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. Is it too good to be true? Many people are quick to point to supposed evidences of the Book of Mormon, but not all evidences are created equal.
- FAIR FUNDRAISING. FAIR is only able to do what it does through the good graces of those who contribute to its mission. Unfortunately, the FAIR volunteers are not that good at raising funds.
- FAIR CONFERENCE AROUND THE CORNER. The annual FAIR Conference will soon be here, and now is the time to make your plans to attend.
- NEW ON THE WEBSITE: MISGUIDED ZEAL AND DEFENSE OF THE CHURCH. FAIR launches an examination into “DNA Evidence for Book of Mormon Geography,” a DVD presentation by Rodney Meldrum.
- LAWSUIT AGAINST FAIR COMES TO A CLOSE. Information about the recently ended lawsuit against FAIR by Sandra Tanner and Utah Lighthouse Ministry.
- RESOURCES ON THE WEB: CHURCH CELEBRATES 30TH ANNIVERSARY OF PRIESTHOOD REVELATION. A look at a joyful anniversary celebration in June, held at the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City.
- RESOURCES ON THE WEB: MORMON TIMES ARTICLE ON ANCIENT WRITINGS. Mormon Times has published an article discussing how some LDS beliefs are reflected in ancient records.
- RESOURCES ON THE WEB: MERIDIAN ARTICLE ON SMITH FAMILY RESIDENCY. Did the Smith family live where they said they lived in 1820? An article in Meridian looks at the controversy.
- RESOURCES ON THE WEB: THE-BOOK-OF-MORMON.COM. A large collection of materials relative to the Book of 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 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. Getting ready for the FAIR Conference and a great DVD about Blacks in the scriptures.
- 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
Too good to be true?
When things are too good to be true they usually are. We are always grateful for evidence that supports our point of view or our faith. LDS scholars have found physical and textual evidence that supports the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, but not all evidence is created equal. Some is evidence is stronger than others, and some alleged evidence may not really be evidence at all.
For instance, some supposed Book of Mormon evidences, while interesting, do not provide a direct tie-in to the book and cannot be counted as evidence. For example, a stone was found in Bat Creek, Tennessee, during a professional archeological dig in 1889 with writing identified at the time as part of the “Cherokee Alphabet.” Scholars in the 1960s and 1970s later discovered it wasn’t Cherokee, but a Semitic language called Paleo-Hebrew. This spurred controversy as to how Hebrew could possibly be in America. Some scholars feel that the stone must be a fraud, as everyone knows Semitic people were not in America. Others believe it came from a Jewish sailor who may have traveled across the ocean.
Before you start shouting it is from Nephi or Moroni, the writing style and artifacts found with the stone date it to the first or second century after Christ, well after the Nephites left Jerusalem. While it may have a Book of Mormon tie-in, there isn’t evidence to say that it does have one, and there is some evidence to say that it doesn’t. Carbon dating doesn’t help as there is little value in carbon dating a rock.
The Bat Creek Stone by J. Huston McCulloch
There is also a stone in New Mexico called the Los Lunas stone. This stone, discovered in the 1930s or 1880s (depending on which story one believes) has the Ten Commandments written on it in a Semitic script, mingled with other characters. While interesting, this authenticity of this stone, too, has been called into question.
While both the Bat Creek and Los Lunas stones are interesting, there isn’t enough evidence to prove them authentic or forgeries. Even if they are authentic, they may have no connection with the Book of Mormon. Unlike the Bat Creek and Los Lunas stones, the Michigan Relics do have strong parallels with the Book of Mormon. The Michigan Relics include a man on a cross as well as copper and clay tablets that were found in the mounds left by Native American mound builders. They contain scripture stories with several parallels to the Book of Mormon.
While church members were initially excited about the possible parallels, they were examined in the early 1900s and declared to be forgeries by none other than LDS scholar James E. Talmage. The metal was too new and contained traces of the chemical bath that was used to simulate aging as well as marks from modern tools. The clay tablets were so soft they could not have survived from antiquity. It was said they would have dissolved after a single Michigan winter. The stepdaughter of the man who forged the Michigan relics even signed a statement confirming they were forgeries.
Recently, two books and one DVD (and firesides based on these) have talked about the Michigan Relics. Each has stated or implied that the Michigan relics may be true by claiming they have not been fully studied. (In fairness, they do state it is controversial.)
