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F.A.R.M.S. Strikes Again – Vintage

The evidence continues to pile in. We began exposing the double-standards and downright childish behavior of the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (F.A.R.M.S.), now based out of Brigham Young University, many years ago when they first wrote a review of my book, Letters to a Mormon Elder in 1993 (click here for that first response). In that instance, they published a review written by L. Ara Norwood wherein Norwood had used less than honest means to attempt to “get information” regarding the background of the book, including contacting us on his employer’s stationery as a possible means of reprinting the book. We have since learned that they must not have felt Norwood’s attempt was worthwhile, since another review has been published. We have yet to see it, but have been told it is over 200 pages in length.

Then in 1995 I was asked to write an article on the apologetic methodologies of F.A.R.M.S. for the Christian Research Journal (click here to read). The article minced no words and went right to the real issue, and that was not appreciated either by F.A.R.M.S. nor by some evangelicals who, for whatever reasons, seem to believe F.A.R.M.S. to have taken the place of the General Authorities as the governing and defining body of the LDS Church. Yet, F.A.R.M.S. had little response, as the gaffs and errors documented in the article are so clear that it is far easier for them to attempt to attack the messenger than to deal with the message. And that is the standard F.A.R.M.S. response: go ad-hominem and then look utterly shocked when someone points it out. Immediately identify the target of your attacks as an “anti-Mormon,” and do your best to look like the offended party. It is very, very hard not to notice the parallels between F.A.R.M.S. and Catholic Answers!

Then, a few years later, we compiled quite the file of “nastigrams” from some of the principal players in F.A.R.M.S. that again illustrated the kind of behavior that having a graduate degree does nothing about. You can read these for yourself here. [I note that for those brave enough to read through this file, I received another lovely nastigram from Louis Midgley only today, 8/30/00!]

At the same time I engaged William Hamblin, a professor of history at BYU, in a conversation on the subject of Psalm 82/John 10. This conversation is found at here. As the article notes, this conversation began during one of my trips to Long Island for the “Great Debate” series. It really began shortly before this, when I was a guest on the radio in Salt Lake City on the Sunday night of General Conference. One of the callers who identified himself simply as “Bill” was in fact William Hamblin. He had presented an argument based upon a textual variant in the Hebrew of Deuteronomy 32. Made for obscure radio (I’m sure the audience loved the discussion of textual variants in Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia) but was interesting nonetheless. Hamblin then contacted me by e-mail, and thus the discussion began. It extended into late May.

A few items need to be understood right at the start if the rest of this saga is going to make sense and provide a useful insight into the behavior of the leaders of F.A.R.M.S. The beginning of the Hamblin/White discussion coincided with the flood of nastigrams from Peterson, Midgley, etc. Secondly, the discussion was supposed to be on one topic, and the only reason I invested the time into it that I did was due to the fact that, at least at first, Hamblin behaved substantially better than his compatriots. Of course, I doubted that it would last (it didn’t), but it was worth the effort if others would be helped (and they have).

Next, and most importantly, the conversation dragged on over the course of a number of weeks. During that time, small e-mails were exchanged that had absolutely, positively no bearing on the topic of Psalm 82/John 10. For example, the following message is not included on our web page for the obvious reason that it has no bearing on anyone who wishes to understand a written debate between a Mormon and a Christian on the topic of polytheism in the text of the Bible:

Date: Thu, 09 Apr 1998 16:46:21 -0600
From: “William J. Hamblin” <william_hamblin@byu.edu>
Subject: You still don’t get it
To: James White <orthopodeo@aomin.org>
Cc: Paul OWEN <9753633@bute.sms.ed.ac.uk>

>HAMBLIN
>I will not be able to read your entire response carefully until tonight.
>It’s final paper time, so it may be a few days before I respond completely.
>In a first brief overview, your response is most disappointing.  You don’t
>get it.

JAMES
I’ll assume that “you don’t get it” is equal to “you don’t agree with me.”  As to who has presented a solidly biblical exegesis of the passage, well, again, I’ll leave that to others to judge.

BILL
No, James, I mean you don’t get it.  I don’t expect you to agree with me.  Quite the opposite.  But I do hope that you will be able to understand my arguments, and deal with those arguments.  Your response, at this point, has demonstrated that “you don’t get it.”

William J. Hamblin
Associate Professor of History
323 KMB
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602-4446

801-378-6469 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              801-378-6469      end_of_the_skype_highlighting
wh4@email.byu.edu
FAX 801-378-5784

Why is it important to note this? Because our attempt to “stick to the facts” and make the presentation readable for those truly interested in theology and apologetics is now being used to slander us. How can an obvious, honest desire to keep a debate clear and not clutter it be turned against you? Well, let’s see how F.A.R.M.S. has done it again….

A New Book

During the course of the conversation with William Hamblin it was mentioned that Daniel Peterson (who was, at the time, sending me nastigrams) had written an article on the subject of Psalm 82 and John 10. I have, since 1998, asked Daniel Peterson a number of times when this work was going to be ready. It finally appeared in the 2000 release of the book, The Disciple as Scholar: Essays on Scripture and the Ancient World in Honor of Richard Lloyd Anderson, edited by Stephen D. Ricks, Donald W. Parry, and Andrew H. Hedges (FARMS, 2000). It is titled, “Ye are Gods”: Psalm 82 and John 10 as Witnesses to the Divine Nature of Humankind.” This is not an article. It is a 123 page work with 332 endnotes–obviously many hands played a part in its production. There are many things to be said about this article (Lord willing, I will be able to respond to it in a shorter time period than that which transpired between my hearing of it and my obtaining it, which was over two years). But for now, its dishonest and unnecessary ad-hominem attack on me will suffice to show yet again the true character of the LDS leadership of F.A.R.M.S.

On page 556 appears a paragraph, under the “Notes,” but before the first end note citation, that reads:

I wish to thank my friends and colleagues Professors William J. Hamblin and Stephen D. Ricks for helpful comments on various drafts of this paper. Roger D. Cook, Daniel McKinlay, Stephen D. Ricks, Royal Skousen, John Tvedtnes, and Bryan J. Thomas assisted with important references. While making final adjustments to the essay, I profited from the lengthy and revealing e-mail exchange between Professor Hamblin and a professional anti-Mormon named James White on the interpretation of Psalm 82 that has been posted, completed and unedited, at shields-research.org/A-O_Min.htm (Mr. White has also placed a cropped and vigorously “spin-doctored” version of that exchange at his own web site). Of course, the argument and the conclusions (and any attendant errors of fact or judgment) are mine alone.

Now, someone familiar with the facts of this matter can’t help but see that the middle of this paragraph is nothing but unfounded slander, intended to continue the attempt on the part of F.A.R.M.S. to marginalize those (here myself, but they have done this to dozens of people in many contexts) who they know will never compromise with Mormonism and who continue to see the fruits of their efforts in the conversion of Mormons from darkness to faith in Jesus Christ. But let’s document the error of this assertion.

1) We have addressed the hypocrisy of identifying people as “anti-Mormons.” It is the same tactic used by Roman Catholic apologists when they refer to people as “anti-Catholics,” and Jehovah’s Witnesses when they label someone an “opposer.” It is meant to create an emotional result, nothing more. And if Daniel Peterson cannot address me properly when he knows I have taught professionally for multiple institutions (Grand Canyon University, Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, etc.), and am far more published than he himself is, this only reflects upon him, not upon me.

2) It is obviously the intention of Peterson to directly allege editing on my part when he speaks of the SHIELDS edition as “complete and unedited” and mine as “cropped.” This is a falsehood. There is nothing that passed between myself and William Hamblin on the subject of Psalm 82/John 10 that is not on our website. Nothing he wrote has been edited, removed, “cropped,” or anything else. Nothing I wrote has been edited, improved, or corrected.

3) Such is not the case with the materials on the SHIELDS site. I noted in a brief review of the materials there that not only had errors been made in inserting links into my posts (one that caught my eye, because it is a “pet peeve,” was the spelling of a reference to the Psalter as “Psalms” instead of the proper format, Psalm 11, Psalm 23, etc.) but editing has taken place on Hamblin’s letters, correcting errors that had appeared in the originals. At one point, when Hamblin decided to start behaving in typical F.A.R.M.S. fashion by referring to me as an “anti-Mormon,” he referred to me “loosing” the argument. Of course, he meant “losing.” When I replied, I quoted him directly, and put the misspelled word, “loosing,” in quotes. Someone, either Hamblin himself, or more likely Stan Barker or someone at SHIELDS, decided that didn’t look good (misspelling things while insulting someone is rather embarrassing), so they fixed Hamblin’s error. Such leaves one wondering what other changes would come to light if I were to care enough to invest the effort to do a more careful comparison.

4) The reader is strongly encouraged to read the material that Peterson and Hamblin insist is necessary to include if the debate is to be fully aired. The direct link to the index page that contains all seventy-some odd e-mails is: http://www.shields-research.org/A-O_Min.htm.

A person who takes the time to drag themselves through all the totally unrelated material will discover that a) the entirety of the debate on Psalm 82/John 10 is on our site, and b) that which is not included contains a tremendous amount of material that reflects very poorly on Hamblin. Posting it would surely have gotten some people to the point of accusing us of impropriety!

Any fair-minded person will immediately see one glaring fact: the file on our web page presents the clearest, fairest, most readable presentation of the interchange. The reader is not distracted with messages that say “No, haven’t gotten to a reply yet, I’m busy doing this….” And it is absurd…no, childish, to insist that such materials have to be included for the discussion to be “unedited.”

Finally, as to the charge of “spin-doctoring,” again this can only refer to the insertion of explanatory introductions at the beginning of the file, along the way before e-mails, and at the end of the file. Yet, if one goes to the SHIELDS site, one will find at least one note inserted directly into the text of one of the e-mails! Is this not “spin-doctoring” then? I felt no need to “doctor” anything, since I believe the e-mails speak for themselves.

Conclusion

We are often asked how intelligent, highly-trained people can be deceived by such transparently untrue systems as Mormonism. For most, the answer is simply spiritual deception. But for those who are actively involved in promoting spiritual deception, the answer goes deeper. Even in the midst of writing an article that is specifically heretical, which presents to its readers a false god, a false Christ, and a false gospel, Daniel Peterson has to find a way to take a personal, unwarranted shot at someone he knows he cannot deceive but whose work has been used to deliver many from the very errors he is seeking to promote. There was no reason whatsoever for the inclusion of these words, outside of the furtherance of a cause. That cause is to denigrate and marginalize anyone who refuses to bow to the overwhelming “scholarship” of F.A.R.M.S. and its attempted defenses of the religion of Joseph Smith.

The reader should consider well: if Peterson is unfaithful in handling the little elements of truth, why should anyone assume he is handling the entire topic in a scholarly, let alone fair, manner?

A Study in F.A.R.M.S. Behavior – Vintage

F.A.R.M.S., the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, based out of BYU, is the leading Mormon apologetics organization. They publish numerous works and provide the majority of the current apologetics information used by Mormon missionaries and others.

In 1993 F.A.R.M.S. reviewed my book, Letters to a Mormon Elder in their book, Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 5. The review was written by L. Ara Norwood.

The first section of this file provides the basic text of the first part of my response which appeared in our publication, Pros Apologia, late in 1993. It was my intention to continue my refutation, but other demands put off the completion of the review. In point of fact, there was little response to the issue, and little demand for information on Norwood’s article.

Since that time, Mr. Norwood has contacted me repeatedly, seeking to goad me into finishing my response (see cited letters later in the file). I here provide a brief response to the rest of the review, along with further information that demonstrates the kind of behavior undertaken by the F.A.R.M.S. reviewer, L. Ara Norwood.

And the Other Shoe Fell: Finally

A Review and Rebuttal of L. Ara Norwood’s “Ignoratio Elenchi: The Dialogue that Never Was” (Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 5 (1993) published by F.A.R.M.S.).

It’s not that I didn’t expect it. I knew that Letters to a Mormon Elder was sufficiently different from most works on Mormonism that, eventually, it would draw the attention of someone in the LDS Church. And so it did. I had always wondered who would be the first to respond to it, and how they would approach a book that presents not only a different message than most (there are few unabashedly Reformed works available on Mormonism), but one that does so in a very different, and I think unique, way.

My answer came via a long-time acquaintance in Salt Lake City, Alma Allred. Mr. Allred and I have been corresponding for years, first via the “old fashioned route,” that being through the U.S. Mail, and later by computer. We had met on the sidewalk outside the South Gate of the LDS Temple in Salt Lake during General Conference. Alma posted a section from the review in the 1993 edition of the F.A.R.M.S. (Foundation for Ancient American Research and Mormon Studies) publication Review of Books on the Book of Mormon on the National Mormon Echo, then moderated by Malin Jacobs. As soon as I saw Mr. Allred’s post, I called F.A.R.M.S. and ordered the book (I am a member of F.A.R.M.S., not because I support it’s purpose, but because I wish to stay abreast of developments in LDS methods of defending the Book of Mormon). No one had mentioned that a review was forthcoming, and, as we shall see, though the author of the review had indeed contacted us, he had done so under less than open circumstances.

I was excited that a review had finally been written, and the fact that it was being published by F.A.R.M.S. led me to hope that it would at the very least carry a scholarly tone and content. F.A.R.M.S. is an interesting organization. It is based primarily out of BYU, and presents the writings of most of the conservative scholars of Mormonism, those who seek to find an historical, factual basis for LDS belief in history, philosophy, and science. For years F.A.R.M.S. materials have been heavily slanted toward one writer: Dr. Hugh Nibley of BYU. But a new group of LDS scholars are entering the picture with the passing of the “Niblian Age,” one might say. John Sorenson, Daniel C. Peterson, Stephen Ricks, and William Hamblin all have articles and books appearing under the F.A.R.M.S. label. Most non-professional LDS apologists (that’s about everyone) rely heavily upon Nibley and the F.A.R.M.S. materials as their scholarly “backing.” Though I had never heard of the author of my review, I hoped that I would finally get to hear a well thought-out review of Letters to a Mormon Elder.

Unfortunately, I was quite disappointed a few days later as I put the book down upon my desk, having finished reading the review. I had honestly seen more in-depth, meaningful responses on the National Mormon Echo. True, none had been so long as this (38 pages), but on each of the three topics addressed by L. Ara Norwood, my reviewer, individuals such as Elden Watson, Alma Allred, and Malin Jacobs (all participants on the Mormon Echo, and all referenced by Norwood in his review) had provided what seemed to me to be much more meaningful objections and counter-proposals.

Yet, the review exists, and I must undertake the task of replying to Mr. Norwood. I shall do so in the following manner. First, I shall provide the reader with some interesting background as to how Mr. Norwood proceed ed in reviewing my book and in handling his contacts with myself and Alpha and Omega Ministries. Then I shall address each of the three areas Mr. Norwood chose to address, though not in the same order in which he presented them. I shall begin with the question of Biblical authority, and then move to his critique of the Reformed doctrine of salvation. Then I will take the time to respond rather fully to his critique of my comments on the Book of Mormon, going beyond the level of Mr. Norwood’s article due to the fact that he relied primarily upon the simple citation of LDS scholars such as Sorenson and Hamblin for his demonstration of my alleged errors or ignorance. This necessitates my providing some replies to the works of such men, though, obviously, in brief, and not in full. Finally, as Mr. Norwood’s article was filled with ad-hominem, character assassination, and mind-reading, I will respond to his personal comments in a concluding section.


Mannix, I-Spy, Mission Impossible, and Get Smart

In February of 1993 we received a phone call on our Christian Information System, requesting that we return a call to an 800 number. Rich Pierce, the President of Alpha and Omega Ministries, takes care of the every-day managing of our affairs (i.e., administration), and he returned the call. He spoke with a man with an unusual first name, “Ara.” I was in the office when Rich spoke with this gentleman. Rich reported that this man represented a printing firm in Southern California, and that he had seen the book Letters to a Mormon Elder, and was calling to inquire about the book, our publishing resources, other books we have available, etc. I found this mildly interesting, as I’m always intrigued about those who read my books and how they respond to them. A few days later a package of materials arrived from “Ara,” and Rich filed them away for future reference. We thought nothing more about it.

In early August I read a message posted by Alma Allred in the MORMON Echo. In it he reproduced a paragraph from a review of my book that had been published by F.A.R.M.S. This was the first I had ever heard of the review. No one had contacted me, talked with me, or in any other way solicited my input for the review, though I would certainly have been happy to have cooperated had someone decided to speak with me. I checked with the local LDS bookstores, but none of them had the publication as yet. So, as I subscribe to the F.A.R.M.S. newsletter, I called to see if I could order the book. It seems the gentleman who took my order remembered the call, as I heard about it months later from some friends of his.

Even before the volume itself arrived from F.A.R.M.S., I contacted Sandra Tanner to inquire about the author of the article, L. Ara Norwood. Sandra was familiar with Mr. Norwood, having been the object of his editorial reviews in the past. At this time the name did not ring any bells with me.

As soon as I received the full text of the review, I discovered that a number of participants on the MORMON echo had been part of the research and review process, though without a word being said to me about it. In speaking with those who worked with the author, I discovered some interesting things. First, the initial draft had been written very early in the year, one individual receiving his copy as early as January. I was informed that if I thought the final draft could be described as “nasty,” the initial one would have truly shocked me. I also learned that there had been some discussion about informing me of the review, and the author had decided that such would not be a good idea. Hence the secrecy.

