Journal – February 2008

Scott Gordon
February 2008

THE FAIR JOURNAL

February 2008

LATIN – apologeticus GREEK – apologetikos Apologetics: “The branch of theology that is concerned with defending or proving the truth of Christian doctrines” (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th edition, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2009).

JOURNAL CONTENTS

  • MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT. Scott Gordon announces the 2008 FAIR Conference.
  • NEW ON THE WEBSITE. “Debating the Foundations of Mormonism: The Book of Mormon and Archaeology.” In their 2005 FAIR Conference presentation, John E. Clark, Wade Ardern, and Matthew Roper examine how the Book of Mormon is faring in light of new discoveries.
  • NEW ON THE WEBSITE. “Apologetics 101.” Wayne Arnett reviews the hows and whys of apologetics in his 2006 FAIR Conference presentation.
  • NEW ON THE WEBSITE. “Book of Abraham 201: Papyri, Revelation, and Modern Egyptology.” This 2006 FAIR Conference presentation by Mike Ash delves into a range of criticisms against the Book of Abraham.
  • NEW ON THE WEBSITE. “A Black Man in Zion: Reflections on Race in the Restored Gospel.” In this 2006 FAIR Conference presentation, Marcus H. Martins discusses the problems and progress of blacks in the Church.
  • NEW ON THE WEBSITE. “As Far as it is Translated Correctly: The Problem of Tampering with the Word of God in the Transmission and Translation of the New Testament.” In his 2007 FAIR Conference presentation, John F. Hall discusses the transmission and exegesis of the New Testament.
  • RESOURCES ON THE WEB. The Church has released a statement about the LDS view of the Bible.
  • RESOURCES ON THE WEB. FAIR now has a site on YouTube.
  • RESOURCES ON THE WEB. The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article about anti-Mormon responses to Mitt Romney’s campaign and included an article on the FAIR blog.
  • RESOURCES ON THE WEB. The Church has released an updated video showing the growth in the number of stakes from 1847 to 2007.
  • RESOURCES ON THE WEB. A new movie about black Latter-day Saints has been released.
  • RESOURCES ON THE WEB. Several new websites have been created to explain and defend LDS temple beliefs and practices.
  • RESOURCES ON THE WEB. Andrew Ainsworth blogs on “ten things every Mormon needs to know.”
  • ASK THE APOLOGIST. Got a question you are dying to ask? Here’s how.
  • FAIR TOPICAL GUIDE. The Topical Guide on the FAIR Web site is one of the most popular resources offered. Learn what is available and help us expand our references.
  • FAIR WIKI. The FAIR Wiki is an excellent resource for someone looking for a summary of an issue and for pointers to more detailed information. Links to many new and changed articles are included in this issue.
  • FAIR LDS BOOKSTORE.
  • ARTICLE SUBMISSIONS. Interested in writing for FAIR? Learn how you can have your apologetics work published.
  • PUBLISHING NOTES. Learn how you can become more involved in FAIR and how you can reuse the material we publish.
  • FAIR JOURNAL ARCHIVES. All of the FAIR Journal issues since October 2001 are on the FAIR web site.

MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT

One of the great resources provided by FAIR is its annual conference. These conferences have been held every year since 1999 and have involved scores of talented scholars and experts speaking on almost every conceivable topic related to apologetics. These conferences are extremely valuable not only for the tremendously educational and inspiring presentations being given, but also for the opportunity to sit and speak one-on-one with fellow apologists and many of the leading contributors to LDS apologetics. And, of course, the FAIR Bookstore always has a huge number of books on sale–you won’t find another opportunity to browse through so many high-quality, scholarly books on Mormonism, history, and scriptural studies than at the FAIR Conference bookstore!

For us it is always a challenge to find the right mix of topics and presenters. FAIR works hard to make sure that the talks are not merely informative, but that they have relevance to our work to defend the Gospel and to help members and investigators in their studies. When our speaker list is announced we are sure you will be excited over not just what will be discussed, but who we will have the opportunity of hearing.

With that being said, we are excited to announce the 2008 FAIR Conference, the tenth conference sponsored by FAIR. It will be held at the South Towne Exposition Center in Sandy, Utah, on August 7 and 8. For our loyal supporters, we are offing the Early Bird Special for the month of March. For March only you can sign up for the full two-day conference, with lunch provided each day, for only $49.95. Mark your calendars now and reserve those days! We will be providing additional speaker information in next month’s FAIR Journal.

