Michael Ash: Well good morning. If anybody wants to scoot forward we have a smaller crowd today so come in so you can see the screen. Kevin and I are going to be talking about LDS Apologetics 101 and a little bit about some of the things that we might focus on and some of the resources.
What is the purpose of LDS Apologetics? In D&C 18:10 we read, “remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.” Many of us know acquaintances, friends, perhaps even family members who’ve lost their testimonies because they’ve come across something “new” about Mormonism, something that’s tested their faith and maybe caused it to waver. I believe that the role of LDS Apologetics is to provide reasonable arguments to supposed Mormon difficulties so that a conclusive decision of the truth of Mormonism can be determined by the Spirit.
As Austin Farrer wrote, “Though argument does not create conviction, lack of it destroys belief. What seems to be proved may not be embraced; but what no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish.”
Spiritual things must be spiritually discerned. A witness from the Holy Ghost must be the primary evidence for the reality of God, the divinity of Jesus and the authority of the scriptures. “No man can say that the Jesus is the Lord,” wrote Paul, “but by the Holy Ghost.” Rational argument, however, can open hearts and minds to the testimony of the Spirit. Apologetics cannot prove that the Church is true, but it can show that the Church is plausibly true.
“We gain knowledge from two sources,” wrote James Faust. “One is the divine and the other is secular. Rex E. Lee has referred to them as the ‘rational process and the extrarational process.’”
As John Welch points out, “[e]vidence is … useful in articulating knowledge and defending against error and misrepresentation. Scholars can serve important roles ‘as articulators’ of evidence, and when combined with ‘submissiveness and consecration,’ solid academic research can be useful ‘to protect and to build up the Kingdom.’”
What is our obligation to apologetics? Harold B. Lee once said, “The term ‘elder,’ which is applied to all holders of the Melchizedek Priesthood, means a defender of the faith. That is our prime responsibility and calling. Every holder of the Melchizedek Priesthood is to be a defender of the faith.” While the Church leaders advise us not to become anti-anti-Mormon, we have been encouraged to rebut falsehoods. Joseph Fielding Smith, for example, once said that “Every member of the Church ought to know that … [the Book of Mormon] is true, and we ought to be prepared with an answer to all of those critics who condemn it.” At times, Church leaders have encouraged knowledgeable LDS apologists to refute attacks on the Church. Such was the case with Gilbert Scharffs’ The Truth About The God Makers and Richard Turley’s recent response to the new attack on LDS history by Jon Krakauer. Some of you might be familiar with his book.
Are all critics “anti-Mormons”? The answer is no. There are responsible critics who disagree with Church doctrine. I don’t think that the term “anti-Mormon” should apply to all those who disagree with us. How then is “anti-Mormonism” defined? As Justice Potter Stewart once said about attempts to define pornography, “I know it when I see it.”
Anti-Mormons often have a disregard for the facts, current research and the sacred beliefs of latter-day saints. They frequently engage in techniques which are aimed at destroying the faith of tender-testimonied latter-day saints or investigators, and are not usually interested in dialogue or reaching the truth. Winning the argument by proving Mormonism fraudulent is more important than actually understanding Mormon issues.
What motivates anti-Mormons, critics who attack the Church? There are probably a variety of reasons, including that some are undoubtedly sincere people who feel they are doing service to God by exposing Mormonism as a false cult. It’s therefore important for us to remember that critics and anti-Mormons are our brothers and sisters, that the spirit of contention is not of the Lord, and that, while we are obligated to defend the Church against attacks, we are also obligated to love our enemies, to teach with the Spirit, to speak boldly yet with charity, and not to speak dogmatically on issues which have not been officially settled by the Church.
Responding to critics, I have some general thoughts. First one would be motivation. Why are we responding? Do we respond because we enjoy a fight? Do we respond so that we can so that we can impress others with our knowledge? Or do we respond because we want to correct inaccuracies?
Responsible scholarship. B.H. Roberts wrote, “To be known, the truth must be stated and the clearer and more complete a statement is, the better opportunity will the Holy Spirit have for testifying to the souls of men that the work is true.” As Neal Maxwell expressed, “[w]e can and should be articulate believers.” We have to have good and responsible scholarship when responding.
One of the best defenses, I believe, is inoculation. We have to be aware, to help others become aware, that we LDS sometimes cling to myths, inaccuracies, folklore, non-traditional beliefs and even incomplete understanding of our own history. We need to make truth known, but in a context of a living church, a church which receives continuing revelation. I think that if more people were inoculated with some of the things that we study about the Church then it doesn’t come as a shock when it comes from an anti-Mormon search. We need to have it instilled from faithful sources first.
Sometimes we’re wrong. We know that looking at past issues, we misunderstood some things. Now, I am not talking about necessarily doctrinal issues, per se, but we’ve occasionally been wrong in the interpretation of issues. This was brought up a number of times in a couple of yesterday’s presentations. Sometimes we misunderstand historical or peripheral issues.
And we don’t always have the answer. The Lord hasn’t revealed anything on certain issues, or very little. So sometimes we have to speculate on particular issues, although I believe that for the most part we have enough answers for a convincing argument.
Now we’re going to talk about some of the critics’ techniques. Now we have to be careful that these techniques remain in the critics’ realm, not in ours. We want to move beyond these.