Then, in speaking with one of those who reviewed the article for Norwood, mention was made of the fact that Norwood himself had spoken of having contacted our ministry about publishing my book. At first I couldn’t recall any such contact, and then I remembered the call from the fellow with the strange name back in February. I contacted Rich Pierce and asked him if he still had the information that had been sent from California, and he indicated that he did. I asked him if he could recall the name of the man with whom he had spoken. He remembered that it was unusual, but could not recall the name. I asked him, “Could it have been `Ara.'”? He wasn’t sure. That afternoon Rich tracked down the information, and imagine our surprise to discover a letter, written on his employer’s letterhead, dated February 25th, signed by none other than L. Ara Norwood, the author of the F.A.R.M.S. review, soliciting our business in printing no other book than Letters to a Mormon Elder!

In his letter, Norwood included the following paragraph:

Now, on a related note, you asked me how I became aware of your ministry. I replied that I received a copy of your book, Letters to a Mormon Elder, and that I had read the book. You didn’t seem interested in pursuing that so I didn’t take it any further. But you might be interested in knowing that I am a Mormon elder, and although I am very interested in servicing you as a business man, I also have a personal interest in the material I read. I have no problem whatsoever giving you the very best service possible, in spite of the purpose of your publishing efforts. But I think it is only fair that I give you fair notice of my religious commitments so that you can decide if your working with a Latter-day Saint is an issue. I’ll assume it isn’t unless I hear otherwise.

It certainly struck me as strange, of course, that Mr. Norwood would contact us about printing Letters to a Mormon Elder a month after he had already written a scathing review of it! While he informed us in his letter that he was LDS, he certainly made no mention of the fact that he had not only read the book, but was writing a review of it for a F.A.R.M.S. publication.

So why did Mr. Norwood contact us and seek printing rights for Letters? Before I theorize on that, let me provide one other aspect of this strange saga. When I received the review, I contacted Mr. Norwood, and invited him (as I am want to do) to engage in a public dialogue or debate on the subjects raised in his article. Specifically, I mentioned that I would be appearing on some radio programs in Salt Lake during Conference weekend in October. Would Mr. Norwood be interested in being on these programs with me? No, he wouldn’t. He had, as he put in his reply letter, “bigger fish to fry.”

I appeared on KTKK on Sunday evening of Conference weekend on Martin Tanner’s program, Religion on the Line. Martin had two other guests: Dr. Daniel C. Peterson and Dr. William Hamblin, both of Brigham Young University (apparently they didn’t have bigger fish to fry). Rich and I arrived at the station very early, as I had forgotten the exact time of the program, and everyone who knows me knows how I hate to be late. As the air-conditioning had gone out in the studio, Rich and I stood by the front door, listening to the first hour of Martin’s program on a speaker just outside the door, while attempting to get some of the cool early-evening air into the building. About 45 minutes before we were to go on the air, a car pulled up, and two middle-aged men got out. However, rather than walking into the building, they walked down the driveway and out of sight. I was pretty certain that this was Peterson and Hamblin. A few minutes later a van arrived with two younger men. They walked right past Rich and me and into the building. We had no idea who they were or why they were there. Finally the two older men came back and walked right past us into the building. They went to a back office where they sat talking with the two young men. Eventually they emerged, and Drs. Peterson and Hamblin introduced themselves. The younger men, however, were not introduced.

After the program was over, I stood in the parking lot speaking first with Dr. Hamblin, and then with he and Dr. Peterson. The two younger men stood to my left, listening to the conversation as it went back and forth, occasionally throwing in some comments. Eventually both Rich Pierce (who had remained inside to share the gospel with an employee of the station who had some questions) and Martin Tanner joined us in the parking lot. We spoke for a good hour. Eventually Martin Tanner made an off-hand comment that caught my attention. “Yes,” he said, “and Ara here came all the way from California.” He was referring to one of the two young men who was standing right next to me on my left. I turned to this gentleman and said, “Ara what?” He grinned and said, “Ara Norwood.”

I honestly believe that Mr. Norwood would have allowed me to get in my car and leave without ever introducing himself to me. I can’t imagine writing a review of someone’s book and then standing there in anonymity, listening to a conversation between the author and others. And that after indicating that he would not come on the air, for he had “bigger fish to fry.” Of course, I can understand why Mr. Norwood would be reluctant to introduce himself prior to the program: I would have undoubtedly invited him to be on the program to attempt to give a defense of his article. But there might be another reason for his silence.

It seems that the reason that Mr. Norwood contacted us about Letters to a Mormon Elder even after writing a negative review of it is consistent with his reasons for silently observing me at the radio station. It seems that Mr. Norwood likes to “gather information,” secretly, if need be. I believe that was why he contacted us in February. He was able to ask many questions about our books, our ministry, and our plans for the future. At KTKK he was able to listen to me discussing various issues with the BYU professors. In both instances I believe Mr. Norwood was “digging” so to speak. In speaking with others who have encountered Mr. Norwood, I find this to be a common trait. Of course, this involves Mr. Norwood in using his position at his place of employment to engage in private “research,” but it seems that this is preferable to thinking that Mr. Norwood is so greedy that he would seek to promote a book that he himself says is authored by a man who is “merely an anti-Mormon clone, maintaining the same shape of bigotry and shallowness that inevitably come from the anti-Mormon cookie-cutter that produces such phenomena.”[1]

In either case, it has been at the very least entertaining to follow the saga of how Mr. Norwood approached writing his review of my book. Surely the questionable actions of Mr. Norwood provide no defense against the criticisms he levels in his article. I shall not make the error of thinking that providing this information in any way releases me from my duty to respond to the substantive issues he raises, despite what I may think about how he went about his task. But it surely makes one wonder about the role of honesty in Mr. Norwood’s approach. Some people think I have the tact of a baseball bat, but I think that’s better than being downright sneaky. Better open and honest than secretive and sly.


Sola Scriptura Under Attack–Again

Mr. Norwood begins his 38-page review of Letters to a Mormon Elder with a nearly 4-page introduction in which he questions my honesty[2], misrepresents my beliefs[3], attacks my character[4], wastes space in an effort to take digs at others[5], and engages in little more than pure (and false) ad-hominem[6]. It was less than an auspicious start. He soon moved past this material, however, and moved into the first formal section of his review, that which deals with his objections to the Protestant doctrine of Scripture.

The first obvious error Mr. Norwood makes is that of saying that I am merely putting forward my own interpretation of Scripture as the final and sole authority by which all things, including spiritual experiences, must be tested. I did not do such a thing in the book, nor do I do so in any other venue. Whenever I present an objection against the LDS position, I cite Scripture and provide sound exegesis of the passage itself. Mr. Norwood seems to dismiss the ultimate authority of Scripture over against human feelings, for when discussing my citation of such passages as Proverbs 30:5-6, 13:13, Isaiah 40:8, and Matthew 24:35, he says that I am attempting to equate the phrase “word of God” with my “late twentieth-century interpretation of this sixty-six book Protestant Bible.” Of course this is simply untrue, and it would seem that it would be much better for Mr. Norwood to provide us with an alternative interpretation of the passages cited, one that does a better job interpreting them in their own context and in their own language. But we get no such interpretation. Instead, we get this:

Of course, all this line of reasoning really demonstrates is that–according to Mr. White–since there are not true prophets receiving revelation in his church, there must not be–nay, cannot be–true prophets receiving revelation in any church.

How Mr. Norwood comes to this conclusion is hard to say. In Letters I merely asserted that which the Bible makes plain so often: that since Scripture is God-breathed, it must function as our highest source of authority in all things, including the area of knowledge itself. Our feelings, no matter how strong they may be, must be tested by that which God has already said, and that in Scripture. If there were indeed “true prophets” today, they would speak in accordance with what God has already said in Scripture. That the apostles were so quick to point out the consistency of their preaching of the gospel and the revelation of God in the Old Testament is striking confirmation of the propriety of my position. In the same way, I challenged the LDS reader to compare the teachings of his alleged prophets and apostles against that which was taught by the prophets and apostles of old. If indeed they are led by the Spirit of truth, then their teaching will accord perfectly with that of Paul or John or Peter. If there are contradictions, we can safely conclude that they are not speaking by the same Spirit who carried Christ’s apostles along as they spoke for God (2 Peter 1:20-21). This is the very conclusion to which we come in examining the teachings of the LDS faith in Letters to a Mormon Elder.

  • Norwood, Ignoratio Elenchi: The Dialogue That Never Was in Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, Volume 5, 1993 (Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies), p. 321.
  • Norwood, p. 317, spends considerable time questioning how I could possibly have spoken with over 1200 LDS missionaries and an equal number of non-missionaries, concluding that it’s simply unbelievable. Of course, Mr. Norwood has never, to my knowledge, stood outside the South Gate of the LDS Temple in Salt Lake during Conference and spoken with groups of anywhere from two to 20, nor has he spent four to six hours a night each night of the Easter Pageant in Mesa, Arizona, passing out tracts and dealing with groups even larger than those in Salt Lake.
  • This is a common element of Norwood’s article, even though he often alleges that it is I who does not understand the LDS position. In attacking Wes Walter’s short foreword to my book, he writes, “Both men truly believe that the arguments presented are utterly devastating to the Mormon position, that all `honest’ Mormons will make a mass exodus from their faith upon reading the book, and that those who choose to remain Mormons are simply biased or less than honest. This world view seems to maintain that logical argument alone wins converts, in contrast with the Latter-day Saint view, which maintains that it is the workings of the Holy Spirit that bring about conversion” (p. 318). It is amazing that Mr. Norwood could read my very strongly Reformed book and make such a statement. Wes Walters was a Presbyterian, and hence neither Wes nor myself would ever think that “logical argument alone wins converts.” Men are dead in sin, and hence must be regenerated before they can understand spiritual things. My book was very plain on this very topic (pages 260-265 in the Bethany House edition). Norwood is simply ignorant of the position espoused by both myself and Wes Walters, though he has no excuse for this. He later mentions reading my posts from the MORMON echo, and if anything is plain from my writings in that venue, I do not hold the position Norwood ascribes to me.
  • In describing the format of my book, Norwood writes, “These fictional letters are written from the perspective of James White, champion of Calvinism, defender of the evangelical reformed version of Protestant Christianity, as he corresponds with a character known as `Elder Hahn’…” (pp. 317-318). Does Mr. Norwood mean this in a complimentary fashion? Hardly, for he later writes, “Having studied the rather lively exchanges between Mr. White and various Latter-day Saints on the MORMON echo, I can quickly discern that the cool, mature, polite character that he portrays himself to be in his book is just that: a character. His postings in the MORMON echo betray his true colors: a desparado who needs to win every argument at any cost, no matter how trivial” (pp. 319-320).
  • It seems that Mr. Norwood loves to multiply footnotes, as if this indicated thoroughness on his part as a researcher and writer. Hence the third footnote of his paper reads, “I was happy to see that the Reverend Walters attached his name to a `foreword’ and not to a “forward,” as he did in Charles Larson’s work on the book of Abraham; see Charles M. Larson,…By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus (Grand Rapids: MI: Institute for Religious Research, 1992), 5″ (p. 318). One has to wonder if Mr. Norwood voted against Dan Quayle.
  • As cited above, Norwood calls me an “anti-Mormon clone” coming from the “anti-Mormon cooker-cutter.” We shall examine these charges below.

Thus the material stood until November of 1995. In a letter of December 20, 1994, Mr. Norwood wrote to me:

I think your decision to not respond to my F.A.R.M.S. review-essay is itself a response of sorts. It tells me and many others who are aware of your involvement with the Book of Mormon that you are not equipped to handle criticism of your work. Even more so, you are not prepared to deal in any serious way with Book of Mormon studies. Thanks for confirming what I already sensed: the Book of Mormon is way over your head, and until you humble yourself and make the Book of Mormon a matter of prayer, you will remain outside the pale of grace and truth, a mere puppet in the great and spacious building that makes a lot of noise but has no foundation.

Then, in a letter dated October 18, 1995, Mr. Norwood wrote:

On Monday the 16th, I happened to tune into the Bible Answer Man radio program. I enjoyed listening to your exchange with that fellow from Catholic Answers (I believe his first name was James.) [Mr. Norwood is referring to my discussion with James Akin of Catholic Answers 10/12, 13, and 16]. I thought you did a pretty good job defending and articulating your respective positions. I actually had started to be somewhat impressed with your savvy — that is until I heard the comment you made about your “Mormon friends.” I believe you said, in effect, “My Mormon friends say the reason they know the Book of Mormon is the Word of God is that the Church tells them it is.” I found your comment rather telling. And then I remembered your book, Letters to a Mormon Elder. And my review cam to mind (which you promised to respond to but never did adequately.) All the things I said in the F.A.R.M.S. review are apparently still very true; you come off sounding rather informed and competent up until the time that you try to deal with Mormon things (at which time you come across like a buffoon.) Why is that, I wonder? Given your Calvinistic mindset, perhaps such things were simply predetermined. But back to your comment on the radio. I just wanted you to know that I know. . . .

This is how the letter ended in the original. Even this would have been insufficient to cause me to take even a few hours to provide Mr. Norwood any further enjoyment of his extremely poor review of my book. However, since I received a request for my response from a Mormon who has never acted in the way Norwood has, and since I had a few hours between major projects (including a book project), I decided to briefly touch on the points that I had intended to spend time on much earlier. Hopefully, with the advent of the World Wide Web and our own home page, this information will be useful to many others.

The most daunting task facing me is the sheer volume of errors of understanding, logic and reason that are packed into the few pages of Mr. Norwood’s review. He attempts to cover so many items that his errors on each make a coherent response somewhat difficult to organize. While frequently claiming that I have misunderstood Mormon theology, it is he who demonstrates a tremendously surface-level familiarity with my own theological beliefs (exacerbated by his refusal to contact me and hence obtain other books I had written that would have cleared up many of his misunderstandings). Hence, it is next to impossible to document all the problems and respond to them each fully, though I am also aware that if I skip over the less important ones, Mr. Norwood will then say I am admitting he was right, at least on those issues. As the saying goes, one can’t win.

On page 322, while still addressing the issue of the Bible, Mr. Norwood attempts to refute the doctrine of sola scriptura and the sole authority of the Bible by reference to the authors of Scripture who did not abide by sola scriptura. Since the doctrine does not speak to the time periods in which Scripture was being written, his objection is rather quaint. All through the article Mr. Norwood attempts to bring in citations from historical or scholarly sources, but only rarely does he manage to do so in context. For example, he cites Ignatius of Antioch (Letter to the Philadelphians 8:2) as if Ignatius’ words were in the least bit relevant to my chapter on the authority of Scripture and a biblical epistemology. Unfortunately, while the citation looks nice, it has no relevance to what I said in my book.

Next Mr. Norwood goes to Hans K€ng for a citation against the Protestant concept of the sufficiency of Scripture. We surely shouldn’t be too surprised that a Roman Catholic would deny the Protestant doctrine, of course, but Norwood concludes with the citation, “the New Testament Scriptures nowhere claim to have fallen directly from heaven; rather they often quite unself-consciously stress their human origin.” Interestingly Norwood agrees with the statement. Peter had a different understanding:

(2 Pet 1:20-21 NIV) Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. [21] For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Norwood then attempts to connect a statement from patristic scholar Robert Grant, giving Irenaeus’ position on the doctrine of God, with his citations from K€ng. Mixing contexts badly, Norwood demonstrates that a patristic scholar he is not. This is followed, as if Norwood is seeking to get as wide a variety of quotes as possible, with a citation from James Charlesworth in which he says God continued speaking after the canonical books were written. Having collected a Roman Catholic, an irrelevant patristic citation, and the ruminations of Charlesworth, we are, I can only suppose, to abandon the sufficiency of Scripture and the doctrine of sola scriptura. What is more, Norwood writes,

Thus, it is hoped that Mr. White is not under the illusion that his assumptions about the inadequacies of prayer, the impotency of God to communicate with man in extrabiblical ways, or the dismissal of all spiritual experiences had by Mormons and others as nothing more than mere “feelings” void of any influence by the Spirit are by any means the consensus of all Christian believers or thinkers.

This is a classic example of straw-man argumentation. I never indicated prayer is inadequate: I said prayer is not the God ordained means of coming to know His truth: His word is that means. I never said God is impotent to communicate with man in any way He wishes: I simply said God was powerful enough to “get it right” the first time in the Scriptures, and He has indicated He does not need to add to what He revealed in Christ. I did not dismiss all spiritual experiences, but insisted that all spiritual experiences must be subject to the God-breathed Scriptures. Mr. Norwood then sounded like a Catholic Answers staffer in presenting the classic argument against sola scriptura:

What Mr. White fails to grasp is the danger inherent in trying to settle all disputes about truth-claims by going to the Bible alone for the answer. If the Bible were perfectly unamibiguous, there would not be numerous Protestant denominations in existence—all different in one way or another, yet all claiming a system of belief derived solely from the Bible.

