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 considers how our modern expectations and assumptions often cause Latter-day Saints to have difficulty understanding the actions and statements of Church leaders in the past.
- FAIR CONFERENCE NEWS. You can now register for the 2006 FAIR Conference and get a substantial discount by purchasing your tickets early. Check out the details on the FAIR web site!
- RESOURCES ON THE WEB. FAIR is announcing the availability of a new apologetics resource: the FAIR wiki.
- RESOURCES ON THE WEB. Read a blogger’s tongue-in-cheek advice on how to become an “expert” anti-Mormon.
- 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 LDS BOOKSTORE. This month the FAIR Bookstore is offering specials on four books on topics as diverse as LDS philosophy, Old Testament symbolism, and Joseph Smith.
- 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 most dangerous things to our testimonies is our own expectations. Each of us has built up a set of mental images as to how things should or should not be. We sit in Sunday School or in Seminary and built up mental images of how things are and how things happened. But then, we go into shock and dismay when we find that our imagination and our expectations didn’t set up the right mental image.
For example: I had an image in my mind of Joseph Smith reading off of the Gold Plates like a scholar would translate a book from a foreign language. I was surprised when I found that Joseph may not have translated in this way. But then why should it bother me? He didn’t really “translate it” in the usual sense of the term, the text was revealed to him. Scholars of the day couldn’t read much Egyptian yet, and he certainly couldn’t read reformed Egyptian anyway.
The next “shocker” that is touted on many anti-Mormon Web sites is that Joseph buried his face in a hat to shut out the light as he concentrated on his seer stone to see the Book of Mormon words. People have written in to FAIR saying their testimonies have been shaken because of this. But if it is true (and there is some dispute), why should it bother us at all? Do we know the right and wrong way to translate Nephite gold plates? Have we done it before?
Then we have the issue of plural marriage. We all know that Brigham Young had more than one wife in spite of the fact that the anti-Mormons claim we hid that fact from the membership when we didn’t put it in our priesthood and Relief Society manuals. You would have to have been born in a cave NOT to know he had more than one wife. We likewise shrug when we hear that John Taylor or Wilford Woodruff had more than one wife. But, when we find out that Joseph Smith had more than one wife, we suddenly are up in arms demanding an explanation. Why should we do that?
There are multiple Web sites on the Internet who have combed through every book and General Conference talk to try to find any comments that remotely sound racist. And for some reason, some members are surprised when they find that people who lived in the early to mid 1800s said things that sounded racist! Remember this was the time of slavery and people were arguing over the idea of whether or not African Americans even had souls! Unlike some other denomination leaders, Mormon prophets always fully accepted African Americans as children of God.
While we all wish that racism never happened, we seem to expect that church leaders in the past should never have said anything that sounds racist today. They were men of their times, educated by what could be termed a racist society. It is an unrealistic expectation that they wouldn’t have picked up some of what was being taught by society at large. Why didn’t they get a revelation back then saying it was wrong? I don’t know. Maybe we weren’t ready for it. We have to remember that most revelations have come as prophets asked God; maybe they never thought to ask.
I imagine the shock in the New Testament church as Peter announced that the “eternal” law of circumcision didn’t apply to non-Jews. They must have been really upset when he ate unclean food at a Gentile’s table. “God wouldn’t allow that!” “Peter must be a fallen prophet!” We can only imagine the thoughts of the church members of the day. But the truth is that God did allow it. In fact, He commanded it.
We don’t believe that God would allow a lot of things that he does in fact allow. And we are shocked when prophets don’t practice fortune telling and tell us exactly what the weather will be tomorrow. For some reason we have preconceived notions as to what prophets are and what God is like. When something falls outside of that preconceived notion, we suddenly start to doubt.
But we shouldn’t despair. There are some very solid things that we can grasp onto:
- God loves us. He loves each and every one of us.
- He has a plan to bring us back to Him.
- Jesus died for us, so we can return to God.
- If we love Him, we will follow him and do what he asks us to do.
- God put prophets on Earth to speak for Him (not to do fortunetelling.)
- The prophet will never lead us astray. If we follow him, it will help us return to God.