Deceit and sloppy scholarship. Perhaps the only difference between these two is intent. Errors can happen even with rigorous scholarship. While glaring errors is often a sign of sloppy scholarship, some critics knowingly make false claims. In Mathew 18:2-9 we read how Jesus set a child in the midst of his apostles, telling them that they should become as little children and added the warning that whoso should “offend one of these little one which believe in me,” would be better off dead. While this passage is generally understood in regard to child abuse, I’d like to liken these verses to apologetics. The Greek word skandalizo (from where we get the word “scandal”) is here translated as “offend” but actually means to trap, trip up, cause to stumble, fall away or apostatize. But how can a child apostatize or fall away? Jesus preceded his warning by noting that, “whoso shall receive one such little child [or figuratively like a little child] in my name receiveth me.” And prior to that he asked that his disciples become as little children, so the child is a believer who has become humble like a child. Those who receive tender-testimonied believers in Christ’s name receive Jesus. The warning then is that those who cause believers to apostatize (“offend”) would be better off dead.
We have falsehoods. One of the common falsehoods I’ve heard is, Mormons worship Joseph Smith. I can tell you’ve heard that before. Another one that I read recently is intolerance on Joseph Smith’s part. Jon Krakauer, for example, I’m going to pick on him a few times here, in his new book Under the Banner of Heaven, he claims that “in both word and deed, Joseph [Smith] repeatedly demonstrated that he, himself, had little respect for the religious views of non-Mormons, and was unlikely to respect the constitutional rights of other faiths” if he somehow won the presidency and were running the show. Now, anybody that’s done any research on Joseph Smith knows that’s just not true.
We also have prejudicial language. Critics often use loaded phrases to create an emotional response. Words like “cult” or “magic underwear” are of this nature. These are pejorative terms which are used to belittle rather than to explain. Emotive terminology is designed to elicit negative thoughts about an issue without really dealing with the issue. Krakauer, for example, refers to Joseph’s polygamous years as a “period of frenzied coupling,” and to his early treasure-seeking days as his “necromantic” activities. In an attempt to set the stage for Joseph’s supposed abilities at persuasion, Krakauer claims that Joseph “could sell a muzzle to a dog.” That type of language gets a response without actually dealing with any facts.
Then we have factual errors. Krakauer again, for example, when writing about Nephi’s beheading of Laban, claims that Laban was “a scheming, filthy-rich sheep magnate who turns up in the pages of both the Book of Mormon and the Old Testament.” He’s not in both, I mean, though there’s a name “Laban” in the Old Testament it’s not the same Laban.
Michael Ash: We have logical fallacies. And again, we want to make sure that we don’t fall into the trap of some of these logical fallacies.
First one would be Double Standards. Where are the Book of Mormon plates? Well, where are Moses’ Ten Commandment tablets? Where are the original writings of Old or New Testament prophets? Evangelical anti-Mormons frequently make charges against latter-day saints which would be just as damning if they were made against the Bible or Christianity in general. Ed Decker, for example, claims that the LDS testimony “is not based upon reason, conscience, or agreement with the Bible,” but upon subjective feelings. Yet Ed must rely on the same feelings to know that God exists or that Jesus was resurrected or that the Bible accurately records the events of Christ’s life.
Some critics use the writings of archeologists and Bible scholars in an attempt to discredit the Book of Mormon. Many of the conclusions of these scholars, however, would also discredit the Bible.
Ad Hominem, which means “attacking the person,” basically name-calling—Mormons are gullible; Daniel Peterson is mean.
Kevin Barney: No, that one’s true. [Laughter]
Michael Ash: We have the human sides of past and present leaders as another example. Critics delight in noting every weakness, mistake, wart or case of bad breath among any Church leaders. Human leaders do not prove a human institution. We know that the New Testament apostles weren’t perfect. Why would we expect modern-day apostles to be perfect?
Prophets are not raised in cultural vacuums. Doctrines are revealed a little at a time and according to man’s understanding. Even symbolism and terminology are means to an end. I think many times, what if the Church had been restored somewhere other than America? What if it were restored in China or in Africa? How different would some of the symbolism that we use in the Church be in a different culture? So those are all means to an end.
Next will be Straw Man. A straw man argument is one that’s built on something that either is non-existent or exaggerated. The straw man is easily refuted, giving the impression that a real LDS essential has been refuted. Some critics, for example, construct a straw man by claiming that Mormons look to Joseph Smith for salvation. These critics then quote numerous passages from the Bible demonstrating that Jesus is the author of salvation. To those unfamiliar with LDS beliefs it appears that Mormon theology has been proven false. Latter-day saints do not, of course, believe that Joseph is the author of their salvation, so the critics have proved nothing.
Another type of straw man is unofficial statements—Leader X said Y, so Y must be official doctrine. The Journal of Discourses is a favorite among critics for supposed LDS doctrine. In the early days, nearly all sermons were given extemporaneously. It was virtually unthinkable in nineteenth century Mormonism to give a memorized or pre-written sermon. The early saints felt they should preach strictly by the Spirit. This led to some interesting sermons and, as [Orson Pratt] noted, sometimes he—and probably other speakers—gave sermons when their “mind[s] seemed to be entirely closed up.” “[W]hat few words I could stammer forth before [a] congregation,” [Pratt] recalled after one such episode, “were altogether unsatisfactory to my own mind, and I presume to those who heard me.” And so little wonder that sometimes in the Journal of Discourses we find things that seem out of place in our current knowledge of gospel principles.
