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).
- AN IMPERFECT HISTORY: A REVIEW OF “THE MYSTERIES OF GODLINESS.” Ben Spackman reviews a book that attempts to create a history of temple worship among the LDS.
- NEW ON THE WEBSITE: THE LDS CHURCH AND THE RACE ISSUE–A STUDY IN MISPLACED APOLOGETICS. It has been twenty-five years since the 1978 revelation that extended the priesthood to all worthy males. In this 2003 FAIR Conference presentation by Armand Mauss, the apologetics of the race issue are effectively addressed.
- NEW ON THE WEBSITE: A TALE OF TWO MARRIAGE SYSTEMS–PERSPECTIVES ON POLYANDRY AND JOSEPH SMITH. In this FAIR paper, Sam Katich examines the controversial marriages between Joseph Smith and women who were already married to other men at the time.
- FIFTH ANNUAL FAIR CONFERENCE: THE FIRST DAY. Notes and impressions of D.E. Neighbors, who attended the annual FAIR Conference for the first time last month.
- NEW ON THE WEBSITE: TAKE HEED THAT YE BE NOT DECEIVED. A classic LDS apologetics book makes its debut on the FAIR Web site.
- NEW ON THE WEBSITE: SPOTTING AN ANTI-MORMON BOOK. How can you identify whether books, pamphlets, and articles that discuss the Church are anti-Mormon?
- MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT, SCOTT GORDON.
- FAIR LDS BOOKSTORE. Check out the monthly specials available in the 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
AN IMPERFECT HISTORY: A REVIEW OF “THE MYSTERIES OF GODLINESS”
by Ben Spackman
The ordinances and personal experiences of the temple play a large role in the life of an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Many members have a desire to learn about the meaning, history, and symbolism of temples and their associated ordinances and doctrines. Moreover, no official source exists to answer such questions. In this official vacuum, Buerger, critical of anonymous “overenthusiastic apologists,” has attempted to create a useful history of modern temple worship.
Read the review:
An Imperfect History: A Review of “The Mysteries of Godliness” by Ben Spackman
THE LDS CHURCH AND THE RACE ISSUE: A STUDY IN MISPLACED APOLOGETICS
by Armand L. Mauss
Much of the conventional “explanation” for the priesthood restriction [related to blacks receiving the priesthood] was simply borrowed from the racist heritage of nineteenth-century Europe and America, especially from the slavery justifications of the antebellum South. Understandable–even forgivable–as such a resort might have been for our LDS ancestors, it is neither understandable nor forgivable in the twenty-first century. It is an unnecessary burden of misplaced apologetics that has been imposed by our history upon the universal and global aspirations of the Church. Until we dispense with it once and for all, it will continue to encumber the efforts of today’s Church leaders and public affairs spokespersons to convince the world, and especially the black people of America, that the Church is for all God’s children, “black and white, bond and free, male and female.”
Read the presentation:
The LDS Church and the Race Issue: A Study in Misplaced Apologetics by Armand L. Mauss
A TALE OF TWO MARRIAGE SYSTEMS: PERSPECTIVES ON POLYANDRY AND JOSEPH SMITH
by Samuel Katich
Perhaps one of the most misunderstood aspects of Joseph Smith is that of his plural marriages to women that were already married to other men. This paper examines the forms of marriage in practice and looks at each of the women and men involved in the relationships in an attempt to better understand these unique marriages.
Joseph Smith was eternally married to what currently are argued to be between eight and eleven already married women. If we consider only those eight marriages that can be adequately documented, we find that six of the marriages occurred within an eight-month period between late October 1841 and June 1842. Two more marriages occurred early in 1843. The women ranged in age from 20 to 47, with an average age of 29. Of those eight marriages, five were to women who had Mormon husbands and three were to women married to disaffected members or non-Mormons. Three of the women’s first marriages to Mormon husbands and two of the marriages to non-Mormons lasted until death. The other three remaining marriages ended later in life after Joseph’s death in 1844. In all cases the women continued to live with their first husbands.
