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).
- MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT. Scott Gordon looks at the recent flurry of anti-Mormon works and discusses their scholarly shortcomings.
- FAIR CONFERENCE NEWS. The FAIR Conference is scheduled for August 3 and 4.
- NEW ON THE WEBSITE. “The Book of Mormon vs. the Critics: Nit-Picking for Fun and Profit.” Don Neighbors looks at attacks against the Book of Mormon based on language, grammar, and corrections to the translated text.
- 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. This month’s additions are audio presentations relating to LDS apologetics.
- FAIR LDS BOOKSTORE. With the changes in the on-line bookstore, browsing and ordering is faster and easier than ever. Check out the new format and this month’s special offerings.
- 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
A number of new books and videos about Mormonism have recently been released. With Harry Reid as minority leader in the Senate and Mitt Romney contemplating a run for the presidency, we are likely to see even more. Many of these books and videos have a slightly different tone than traditional evangelical anti-Mormonm because they are often coming from, or are influenced by, disaffected Mormons. In addition, many of these books and videos make an effort to appear scholarly. While some people take the position that if it is written in a book or if it is in a video documentary then it must be true, this is not a safe position to take.
Whether it be history, archeology, or DNA evidence, these books and films paint the picture that Mormonism is a lie. From there they either take the path that it is either a well-meaning lie or a deceitful lie, but it is a lie nonetheless.
Most people love a good story, but few like to do research in history or science. Fewer still have the knowledge or training to evaluate the quality of various sources. In history, one should ask questions such as “Is this first hand?” “Was this written at the time it happened or was it written many years later?” “Who wrote it?” “What was his or her relationship to the event or events?”
These were thoughts I had as I recently read the book “An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins” by Grant H. Palmer. He claims in his book that the history we have learned is a lie.
To support his thesis, Mr. Palmer quotes the RLDS church (Community of Christ) president-emeritus saying: “One thing is clear. The genie is out of the bottle and it cannot be put back. Facts uncovered and the questions raised by the new Mormon historians will not go away. They will have to be dealt with if we are to maintain a position of honesty and integrity in our dealings with our own members as well as our friends in the larger religious community.” (page xi)
LDS Historian Davis Bitton responds to Palmer’s book in The FARMS Review by saying:
“Grant H. Palmer thinks the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been dishonest by holding back information that controverts the traditional account of its origins. But he doesn’t mind holding back quite a bit himself.” [The FARMS Review 15/2 (2003) page 257.]
Palmer questions whether there was a Palmyra revival in 1820 while ignoring the June 1820, Palmyra Register newspaper report of James Couser who dies of intoxication at one of these “non-existent” meetings. He chooses non-primary quotes to show the witnesses only thought they saw the plates while ignoring the first-hand statements of Martin Harris, where he states he held them on his lap for an hour and a half, and firsthand statements of Katherine Smith where she describes how she hid the plates in bed with her while people searched the house for them.
Anyone who has questions about the Witnesses should read Richard Anderson’s book “Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses.” Anderson earned a law degree at Harvard Law School and a Ph.D. in ancient history at the University of California, Berkeley. He has probably done more research on the topic than anyone else.
But Palmer isn’t the only new author. Dan Vogel has put together an impressive book on Joseph Smith. In FARMS Review 17/1 (2005), Andrew H. Hedges, who has a Ph.D. in American history from the University of Illinois, and Dawson W. Hedges, MD, observe that Vogel doesn’t follow the traditional lines of scholarship:
“Frankly admitting his ‘inclination…to interpret any claim of the paranormal…as delusion or fraud’ (p. xii), Vogel refuses to accept Joseph’s and his supporters’ autobiographical statements– most of which grant, either explicitly or implicitly, such ‘paranormal’ phenomena as angels, revelation, visions, and prophecy–at face value.”
The FARMS reviewers describe the method of how to support these positions saying, “Easy–scour the records for any sources whose authors know, like Vogel, that Joseph was a liar from birth and see what they have to say about his life.”
They go on to describe Vogel’s historical conjecturing by saying,
“In the eight pages from 131 to 138, for example, the words ‘might,’ ‘probably,’ ‘may,’ ‘perhaps,’ and ‘seems’ occur a total of 17 times–better than two per page, on average. Rarely does one find a run of more than two pages where such words aren’t employed, and not infrequently one sees them in even greater abundance–pages 178 and 447, for example, contain nine such qualifiers apiece. They are central to every point and argument Vogel makes, whatever their overall rate of use may be, and one finds oneself involuntarily muttering under one’s breath ‘yes, and maybe, probably not’ at the end of most of them.”