We at FAIR would like to express our concern with the use of such tactics. Such presentations are not scholarship; they are wishful thinking. While we all hope to find evidences for the Book of Mormon, relying on unsubstantiated evidence and even relying on evidence that is believed to be fraudulent does not build faith or further the work.
For those who insist we need evidence, I am reminded of the scripture in Alma 32:21 which says, “And now as I said concerning faith–faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.”
As for the books, firesides and videos, I am reminded of counsel given to us by Harold B. Lee:
“Now this is something that needs repeating to this great body of priesthood, because we have a rash of writings by certain persons who claim to be in good standing in the Church, going into considerable detail as they recite their past and present Church affiliations and activities in the forward and advertising. There are sensational predictions and observations, and to make their writings appear to have Church sanction, they use quotations and addresses from Church leaders, past and present, taken out of context in such a way as to make it appear as though these quotations were an endorsement of the book they wish to sell to Church members, who may thereby be induced to accept their writings as from unquestioned sources …. Furthermore, some designing individuals have solicited opportunities to speak at Church gatherings, firesides, priesthood quorums, sacrament meetings. Now, brethren, we feel it is of the utmost importance to lift a warning voice so that our people will be safeguarded against such tactics as an all too obvious self-seeking opportunity to spread their own propaganda for their own interests. We must urge that priesthood leaders use careful discretion in screening out those whose motives may be subject to serious questions.” (Harold B. Lee, Conference Report, April, 1973, 127-28).
It is wisdom for all of us to be discerning as we study the scriptures or accept anyone’s views on the Book of Mormon or purported evidences.
For more information on the Michigan Relics and other fraudulent evidences, see this article written by Brant Gardner:
Too Good to be True: Questionable Archaeology and the Book of Mormon (PDF) by Brant Gardner
To read even more in-depth about the Michigan Relics, visit this site:
Mormonism’s Encounter with the Michigan Relics, BYU Studies Vol. 040 No. 3 (2001)
(Note: it will take some time to load the article.) –Scott Gordon President
If you think FAIR does a poor job of fundraising, you are right. FAIR has a number of volunteers who like to read books and write about it. They are great at researching and answering questions. But, FAIR doesn’t seem to attract the type of volunteer who can ask people for money.
The truth is that without the donations we receive, we wouldn’t be able to do the things that we do. We have recently completed the book “Shaken Faith Syndrome” as well as a video on DNA and the Book of Mormon. We have almost completed a second video on the Book of Mormon as well. If you are willing to help financially underwrite the production, promotion and distribution costs for any of these projects, we would greatly appreciate it.
If you are able to financially help us in any way, please make a donation here:
Or contact Scott Gordon directly on the contact page here:
If you would like to start making monthly automatic donations, please send an email to the bookstore manager or to the FAIR president and we can set it up.
FAIR is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, so if you are in the United States, your donation is tax deductible.
FAIR CONFERENCE AROUND THE CORNER
The annual FAIR Conference is just around the corner on August 7 and 8 in Sandy, Utah. Attending the FAIR Conference has always been a wonderful and faith-promoting experience for many attendees. Reviews from those who have attended in the past typically say that the conference is not to be missed.
This year’s topics include the Joseph Smith Papers, The Book of Mormon and Mesoamerica, Shaken Faith Syndrome, Black Mormons, Mormonism and Philosophy, The Book of Abraham, the Book of Moses, Book of Mormon Geography, Joseph Smith’s DNA, the White Horse Prophecy, the Temple in Early Christianity, Finding Faith when children misplace theirs, and Humble Apologetics.
You really don’t want to miss this. You can see the speakers and sign up for the conference on this page (scroll to the bottom to click on the sign-up link):
To help promote our conference, download and print this page and ask if you can hang it in a place others will see it:
Make sure you order your tickets now. Last year we filled to capacity; make sure you reserve your spot now!
NEW ON THE WEBSITE: MISGUIDED ZEAL AND DEFENSE OF THE CHURCH
FAIR provides an “Ask the Apologist” service to which people send questions. In recent months many well-meaning individuals have asked why FAIR has not endorsed “DNA Evidence for Book of Mormon Geography,” a DVD created and promoted by Rodney Meldrum. To those unfamiliar with DNA science, population genetics, and the historical facts, the information presented in the DVD may appear plausible and welcome.
