs etc, often the excuse is that FAIR people might be sarcastic, etc, but that’s ok because other groups, like “anti-mormons” are worse. But shouldn’t good members be trying to be Christ-like? It seems to me that if FAIR hosts the discussion boards, and allowing a character assassination, etc, they are condoning that behavior. Seems to me that the moderators could provide some patterns and good examples of critiquing other people’s work without getting nasty and personal. I think that ad hominem attacks and general nastiness have become pretty embedded in the public discourse of our country, and I’m sorry that some members of the church don’t seem to even notice this anymore. (Thinking back to sarcastic mean comments that come up in SS or RS.) This talk sums up a lot of what I’m saying :
    http://www.lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,49-1-602-30,00.html

  102. July 7, 2006 at 8:53 am

    Blake,

    A podcast is like a radio interview (think Terry Gross w/ Fresh Air or Doug Fabrizio on RadioWest or Van Hale)–except we get to exceed 1 hour if we want to.

    It’s basically a friendly conversation where we discuss stories and issues. You can listen to all of the podcasts by going here: http://feeds.feedburner.com/MormonStoriesPodcast

    I have no interest in interviewing someone about Palmer. I don’t care if Palmer is never mentioned in the interview.

    I’m looking for a faithful, believing Latter-Day Saint who’s willing to discuss: peep stones/treasure digging, First Vision, BOM translation & historicity, the 3 and 8 witnesses, etc. from a faithful perspective–and can share w/ my listeners how they reconcile these issues w/ a traditional, literalist interpretation of Mormon Origins.

    I am not interested AT ALL in debating, or arguing, or tricking anyone. I’ve interviewed apologists before, and everyone will agree (including the interviewees) that I was respectful and considerate to their concerns…including being willing to edit stuff out if necessary for them to feel ok about the overall interview before it was published.

    So….the invitation is wide open. I sincerely believe that my listeners will benefit from hearing this perspective. I strive for balance on the podcast…..and I’d love for someone to stand up and help tell the other side of the faith story…..

  103. July 7, 2006 at 9:00 am

    Blake,

    That you believe whatever you teach to be the whole story, that anything more would be uninteresting or unimportant, and that the fact that you yourself have taught some degree of extracurricular material to be proof that the church does not and has not made great efforts to gloss-over inconvenient facts, and that to whatever extent your lessons go beyond the manuals to also be the will of the church…

    That you believe this and/or promote it as evidence of a simple lack of perspective on the part of church critics…this is some combination of naiveté and willful equivocation.

  104. Blake
    July 7, 2006 at 9:12 am

    Matt: Look at your first sentence and compare it with what I said. You accuse me of saying something I didn’t say and then you attack it. That is called the straw man technique. My point is simply that the issues are wisely left to the capacity and interest of the individuals who teach, research and discuss issues of church history. Of course I never claimed that what I taught was the “whole story” in the sense that there is nothing more to be said, but in the sense that I don’t leave anything out because it may not jive with some prior view or commitment that is contrary to clear evidence. The fact that you twist the senses of what I said reveals a great deal about “willful equivocation”, but not by me. Further, I didn’t claim that if I didn’t teach it, then it cannot be interesting (and I believe that no fair minded person would read what I said that way.) It is just that I don’t discuss the legal intricacies of the so-called 1826 trial (it clearly wasn’t a trial) with my 12 year old SS class. I do discuss it with my college classes. However, given your penchant for mistatement and twisting of what I said beyond recognition, I don’t really wonder that you have problems with church history.

  105. July 7, 2006 at 9:27 am

    jordan,

    excellent post. No, I was not referring specifically to you; I assumed your bro. knew of your odyssey. Just making the point that there are all sorts of people in the DAMU–many of whom have given many years of blood, sweat, and tears to the COJCOLDS and have struggled mightily with their faith and relationship to the church. What John D. identifies in Mormon apologetics is an attitude that disaffected members are either deceived or desiring to sin. I think it would behoove those who participate on FAIR and in the Bloggernacle to get out of their comfort zone a little and actually try to understand the viewpoints of those in the DAMU. You have done this, and I appreciate it.

    I disagree with you and john f. that the principal difference between disaffected members and TBMs with knowledge of the same set of facts is that disaffected members “choose” to draw negative inferences and TBMs “choose” to draw positive inferences, but that discussion may be better suited for another forum at another time.

    To john f., I will just say that I understand your point of view, having once embraced it wholeheartedly. I even went to BYU Law School in part because of my great admiration for the work of John Welch and because I wanted to take a class from him (which I did). I am very familiar with FARMS and the materials produced by FARMS scholars, some of which are of high quality (the book on the Allegory of the Olive Tree, for example). But overall, I have come to agree with John D. about the current state of Mormon apologetics, at least as it is on display on the FAIR discussion board. IMO, FAIR would do a service to the church by pulling the plug on that board–it does far more harm than good.

    Thank you, John Dehlin, for hosting this site and for all the work you do on the podcasts. And thanks for letting us have this little dustup here. I won’t take up any more of your bandwidth.

  106. July 7, 2006 at 9:35 am

    Blake:
    “When I teach lessons in SS, priesthood etc., the full story gets told because, well, I know the full story.”

    Blake:
    “I believe the issue is really that most members aren’t interested in the details and it is really beside the point..”

    Blake:
    “The charge of cover-up is simply a lack of perspective.”