I refer the reader to my paper, “Catholic Answers: Myth or Reality?” for a full discussion of this very claim, so commonly made by Roman apologists. For now I simply repeat a post I wrote in response to the use of this argument by Roman Catholic apologist James Akin:    
 
   On one point I certainly agree with Mr. Akin: Catholic apologist
   often DO use this argument. But is it a valid argument? Let’s examine
   it. First, and very briefly, it seems to me to be an inconsistent
   argument;  that is, it refutes the position of the one using it. It
   presupposes the idea that if (in the case of Protestantism) the
   Scriptures are meant to be the sole infallible rule of faith for the
   Church, then it must follow that the Scriptures will produce an
   external, visible unity of doctrine on all fronts. As Patrick Madrid
   put it, Presbyterians and Baptists would not be in disagreement about
   infant baptism if the Bible were able to function as the sole rule
   of faith for the Church. I say this is an inconsistent argument
   because the solution offered to us by Rome–namely, the teaching
   Magisterium of the Roman Church, replete with oral tradition and papal
   infallibility–has not brought about the desired unity amongst Roman
   Catholics. I have personally spoken with and corresponded with Roman
   Catholics, individuals actively involved in their parishes, regular
   attendees at Mass, etc., who have held to a WIDE range of beliefs on
   a WIDE range of topics. One need only read the pages of “This Rock”
   magazine to know that you have conflicts with traditionalists over
   every conceivable topic, from the Latin Mass to modernism in Rome.
   I’ve been witness to debates between Catholics on canon laws and
   excommunications and Father Feeney and other items that rival any
   debates I’ve seen amongst Protestants. And I haven’t even gotten
   to the liberals in the Roman fold!  Obviously I don’t need to do
   that, as the point is made. If sola scriptura is disproven by the
   resultant disagreements amongst people outside of Rome, then
   Roman claims regarding the Magisterium are equally disproven by the
   very same argument.

   But my main reason for addressing the common argument made by Roman
   apologists is that it reveals something important about Rome’s vie
   w of man himself. Dr. Cornelius Van Til often commented on the errors
   of Rome regarding their view of man, and how these errors impacted
   every aspect of their theology, and he was quite right. We see an
   illustration right here. Rome’s semi-Pelagianism (I am talking to
   a Roman Catholic right now in another venue who makes Pelagius look
   like a raving Calvinist) leads her to overlook what seems to me to be
   a very fundamental issue. Let me give you an illustration:  Let’s say
   James Akin writes the PERFECT textbook on logic. It is completely
   perspicuous: it is fully illustrated, completely consistent, and it
   provides answers to all the tough questions in plain, understandable
   terminology. It covers all the bases. Now, would it follow, then,
   that every person who consulted this textbook would agree with every
   other person who consulted this textbook on matters of logic?  Well,
   of course not. Some folks might just read one chapter, and not the
   rest. Others might read too quickly, and not really listen to Mr.
   Akin’s fine explanations. Others might have read other
   less-well-written textbooks, and they might import their
   understandings into Mr. Akin’s words, resulting in misunderstandings.
   Most often, people might just lack the mental capacity to follow all
   the arguments, no matter how well they are expressed, and end up
   clueless about the entire subject, despite having read the entire work.
   Now the question I have to ask is this: is there something wrong with
   Mr. Akin’s textbook if it does not produce complete unanimity on
   questions logical?  Is the problem in the textbook or in the people
   using the textbook?  In the real world it is often a combination of
   both: a lack of clarity on the part of the textbook and a problem in
   understanding on the part of the reader. But if the perfect textbook
   existed, would it result in absolute unanimity of opinion?  No,
   because any textbook must be read, interpreted, and understood. Let’s
   say the Bible is perspicuous, in the sense that Westminster said,
   that is, that “those things which are necessary to be known, believed
   and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some
   place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the
   unlearned, in a due use of ordinary means, may attain to a sufficient
   understanding of them.”  Does it follow, then, that there must be a
   unanimity of opinion on, say, infant baptism?  Does the above even say
   that there will be a unanimity of opinion on the very items that “are
   necessary to be known, believed and observed for salvation”?  No,
   obviously, it does not. And why?  Because people, sinful people,
   people with agendas, people who want to find something in the Bible
   that isn’t really there, people approach Scripture, and no matter how
   perfect Scripture is, people remain people Now, Roman apologists may
   well say, “See, you’ve proven our point!  You need an infallible
   interpreter to tell you what the Bible says because you are a sinful
   person, and hence you need a sinless, perfect guide to tell you what
   to believe!”  Aside from the fact that such a concept itself is
   absent from Scripture, and is in fact countermanded by Scripture (did
   not the Lord Jesus hold men accountable for what GOD said to THEM in
   SCRIPTURE?), we need to observe that Rome is not solving the problem
   of fallible people. Once Rome “speaks” the fallible person must still
   interpret the supposed infallible interpretation. The element of error
   remains, no matter how much Rome might wish to think it has been
   removed. Indeed, beyond the problem of interpreting the infallible
   interpreter, you still have the fallible decision of following
   Rome’s absolute authority rather than, say, Brooklyn’s, or Salt
   Lake’s, or Mecca’s, or whoever’s. That remains a fallible decision,
   and hence the longing for that “infallible fuzzy” that comes from
   turning your responsibilities over to an “infallible guide” remains
   as unfulfilled as ever. Finally, the argument put forth (plainly
   seen in the arguments used by Karl Keating in Catholicism and
   Fundamentalism
) is even more pernicious, in that it attacks the
   sufficiency of Scripture itself. We are seemingly told that the
   Holy Spirit did such a poor job in producing Scripture that while
   the Psalmist thought it was a lamp to his feet and a light to his
   path, he (the Psalmist) was in fact quite deluded, and was treading very
   dangerously. Instead of the glorious words of God spoken of in
   Psalm 119, we are told that such basic truths as the nature of God,
   including the deity of Christ or the personality of the Holy Spirit,
   cannot be derived solely from Scripture, but require external
   witnesses. And why are we told this?  Well, it is alleged that
   arguments can be made against these doctrines on the basis of
   Scripture passages. Of course, one could argue against ANYTHING if
   one is willing to sacrifice context, language, consistency, etc.
   But are we really to believe the Bible is so self-contradictory
   and unclear that we cannot arrive at the truth through a
   whole-hearted effort at honestly examining the biblical evidence?
   That seems to be what those across the Tiber are trying to tell
   us. But it is obvious that just because the Scriptures can be
   misused it does not follow that they are insufficient to lead
   one to the truth. Such is a flawed argument (no matter how often
   it is repeated). The real reason Rome tells us the Bible is
   insufficient is so that we can be convinced to abandon the
   God-given standard of Scripture while embracing Rome’s ultimate
   authority.

But we hasten on. On page 325 we read, “Mr. White is very much against the idea that prayer can be a means toward learning truth.” No, Mr. White is very much against making prayer the primary means of learning truth, and Mr. White is very much against putting prayer in the place of the Scriptures as God’s primary means of learning truth. There is, of course, a vast difference. Mr. Norwood, having misrepresented my position and book yet again, then cites a number of passages on prayer and laments that they “are not cited even once in his book.”

Next we find a citation from LDS author Richard Anderson regarding the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15 (yes, Mr. Norwood was working very hard to find anything relevant to say at this point). Part of Anderson’s quotation says, “Conservatives today search the Bible for answers, but had the apostles done this, they would have required circumcision for the Gentiles, since it is commanded in the Bible.” Unfortunately we see that even Dr. Anderson is unfamiliar with the doctrine of sola scriptura, and what is more, the Apostles did search the Scriptures, and quoted from them in giving their response (Acts 15:15). Norwood closes this section on page 326 with what he says would be my rewrite of the Eighth Article of Faith:

I believe all that God has revealed in my interpretation of the Protestant Bible, I do not believe he is revealing anything at all today, and I do not believe he will ever reveal anything great or important in the future that is not already in my interpretation of the Protestant Bible.

Mr. Norwood did a lot of mind reading in his review, and as with his other attempts, he didn’t do a very good job. Allow me my own rewrite:

I believe all that God has revealed in the God-inspired Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16); I believe that the Scriptures are self-consistent because their author is self-consistent, and hence I believe a full reading of those Scriptures will yield only one consistent teaching and truth; I believe God has spoken with finality in Jesus Christ, and that the old ways of prophets has been eclipsed by the final and full revelation of the Son (Hebrews 1:1-3).

Hopefully the reader can see the large difference between the two presentations.


L. Ara Norwood: Defender of the Book of Mormon

The next section of Mr. Norwood’s review is, seemingly in his mind, the “strongest” section. Almost anything would be stronger than the first section, that is for certain, but here Mr. Norwood feels he is at home, for here he addresses the Book of Mormon. He pulls no punches in saying he feels I am utterly out of my league here. For example, he writes:

I was so appalled at the sophomoric analysis he rendered . . . that I wondered if he had not farmed out the assignment of writing it to someone else . . . and it took the entire book to whole new levels of ineptitude.

One would think that such strong words would be followed with strong arguments and documentation. They are not. I am faulted primarily for not falling all over myself in admiration of the writings of Hugh Nibley, John Sorenson, Stephen Ricks and William Hamblin. Mr. Norwood’s “rebuttal” is tremendously shallow, strained to a tremendous degree, and I feel highly educational.

The first topic addressed has to do with the “testimony” of the Book of Mormon. He misses my entire point with reference to my asking a Mormon, “Would you pray about the Satanic Bible?” The question is obvious in its implications: we do not pray about those things that we know are, by their very nature, untrue and contrary to God’s revelation. This point must be established before anything else can be accomplished, and while Mr. Norwood might be surprised to learn it, I have had more than one LDS person say, “Why, of course I’d pray about it. Why not?”

Mr. Norwood then ignores the fact that I labored hard to present why I believe the Book of Mormon is in error (i.e., it’s opposition to biblical teaching) by asking how I know this; yet, by the next paragraph he gets to his own answer, “Now we get to the heart of the matter; he is of the opinion that the Book of Mormon is opposed to biblical teaching.” Mr. Norwood wastes time getting to this “heart of the matter,” and then wastes time thereafter, engaging in more “mind reading” about what I’d do if it were proven to me that the Bible and the Book of Mormon are consistent. He finally gets around to listing (p. 328) my five reasons for not praying about the Book of Mormon. Interestingly enough, having listed them (they are: 1) The BoM is historically inaccurate, 2) it contains false doctrine, 3) it was given by a false prophet, 4) it has grave textual problems, and 5) is has been edited in thousands of places), he then writes,

Do these “reasons” display enough reason, sound logic, and acuity to justify not following the one formula that would help him ascertain the book’s validity? Let us see. (One would do well to consult the words of Paul to gain an understanding of the limits of the “rational, logical, human reasoning” method when trying to comprehend things of the Spirit; see 1 Corinthians 2:11-14).

I noted in my copy of the article, “Is the BoM’s nature as an alleged historical document a `spiritual thing'”? Surely such topics as false doctrine are spiritual in nature, but the issue of the BoM being historically inaccurate, and the changes in the text of the BoM, are not “spiritual” in nature. You can pray all day long to get a “feeling” that 2 + 2 = 5, and you may well get the feeling, but that won’t change the reality of mathematics. In the same way, you can pray all day long, or all your life, for that matter, in an attempt to get a “feeling” that white Nephites battled dark-skinned Lamanites in this hemisphere and left a written record on golden tablets in a hillside near Joseph Smith’s home, but all the prayer in the world won’t make that a historical reality.

Mr. Norwood seems to smart quite a bit over the statements of Dr. Michael Coe as they first appeared in “Dialogue” back in 1973. He really doesn’t seem to like what Coe had to say, nor does he like the fact that twenty years of research have not changed the truthfulness of his observations from 1973. My citation ended with these words:

The bare facts of the matter are that nothing, absolutely nothing, has ever shown up in any New World excavation which would suggest to the dispassionate observer that the Book of Mormon, as claimed by Joseph Smith, is a historical document relating to the history of the early migrants to our hemisphere.

These words remain true. Let any person pick up the most popular F.A.R.M.S. materials and ask themselves a question: would the argumentation presented herein carry weight with me if I was not already committed to the LDS perspective? The current situation in the world of archaeology clearly indicates the answer, for F.A.R.M.S. has yet to convince the scholarly world—including Christian scholars who believe in the supernatural—that the BoM has anything at all to do with the early history of this hemisphere. The same scholars who will readily admit that the Bible has a great deal to do with the history of Palestine find no reason to believe Joseph Smith’s story. Indeed, the prerequisite of finding in the ruins of Central America anything relevant to Joseph Smith’s story seems to be a pre-commitment to Joseph Smith. And, of course, once you are committed to the prophethood of Joseph Smith, you are reasoning in circles to speak to the issue of his greatest literary work, the BoM.

Mr. Norwood then falls into the common ploy of Hugh Nibley and other Mormon apologists: “Very few, if any, competent scholars today see archaeology as an objective science any more than history is an objective science.” What is this supposed to mean? This is the first step in trying to explain the miserable failure of LDS scholars to find convincing physical evidence of the Nephites and Lamanites. You must “dumb down” the expectations of people so that the weak arguments of LDS apologists will look stronger. So, you state an obvious thing: archaeology is not as objective as, say, chemistry. But then again, who ever said otherwise? This is followed with pure deception on Mr. Norwood’s part. He writes, “To say that absolutely nothing has ever shown up in any New World excavation which might vindicate the Book of Mormon is to make a rather misleading statement.” Neither I, nor Dr. Coe, made such a statement. Dr. Coe said that nothing has turned up that would lead a “dispassionate observer” to believe the BoM AS CLAIMED BY JOSEPH SMITH is an historical record. There is a big difference. First, Mr. Norwood is not a dispassionate observer; he is a desperate defender of Joseph Smith as a prophet. Second, one can well point out that the presentation of the BoM being made by certain F.A.R.M.S. writers today is quite different than that presented by Joseph Smith himself. We will address this in just a moment.

Next we find what is a most common element of F.A.R.M.S. materials: mutual citation. Norwood writes, “To begin with, John Sorenson’s work on the subject certainly gives plausible archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon’s truth claims.” I dispute the very statement, but the point is that F.A.R.M.S. folks like to cite . . . other F.A.R.M.S. folks. It becomes a vicious (and rather small) circle: everybody cites Nibley, who, I am hardly alone in asserting, has never once cared about the contextual accuracy of anything he’s ever cited. But then Sorenson cites Nibley, and Hamblin cites Sorenson, and Peterson and Ricks cite Sorenson and Hamblin and Nibley, and round and round it goes. It sure looks good on paper, but it doesn’t mean a whole lot. It is rather reminiscent of the King James Only advocates who cite each other over and over again: such hardly represents a wide spectrum of the scholarly community.

Next, in an attempt to answer why there is not more support in non-LDS areas for the BoM as a book of history, Norwood says, “After all, how many agnostic or atheistic archaeologists are convinced by evidence that turns up in Middle East excavations which Bible-believing Christians find remarkably confirmatory and faith-promoting.” The error of logic here is astounding. Note how Norwood replaces the historical nature of the BoM with a full-blown belief in Christianity as a result of believing the message of the Bible. If Norwood were to argue correctly, he would have to admit that there is a tremendous amount of testimony to the HISTORICAL NATURE of the Bible, and the fact that the Bible DOES come from the ancient world of Palestine, and that this fact is clearly admitted by all people involved, even by atheists and agnostics. The historical nature of a work is one thing; belief in the religious system presented by that book is another. I can admit the historical nature of many of the Greek works of mythology, but I don’t worship Zeus. In the same way, if there was evidence of the historicity of the BoM, one could say, “Yes, this is a historical document” without saying “and I accept its religious teachings.” The problem for Norwood is, there isn’t any such historical evidence. He is mixing categories, and that badly. Agnostics and atheists have to admit the fact that the Bible has been proven to have come from the context it claims to have come from—their rejection of its teachings does not invalidate the historical data. The BoM can make no such claim, as the context that it provides for itself simply did not exist in Mesoamerica during the time frame claimed by the book itself.

In footnote 22 on page 330, Norwood continues to ply the old excuses for the failure of expedition after expedition into Mesoamerica. We are told that biblical archaeology has been around longer, so we shouldn’t be too surprised that it has more results. Again, it’s not a matter of how much evidence, but of the total lack of any evidence that is the problem. Then Norwood really falls into a problem when he rather glibly asks, “Besides, do the critics expect to see a Nephite roadsign reading, `You are now leaving Zarahemla’?” Well, it sure would be nice! We have similar such items identifying biblical cities, why not the BoM? But what is more, Norwood seems to be avoiding the fact that the view of the BoM most often promoted in F.A.R.M.S. literature is startlingly different than that presented by the early Mormons, and by Joseph Smith himself. In other words, the BoM “as claimed by Joseph Smith” would lead one to believe that one would find such a roadsign. Rather than the extremely limited geography of a John Sorenson, it is obvious the early Mormons believed the BoM story took place all across the United States. Note the words of the Documentary History of the Church, as well as those of Joseph Fielding Smith, regarding the well-known incident of the finding of “Zelph, the White Lamanite.”

On the top of the mound were stones which presented the appearance of three altars having been erected one above the other, according to the ancient order; and the remains of bones were strewn over the surface of the ground. The brethren procured a shovel and a hoe, and removing the earth to the depth of about one foot, discovered the skeleton of a man, almost entire, and between his ribs the stone point of a Lamanitish arrow, which evidently produced his death. Elder Burr Riggs retained the arrow. The contemplation of the scenery around us produced peculiar sensations in our bosoms: and subsequently the visions of the past being opened to my understanding by the Spirit of the Almighty, I discovered that the person whose skeleton was before us was a white Lamanite, a large, thick-set man, and a man of God. His name was Zelph. He was a warrior and chieftain under the great prophet Onandagus, who was known from the Hill Cumorah, or eastern sea to the Rocky mountains. The curse was taken from Zelph, or, at least, in part–one of his thigh bones was broken by a stone flung from a sling, while in battle, years before his death. He was killed in battle by the arrow found among his ribs, during the last great struggle of the Lamanites and Nephites. Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., Doctrines of Salvation, Vol.3, Pg.240 In the Book of Mormon story the Lamanites were constantly crowding the Nephites back towards the north and east. If the battles in which Zelph took part were fought in the country traversed by the Zion’s Camp, then we have every reason to believe from what is written in the Book of Mormon, that the Nephites were forced farther and farther to the north and east until they found themselves in the land of Ripliancum, which both Ether and Mormon declare to us was the land of Ramah or Cumorah, a land of “many waters,” which “by interpretation, is large, or to exceed all.” Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., Doctrines of Salvation, Vol.3, Pg.239

NEPHITE AND JAREDITE WARS IN WESTERN NEW YORK. In the face of this evidence coming from the Prophet Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and David Whitmer, we cannot say that the Nephites and Lamanites did not possess the territory of the United States and that the Hill Cumorah is in Central America. Neither can we say that the great struggle which resulted in the destruction of the Nephites took place in Central America. If Zelph, a righteous man, was fighting under a great prophet-general in the last battles between the Nephites and Lamanites; if that great prophet-general was known from the Rocky Mountains to “the Hill Cumorah or eastern sea,” then some of those battles, and evidently the final battles did take place within the borders of what is now the United States.