- Prophets are not in the same class as Jesus. While they are wonderful men, they are not sinless, nor are they perfect. So if a prophet expresses the idea that his favorite baseball team will win, don’t go place a “sure thing” bet on the game.
As for the revelations they receive, Brigham Young once said:
The revelations of God contain correct doctrine and principles, so far as they go; but it is impossible for the poor, weak, low, groveling, sinful inhabitants of the earth to receive a revelation from the Almighty in all its perfections. He has to speak to us in a manner to meet the extent of our capacities.
Brigham Young, “The Kingdom of God,” Journal of Discourses, reported by G.D. Watt 8 July 1855, Vol. 2 (London: Latter-Day Saint’s Book Depot, 1855), 314.
God communicates with us on our level. This means that we sometimes may not be able to understand everything. Sometimes our attitudes and culture get in the way. Sometimes he just wants us to think for ourselves Think of the brother of Jared and the stones used for light in the boat.
What has to be remembered is that just because you put an image in your mind when your seminary teacher talked about something in history, doesn’t make that image correct. There are lots of things that God does and God allows that you may not understand right now. But remember, He is God. He has purposes that we don’t always understand. Most importantly, don’t let your expectations get in the way of your testimony.
–Scott Gordon President, FAIR
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
It’s now time to register for the 2006 FAIR Conference!
The 8th annual FAIR Conference will be held in Sandy, Utah, on August 3-4. Registration costs $59.50 ($49.50 without a lunch ticket), and tickets purchased at the door are $59.50 but without lunch.
However, if you purchase your FAIR Conference ticket by April 15, you pay only $44.95, which includes lunch both days! Take advantage of this early bird special and get more details on the conference at
We’re looking forward to another great FAIR Conference this year!
RESOURCES ON THE WEB: FAIR WIKI NOW AVAILABLE
One of the biggest challenges facing defenders of the Church in the Internet age is responding quickly and succinctly to our critics. FAIR has gathered documentation on most criticisms of the restored gospel, but sometimes this material takes too long to read or doesn’t address new “spins” on old issues. The new FAIR wiki is designed to address that need.
A wiki is a type of online encyclopedia maintained by a group of editors. The strength of a wiki lies in its collaborative nature — editors can quickly and easily add new articles and improve on existing ones. If a new subject is needed, an editor with interest and expertise in the topic can create a short, simple page, and other editors can come along and improve it. Editors use a simple, easy to learn mark-up language to format the articles and provide links to related internal and external web pages. Probably the best-known Internet wiki is Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org).
FAIR’s wiki (http://www.fairwiki.org) is a collaborative project to provide responses to anti-Mormon criticisms. Each wiki article provides a brief, summary response that addresses the major issues involved, and then provides links the reader can follow for further reading. The wiki will be the “starting point” for people who have questions or want to begin research into certain subjects.
A wiki, by nature, is never “finished.” Editors are always adding and improving content. Many of the FAIR wiki articles have been edited to the point where they’re ready to use, but many of them are not — they only have a basic outline and need attention. You can see from the FAIR wiki table of contents which articles have significant content (shown in blue), which articles need attention (shown with a “needs work” tag), and which articles need to be created (shown in red).
FAIR is looking for volunteer editors to help expand and improve the wiki. If you have an interest in LDS doctrine or history, are able write clearly, and can fairly state both sides of controversial issues, we need your help!
RESOURCES ON THE WEB: BECOMING AN ANTI-MORMON
Anyone who has spent much time reading anti-Mormon diatribes soon begins to spot the familiar patterns that are ubiquitous in that literary form. One blogger has followed Nibley’s footsteps and provided a “guide” to becoming an “expert” anti-Mormon.
Davis Bitton has also addressed the subject of anti-Mormon books. If you have not already read Bitton’s “Spotting an Anti-Mormon Book,” you can find a PDF version on FARMS’ website at
or an HTML version at
Spotting an Anti-Mormon Book by Davis Bitton
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.