General authorities, like everyone else, have thoughts and opinions of their own. As we read in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, “There are many subjects about which the scriptures are not clear and about which the Church has made no official pronouncements. In such matters, one can find differences of opinion among Church members and leaders. Until the truth of these matters is made known by revelation, there is room for different levels of understanding and interpretation of unsettled issues.”
Argument from Silence. This logical fallacy claims that if something cannot be demonstrated to be true then it must be false. A frequent charge of anti-Mormons is that since no New World cities have been found bearing Book of Mormon names, then the Nephites could not have existed. It is entirely possible, of course, that either such evidences have disappeared or that future digs may discover new evidences. We can’t claim that something wasn’t there because we haven’t found it yet.
Poisoning the Well. This anti-Mormon technique is calculated to prejudice the reader (or listener) into rejecting LDS arguments out of hand because of the source. Some critics, for example, claim that FARMS scholars are on the Church’s payroll, therefore their writings cannot be trusted. Never mind the fact that many contributors to FARMS do not work for the Church, or that those scholars who do work for the Church are not told by the Church what to write. The critics use this technique so that FARMS publications will be rejected out of prejudice rather than examining the arguments. I recall sitting through one anti-Mormon presentation after which a lady in the audience said, “I would never believe anything any Mormon ever told me. They just can’t be trusted.”
Anonymous Authority and Anecdotes. Not infrequently, some anti-Mormons appeal to authorities who are not named—“archaeologists reject the Book of Mormon” or “biblical scholars agree that the concept of the ‘Trinity’ is clearly taught in the Bible.” Another instance of referring to anonymous authorities is found in anti-Mormon statements such as, “an LDS Stake President once told me that he actually believed that the temple ceremonies are satanic.” Of course no name is ever given.
We have Begging the Question. To “beg the question” means to assume in advance the results of the proposition supposedly being tested. For example, we hear often that, unlike the Book of Mormon, the Bible is the word of God because it was given by the Spirit to prophets and apostles. Well, that assumes that Mormonism doesn’t have any prophets or apostles or that Joseph Smith did not receive it through the word of God. Many times “Mormonism is not Christian” is used and basically it is interpreted to mean it is not Christian in the Evangelical Protestant form. In order to make such a charge it must be first assumed that the doctrines, practices and canon of traditional Christianity correctly embody all the necessary fundamentals of Christianity.
False Dilemma. When an either/or situation is given and there are actually other options. For example, anti-Mormons often claim that if Christianity is true then Mormonism is false, or if the Bible is true then the Book of Mormon is false. Well, both options can be true.
Post Hoc or Coincidental Correlation. Just because one thing follows the other doesn’t mean that the second was caused by the first. For example a number of critics claim that 2 Nephi 1:14 uses language similar to that of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, that this demonstrates that Joseph Smith plagiarized from Shakespeare. What these critics generally don’t realize, however, is that when we compare this to other ancient Near Eastern texts, the Book of Mormon actually more closely follows the phraseology of the ancient texts from which it claims to have derived.
Then we have real scholarship. Critics do use real scholarship—scriptural studies, for instance. There are non-believers who discount Mormon doctrine based on their interpretation of the Bible. These are often based on scholarly studies. It’s important to understand that it is a myth to claim that the Bible speaks for itself. Interpretation of biblical passages varies tremendously among believers and even non-believers. How we interpret the scriptures is often a result of many factors, including our religious or worldviews, preconceived notions and frame of reference, just to name a few.
Latter-day saints are not immune to these factors. Early Mormons interpreted some scriptural passages according to the understanding of their day. We do today. In doctrinal matters, however, we have an advantage. As Ross Baron said in his 2001 FAIR presentation: Mormonism is not based on the Bible, but rather on what the Bible is based on, which is revelation.
Science. Archeology and DNA, for example, are legitimate fields of study, real scholarship. The problem is we have to make sure we’re asking the right questions, that we know what we are looking for, and that we would recognize evidence if we found it, and that we correctly understand what constitutes evidence.
Here’s some thoughts on this. For example, the Nephites do not belong to Utah LDS wards. So likewise with the New Testament Saints. We tend to think that other people (both in different cultures and different time periods) thought like we do. While the Nephites had the gospel, they did not have the 21st century, restored in America gospel. They had truths necessary to gain salvation, but they did not have the same programs and perhaps not even same structure or complete set of beliefs that we have today.
Secondly, science is our friend—truth is truth. If scientific findings seem to contradict something we accept as a Mormon essential, we need to look at that distinctive and see if it really is an essential within the gospel, or a tradition. If a scientific finding appears to contradict an actual Mormon essential, then perhaps (1) we either do not have all the scientific information or (2) we have a misconception about the LDS element.
I believe, for example, that science has conclusively demonstrated that not all Amerindians—in North and South America—were descendants of Lehi. We talked about that yesterday. Some latter-day saints, however, thought that this was a true gospel element, but upon further examination of the Book of Mormon, the Book of Mormon doesn’t make such a claim. We need to use both study and faith in understanding gospel truths. President Hinckley once said, “As a Church, we encourage gospel scholarship and the search to understand all truth. Fundamental to our theology is belief in individual freedom of inquiry, thought, and expression. Constructive discussion is a privilege of every Latter-day Saint.”