If early Mormon leaders could uncover direct physical evidence of the Lamanites and Nephites while out walking, and that with only a shovel and a hoe, why are Mormon archaeologists unable to find Mr. Norwood’s roadsign? This is all the more interesting in light of Mr. Norwood’s own admission on page 331, “Besides, when did the Book of Mormon ever claim to be a viable tool for achaeologists?” Well, the Bible does not make such a claim, though it is such a viable tool, DUE TO ITS HISTORICITY. Why is the BoM not such a viable tool? Well, of course, due to its LACK of historicity.

The bad argumentation continues unabated in the next paragraph (p. 331), where Norwood notes my citation of LDS archaeologists concerning “amateurish and overstated” publications by Mormons on BoM archaeology. He misses the point but takes the opportunity of taking shots at various discredited Christian ministers (producing two more irrelevant footnotes in the process).

Upon citing my assertion that the description of the Nephites and Lamanites provided by Joseph Smith is obviously based upon an Old World paradigm rather than one relevant to the New World, Mr. Norwood retorts, “Is Mr. White trying to say that Nephi and Laman, having come from an `Old World culture,’ would have arrived in Mesoamerica and instantly lost any and all traces of their Old World heritage, and just as instantly adopted their Mesoamerican traditions, mannerisms, and customs in perfect totality?” No, Mr. White is trying to say that the culture of the Book of Mormon—from beginning to end—is vastly different than the culture we now know existed (but Joseph Smith did not) in Mesoamerica and elsewhere during the same time period. Only special pleading allows Mormon apologists to get around this obvious problem. Mr. Norwood assumes the very thing that is disputed: the existence of Nephi, Laman, and their descendants. No, I would not expect such men, had they existed, to have immediately abandoned their culture and customs. I would expect that evidence of their culture and customs, as presented in the BoM, would survive to this day. And that is just where the BoM fails the test.

Upon noting various elements of the material culture of the inhabitants of Mesoamerica during the alleged BoM period that are general knowledge and are yet contrary to the BoM story, Mr. Norwood can only respond with, “How does Mr. White know this? Is he a trained anthropologist? Why does he not back up his claims with references?” No, I am not a trained anthropologist—just as Mr. Norwood is not a trained anthropologist. Dr. Michael Coe is the recognized leader in that field, but Mr. Norwood had no problem dismissing him, I note, hence, it doesn’t seem to matter if one is, or is not, a trained anthropologist. Norwood again engages in the “cite the F.A.R.M.S. guys” syndrome, thinking that just citing his mentors is sufficient to end the issue (it is not). But it is most instructive to note one of Norwood’s citations, as it relates to my radio debate with Dr. Peterson and Dr. Hamblin on KTKK radio in Salt Lake. My opponents brought up the same passage from my book, and confidently asserted that I was just ignorant of the facts, and that the ancient inhabitants of the hemisphere did have swords. Dr. Hamblin, who had recently co-authored a book titled Warfare in the Book of Mormon, gave me a signed copy of the book right there in the studio. It was indeed unfortunate that I had not yet seen the book, as the resulting discussion would have been most interesting.

Hamblin writes an article with Merrill that appears on pages 329 through 351 of the book. The authors struggle mightily to find some parallel in known Mesoamerican culture to the swords described in the BoM. The BoM is mercilessly plain: the book describes Laban’s sword (1 Nephi 4:9) saying, “And I beheld his sword, and I drew it forth from the sheath thereof; and the hilt thereof was of pure gold, and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine, and I saw that the blade thereof was of the most precious steel.” No problem here, for the context is still Old World. But, we read in 2 Nephi 5:14-15 (which moves the context to the New World):

And I, Nephi, did take the sword of Laban, and after the manner of it did make many swords, lest by any means the people who were now called Lamanites should come upon us and destroy us; . . . And I did teach my people to build buildings, and to work in all manner of wood, and of iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores, which were in great abundance.

Now we have steel-bladed, sheathed swords in the New World, according to the BoM. In fact, we have lots of them, made for defense against the Lamanites. Why do I emphasize this? Well, Hamblin said on the air on KTKK that they have found swords in the New World, but he was engaging in the most egregious re-definition of terms in so doing. As anyone can see by reading Warfare in the Book of Mormon, Hamblin’s means of rescuing Joseph Smith is to attempt to draw a parallel between the clearly Old Word sword of Laban, and hence of the Nephites, with the Aztec “macuahuitl” or “macana.” Hamblin describes it:

The “macuahuitl” was constructed from a long staff or large paddle-shaped piece of wood. Sharp obsidian flakes were fixed into the edges of the wooden blade, giving it a deadly cutting edge.

Here Hamblin tries to tell us that what the BoM is really talking about is a war club with sharp rocks embedded in it! He then has to work very hard to explain how such a club could scalp someone “with the point of his sword,” why the BoM refers to the “hilt” of these swords (the macuahuitl doesn’t have a hilt,) how such a war-club can be “drawn” from a “sheath” (!), how such swords could be spoken of as having been made “bright” (Alma 24:12), and what Nephi was talking about when he said he made their swords after the pattern of Laban’s sword. I simply direct the reader to this chapter: there can be no greater evidence of the strained, twisted, and down-right incredible lengths to which people will go to defend a myth. And, not surprisingly, when Mr. Norwood wishes to take a shot at me about my statement about swords, he cites this very discussion.

The same thing happens when I note the lack of horses, so prominent in the BoM, in the material cultures of the day. Mr. Norwood’s response is, “Mr. White is simply ill-informed.” He footnotes Sorenson’s attempt in his book, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, to provide some basis of horses in the ancient New World. Norwood specifically cites pages 295 through 296 of Sorenson’s book. Does Sorenson help me with my being ill-informed? Hardly. In carefully crafted language Sorenson tries to suggest the possibility that maybe some horses did survive, as there might be a place here or there where a horse bone was found that would date to something near the BoM period. He suggests that the topic of the horse being extinct by the BoM period is not completely closed. But, this is followed with the brave mention of a few representations in art of someone riding a deer, as if this might fill in for the “horse” of the BoM. But he recognizes how lame all of this is in light of the simple fact that horses in the BoM were involved in pulling chariots and hence were involved in warfare. Such language as used in the BoM does not allow us to find much solace in one or two horse bones in a questionable dig, or in a picture of someone riding a deer! Sorenson says, “Thus, we simply do not understand what might have been the nature of the `chariot’ mentioned in the Book of Mormon in connection with `horses.'” I may well be ill-informed, as Mr. Norwood says, but I don’t mind being ill-informed about such wild speculations and strained explanations.

We should remember that Mr. Norwood closes this part of his discussion of my “sophomoric” discussion of the BoM with these words: “. . . the foregoing should be adequate to demonstrate that Mr. White’s approach to historical criticism relative to the Book of Mormon is to select issues he knows little or nothing about, to make broad generalizations without backing them up with documentation of any kind, to fail to research the issues in appropriate works, (!) and then to draw wrong conclusions at each and every turn.” It is obvious that for Mr. Norwood, to know something about the topic is to believe that the F.A.R.M.S. writers are infallible; to research appropriate works is not to read Coe or the general archaeological or anthropological spectrum, but to read F.A.R.M.S. books, and to draw right conclusions at every turn is to buy into the twisted reasoning we have already seen above!

But before we finish this section we need to note Norwood’s attempt to get around the embarrassing question of “coins” in the BoM. Once again we find Joseph Smith attempting to make the New World into the Old Word. In Alma chapter 11 we find a description of the Nephite system of coinage. Orson Pratt, an apostle of the LDS Church, described these as “coins” in the chapter heading that remains in the BoM to this day. There is good reason for Pratt’s terminology: anyone who reads the chapter can see what is being referred to. Yet, BoM apologists have worked overtime, as Norwood’s footnote shows, to try to make these “pieces” of gold, silver, etc., anything but coins. And why is this? Because coins are conspicuous by their absence from the material culture of the New World. The inhabitants of Mesoamerica did not use a coinage system, nor did they find gold and silver nearly as precious as Old World cultures (they preferred jade and cocoa beans, two items that are not to be found in the BoM). Hence, since coins are the most lasting elements of a society (I personally have coins dating back to the time of the BoM from the Old World), the fact that we can’t find any of these items in the New World is a telling objection to the historicity of the BoM account. Norwood’s response does nothing more than repeat the wild attempts to get around this embarrassing mistake.

Next Norwood brushes aside the tremendously important issue of Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews, an issue that B.H. Roberts himself thought was worthy of note (we can only assume Norwood is a better expert on the topic than Roberts was). But most significantly Norwood shoots himself in the foot in his concluding remark: “As to the charge that there are parallels between the two books, yes, there are parallels. Yet, the majority of them are insignificant, especially when compared to the unparallels that exist between the two works.” It is wonderful to see that Mr. Norwood recognizes that the existence of some parallels is negated by the existence of what he calls “unparallels.” While I disagree with the application of this true concept to the View of the Hebrews, I have to point out that Norwood has here capsulized the most telling criticism of the entire effort of F.A.R.M.S. to come up with any kind of meaningful defense of the Book of Mormon in a historical setting: the few, strained, “parallels” that they have produced are more than completely negated by the vast mountain of “unparallels” that any person could note upon the most basic examination of the material cultures of ancient Mesoamerica. The fact that Norwood can see this in other instances, but fails to see how it undermines his entire position on the BoM, is quite telling.

Our writer then transitions into dealing with my assertion that the BoM contains false doctrine, focusing upon my assertion that 2 Nephi 25:23 (and Moroni 10:32) contradict the Bible’s teaching of salvation by grace through faith. Norwood asserts that I misunderstand LDS doctrine at this point (p. 335), but in the process demonstrates that he is more than willing to pick and choose who will define his particular view of LDS doctrine (and anyone who thinks that there is just “one” view has not spoken to very many LDS folks of late). Ignoring the fact that I cited official LDS writings to substantiate my point (pp. 142-143, 269-271 of Letters), Mr. Norwood turns not to a General Authoriy of the LDS Church but to a BYU professor to demonstrate that I don’t understand the proper interpretation of 2 Nephi 25:23. He cites Stephen Robinson’s book, Are Mormons Christians? wherein he says, “The sense is that apart from all we can do, it is ultimately by the grace of Christ that we are saved. This meaning is apparent from the fact that none of us actually does all he can do.” Unfortunately, Norwood ignores the fact that in presenting this problem in the teaching of the BoM, I cited directly from the LDS Bible Dictionary (a little more “official” source than a BYU professor)—though Norwood forgets to mention this to his readers. All Norwood does by ignoring the official explanation and citing Robinson is to point out the contradictory positions taken by the “official” leaders and BYU scholars.

More wasted space is to be found in Norwood’s review of my comments on the modalistic teaching of the BoM in Mosiah 15:1-4. First we find another footnote castigating me for not “tend[ing] to [my] own flock” due to the fact that many Christians unknowingly embrace modalistic concepts of the Trinity. I am well aware that this is the case, and even said in the text that this is a common misconception of untaught persons. But this does not excuse Joseph Smith’s insertion of the concept into the BoM. Without providing anything more than a reference note to some commentary sources, Norwood brushes aside the problem and says, “Again, Mr. White demonstrates a talent for jumping to faulty conclusions after feeble analysis.” My analysis was brief, not feeble; feeble is a better term for Norwood’s reply.

The third reason I gave not to pray about the BoM was that it was given by a false prophet. Having already spent many pages (109-117) on this very topic, I simply noted this and said, “I have already provided my reasons for believing this in our previous correspondence. Smith qualified as a false prophet under both of the tests set forth by the Bible, and therefore a book of “scripture” that he would introduce to the world would not come from God” (p. 144). Norwood pretends otherwise by saying, “This third reason is shamefully incomplete. In a mere three sentences, Mr. White dismisses the Book of Mormon because he dismisses Joseph Smith. This is an example of a priori reasoning; White decides in advance that nothing good can come from Joseph Smith, therefore the Book of Mormon, having come through Joseph Smith, cannot be good.” Anyone who reads the book, however, knows that Norwood is doing nothing but blowing smoke and ignoring what was actually said in the book.

Next Norwood again seems to bank upon his readers not reading the book, for anyone who has would wonder how he could be so dishonest in his misrepresentations. Again beginning with ad hominem argumentation (“Once again, Mr. White is feeding us pablum”), he labors diligently to avoid getting the point of my entire discussion of the textual problems in the BoM. I worked hard to represent a number of the viewpoints on the inspiration and translation of the BoM in my discussion in Letters (pp. 144-149). By mixing up elements of this discussion (citing from three different pages through the use of ellipses) and utterly ignoring the citations provided in the text itself from various LDS sources, Norwood provides us with a completely useless response to the discussion. He provides us with four paragraphs of irrelevant verbiage that does not even begin to address what is written in the book. Yet, he has the intestinal fortitude to conclude his obfuscational activities with the line, “I have to wonder how he can treat a subject so carelessly, come off so confidently, and still maintain a degree of intellectual responsibility.” A mirror might help Mr. Norwood out at this point.

The next reason I gave had to do with the changes in the text of the BoM. Mr. Norwood proves to us that he owns a number of “anti-Mormon” books by providing a 20-line footnote citing similar discussions of such changes in a wide variety of books, and then thinks this is sufficient basis to reiterate his previous comment about “the anti-Mormon cookie cutter.” The fact that there are such changes in the text of the BoM makes the discussion of the topic in books dedicated to an examination of the truth claims of Mormonism a foregone conclusion, of course. Any discussion of the BoM that would not mention such editing would be incomplete.

Norwood uses anachronism to avoid the problems presented by the changes in the BoM at 1 Nephi 11:18, 21-22, saying the addition of the phrase “the Son of” in these passages is a mere clarification “so that the reader would realize it is the second person of the Godhead being referred to, and not the first person of the Godhead.” He ignores the fact that I have already pointed out that Mosiah 15 presents an obviously modalistic view of the godhead that would find no problem with the original reading of these passages; Joseph Smith’s theology evolved radically after this time-period, resulting in the edits. Norwood assumes what he has yet to prove, and again completely misses the point of the significance of the change.

Three entire pages are then dedicated to attempting to rescue Joseph Smith from the problem created by the change at Mosiah 21:28 regarding Benjamin and Mosiah. Obviously I struck a nerve, for Norwood labors hard to come up with some kind of meaningful answer for this change. I leave it to the reader to discover if he is successful or not.

With this we come to the end of Norwood’s comments on the BoM materials in Letters to a Mormon Elder. The reader is reminded of the fact that in the letters sent to me after the publication of his review Mr. Norwood has consistently asserted that I am unable to deal with BoM issues, and that I in fact look like a “buffoon” (letter of 10/18/95) when I attempt to do so. Yet, as the preceding pages illustrate, Mr. Norwood has grievously over-estimated his own prowess as a writer and expert on such things. In fact, it is quite obvious to me that Mr. Norwood is trying desperately to act and look like one of the “big boys,” when in point of fact I have encountered FAR more substantive responses from other LDS who make none of the pretentious claims made by Mr. Norwood. Perhaps he should work a bit more on his materials before he starts calling people “buffoons.”


Norwood on the Gospel

The final section of the review addresses the gospel and the Reformed understanding presented throughout the final chapters of Letters to a Mormon Elder.

As the first section of this response noted, Mr. Norwood did not avail himself of the opportunity of speaking with me prior to the writing of his review of my book. Had he done so, I could have rescued him from many of the problems that plague his review. At the very least I could have sent him copies of my others books, available at the time he wrote his review. Had he had these works, most of the material found in the final section of his review would have either not appeared or it would have taken a very different form. Two of my books, God’s Sovereign Grace and Drawn by the Father, would have been most useful to Mr. Norwood at this point in explaining and defending the Reformed position on the gospel of God’s grace in Jesus Christ.

In point of fact there is little reason to spend much time on Mr. Norwood’s comments here. He has no idea what the Reformed position is; he misrepresents it at every turn; and he showed no interest in really finding out what I believe about these things, as seen in his not referencing, or even obtaining, my books on this very subject. Hence, the vast majority of the criticisms he raises are either irrelevant to the topic, or have been fully answered in my other works (or at times in Letters itself!). Mr. Norwood asks a number of questions in this section, all of which are answered fully in my other works on the topic! While I demonstrated a wide reading of LDS works and cited from a broad spectrum of sources, Mr. Norwood shows no interest in such things, and as a result provides us with little of material substance in the last few pages of his review. [We are at least thankful that Norwood’s comments are a cut above the single worst recent LDS attempt in this area, that being Richard Hopkins’ Biblical Mormonism.] While it would be “easy” to point out error after error and misrepresentation after misrepresentation in this section, we will allow the reader to compare Mr. Norwood’s words with the materials presented in Letters and other works such as Justification by Faith, Drawn by the Father, and God’s Sovereign Grace.