Order your tickets here:

FAIR Bookstore

To keep abreast of the 2008 FAIR Conference as it develops, go to:

2008 FAIR Conference Details

Also, don’t forget to check out FAIR’s new DVD about DNA and the Book of Mormon. You can see information about this new release here:

DNA and the Book of Mormon (DVD)

–Scott Gordon President

Debating the Foundations of Mormonism: The Book of Mormon and Archaeology

by John E. Clark, Wade Ardern, and Matthew Roper

This session of the 2005 FAIR Conference was actually given by three individuals: John E. Clark, Wade Ardern, and Matthew Roper. Each speakers addressed a different aspect of defending the Book of Mormon claims from attacks by hostile critics.

Clark dealt with the progression of LDS views of the Book of Mormon from the time of Joseph Smith to the present. He shows how our understanding of the book and its New World origins has grown as scholars have delved deeper into subtle clues of its ancient authorship. Part of this has been a shift from a hemispheric model of the Book of Mormon to a limited geographic model, a view much more in line with the actual claims in the text. Clark discusses what archaeology can and cannot prove and how careful we must be when looking at lists of “missing” evidence. And he points out that “By focusing only on missing evidence, one loses perspective. We all know what’s missing. A question we should ask more often is: What has been found?”

Arden and Roper reported on an ongoing project to catalog and examine all of the anti-Mormon attacks on the Book of Mormon since 1829. They report that as of their presentation, 440 criticisms have been gathered from 90 sources. These criticisms have been sorted by the date of their appearance and the frequency of their use has been plotted. Arden and Roper have then looked at the nature of the criticisms (e.g., are they even provable or disprovable by archaeological or scientific means) and how these criticisms have fared over the years. Their results so far show that, contrary to expectations for a fraudulent text, the Book of Mormon criticisms are falling to the results of ongoing archaeological findings and historical research.

Clark adds his conclusion, “It is an ancient book, its history is intriguing, and its message of Christ is true and redeeming.”

Read the article:

Debating the Foundations of Mormonism: The Book of Mormon and Archaeology by John E. Clark, Wade Ardern, and Matthew Roper

Apologetics 101

by Wayne Arnett

For those of us involved with defending our beliefs in the face of nearly two centuries of vitriolic attacks, apologetics is both fun and rewarding. In terms of priority, it certainly falls behind such important areas as personal spiritual development, strengthening family ties, and magnifying church callings, but there are times when the ability to calmly and powerfully explain some Gospel principle or historical event can be critical in the life of a family member, friend, or church acquaintance.

During the 2006 FAIR Conference, Wayne Arnett gave an excellent introduction to apologetics, describing the basic principles of effective apologetics and explaining approaches that are the most fruitful when responding to critical material or individuals. He points out a number of excellent resources for people who are interested in learning more and become better apologists for the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. Arnett expresses the feelings of nearly all apologists when he says, “So the motivation is one of dedication, of love for the gospel, of being able to say, ‘There are answers to your questions.’”

Read the article:

Apologetics 101 by Wayne Arnett

Book of Abraham 201: Papyri, Revelation, and Modern Egyptology

by Mike Ash

At the 2004 FAIR Conference, Mike Ash and Kevin Barney gave a presentation going over the basic history of the Book of Abraham and summarizing the approaches to dealing with Book of Abraham questions. In this 2006 FAIR Conference talk, Ash goes deeper into the topic and deals with a few specific criticisms raised against the Book of Abraham.

The apologetics associated with the claims of the Book of Abraham are more complex than many other aspects of LDS belief and practice, but Ash deals effectively with some of the most common attacks, such as the dating of the papyri and the text, some facsimile issues, the relationship between the Book of Abraham and the Egyptian Sensen text, and parallels to the Book of Abraham in ancient traditions about Abraham. As Ash says, “Recent discoveries basically seem to bear out that Joseph Smith not as wrong the critics claim and in many instances is correct.”