Hugh W. Nibley, “The Meaning of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers,” BYU Studies, Vol. 11:4 (1971), 1-34
Filed together in a gray cardboard box in the Church Historian’s Office is a strange batch of early Church papers, all in the handwriting of men associated with Joseph Smith in Kirtland in 1837, and all classified for one reason or another as “Egyptian.” We shall therefore call them “the Kirtland Egyptian Papers.”Along with a number of odds and ends are two impressive documents, one a bound manuscript commonly and falsely designated as “Joseph Smith’s Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar,” and the other what appears to be a translation of the first chapter of the Book of Abraham from a number of accompanying hieratic symbols.
A photographic record of some of these documents was made on a single film strip by the Historian’s Office some years ago, but nothing was put on the strip to indicate the nature, number, or relationship of the various items included. So when the film was purloined, reproduced without permission, and copies sold in Salt Lake City in 1966, the publishers had no means of knowing what they were dealing with, but joyfully accepted the signature of Joseph Smith on one piece of paper as proof that the whole batch was his own handiwork. The public was only too glad to go along with the ruse, which went unchallenged by the Mormons, who had unconsciously laid the foundation of a massive misunderstanding many years before.
David B. Honey and Daniel C. Peterson, “Advocacy and Inquiry in the Writing of Latter-day Saint History,” BYU Studies, Vol. 31:2 (1991), 1-41
Our epigraphs suggest that knowledge and spirituality are not mutually exclusive, but rather are essential concomitants in understanding the significance of life and living it fully. Recent debate in Latter-day Saint circles, however, seems most often to stress the incompatibility of spiritual faith and historical knowledge, whether the emphasis be on the supposed lack of faith in Latter-day Saint historiography or on the purported lack of history in Latter-day Saint apologetics.
However, the debaters often seem to rely on different underlying assumptions, to utilize different historical forms, to address different audiences, and to argue along intellectual lines which lie in different dimensions. In short, each faction seems to defend a different definition of history and of its function. The situation is manifestly unproductive, and more than a few onlookers have expressed impatience with it. Thomas G. Alexander, a leading practitioner of the so-called New Mormon History and one of the central figures in the ongoing debate between professional historians and apologists, has recently declared it to be “imperative that we begin building bridges” between spiritual faith and historical knowledge. The present article attempts to assist in the work of construction.
Gary Novak, “Naturalistic Assumptions and the Book of Mormon,” BYU Studies, Vol. 20:3 (1990), 1-19
In 1966 Leonard J. Arrington claimed that “the details of Mormon history and culture can be studied in human or naturalistic terms–indeed, must be so studied–and without thus rejecting… the Church’s origin and work.” He explored neither the assumptions nor consequences of histories done in “naturalistic terms” though he noted that the topic “warrants a full essay.”
The purpose of this essay is to subject some of the assumptions and consequences of histories produced in naturalistic terms to scrutiny. In keeping with the theme of this issue of BYU Studies, I shall limit my discussion to one aspect of Mormon history, the so-called environmental explanation of the Book of Mormon.
Early Mormon Documents, compiled by Dan Vogel. Reviewed by Craig L. Foster
Dan Vogel, an independent researcher, writer, and author of works such as Indian Origins and the Book of Mormon and Religious Seekers and the Advent of Mormonism, is the editor of a collection of documents concerning early Mormon history. Vogel’s book focuses on the Joseph Smith family and the emergence of Joseph Smith Jr. as a religious leader. Early Mormon Documents gives “priority to documents produced either by Smith family members or by others recording their statements.” Documents include official histories, diary entries, memoirs and reminiscences, personal letters, and newspaper reports as well as civil, business, and church records. The book is divided into two parts: (1) the Joseph Smith family and (2) Mormon origins in Vermont and New Hampshire.
“,” Mormon Historical Studies/Nauvoo Journal
Past issues of the Mormon Historical Studies journal are available in PDF format on-line for free. Free issues from the Mormon Historical Studies range from Fall 2000 to Spring 2004. Prior to 2000, the journal was known as the Nauvoo Journal. Free issues of the Nauvoo Journal span from 1990 to Fall 1999.
FAIR LDS BOOKSTORE
The Fair LDS Bookstore always has great values. This month we are offering four wonderful books at great prices. One of them is Blake Ostler’s long-awaited book, “Exploring Mormon Thought: The Problems of Theism and the Love of God.”