Finally, one could spend (waste?) a great deal of time noting the dozens of snide remarks, insults, and generally childish comments sprinkled throughout Norwood’s review. At times one has to wonder how such things made it past the editors, but then again, this is a F.A.R.M.S. production, and that is the same group that has allowed its very leaders to engage in the very same kind of activity (the famous “Metcalfe is Butthead” incident comes to mind). Hence, in reality, Norwood’s attitude is “par for the course” for F.A.R.M.S., not something unusual. He is merely mimicking the actions of those he is attempting to impress, nothing more.

Around the same time the F.A.R.M.S. review appeared a horrendously inaccurate article appeared in the Roman Catholic magazine “This Rock” titled “The White Man’s Burden.” This article pretended to review a debate between myself and the article’s author, Patrick Madrid. There are many similarities in the attitude and tone of the works of Madrid and Norwood, but there is one major similarity that is most heartening. Anyone who either attended, or listens to the tapes of, the debate between myself and Madrid will find his article unbelievable, and will be forced to wonder why the author had to go to such great lengths to twist the truth. And in the same way, anyone who reads Letters to a Mormon Elder and then reads Mr. Norwood’s review will have to wonder why the leading LDS apologetics organization could not find something more substantive to put in the thirty-six pages dedicated to the book. There might just be a good reason for that . . . .

The Strange Saga of the BYU Correspondence (aka, Nastigrams ‘R Us) – Vintage

If I hadn’t received these notes myself, I’d question their validity.  But, since these very same notes have been posted on the SHIELDS web page (http://shields-research.org/Critics/A-O_01.html), you can verify for yourself that these are indeed the writings of leading LDS scholars Daniel Peterson and Louis Midgely.

Here’s the background:  My son and I spent four hours on KTKK radio in Salt Lake City on the Sunday night of General Conference on April 5th, 1998.  From 5PM to 7PM Van Hale hosted his program, Religion on the Line, and then Richard Hopkins came on and we continued as guests until 9PM, taking calls all the way through.  It was a profitable time.  Toward the end of Van Hale’s show, a caller, who identified himself only as “Bill,” called in and we began talking about Deuteronomy 32:8.  It was a rather technical discussion, and was rather rushed due to time.

Upon returning home, I received the first in a series of posts from Dr. William Hamblin of Brigham Young University, a participating member of FARMS, an author, and, as he informed me, the “Bill” who called in at the end of the radio show.  As the resulting correspondence with Dr. Hamblin did not, originally, take on the strange, harsh tone of what follows, I have included it in a separate page (click here to view that correspondence).   But I very quickly discovered that if you write to a BYU professor, you are writing not only to all interested BYU professors, but really to the entire world, for what you write will end up on the SHIELDS web page.  I’m thankful for the opportunity to post there and help spread God’s truth, but the resulting e-mail messages have been most interesting—and enlightening.

Below you will find the messages of two BYU professors, Dr. Daniel C. Peterson, and Dr. Louis Midgley.  Their attentions were not solicited by me.  They began writing to me as a result of Dr. Hamblin passing around my response to him.  Eventually, as you will see, I stopped even replying to them….which has not, to this date, stopped them from sending me their nastigrams.  Most of these messages arrived while I was ministering on Long Island, NY, and preparing for, or engaging in, a debate with Fr. Mitchell Pacwa on the Papacy (click here for information on that debate). Amazingly, while they are intent upon accusing me of angry words, insults, and the like, anyone reading their notes can see who is doing what.   I am more than happy to allow the reader to judge the motivations, and the words, of both sides.

The first message came from Louis Midgley:

Date: Tue, 14 Apr 1998 00:17:06 -0600
From: “Louis C. Midgley” <midgleyl@burgoyne.com>
To: orthopodeo@aomin.org
Subject: THE QUALITY OF ANTI-MORMON LITERATURE

Dear Jim:

I have been observing and enjoying the exchange you have been having
with Bill Hamblin. And since, in an essay I am about to publish on
anti-Mormonism, I will be quoting (with approval I should add) language
found on page 17 of your IS THE MORMON MY BROTHER? in which you grant
that Latter-day Saints have “have little difficulty demonstrating
inconsistencies and half-truths” in anti-Mormon literature. There are
something like twenty or more lines on that page in which you set the
rhetorical stage for your book, which will, you imply, not be guilty of
the kinds of problems you attribute to those “many who would provide the
strongest denunciations of LDS theology and practice” but who fail to
take seriously what Latter-day Saints write in defense of the Church of
Jesus Christ.

Given the language found on page 17 of your book, I wonder if you
consider any anti-Mormon literature to be of a quality similar to or
approaching your own. And by that I mean is there any other anti-Mormon
literature, other than your own, of course, in which, from your
perspective, the authors have mastered and evaluated the arguments of
those you label “Mormon apologists” or “modern LDS apologists and
scholars”? And if so, which authors could you list as having more or
less been willing to take seriously what Latter-day Saints have been
saying in response to anti-Mormonism?

I trust that you will not be offended but perhaps please to learn that I
take your comments of page 17 or your recent book as an effort on your
part to indicate you (and your book) belong in a category apart from the
run-of-the-mill anti-Mormon book or pamphlet. And your observations, at
least from my perspective, seem to have been intended to indicate that
the reader of your book could expect to find one who has paid the price
and who is therefore both willing but also anxious to have a serious
conversation with Latter-day scholars, where other anti-Mormons have not
done what is necessary to engage in such a conversation.

I am anxious to know if there is an anti-Mormon literature that comes up
to your standards. Would you recommend, as companions to your own work,
say the writings of Walter Martin? If not, who might be in your league?
Or who might come close to your standard? Or should I read what you have
written on page 17 of your book as an attempt to distinguish your
writings in crucial ways from all previous anti-Mormon literature? If
not, then I would assume that you will be anxious to indicate who among
the current stable of anti-Mormons is not guilty of the complaints you
direct against your anti-Mormon associates in your recent book.

I thank you in advance for your efforts to address openly and honestly
the questions I have raised.

Grace and peace,

Louis Midgley


At this time, I was not aware of the SHIELDS page, nor a little inter-BYU list called “skinny-l,” so I wondered how Midgley got hold of the Hamblin correspondence.   I replied:

>I have been observing and enjoying the exchange you have been having
>with Bill Hamblin.

May I ask how you have done this? I’m getting notes from people all over the place, so I assume they are being posted publicly. Where might this be?

>And since, in an essay I am about to publish on
>anti-Mormonism, I will be quoting (with approval I should add) language
>found on page 17 of your IS THE MORMON MY BROTHER? in which you grant
>that Latter-day Saints have “have little difficulty demonstrating
>inconsistencies and half-truths” in anti-Mormon literature. There are
>something like twenty or more lines on that page in which you set the
>rhetorical stage for your book, which will, you imply, not be guilty of
>the kinds of problems you attribute to those “many who would provide the
>strongest denunciations of LDS theology and practice” but who fail to
>take seriously what Latter-day Saints write in defense of the Church of
>Jesus Christ.

Actually, I do hope you do not hack up the quotation when you publish your article. This is what I have with me on my computer system (I am far from home at the moment, and don’t even have a copy of that book with me):

There are many others, however, who have no doubts whatsoever about the LDS faith in general, and Mormons in particular. “It’s a devil-inspired cult” they say, “and that’s all there is to it.” For many, Mormons are simply polygamous cultists, out to destroy the souls of anyone unwary enough to be caught in their clutches. Yet many who would provide the strongest denunciations of LDS theology and practice are the very ones who have done the least work in seriously studying LDS writings, and interacting with LDS viewpoints. Therefore, a large body of literature exists that is based not so much on fair, even-handed study of primary source documentation, but upon a very large dose of emotion and bias. Such literature normally emphasizes the sensational, seeking to arouse the emotions of the reader against the LDS faith. Modern LDS apologists and scholars like to focus upon such literature, often treating it as if it is the “norm” for all Christians, and have little difficulty demonstrating inconsistencies and half-truths, thereby dismissing all efforts at refuting LDS claims and evangelizing the LDS people. But for those who find in Mormonism the very embodiment of evil itself, there is little reason to even ask the question, “Is Mormonism Christian?” And there is even less reason to spend any time at all fairly evaluating the arguments of LDS scholars on the topic.

If *that* is what you are citing, what *I* intended, and the way you are using it, seem to be at odds. The sentence you cite in its original context states, “Modern LDS apologists and scholars like to focus upon such literature, often treating it as if it is the “norm” for all Christians, and have little difficulty demonstrating inconsistencies and half-truths, thereby dismissing all efforts at refuting LDS claims and evangelizing the LDS people.” That is more of a criticism of Peterson and Ricks for _Offenders for a Word_ and other FARMS folks for their “reviews” in RBBoM than it is anything else.

>Given the language found on page 17 of your book, I wonder if you
>consider any anti-Mormon literature to be of a quality similar to or
>approaching your own.

Of course I do. I was referring primarily to non-specialized books and writers, not to those who focus on the field. You can look at the endnotes and if I cite the writer favorably, take your cue from that. I would include the Tanners, Bill McKeever, Wes Walters, etc., as excellent writers on the subject. And, I have publically criticized elements of Ed Decker’s work, and William Schnoebelen (we include articles on our web page on the subject as well).

>And by that I mean is there any other anti-Mormon
>literature, other than your own, of course, in which, from your
>perspective, the authors have mastered and evaluated the arguments of
>those you label “Mormon apologists” or “modern LDS apologists and
>scholars”? And if so, which authors could you list as having more or
>less been willing to take seriously what Latter-day Saints have been
>saying in response to anti-Mormonism?
>
>I trust that you will not be offended but perhaps please to learn that I
>take your comments of page 17 or your recent book as an effort on your
>part to indicate you (and your book) belong in a category apart from the
>run-of-the-mill anti-Mormon book or pamphlet.

I don’t know what a “run-of-the-mill anti-Mormon book” is, and I reject the label “anti-Mormon” to begin with. If you will identify yourself as an anti-Baptist, I’ll let you call me an anti-Mormon. If not, please refrain from doing so.

James>>>


Well, that must have been my first tactical mistake….I mentioned Dan Peterson.   It wasn’t long till this arrived:

 

From: Daniel Peterson <dcp6@email.byu.edu>
Subject: Newspeak
To: orthopodeo@aomin.org
Cc: Skinny-L <SKINNY-L@LISTS.TELEPORT.COM>
Reply-to: Daniel_Peterson@byu.edu
Organization: BYU

Dear Mr. White:

Prof. Midgley shared with me a copy of your e-mail to him. I shall
offer just a few observations:

a) I have never ever, ever, suggested, let alone explicitly said, that
Decker and Ankerberg and Weldon and people like that represent “the
‘norm’ for all Christians.” How could I have done so? As you surely
should have noticed by now, I deny that evangelical Protestantism is
“the ‘norm’ for all Christians.” So I am scarcely likely to grant that
status to the tiny but noisy faction of evangelical anti-Mormons. While
I am at it, though, I have never ever said that the Ankerbergs and the
Weldons and the Schnoebelens and the Deckers were representative, even,
of all critics of the Church of Jesus Christ. Please, if you are going
to read me, read me more carefully. And less inventively.

b) You criticize me and others at FARMS for allegedly concentrating on
the more zany anti-Mormons, while apparently neglecting such reputedly
respectable folk as the Tanners, Bill McKeever, and Wesley Walters. But,
of course, we have critiqued them, too, as you should be aware. (I
understand that we have not dealt with them to your satisfaction, as is,
I suppose, signaled by your use of quotation marks to refer generally to
our “reviews.” But that does not alter the fact that we have responded
to them, as well as to your . . . “books.”)

c) There is absolutely no reason for Dr. Midgley or any Latter-day
Saint I am aware of to describe himself as an “anti-Baptist.” Not a
single one of us makes a living attacking other religions, in any
medium. We don’t have professional disdainers of Baptists, Buddhists,
Muslims, Shintoists, or anybody else. “Anti-Mormons,” however, are
legion, and the term is entirely appropriate to describe them. If,
though, they will find other jobs and give up their radio shows,
television programs, tabloid newspapers, pamphlet presses, lecture
series, book contracts, picket signs, and web sites assaulting my faith,
I will happily, as a quid pro quo, surrender the term “anti-Mormon.”
They can go on preaching their own faith to their hearts’ content, as we
do.

Daniel Peterson


Meanwhile, Louis Midgely was busy as well:

Date: Thu, 16 Apr 1998 01:04:09 -0600
From: “Louis C. Midgley” <midgleyl@burgoyne.com>
Organization: TE ARIKI.
X-Mailer: Mozilla 4.04 [en] (Win95; I)
To: James White <orthopodeo@aomin.org>
CC: skinny <skinny-l@lists.teleport.com>
Subject: “ALL OF BYU” AND OTHER ODD THINGS

Dear Brother Jim:

I have read all of IS THE MORMON MY BROTHER? But before I would
venture more than a preliminary opinion about it, I would have to read
it several more times. But, I must admit, even at the risk of offending
you, it bores me. For one thing, you seem to assume that the JD is
official Mormon doctrine. And you want to make Latter-day Saints
responsible for every opinion of anyone whose words you would like to
use against the Church of Jesus Christ. That is simply not fair. And you
should know it. Are you bound by every statement of every Protestant
preacher? Or every Baptist pastor? Or everyone who happens to teach in a
Bible school, or seminary? Of course, the answer is no. But if I played
your game, I would sort through whatever I could find to locate
something that I would declare you are bound to defend or that is part
of your faith, whether you know it or not. Now I suppose you would
respond to such a silly game by saying that you are bound only by the
Bible. But even there we have different interpretations. You may or may
not think that the Bible sort of interprets itself, with a little help
from the creeds, or you may have some other notion about biblical
interpretation. But you must have some sense that yours is but one of
many possible interpretations of the Bible. But, the fact is I am not
the least interested in your interpretation of the Bible, so please do
not inflict any of that on me, other than try to deal with the problems
you got yourself into with Professor Hamblin. I am not interested in
your interpretation of the Bible because I have my own. And I think that
mine is superior precisely because I do not try to make the Bible fit
the creeds. Nor am I especially interested in trying to make our
scriptures fit some notion held by some Latter-day Saint. The reason is
that I have some notion of what constitutes the canon. And I can sense
when a prophetic charism is present, as can Latter-day Saints most of
the time.

When is your book on the trinity coming out. I phoned Bethany and
whoever answered had no idea that you had a book coming out. They ask
around and looked at their literature and found nothing. Is this book,
which I cannot wait to read, forthcoming this year?

Grace and peace,

lcm


First, my reply to Dr. Peterson:

>Prof. Midgley shared with me a copy of your e-mail to him. I shall offer just a few >observations:

Shall I assume that anything, sent to anyone, at BYU, is sent to ALL BYU staff? 🙂 Given recent e-mail adventures, I think so.

  • >a) I have never ever, ever, suggested, let alone explicitly said, that
  • >Decker and Ankerberg and Weldon and people like that represent “the
  • >’norm’ for all Christians.” How could I have done so? As you surely
  • >should have noticed by now, I deny that evangelical Protestantism is
  • >”the ‘norm’ for all Christians.” So I am scarcely likely to grant that
  • >status to the tiny but noisy faction of evangelical anti-Mormons. While
  • >I am at it, though, I have never ever said that the Ankerbergs and the
  • >Weldons and the Schnoebelens and the Deckers were representative, even,
  • >of all critics of the Church of Jesus Christ. Please, if you are going
  • >to read me, read me more carefully. And less inventively.
  • Since we are talking about *my* sentence, then *my* use is in question—and what *I* meant is defined by the sentence, Dr. Peterson: I spoke of Christians in that sentence as follows:

    Modern LDS apologists and scholars like to focus upon such literature, often treating it as if it is the “norm” for all Christians, and have little difficulty demonstrating inconsistencies and half-truths, thereby dismissing all efforts at refuting LDS claims and evangelizing the LDS people.

    I believe Christians will, if they are serious about their faith and about truth, engage in “refuting LDS claims and evangelizing the LDS people.” That obviously isn’t how you use the word—indeed, I have criticized the redefinition of the term in _Offenders_ as rendering the term utterly meaningless. And hence, as I used the term, I was referring to books such as your own, and works such as that by Richard Hopkins, that are guilty of lumping all evangelical works into a single pile, not discerning the important differences in approach, background, and belief, that they represent.

    As to a tiny group of “noisy” evangelical “anti-Mormons,” I repeat what I said to Professor Midgely: if you will start calling yourself an anti-Baptist, I’ll let you call me an anti-Mormon. If not, I’d suggest honesty would require you to discontinue the use of the term.

  • >b) You criticize me and others at FARMS for allegedly concentrating on
  • >the more zany anti-Mormons, while apparently neglecting such reputedly
  • >respectable folk as the Tanners, Bill McKeever, and Wesley Walters.
  • Really? Where did I do that? Midgely asked me for some folks whose writings I respect, and I listed a few. Please cite the specific place in my post where I said the above. And as one person put it, please try to read my writings a little more closely, and a little less inventively. 🙂 What I wrote was, “That is more of a criticism of Peterson and Ricks for _Offenders for a Word_ and other FARMS folks for their “reviews” in RBBoM than it is anything else.” I hadn’t even gotten to mentioning the Tanners or others at this point, so how you managed to invert my statement and so completely miss the context, I really don’t know.