The ABCs of the Book of Abraham (HTML) (PDF) by Mike Ash

A Black Man in Zion: Reflections on Race in the Restored Gospel

by Marcus H. Martins

This 2006 FAIR Conference presentation by Marcus Martins is a fascinating look into the issues surrounding the priesthood ban and the historical role of blacks in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Presenting from the perspective of a black Latter-day Saint, Martin reflects on many aspects of the role of race and color in a church led by a prophet of God. Martin brings personal experiences of his own and his father’s to help us understand better how to understand and respond to these issues which have been troubling to many.

“For those who may still be unwilling or unprepared to leave the past behind, I only suggest that while they feel so they follow the Apostle Paul’s admonition to be ‘… an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.’”

Read the article:

A Black Man in Zion: Reflections on Race in the Restored Gospel by Marcus H. Martins

As Far as it is Translated Correctly: The Problem of Tampering with the Word of God in the Transmission and Translation of the New Testament

by John F. Hall

One of the most frequent discussions an apologist will have with anti-Mormons is on the issue of the Bible as an inerrant, complete, unique, and self-interpreting text. Latter-day Saints are fortunate to have the divinely-revealed understanding that the ancient texts, though inspired and critically important, are neither perfect nor complete, nor can they be understood without the guidance and light of the Holy Ghost.

In this 2007 FAIR Conference presentation, John Hall reviews the fundamentals of the New Testament text, explaining such things and the nature of the extant texts, the process and problems associated with the transmission of the text, and the importance of understanding the context and environment in which the texts were created.

“The books of the New Testament also constitute, when understood in the original meaning and intent of their authors, witnesses of the veracity of the Church of Jesus Christ in this dispensation. A very important part of our purpose is to help the New Testament be seen as the witness of Jesus Christ that it is, through perusal of whose verses a vibrant portrait of the living Christ may appear.”

Read the article:

As Far as it is Translated Correctly: The Problem of Tampering with the Word of God in the Transmission and Translation of the New Testament by John F. Hall

RESOURCES ON THE WEB: FAIR YOUTUBE SITE

In a prior Journal we announced that FAIR had begun putting videos on YouTube. This presence has now been expanded into an integrated site on YouTube. Here you can find not only FAIR videos but other videos created to explain or defend LDS history, beliefs, and practices.

Some recent additions to the video collection on the FAIR YouTube site include:

  • Clips from Journey of Faith I and II
  • Jerusalem in context of The Book of Mormon
  • Nahom
  • Nephi’s Bountiful
  • Divine Kingship
  • Jesus Christ in the New World
  • Book of Mormon and the New World

See the videos:

FAIR’s Youtube Channel

RESOURCES ON THE WEB: CHURCH STATEMENT ON THE BIBLE

Critics of the Church frequently distort the Eighth Article of Faith that reads “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly.” The assertion is often made that Latter-day Saints frequently appeal to a corrupt Bible to justify LDS beliefs that are unorthodox. In fact, Latter-day Saints almost never make such a defense of their doctrines.

The statement on the Bible explains how Latter-day Saints reverence the Bible and accept its authority while recognizing that it is not inerrant. “Church members believe that during the centuries-long process in which fallible human beings compiled, translated and transcribed the Bible, various errors entered the text. However, this does not override the overwhelming predominance of truth within the Bible.”

Read the article:

Reverence for the Bible, LDS Newsroom

RESOURCES ON THE WEB: WALL STREET JOURNAL ON MORMONISM

Mitt Romney’s campaign for the presidency brought a dramatic surge in anti-Mormon activity. On February 8 the Wall Street Journal ran an article entitled “TABERNACLE ON TRIAL: Mormons Dismayed By Harsh Spotlight.” A number of FAIR members provided information for the author of the article. In addition to the main article, the WSJ also provided information about the FAIR blog and some of the material found there. The following link is for the article about the FAIR blog, which is called “Our Dreams Are Centered In Our Belief in Jesus Christ’: Blogging Mormonism.”

Read the article:

SUZANNE SATALINE, “Mormons Dismayed By Harsh Spotlight,” The Wall Street Journal, FEBRUARY 8, 2008.

RESOURCES ON THE WEB: CHURCH GROWTH VIDEO

The Church has released an updated video showing the growth in the number of stakes of the Church from 1847 to 2007. This YouTube video shows in a visual medium how the Church has expanded rapid since the end of World War II.