Remember that when you support the FAIR LDS Bookstore you are also supporting FAIR. You can find these great buys this month when you click on “specials” in the FAIR Bookstore.
“Exploring Mormon Thought: The Problems of Theism and the Love of God,” by Blake T. Ostler, Greg Kofford Books, 2006 (hardbound), 503 pages, ISBN 1-58958-095-8
Written for both Mormons and non-Mormons interested in the relationship between Mormonism and classical theism, this book highlights various perspectives within Mormonism itself, including a detailed analysis of Joseph Smith’s “Lectures on Faith” and a discussion of the thoughts of Orson and Parley Pratt, B.H. Roberts, and John Widstoe. Blake T. Ostler outlines areas in which Mormon approaches to questions about free agency and God’s omnipotence might suggest resolutions to some of the difficult issues that have troubled theologians and philosophers for centuries.
You can purchase this book for $24.47, 30% off its retail price. (It is regularly $34.95.)
“Prophets, Priests, and Kings: Old Testament Figures Who Symbolize Christ,” by Andrew C. Skinner, Deseret Book, 2005 (hardbound), 152 pages, ISBN 1-57345-898-8
President Gordon B Hinckley declared: “I would hope that in all we do, we would somehow constantly nourish the testimony of our people concerning the Savior.” The Old Testament, like the Book of Mormon, has the ultimate purpose of bearing witness of Jesus Christ and bringing souls to him. It is filled with types and shadows that point to the Savior and his powers. The most poignant, visible symbols of Him are those people whose callings, actions, and speech mirrored Christ’s–those whom we recognize as prophets, priest and kings. Brother Skinner examines twenty individuals whose lives and experiences typified, paralleled, and foreshadowed the life and ministry of Christ, the great Prophet, Priest and King.
You can purchase this book for $11.87, 30% off its retail price. (It is regularly $16.95.)
“Opening the Heavens: Accounts of Divine Manifestations, 1820-1844,” edited by John W. Welch, BYU Press, 2005 (hardbound), 500 pages, ISBN 0-8425-2607-2
Think what New Testament scholars would give to have access to a single letter that Mary wrote about the raising of Lazarus. We have many such documents that relate to the Restoration of the gospel in our dispensation. Opening the Heavens records hundreds of accounts of divine manifestations relating to the Restoration–events that strengthen our faith and expand our knowledge of Church History. Did you know for instance, that there are ten recorded accounts of the first vision from the lifetime of Joseph Smith? That there are seventy-one documents that deal directly with priesthood restoration? This volumes brings together, for the first time, all of the known documents from Joseph Smith’s lifetime relating directly to key events of the Restoration that were accompanied by divine manifestations. These first hand accounts uniquely convey the spirit of these important occasions and provide precious details that help modern readers construct a vivid image of what transpired.
You can purchase this book for $23.07, 30% off its retail price. (It is regularly $32.95.)
“Joseph Smith and the Doctrinal Restoration: The 34th Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium,” Deseret Book, 2005, (hardbound), 413 pages, ISBN 1-59038-489-X
Held in conjunction with the bicentennial of Joseph Smith’s birth, this year’s Sperry Symposium centers on the contributions of the Prophet in restoring the gospel of Jesus Christ, restoring scripture, and restoring true doctrine to the earth in the latter days. This volume addresses our enlarged understanding of such concepts as premortal life, the new and everlasting covenant of marriage, the salvation of little children, and temple service. Other topics include the Joseph Smith Translation, the calling of the Twelve and the Seventy in 1835, and the ministry of angelic messengers to the Prophet. This book will bring the reader renewed appreciation for the role and impact of the Prophet Joseph.
Contributors include Milton V. Backman, Jr., Randy L. Bott, Douglas E. Brinley, Richard L. Bushman, Richard O. Cowan, Jill M. Derr, Sherrie Mills Johnson, Carol Cornwall Madsen, Robert J. Matthews, Andrew C. Skinner, Richard E. Turley, Jr., and Mary Jane Woodger.
You can purchase this book for $17.47, 30% off its retail price. (It is regularly $24.95.)
To see all of our specials in one place, visit this special page:
Thanks for your continued support of the FAIR 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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