  • > But,
  • >of course, we have critiqued them, too, as you should be aware. (I
  • >understand that we have not dealt with them to your satisfaction, as is,
  • >I suppose, signaled by your use of quotation marks to refer generally to
  • >our “reviews.” But that does not alter the fact that we have responded
  • >to them, as well as to your . . . “books.”)
  • I used the quotes around “reviews” to indicate that in reality, most of the books you respond to in RBBoM really don’t have much to do with the BoM to begin with, and they are not really reviews, but rebuttals. I have not seen a response to ITMMB from FARMS, and if the fellow from AOL with the screen name LDSApolog is writing the review (as he indicated), I don’t expect it will rise much higher than Norwood’s attempt. At least to my knowledge that fellow hasn’t tried calling (without identifying himself or his purposes) to inquire if his company can print the book in the future.

  • >c) There is absolutely no reason for Dr. Midgley or any Latter-day
  • >Saint I am aware of to describe himself as an “anti-Baptist.” Not a
  • >single one of us makes a living attacking other religions, in any
  • >medium.
  • I see. So disagreement with, and refutation of the claims of, another religious group does not amount to being an “anti.” Very good. Then, since I spend the vast majority of my time presenting the Christian faith in a positive light, and simply provide a refutation of the claims of those groups that pervert the gospel message, I would not, likewise, qualify as an “anti-Mormon.” I’m glad that is worked out, though, Norwood said I came from the “anti-Mormon cookie cutter,” so I guess he might not agree.

  • > We don’t have professional disdainers of Baptists, Buddhists,
  • >Muslims, Shintoists, or anybody else.
  • The long-standing portrayal of the Protestant minister in the endowment ceremony notwithstanding, of course. That would not qualify as “professional.”

  • >”Anti-Mormons,” however, are
  • >legion, and the term is entirely appropriate to describe them. If,
  • >though, they will find other jobs and give up their radio shows,
  • >television programs, tabloid newspapers, pamphlet presses, lecture
  • >series, book contracts, picket signs, and web sites assaulting my faith,
  • >I will happily, as a quid pro quo, surrender the term “anti-Mormon.”
  • >They can go on preaching their own faith to their hearts’ content, as we
  • >do.
  • When you stop telling people that Joseph Smith was told that the Christian faith, embodied in the ancient creeds of the Christian Church, are an “abomination” and those of us who teach those divine truths are in fact “corrupt,” possibly we can talk some more. But it strikes me, sir, that you are operating on a very strong double-standard. I have just as valid a reason to call you an anti-Baptist, or even more, an anti-Christian—-since you deny the very doctrines that *define* the Christian faith. But I do not, simply so as to avoid undue emotional clouding of the issues. So why do you use the term anti-Mormon? When I write on other issues, such as Roman Catholicism, the same issue comes up: they like to use the term “anti-Catholics” but will never call themselves “anti-Protestants.” The hypocrisy is glaring in both cases, is it not?

    Finally, Steve Mayfield told me that you have not read ITMMB. Hence, you have not read my documentation of the teaching of the physical parentage of the Son by the Father in the book. Since you are *specifically* cited from _Offenders_ in the book, as is Dr. Robinson, and refuted by a mountain of statements by the General Authorities, I *do* hope that a *serious* response might someday be forthcoming on that topic.

    James>>>


    Then, my reply to Midgley.  As the reader can see, I was quickly realizing that reasoning with the good Dr. Midgley was not going to go anywhere.  One of the reasons I knew this was that I had corresponded with him, briefly, by snail mail (the USPS) a few years earlier:

    > I have read all of IS THE MORMON MY BROTHER? But before I would
    >venture more than a preliminary opinion about it, I would have to read
    >it several more times. But, I must admit, even at the risk of offending
    >you, it bores me. For one thing, you seem to assume that the JD is
    >official Mormon doctrine. And you want to make Latter-day Saints
    >responsible for every opinion of anyone whose words you would like to
    >use against the Church of Jesus Christ. That is simply not fair.

    Yes, sir, you *do* need to read it again….many times. If you can make a statement like this, you didn’t read it very well at all. I discussed the Journals in the book….how about someone up there responding to what I write, rather than your feelings? I’m truly amazed.

    > When is your book on the trinity coming out. I phoned Bethany and
    >whoever answered had no idea that you had a book coming out. They ask
    >around and looked at their literature and found nothing. Is this book,
    >which I cannot wait to read, forthcoming this year?

    It is scheduled for September/October. I have the cover art sitting right next to me here. I doubt any knowledgeable person at Bethany House would not be familiar with it.

    James>>>


    Dan Peterson replied voluminously, and very quickly:

    Date: Wed, 15 Apr 1998 21:49:58 -0700
    From: Daniel Peterson <dcp6@email.byu.edu>
    Subject: Re: Newspeak
    To: James White <orthopodeo@aomin.org>
    Cc: Skinny-L <SKINNY-L@LISTS.TELEPORT.COM>
    Reply-to: Daniel_Peterson@byu.edu
    Organization: BYU

    Mr. White:

    You write, “Shall I assume that anything, sent to anyone, at BYU, is
    sent to ALL BYU staff? 🙂 Given recent e-mail adventures, I think
    so.”

    As so frequently, you think wrongly.

    You respond, “Since we are talking about *my* sentence, then *my* use is
    in question—and what *I* meant is defined by the sentence, Dr.
    Peterson.”

    But your sentence is about me. And since we are talking about ME, it is
    my thinking that is in question. And what I mean is defined by me, Mr.
    White.

    You continue, “I spoke of Christians in that sentence as follows: Modern
    LDS apologists and scholars like to focus upon such literature, often
    treating it as if it is the “norm” for all Christians,
    and have little difficulty demonstrating inconsistencies and
    half-truths, thereby dismissing all efforts at refuting LDS claims
    and evangelizing the LDS people.”

    You are wrong. I do NOT treat your amusing colleagues as “the ‘norm’
    for all Christians.” The only “norm” for all Christians that I
    recognize is the will and word of God — something I do not confuse with
    the will and word of any anti-Mormon. I do NOT think that, by refuting
    Decker and his cronies, I have refuted all efforts at proving my beliefs
    incorrect. Where do you come up with such stuff?

    You continue, “I believe [conservative Protestant] Christians will, if
    they are serious about their faith and about truth, engage in ‘refuting
    LDS claims and evangelizing
    the LDS people.’ That obviously isn’t how you use the word—indeed, I
    have criticized the redefinition of the term in
    _Offenders_ as rendering the term utterly meaningless.”

    I assume, although you do not say so explicitly, that “the word” to
    which you refer is “Christian.” If so, you clearly misunderstand the
    argument in Offenders for a Word. For, since that book gives an
    explicit meaning and a demonstrable historical semantic range for the
    term “Christian,” it cannot plausibly be argued that the definition of
    the word there — which is not by any reasonable stretch of the
    imagination a redefinition — is, as you assert, “utterly meaningless.”
    Your unfortunate failure to discern meaning in a quite clear definition
    is a curious and interesting phenomenon, but scarcely lethal to it.

    You further write, “And hence, as I used the term, I was referring to
    books such as your own, and works such as that by Richard Hopkins, that
    are guilty of lumping all evangelical works into a single pile, not
    discerning the important differences in approach, background, and
    belief, that they represent.”

    The “differences in approach, background, and belief” in the works I was
    discussing were entirely irrelevant to the issue under consideration. I
    prefer to focus on the question I am dealing with, rather than running
    off on tangents. A consideration of the various kinds of anti-Mormon
    ideologies loose in our cities might well be interesting, but that was
    not the book I was writing.

    “As to a tiny group of ‘noisy’ evangelical ‘anti-Mormons,’ I repeat what
    I said to Professor Midgely: if you will start calling
    yourself an anti-Baptist, I’ll let you call me an anti-Mormon. If not,
    I’d suggest honesty would require you to discontinue the
    use of the term.”

    Yours is a strange use of the term “honesty,” that would require me to
    describe myself as something I am not, or to mischaracterize the works
    of others. Are you meaning to accuse me of writing books against the
    Baptists? Of running an anti-Baptist ministry? Do I have a television
    show in which I denounce fundamentalist Protestantism, or a radio
    program devoted to criticizing the beliefs of the Baptists? Have I ever
    written a pamphlet against the Baptists, or picketed one of their
    meetings? Do I even care one tiny little bit what they are doing or
    what they think, as long as they are not attacking my religious
    beliefs? No. So why should I be considered anti-Baptist any more than
    I am anti-Confucianist? What in the world are you claiming?

    You quote me as follows, “You criticize me and others at FARMS for
    allegedly concentrating on the more zany anti-Mormons, while apparently
    neglecting such reputedly respectable folk as the Tanners, Bill
    McKeever, and Wesley Walters.”

    This statement does not please you, and you respond: “Really? Where did
    I do that? Midgely asked me for some folks whose writings I respect, and
    I listed a few. Please cite the
    specific place in my post where I said the above. And as one person put
    it, please try to read my writings a little more closely,
    and a little less inventively. 🙂 What I wrote was, ‘That is more of a
    criticism of Peterson and Ricks for _Offenders for a
    Word_ and other FARMS folks for their ‘reviews’ in RBBoM than it is
    anything else.’ I hadn’t even gotten to mentioning the
    Tanners or others at this point, so how you managed to invert my
    statement and so completely miss the context, I really don’t
    know.”

    I will explain it. Please try to follow the steps. To refresh your
    memory, this is what you said in your earlier posting:

    Speaking of the “bad” kind of anti-Mormon writing, of which you do not
    approve, you wrote, “Modern LDS apologists and scholars like to focus
    upon such literature, often treating it as if it is
    the ‘norm’ for all Christians. . . . That is . . . a criticism of
    Peterson and Ricks for _Offenders for a Word_ and other FARMS folks for
    their ‘reviews’ in RBBoM.”

    Now, if we “focus” on the bad stuff, we must necessarily do so to the
    exclusion of something else (apparently, to the exclusion of the good
    stuff). That is what “focusing” means. And “to focus on” means very
    much the same thing as “to concentrate on.” Which must mean, in this
    context, that we “concentrate on” the bad stuff, and, necessarily, by
    the very nature of concentrating, avert our attention from the good
    stuff. Moreover, if we claim that the bad stuff is the “norm,” we must
    be excluding the good stuff from being normative. That is what
    “normativity” means.

    How, in a book or a collection of book reviews, does one “focus” or
    “concentrate” on something? By devoting attention to that something,
    and, by that very act, averting attention from — “neglecting,” if you
    will — something else.

    So what is the good stuff that we are failing to concentrate on,
    neglecting to focus on? What is the good stuff that we are treating as
    non-normative, while we mischaracterize the bad stuff as “the norm”?
    You answer that question very helpfully, identifying “the Tanners, Bill
    McKeever, Wes Walters, etc., as excellent writers on the subject.” If
    there is some other body of “good stuff,” in which these people are not
    to be included, kindly tell me what it is.

    So you can see that my reading of your posting was both very close and
    quite non-inventive. Your message very clearly implies that we are
    “concentrating on the more zany anti-Mormons, while . . . neglecting
    such reputedly respectable folk as the Tanners, Bill McKeever, and
    Wesley Walters.”

    You go on to say, “I used the quotes around ‘reviews’ to indicate that
    in reality, most of the books you respond to in RBBoM really don’t have
    much to do with the BoM to begin with, and they are not really reviews,
    but rebuttals.”

    Let me see if I understand this. Since the title of the journal was
    Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, a review published in it of a
    book unrelated to the Book of Mormon would, by reason of its subject
    matter, not really be a book review? By the same reasoning, if a
    Rembrandt turned up, by some chance, in a museum of modern art, would it
    not really be a painting? If, by some computer glitch, a review of a
    book on engineering turned up in the review section of a journal of
    molecular biology, would it thereby cease to be a book review at all?

    I will have to meditate on this new principle.

    By the way, have you not noticed that the Review of Books on the Book of
    Mormon no longer exists under that title? That, in fact, it has been
    the FARMS Review of Books since the beginning of 1996?

    Your distinction between “reviews” and “rebuttals” is a rather arbitrary
    and artificial one. But take it to the Times Literary Supplement or the
    New York Review of Books, and see how far you get with it. I’ll be
    interested to hear how it goes.

    You complain, “I have not seen a response to ITMMB
    from FARMS, and if the fellow from AOL with the screen name LDSApolog is
    writing the review (as he indicated), I don’t expect it will rise much
    higher than Norwood’s attempt.”

    Don’t fret. When we get around to it, we will review your book. And,
    by the way, I don’t know who “LDSApolog” is. And I didn’t expect you to
    like Ara Norwood’s review.

    Next, you trot out your tired old warhorse: “At least to my knowledge
    that fellow hasn’t tried calling (without identifying himself or his
    purposes) to inquire if his company can print the book in the future.”

    This one wasn’t very impressive on its first appearance, and age has not
    improved it.

    You then quote me again: “There is,” I quite rightly pointed out,
    “absolutely no reason for Dr. Midgley or any Latter-day Saint I am aware
    of to describe himself as an ‘anti-Baptist.’ Not a single one of us
    makes a living attacking other religions, in any medium.”

    “I see,” you remark, almost correctly. “So disagreement with, and
    refutation of the claims of, another religious group does not amount to
    being an ‘anti.’ Very good.”

    Well, let’s not feel TOO satisfied. It’s not VERY good, but it’s worth
    a passing grade.

    You are right. Mere disagreement with x does not make you anti-x. I
    disagree with existentialism. But I lose very little sleep over it, and
    only give the subject about sixty seconds’ thought every year or so.
    Thus, it would be ludicrous to describe me as an “anti-existentialist.”
    So, likewise, with literally hundreds of possible positions and
    ideologies. I disagree with — oh, let’s see — Keynesian economics,
    poststructuralism, Sikhism, predeterminism, Freudian psychoanalysis,
    revisionist theories of the Kennedy assassination, and technical
    analysis of the stock market. But since I do not campaign or crusade
    against any of these, it would be very implausible to call me, say, an
    anti-Sikh or an anti-Keynesian.

    You continue, “Then, since I spend the vast majority of my time
    presenting the Christian faith in a positive light, and simply provide a
    refutation of the claims of those groups that [in my opinion] pervert
    the gospel message, I would not, likewise, qualify as an ‘anti-Mormon.'”

    Almost! You almost have it! To the extent that you affirmatively
    present a view, any view, on any subject, you are not “anti-” anything
    else. But to the extent that you oppose something else — this is
    really not very difficult, you know — you are “anti-” that thing.

    “I’m glad that is worked out, though, Norwood said I came from the
    ‘anti-Mormon cookie cutter,’ so I guess he might not agree.”

    Oh, no. I am sure that Mr. Norwood and I agree entirely about your past
    behavior, which has been — at least so far as I have monitored it —
    far more about opposing certain things (e.g. Catholicism and Mormonism)
    than about affirming your own positive beliefs. Quite clearly, you have
    been an anti-Mormon, because you have been against Mormon belief and
    practice. But now that you understand the distinction, perhaps you will
    be able to mend your ways. (I will admit, of course, that, to the
    extent you are merely affirmatively presenting your own beliefs, you are
    of rather little interest to me. You only draw my attention when you
    attack MY beliefs. I am perfectly content to leave you to yours.)

    As I said, “We don’t have professional disdainers of Baptists,
    Buddhists, Muslims, Shintoists, or anybody else.”

    To which you rather irrelevantly reply, “The long-standing portrayal of
    the Protestant minister in the endowment ceremony notwithstanding, of
    course. That would not qualify as ‘professional.'”

    You’re right, of course. It wouldn’t. Unfortunately, for reasons that
    I am sure you know, I will not discuss the ordinances of the temple with
    you. I will simply say that I think you misread the situation there
    even more fundamentally than you misread me. But I will not argue that
    position, and you can dismiss it as you wish.

    Nearing the end of your epistle, you write, “When you stop telling
    people that Joseph Smith was told that the Christian faith, embodied in
    the ancient creeds of the Christian Church, are an ‘abomination’ and
    those of us who teach those divine truths are in fact ‘corrupt,’
    possibly we can talk some more.”

    You misunderstand. I have really very little interest in talking with
    you. If you would leave my beliefs alone, I would gladly leave you to
    your circle of friends and acquaintances in Arizona.

    You misunderstand. I have never told anybody that “the Christian faith
    . . . are an abomination.” Since I am a Christian, I could never say
    any such thing. Nor do I think that the Christian faith, as such, of my
    Lutheran extended family is an abomination. Nor do I think that the
    faith of my Catholic friends is an abomination. I don’t even think that
    YOUR faith is an abomination.

    I do think that the creeds, to the extent that they blind people to the
    truth revealed to prophets ancient and modern, are an abomination.
    Primarily, I think that because God said so, and I am hesitant to
    challenge him on it.

    You misunderstand when you imply that I think you corrupt. You may or
    may not be. I haven’t thought about it. That would be a matter for
    your wife, or perhaps for the legal authorities to look into. Do I
    think your theological beliefs have been corrupted by various
    extra-divine influences? Certainly. And I regret it very much. But do
    not equivocate between that kind of corruption and moral corruption.
    They are quite distinct.

    You write on: “But it strikes me, sir, that you are operating on a very
    strong double-standard.”

    Wrong.

    “I have just as valid a reason to call you an anti-Baptist, or even
    more, an anti-Christian—-since you deny the very doctrines that
    *define* [my particular view of] the Christian faith.”

    Wrong. I also deny the cardinal doctrines of Jainism. But I am not
    anti-Jain. I can’t recall ever having met one. I have never written a
    pamphlet against them, or picketed a Jainist meeting, or denounced them
    on the radio. Surely you can understand this not-overly-subtle concept?

    “But I do not, simply so as to avoid undue emotional clouding of the
    issues.”

    That is very kind of you.