Read the paper:
FIFTH ANNUAL FAIR CONFERENCE: THE FIRST DAY
by D.E. Neighbors
[Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of articles by Don Neighbors, a member of the FAIR Apologetics list and a first-time conference attendee. Don was asked to share his impressions about the conference so that FAIR Journal subscribers who missed the event will get a fresh perspective. In this installment, Don shares his impressions of the presentations on the first day of the conference, August 7.]
Scott Gordon’s short speech opening the Fifth Annual FAIR conference was followed by an opening prayer offered by Lance Star, which segued to the opening talk given by Matt Roper.
Matt Roper — Nephi’s Neighbors
One of the most frequently heard criticisms against the Church is the mistaken idea that the LDS community believes that all peoples indigenous to the Americas, particularly North America, sprang from the Book of Mormon peoples. Matt’s presentation went a long way to putting this idea to rest. His thesis rested on the idea that if we claim that all Amerind groups descended from the migrations mentioned in the Book of Mormon, then our argument is weak indeed, but an argument in favor of three smaller, localized groups turns the tables in favor of the Book of Mormon. What’s more, those groups known as Nephites, Lamanites, etc. included not only blood descendants of the original colony, but also those indigenous groups influenced by the three groups of Middle Eastern immigrants whose record we have in the Book of Mormon.
Building the foundation for his argument, Matt discussed the histories and legends of the Mesoamerican cultures, for instance that of the Toltecs, whose history says they came from the Middle East, but evidently not on the same boat as Lehi and his family. He also mentioned that Parley Pratt expanded the definition of Lamanite to include more than just the blood relatives of Laman and Lemuel. He continued by pointing out that the Book of Mormon is a specific history of a relatively small group, much as the Bible is a history of only certain peoples in the Middle East. He stressed that the Book of Mormon is only “part of a record,” and not the entire history of the Nephites. Later, Matt used the Allegory of the Olive Tree (Jacob 5) to indicate that the branch hanging over the wall represents more than one group of Israelites who left the Holy Land, and that many of the groups signified by the branches of the olive tree arrived in the New World before Lehi and his family.
Matt wound his presentation up supporting his argument by quoting 2 Nephi 24:1, which suggests that others will join the house of Jacob, and that the people in the Book of Mormon record neither were exclusive to the New World, nor do we as a Church believe that they are. In fact, Brother Roper used a lot of scripture to support his thesis. All in all, an excellent presentation.
Margaret Young and Darius Gray — Black Latter-Day Saints
Margaret Young gave her presentation without a lot of help from Darius Gray, though the humorous exchange between her and Darius made it clear from the onset that they have a very good working relationship. Brother Gray chipped in every once in a while with supplemental comments, but it was obvious to the audience that the presentation was designed to be done by one person. Sister Young’s presentation was emotional and spiritually uplifting, and she plainly had a strong spiritual connection with those who she researched and interviewed.
She opened with the example of Elijah Abel, one of the earliest black men ordained to the priesthood, who was a carpenter, Nauvoo’s first undertaker, a member of the Quorum of the Seventy, and a man who served three missions by the time of his death. He was a dear friend of the Smith family and was with Father Smith when he passed on. Margaret’s verbal portrait of Elijah Abel was of a righteous man who served the Lord well and who, contrary to some beliefs, was an ordained priesthood holder until his death.
Margaret made it clear that the definition of “cursed,” as was frequently applied to blacks, is incorrect. Cursed means a separation of God from man, and had everything to do with behavior and nothing to do with skin color; that covenants with God are not specific to race, but are specific to righteousness. However, hatred and false traditions have perpetuated ideas like the application of the “curse of Cain” to people with dark skin.
Sister Young found the examples of righteous black Saints to be faith- promoting experiences. Such were the examples of Jane and Isaac Manning, who walked 800 miles in the dead of winter from their home to Nauvoo after Jane Manning had a vision of Joseph Smith, and who were initially rebuffed by the Nauvoo Saints until Joseph Smith welcomed them into his home. They were among the first blacks to petition for temple blessings, and who did so repeatedly in their lives. Such was the example of Green Flake, separated from his mother at the age of ten, and who served as a missionary, and for whom family was of extreme importance. The faithful examples of Led and Mary Hope, originally Baptists, and who at some point in their lives met and befriended a young missionary by the name of Marion D. Hanks. Brother Hope prayed in an abandoned cabin for the Holy Ghost to appear, and was visited by two LDS missionaries who started his road to conversion with a brochure about the Holy Ghost. After their baptism, the Hopes were visited by members of the Ku Klux Klan, who pressured Led to have his name removed from Church records. (In spite of the pressure, they remained in the Church.) Later, they moved to Cincinnati, where they were not welcomed into the ward because of their skin color.