Lastly we have History. Now some critics attempt to show that the “real” LDS history is different than the one we are taught in Sunday School. Such historians claim to be “objective” and that they simply let the facts speak for themselves. As Peter Novick has demonstrated, however, there is no true “objective” history. Now having said this, we can learn from historical analysis. Things were different, again, in Brigham’s day, in Joseph’s day, in Lehi’s day. We need to gain a better appreciation because of the historical studies.
It’s my opinion that LDS apologetics should be scholarly, fair, solid and methodical, and bold, yet amicable and non-dogmatic. We should endeavor to keep our minds open to the point that we seek true answers related to gospel issues and not traditions, folklore or Mormon myths. Now Kevin Barney will talk about LDS Resources.
Kevin Barney: Well, there may be times when you can respond effectively to an anti-Mormon argument just based simply on your own existing knowledge and private experience or, as Mike has pointed out, maybe an argument is constructed in a logically fallacious manner and that sort of thing. However, more often than not, in order to respond persuasively to some argument, you’re going to need actual information, which I realize is a novel concept in some quarters. So I’m going to talk a little bit about some basic apologetics resources and, again, this presentation is kind of geared to the novice. I realize many of you are not novice apologists and so this will be old hat to you.
I want to start by, well, we’re going to talk first about specifically apologetic resources and then we’re going to talk a little more generally about resources to improve your gospel scholarship.
Kevin Barney: Yeah.
Speaker: Is that a handout that you’re going to give a list of this stuff or…?
Kevin Barney: Yeah, that’s a handout.
Speaker: We won’t need to write out everything you say here?
Kevin Barney: No. Although it’s questionable whether I have enough for everyone, but since you’re up close you’ll be able to grab one.
Kevin Barney: Since the … for better or for worse the bulk of Mormon polemics these days takes place on the internet, and so let’s start with internet resources, and since this is a FAIR conference let’s start with the FAIR website, which is Fairlds.org.
If you go to the FAIR website, on the left you’ll see a button that says “Topical Guide” and on the back of your program you have the direct address to get to that. I think the FAIR topical guide is the first place to go when you have an issue or a question that you’re looking for information on. It’s an excellent tool that FAIR has put together. It’s not exhaustive and we continue to build it, but I think it’s the place to start.
And if you click on the topical guide you’ll get a list of maybe 50 topics, so click on the one that seems closest to your issue and there might be a list of a half-dozen issues under there. When you find your appropriate issue you click on that and you’ll get a page, like the First Vision page, and typically what you’ll find there is there might be a specific article written by FAIR volunteers, there might be an article from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, typically there will be three or four articles from the Ensign, there will be links to other specific articles on that point also on the internet, and there might be references to print resources as well.
This isn’t necessarily the most sophisticated information on that subject but it’s kind of the most basic, the most fundamental information, and so it’s really the place to start, I think. If you can’t find what you are looking for on the FAIR site or the Topical Guide or elsewhere on the FAIR site, there are, of course, other private apologetic websites. There’s probably at least a couple dozen, and at the FAIR site there is a links list that gives you this. I wanted to mention a couple in particular. First is Mormon Fortress, which I had to mention because it’s owned by my co-presenter Mike Ash. And Mike, I don’t know if you noticed, but I was at the BYU bookstore the other day and they’ve got this brand new “The Idiot’s Guide to Mormonism,” and he has a list of his 20 favorite websites dealing with Mormonism and your website is on that list, so I thought you might appreciate that.
I also listed Jeff Lindsay’s LDS FAQ or Frequently Asked Questions. I mention these because these also have a kind of index format and so it’s easy for you to find quickly what you are looking for. If you want to be an apologist, though, and you’re not familiar with these websites, you should spend some time surfing them and get a feel for what their various strengths are.
Next, if none of that works, as they say today, Google is a verb. If you’re going on a blind date, you Google your possible partner. So you go to Google.com and put in an internet search and then if it’s out there you’re likely to find it. Of course, the disadvantage to this is that you’re going to pull up all the critical stuff as well as the positive stuff, but if you want to be an apologist you have to be able to be exposed to critical literature with a sense of equanimity. If you can’t do that then you shouldn’t be an apologist, and you should let other people do that sort of thing.
Now, if none of that works then send a query to the FAIR webmaster, and, again, on the back of your program, there’s an address where you can send questions. He’ll post it to our private FAIR apologetics e-list where we have over 300 people from all over the world and all walks of life, all kinds of different experiences and generally someone will be able to answer that question or at the very least provide more information or point you in the right direction.
Now not everyone is on the internet so let’s talk a little bit about print apologetic resources, and if you do get one of the full versions of the handout—the first 60 of the handouts or so have kind of examples and then the next 50 are just my notes—but if you get one of the full versions I do have about a three- or four-page list of apologetics books. But you can kind of recreate that list if you go to the FAIR web store and look under the caption “apologetics,” most of those books will be there, or if you just look in the back of this room on the apologetics table you get a sense of what those titles are.
Now, I’ll be honest with you, apologetics literature tends to be uneven; just because you list it is not necessarily a warranty that everything is correct. Some of it’s good, and some of it’s bad, and some of it’s both good and bad, so caveat lector. But I do want to mention a few specific titles. First of all, Dan Peterson and Stephen Ricks’ book Offenders for a Word for my money is the best single introduction to LDS polemics. Since it’s written by college professors it’s highly literate, which I appreciate, and if I could only have one book on apologetics that’s the one I would want to have. FAIR itself has written a couple of books, which I wanted to mention, one is Guess Who Wants to Have You for Lunch? which is a skinny book and it’s got cartoons; it’s kind of like Apologetics for Dummies, so it’s intended for the true novice.