    “So why do you use the term anti-Mormon?”

    Because it is precisely accurate.

    “When I write on other issues, such as Roman Catholicism, the same issue
    comes up: they like to use the term “anti-Catholics” but
    will never call themselves ‘anti-Protestants.'”

    You see? THEY understand.

    “The hypocrisy is glaring in both cases, is it not?”

    No. It is not. The Catholics are precisely right. They are NOT
    anti-Protestant, at least to the extent that they are simply preaching
    their doctrines. And even when they are defending their doctrines
    against your attacks — as opposed to going after your beliefs — they
    are not being anti-Protestant. I understand them quite well, and only
    marvel that you apparently cannot.

    “Finally, Steve Mayfield told me that you have not read ITMMB.”

    Quite correct, although I have skimmed through portions of it.

    “Hence, you have not read my documentation of the teaching
    of the physical parentage of the Son by the Father in the book. Since
    you are *specifically* cited from _Offenders_ in the book, as is Dr.
    Robinson, and refuted by a mountain of statements by the General
    Authorities, I *do* hope that a *serious* response might someday be
    forthcoming on that topic.”

    It might well be. Someday. I have a lot of things to do. One of the
    portions of the book that I have skimmed is that wherein you attempt to
    refute me. As I say, it was a cursory glance. Maybe your arguments
    will appear more solid after a careful reading. As it is, I think you
    rather missed my point. And you certainly did on the question of
    deification. Ah well. I’ll just have to buck up my spirits and live
    with it.

    Daniel Peterson


    The reader will notice the tremendous escalation in the “sarcasm factor” that fills Dr. Peterson’s post.  The arrogance that fills this kind of post is evident in much that is produced by FARMS as well. And, scarcely two hours later, Dr. Midgley fired back:

    Date: Wed, 15 Apr 1998 23:53:01 -0600
    From: “Louis C. Midgley” <midgleyl@burgoyne.com>
    Organization: TE ARIKI.
    X-Mailer: Mozilla 4.04 [en] (Win95; I)
    To: James White <orthopodeo@aomin.org>, skinny <skinny-l@lists.teleport.com>
    Subject: ANTI-MORMONISM

    Dear Brother Jim:

    I did not write to you to pick a fight. And I am not responding to
    your letter now in an effort to do so. I appreciate your response to my
    modest inquiries. What I would like is some additional clarifications.

    But before I get to my additional questions and observation, I must
    point out that I do not intend to strike some deal with you on the use
    of the label “anti-Mormon.” Nor do I think that you can legislate on how
    or whether I use that label. You may, of course, reject that label if
    that is your desire. But from my perspective, it fits you and your work.
    Just look at your recent book. You proclaim that people like me are not
    your brothers. Instead of asking whether the Church of Jesus Christ is
    like a faction of Christians who identify themselves as evangelicals or
    whatever the proper designation happens to be, you personalize the issue
    by asking IS THE MORMON MY BROTHER? The assumption is that you somehow
    get to determine who is or is not authentically Christian. Be that as it
    may, you leave no doubt about the answer to the question the title of
    your book asks. From my perspective we are all children of a common
    Father, though currently we may be more or less alienated in various
    ways from him. But you want to insist that your God–the real God–is
    not my God, hence that I am not your brother. Now, I ask myself, why
    would an otherwise intelligent person want to fashion set forth such a
    stance? The answer must be that you are against or opposed to my faith,
    and my faith so irritates you that it makes us less than the children of
    a common Father.

    Now before getting up in arms over the label “anti-Mormon,” I
    suggest that you consult the entry under “anti” in a dictionary. This
    prefix simply means “against” or “opposed to.” If you are not against or
    opposed to the Church of Jesus Christ, to the faith of Latter-day
    Saints, to the Book of Mormon, to the prophetic truth claims of Joseph
    Smith, then have I entirely misunderstood you. But I am confident that I
    have not misunderstood you. Are you for all of these things? Or are you
    simply disinterested or neutral? It seems to me to be entirely
    reasonable to say that you are against my faith, and hence anti-Mormon.
    Perhaps you could explain exactly why you do not like being known as
    anti-Mormon.

    On the other hand, I have little interest in Baptist things, and
    little knowledge of them. I have never published a word about Baptist
    religiosity. I have not been critical of Baptists. I have not attacked
    their faith. And I certainly do not make my living operating a tax
    exempt public foundation dedicated to attacking the faith of anyone,
    including Ratana, Ringatu, Jews, Roman Catholics, or anyone else for
    that matter.

    Now if, for what ever reason, you do not like being identified as an
    anti-Mormon, what label would you suggest for people like you? I think I
    understand the desire of some to avoid the label anti-Mormon. In what
    are essentially political disputes, where truth is not the issue, and
    where every effort is made to manipulate an audience with slogans, one
    can expect enemies of the Church of Jesus Christ to try to avoid
    negative labels. And, of course, critics of my faith always just love
    the Mormon people, it is just the faith that they detest.

    In my initial letter, I was not, as you suggest, hacking up that
    paragraph oddly entitled “How Can Anyone Really Wonder?” that appears on
    page seventeen of your recent book. I merely tried to quote sufficiently
    from that paragraph so that you would be able to see immediately what
    portion of your book had led me to raise some questions with you. In
    your response, you quote the entire paragraph. In my forthcoming essay I
    will quote virtually this entire paragraph.

    I have been trying to figure out what the language found in this
    paragraph means. What you have now told me is that what you intended to
    say is actually somewhat different from what you actually wrote. Instead
    of addressing the bulk of the paragraph (about twenty lines), you focus
    on what appears to be a sub-text constituting, as you say, “more a
    criticism of Peterson and Ricks…and other FARMS folks for their
    ‘reviews’ in RBBOFM than it is anything else.” I trust that you realize
    that you do not mention any essays published by FARMS. How is the reader
    supposed to figure out what you were getting at? I will grant that what
    you may have intended was a criticism of OFFENDERS FOR A WORD, and the
    various essays responding to anti-Mormon literature published by FARMS.
    If that was really your intent, then you wrote very carelessly. Instead
    of offering substantive criticisms of anything published by FARMS, you
    seem to be saying that Latter-day Saints have had an easy time
    responding to much or most of the literature critical of their faith.
    Hence, I prefer to think that what your language must mean, if it means
    anything, is that Latter-day Saints have been able to respond to much or
    most anti-Mormon literature for exactly the reasons you set forth. Of
    course, you claim that Latter-day Saints see as typical the kind of
    literature to which they have responded. Well, why not? The question is:
    is there any anti-Mormon literature of any substance to which we have
    not responded? If there is such a literature, in addition, of course, to
    your own book, please let us know about it so that we can examine it.

    Your point seems to be, if there is a point, that your book will
    offer a criticism of Mormon things that is superior to the stuff that
    Latter-day Saints have previously been able to deal with rather easily,
    which they take to be the norm among anti-Mormon literature. But you do
    not present either evidence or argument supporting the notion that
    Latter-day Saints brush aside all anti-Mormon literature on the
    assumption that it is all the same. Even a glance at the journal
    Professor Peterson edits will show you that we distinguish between the
    very bizarre stuff and the somewhat less irresponsible stuff. And also
    please notice that you only cite OFFENDERS FOR A WORD, and a recent
    video and never mention a single additional response to any anti-Mormon
    literature by a Latter-day Saint scholar in that note on page seventeen
    of your book. Please explain exactly how the reader to know that for the
    most part your remarks were intended by you to be critical of essays
    published by FARMS? That is, that your point was not really that most or
    much anti-Mormon literature is of such a low quality that Latter-day
    Saints have been able to deal with it easily? I assumed that you cited
    Professor Peterson’s book and the video as evidence of how easy it has
    been for Latter-day Saints to deal with the typical criticisms of their
    faith. If I am wrong about this, how is a reader to tell that your
    having cited OFFENDERS FOR A WORD was a criticism of that book?

    I will grant that you may have intended that paragraph on page
    seventeen to be a criticism of what has been published by FARMS and a
    criticism of OFFENDERS FOR A WORD, but I am at a loss to know how the
    reader is supposed to figure that out. I assumed that you were a more
    thoughtful person and a more careful writer than your explanation
    indicates. Or have I missed something?

    Given what appears on page seventeen of your book, I wondered
    whether you might think that all anti-Mormon literature (or whatever you
    may want to call it), until you came along with your book, has been such
    that Latter-day Saints, if they bothered, could easily deal with it. I
    assumed that you were claiming that, unlike previous anti-Mormons, you
    have paid the price and hence can enter into a real conversation with
    Latter-day Saints, since you have mastered our literature. I am, I must
    admit, somewhat pleased with your clarification. But what you have
    written, since you apparently see a number of other critics of the
    Church of Jesus Christ as worthy colleagues in your endeavors, raises
    some additional questions. For instance, you indicate that you are fond
    of the “Tanners. Bill McKeever, Wes Walters, etc.” And you direct me the
    notes in your book for additional indications of those anti-Mormon
    writers who you think have done at least satisfactory or perhaps even
    commendable work.

    In addition, you indicate that you were “referring primarily to
    non-specialized books and writers” in your seemingly critical comments
    on page seventeen of your book in which you seem quite critical of
    anti-Mormon writers and their literature, but “not on those who focus on
    the field,” whatever that may mean. Please explain what you are getting
    at? I am not sure what field you have in mind. Latter-day Saints? Or is
    the field somehow the countercult world? I wonder whether you have in
    mind countercultists generally–are they the vulnerable ones? Or is it
    those who focus their attacks on the field, meaning on Latter-day
    Saints? I would appreciate a clarification.

    As I have indicated, I do not wish to pick a fight with you–I am
    merely somewhat puzzled by your explanations. Why? One reason is that
    the work of the Tanners, Walters and McKeever has not stood up well to
    careful inspection. You may disagree, but from our perspective the
    Tanners are just modestly better than Ed Decker. Nor is the work of
    Charles Larson and the few others you cite in your notes for your book
    all that impressive. Among those whose work has been shown to be badly
    flawed are a number of those who you have suggested that I should
    identify by glancing at the notes for your book. Please ask yourself if
    it has been any more difficult for Latter-day Saint scholars to identify
    flaws in Charles Larson’s book than the stuff written by Bill
    Schnoebelen, Dean Helland, Ed Decker, Mr. Weldon and Ankerberg, or any
    of the others dealt with in essays published by FARMS?

    In addition, if that paragraph on page seventeen of your book was
    primarily intended as a criticism of Dan Peterson (and others who may
    have published responses to attacks on the Church of Jesus Christ) for
    not confronting and effectively answering those you consider the really
    big names in anti-Mormonism (or whatever you wish to call it), let me
    remind you of the names of those that Peterson dealt with in OFFENDERS
    FOR A WORD. These include Walter Martin, Gordon Lewis, Josh McDowell,
    Robert McKay, Bob Larson, William Irving, Dave Hunt, Dean Helland,
    Gordon Fraser, Bill McKeever, Bob and Gretchen Passantino, John L.
    Smith, James Spencer, Wally Tope, James Walker, Wesley Walters, the
    Tanners, Floyd McElveen, Charles Sackett, Peter Bartley, Dave Breese,
    Thelma Geer and others. Did Peterson miss anyone important, I wonder,
    other than you?

    And if you will glance at the anti-Mormon works you cite, you will
    notice that four or five of the six or seven names you include in your
    notes have been handled rather easily by Latter-day Saints. So I doubt
    that you were trying to say that Latter-day Saints always pick the wrong
    targets among their various critics–that they aim too low. It is
    difficult not to aim low, given what it out there. And, from our point
    of view, we have to deal with all the odd stuff out there, since
    evangelicals, to whom most of this literature is aimed, cannot tell the
    bad stuff from the really, really bad stuff. When you claim that “modern
    LDS apologists and scholars like to focus on such literature [where you
    clearly have identified the work of cranks who can and have been easily
    answered by pointing out, among other things, inconsistencies and
    half-truths and various other problems], often treating it as the norm,
    and have,” as you admit, “little difficulty…dismissing all efforts at
    refuting LDS claims and evangelizing LDS people,” you might be on to
    something important. But notice your equivocation. “Often,” but now
    always, treating “it”–the stuff written by cranks–as the norm. Which
    evangelical critics of the Church of Jesus Christ have not shown to be
    full of inconsistencies, half-truths, logical blunders, and so forth,
    and who seem to us to be driven by anger and resentment? There are some
    evangelical who are responsible, and I suspect that Professor Peterson
    would even publish their work. FARMS and BYU STUDIES has published
    Massimo Introvigne. That may not mean anything to you, since Introvigne
    is a Roman Catholic. If I am wrong about this matter, then please
    identify the responsible evangelical authors and their books so that we
    can begin to give them the needed close attention. I will immediately
    pass your list on to Dan Peterson so that work can begin on those
    authors and their works. We are, as a matter of fact, looking for a
    literature that stands above the rather dismal run-of-the-mill
    anti-Mormon literature that you yourself have criticized on page
    seventeen of your book.

    I ask specifically for your opinion of Walter Martin. You must be
    familiar with the praise this fellow still gets from people in the
    countercult industry. Do you consider him among those that Latter-day
    Saints overlook? Is his MAZE OF MORMONISM or his chapter on the Church
    of Jesus Christ in his KINGDOM OF THE CULTS within the category of
    criticism that you consider superior? Would you cite Martin with
    approval on much of anything? Do you include Martin along with Bill
    McKeever, Charles Larson, Wes Walters, and the Tanners, as outstanding
    examples of critics of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Did McKeever (and
    Kurt Van Gorden) do a good job of updating and revising Martin’s
    opinions on Mormon things in the most recent edition of the KINGDOM OF
    THE CULTS? You seem to like McKeever’s work, what about his work in
    bringing Martin’s criticisms of Mormon things up to date?

    I am looking forward to further clarification on the issues I have
    raised. And I thank you in advance for your response. I assume that you
    will not object if I share this letter with a few other interested
    parties. And I trust that you will not be offended if one or more others
    feels inclined to express their opinions. FYI, Skinny is not extensive,
    nor is it a BYU list, as you assumed. The fellow who operates it lives
    in Portland, Oregon. There are Latter-day Saint scholars (your
    apologists, I suppose) in places other than Provo, Utah.

    Grace and Peace,

    Louis Midgley


    At this point I knew Dr. Midgley was pushing his limits, having corresponded with him before.  I knew the “other shoe would fall” before long.  It only took an hour or so, actually:

    Date: Thu, 16 Apr 1998 00:47:14 -0600
    From: “Louis C. Midgley” <midgleyl@burgoyne.com>
    Organization: TE ARIKI.
    X-Mailer: Mozilla 4.04 [en] (Win95; I)
    To: James White <orthopodeo@aomin.org>
    CC: skinny <skinny-l@lists.teleport.com>
    Subject: GETTING MIDGLEY’S NAME RIGHT

    Dear Brother White:

    Right after I had sent my response to your recent letter, in came
    your response to Professor Peterson, and his reply. I enjoyed reading
    both, except when I noticed your habit of being just a tad bit
    discourteous. I have in mind your unfortunate habit of garbling my name.
    Midgley is not all that difficult. But neither is anti-Mormon, as I
    think both Professor Peterson and I have pointed out.

    Professor Peterson (and others) seem to know you as anti-Mormon and
    anti-Catholic. Without knowing anything about your attacks on Catholics,
    I must say that I feel some sympathy for them. And I can even sense some
    of their frustration when they find themselves being attacked and their
    faith attacked by one who cannot or simply will not see that he is
    anti-Catholic. But others who have given you even less attention that
    Professor Peterson and me may not realize that you have been down in the
    gutter–so to speak–with the strange KJV-only types. Now I wonder if
    you are anti-Ratana (a Maori Christian church). If not, why not? Well,
    let me explain. You know and hence presumably care not a bit about a
    Maori Christian church. You may not have even heard of the Maori. Good.
    I am sure that they are thankful for your neglect. But the point is that
    you are not anti-Ratana precisely because you know nothing about the
    Ratana and hence could not care less. That is exactly the way I feel
    about the Baptist faith or faiths, or about the various evangelicalisms
    that have become popular recently. I smile when I see that some of those
    on the margins of contemporary Protestant evangelicalism claim that
    their ideology is the only authentic, historic, trinitarian, biblical
    Christian faith. I do not mind evangelical believing whatever it is that
    they want to believe, but I find it odd that they claim the right to
    determine whether others can have their own opinions on such matters.

    Now, if you had not guessed, one reason for asking about Walter
    Martin is that he did not exclude Roman Catholics from authentic
    Christianity. You, I assume do. Do you then also exclude Walter Martin
    from authentic, biblical Christianity on the grounds that he made a
    terrible mistake about who are real Christians or what is biblical
    Christianity?

    And then there is your friend, or at least one you feel is
    competent, that is, Bill McKeever, editing and updating an essay on
    Mormon things and including within it the absurd Spalding explanation of
    the Book of Mormon. Well, I assume that McKeever and his associates
    could have removed that bit of nonsense, if they had (1) courage, (2)
    honesty, (3) any understanding of the issues. So much for the good,
    rather than the bad, anti-Mormons.

    Now I must admit that I had determined before I wrote to you that I
    would not pick a fight with you. But your response to Professor Peterson
    has softened my resolve. Please, no more nonsense about not being an
    anti-Mormon or insulting language about others not being able to read
    what you write carefully. I think that if you will look again at that
    paragraph on page seventeen of your recent book, and then examine your
    explanation of what you intended to say, you will see that you have done
    poor job of interpreting your own text. And please do not try to tell me
    that you get to determine what you meant on page seventeen by reference
    to what you now claim were your intentions. It is a mistake to confuse
    intention with meaning.