Neither Margaret nor Darius made any bones about the fact that race was indeed an issue in the Church from its founding. She closed her talk with a scathing opinion of the Elijah Abel Society, and with a few words about the origin and mission of the Genesis Group. Sister Young provided a very good presentation to her audience, and one that practically glowed with the Spirit and with the love that Margaret Young had for the people whose stories she related.
John Tvedtnes — The Charge of Racism in the Book of Mormon
One thing is certain: John Tvedtnes is an energetic speaker. Anyone who can doze off in any presentation he gives is either on drugs or suffering from severe sleep deprivation.
Brother Tvedtnes talk was an excellent follow-up to that of Margaret Young and Darius Gray, in that he expanded on certain issues of racism in the Church and those supposedly found in the Book of Mormon, which he was quick to point out, says nothing of the sort. As an example, he pointed out that the Lamanites, for all the trouble they gave the Nephites, were considered brethren, which is not exactly a racist attitude. He reiterated Young and Gray’s statement that a curse is a separation from God having nothing to do with skin color. He told us that the Lamanites were “marked” with dark skin, a mark that came on eventually, to make the Lamanites unattractive to the Nephites to prevent Nephite intermarriage with a group of people who had chosen an unrighteous path. However, Tvedtnes repeated he felt very strongly that the “mark” was not part of the curse.
Referring to Mosiah 9:12, John reminded the audience that some of the bad habits of Lamanite society, laziness being one particular example, existed long before the mark made itself apparent on the Lamanites. He also indicated that the filthiness of the Lamanites was a spiritual filthiness, not a physical one. Using quite a few citations to support his claims, Brother Tvedtnes gave examples of pejorative descriptions of various ethnic groups who have come under unfavorable scrutiny in history.
Answering to anti-Mormon attacks based on the “white and delightsome” reference in 2 Nephi 30: in the pre-1981 Book of Mormon, he stated that the meaning of “white” has drifted over the years, and was not meant, in that context, to have the same connotation it does currently. As he wound down his talk, he discussed an alternative definition of “black” as one’s spiritual condition prior to conversion, and that the “scales” over the eyes of the unrighteous may have been an idiomatic term not easily rendered into English. Further, he pointed out that the idea that blacks carry the curse of Cain is a nineteenth-century Protestant belief used to rationalize slavery, and that the accusations of racism in LDS scripture came from outside the Church and were the results of misinterpretation.
Trent Stevens — Evolution and Latter-day Saint Theology
Trent Stevens got the afternoon off to a good start with a presentation hallmarked by an amusing and straightforward speaking style. He immediately gained our attention by stating “I am a child of God.” That was to be the theme of the first segment of his presentation, in which he discussed the Church’s official stance on evolution theory–that we don’t exactly know how man came to be. He punctuated this idea by quoting Heber J. Grant, who suggested that we leave science to the scientists. He moved from that to DNA research, which has, among other things, shown that the concept of race is invalid from a genetic perspective. Moving onto the fossil record, he demonstrated a succession of development in that record, and he frequently referred to the pieces of the fossil record as “witnesses.” He asked the question, “Do we reject the Genesis account?” to which he answered “No,” but that we need to reconsider our current interpretation of the story.
He moved onto a lively discussion of the role of the Garden of Eden, in reference to 2 Nephi 2:22-23, asserting that Adam and Eve were not immortal. To back this up, he reminded the audience that our epidermis is made up of dead skin cells, as is much of our hair, and to press his point showed pictures of a few amphibians which do not have an outer layer of skin like humans do. He considered the possibility that Adam and Eve were plucked from the mainstream of an early human society and placed in the Garden of Eden as a test. He wound up his talk by comparing the ideas of developmental or evolutionary constraints and intelligent design, referring to the belief that we are made in the image of God.
