THE FAIR JOURNAL
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).
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MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT
This has been a very active time for us at FAIR. The US presidential campaign created a flurry of interest by reporters and others who wanted to know the true beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. FAIR Board president, John Lynch, and I were able to attend the Religion News Writers’ Conference in Bethesda Maryland. It was a great event where spokespeople for various religious traditions met with religion news journalists. The journalists included representatives from the New York Times, CNN, The Washington Post, the St. Louis Dispatch, the Chicago Tribune, and many others. Note that these were the religion writers, and not the political or the sports writers who also seem to write about our faith from time to time. As a group, we were able to visit a Jewish synagogue and listen to the concerns of various rabbis, hear about a film that a Friends congregation in Southern California is putting together trying to combat human trafficking, listen to a Hindu scholar talking about overcoming the caste system, hear concerns of church and state as advanced by the Catholic bishops, visit the National Cathedral, hear about self-identification of Evangelical Christians, and listen to Mormons. The Mormons were from various political positions, and represented us well. My first impression was how accepting the various groups were of us, as Mormons. Maybe they were simply trying to get along during the political campaign, but I was struck by the warmth of the welcome that we received. I was also struck by the similarities of the concerns we have as Latter-day Saints with most of the other faith traditions. It was clear that the reporters understood that polygamy was not practiced by our LDS denomination and seemed to understand the difference between our faith traditions and those of the fundamentalist groups. We still got a few questions about our underwear and temples, but by and large they seemed to have a good professional understanding of our belief and practices. One gentleman I had dinner with was very quiet, but then later stated he had done a large positive article on his local Mormon congregation. The area that seemed to create the most confusion was our relationship with African Americans. Several reporters asked for clarification on that. One panelist stated several times that Mormon racism was the story that needed to be written, and it was contained within the Book of Mormon. I foolishly tried to correct some of her misunderstandings and brought up that the Book of Mormon wasn’t the story of African Americans, but was immediately shouted down by her charges of racism. Luckily, one of the other Mormon scholars in attendance waited until the panel was over and gently suggested she read some of the scholarship on the matter. It turned out she wasn’t even familiar with the writings or even the names of scholars within the LDS community. He gave her some book titles. His was a better approach. In the weeks after the trip, we received confirmation that the trip was successful as I was called by a reporter who was doing a story that he believed would portray Mormons in a negative light. He wanted to talk with me to obtain balancing information. The result was a balanced story that was accurate and fair. We also had contact with several other reporters and were able to provide significant input into other news stories. I want to thank all of our supporters who provided donations to FAIR. Your donations made that conference visit possible. –Scott Gordon President of FAIR
Here are three articles that appeared recently where we were able to provide input. There have been several others. These first two were requested of us and done through MormonVoices. The Ten Worst Stories About the ‘Mormon Moment’ This was an excellent article done by the BBC: Has the Mormon mystique been lifted? Has the Mormon mystique been lifted?
I want to thank all of you who sent in donations this past month. Without them, we wouldn’t have been able to make our recent contacts with the press, and we wouldn’t have been able to advertise during General Conference. But, as a reminder, that doesn’t mean our financial needs have stopped. I hope you will continue to donate to FAIR at Donate to FAIR Consider signing up for a reoccurring donation. FAIR is a 501c(3) corporation, so in the United States your contributions are tax deductible. If you have questions, check with your tax advisor.
One of our FAIR volunteers, Trevor Holyoak, has created some exceptional Android apps for your Android phone or tablet. You can search for FAIRLDS in the Google Play store, or you can download them using your Android device here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/developer?id=FAIRLDS. We currently have three apps: 1. A full-featured FAIR app. 2. A standalone app for the FAIR Front Page Newsletter. This is included in the first app, but some only wanted this feature of daily press clippings. 3. An app we created for our friends over at the Interpreter. If you have suggestions for the apps, please let us know. Our next task is to get Trevor to design an app for iPhones, iPads, and iPods. We will let you know when it is out. If he keeps doing this good work, we may have to someday feed Trevor some thank-you cookies.
FAIR STUDY AIDS
New Verse-by-Verse Resource on the Book of Mormon One of our objectives at FAIR is to provide access to quality research on Latter-day Saint topics that is useful for the average Saint in their everyday study of the scriptures. To that end, as a new part of our FAIR Study Aids project, we have developed a verse-by-verse research index on the Book of Mormon. This can be accessed online, here: FAIR Study Aids: Book of Mormon Resources by Chapter and Verse What we have done is to go through hundreds of articles, essays, and research papers and cataloged them under the chapter and verse for which its contents are most relevant. (In many cases, articles can be found under more than one scripture reference.) See the page on Jacob, for example. There is also a page for research related to the introduction, history of its coming forth, and general themes that run throughout the book. In some cases, books and chapters also have “overview” materials available. FAIR Blog: New verse-by-verse resource on the Book of Mormon
In working with the press, the biggest misunderstanding we ran into had to do with black history in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To combat that, MormonVoices put together an abbreviated history timeline. Black Mormon history timeline Black Mormon History Timeline Posted on Oct 20, 2012 As with many American institutions, the issue of race and the Mormon Church is complicated and confusing with both positive and negative experiences. This timeline is incomplete as it does not reflect every priesthood ordination, or even every significant issue on this topic. It is simply meant to give an overview of this complicated subject. This timeline is an adaption from the timeline located at http://www.blacklds.org/history
- 1830 Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is organized.
- 1832 Elijah Abel, an African American, is baptized and given the priesthood in the church. He went on to serve three missions for the church.
- 1833 Jackson County Missouri locals issue a manifesto suggestion they drive Mormons from the state. One of the given reasons is Mormons are “inviting free Negroes and mulattoes from other states to become Mormons, and remove and settle among us.” The Mormons are expelled from Missouri.
- 1840 People of every color invited to worship at the Mormon Temple in Nauvoo, Ill. “Persons of all languages, and of every tongue, and of every color; who shall with us worship the Lord of Hosts in his holy temple, and offer up their orisons in his sanctuary.”
- 1842 Church prophet Joseph Smith writes that slaves should be “brought into a free county and set…free–educate them and give them equal rights.”
- 1842 Joseph Smith writes on the subject of American slavery, “…it makes my blood boil within me to reflect upon the injustice, cruelty, and oppression of the rulers of the people.”
- 1844 Joseph Ball, an African American, served as president of the Boston LDS Branch.
- 1844 Walker Lewis, African American abolitionist and Underground Railroad activist from Lowell, MA, is ordained a Mormon Elder.
- 1847 The Mormons are expelled from Illinois and settle in Utah
- 1849 Brigham Young states, “The Lord had cursed Cain’s seed with blackness and prohibited them the Priesthood.” No explanation is given. The “Curse of Cain” was associated with black skin and was used by several American denominations to justify racial segregation and slavery.
- 1852 Slavery made legal in Utah. In a speech to the Utah Territorial Legislature Brigham Young reaffirms that blacks cannot hold the priesthood. It is unknown when or why such a policy was put in place.
- 1857 Federal troops sent to occupy Utah to quell the non-existent Mormon rebellion.
- 1861- 1865 American Civil War. Because of the known difficulties with the Federal government, the Mormons are invited to join with the Southern States but refuse.