    Blake:
    “The Church leaves the discussion largely to the individual teachers and those involved in research.”

    Where’s the straw-man? Am I really guilty of misrepresenting what you actually said? Granted, I do make some inference, but I largely take what you write at face value.

    You equivocate when you claim that I should have understood “full story” or “whole story” as something more nuanced than the context warranted. See, you clearly believe that “the whole story”, as in “all that really matters or is interesting” is what gets taught…and that anything more is by exclusion, uninteresting or unimportant.

    I’m really not going too far out on an edge here am I? Certainly not twisting your words…

  107. July 7, 2006 at 9:40 am

    Equality:

    I think I agree that there is more to the difference than a simple choice to believe one set of inferences over another, but also agree that it is a topic for another forum.

  108. Mayan Elephant
    July 7, 2006 at 9:47 am

    “However, given your penchant for mistatement and twisting of what I said beyond recognition, I don’t really wonder that you have problems with church history.”

    and my point, why arent the people who have a problem with church history welcome in the church? its a church for crying out loud. with a wacky history no less. so why cant there be a place at the table for everyone?

    john dehlin, i remember your first slideshow very fondly. it was a presentation that was targeted to family members or leaders of those that became disaffected. you did a fantastic job. i can only imagine that anguish and thought that went into each line and bullet point. i also remember thinking how great it would be for my wifes family to see that and believe it. perhaps they would understand how hard it is for some people to stay in the church. perhaps they would understand that good people may not feel welcome. even someone in their own family.

    the comments by many on this board are symptomatic of the culture and doctrine of this church. and its a damn shame. some disaffected folks are sleepless and ill and feeling shame and guilt, while at the same time they are sensing that they are reclaiming their soul. its impossible to not feel the sharp daggers of judgment and selfclaimed elitism when someone says something as ridiculous as “you just didnt want to know, or you werent looking in the right place, or the biggest sham of all – russell nelson said that in conference.” gimme a break.

    john, keep up the good work. maybe one day my family will stumble across your comments and see what you have done. being from logan, you may have some real credibility with them. though, smithfield is their real home turf.

  109. Blake
    July 7, 2006 at 9:50 am

    Matt: Like I said, only a twisting of the fairly clear meaning of my statements would lead to the conclusions you stated. Further, it is in fact the case that issues for you are not issues that most members care about — those who do have full access to all kinds of materials and discussions without the church trying to hide it.

    Compare what I said with your wildly inaccurate re-statements: (1) Mat: “That you believe whatever you teach to be the whole story,” Blake: “When I teach lessons in SS, priesthood etc., the full story gets told because, well, I know the full story.” It’s pretty obvious that I am saying that I don’t withhold infomation, not that I think that whatever I teach is the whole story. (2) Matt: “that [teaching anything more than you teach} more would be uninteresting or unimportant,” Blake: “I believe the issue is really that most members aren’t interested in the details and it is really beside the point..” You have me saying that only what I teach is interesting — whereas I actually stated that most members just aren’t interested.

    Are you really unable to the see difference between what you state and what I stated? Once again, I don’t wonder that you have such a hard time with church history if you cannot see the differences between what you say and what I say when it is right before your eyes.

  110. July 7, 2006 at 9:55 am

    Mayan,

    I think the only folks who do not welcome those who struggle with the history are those who truly believe that such struggle could only arise from dishonesty. As Blake put it: a “penchant for mistatement and twisting”.

    It’s fully understandable that with this view of others there is little patience for the possibility of honesty.

  111. Blake
    July 7, 2006 at 9:57 am

    Elephant: Who said that people who have a different take on church history are not welcome at church? heck, I have a wildly different take on a lot fo church history but my experience is vastly different than yours. Of course if what you really mean is: “why cannot people who insist on teaching that Joseph wa a liar, cheat and fraud be welcome at church?” Well, that isn’t history, it is a judgment and statement of opinion. I wouldn’t expect someone who insisted on trumpeting that opinion in gospel doctrine to be well received with respect to such opinions. So maybe you could explain just what you mean when you ask: “why arent the people who have a problem with church history welcome in the church?”

  112. Blake
    July 7, 2006 at 10:02 am

    Matt: Wow, you really have a hard time with context, don’t you. My statement for a penchant for mistatement and twisting wasn’t about anyone and church history, it was about your own (mis)treatment of what I wrote here. I don’t hold this view of others, but I hold it of what you have written here. It’s time you got a clue and represented other fairly and accurately.

  113. Abner Doon
    July 7, 2006 at 10:08 am

    Just to clarify, the “Blake” posting here is not Blake Ostler, the LDS author and attorney, right?