After reviewing the material, examining the existing LDS and scientific literature, and consulting experts in the relevant fields, FAIR cannot support or endorse Mr. Meldrum’s theories or presentation. FAIR has unreservedly concluded the following:
- Mr. Meldrum has attempted to assert revelation for those outside of his stewardship, and has used that revelation as a substitute for solid scholarship.
- The DVD contains much material that is misrepresented because the author is unfamiliar with the large body of work that addresses the very topics he seeks to address.
- The DVD plants erroneous concepts and expectations in the minds of viewers, making them easier targets for hostile critics when these errors are inevitably trumpeted by enemies of the Church.
These conclusions are addressed, in varying levels of detail, in two overview papers recently made available on the FAIR Website. You can find a five-page executive summary of the overview at either of these addresses (the first is HTML and the second is PDF):
The full overview paper, which goes into more detail, can be found at either of these addresses:
Mr. Meldrum appears sincere in his beliefs about the Book of Mormon. FAIR is worried, however, by the means Mr. Meldrum uses to promote his beliefs and the damage that his presentation and promotion could ultimately do to the faith of Church members. We have therefore concluded that Mr. Meldrum’s theories should be publicly addressed. These overview papers are just the first treatment of the “DNA Evidence for Book of Mormon Geography” DVD.
LAWSUIT AGAINST FAIR COMES TO A CLOSE
On May 29, 2008, a three-judge panel of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of FAIR, Scott Gordon, and Allen Wyatt and against Sandra Tanner and Utah Lighthouse Ministry in their lawsuit against us. This case was previously thrown out in summery judgment by the Tenth Circuit Court for the District of Utah, but Mrs. Tanner appealed. The case has been closely watched by free speech groups.
In the legal discovery process, we found that Sandra Tanner was able to raise thousands of dollars in donations through this lawsuit. Hopefully, this fundraising opportunity for her will now come to a final close. Her attempts to silence us have failed and free speech has prevailed.
You can read the full court ruling here:
You can read a write-up from the Citizen Media Law Project on the judgment here:
Here is the original District judge’s ruling that was affirmed:
RESOURCES ON THE WEB: CHURCH CELEBRATES 30TH ANNIVERSARY OF PRIESTHOOD REVELATION
In June many people met in the Church Conference Center in Salt Lake City to celebrate the removal of the priesthood ban in 1978. Much of this event is covered on the news page at www.blacklds.org. Here is the direct link:
Every member should watch this fabulous eight-minute video segment that was put together for this event. You can watch the video here:
RESOURCES ON THE WEB: MORMON TIMES ARTICLE ON ANCIENT WRITINGS
Noted scholar C. Wilford Griggs was recently cited in a Mormon Times article entitled “Ancient writings support LDS doctrines and teachings.” Griggs is quoted as saying that archaeological finds since the time of Joseph Smith have lent support for some of the doctrines Joseph Smith claimed were of ancient origin. Not only are certain LDS teachings found to have counterparts in ancient Christianity, but the very notion of extrabiblical, authoritative texts and the use of metal plates for keeping records are today fully understood to be authentic beliefs and practices of antiquity.
RESOURCES ON THE WEB: MERIDIAN ARTICLE ON SMITH FAMILY RESIDENCY
Critics often try to find discrepancies and errors within the Church historical narratives in order to show that the events were either fabricated or redacted to create a history that supports the official teachings of the Church. One such issue that has been argued many times over the years is whether Joseph Smith and his family actually lived where he claimed they lived in 1820 according to his account of the First Vision. The historic records show that the Smith family was indeed where Joseph claimed they were in his writings and that the apparent discrepancies arise from the fact that the Smith farm straddled a township boundary.
Read the full FAIR wiki article:
RESOURCES ON THE WEB: THE-BOOK-OF-MORMON.COM
This website is a creation of Mike Sageloff and is not affiliated with either FAIR or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On his site, Sageloff has gathered a substantial amount of material, much of it apologetic in nature. Sageloff responds to specific criticism leveled against the Book of Mormon and presents arguments to support an LDS view of such issues as DNA evidence and claimed anachronisms.
The site also includes a number of photographs and graphics that Sageloff feels support the claim of historicity for the Book of Mormon.
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.
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
The following are the Topical Guide updates for the month.
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:
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 many wiki entries that have been modified this month.
Book of Mormon and DNA evidence: Haplotype X2a
Over the last decade there has been an upsurge in interest in how DNA may or may not support the historical claims of the Book of Mormon. Most LDS scholars in the field have strongly supported the assertion that existing DNA evidence neither supports nor contradicts Book of Mormon claims.