There are two books out on the Mountain Meadows massacre written by Will Bagley and Sally Denton, and there are films being produced that use those books as sources. Robert Crockett reviews these books in The FARMS Review 15/2 (2003) and in The FARMS Review 16/1 (2004). Of Bagley’s book, Crockett writes:
“Specifically, regarding Blood of the Prophets, it is my view that Bagley’s analysis of the evidence is uncritical and unbalanced, usually favoring explanations that would condemn authorities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Bagley often ignores exculpatory evidence of a much higher quality than the evidence upon which he relies to inculpate Brigham Young. Bagley often favors rumor and speculation over hard evidence, or he relies solely upon rumor and speculation when there is no evidence.”
Of Denton Crockett writes: “She makes mistakes that careful historians of Mormon Americana do not,” and “To say it more succinctly, Denton discusses the massacre out of context.”
Geneticist Dr. Ryan Parr writes in The FARMS Review 17/1 (2005) about a new book on DNA, “Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA, and the Mormon Church,” by Dr. Simon Southerton. He states:
“Southerton has done a reasonable job of summarizing the current data set describing Native American haplotype/haplogroup frequencies of mtDNA and Y chromosomes; however, the obvious difficulty is the clear and persistent insistence that these data are an accurate archive of all past population histories in the Americas. This is an unrealistic and vast simplification of population dynamics.”
In the same volume of The FARMS Review, Dr. Kent Jackson writes about Martha Beck’s book “Leaving the Saints”:
“In her book Martha calls for the highest standards of scholarship and social science professionalism, yet sadly her own writing is closer to tabloid journalism, failing to come anywhere close to the standards she claims to espouse.” (Page 110)
There are critics of The FARMS Review who claim it is “mean spirited” and “critical.” But book reviews in scholarly journals traditionally have little tolerance for what they believe to be sloppy research.
While not everyone has to agree that Joseph Smith was a prophet or that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the restored Church of Jesus Christ, if you write about it, it is important to follow the traditions of scholarship and research. These new books and videos suffer from oversimplification, misrepresentation, and ignoring scholarly research that has been done on the topic.
–Scott Gordon President, FAIR
Editors Note: The FARMS review is a good source of scholarly discourse on the various books that are written about Mormonism. You can read the FARMS review at
Copies can be purchased at the FAIR bookstore at
FAIR is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, so if you are in the United States, your donation is tax deductible. Without your donations, FAIR would cease to exist. Thank you for your support.
FAIR Conference News
The 8th annual FAIR Conference will be held in Sandy, Utah, on August 3-4. Mark your calendars and be ready to take advantage of the early bird discount on conference tickets! Details on the speakers and ticket prices will be announced in an upcoming FAIR Journal.
The Book of Mormon vs. the Critics: Nit-Picking for Fun and Profit
by D.E. Neighbors
Nearly every anti-Mormon work that has attacked the Book of Mormon has used the argument that since the Book of Mormon contains errors and has been corrected and modified over the years, Joseph Smith’s statement that the Book of Mormon was “the most correct book” was false and the Book of Mormon itself cannot be considered scripture and is nothing more than a fabrication of Joseph Smith.
In his article, Neighbors looks at some of the attacks on the Book of Mormon relating to the language and grammar that the Prophet Joseph used when he translated the ancient text, as well as some of the attacks based on changes to the Book of Mormon text after its initial publication. The Book of Mormon is easily defended against these nit-picking complaints, which are basically founded on an extreme textual inerrantist viewpoint. With his long experience in the publishing field, Neighbors notes that he is “singularly unimpressed by the claims made against the Book of Mormon on typographical and grammatical grounds.”