And then Barry Bickmore’s Restoring the Ancient Church, which is a more substantive book that explores the interface between Mormon doctrine and early Christianity and that’s one that I highly recommend. I think there’s some back there for sale.
Now, if you are not on the internet but you want that same kind of set of indexed responses to questions then I would recommend to you Michael Hickenbotham’s Answering Challenging Mormon Questions out of Horizon, because it has that kind of format; it includes like 130 questions and the answers are well done.
And then just quickly I wanted to mention some works that respond to specific anti-Mormons and I think Mike mentioned Gil Scharffs’ The Truth about the Godmakers, which I believe is out of print but I think we have a downloadable version on the FAIR website. And then also the Browns’ They Lie in Wait to Deceive series; some of those are back there I noticed. And I believe we have downloadable versions on the website but we also have the print versions here at very inexpensive cost. It’s probably cheaper to just buy the books than to download them and print them yourself.
Okay, so those are some of the basic resources dealing with apologetics and if all you need to do is respond to the stereotyped off-the-shelf anti-Mormon questions, then this is the literature for you. If, however, you want to go beyond that and if you want to get in the game yourself, so to speak, then you need to kind of bone up your gospel scholarship, and this next section deals with that. Now that’s obviously a huge topic, and our time is limited, and so I just wanted to focus on some areas where we get the most bang for our buck, where you can kind of jump up the learning curve, and I want to focus on three types of literature—introductory literature, journal literature and bibliographies.
Kevin Barney: For the introductory literature, I’ve captioned this “Get the big picture.” Apologists are good at focusing on trees, and that’s important, but to be truly effective you have to be able to place those trees in the context of the forest. And so I think it’s important to be able to see the panorama of what you are doing, and the quickest way to begin to do that is by reading a good introduction on the subject. Obviously you can read the text first, but an introduction is helpful. Now if you want to talk about the Bible with a non-LDS Christian and your sole preparation is you went to seminary as a teenager and you sat passively in Gospel Doctrine for the last 20 years and haven’t even read the assignments, which is the case for most people, then I am sorry but you are not prepared to have this conversation.
You are going to have to goose up your knowledge of the Bible. And one way … there is a lot of things you can do but these are kind of first step things … and one of the first steps is to read a good introduction. I mentioned for the Old Testament one that I like is by Roland Kenneth Harrison. He’s dead now, but he was a long time with the University of Toronto. His Introduction to the Old Testament is quite thick but it goes over all the basic Old Testament scholarship in the last 200 years, and so that’s an excellent foundation for Old Testament scholarship. In the New Testament I mentioned a couple that I like: Raymond Brown, a Catholic scholar, and Bart Ehrman, who’s a Protestant. Now, there’s nothing magical about these. I mean, there’s lots of good introductions to the Bible. I just mentioned some that I happen to like.
If we go to the Book of Mormon, for a long time we had no decent single introduction to the Book of Mormon. That has been changed with Terryl Givens’ book By the Hand of Mormon out of Oxford. And if you want to get into Book of Mormon scholarship and you’re just kind of getting started, obviously read the text first but then read Givens’ book because that will give you an overview of Book of Mormon scholarship and also Book of Mormon polemics. If you like to do Book of Mormon studies you need to get and read some Nibley, and it almost doesn’t matter which one you pick up. I just wrote down Since Cumorah because that’s my personal favorite.
John Sorenson’s An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon is absolutely seminal, and there’s just no question, you have to read that book. Also, if you haven’t been following FARMS; FARMS tends to focus on the Book of Mormon, and if you haven’t been following FARMS’ research over the years, then one way to begin to kind of climb up that learning curve quickly is to read Echoes and Evidences, which is a recent book from FARMS and kind of summarizes a lot of Nibley and Sorenson and other FARMS authors and their conclusions. And finally, since Book of Mormon authorship is a big issue, I threw down on the list Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited, which has a lot of essays written specifically on that topic.
Anything having to do to with the JST—the JST itself, the Book of Moses, Joseph Smith Matthew—you’re going to need Robert J. Matthews’ A Plainer Translation, which is the introduction, and even if you don’t read the book you should have it on your shelf. It’s available in paperback, it’s not that expensive, and it’s well organized so you can find particular things that you’re looking for.
LDS Church history. That’s a huge topic. Let me first of all recommend that if you are interested in that, that you join the Mormon History Association and that will be a help to you. But if you just want to read first books to get started, I think you need a good one-volume history, and the best of those is the one by Jim Allen and Glen Leonard, The Story of the Latter-day Saints. And then, if you are interested especially in apologetic uses of Church history, you should read Richard Bushman’s Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism, because it deals with the foundational events.