  114. FreeAtLast
    July 7, 2006 at 10:11 am

    Mike Parker posted, “…the Church has not attempted to censor them or discipline their authors.” Really? What happened to Dr. D. Michael Quinn in 1993 after publishing various books and papers that significantly conflicted with the church’s propaganda about Joseph Smith and other aspects of early church history? Quinn was ex-communicated. What happened in 2005 to author and former CES Director Grant Palmer because of his book, “An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins” (which also conflicted with church propaganda)? He was disfellowshipped. Sounds like church disciplinary action to me.
    What would happen to a church member today if they started pointing out historical or other type of facts that conflicted with church doctrines or teachings, say, in a Sunday School, Relief Society, or priesthood class? Would they even be allowed to finish speaking, or would the teacher/instructor cut them off? Most likely. Would the quorum president or bishopric member have a ‘talk’ with them afterward, telling them to keep such information to themselves? You bet. If such actions are not censorship, I don’t know what is.
    Assuming at least some readers of this blog/post are ‘active’ church members, I challenge those reader to do some online research and present facts at church (in a class, for example) that conflict with church doctrines and teachings. See how fast those facts are trivialized or condemned, and you’re told to keep such information to yourself and not undermine others’ ‘faith’.
    Mike posted, “There is an enormous difference between choosing what material to put in a Sunday School manual for devotional purposes”. I strongly disagree. Truth is truth; facts are facts. There is no difference. People have the right to know the full truth about Mormonism because it’s the information that they become aware of that they use to judge the LDS Church and religion, Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and other aspects of Mormonism. Their assessment determines whether they join the church or not, whether they participate or not (and the extent of their participation if they choose the latter), whether they make financial contributions to the church or not, etc.
    Who would join the LDS Church knowing facts about Joseph Smith such as his belief in magic, treasure-seeking history using occult methods, use of a ‘seer stone in a hat’ to ‘translate’ ‘golden plates’ (that he failed to produce for any person or organization independent of the religion he started), extra-marital affair with a servant girl who worked in his home, polygamous marriages to dozens of females (including women who were already married and girls as young as 14), preachings about plural marriage, adaptation of Masonic ceremonies to create ‘sacred’ temple rites, failed prophecies, completely erroneous ‘translation’ of Egyptian papyri (the Book of Abraham), etc.? Not many.
    It doesn’t take someone with a degree in marketing to understand the fact that people buy (and buy into) things that they BELIEVE in. The challenge for organizations, including the LDS Church, is to get people to believe what it wants them to believe. Hence, the use of propaganda, information crafted to bolster people’s faith. Is it moral or ethical for the LDS Church to manipulate people’s trust/faith through its systematic use of propaganda? (John – this would be a good topic for a podcast). Many people with experience in Mormonism, including myself, do not think so, which is one of the main reasons why tens of thousands of people each year formally leave the church (according to Grant Palmer in his podcast interview with John). The church’s senior patriarchal leadership clearly believes differently.

  115. FreeAtLast
    July 7, 2006 at 10:13 am

    Mike Parker posted, “…the Church has not attempted to censor them or discipline their authors.” Really? What happened to Dr. D. Michael Quinn in 1993 after publishing various books and papers that significantly conflicted with the church’s propaganda about Joseph Smith and other aspects of early church history? Quinn was ex-communicated. What happened in 2005 to author and former CES Director Grant Palmer because of his book, “An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins” (which also conflicted with church propaganda)? He was disfellowshipped. Sounds like church disciplinary action to me.

    What would happen to a church member today if they started pointing out historical or other type of facts that conflicted with church doctrines or teachings, say, in a Sunday School, Relief Society, or priesthood class? Would they even be allowed to finish speaking, or would the teacher/instructor cut them off? Most likely the latter. Would the quorum president or bishopric member have a ‘talk’ with them afterward, telling them to keep such information to themselves? You bet. If such actions are not censorship, I don’t know what is.

    Assuming at least some readers of this blog/post are ‘active’ church members, I challenge those reader to do some online research and present facts at church (in a class, for example) that conflict with church doctrines and teachings. See how fast those facts are trivialized or condemned, and you’re told to keep such information to yourself and not undermine others’ ‘faith’.

    Mike posted, “There is an enormous difference between choosing what material to put in a Sunday School manual for devotional purposes”. I strongly disagree. Truth is truth; facts are facts. There is no difference. People have the right to know the full truth about Mormonism because it’s the information that they become aware of that they use to judge the LDS Church and religion, Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and other aspects of Mormonism. Their assessment determines whether they join the church or not, whether they participate or not (and the extent of their participation if they choose the latter), whether they make financial contributions to the church or not, etc.

    Who would join the LDS Church knowing facts about Joseph Smith such as his belief in magic, treasure-seeking history using occult methods, use of a ‘seer stone in a hat’ to ‘translate’ ‘golden plates’ (that he failed to produce for any person or organization independent of the religion he started), extra-marital affair with a servant girl who worked in his home, polygamous marriages to dozens of females (including women who were already married and girls as young as 14), preachings about plural marriage, adaptation of Masonic ceremonies to create ‘sacred’ temple rites, failed prophecies, completely erroneous ‘translation’ of Egyptian papyri (the Book of Abraham), etc.? Not many.

    It doesn’t take someone with a degree in marketing to understand the fact that people buy (and buy into) things that they BELIEVE in. The challenge for organizations, including the LDS Church, is to get people to believe what it wants them to believe. Hence, the use of propaganda, information crafted to bolster people’s faith. Is it moral or ethical for the LDS Church to manipulate people’s trust/faith through its systematic use of propaganda? (John – this would be a good topic for a podcast). Many people with experience in Mormonism, including myself, do not think so, which is one of the main reasons why tens of thousands of people each year formally leave the church (according to Grant Palmer in his podcast interview with John). The church’s senior patriarchal leadership clearly believes differently.

  116. July 7, 2006 at 10:16 am

    Yes Blake, I’m able to see the difference now that you point it out, and the difference is one of equivocation.

  117. July 7, 2006 at 10:51 am

    DKL wrote:
    “So I say, screw the apologists. Let’s spend the tithing money that goes to FARMS via BYU on something more productive.”