His was a truly enjoyable, and to say the least, thought-provoking talk, which was perhaps a reminder that many things in the Church are doctrinally unsettled and that we are all entitled to our own opinions.
Brant Gardner — Monotheism, Messiah, and Mormon’s Book
Brant Gardener, making judicious use of non-LDS sources to bolster his position (and thus reinforcing LDS beliefs), spoke about LDS theology in comparison to that of ancient Judaism. A very strong theme of his talk was that the Book of Mormon represents the theology of the Nephites, not that of Joseph Smith. He talked to us about the Deuteronomic Reforms, which took place during Lehi’s lifetime, and how those reforms altered the face of Judaism. This information he used to clarify that there was most certainly a multiplicity of religious thoughts among Lehi’s contemporaries. He went on to say that the Deuteronomic Reforms did little to actually “improve” Judaism, but merely raised one of the many Judaic ideals above the rest.
The Book of Mormon, rather than being a nineteenth-century creation, represents an extension of a line of Hebrew thought that was divergent from the aforementioned reforms. Among these ideas is that of the distinctly separate identities of El and Yahweh, and showing that El is our Heavenly Father, and his son Yahweh is Christ, our Redeemer. Brant effectively used charts to help illustrate his points, and kept the audience interested as the afternoon moved on.
Roger Ekins — Defending Zion
With the able assistance of his wife, Roger Ekins’ presentation was more a short play, a theatrical performance, than it was a talk. This is a supreme compliment on the way they approached their topic and took on their task. The foundations of their performance were a series of newspaper editorials written by George Q. Cannon on one side and an anti-Mormon newspaper editor on the other, that ran through much of 1856 and into 1857, becoming know as the California Newspaper War. Representing both sides of the argument, Brother and Sister Ekins took turns at the podium reading particularly “juicy” editorials from that war. The end result was a presentation that was at times sidesplitting, yet we all came away with a better knowledge of how the Church has been attacked throughout its history, and how in some regards very little has changed in anti-Mormon polemics over the years.
The Ekins, in their delightfully funny way, did an excellent job of showing how the Church reacted to criticism early in its history. It was readily apparent to all that George Q. Cannon did a fine job of handling LDS apologetics.
George Potter and Richard Wellington — Lehi in the Wilderness
Potter and Wellington’s presentation was, in a word, fascinating. The two of them, founders of the Nephi Project, have tirelessly researched the cultural and geographic backdrop of Lehi’s journey across the Arabian peninsula and have presented parts of their work on their Nephi Project Web site (www.nephiproject.com) and in their recent publication, Lehi in the Wilderness.
Some of the many attacks against the Church have centered around the mention of rivers and forests in Arabia. They wasted no time in showing those assertions are based in a general ignorance of Arabia. Using a combination of linguistic, geographic and ecological evidence, Potter and Wellington built a case for the probable route followed by Lehi and his family. Again and again they showed that they had found evidence supporting the Book of Mormon account, which they presented to the audience in a slide show. These slides included pictures of some sites that they are confident were visited by Lehi and his little company in their journey through the wilderness.
Potter and Wellington presented a strong argument that Lehi followed established trails, the Wilderness Trail and the Frankincense Trail, in his journey. They found what they believe to be wells along the ancient trail, not to mention artifacts dating to Lehi’s time and earlier, and many of which are mentioned directly or hinted at in the Book of Mormon. The end result was an argument overwhelmingly in favor of the historical veracity of the Book of Mormon and the LDS claim that it is an ancient book. In fact, the evidence in favor of the ancient origins of the Book of Mormon makes the claim that it is a nineteenth- century creation mathematically unlikely to the order of 2.5 septillion to one in favor of its ancient origin. In other words, it is practically impossible that Joseph Smith could have created a work of fiction so accurately representative of ancient Sinai and Arabia with the information Joseph Smith might have had at hand in the late 1820s.