See the video:

Mormon Church Growth By Stakes (Youtube)

RESOURCES ON THE WEB: FIRST VISION ACCOUNTS

A common argument used against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints involves the multiple First Vision accounts given by Joseph Smith. Critics argue that the differences in the accounts are evidence that the event never occurred and that Joseph Smith simply invented the story years after it was supposed to have happened. LDS defenders respond by pointing out their similarities and the fact that it is a sign of its authenticity that Joseph Smith did not relate the story in exactly the same way each time he told it.

Many resources are available on this fascinating topic. Elden Watson has done an excellent site that compares the various versions and puts them into a format that is easy to understand.

Read the article:

Joseph Smith’s First Vision – A Harmony by Elden Watson

For further information, analysis, and links, read the FAIR wiki:

First Vision (FAIR Wiki)

RESOURCES ON THE WEB: NEW MOVIE ON BLACK LATTER-DAY SAINTS

A new movie was recently released about black Latter-day Saints, “Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons.” The movie, produced by Margaret Young and Darius Gray, has been screened at the Utah Film Festival, the Texas Black Film Festival, and the San Diego Black Film Festival. It tells the history of blacks in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints through the life stories of black men and women from the time of Joseph Smith to the present.

See the trailer:

Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons

For more information on the history of blacks in the Church, visit blacklds.org at:

blacklds.org

For more information about the issue of blacks and the priesthood, visit the FAIR wiki at:

Blacks and the priesthood—Members of African descent were restricted from holding the LDS Church’s lay priesthood until 1978. Understanding the priesthood ban is difficult, because the historical record is not entirely clear about the ban’s institution. There is no contemporary, first-person account of the ban’s implementation. Critics with an agenda, as well as sincere seekers with a laudable abhorrence of racism have used this fact to portray the former (or present) Church and its members as racist. Critics argue that God would not allow His church to ever deny blessings or privileges based on race. (Link)

RESOURCES ON THE WEB: WEBSITES ABOUT LDS TEMPLES

Latter-day Saint temple beliefs are some of the most unique elements of the faith. Many other Christians view these practices with suspicion, equating them with Mosaic, pagan, or satanic practices that were either eliminated by Christ’s atonement or forbidden by God as sinful. The reticence of LDS Christians to discuss the details of the temple frequently only adds to the negative impression held by those outside the faith.

But Latter-day Saints see the temple ceremonies as being uplifting and Christ-centered, and they consider the temple and its covenants to be part of the eternal Gospel of Jesus Christ. LDS see their temple worship reflected in beliefs and practices of the early Christians as well as true followers of God from the time of Adam. Criticisms of temple symbols and rituals are often made in ignorance of how similar, or even identical, symbols and rituals have been used by other Christian groups over the last 2000 years.

Several websites exist to help both Latter-day Saints and their neighbors to better understand the role and function of temples in Latter-day Saint religious life.

RESOURCES ON THE WEB: TEN THINGS EVERY MORMON NEEDS TO KNOW

Latter-day Saints are blessed with an expanded, open canon and modern revelation to guide the Church. But God has made it clear through his prophets that no leader is infallible and that each member is individually responsible for his or her own testimony and knowledge of the truth. Andrew Ainsworth deals with these issues in his blog, “10 Things Every Mormon Needs to Know.”

Visit the website:

10 Things Every Mormon Needs to Know

ASK THE APOLOGIST

FAIR invites the public to submit questions relating to LDS beliefs, practices, and history. Some questions are asked sincerely by members and investigators, others are clearly hostile questions challenging the veracity of the Church and its teachings. Many of these responses may end up on the Web site as a FAIR paper or brochure. If you have a question, you may submit it through the FAIR web site.

Contact FAIR

Questions sent to FAIR will be shared with members of FAIR, so it is not uncommon to receive several responses that approach the issue from different angles.

FAIR TOPICAL GUIDE

The Topical Guide is one of the most important LDS apologetic resources available. If you aren’t familiar with this part of FAIR’s Web site, check it out at

FAIR Topical Guide

The following are the Topical Guide updates for the month.