- 1867 Territory constitution is amended to give suffrage to persons of color. It was ratified by an almost unanimous vote.
- 1869 The explanation that black suffering and priesthood exclusion comes from blacks being neutral in an angelic war in heaven is denied by Mormon prophet Brigham Young. Nevertheless, this folk doctrine continues to be taught by many members.
- 1879 Status of African Americans debated in Church councils.
- 1880 African American Elijah Able denied entrance to Mormon Temple even though he is holder of the Mormon priesthood.
- 1885 Mormon scholar B. H. Roberts speculates on origin of priesthood ban by citing several scriptures. This speculative explanation is quickly adopted by many Mormons.
- 1912 Mormon prophet Joseph F. Smith again denies blacks were neutral in pre-mortal war in heaven and issues letter on that topic. Nevertheless, this folk doctrine continues to be taught by many members.
- 1935 African American Elijah Abel, grandson of the first Elijah Abel ordained in 1832, is ordained an Elder in Mormon Church. 1940 Issue is studied again in Church councils.
- 1947 Issue is studied again in Church Councils.
- 1949 Official statement from Church that African Americans may be members, but “are not entitled to the priesthood at the present time.”
- 1954 White members allowed perform proxy temple work for ancestors of black members who are still not allowed to enter temples.
- 1955 Under the direction of Mormon prophet David O. McKay Melanesian blacks are given priesthood.
- 1958 Black Fijians are given priesthood.
- 1958 Mormon church leader Joseph Fielding Smith clarifies Church’s position on equality stating, “No church or other organization is more insistent than The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that the Negroes should receive all the rights and privileges that can possibly be given to any other in the true sense of equality as declared in the Declaration of Independence.”
- 1963 Mormon Church leader Hugh B. Brown states “We would like it to be known that there is in this Church no doctrine, belief, or practice that is intended to deny the enjoyment of full civil rights by any person regardless of race, color, or creed.”
- 1966 Sociologist Armand Mauss surveys Mormon attitudes about race. Study shows that Mormons were no more likely to give “anti-Negro responses than were the Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Lutherans, or Baptists.” The survey also shows that the Orthodox Mormons tended to have more anti-Negro attitudes compared to ‘doubters’; the exception being the smaller subset of urban orthodox members.
- 1969 Athletes from the University of Wyoming refuse to play Mormon College BYU. Stanford University refuses to schedule events with BYU. Church puts out statement, “We believe the Negro, as well as those of other races, should have his full Constitutional privileges as a member of society, and we hope that members of the Church everywhere will do their part as citizens to see that these rights are held inviolate.”
- 1969 The Church states, “We have no racially-segregated congregations.”
- 1978 It is announced on June 8 that the priesthood should be given to everyone regardless of race or linage. The ban is lifted.
- 1978 Mormon apostle Bruce R. McConkie states “Forget everything I have said, or what … Brigham Young … or whomsoever has said … that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world.”
- 2006 Mormon Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley states, “I remind you that no man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ. Nor can he consider himself to be in harmony with the teachings of the Church of Christ.”
- 2012 Mormon Church issues official statement about race. “For a time in the Church there was a restriction on the priesthood for male members of African descent. It is not known precisely why, how, or when this restriction began in the Church but what is clear is that it ended decades ago.”
- The Book of Mormon states, “black and white, bond and free, male and female; … all are alike unto God” (2 Nephi 26:33). This is the Church’s official teaching.”
- “The Church unequivocally condemns racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church.”
From the FAIR Wiki Website Mormonism and Racial Issues: Blacks and the Priesthood Sign up for MormonVoices We continue to have our beliefs misrepresented in the press. There also seems to be a piling on by some of the ex-Mormon critics, and others in the comments sections. Join the MormonVoices email list to get alerts on articles that need a response. Sign up for MormonVoices
MORMON SCHOLARS TESTIFY
A new testimony has been added from Darin Ragozzine, Astrophysics, University of Florida There is an enormous amount that we all have in common. Whether you are a strict atheist skeptic, a devout Muslim, an anti-science protester, a lapsed Hindu, or a Mormon-basher, you and I have many shared beliefs, ideas, knowledge, and experiences. Darin Ragozzine Check out more great testimonies on Mormon Scholars Testify. Mormonscholarstestify.org If you are a scholar, please write your testimony and send it in. You may send it to president(at sign)fairlds.org For those of you who wonder (at sign) looks like this @. You might occasionally see it written as (at sign) so the automatic Web crawlers don’t recognize it as an email address.
Boomerang Hits of the Book of Mormon #1 by John Lynch on October 3rd, 2012
Native Americans in California and Arizona and the aborigines of Australia anciently used a particularly unique weapon in both hunting and warfare known in today’s English as a boomerang. Presumably adapted from the terms “wumerang” or “boomerit”, which were used by New South Wales Australian native inhabitants to describe a particularly useful throwing stick, the boomerang is a unique tool used to wound or kill prey from a distance.
Designed with a slightly imbalanced hydrofoil design unique for the direction in which it will be thrown, the boomerang has the distinct characteristic of producing a modestly curved flight pattern. When thrown by a master skilled in the properties of the flight of the individual weapon, the potentially deadly tool need not be lost in the distance when it fails to hit its prey. Rather, when skillfully thrown with the proper force, the curved flight pattern will cause the boomerang to circle back to the hunter or warrior who threw it, allowing them to then re-use the weapon for future hunts or battles.
In the constant ideological struggles between LDS scholars and critics, specific issues are often raised that are intended to disprove the authenticity claims of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Book of Mormon. These attacks, like those from the sharp edges of a deadly throwing stick intended to weaken or kill a target, are intended to weaken or kill the faith of individuals in the Restoration. These attacks often take the form of technical criticisms backed by scientific or scholarly studies. They are aimed at discrediting both the plausibility and the probability that the Church and Book of Mormon are precisely what they claim to be.
Notes on Apologetics by Kevin Barney on October 17th, 2012
Over the last couple of days I’ve seen a number of comments around the Bloggernacle and on Facebook that reflect some fundamental misunderstandings of Mormon apologetics in general and FAIR in particular. (Such as a confusion of material on the Mormon Dialogue Board with FAIR, and such as attributing material from the FARMS Review to FAIR.) I thought it might be worthwhile in light of this kind of persistent misunderstanding to share my comments on apologetics from this past summer’s Sunstone Symposium. Kaimi organized a session on the topic, featuring him, me, Bridget Jack Jeffries and John Charles-Duffy. Below I have attempted to produce a rough transcript of my comments. At the end I have reproduced the questions, followed only by my own comments (not those of the other panelists). (To hear the entire session, you may order a download from Sunstone for under $3.00.)
Hi. This is my vacation so I didn’t really prepare anything to say. I plan to just talk off the cuff a little bit. First of all, let me tell you a little bit about what apologetics is. As Kaimi said I’m involved with FAIR, which stands for the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research. I was not involved in the formation of the organization or the choice of the name, which name is somewhat unfortunate. For years we have gotten e-mails asking us “Why are you apologizing?” Because apologetics is a word that is not really native to the Mormon tradition. It is well known in other traditions, but not in ours. It comes from the Greek word apologia, which means “defense,” and refers to that branch of theology that has to do with defending religious faith by rational means. There are Mormon apologists, Evangelical apologists, Catholic apologists, Jewish apologists, and Muslim apologists. If you’re a religious group that seeks to interact with the wider world, you need apologists. So that’s the first thing.