    Yeah, what he said.

    And I agree with the reasoning behind it. When one dwells in the desert world of intellect without evidence, one must often turn to the role of scavenger and raptor in order to survive. This can be true of apologist and critic alike, but as has been pointed out, it is only the apologist that claims to represent and defend the good mind of god. It’s not unreasonable to expect to get what what you pay for.

  118. Mayan Elephant
    July 7, 2006 at 11:04 am

    johnf,

    my kids got a little bingo game for conference. it has pictures and each time the speaker mentions the pictured item they put a little token on the picture or color it or whatever.

    per your suggestion as to the content of conference material. i shall create for them a new bingo card. it will have peepstones, hats, tapirs, young brides, six shooters, masonic symbols, zelph, kinderhook plates, danites, printing presses, a crown fit for a king, more young brides, a woman with two husbands, a cumom and a massacred family.

    so, ill be sure and tell them to listen closely to nelsons talk. can you only imagine the detail i will include for university student bingo? spectacular.

  119. Mayan Elephant
    July 7, 2006 at 11:14 am

    “Who said that people who have a different take on church history are not welcome at church? heck, I have a wildly different take on a lot fo church history but my experience is vastly different than yours. Of course if what you really mean is: “why cannot people who insist on teaching that Joseph wa a liar, cheat and fraud be welcome at church?”

    Blake, no. i said exactly what i meant. but thanks for the little twist.

    the response to your question has already been offered. see the details on excommunications of authors.

    but more than that. i dont have to go far to find people that are simply not happy at church. who wants to worship where they are forced to self censure? one cannot get a temple recommend without attending within the boundaries of ones own ward at the time prescribed. its not as if people can scramble around and find a gospel doctrine teacher with an edge and join up in that congregation.

    the temple rec interview is another control on these thoughts and responses. there are many controls, including an oppressive culture that makes people feel unwelcome.

    yours and others on here are examples of this pressure. i would not want to see my wife sitting in a meeting with you, where you suggest that a different conclusion based on “facts” is the result of a lack of faith or loss of spirit. i would not want my daughter in a private worthiness interview with anyone who harbored those sentiments, whether they were expressed in that private meeting or not.

    you may very well be a fine person and all, but that is not the expample or the exposure i seek for my children and my hot wife. i want my kids to appreciate their great mother for her expressiveness and willingness to defend herself and her children without reservation, and the church is not a place for that.

  120. texasguy
    July 7, 2006 at 11:20 am

    ME,

    Will you send me the new Bingo card. Send both the children’s edition and serious student edition. I hope this game is at least as exciting as the Conference Bingo I am used to.

  121. July 7, 2006 at 11:31 am

    DKL said: From what I’ve seen of Dan Peterson’s writings, he’s just not intellectually honest… He just doesn’t have the integrity to address things square on.

    …the way that Lou Midgely described John H’s Sunstone career…lead me to immediately despise him…and very strongly too.

    …I was dismayed by the smug dishonesty of their claim that, “Well those are the facts, aren’t they?”

    Does anyone see irony in the above? DKL impunes the integrity of Peterson, despises Midgely, and stereotypes apologists as dishonest.

    Yet, when the apologists have the same problem with Palmer (“those are the facts, aren’t they?”), DKL says

    Isn’t DKL’s analysis and subsequent dismissal the example of Christlike response that John D. and some others here have been asking for? (Yep, we should “screw the apologists.” I remember reading that somewhere in Christ’s words, I just don’t have my scriptures nearby right now.) Should Peterson, Midgely, or other apologists attempt to defend their own actions against what they view as misrepresentation? Should they respond to what they view as Palmer’s misrepresentations or his own history or the Church’s history? Apparently not, for DKL says in the same message:

    “We see this in the analysis of Palmer’s book. It’s not enough that they disagree with his opinions; they’ve got to show that Palmer is an idiot and a rogue. Problem is, Palmer is neither (nearly every thread that I’ve seen about Palmer gets bogged down in issues surrounding his employment at CES–as though there were a question of whether he did something illegal; and then there’s Dan Peterson’s despicable little quip about whether or not Palmer was really an insider). So the bottom line is this: When these apologists argue that Palmer is an idiot or a rogue, they’re displaying a basic lack of intellectual integrity. And this is typical of their overall approach.”

    DKL can say that Peterson is intellectually dishonest, Midgely is to be despised, and all the other apologists are dishonest–all based on the behavior that DKL observes–yet if those folks point out questionable behavior by Palmer, that is wrong. The irony, of course, is in the unrecognized double standard being applied. Pot, meet kettle.

  122. Blake
    July 7, 2006 at 11:46 am

    First, yes I am an author and attorney. Don’thold it against me, I just enjoy doing both.

    Elephant: Here is the problem — I haven’t once suggested that your different take on issues is due to a lack of faith or loss of spirit. I grant that people who TEACH in church what you suggest would not be well received — neither should it be. Those who believe meet to worship together and share faith. You simply don’t share that faith (don’t turn that into you just don’t have any faith at all please). However, any person willing to come and share without attempting to teach opinions (and that is all that they are) will do just fine. I have a friend who isn’t a believer at all but has a fine time at church. On the other hand, if you’re just not happy at church, don’t go (last I looked, no one was forcing anyone). However, there are benefits and blessings for attendance that you won’t reap — and you won’t have to sit thru any boring lessons or lessons with which you just disagree.