FAIR WIKI

The FAIR wiki project was started in 2006 to provide a more flexible and searchable resource for Latter-day Saints and allow others to get answers to Gospel questions. The wiki is, by design, always a “work in progress,” with many editors at FAIR contributing to articles on a daily basis. You can access the FAIR wiki at:

FAIR Wiki

This month the FAIR wiki focuses attention on wiki articles that have been updated. Each month hundreds of changes are made in the wiki as new information is incorporated, errors are found and corrected, and new topics are added. The following are only a few of the scores of wiki entries that have been modified this month.

  • Elias and Elijah at the Kirtland Temple—Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery reported a vision in the Kirtland Temple on 3 April 1836 (see DC 110:1-16). They reported that they received priesthood keys from three angelic messengers: Moses (verse 11), Elijah (verse 12), and Elias (verses 13-16) Critics points out that “Elias” is merely the Greek name of the Hebrew prophet “Elijah.” Thus, they charge, Joseph Smith made a fatal error by having Elias and Elijah be two different people, when they are in fact one and the same. (Link)
  • Being “born again”—what does the Bible mean?—When the Bible talks about being “born again,” what does this mean? How did the first Christians understand this concept? (Link)
  • Education and belief—This article discusses the relationship between education and religious activity in the Church. (Link)
  • Internet Mormons vs. Chapel Mormons—A friend tells me that no one can ascertain what Mormons really believe because “Internet Mormons” and “Chapel Mormons” often disagree on fundamental issues. What is this “divided Church” he’s talking about? (Link)

FAIR LDS BOOKSTORE

Our special this month at the FAIR LDS Bookstore is our new DVD about DNA and the Book of Mormon. Critics intent on discrediting the Restoration point to DNA studies on indigenous American peoples in an attempt to expose Joseph, the Book of Mormon, and the Church as frauds. They claim that scientific evidence excludes any possibility that Middle Eastern or ancient Jewish travelers came to the Americas in antiquity. They try to sow seeds of doubt in the minds of Latter-day Saints and those of other faiths concerning the authenticity of the Book of Mormon as an ancient religious text.

FAIR’s new DVD interviews scholars and scientists to examine the contentions of the critics and reveal the faith-affirming truth. You will want this DVD in your collection and to share with friends.

The DVD will be available in the near future through Deseret Book, but you can get it now through the FAIR LDS Bookstore for only $9.97!

DNA and the Book of Mormon (DVD)

–FAIR Bookstore Volunteers

ARTICLE SUBMISSIONS

We welcome article submissions for the FAIR Web site. If you would like to submit an article, please review the editing guidelines at:

FAIR Editorial Style Guide

Submit your article to the FAIR Journal Editor. An appropriate article would be one that affirms the truthfulness of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

While LDS apologetics (in the broadest sense) deals with refuting critics of the Church, articles don’t necessarily have to deal with anti-Mormonism, but may deal with some new evidence of the Book of Mormon, some interesting scripture interpretation, a viewpoint or quote from the early Christian Fathers or other historical figure, an interesting lesson idea, an inspiring missionary story, Church history, or your view on a current event related to the Church or a piece from a historical journal.

We may also accept articles from people who are not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that may not necessarily meet the guidelines of supporting the church if it is a topic of general interest to people involved in apologetics.

A submission may range in length from several pages to a single paragraph.

PUBLISHING NOTES

FAIR is not owned, controlled by or affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. All research and opinions provided in the FAIR Journal and on the FAIR Web site (http://www.fairlds.org) are the sole responsibility of FAIR, and should not be interpreted as official statements of LDS doctrine, belief or practice.

If someone has forwarded this e-journal to you and you would like to join you should go to www.fairlds.org and click on the FAIR Publications link.

If you are very interested in apologetics and would like to actively participate in FAIR you should consider joining our apologetics e-mail list. Visit www.fairlds.org and click on the Join FAIR link to join this list.

If you manage your own e-mail list, and wish to include some of these thoughts or articles on your list, contact us through our Web site, at this page: www.fairlds.org/contact.psp. We have a fairly liberal policy of using our material so long as you contact us first to gain permission and clearly identify that your source was FAIR and by adding a link to the FAIR Web site (www.fairlds.org).

If you would like to sign up to receive the FAIR Journal automatically, click here.

To return to the index of past FAIR Journal issues, click here.

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