Second, in Mormon discourse a lot of times the word apologist is thrown around as a slur. I personally don’t perceive it that way. Jack and I both have a background in classics at BYU, and I remember reading Plato’s Apology, in the original sense, not the modern English sense. So to me being an apologist is a perfectly honorable thing, not something one has to ashamed of.
Also, I think apologists often wear different hats at different times. I know I certainly do. I sometimes act in the role of an apologist and wear that hat. Sometimes I wear the hat of a scholar. (I’ve published some 30-odd articles in Mormon studies, some with an apologetic slant and some without.) I wear the hat of a regular member as well; I teach Sunday School in my home ward. I sometimes wear the hat of a social critic. Some of you are aware that I blog at By Common Consent, and in that forum I often have occasion to critique the Church and its policies. Among apologists there is a spectrum, and I think it’s fair to say that I’m very liberal in the world of apologetics; probably about as liberal as one can be and still wear that particular hat. Kaimi mentioned LGBT rights. I’m there with Joanna; Ralph Hancock is not, if you read his post on Times and Seasons. So there is a wide spectrum of belief and practice within the apologetic universe.
What I’d like to do now, in the wake of what happened at the Maxwell Institute, my friend Russell Arben Fox sent around an e-mail to about 15 of us, asking for our thoughts on apologetics. And I want to use my response to him as a framework for this address.
I think of apologetics as operating within three different spheres. First is what I call (these labels are just my own) “engagement apologetics.” What I mean by that is when you engage directly with the critic. That’s like debate, the aggressive style people think of. Rhetorical combat in the octagon; two people enter, one leaves, that kind of mentality. Today a lot of that takes place on message boards; that is the venue for this style of apologetics. Personally that’s not my style and I don’t do it. That is partly because I know myself well enough to know I wouldn’t be any good at it. A lot of that is just a personality issue; I’m a very empathetic person. Kaimi mentioned Dan Peterson and Lou Midgley; I know those guys, I’m friends with those guys, and I don’t view them as the Anti-Christ. But I know and am friends with everyone else, too. I really don’t want to roll around wrestling in the mud with someone; it’s just not my style. I don’t care much for message boards; I’m much more of a blog person. I’m a live and let live kind of guy.
There is also what I call scholarly apologetics. John Charles-Duffy in his lengthy Sunstone article was not only insightful but perhaps prescient in a way we wouldn’t have known in 2004. He talks about a number of tensions. There is an anti-contention tradition in the Church, and that style butts heads with that. There is also an anti-intellectual tradition in the Church, and apologetics by its nature uses scholarship, in a way that traditional Mormonism hasn’t, so in many ways apologetics has been a progressive influence in the Church. I agree with his conclusion there. I mention this article because he talks about “orthodox scholarship,” which is a good label, but I’m going to include this under the rubric of apologetics.
What I mean by scholarly apologetics is sort of classic FARMS. FARMS stands for the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, a foundation established by John Welch in 1979. It was eventually absorbed into BYU in the 90s at the request of GBH (hard to say no to him!). I’m not part of FARMS but I know those people, and I know there was a lot of concern at the time with going into BYU, and there was concern that what has happened would happen. Scholarly apologetics is applying the tools of scholarship assuming Mormon faith claims. It involves things like peer review and cite checking and footnotes and linguistic tools and dead tree publication. So FARMS would put on a conference on the Allegory of the Olive Tree, a two-day conference, and they would invite scholars and then publish a book with the proceedings. That was not directly engaging anyone but providing a scholarly apparatus around Mormon faith claims.
The third kind of apologetics is what I call educative apologetics. And that is what I see as the role of FAIR today. Now FAIR originated almost exclusively as an engagement apologetics organization. FAIR originated as an internet-based group in the late 90s (I wasn’t around then). What happened was that there were religious discussions on the old AOL message boards, and the Mormons were getting pushed around. They were the 98 pound weaklings because they didn’t control the venue. The people that did limited their access and things like that. So FAIR originated as a group of people banding together electronically for self defense. And so FAIR created its own message board. And in those early days it was very much this engagement style, let’s arm wrestle over this stuff. Then after a few years it changed its focus and gave up its message board. Some people still refer to that board as the “FAIR boards,” but FAIR has had no control over those boards for about a decade now. FAIR’s mission became one of educative apologetics. Its focus is inward, on members of the Church.
So a Primary teacher goes to prepare a talk, opens up Google and enters some innocuous search term. Somehow she goes down a rabbit hole and she finds out some weird thing about the church she’s never heard before and is freaked out. So what does she do? Well in the Mormon tradition you go talk to the bishop. But the bishop has a degree in engineering from BYU; he’s never heard of this thing and is of no help. Probably no one in her ward knows anything about it. So where does she turn? That’s where FAIR tries to help. FAIR has a wiki it has developed over time, using wiki software and collaborative editing, crowd sourcing, that sort of thing. It has become a repository of every anti-Mormon argument there is. Some people think that’s a bad thing, because we’ve cataloged all of these arguments against the Church, and it is in effect a smorgasbord of anti-Mormonism. But you gotta do it, because people are going to find this stuff. We live in the internet age. When I was a missionary you would only encounter these things if you specifically went looking for them or if your crazy Aunt Sally sent you a tract in the mail. That’s not the case anymore; you’ve got the internet, baby. You’re one search away from finding this stuff. And we’ve got a lot of skeletons in the closet, a lot of bodies buried in the backyard. And we haven’t been very forthcoming as a Church about all that stuff. The Church kind of hopes people won’t find it and we won’t have to talk about it. That doesn’t work anymore; someone has to be able to talk about it
FAIR also has a feature called Ask the Apologist. If you can’t find what you want on the wiki, you can write in and it will go to a private e-mail list with over 100 volunteers, and someone on that list will respond to your question. I’ve probably answered over a thousand of those questions over the years. I love doing that, helping someone who is troubled by something. A lot of times it’s just a matter of putting something in context. People come to these things with fundamentalist, black and white thinking, very presentist, so sometimes you just need to inculcate a little historical consciousness in them. And when you practice that kind of apologetics it’s a virtue to be conversant with the literature. I’ve been reading Dialogue and Sunstone and JMH and everything else for decades. So I’ll remember that there was an article about that, and I’ll suggest they read that.
So those are the kinds of apologetics as I conceive of them. I do think there is a role for engagement apologetics. Whether it has to be under the umbrella of a university, I don’t know; I’m a little ambivalent about that. I can understand NAMI wanting to go a different direction. If this takes place I imagine that FARMS will reform under a different name and continue doing what it did before. [Since then the appearance of The Interpreter has confirmed this.] I don’t know, that’s just a guess.
Anyway, those are my thoughts on the subject, so I’ll sit down.
To what extent does the Church countenance FARM or FAIR? I want to add something on the FAIR aspect of that. FAIR has always been clear it is completely independent of the Church. We have to be. For some people that’s a problem; they won’t listen to us without an explicit endorsement. If so, so be it. Some of the brethren are more supportive of apologetics than others.