Further, nearly all such scholars have said that it is unlikely that any DNA evidence would have bearing on the issue given the small size of the Lehite colony, their unknown genetic makeup, the length of time since their arrival in the Western hemisphere, and the nature and frequency of massive population drops over the centuries in the Americas.
Recently some LDS supporters have argued that a specific DNA marker, Haplotype X2a, not only supports the Book of Mormon claims but identifies the Great Lakes region as the likely setting of the Book of Mormon. FAIR members who have looked at the evidence have noted problems with these claims and have indicated that it is unlikely that the DNA evidence is being interpreted properly.
Purpose of plural marriage
The early LDS practice of plural marriage has long remained a source of criticism against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Latter-day Saints who believe that the practice was instituted by God are often asked why God would have asked His church to adopt a practice that was so foreign to the beliefs and social mores of the people and which is generally viewed to be in conflict with the general pattern of marriage prescribed in the New Testament. Although God has not laid out His reasoning, it is possible to find a number of reasonable responses to how the practice of plural marriage may have benefitted the Church generally and its members individually.
No paid ministry
One of the distinguishing features of the LDS ecclesiastical structure is its reliance on a lay ministry. Apologists for the Church have sometimes used its lay ministry as an evidence that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints more closely resembles the New Testament church than do those Christian denominations having a paid, professional clergy. However, at the general Church level there are leaders who do receive stipends in connection with their full-time service in the Church. Church members responding to critics need to be able to properly explain the nature and extent of the Church’s non-professional, lay clergy.
An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins
When Grant Palmer published this work in 2002, it created a small stir among anti-Mormons, who saw it as vindicating their interpretation of LDS history and origins. LDS historians and scholars who have commented on the book have generally concluded that Palmer frequently selected evidence based primarily on whether such evidence supported his preconceived notion of how events unfolded during the life of Joseph Smith. The second link below points to a FAIR wiki page that indexes the Palmer book and points to responses to some of the issues raised there.
The God Makers
The God Makers has been the most successful anti- Mormon film yet created. The prolific anti-Mormon Ed Decker produced this film, which became a heavily-used tool by many anti-Mormon ministries. It is probably best known for its cartoon depiction of distorted LDS beliefs about Jesus, Satan, and the plan of salvation. The first link below is the main wiki article; the second link is an article specifically about the cartoon within The God Makers.
The Great and Abominable Church
The Book of Mormon reference to a “great and abominable church” and a “church of the devil” has been applied by a number of LDS authors and speakers to various churches and groups. Despite the fact that some individuals have made explicit claims about the identity of this great and abominable church, the text itself implies that the phrase was intended to reference any and all organizations that actively fight against Christ’s church.
Did Joseph Smith attempt to sell the Book of Mormon copyright?
One criticism sometimes leveled against Joseph Smith is the alleged attempt by Joseph Smith to sell the copyright to the Book of Mormon in Canada with a claim of prophetic vision that it would occur. This was originally brought to light by David Whitmer in his “An Address to All Believers in Christ.”
The charge is that Joseph Smith failed the test for a prophet. If Whitmer had properly remembered the story 50 years after the events occurred, the happenings give us interesting and important insights into how Joseph Smith viewed his own prophetic calling.
Was Joseph Smith’s theology influenced by the writings of Thomas Dick?
A frequent attack against the Book of Mormon and the other writings and teachings coming from Joseph Smith is to present a possible outside, non-divine source for the teachings that Joseph Smith claimed to restore. In this case, the charge is made that Joseph was strongly influenced by the writings of Thomas Dick. Unfortunately for this theory, the apparent influence of Thomas Dick in the writings of Joseph Smith is quite nebulous, and there is no historical evidence that Joseph Smith ever was acquainted with the works of Thomas Dick.
Book of Mormon and View of the Hebrews
A venerable argument used against the historicity of the Book of Mormon is to claim that much of it was stolen from the pages of Ethan Smith’s (no relation to Joseph) book. This argument, however, proves a weak attack in that the difference are substantial and the parallels are weak.
FAIR LDS BOOKSTORE
The FAIR Bookstore volunteers are getting ready for our upcoming FAIR Conference, where we will be offereing a full line of apologetic and scholarly books, tapes, and videos. For this month’s journal, we suggest that everyone make sure they have their tickets to the Conference; you can sign up on this page:
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).
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.