    AtLast: I offerred a challenge about your opinions about the Book of Abraham and Book of Mormon. You have ignored it (as I suspected you would). Just what do you claim that Joseph mistranslated? I don’t see any attempt to translate any of the facsimiles or any of the text, but he does give us a wonderful exampleof what the Jews who wrote about Abrham’s visions using the Book of the Dead (of which the Book of Breathings is a variant) to illustrate and comment on Abraham’s visions.

    I suspect that you are correct that starting out with your version of church history wouldn’t sell in Peoria. However, you first have to recognize that church history: (a) isn’t an exact science like physics but a lot of conjecture ann judgment(alness); (2) is different than a faith story.

    So you issue a challenge about presenting facts that “conflicted with church doctrines or teachings, say, in a Sunday School, Relief Society, or priesthood class.” Well first, you’ll have to point out such historical facts that conflict with church doctrine. While you’re at it, point out how some historical fact or supposed “fact” (since there are no bare or objective facts as such) that could possibly conflict with church doctrine given the different logical status of such assertions. You laid down a challenge — it time to actually respond to mine to explain those facets of the BofM and BofAbr. that I mentioned. Don’t ignore it, because unless you can explain such ancient aspects all you are doing is selctively choosing which “facts” to focus on.

    The biggest problem I have with your view of history and facts is the first level naivte (in Ricour’s sense) that there is somehow an objective history made up on objective facts and that anyone who disagrees with your take on these facts is just uninformed and/or deceptive. I suppose that is why you suppose that anyone who disagrees with you has to do research on the net (and wow isn’t that a reliable source of objective facts).

    Further, I disagree that the church discipline is from believing a certain view of history; rather, it is for attemtping to persuade and argue affirmatively for a view that a rejection of Joseph’s prophetic calling. There is a difference — and it is a vast one. For example, the things you mention don’t bother me much at this point in my life, but I wouldn’t focus on them in teaching an investigator. If an investigator asked questions that brought up the issue, then I would certainly give my best take on it. But I guarantee that my view of the so-called “facts” is different than yours.

    Matt: Sorry for being such a curmudgeon.

  123. Steve EM
    July 7, 2006 at 11:48 am

    awyatt,
    I’ve had my run-ins with DKL, but you completely twisted what he said. Go read his comments again. BTW, DKL is a believer, albeit an unorthodox one, like a lot of us.

  124. Mayan Elephant
    July 7, 2006 at 12:02 pm

    “I grant that people who TEACH in church what you suggest would not be well received — neither should it be.”

    i suppose that would include those that TEACH their own children. there you have it. we are all teachers at some point, and i couldnt agree with you more, some “teachers” are not well received. I also agree with you that it is the position of most leaders in the church that they shouldnt be well recieved. sadly, that divides families.

    i think we have travelled a winding path, but arrived at concensus here with your last comments. you can believe and conclude anything, and even attend – without attempting to teach opinions (and that is all that they are) [in which case, one] will do just fine.

    that aint a warm welcome, but i agree that it is true. unfortunately, the same is true about the dinner tables and family reunions of many mormons. came as you are, but shutup about your differences, love [insert family relationship here].

  125. July 7, 2006 at 12:02 pm

    OK. I went and read them again. Tell me where I misunderstood what he was saying about apologists and about Peterson and Midgely in particular. (How, exactly, should one understand “screw the apologists?”)

  126. July 7, 2006 at 12:10 pm

    Blake wrote:
    “Sorry for being such a curmudgeon.”

    No problem. We are two of a kind, and the fact that you interject this is enough proof for me that your heart is good.

  127. July 7, 2006 at 12:29 pm

    Blake said:
    “AtLast: I offerred a challenge about your opinions about the Book of Abraham and Book of Mormon. You have ignored it (as I suspected you would). Just what do you claim that Joseph mistranslated? I don’t see any attempt to translate any of the facsimiles or any of the text, but he does give us a wonderful exampleof what the Jews who wrote about Abrham’s visions using the Book of the Dead (of which the Book of Breathings is a variant) to illustrate and comment on Abraham’s visions.”

    Blake, is this really the appropriate forum to go off onto a tangent on the sunstantive issues regarding the Book of Abraham translation? You imply (or am I just making an unreaosnable negative inference) that the reason FaL has not answered your challenge is because he is unable to do so and his silence therefore vindicates your position. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. There are ample resources available to those who are interested in the issues regarding the Book of Abraham, and I suspect you are familiar with them, so I do wonder what the purpose of your “challenge” was. For starters, go to my blog where I have a post summarizing the anachronisms in the text of the BoA and where I have links to several sites (including an apologetic site) on the BoA. It need not all be rehashed here.

  128. Steve EM, an equal opportunity rottweiler
    July 7, 2006 at 12:38 pm

    awyatt,
    Peterson, Midgely, Nibley, BRM, BKP, whatever are all embarrassments to any thinking LDS person. DKL’s comments regarding the apologists are on the money. What disgusts many of us about the apologists is they use the same intellectually dishonest methods as the antis, and even when called on it. apologist or anti, they all just keep going (note FreeAtLast above). Peterson and Midgely are to the antis what Marcos was to communism, the best friends their opposition ever had. These are all smart people who know when they’re dealing from the bottom of the deck and they insult the intelligence of many of us when they think we can’t see their games. Perhaps they’re opposition plants; all I know is our side could do much better than these dishonest clowns. I second DKL’s motion: screw em!