The Book of Abraham is kind of an advanced topic in apologetics. The literature is extensive and much of it is highly technical. Much of it has to do with languages and, I have no idea, but I would be surprised if there were more than a couple dozen people on the face of the planet that really have control of the literature. But you can become a Book of Abraham scholar if you want to, but it takes some motivation and it takes some reading. In my bedroom at home I’ve got a hutch with big stacks of Book of Abraham literature, and you’ve got a lot of reading ahead of you if you want to bone up on the Book of Abraham. But how do you get started if you want to? There are several histories of the Book of Abraham. My personal favorite is Jay Todd’s The Saga of the Book of Abraham, which suffers from two defects—it’s out of print and it’s dated. The out of print I can’t help you with. You can go to a book seller and get it at a premium. As far as dated, you can supplement it with material written by H. Donl Peterson. He has an article on Lebolo in BYU Studies, which would do it, or even better, you can supplement it with his book, which is called Mormons, Manuscripts and Mummies, something like that. You need to read John Gee’s Guide to the Joseph Smith Papyri. It’s a very skinny book. I noticed some in the back of the room. And in terms of getting at the issues, just figuring out what the questions are is challenging, and a great introduction to that is Jeff Lindsay’s FAQ on the subject.
Now, the next topic I wanted to mention is the journals, and why don’t you just go ahead and run through the list of journals so we can get them all up here? You know, there’s an expression that you see today when people wear bracelets that say “WWJD”—“What would Jesus do?”—and for the few of you that are South Park fans, if you saw the South Park movie, you had this song, “What Would Brian Boitano Do?”. Well, I’m going to ask the question, “What would Hugh Nibley do?” If Hugh Nibley were a novice apologist, what would he do? And I can guarantee you, he would take these journals and he would read them from stem to stern, and most of these are not older than 30 or 35 years, so it’s still a very doable task. One hundred years from now it might be hard to do, but right now it’s still very doable. Many of these are on CD ROMs, they’re accessible and if I were a novice apologist and I wanted to quickly increase my knowledge, I would take these journals and start from the beginning and, I would—you don’t have to read every word; if you’re not interested in an article just skip it or skim it—but I’d start from the beginning and I’d read up to the current issue. I guarantee you, that would be an education in Mormonism. The Ensign … I kind of started this when I was a missionary, you know the missionary apartments would have old dusty stacks of Ensigns, and I read them all, and just doing that, all of a sudden you’ll become one of the most knowledgeable people in your ward or stake, if you just do that. I’ve given … there are some kind of internet tools, like cumulative tables of contents and things like that, so I’ve given you addresses to websites that will be useful for this purpose.
And then going on to the final category is bibliographies. And a good bibliography is kind of your window to the rest of the literature, so you’ve got an introduction, and the journal literature is kind of current scholarship, but there is more than that; there are books that you need to be familiar with, and bibliographies are a window to that. If you get one of the big handouts I printed out, there are further reading lists or bibliographies for the Book of Mormon, the Book of Abraham, the Old Testament and the New Testament. If you don’t get one of those, don’t despair; those things are all available on the FARMS website; that’s where I took them. So the material is available on the internet.
Now that is kind of a thumbnail sketch of some of the resources that are available both for apologetics specifically and also for ratcheting up your Gospel scholarship. Now I guess it’s time for questions. If Mike would like to join me up here and see if there are any questions you’d like to ask us.
Q: Please forgive me if you addressed this and I was zoning. Can you address what you think some of the biggest mistakes are that people make when they first start to get into apologetics, things that really should be avoided—common behaviors, common attitudes or beliefs?
Kevin Barney: Let me mention one thing, one I kind of put on the handout, but I didn’t really comment on. It kind of drives me nuts when a novice LDS apologist constantly wants to reinvent the wheel, because oftentimes they’re not familiar with the issue, and so they assume there’s no answer out there, and so they try to come up with an answer out of whole cloth. Well, that’s fine if you know you’re doing that. It’s fine if you’re trying to improve on existing answers, and using those as a starting point. But instead of flailing around, it’s better to see what people have already done, and build upon that. In fact, that’s kind of why we started the FAIR Topical Guide, because, you know, every six months, the same questions would come up, and people would try to write new answers out of whole cloth, without taking into account good answers that had already been crafted. So that’s one thing that jumped to my mind. Mike?
Michael Ash: I think that one of the problems that I see, like on the message boards, is new apologists who jump on and they’re on fire right away, and they come on almost swinging. You know, that doesn’t set a stage for a discussion, any more than the anti-Mormonism does, and I think we need to approach it from a scholarly perspective. It becomes an emotional issue, but it shouldn’t be. It should be a scholarly issue, in order to have no contention and have the Spirit present.
Kevin Barney: And I’ll just add, if you want to have a discussion directly with a critic, like on a message board, you should do so from a position of strength, not from a position of ignorance. And it’s so often that you see, as Mike said, you see some young apologist get on and start swinging, but you know it’s like he’s flailing blindly, and he doesn’t realize that, you know, he’s making silly arguments and he doesn’t understand what he’s doing. So you need to have a foundation of knowledge before you start trying to have a discussion directly with a critic.
Q: Pertaining to that last comment, though, do we want to give the impression to beginning apologists that they need to be experts in everything before they get started, or can we still rely somewhat on the power of personal testimony, and be able to address some issues. You know, there’s a lot of anti-Mormonism out there, but it’s really not all that sophisticated. There’s pockets of sophistication, but oftentimes just a pure testimony can really have some powerful influences there.
Kevin Barney: Yeah, I mean, it’s kind of like joining the Church—you don’t have to know everything to get baptized. And you’re right, don’t despair if you’re not a scholar, you don’t have to know everything. Going over this literature, I kind of wanted to make the point that it’s not that you have to know everything, which is, of course, impossible. But it is useful to have a handle, to wrap your arms around the literature, and have an idea where to find things. Now in terms of just pure testimony, that’s fine, you can bear your testimony to someone and end the discussion, but if you want to continue the discussion and have a give-and-take, then you do need to … I mean, most people who are not members of the Church are going to need more than just a bare testimony.