Lutheran pastor; doesn’t understand the controversy. As Kaimi mentioned, Dan Peterson was the long time editor of the FARMS Review (the name has changed over time). That organ is the most explicitly apologetic of NAMI. He was on a lengthy trip to Europe, and received an e-mail from Gerald Bradford that he was being removed as editor. Universities remove editors all the time; it didn’t have to be this controversial. I don’t know Bradford personally, but I respect his scholarship. I suspect he thought it would be easier to do this way. Dan Peterson is a very controversial figure. I talked about different styles of apologetics, but they bleed into each other at the margins, and Dan has been active on the message boards, and that style has bled into the Review to some extent.
Can a career be made in apologetics? To what extent should an organization maintain its original mandate v. adapting to changing times? I’m going to answer your first question: “No.” Although some of the people involved are university professors and use those skill sets tangentially in apologetics.
Different parties are asserting institutional support or not. How do we define apologetics when there is no specific institutional backing? Mentioned Joanna Brooks. I think I see where you’re going with this now. I love Joanna, and in many ways what she does is apologetics. She’s making the case that you don’t have to check your brain at the door to be a Mormon. A lot of people would say that some of what Richard did in RSR is a kind of apologetic. Much of the Bloggernacle is apologetic in some sense. Apologetics is much broader than what people usually think of under that rubric.
[More on the controversy.] I don’t know that there was any GA impetus behind this move. Someone wrote a paper critiquing John Dehlin’s work, he got wind of it, and contacted a GA about that. That may have given Gerald an opening to do something. There has long been an anti-apologetic wing of FARMS, which sounds weird to people, because they assume FARMS is monolithic. There is academic politics involved. I’m not convinced this was a GA driven thing, but rather a matter of academic politics. Attitude of GAs towards apologetics remains a mixed bag; some favor it, others don’t.
Questioner talked about an independent objective reality. How does apologetics cope with that? Don’t you have to throw up your hands and say it’s ridiculous to defend a God who drowns all those people? I don’t know that there is an objective reality. We think we see things as they are, but instead we see things as we are. This is actually a big issue in apologetic discourse and involves postmodernism. (From audience member to questioner: “Study philosophy.”)
This entry was cross-posted from By Common Consent
Keeping the Faith During the Mormon Moment by John Lynch on October 17th, 2012
I want to take a brief break from the present focus on critical evidences of the restoration, and turn momentarily to another topic.
I recently attended a conference for religion news writers in Bethesda, Maryland, and it left me with some pointed thoughts. For 3 days at the Religion Newswriters Association annual conference, religion and politics were discussed amongst strangers (sshhh! some of us became friends). Catholics, Protestants, Mormons, Buddists, Islamists and secularists met and discussed a variety of topics in the news – all relating to religion. Except for a single panelist who singled out a solitary religion for criticism (guess which?), all religions were treated with respect and deference.
During the conference, we were told we live in the “Mormon Moment” – a time when there is an extraordinary amount of attention being placed on the Church. Culturally, we are highlighted in popular programs, stage plays, and political arenas. Our sacred beliefs are introduced to others through secular channels, and the world around us is beginning to notice us and, in some ways, to accept us.
Some of this attention is welcome. More people who are familiar with us are recognizing the positive traits developed from faithful living within a gospel context. They highlight these in articles, blogs, commentaries, documentaries and editorials. Some of the attention is less welcome. We are harpooned and satirized on stage, stereotyped on film, and misrepresented on the internet. We are sometimes mocked by comedians, patronized by secularists, and put down by critics. Such less-welcome attention is not new to us, and in fact may have felt like the norm since the days of Joseph Smith when he said:
D&C 127:2 And as for the perils which I am called to pass through, they seem but a small thing to me, as the envy and wrath of man have been my common lot all the days of my life; . . . nevertheless, deep water is what I am wont to swim in. It all has become a second nature to me;
Like Joseph, we may feel that dealing with the secular mocking of sacred things, or that polemic preaching against us, is the deep water we are wont to swim in. We accustom ourselves to a constant expectation of clarifying, educating, explaining, correcting, and testifying. For some of us, I am sure there is a hope that the “Mormon Moment” will prove to be a tidal wave of positive pressure within society to accept us on our own terms; to recognize our good, to overlook our shortcomings, and to accept us as one of their own.
The Challenges of a Public Church
It may be true that we are turning a corner of sorts. We may be finding that, at least in certain circles, we are finding less resistance and more acceptance. Some of it may be because we are feeling more comfortable in our own societal skin, as is evidenced by the very deft treatment by the Church of the popularity of the Broadway play “The Book of Mormon.” Rather than criticize or complain about the crass content of the musical, the Church took advantage of the attention the Tony award-winning presentation placed on the Church. They put up posters in New York and in the playbills in Denver, inviting those who have seen the play to now “read the book.” In fact, the Church’s only comment regarding the play was a single sentence reply that read:
“The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people’s lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ.”
Of course, if acceptance comes about because the world is indeed receiving us on our terms, then we should feel grateful for the change in sentiment. If it is because we are turning more to be like the world, then a caution is perhaps in order.
There are efforts afoot in some circles to reshape the Church more into an identity than a faith. Individuals who welcome what they feel are the positive aspects of participation and identity want to separate these elements from what they perceive as negative aspects. Many of these individuals want freedom to criticize and even decry the Church while maintaining their cultural identities as Mormons. They want to be able to maintain their friendly associations even while disassociating themselves from that which makes us unique. Indeed, rather than be “in the world, but not of the world” they want to be “of the Church but not in the Church”. Perhaps they desire to simultaneously be accepted by the world and their LDS friends and family while they side with the world against much of what the Church holds sacred.
This is a dichotomy that is not easy to maintain. It places tremendous pressure on the individual and their associations. Too often they are unable to restrain their critical views, and they find that Church members whom they associate with become uncomfortable having one close to them trying to draw them away from the Church. The result, not surprisingly, is that once close associations sometimes become weak or even broken.
For the believing member, this is a great challenge! On one level, they love the person who is critical, and want desperately to help them maintain whatever association they can with the Church. They are their friend, and want to continue to associate with them, and enjoy their company.
Keeping the Faith
On another level, they are appropriately cautious of the need to safeguard the witness they have personally obtained of the truthfulness of the gospel. They are mindful that constant criticism and negative influences can debilitate their own efforts to maintain the spirit and to live a gospel centered life.
Some of these people often reach out to FAIR, desperately seeking help and assistance as they struggle through their crisis. They ask for information, help, and perspectives to enable them to manage such situations. It is deeply unsettling for me to witness their hearts torn by the inability of someone they love to “keep the faith.” I recognize in their written “voices” a hopeful longing that the Lord would give their loved one a “light and voice” on their personal road to Damascus, which would turn them in a single experience away from their meandered path to the straight and narrow one we all try to maintain.
In my own efforts to counsel such individuals, I have sought to emphasize three critical points. First, our primary concern must be towards building upon the things we know to be true as we work through the questions that we have not answered, such as might be raised by our close acquaintance critics. Second, if we are to ever help our loved ones return to faith, we simply must maintain our relationship, which might mean an armistice on religion where we both agree to leave the subject alone. Third, we must be faithful in our own lives!
I could write a lengthy treatise on the first two points, but what do I mean by this last one? What does it mean to be faithful? Is it possible that we might prove ourselves worthy to convey a single spiritual experience that would turn back the progressive hands of degenerated faith and restore in an instant that which has likely been lost over a lengthy period of time? Perhaps, but in my experience, it is seldom that easy.