  129. Blake
    July 7, 2006 at 12:41 pm

    Equality: You are right, I know all about those anachronisms and I have presented a theory as to why such anachronisms are inevitable especially in a text revealed/translated thru revelation. Surely you’re aware that I have dealt with that issue?

  130. Blake
    July 7, 2006 at 12:45 pm

    Steve: I could hardly disagree more. You have taken an unjustified pot-shot at my friends and colleagues. I’m an apologist — just where are the dishonest and or dishonest methods do I use? What dishonest methods are you referring to (at least give us something to justify what is legally slander and libel). How have I insulted your intelligence? Surely a stern apology and retraction is in order. Peronally, I won’t stand for you calling these people dishonest or dishonest clowns. Who do you think you are?

  131. Mayan Elephant
    July 7, 2006 at 1:00 pm

    “On the other hand, if you’re just not happy at church, don’t go (last I looked, no one was forcing anyone). ”

    Blake, we may be beating this cache valley horse to its millers oblivion, or do they only take beef?

    you are very very very very very wrong on this. so wrong in fact, i wonder if we are even talking about the same church.

    specifically, no one is forcing me. i do not go to church anymore. that is true.

    generally, you are blinded by the light. you have no clue how many spouses are sitting in the church because the cost of not going is too severe. you have no clue how many youth are going to church or on missions, not out of sincerity, but loyalty to family over self. or how many gay men and women sit in those pews and listen, full of self hatred, because they cant dissappoint a dear parent.

    siblings are monitored by other siblings. parents by their own children. its not so simple, and your suggestion makes my heart pound, not so good for someone who has had an infarction already.

    please blake. wake up on this topic. there are folks suffering every sunday in the pews and even in the choir seats. they dont believe all that is allowed to be taught. and yet, they show up. because the consequences of not doing so rip their choices from their hands and heart.

    this is why i love john’s work so much. perhaps he can change the reaction of one spouse, one mother, one parent. that matters. digging in with loyal unsympathetic apologetics is harmful.

    i have been on NOM which i am sure you know. john hosted a moderator from NOM on his podcasts. i am personally aware of a serious situation that was intercepted by a few people on NOM. one that involved real people, lives, families etc. the intervention by a few qualified people led to someone getting key medical and professional care. and believe it or not, much of it had to do with the stress of confessing to ones spouse that they didnt agree with the apologists point of view on some key issues. and yes, that person had been referred to farms for some of his questions.

    so blake. i am not insulting you here. just begging for you to get informed. whether the number of people who cant just stop going to church is one, or millions, it doesnt matter. its not zero. and you should have equal space in your heart for that one, as you would for many. try it out. i would bet anything there is someone sitting at your family reunion who would appreciate some space in your heart.

  132. pete
    July 7, 2006 at 1:00 pm

    Mayan Elephant (and anyone else who may be interested):

    This thread has travelled a winding path. For me, it has been very interesting. I can definitely understand your beefs with church history–I don’t agree with them, but I would not say that it is completely unreasonable to have issues with church history.

    On the other hand, it does seem unreasonable to be bothered that the Church would not heartily welcome those who insist on openly teaching opinions that have a tendancy to denigrate the ideological foundations of the church (the divine mission of JS and the divine status of the BOM). What church, family (as you posited), or any other organization affirmatively welcomes open conflict within its ranks regarding its very purpose or mission?

    Even assuming that the objective truth is that the Church is merely a sociological human tradition in a Godless universe and that JS invented the Mormon religion, why the dismay that the church doesn’t want you telling them that such is the case? Moreover, why participate at all in the church or associate with it or “allow” your family to do so–especially if it is truly harmful as many of the critics would suggest?

  133. Blake
    July 7, 2006 at 1:00 pm

    Equality: Are you Kevin Mathie?

  134. Blake
    July 7, 2006 at 1:03 pm

    Elephant: My solution for your complaint: get real and get a backbone and don’t be inauthentic by sitting in church to placate someone else (even family). The cost is too high. On the other hand, maybe you could learn something by being there and you could choose to be grateful for the experience and the love of those around you. Your choice.

  135. pete
    July 7, 2006 at 1:06 pm

    Mayan:

    Sorry I missed your response to Blake before posting.

    I am still left wondering what you mean by “can’t stop going to church”. Don’t you think it is important for people to stand up for the undeniable truth? If it is the case that reasonable people can’t disagree that there are serious problems with church history that prevent us from concluding that neither JS nor the BOM are divinely inspired, don’t we need to act on that and save millions of people from following a harmful terrible lie?!

  136. Mayan Elephant
    July 7, 2006 at 1:16 pm

    “On the other hand, it does seem unreasonable to be bothered that the Church would not heartily welcome those who insist on openly teaching opinions that have a tendancy to denigrate the ideological foundations of the church (the divine mission of JS and the divine status of the BOM). What church, family (as you posited), or any other organization affirmatively welcomes open conflict within its ranks regarding its very purpose or mission?”

    if it was so simple. goodness. i have a friend. he told his parents he didnt agree with some stuff. granted, the guy has a temple recommend and recently attended. when he told his parents about his issues, they offered to help his wife if she decided to leave him. some church.

    stop pretending its all black and white and people can just up and walk. its shades of gray and its complicated.

