An interesting “news” piece has appeared on the Signature Books website in the last few days. The undated piece, entitled Fair-weather Friends at FARMS and FAIR,” is interesting and somewhat amusing. Most interesting is why it would even appear as “news” on the website of a book publisher. It is not about one of their books or one of their authors; it is not about any of their employees; it is not about the company; it is not about the company’s financiers. What, then, makes a mention about FAIR’s analysis of a recent Book of Mormon geography publication news worthy?
I suspect, but cannot say for sure, that the piece was authored by Simon Southerton, of Losing a Lost Tribe fame, who of late has been trying to polarize apologists and others who promote various theories about the Book of Mormon. (The only link in the article to any publication offered by Signature Books is a link to Mr. Southerton’s book. This, despite the fact that the “news” being reported has nothing whatsoever to do with his book.) Such news stories are consistent with Mr. Southerton’s avocation these days.
The news story appears to have been hastily prepared and posted, as it includes several interesting errors that even a cursory reading should have corrected.
- The article refers to “Rod Meldrum and his traveling show called DNA Evidence for the Book of Mormon.” While a series of firesides could, indeed, be derogatorily referred to as a “traveling show,” the news writer demonstrates his or her lack of attention to detail in the name given to Mr. Meldrum’s publication. It is not entitled “DNA Evidence for the Book of Mormon,” but “DNA Evidence for Book of Mormon Geography.”
- We learn in the news story that there is an emeritus general authority named “Harman Rector Jr.” I know of no general authority—living, dead, current, or emeritus—by this name. Of course, the article could be referring to Hartman Rector, Jr., who the author says “accompanies Meldrum around the country to stage symposia on the topic.” This is, undoubtedly, a case of intentional hyperbole as there have, to my knowledge, been only a few out of the dozens of Mr. Meldrum’s firesides that have been attended by Elder Rector. (He certainly wasn’t at the one I attended.)
- Interestingly, Mr. Meldrum apparently “responded by accussing FAIR.” I looked high and low in Mr. Meldrum’s responses to my blog post, and I didn’t see any cussing at all. Perhaps the news writer at Signature Books is aware of some extant cursing of which FAIR should be apprised.
Beyond these easy-to-catch errors (perhaps the regular editors or proofreaders at Signature Books were on vacation?) there are other errors that belie the thinking of either the author or various people at Signature Books.
- The article starts off with a bold declaration, without evidence, that “Traditionally, LDS faithful have assumed that all or most Native Americans are descendants of Lehi and Mulek.” While there are numerous quotes that could be trotted out to evidence such a narrow reading of history, there are also many quotes that could be trotted out to show that such a narrow reading is not warranted. Apparently the news writer has voted for narrowness in his choice of approach without taking the full breadth of LDS thought into account.
- An equally interesting assertion, again without evidence, is that “Meldrum has the backing…of Mormon bishops who send mass e-mails to their congregations trumpeting Meldrum’s claims.” While such e-mails may exist, it would be interesting to see if there was actual “trumpeting” going on. But, perhaps such statements are to be understood, again, as unwarranted hyperbole on the part of the news writer.
- One comment I found personally interesting was that “Allen Wyatt from FAIR ridiculed Meldrum in a formal statement.” I, of course, did no such thing; I simply reported that there are problems with Mr. Meldrum’s presentation, provided a cursory overview of those problems, and directed readers to where they could find more information. There was no ridicule made or intended on my part.
- The comment that Orson Scott Card has penned “his own screed to end all screeds” is amusing. Mr. Card will no doubt be pleased to hear that his writing has achieved the ultimate among screeds. (Do they give awards for such writing excellence?) No doubt there will be, in the future, additional writings that rise to the synonymous level of screeds: essays, discourses, diatribes, etc. What, then, of Mr. Card’s writing? Will it be relegated to simply a “screed to almost end all screeds?” Perhaps a future Signature Books news story will fill us in.
Hyperbole aside, what passes for news at Signature Books—edited or not—seems little more than caricature of a reality that the news writer wishes existed.
Update: It appears that the editors and/or proofreaders are back from vacation at Signature Books—the three easy-to-find errors I mention above have been corrected as of 6:45 am on July 11. The more substantial errors remain.