I would argue that the faith we need to develop or maintain is not some singular powerful influence with an undeniable force to change others, but a quiet constancy of behavior that exemplifies the inner assurance that we have that our path and purpose is correct.
Many years ago, I was thinking about the term “faithful,” as in the dog that proverbially retrieves slippers or newspapers, or the geyser that spouts an impressive display on a regular interval. As I thought about the constant, unwavering nature of the behavior associated with the term, I realized that such constancy of the “faithful” is what makes the same reflective of one who is “full of faith.” I realized that great faith is not so much manifest in singular events that move mountains, but in the constant, unwavering loyalty to a pattern of behavior borne of deeply held beliefs. I was so impressed with such a realization that I wrote the following.
Faith as a Seed
Two on a journey were stopped at a hill. The Lord said “remove it”. They each said “I will!”. Then one set to praying, whose faith he thought strong – Who said in himself “This shouldn’t take long! I know in my heart, if I merely have faith That I can move mountains like this from their place.” Thus all the day long and into the night This man knelt in prayer, and prayed with all might. But begging with fervor the mound remained still, ‘Till slowly it weakened, then broke the man’s will. So, soon discontented and fearing the task This man left the mountain – returned on his path.
The other man humble, with faith no less strong – Who heard the Lord’s will but thought the task long – Delayed not a moment but did as God asked. Thus grabbing a handful he set to the task. So, trusting in God, though hard it might be, He carried by handfuls the earth to the sea. Yes, daily he labored, though weak in his skill To move the great mountain and do the Lord’s will. ‘Till days turned to weeks, and weeks became years. But still the man labored despite all his fears. So slowly the mountain by handfuls did flee From one of great faith ’till it entered the sea. And thus came the saying, of faith and the seed – That man can move mountains, if he but believes!
John Lynch, 1995
This is perhaps a bit too lyrical for some, but for me at least it illustrates what I believe a profound truth. Greatness lies not so much in the singular events that rise above all others, such as a mountain moving en masse to the open ocean, but in the constant, often unnoticed daily decisions that form our character and reinforces our personal faithfulness to gospel truths.
In this poem the daily simple efforts of small progress, persisting over a lifetime, resulted in the remarkable accomplishment of a mighty mountain being subdued by a humble, obedient servant. In the monumental efforts some of us might face in helping those we love struggle through the seemingly insurmountable task of helping them regain a lost testimony, we would do well to take such an example to heart. We should not expect that some singular event will turn the tide of disbelief and convert the Sauls in our lives into Pauls, although this might happen. Rather, we should expect that our own constancy in behavior and dedication to gospel teachings and our own fidelity in seeking and obeying prophetic counsel, will serve as a template of example that will work by “handfuls” to remove the mountain of disbelief from the hearts of those we love.
We should remember that the “Mormon Moment” that seems to be upon us in an instant has been over 182 years in the making! The prejudice and criticism we have experienced in the past is not likely to disappear any time soon despite improvements we see in some quarters. Progress we make in one arena is likely to be offset by a rise in opposition in another. Like the man moving the mountain, we need to constantly and consistently deliver handfuls of positive examples from the mountain of opposition and place it into the sea of understanding and acceptance.
In our personal relationships, and in our Church-wide relationship with society, we need to maintain our own fidelity to gospel principles. Constant in our conduct, bold in our beliefs and humble in our service, we can move mountains! Those we love personally, but who struggle, may yet be moved by a handful of doubt we cast into the ocean some many days hence by some small faithful act we perform. Some group in society who looks critically upon us today may yet convert criticism to acceptance if we but remain unwavering in our collective personal lives and public comportment.
In the end, however, how much faith we personally have is not reflected in how big of a mountain we can move in a single prayer, but in the daily devotion we give in simple tasks given us by God. Indeed, through simple and small means, great things can be brought to pass by the “faith-full”!
The Mormon Moment: A Religion News Service Guide – Review by Stephen Smoot on November 4th, 2012
Much has been said in popular media about the so-called “Mormon Moment”. The accuracy and fairness of recent media coverage of Mormonism has been a mixed bag, to say the least. It is sad to admit that there are plenty of media personalities who know next to nothing about Mormonism, and yet feel unconstrained to opine on this or that subject relating to Mormon doctrine or history. Unsurprisingly, those who are the most ignorant of Mormonism usually choose to write about the most complex and controversial aspects of Mormonism, such as polygamy, Mormon racial history, and esoteric aspects of Mormon belief and practice best left untouched by non-Mormon novices of Mormon history and doctrine. (Andrew Sullivan, I’m looking at you.)
KEEPING THE FAITH PODCASTS
We have a number of exceptional Podcasts in this edition of the Journal. We have a new series titled Keeping the Faith. I think you may be very interested in listening to these podcasts. Please share them with your friends
Keeping the Faith 1: Letter to a Doubter by SteveDensleyJr on October 31st, 2012
Often, doubt and uncertainty arise not from facts and evidence that actually undermine what we thought was true, but rather from assumptions we might be making about those facts. Our confidence in the gospel can be strengthened as we adopt more sound assumptions. However, we do not necessarily need to be alarmed in the face of uncertainty and doubt.
In this fireside presentation written by Terryl Givens, we find that in order for us to experience growth in this life, and to engage in an authentic test of our true desires, there must be grounds for doubt as well as belief.
This is the first episode in the Keeping the Faith series of podcasts. This series explores ways in which our faith can be challenged, and ways in which we can overcome those challenges.
Keeping the Faith 2: Michael Ash and Shaken Faith Syndrome, pt 1 by SteveDensleyJr on November 7th, 2012
As a young, faithful member of the Church, Mike Ash found his faith to be shaken by the anti-Mormon book The Kingdom of Cults. He worked through that experience and later found his faith to be challenged once more by the movie the God Makers, and later by Church historical documents that were being “discovered” by a man named Mark Hoffman. In this interview, Brother Ash discusses how he was able to overcome doubts that were created by his encounters with anti-Mormon material and the Hoffman forgeries. He talks about the role apologetics played in strengthening his faith, how he became involved in FAIR, and he offers advice for family members and friends of those who are struggling with their faith.
Keeping the Faith 2: Michael Ash and Shaken Faith Syndrome, pt 2 by SteveDensleyJr on November 7th, 2012
This is the second part of the two-part interview with Michael R. Ash.
Keeping the Faith 3: Cody Anderson-Cultivating the seeds of faith, pt 1 by SteveDensleyJr on November 14th, 2012
Cody Anderson was an exemplary young member of the Church. As a teen, he was an Eagle Scout, a quorum president, and had experienced a spiritual conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ. But as he began to encounter opposition and sin, he became discouraged and developed a sense of shame and unworthiness. He began to attend church less frequently and he gradually stopped reading the scriptures and praying. Eventually, he encountered anti-Mormon literature and found a rational justification for his disaffection from the Church. For a number of years, he pursued a lifestyle that was simply guided by his base desires. While some people like Cody never return to the Church, he instead returned to full activity, became sealed in the temple, and now volunteers for FAIR. In this interview, he explains what it was that brought him back into the Church and provides some insight into why some people leave the Church, and what friends and family members can do to help them return.