Read the article:
The Book of Mormon vs. the Critics: Nit-Picking for Fun and Profit by D.E. Neighbors
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, simply mail it to our Questions address. Email sent to this address 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
The following are the Topical Guide updates for the month. Each of these is an audio presentation and can be found in the multimedia section of the Topical Guide in addition to the appropriate topic index. To see all audio entries in the Topical Guide, go to
- Richard L. Anderson, “Testimonies of the Book of Mormon Witnesses,” (Provo, UT: FARMS)
- “,” Latter-day Saint Perspectives on the Dead Sea Scrolls, Eds., Donald W. Parry and Dana M. Pike (Provo, UT: FARMS)
- John Gee, “FARMS Presentation,” (Provo, UT: FARMS)
- Hugh W. Nibley, “Faith of an Observer,” (Provo, UT: FARMS)
- Hugh W. Nibley, “Abraham’s Creation Drama,” (Provo, UT: FARMS)
- Hugh W. Nibley, “Pearl of Great Price Lecture Series – 1. Restoring What Was Lost,” (Provo, UT: FARMS)
- Hugh W. Nibley, “Pearl of Great Price Lecture Series – 2. Allegory and Rhetoric,” (Provo, UT: FARMS)
- Hugh W. Nibley, “Pearl of Great Price Lecture Series – 3. Literalism,” (Provo, UT: FARMS)
- Hugh W. Nibley, “Pearl of Great Price Lecture Series – 4. Preexistence,” (Provo, UT: FARMS)
- Hugh W. Nibley, “Pearl of Great Price Lecture Series – 5. Cosmology,” (Provo, UT: FARMS)
- Hugh W. Nibley, “Pearl of Great Price Lecture Series – 6. The Creation,” (Provo, UT: FARMS)
- Hugh W. Nibley, “Pearl of Great Price Lecture Series – 7. The Council,” (Provo, UT: FARMS)
- Hugh W. Nibley, “Pearl of Great Price Lecture Series – 8. The Council According to the Shabako Stone,” (Provo, UT: FARMS)
- Hugh W. Nibley, “Pearl of Great Price Lecture Series – 9. The Shabako Stone Continued,” (Provo, UT: FARMS)
- Hugh W. Nibley, “Pearl of Great Price Lecture Series – 10. The Babylon Creation Myth,” (Provo, UT: FARMS)
- Hugh W. Nibley, “Pearl of Great Price Lecture Series – 11. The Human Condition,” (Provo, UT: FARMS)
- Hugh W. Nibley, “Pearl of Great Price Lecture Series – 12. The Plurality of Worlds,” (Provo, UT: FARMS)
- Hugh W. Nibley, “Pearl of Great Price Lecture Series – 13. The Pearl of Great Price on the Plurality of Worlds,” (Provo, UT: FARMS)
- Hugh W. Nibley, “Pearl of Great Price Lecture Series – 14. Treasures in Heaven,” (Provo, UT: FARMS)
- Hugh W. Nibley, “Pearl of Great Price Lecture Series – 15. The Geological Problem,” (Provo, UT: FARMS)
- Daniel C. Peterson, “A Scholar Looks at Evidences for the Book of Mormon,” (Provo, Utah: FARMS)
- Royal Skousen, “Critical Text of the Book of Mormon,” (Provo, Utah: FARMS)
- John W. Welch, “Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon,” (Provo, Utah: FARMS)
FAIR LDS BOOKSTORE
The Fair LDS Bookstore has some great values. By supporting the FAIR Bookstore you are also supporting FAIR. Come and see what great books are here for you. This month we are featuring three marvelous books at a wonderful price.
“Defining the Word – Understanding the History and Language of the Bible” John A. Tvedtnes, Covenant Communications, 2006 (Softbound) ISBN 1-59811078-0
This book will help you to understand and discover what the Bible *reallymeans. John Tvedtnes does a wonderful job of writing so that one can understand and love the words of the Bible, which will help with understanding of the language that is used in all the standard works. You’ll find that this book is well researched and easy to understand. Those who love history, language and those who love the word of God will find this book totally insightful and inspiring.
You can purchase this book for $10.46, 25% off its retail price. (It is regularly $13.95.)
“United by Faith” edited by Kyle R. Walker, BYU Studies, 2006 (Hardbound) ISBN 1-59156-998-2
This book introduces you to the Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith family, their troubles, and how they united their family. This intimate story blends together both research and a tender story of Mormonism’s first family. The work of nine historians brings about new insights on each family member.
You can purchase this book for $19.95, 20% of its retail price. (It is regularly $24.95)
“The Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Edition” edited by Grant Hardy, University of Illinois Press, 2005 (Softbound) ISBN 0-252-07341-X
This great reader-friendly version of our familiar scripture reformats the complete, unchanged 1920 text in the manner of modern translations of the Bible, with paragraphs, quotations marks, poetic forms, topical headings, multichapter headings, indention of quoted documents, italicized reworkings of biblical prophecies, and minimized verse numbers. The book has charts, maps, and a glossary of names. If you’ve never seen this book before, it will provide you with new insights into the Book of Mormon.
You can purchase this book for $17.47, 30% off its retail price. (It is regularly $24.95.)
To see all of our specials for this month in one place, visit this special page:
Thanks for your continued support of the FAIR Bookstore. We hope you have a great new year!
– 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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