Potter and Wellington put together a presentation chock full of excellent information backed by careful research that was meant to be a two-hour presentation. As they had to compress it into an hour for the FAIR Conference, they invited us all to a fireside that was later that evening at a nearby stake center. The result of this was that at the end of their production, many of the audience clustered around them loaded with many questions. It was a good end to the first day of the conference.
TAKE HEED THAT YE BE NOT DECEIVED
by Richard I. Winwood
This classic apologetics book, first introduced in 1992, is now available online at the FAIR Web site. We are indebted to the author, Richard I. Winwood, for his permission in allowing us to make the book available. It is a quick read, and you will find it useful in working with those who are troubled by efforts of anti-Mormons.
Read the book:
Take Heed That Ye Be Not Deceived by Richard I. Winwood
SPOTTING AN ANTI-MORMON BOOK
by Davis Bitton
It would be more than a little ridiculous to think of all who are not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as anti- Mormons. It might induce some needed humility to discover how many throughout the world’s population don’t even know we exist, or if they know, think of us on a superficial, inaccurate level. Those good folks are not anti-Mormons.
On the other hand, the “street preachers,” as they identify themselves, who have decided to devote their lives to disrupting the peace of Latter-day Saints as they gather for pageants, dedication of buildings, and even temple worship–these people I do not mind calling anti-Mormons.
But what about books, pamphlets, and articles that discuss the Church, its people today, its history, its doctrines, its scriptures? Do any of these deserve the title of anti-Mormon? The answer is an emphatic yes.
Read the article:
Spotting an Anti-Mormon Book by Davis Bitton
MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT
We hope you find the FAIR Web site something of value. If you don’t find the answers that you are looking for on the Web site, feel free submit your question. We will then send your e-mail to our FAIR Apologetics list where we have volunteers who will be happy to respond.
On another note, FAIR is in need of your financial support. While we are an all-volunteer organization, we do have many expenses. If you believe we are providing a valuable service, please consider making a contribution so we can continue to do what we do. We are a 501(c)3 corporation, so your contributions are tax deductible.
-Scott Gordon President, FAIR
FAIR ONLINE BOOKSTORE
“Lost Christianities” by Bart D. Ehrman is yet another addition to the growing body of work acknowledging that Christian history has been suppressed. This newly released title joins Elaine Pagels’ “Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas” and Karen King’s “What is Gnosticism?” in acknowledging the diversity of Christian practice in the early centuries. Ehrman ponders what might have happened had some other form of Christianity won the battle for dominance. Obviously, this should be of great interest for any Latter-day Saint whose beliefs are considered “unorthodox” by many conventional Christians.
Ehrman summarizes that there is “a sense that alternative understandings of Christianity from the past can be cherished yet today, that they can provide insights even now for those of us who are concerned about the world and our place in it. Those captivated with this fascination commonly feel a sense of loss upon realizing just how many perspectives once endorsed by well-meaning, intelligent and sincere believers came to be abandoned, destroyed, and forgotten–as were the texts that these believers produced, read, and revered. But with that feeling of loss comes the joy of discovery when some of these texts, and the lost Christianities they embody, are recovered and restored to us. For our own religious histories encompass not only the forms of belief and practice that emerged as victorious from the conflicts of the past but also those that were overcome, suppressed, and eventually lost.” (p. 257)
Ehrman also now provides something of great value to the non-scholar: a companion volume entitled “Lost Scriptures” where he examines a variety of books that did not make it into the New Testament. Forty- seven texts usually found in separate collections dedicated to Apostolic Fathers, New Testament apocrypha or gnosticism can now be easily accessed in one book by the reader. He also adds canonical lists from the early centuries that are used by scholars to establish the historical formation of the canon.
Be sure when you read about these books, that you scroll down to the bottom of the information provided to see the other new Ehrman source book, “Christianity in Late Antiquity, 300-450 C.E.: A Reader.”
These specials plus an exciting new book by David E. Bokovoy and John A. Tvedtnes entitled “Testaments: Links between the Book of Mormon and the Hebrew Bible” are available by visiting the FAIR LDS Bookstore:
– The FAIR Bookstore Staff
We welcome article submissions for the FAIR Web site. If you would like to submit an article, please review the editing guidelines at:
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.
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).
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