Keeping the Faith 3: Cody Anderson-Cultivating the seeds of faith, pt 2 by SteveDensleyJr on November 14th, 2012
This is the second part of a two-part interview.
AWARD WINNING FAIR PODCASTS
Mormon FAIR-Cast 109: Response to criticisms of the Book of Mormon by SteveDensleyJr on October 3rd, 2012
In a movie entitled “The Bible vs. The Book of Mormon,” the Living Hope Ministries levels a set of common attacks against the Book of Mormon. In this episode of Religion Today that originally aired on May 29, 2011, Martin Tanner discusses various arguments against the Book of Mormon and provides responses to these criticisms.
Mormon FAIR-Cast 110: John Sorenson Takes Questions by SteveDensleyJr on October 10th, 2012
Dr. John Sorenson takes questions in this live radio interview that took place on July 30, 2012 on Drive Time Live with Mills Crenshaw on KTKK Radio. Dr. Sorenson first explains how he became in involved in MesoAmerican studies. He then responds to a variety of questions, including: Is there archeological evidence for the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon? What of the Native American settlements and Hebrew DNA among Native Americans in North America? What are we to make of the mention of elephants, horses, cows, oxen, etc. in the Book of Mormon? And, is there any evidence of a form of “Reformed Egyptian” writing in MesoAmerica?
Mormon FAIR-Cast 111: More on DNA Evidence and the Book of Mormon by SteveDensleyJr on October 17th, 2012
How much Native American DNA has actually been tested? Has any of the testing revealed a connection to the Middle East? If so, what conclusions can we draw from this? In this episode of Religion Today, which originally aired on KSL Radio on August 12, 2012, Martin Tanner follows up on his interview with Dr. Ugo A. Perego regarding DNA research.
Mormon FAIR-Cast 112: Dead Sea Scrolls by SteveDensleyJr on October 24th, 2012
How were the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered? How many scrolls have been found? Has there been an attempt to prevent scholars from translating them? Have some of the scolls been withheld from the public? Who were the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls? Were they Christians? Did the Dead Sea Scrolls authors believe in a pre-earth life? What value should Latter-day Saints place in the Dead Sea Scrolls?
In honor of the late Matthew Brown, the Temple on Mount Zion symposium was held last Saturday with scholars from many fields discussing the Temple. We appreciate the Mormon Interpreter for giving us permission to post their videos.
- Stephen Ricks, On Covenant and Temple in Psalm 105
- Mark Wright, Axes Mundi Nephite and Mesoamerican Temple
- David Bokovoy, Holiness to the Lord, Biblical Temple Imagery in the Sermons of Jacob the Priest
- William Hamblin, Jacob’s Sermon and the Day of Atonement
- David Calabro, The Divine Handclasp in the Hebrew Bible and in Ancient Near East Iconography
- David Larsen, From the Dust to Exalted Crown: Temple in the Psalms and the Dead Sea Scrolls
- David and Jo Ann Seely, Creation and the Temple
- Jeffrey Bradshaw, The Ark and the Tent: Temple Symbolism in the Story of Noah
- John Gee, Edfu and Exodus
- Mack Stirling, Job: An LDS Reading
- Andrew Ehat, A Torah Harmony
- Richard Cowan, Latter day Houses of the Lord: Developments in Their Design and Function
- Matthew Roper, In Memory of Matthew Brown
INTERPRETER: A JOURNAL OF MORMON SCRIPTURE
“Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture” at www.mormoninterpreter.com is not affiliated with FAIR. It is a new independent, peer reviewed, educational journal focused on the scriptures. We at FAIR are supportive of this new venture, as we believe it will bring important scholarship to the study of the scriptures. To show our support, we are giving you several links to various articles on that Website in the FAIR Journal.
Attacking Rather Than Explaining
Cassandra S. Hedelius
Abstract: In his book on Mormonism, the Reverend Andrew Jackson claims to explain “the teaching and practices of the LDS Church,” with an intended audience of non-Mormon Christians but also “interested Mormons.” He doesn’t succeed well. Although his presentation of Mormon history is mostly fair, his discussion of the faith of Latter-day Saints devolves into the usual anti-Mormon tropes, to which he adds a celebration of a simplified evangelical theology. What might have been a useful, straightforward account of The Church of Jesus Christ and its history ended up, instead, as a clumsy attack. Reverend Jackson eventually re-released his book under a different title as a warning against what he considers Mitt Romney’s reticence to publicly explain his faith to the Reverend’s specifications. The later iteration of Reverend Jackson’s opinions was not even revised beyond a new introduction, making plain his basic antagonistic agenda.
Review of Andrew Jackson, What Latter-day Saints Teach and Practice: Mormonism Explained, Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books [a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers], 2008. 208 pp., with four appendixes, name index, and scripture index. $29.64 (paperback).
Evaluating Three Arguments Against Joseph Smith’s First Vision
Steven C. Harper
Abstract: Historically there have been just three basic arguments against the authenticity of Joseph Smith’s first vision. They all begin with the a priori premise that such a vision simply could not have happened. The arguments originated with the Methodist minister to whom Joseph related his vision, author Fawn Brodie, and the Reverend Wesley Walters. The minister’s critique is explained by Methodism’s shift away from ecstatic religious experience. Fawn Brodie is shown to have made innovative yet flawed arguments within the narrow scope allowed by her conclusion that Joseph was a charlatan–a conclusion that did not allow for alternative interpretations of new evidence. Walters is shown to make fallacious arguments of irrelevant proof and negative proof in his understandably determined effort to undermine Joseph Smith’s credibility. Close-minded believers in Joseph’s vision are similarly likely to make unfounded assumptions unless they become open to the rich historical record Joseph created. Belief in the vision should correspond to Christian empathy for and civility toward critics.
Christian Faith in Contemporary China
Louis C. Midgley
Review of Lian Xi. Redeemed by Fire: The Rise of Popular Christianity in Modern China. New Haven: Yale University, 2010. 352 pp., with glossary, bibliography and index. $45.00 (hardcover).
On 30 August 2010 leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced that “a series of high-level meetings” had taken place in Salt Lake City between representatives of the Church “and an official from the People’s Republic of China” that are eventually “expected to lead to ‘regularized’ operations of the Church in China.”? For me this announcement was news that rivaled those unanticipated and providentially dramatic events allowing the building of an LDS temple in what was then East Germany, and later the preaching of the gospel in Eastern Europe and Russia, and the series of events promoting the stunning growth of the Church in sub-Saharan Africa. For those curious, as I am, about Christianity in China, Redeemed by Fire is a fine resource, though it is not, however, the only solid account of the stunning growth in Christian religiosity following the dramatic events that changed the face of China after World War II.
Revisiting the Forgotten Voices of Weeping in Moses 7: A Comparison with Ancient Texts
Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, Jacob A. Rennaker and David J. Larsen
Abstract: The LDS Book of Moses is remarkable in its depiction of the suffering of the wicked at the time of the Flood. According to this text, there are three parties directly involved in the weeping: God (Moses 7:28; cf. v. 29), the heavens (Moses 7:28, 37), and Enoch (Moses 7:41, 49). In addition, a fourth party, the earth, mourns–though does not weep–for her children (Moses 7:48-49). The passages that speak of the weeping God and the mourning earth have received the greatest share of attention by scholars. The purpose of this article is to round out the previous discussion so as to include new insights and ancient parallels to the two voices of weeping that have been largely forgotten–that of Enoch and that of the heavens.