Michael Ash: I’d also say that it’s OK to say “I don’t know the answer. I can find out. I have some friends or I want to check in some resources.” And so, stick with the things that you have strengths on. If you’re learning apologetics, there’s probably some areas that you know the research on; stick with those. If somebody hits you up with a tough topic, don’t try to make up something, because that makes you look worse. Find out some answers.
Q: You mentioned many, many options and opportunities to learn and to grow with scholarship, but as far as we know that time is an essence in today’s society, I mean, given some beginning points, but for those who are really wanting to learn and get into these things, how is it that you best learn to budget your time so that you could have scholarship in your life as well as work and other obligations that allow you to progress to knowing things such as that?
Michael Ash: Yeah, that’s a tough one. You know, you have to give up something to gain something else, so what are you going to sacrifice. Obviously we don’t want to sacrifice more important things—time with our family, and reading the scriptures, and so forth. But maybe it’s giving up TV or giving up going to movies, whatever the case may be. That’s a tough juggling act.
Kevin Barney: Yeah, I think part of it is motivation, and if you’re motivated, you’ll be able to arrange your affairs to continue to study. And if you’re not motivated, it’s not going to happen, you’ll want to go to the movies.
Q: Hugh Nibley? In my experience, it goes from people believing that he’s the greatest scholar that has ever lived to the point where people dismiss him out of hand. Will you address that?
Michael Ash: My personal thoughts on that is that Hugh Nibley is kind of a pioneer. He set up the stage for many other scholars to work under. Not everything that he has written has proved to be 100% accurate, but he has opened up some doors, cracked open some doors, that other scholars have explored and found other interesting things. And I think overall, he’s an astounding man and he has produced a variety, on a variety of topics, a lot of great scholarship.
Kevin Barney: I agree with Mike. I honestly don’t even read much Nibley anymore, because I’ve read virtually all of it, and I just don’t feel the need to read it anymore. I mean, I’ve got that foundation, and other scholars have built on that. What he started is now more developed, and so I tend to focus on that literature. But if you haven’t been exposed to Hugh Nibley, I think that exposure is a very worthwhile thing. And FARMS is kind of the Hugh Nibley legacy in action. So I think you’ll find most people who are fans of FARMS tend to be Nibley-philes, and I would put myself in that category.
Q: I’m sure you’re familiar with Grant Palmer’s book, An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins. Now some of the stuff in there regarding, for example, the mode of translation that Joseph used, the evolution of the First Vision, reflects very closely, it seems, almost verbatim in some places, what might appear in anti-Mormon books. So if it so closely reflects those things, I was wondering why—or is—the material in Palmer’s book, would that be considered anti-Mormon too, and, if not, why? Is it the way it’s presented? I’m trying to get a handle on that.
Kevin Barney: It’s hard for me to respond to that, because I know the book exists, but I have not read it. So unlike anti-Mormons, I’m hesitant to comment on a book I have not read. [Laughter] So, seriously, I have to read it to make that kind of nuanced judgment.
Q: I apologize, I was 20 minutes late, and if you’ve already done this, that’s all right. Can you give us a success story where you’ve been involved in extended, over a period of time, friendly argument with a non-latter-day saint and been successful in at least changing their view of the Church and maybe even preparing the way for them to see the missionaries?
Michael Ash: I’ll throw in my two cents on this real quickly. Because I have the MormonFortress website, I get quite a few emails from critics and latter-day saints, and I had an email about a year ago from a gentleman who said that he was teetering on the verge of the Church, and through several websites, including my own, he found some answers that made him feel that some of these arguments were not the correct arguments, and he felt the Spirit again and stayed in the Church. I had another lady who lived in Spain email me, and she was not a critic, but she was investigating the Church. And her entire family, pretty much, was against her investigating the Church, as was her fiancée. And we had discussions for many months, and she ended up taking the missionary discussions and was baptized. And her family disowned her. Her fiancée left her. And she said that those things were all obviously very painful, and she struggled through all of them, but she knew through the Spirit that it was true, and I think that part of the reason was because she had plausible arguments that contradicted what the anti-Mormons were claiming.
Kevin Barney: Yeah, on the FAIR e-list, we get emails on a regular basis from people just—it’s almost embarrassing—almost on their knees, thanking us for what we’ve done and for how helpful it has been. I’ll also point out that some of those success stories are actually in this room. I’m not going to embarrass them by pointing to them, but there are people in this room who were even critics of the Church who are now faithful members. And so there are plenty of success stories.
 Austin Farrer, “The Christian Apologist,” in Light on C.S. Lewis, Jocelyn Gibb ed. (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1965), 26.
 1 Corinthians 12:3.
 James E. Faust, Reach Up for the Light (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1990), 24, citing Brigham Young University 1981–1982 Fireside and Devotional Speeches (Provo: Brigham Young University, 1982), 131.
 John W. Welch, “The Power of Evidence in Nurturing the Faith,” (hereinafter “The Power of Evidence”) Nurturing Faith through the Book of Mormon: The 24th Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1995), 157.