    Blake. i have a backbone. i stood for something. i realized this was not a place for me and i quit. i resigned. but thanks for your judgement however. believe me, it wasnt easy. its my heritage. how now do i explain my mission and my position as a high councilman on the church courts and crap like that. it aint easy brother. believe me.

    blake man, i aint asking for much. the church can claim anything it wants. all i ask, is that some parents, spouses and siblings, take some pity on those that disagree with your apologetics. cut them some slack, and stop pretending that they really have a choice in the matter. its complicated.

  137. July 7, 2006 at 1:18 pm

    awyatt,
    Peterson, Midgely, Nibley, BRM, BKP, whatever are all embarrassments to any thinking LDS person. DKL’s comments regarding the apologists are on the money. What disgusts many of us about the apologists is they use the same intellectually dishonest methods as the antis, and even when called on it. apologist or anti, they all just keep going (note FreeAtLast above). Peterson and Midgely are to the antis what Marcos was to communism, the best friends their opposition ever had. These are all smart people who know when they’re dealing from the bottom of the deck and they insult the intelligence of many of us when they think we can’t see their games. Perhaps they’re opposition plants; all I know is our side could do much better than these dishonest clowns. I second DKL’s motion: screw em!

    Comment by Steve EM, an equal opportunity rottweiler — July 7, 2006

    I see. So now you are saying, despite your first comment, that I didn’t misunderstand DKL. That’s good to know, particularly since you apparently lump folks like me (and Blake) into the “nonthinking LDS” category.

    Nice discussion technique.

    (I also find it interesting that John D. isn’t calling for a kinder, gentler, more Christ-like tone from some on this thread. Perhaps the mote is only visible when it is in someone else’s eye.)

  138. Mayan Elephant
    July 7, 2006 at 1:22 pm

    “Elephant: My solution for your complaint: get real and get a backbone and don’t be inauthentic by sitting in church to placate someone else (even family).”

    dont sicken me further. even family? i know people that would sacrifice more than a sunday for their family. you make me sick. i have friends that sit on the bench just to help with the children so their spouse can have some quiet time. you are a sick creature, to judge me or anyone else for the things they would do for family.

    and more, that you consider them unwelcome to make that sacrifice for their family, disgusts me. families can be together forever eh? i hope you arent in my family, mate. i really hope you are not.

  139. July 7, 2006 at 1:24 pm

    Blake said: “Equality: Are you Kevin Mathie?”

    No. I do, however, link to his excellent work on the Book of Abraham on my blog. BTW, thanks for visiting and commenting there. I am not at the moment producing any new material for my blog but appreciate any thoughtful comments and discussions on the material I have previously posted there. The reason for my hiatus has something to do with the point Mayan Elephant was making about the social pressures at work in the church on those who “get out of line.” I must say I agree with Mayan on that score. Leaving Mormonism ain’t exactly like leaving Episcopalianism is it?

  140. Blake
    July 7, 2006 at 1:30 pm

    Elephant: quit blaming everyone else for your anger because your wife made you go to church. Don’t you get tired of wining and snivelling? Come on — your anger comes thru loud and clear even in your posts … but personal lack of integrity is just too high of a price to pay. If I sicken you, so be it. Time to stop blaming and complaining.

  141. Mayan Elephant
    July 7, 2006 at 1:40 pm

    poor blake,

    my wife is the greatest woman alive. she has done more for this world and this church than you will ever know. you are sooooooooooooooo uninformed, i am laughing inside and out. she is amazing and if you knew her and what she has done you would agree.

    she has NEVER made me go to church. perhaps i was the one making her go. your suggestion is laughable. oh my blake. this is funny. oh, she doesnt go to church now either. but her reasons for not going are very different than mine.

  142. -Domokun-
    July 7, 2006 at 1:52 pm

    Blake, I know Mayan Elephant and his wife, and believe me, his wife was not forcing him to do anything. In fact, it’s hard for me to think of a married couple more loving and understanding of each than Mayan and his wife. What they each have sacrificed for each other would blow your mind. Seriously.

    Also, I was the friend he mentioned above. Yes, I have a current temple recommend, and even went to a session a few weeks ago. I told my parents recently that much of the church’s history is troubling, and that I don’t believe the church’s official version of many historical events. I thought of all people who would love me and support me, it would be my own parents. Guess what? A couple of days later, my mom called my wife (during the day, when I was at work, natch) and offered her a place to live, money to travel halfway across the country to get there, and money and support when she got there. Mayan paints it nicer than it really happened. Yes, solely because I expressed doubts about the church’s official history, my mother secretly tried to get my wife and kids to leave me. Luckily for me, my wife loves me and turned down the offer.

    THAT is the kind of social and family pressure Mayan is talking about whne he says it ain’t easy to just get up and walk away.;

    Think about it, what if one day, your wife came to you and said, “I have just joined the {insert name of any religion you think is wacky} church, and if you don’t join, I’m divorcing you and taking our kids with me. Oh, and your parents joined with me, so don’t expect any consolation or help from them, either.” The logical inverse of this happens all the time. I know, because I have (almost) experienced it myself.

  143. pete
    July 7, 2006 at 1:55 pm

    Mayan E.:

    I am truly sorry that you have been made to feel so badly about things–it does not sound fun and I empathize with the heartache and misery.