Variants in the Stories of the First Vision of Joseph Smith and the Apostle Paul
John A. Tvedtnes
Abstract: Some critics of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have noted that the different accounts of Joseph Smith’s first vision, though written by the prophet himself, vary in some details. They see this as evidence that the event did not take place and was merely invented to establish divine authority for his work. They fail to realize that the versions of Paul’s vision on the road to Damascus, in which the risen Christ appeared to him, also differ from one another. Indeed, they vary more than Joseph Smith’s accounts of his experience. This article examines those variants.
Rethinking the Apostle Peter’s Role in the Early Church
Noel B. Reynolds
Review of Martin Hengel, Saint Peter: The Underestimated Apostle. English translation by Thomas H. Trapp. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2010. 161 pp., with indices. $18.00.
This posthumously published translation of Martin Hengel’s last work brings together his pet project on the apostle Peter and a study of the role apostles’ families played in providing homes for the establishment and growth of the early Christian movement.
Why was one sixth of the 1830 Book of Mormon set from the original manuscript?
Abstract: Evidence from the manuscripts of the Book of Mormon (as well as internal evidence within the Book of Mormon itself) shows that for one sixth of the text, from Helaman 13:17 to the end of Mormon, the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon was set from the original (dictated) manuscript rather than from the printer’s manuscript. For five-sixths of the text, the 1830 edition was set from the printer’s manuscript, the copy prepared specifically for the 1830 typesetter to use as his copytext. In 1990, when the use of the original manuscript as copytext was first discovered, it was assumed that the scribes for the printer’s manuscript had fallen behind in their copywork, which had then forced them to take in the original manuscript to the 1830 typesetter. Historical evidence now argues, to the contrary, that the reason for the switch was the need to take the printer’s manuscript to Canada in February 1830 in order to secure the copyright of the Book of Mormon within the British realm. During the month or so that Oliver Cowdery and others were on their trip to nearby Canada with the printer’s manuscript, the 1830 typesetter used the original manuscript to set the type, although he himself was unaware that there had been a temporary switch in the manuscripts.
FAIR LDS BOOKSTORE
Come to the FAIR Bookstore to find the Internet’s best selection of materials for LDS apologetics. Whether you are looking for books, study aids, DVDs, or audio products, the FAIR Bookstore has what you need. You can begin your browsing by going to our main site.
Be sure to check out the Clearance Section. We have many older books and some new books with slightly damaged covers that offer great deals to buyers.
Fragments of Experience (Limited to stock on hand)
Heber City, Utah: Archive Publishers, 2003. Softbound, 5 1/8 x 8 1/8″, 113 pages.
(Volume 6) As other books of the FAITH-PROMOTING SERIES, this book uses vignettes and short histories to leave a spiritual impression upon its youth readers. Included in this book are the narratives of Lorenzo Dow Young (Brigham Young’s Brother) and his experiences before joing the Church (visions, dreams, and preaching “Bible religion;”) the second mission of William W. Cluff to the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) telling of the death and bringing back to life of Lorenzo Snow; the unfortunate success of Walter Murray Gibson and the necessity of removal of the Saints from Lanai and the founding of Laie as a gathering place; the mission of Benjamin F. Johnson to Hawaii and the political impact of the elders on the Hawaiian monarchy and kingdom; and several other accounts of historical and faith-promoting interest.
Retail Price: $9.95 Special FAIR Price: $6.47 (35% Discount)
The Missouri Persecutions (Limited to stock on hand)
Brigham H. Roberts, Salt Lake City: George Q. Cannon and Sons, 1900. Reprint by Archive Publishers, Grantsville, Utah, 5.25×8″ softbound, 333 pages.
The Missouri Period of the LDS Church spans the entrance of the Saints into the state in 1830 with the first Lamanite Mission, through the release of Joseph Smith from the Liberty Jail in 1839. Elder B.H. Roberts, with his characteristic detail, probes the most tumultuous history of the Latter-day Saints through the march of Zion’s Camp; the settlement of the Saints in Jackson County; the election at Gallatin; the slaughter at Haun’s Mill; the seige at Far West; and the inhumane treatment given to Church leaders in the Liberty Jail.
Selected as the Center Stake of Zion and destined to become a millennial world capitol, the State of Missouri has always held fascination for Latter-day Saints. This classic history, coupled with its companion volume, The Rise and Fall of Nauvoo, comprise one of the most sought-after expositions of the doctrinal and historical development of the Church.
Preface Excerpt: “My chief purpose in publishing this book, and the one which will immediately follow-The Rise and Fall of Nauvoo-is to place in the hands of the youth of the Latter-day Saints a full statement of the persecutions endured by the early members of The Church in this last dispensation, in the States of Missouri and Illinois, that they may be made acquainted with the sacrifices which their fathers have made for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. And I indulge the hope that by becoming acquainted with the story of the suffering of the early saints, the faith of the Gospel will become all the more dear to the hearts of their immediate posterity and all the youth of Zion for many generations to come.
I think without depreciating at all any other narrative of these events in our Church literature, I may claim that the story of the Missouri Persecutions in these pages is told more thoroughly than in any other of our present publications. This arises from the fact that this book deals with but a brief period in the history of The Church-from 1830 to 1838-and therefore admits of such a consideration of details as could not possibly be given to that period in any general history of The Church. This detailed treatment of the subject, in the opinion of the author, is justified because of the very important events which the treatise covers, and also for the reason that it is a period of our history which has been very much misrepresented, upon which misrepresentations false accusations are made against The Church and its leaders to this day. Those who have thought themselves called upon to oppose, if not to persecute, The Church in later years, frequently attempt to justify their present opposition by insinuating that The Church was driven from Missouri and Illinois for other reasons than adherence to an unpopular religion. The impression is sought to be created that it was for some overt acts against the State or National government, or for some offense against the spirit of American institutions, or because The Church leaders “were determined to be a law unto themselves,” in disregard of the rights of others.
It is, in part, to correct these false statements, and guard our youth against the influence of such calumnious insinuations, that I tell this story of the Missouri Persecutions; not that the history in these pages is written for the purpose of glozing over the defects in the character of the early members of The Church, or to claim for them absolute freedom from errors in judgment, or actual sinfulness in conduct. I have not written what may be called “argumentative history,” only so far as a statement of the truth may be considered an argument. After these pages are read I feel sure that no one will be able to accuse me of failing to point out the errors of the early members of The Church; indeed, I have been careful to call attention to the complaints which the Lord made against their conduct; the reproofs of his inspired servants; and the repeated warnings sent to them by the Prophet Joseph Smith concerning the results of their conduct if there was not a speedy repentance.”
Retail Price: $17.95 Special FAIR Price: $11.67 (35% Discount)
Mountain Meadows Massacre (Limited to stock on hand)
Edited by Richard E. Turley Jr. and Ronald W. Walker. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University, 2009. Hardbound, 11×8.75″, 341 pages.