 John W. Welch, “The Power of Evidence,” 156-57, citing Neal A. Maxwell, “The Disciple-Scholar,” On Being a Disciple-Scholar, Henry B. Eyring ed. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1995), 5; and Neal A. Maxwell, Deposition of a Disciple (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976), 49.
 Quoted by Gilbert W. Scharffs, “I Have a Question,” Ensign (January 1995), 60.
 Harold B. Lee, Conference Report, April 1970, General Priesthood Meeting, 54.
 See, e.g., Marvin J. Ashton, Be of Good Cheer (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1987), 10.
 Joseph Fielding Smith, “The Book of Mormon, A Divine Record,” Improvement Era (December 1961), 925.
 See Gilbert Scharffs, The Missionary’s Little Book of Answers (American Fork, UT: Covenant Communications, 2002), 1.
 Jacobellis v. Ohio 378 U.S. 184 (1964), at 197 (Stewart, J., concurring), available at http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-supreme-court/378/184.html.
 B.H. Roberts, New Witnesses for God, vol. 2 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1909), vi-viii, as quoted in John Welch, “Good and True,” Expressions of Faith: Testimonies of Latter-day Saint Scholars, Susan Easton Black, ed. (Salt Lake City: FARMS and Deseret Book, 1996), 234.
 Neal A. Maxwell, But for a Small Moment (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1986), 56.
 Matthew 18:6.
 Matthew 18:5.
 Jon Krakauer, Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith (New York: Doubleday, 2003), 107.
 Ibid., 122.
 Ibid., 56.
 Ibid., 55.
 Ibid., 132.
 Ed Decker and Dave Hunt, The God Makers: A Shocking Expose of What the Mormon Church Really Believes (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1984), 44.
 Davis Bitton, “‘Strange Ramblings’: The Ideal and Practice of Sermons in Early Mormonism,” BYU Studies 41:1 (2002), 8.
 Orson Pratt, “Spirit of Light and Truth—Its Value—Its Opposite Necessary—Final Triumph of Light and Truth,” Discourse by Elder Orson Pratt, delivered in the 13th Ward Assembly Rooms, Nov. 24, 1872. reported by David W. Evans, in Journal of Discourses, Vol. 15 (London: Latter-Day Saint’s Book Depot, 1873), 229, available at http://scriptures.byu.edu/jod/pdf/JoD15/JoD15_0229.pdf.
 M. Gerald Bradford and Larry E. Dahl, “Doctrine,” Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Daniel H. Ludlow, ed. (New York: Macmillan, 1992), vol. 1, 395.
 See Ross Baron, Feeding the Multitudes: Being Fishers of Men, 2001 FAIR Conference, available at http://www.fairmormon.org/fair-conferences/2001-fair-conference/2001-feeding-the-multitudes-being-fishers-of-men.
 Gordon B. Hinckley, “First Presidency Message: Keep the Faith,” Ensign (September 1985), 5.
 See Peter Novick, That Noble Dream: The “Objectivity Question” and the American Historical Profession (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988).
 Drew Williams, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Mormonism (New York: Penguin Group, 2003).
 Ibid., 289.
 Daniel C. Peterson and Stephen D. Ricks, Offenders for a Word (Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 1998).
 Alan Denison and D.L. Barksdale, Guess Who Wants to Have You for Lunch?: A Missionary Guide to Anti-Mormon Tactics & Strategies and How to Deal with those Who Have Been Influenced by Them, 2nd ed. (Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research, 2002).
 Barry R. Bickmore, Restoring the Ancient Church: Joseph Smith & Early Christianity (Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research, 1999).
 Michael W. Hickenbotham, Answering Challenging Mormon Questions: Replies to 130 Queries by Friends and Critics of the LDS Church (Horizon Publishers, 1995).
 Gilbert W. Scharffs, The Truth about the Godmakers (Publishers Press, 1972).
 See http://www.fairmormon.org/perspectives/publications/the-truth-about-the-god-makers.
 Robert L. and Rosemary Brown, They Lie in Wait to Deceive, vols. 1-4 (Brownsworth Publishing Company, 1981, 1984, 1986, 1995).
 See http://www.fairmormon.org/perspectives/publications/they-lie-in-wait-to-deceive.
 Roland Kenneth Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament (William B. Eerdmans, 1982).
 Raymond E. Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament (Doubleday, 1997).
 Bart D. Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003).
 Terryl L. Givens, By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture that Launched a New World Religion (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003).
 Hugh Nibley, Since Cumorah (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1988).
 John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1995).
 Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon, Donald W. Parry, Daniel C. Peterson, and John W. Welch, eds. (Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research & Mormon Studies, 2002).
 Noel B. Reynolds (author, editor), Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited: The Evidence for Ancient Origins (Provo, UT: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 1997).
 Robert J. Matthews, “A Plainer Translation”: Joseph Smith’s Translation of the Bible: A History and Commentary (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1975).
 James B. Allen and Glen M. Leonard, The Story of the Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992).
 Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1985).
 Jay M. Todd, The Saga of the Book of Abraham (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1969).
 H. Donl Peterson, “Antonio Lebolo: Excavator of the Book of Abraham,” BYU Studies 31:3 (1991), 5-29.
 H. Donl Peterson, The Story of the Book of Abraham: Mummies, Manuscripts, and Mormonism (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1995).
 John Gee, A Guide to the Joseph Smith Papyri (Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research & Mormon Studies, 2000).