    But I still don’t understand why not walk away completely from the terrible organization that has caused you and your family so much trouble and heartache? Why hang around on Mormon blogs if the religion is all fundamentally based on lies?

    Why not, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all–or if you are going to say something, say it loud and clear and consistently?

    I would really like a nutshell explanation of what is so “complicated” about walking away from something that is obviously untrue and unhealthy.

  144. Blake
    July 7, 2006 at 2:10 pm

    Mayan: Just what is your beef? You complain that you have to go to church for family? Which family member(s)(your wife was just an example of family pressure like in Domokun’s case — of course I have no idea what the real pressure is and that is my point, you’re so vague it is maddening)? What is it you think is lost if you are honest and refuse to go to church? Who is bringing the pressure? Quit complaining and get real. Frankly, I just wonder what the heck you’re carping about. For dokokun, he offered his wife a choice and she offered him one — every day the choice is the same: will we stay in relationship? Of course I don’t recommend the disfunction response from Domokun’s mother, but it seems to me that has nothing to do with Mormonism. It has to do with family dynamics. Fill in the blank — “unless you do ___, I’m leaving. If you do __, I’ll persuade your wife to leave.”

    If you don’t want to go, it is really simple — don’t go. If you go, then that is really what you wanted to do for whatever reason. Quit making it look like the church has blackmailed you and take some responsibility for your actions and choices. Quit making it appear as if the mean, big, bad church is forcing you do something.

  145. July 7, 2006 at 2:22 pm

    “but it seems to me that has nothing to do with Mormonism. ” Aye, there’s the rub, eh?

  146. Mayan Elephant
    July 7, 2006 at 2:25 pm

    blake, what are you talking about? seriously.

    i never complained the I have to go to church. i dont go. i never complained about my wife. she is the most wonderful human on this earth, you would be lucky to even know her name. i feel lucky.

    i am complaining that some people that do go to church for family are attending a place where they are really not welcome.

    this church isnt forcing me to do anything, it is however, forcing my family to do some crazy things that i dont agree with. and, quite frankly, like many other folks, i am facing a choice between the mormon life with family, or walking away from church and having my family walk away from my children.

    i agree with you, its a simple choice. walk away from the church let the consequence follow. battle for freedom. extended family is the casualty in my case. for some, its immediate.

    is that clear?

    blake. ill try again.

    some people choose to leave the church. and as a consequence their family tells them goodbye.

    some people want to leave the church, but they stay, because they dont want their family to say goodbye.

    and more blake. you are wrong about this: “Of course I don’t recommend the disfunction response from Domokun’s mother, but it seems to me that has nothing to do with Mormonism. It has to do with family dynamics.”

    you are wrong. it has everything to do with mormonism in that case. judge not.

  147. -Domokun-
    July 7, 2006 at 2:34 pm

    Blake, you just don’t get it. The “disfunction response from Domokun’s mother” is completely related to the church. She has been a saint to me my whole life. She is one of the nicest people in the world. She’s a temple worker. In many ways my mother is the epitome of Christlike living, but the instant I express doubt about the church, she tries to get my wife and kids to leave me? The church’s influence over my mother’s thinking is the ONLY explanation for her recent change in behavior towards me. Just try to go against that kind of deeply ingrained social and family culture. And please don’t give me the old chesnut of “The church is perfect but the people aren’t.” Please, just admit to yourself that you have no idea of the depts of personal anguish that many good people go through, whose only “sin” is that they don’t buy the correlated version of church history hook, line, and sinker.

  148. texasguy
    July 7, 2006 at 2:39 pm

    Elephant: My solution for your complaint: get real and get a backbone and don’t be inauthentic by sitting in church to placate someone else (even family). The cost is too high. On the other hand, maybe you could learn something by being there and you could choose to be grateful for the experience and the love of those around you. Your choice.

    Blake, this is the most black/white uninformed opinion I have ever heard. The biggest reason it is hard to quit is because loved ones are lead to believe that this is the “ONE AND ONLY TRUE CHURCH.” Because of this belief they try every pressure imaginable and think that the loved one or spouse is headed for a different place.

    This theory of the one and only true church is the most pompous and egocentric idea that ever came from Joseph Smith. I say look at the family heartache, prozac use, lack of empathy for those who are: black, gay, or think, and say “by their fruits you shall know them.”

  149. texasguy
    July 7, 2006 at 2:44 pm

    pete said: “Why not, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all–or if you are going to say something, say it loud and clear and consistently?”

    I sure wish the church leaders would be consistent. I have trouble remembering which things to ignore and which to embrace.

  150. Steve EM, an equal opportunity rottweiler
    July 7, 2006 at 2:59 pm

    One has to wonder if much of this will die down when BKP passes on to his reward.

  151. July 7, 2006 at 3:42 pm

    Hey All! Sorry to have missed so much of this thread. As I mentioned earlier, I’m on vacation, so I’m only able to check things out once a day.

    I’m gonna go ahead and close the thread now, because I think it’s perhaps served its purpose, and the thread is quite mature. If any of you wish to continue the conversation, I’m happy to broker email addresses, or whatever.

    Thanks for everyone’s willingness to engage. As I mentioned to John Lynch last night–part of FAIR’s problem is simply the volume of activity on its boards. As this thread bears out, the more the posters and the greater # of comments, the harder it is to control/monitor the conversation.

    Thanks again, and take care.

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