With this volume, the authors fulfill admirably their commitment to provide the unpublished, unexploited primary source material to support their earlier narrative history, Massacre at Mountain Meadows. In the process, they open partially the door to that fabled cupboard of documentary treasures and conspiracy grist–the LDS First Presidency’s vault. What here emerges is a set of participant accounts loaded with the gospel truth leavened by prevarication, mendacity, and finger-pointing. Turley and Walker perform a wonderful service in helping us negotiate the complexities of this homicidal thicket, sometimes at a cost to their own equanimity. Their book is best approached as an adjunct to Massacre at Mountain Meadows rather than as a stand-alone work; it can best be evaluated when read in tandem with another account of post-tragedy truth-seeking by an attorney-historian grappling with obfuscation–Henry C. Clausen’s Pearl Harbor: Final Judgment.
William P. MacKinnon, an independent historian, honorary life member of the Utah State Historical Society, and president-elect of the Mormon History Association, is author of At Sword’s Point, Part 1: A Documentary History of the Utah War to 1858.
These recollections, affidavits, and statements of Mountain Meadows Massacre participants and informed bystanders are valuable additions to the documentation of the 1857 tragedy. The editorial standards employed here are cutting-edge. The editors’ acknowledgement of the limitations inherent in some of the documents enhances respect for the integrity of the project. This volume is an essential contribution to an understanding of one of the most horrendous crimes in Mormon and western American history.
Klaus J. Hansen, Professor emeritus, Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada, is author of Mormonism and the American Experience
Retail Price: $44.95 Special FAIR Price: $29.22 (35% Discount)
Joseph Smith Papers, Histories: Vol. 2 1831-1847
Volume Editors: Karen Lynn Davidson, David J. Whittaker, Richard L. Jensen. Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church Historian’s Press, 2012. Hardbound, 7×10″, 479 pgs.
The Joseph Smith Papers Project is a collection of primary Joseph Smith documents that is invaluable to American history scholars, Mormon history scholars, and of importance to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Histories, Volume 2: Assigned Historical Writings, 1831-1847 is the latest volume in the series and covers histories assigned, but not overseen, by Joseph Smith.
While Volume 1 contains histories written, dictated, or supervised by Joseph Smith, he also assigned several associates, including John Whitmer, William W. Phelps, John Corrill, and Edward Partridge, to write church histories. Their writings–vivid, personal, and sometimes surprising–are found in this second volume of the Histories series, which provides a rich, multifaceted view of the early years of the Latter-day Saint movement, particularly the “Missouri Mormon War” of 1838.
Two of the histories found in Histories, Volume 2 were originally published in Latter-day Saint newspapers: William W. Phelps’s “Rise and Progress of the Church of Christ” and the Times and Seasons series “A History, of the Persecution, of the Church of Jesus Christ, of Latter Day Saints in Missouri.”
Whitmer and Corrill both left the church before finishing their histories. Most of Whitmer’s history was composed in the words of a faithful Latter-day Saint, but Whitmer wrote the final three chapters of his history after his 1838 excommunication, and the manuscript closes in a critical tone.
After Whitmer declined to turn over his history in 1838, Joseph Smith assigned Corrill as a church historian. Within a few months, Corrill also distanced himself from the Saints. The history he published became personal as well as institutional, laying out “the reasons of the author for leaving the church.”
Like Whitmer’s history, Corrill’s gives readers a better understanding of the anxieties and difficulties experienced by some early converts to the faith. It also offers a detailed look into the conflicts and dilemmas confronting Joseph Smith and other leaders as they worked to create a unified community of Saints.
The publication of The Joseph Smith Papers two centuries after the birth of the founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opens a window on a life filled with what he called “marvelous experience.” Despite having received little formal schooling, Joseph Smith left an extensive legacy of letters and other written records which is now being made widely available.
The Joseph Smith Papers series is expected to span about twenty volumes in total. Histories, Volume 2 is the seventh published volume in the project. Visit JosephSmithPapers.org for more information about Histories, Volume 2 and other Joseph Smith Papers Project publications. The website also includes several documents that directly supplement the material in Volume 2.
Retail Price: $54.95 Special FAIR Price: $43.96 (20% Discount)
Plewe, Brandon S.; Brown, S. Kent; Cannon, Donald Q.; Jackson, Richard H. Provo, Utah: BYU Press, 2012. Hardbound, 9.5×12.5″, 272 pages.
In this state-of-the-art atlas, readers can take in the epic sweep of the Mormon movement in a new, immersive way. Never has so much geographical data about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints been presented in one volume so attractively and informatively.
This book brings together contributions from sixty experts in the fields of geography, history, Mormon history, and economics to produce the most monumental work of its kind.
Retail Price: $33.95 Special FAIR Price: $27.16 (20% Discount)
Act in Doctrine
David A. Bednar. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 2012. Hardbound book with DVD, 7.25×9.25″, 175 pages.
What do we do with the truths we know?
Knowledge is important — but it is only part of the equation in our spiritual development. Our happiness in mortality and our progress throughout eternity depend on our learning to “act in doctrine,” to live as we know we should live.
In Act in Doctrine, Elder David A. Bednar shares key insights to help close the gap between what we know and how we act. “The essential first step in reducing the disparity between gospel knowledge and righteous behavior is learning about and emulating the character of Christ,” he writes.
As we turn from self to to the Savior, we become better able to understand respond to the promptings of the Holy Ghost. Obedience becomes “the sweet fruit of honoring covenant responsibilities — not merely a chore or an option to be performed based upon circumstances or convenience.” This is a stirring invitation to all of us to learn, ponder, and Act in Doctrine.
Retail Price: $23.99 Special FAIR Price: $19.19 (20% Discount)
400 Questions and Answers about the Doctrine and Covenants
Susan Easton Black. American Fork, Utah: Covenant Communications, Inc., 2011. Softbound, 6×9″ 267 pages.
Based on meticulous research from authoritative sources, this fascinating guide illuminates the origin, teachings, and significance of the Doctrine and Covenants in a unique question-and-answer format. Ideal for scripture study at home and at church, this resource explores the historical background of each section of the D&C and provides fresh insight into the who, what, when, where, and why of the sacred text. With clarity and rich detail, its pages enrich understanding and enhance appreciation of the book of scripture that Joseph Smith designated as the foundation of the Church in the latter days.
Retail Price: $17.99 Special FAIR Price: $14.39 (20% Discount)
A Prophet’s Voice: Messages from Thomas S. Monson
Thomas S. Monson. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 2012. Hardbound, 6×9.5″ 528 pages.
Much of President Monson’s time has been spent at pulpits and in meetings around the world, and this collection contains many of his speeches that are difficult to find elsewhere.
Throughout his nearly fifty years as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, President Thomas S. Monson has presented countless messages of wisdom, inspiration, and doctrinal insight. He is perhaps best known for his gift of weaving true accounts into his addresses, bringing gospel principles to life through the enlightening experiences of individuals he has met or heard of in his ministry.
A Prophet’s Voice brings together more than fifty of these classic addresses, including all the major general conference sermons President Monson has given since becoming the sixteenth President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Filled with warmth and reflection, these messages demonstrate the worth of every soul and the power of personal examples in our lives.
President Monson finds lessons in all kinds of everyday experiences, and he is known and loved for sharing those lessons in a way that reaches the hearts of his listeners. This landmark collection of his greatest messages will be a treasured addition to any gospel library.
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