    Grace and peace,

    Louis Midgley


    My reply to Dr. Peterson was very short, very simple, and was intended to communicate the basic truth that I had no intention of playing school-yard games with him.  I don’t have that kind of time:

    >Ah well. I’ll just have to buck up my spirits and live
    >with it.
    >
    >
    >Daniel Peterson

    I’ve only a few times received a post that took so much time to completely twist every syllable I had written. And the little arrogance meter over on the right hand of my screen is now completely broken. I have no idea how to get it fixed….but I know when not to give credibility to such silliness and spend my time on worthwhile pursuits. You have fully substantiated that subtitle in the CRI Journal article: Farms Out of Control.

    James>>>


    I tried one last time with Midgley, though I ended the note with an indication that I realized that there was nothing more I could do for him:

    > But before I get to my additional questions and observation, I must
    >point out that I do not intend to strike some deal with you on the use
    >of the label “anti-Mormon.” Nor do I think that you can legislate on how
    >or whether I use that label.

    Of course not. It is quite evident that you, and Dr. Peterson, are intent upon using it, whether it is glaringly hypocritical to do so or not. I can’t stop you, but I can point out the blindness you show toward the topic, and many others will benefit from the demonstration. If LDS scholars are unable to see this basic issue and how they are prejudiced beyond logic regarding it, how much easier is it to explain their willingness to embrace the wildest theories creating entire societies in Meso-America?

    >You may, of course, reject that label if
    >that is your desire. But from my perspective, it fits you and your work.

    OK, that’s fine. Then please don’t complain when others say Mormonism is anti-Christian on the very same grounds. I’d appreciate at least some level of consistency there.

    >Just look at your recent book. You proclaim that people like me are not
    >your brothers. Instead of asking whether the Church of Jesus Christ is
    >like a faction of Christians who identify themselves as evangelicals or
    >whatever the proper designation happens to be, you personalize the issue
    >by asking IS THE MORMON MY BROTHER?

    Actually, the book fully explains the issue….I’m more than slightly amazed at how little you seem to have understood it, when so many others have understood it without the slightest problem. The issue is that we worship different gods—-period. The book could not have made the point any more clearly than it did. (BTW, I don’t title the books. That’s done at the publisher).

    >The assumption is that you somehow
    >get to determine who is or is not authentically Christian.

    No, the assumption, seemingly rejected by LDS in general, is that what is means to be a real Christian *can* be answered, and that fully, without reference to Joseph Smith or “latter-day revelation.” If we worship different gods, and Christians have never worshipped *your* god before, then it follows, logically, that Mormonism is as Christian as I am Mormon—and I’m no Mormon.

    >Be that as it
    >may, you leave no doubt about the answer to the question the title of
    >your book asks. From my perspective we are all children of a common
    >Father, though currently we may be more or less alienated in various
    >ways from him. But you want to insist that your God–the real God–is
    >not my God, hence that I am not your brother.

    And I substantiated that insistence rather fully. So far, no one to my knowledge has even attempted to interact in print with the biblical argumentation presented on monotheism.

    >Now, I ask myself, why
    >would an otherwise intelligent person want to fashion set forth such a
    >stance? The answer must be that you are against or opposed to my faith,
    >and my faith so irritates you that it makes us less than the children of
    >a common Father.

    As the book said, idolatry is a dangerous sin. I guess, using your argument, Moses was an “anti-Baalite,” right? I mean, he had people KILLED for believing in Baal! So, by believing in absolute truth, so that one says that denials of that truth are in *error,* I must be “anti-untruth.” OK, I guess that follows, right?

    > Now before getting up in arms over the label “anti-Mormon,” I
    >suggest that you consult the entry under “anti” in a dictionary. This
    >prefix simply means “against” or “opposed to.” If you are not against or
    >opposed to the Church of Jesus Christ, to the faith of Latter-day
    >Saints, to the Book of Mormon, to the prophetic truth claims of Joseph
    >Smith, then have I entirely misunderstood you.

    OK, then you are an anti-Baptist. That’s fine. As I said, as long as you are consistent in identifying yourself that way, that’s OK. It’s just that we need to be consistent. If I’m an anti-Mormon, anti-Catholic, anti-JW, anti-Muslim, anti-Hindu, etc. and etc. and etc. (because I believe Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, I must be opposed to all systems that would say otherwise), then you are likewise anti-Baptist. Again, just a simple matter of logic.

    > On the other hand, I have little interest in Baptist things, and
    >little knowledge of them. I have never published a word about Baptist
    >religiosity. I have not been critical of Baptists. I have not attacked
    >their faith. And I certainly do not make my living operating a tax
    >exempt public foundation dedicated to attacking the faith of anyone,
    >including Ratana, Ringatu, Jews, Roman Catholics, or anyone else for
    >that matter.

    If you embrace Joseph Smith, you are anti-Baptist. His beliefs are directly opposed mine, and he identified my God as a “monster” and my beliefs as an abomination. It is almost amusing (if it were not so serious, and sad), to watch LDS scholars swing wildly between internal contradictions in their beliefs at this point, with one hand agreeing that my beliefs are an “abomination,” but with the other saying you are not opposed to them. If you aren’t, you should be ashamed of yourself, taking an attitude of indifference toward something God says is an abomination!

    > Now if, for what ever reason, you do not like being identified as an
    >anti-Mormon, what label would you suggest for people like you?

    If you read my book, you know that I refer to LDS apologists. I refer to Roman Catholic apologists when writing on that topic. How about “Protestant apologists” or something like that? My faith is not defined by YOURs, sir. I respond to YOUR claims because they impact MINE. See the importance in that?

    > I have been trying to figure out what the language found in this
    >paragraph means. What you have now told me is that what you intended to
    >say is actually somewhat different from what you actually wrote.

    Of course not. I said you had badly misread the passage.

    >Instead
    >of addressing the bulk of the paragraph (about twenty lines), you focus
    >on what appears to be a sub-text constituting, as you say, “more a
    >criticism of Peterson and Ricks…and other FARMS folks for their
    >’reviews’ in RBBOFM than it is anything else.” I trust that you realize
    >that you do not mention any essays published by FARMS.

    < sigh >

    >How is the reader
    >supposed to figure out what you were getting at?

    Well, don’t be too offended, but no one else has had a problem getting the point of the entire paragraph.

    >I will grant that what
    >you may have intended was a criticism of OFFENDERS FOR A WORD, and the
    >various essays responding to anti-Mormon literature published by FARMS.

    I really don’t have the inclination to play word games with you, sir. The intention of the paragraph is simple, straightforward, and can only be missed by someone who either wants to miss it, or is attempting to find something to pick at, rather than dealing with the thesis of the book. There is good literature responding to Mormonism, and there is bad literature responding to Mormonism. When someone responds to the bad, and makes it appear that they have, by so doing, vindicated their position, they are engaging in deceptive behavior. And when someone writes poor literature about Mormonism, they only help Mormonism’s defenders to keep up the appearance of a vital apologetic. It’s really that simple.

    > Given what appears on page seventeen of your book, I wondered
    >whether you might think that all anti-Mormon literature (or whatever you
    >may want to call it), until you came along with your book, has been such
    >that Latter-day Saints, if they bothered, could easily deal with it.

    I’m afraid I can be of no assitance to you beyond this point, sir. Such a question can only be identified as “absurd,” and I don’t really have any desire to engage in absurd correspondence. I will allow my book to speak to those who are prepared to hear it, and I knew when I wrote it that some, no matter how clearly I wrote, would find a way of missing the point.

    James>>>


    Seemingly, Dr. Peterson did not like my brief response.  Rather quickly this came back.  Note the title he chose for his message:

    Date: Thu, 16 Apr 1998 17:49:54 -0700
    From: Daniel Peterson <dcp6@email.byu.edu>
    Subject: Mr. Charm
    To: orthopodeo@aomin.org
    Cc: Skinny-L <SKINNY-L@LISTS.TELEPORT.COM>
    Reply-to: Daniel_Peterson@byu.edu
    Organization: BYU

    Mr. White:

    Thank you for withdrawing from the exchange; I was worried that this was
    going to cost me a lot of time. Backed into a corner, eh? Beating an
    ungraceful retreat?

    I’m sorry you broke your arrogance meter. Was it a gift from your
    mother?

    I really don’t understand why you feel the need to be so hostile.
    Perhaps you should add a contact sport to your cycling, so that you can
    work out your aggressions in a more socially acceptable manner. I have
    always told people that you were relatively polite when we met on the
    radio some years ago, and several have assured me that such polite and
    unaggressive behavior must have been an aberration. I guess they were
    right, and your reputation is not unearned.

    Too bad. I have had respectful interchanges with several critics of my
    faith. But you don’t seem capable of such things. You have evidently
    chosen the right career.

    Daniel Peterson


    Take careful note of the tactics being used here: Dr. Peterson has been about as impolite and aggressive as one can be in the preceding posts.  He has used sarcasm and insult in almost every paragraph, yet, when I choose not to respond in kind, what does he do?  He accuses me of the very things he has been doing himself.  Throw in a little school-yard taunting, and one is amazed to realize that such messages are being written by one of the leading LDS scholars at Brigham Young University, a man who has often criticized Christians for their attitudes in dealing with Mormonism.  My response was brief and to the point:

    >Mr. White:
    >
    >
    >Thank you for withdrawing from the exchange; I was worried that this was
    >going to cost me a lot of time. Backed into a corner, eh? Beating an
    >ungraceful retreat?

    Do remember, Dr. Peterson, that since you have been passing around my posts to others, your own posts, including this wondrous example of FARMS mentality, will be archived and readily available to anyone who wishes a glimpse into the world of LDS apologetics.

    James>>>


    His responses only got more shrill:

    Date: Fri, 17 Apr 1998 12:42:49 -0700
    From: Daniel Peterson <dcp6@email.byu.edu>
    Subject: [Fwd: Re: Mr. Charm]
    To: orthopodeo@aomin.org
    Cc: Skinny-L <SKINNY-L@LISTS.TELEPORT.COM>
    Reply-to: Daniel_Peterson@byu.edu
    Organization: BYU

    Mr. White:

    You seem to think you have me. “Do remember, Dr. Peterson,” you write,
    “that since you have been passing around my posts to others, your own
    posts, including this wondrous example of FARMS mentality, will be
    archived and readily available to anyone who wishes a glimpse into the
    world of LDS apologetics[?].”

    Go ahead. I am puzzled that you do not seem to see how unpleasantly YOU
    come across. My lengthy post to you contained arguments and serious
    positions, however cheekily expressed. For you to respond merely by
    denouncing my arrogance and silliness and pronouncing me not worth your
    time was, among other things, (a) not a cogent counterargument, (b)
    disrespectful, (c) uncharitable, and (d) exactly what I expected from
    you.

    I am quite capable of having a calm and well-tempered exchange. I have,
    as I say, had pleasant and respectful conversations with numerous people
    of other faiths, including several who are overtly critical of my
    beliefs. If you would like to do so, please shelve the hostility.
    Please cut the tendency to assume that your opponent is acting in bad
    faith, or from evil motives.

    Perhaps you do not recognize how alienating your hyper-confrontational
    style is, and how personal you tend to make the dispute between
    Latter-day Saints and evangelicals. Perhaps you do not realize — oh,
    but surely you must! — how off-putting your aggressiveness is, and how
    (for many of us) it gets in the way of the message that, I presume, you
    sincerely want to preach. Sensing that you would react badly, I tweaked
    you. I was having fun. (You know, teasing somebody who responds in
    satisfying ways to such teasing.) It was perhaps wrong for me to do so,
    but you reacted precisely as I had anticipated.

    It still appears to me that you fled a discussion when you realized that
    you were in a corner. Quite seriously, quite sincerely, that is how it
    appears to me. Leaving aside the question of my viciousness and my
    depravity, it seems so. Perhaps I am wrong, although I think not. But
    if I am wrong, it would be fitting — certainly it would be the act of a
    disciple of Christ — to correct me, not to assault me. Others had
    predicted that you would withdraw from the discussion. They are people
    who have followed your career somewhat, and they described it as your
    modus operandi whenever you seem to be losing control. (I am told that
    it happened at Temple Square earlier this month, when you were presented
    with evidence to which you had, in their view and in mine, no cogent
    answer.) You may despise me all you like, but your actions truly seem
    to me to be as I have characterized them, and as others had foretold.

    Yet others, however — and I am merely passing on what they told me —
    predicted that your ego would never allow me to have the last word.
    Which, I admit, worried me, because I really don’t have the time to get
    into a lengthy and quite futile e-mail catfight, especially with someone
    who evidently cannot even grant that I am a decent human being. And now
    that their prediction also seems to be coming true, I am worried again.
    (Attacking Mormonism may well be an important component of your
    employment; defending the gospel of Jesus Christ is something I do in
    spare moments.)

    What, by the way, is the “FARMS mentality”? Are you into faulty
    generalizations and stereotyping? FARMS did not write my posting to
    you. I wrote it. I am not FARMS, and FARMS is not Daniel Peterson.
    FARMS is a number of people, with widely varying styles, personalities,
    and approaches. There is no more a “FARMS mentality” than there is a
    “Jewish mentality” or a “black mentality.” Latter-day Saints are
    individuals, as are Jews and blacks. As are fundamentalist and
    evangelical Protestants. (I know, because some are nasty and
    unpleasant, and some are very nice.) If generalizations like this
    really are permitted, there seems no principled ground on which you
    could criticize me for taking Ed Decker as the “norm” for anti-Mormonism
    — if, indeed, I had ever thought to do so stupid a thing.

    Daniel Peterson


    Then, right on the heels of this lovely missive, comes another:

    Date: Fri, 17 Apr 1998 13:05:45 -0700
    From: Daniel Peterson <dcp6@email.byu.edu>
    Subject: Re: Mr. Charm
    To: James White <orthopodeo@aomin.org>
    Cc: Skinny-L <SKINNY-L@LISTS.TELEPORT.COM>
    Reply-to: Daniel_Peterson@byu.edu
    Organization: BYU

    Mr. White:

    Going through my e-mail, I came across a posting containing the
    following, from someone who has been monitoring our exchange:

    “By the Bye, never have I seen such arrogant rhetorical ranting with
    absolutely no substance behind it as in the White letters.
    Absolutely astonishing!”

    I share it with you not to hurt your feelings, nor to make you angry
    (although I am certain that it will, since you seem to be in a state of
    almost perpetual anger anyhow), and not as evidence that my estimate of
    you is true, but as an indication that I am not the only person out here
    in cyberland who views you in this way.

    Daniel Peterson


    Evidently, Dr. Peterson was not getting the idea that I had no intention of playing this game with him.  I tried one more time:

  • You seem to think you have me. “Do remember, Dr. Peterson,” you write,
  • “that since you have been passing around my posts to others, your own
  • posts, including this wondrous example of FARMS mentality, will be
  • archived and readily available to anyone who wishes a glimpse into the
  • world of LDS apologetics[?].”
  • Go ahead. I am puzzled that you do not seem to see how unpleasantly YOU
  • come across.
  • No, sir, I believe it is the other way around. And I’m more than glad to let others judge that. I have no interest in you continuing to provide me with further examples of this kind of school-yard behavior. If you wish to continue writing long e-mails (while complaining about wasting your time), I won’t stop you, but don’t expect any replies.

    James>>>


    Seemingly, asking him to stop has the exact opposite impact.  In fact, he now began to forward nastigrams to me that he had actually written to other people!  This kind of behavior is tremendously rude and childish, but as of the date of this writing, it still hasn’t stopped!  Here comes the first example of the “I’ll send White something nasty I’ve written about him to someone else”:

    Date: Sat, 18 Apr 1998 08:02:38 -0700
    From: Daniel Peterson <dcp6@email.byu.edu>
    Subject: Re: SKINNY: [Fwd: Re: Mr. Charm]
    To: skinny-l@teleport.com
    Cc: orthopodeo@aomin.org
    Reply-to: Daniel_Peterson@byu.edu
    Organization: BYU

    Malin:

    Thanks for the comments. I agree with what you say, and actually had
    some of those things in mind as I wrote. I know that James White quite
    literally believes me to be vicious and depraved. (That is the first
    element in TULIP, after all.) And I’m sure, since I am unregenerate,
    that he believes me to be acting in bad faith.

    The question then arises, Why does he bother to argue with Mormons at
    all? If we are all depraved and dishonest, we’ll never accept or
    recognize the truth. And those who will, are fated to do so regardless
    of whether White evangelizes them or not. Of course, it is impossible
    to act practically, in everyday life, on the basis of predeterministic
    assumptions. You have to act as if you are free, even if you are
    convinced that you are not. So White is, I suppose, simply fated to
    evangelize Mormons and Catholics, and to be nasty and insulting. It all
    seems utterly pointless.

    It also seems, to me at least, quite unsuited to a free and democratic
    society. Why should a population largely depraved and vicious be
    allowed to vote? Should the Saved EVER treat the depraved and vicious
    multitude politely or respectfully, even in a town council meeting or a
    PTA gathering or on a Little League committee? Why? Shouldn’t people
    like James White move to the Balkans, their natural home?

    dcp


    I ignored that one, but the hits kept coming:

    Date: Sat, 18 Apr 1998 07:50:05 -0700
    From: Daniel Peterson <dcp6@email.byu.edu>
    Subject: Being a Christian Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry?
    To: James White <orthopodeo@aomin.org>
    Cc: Skinny-L <SKINNY-L@LISTS.TELEPORT.COM>
    Reply-to: Daniel_Peterson@byu.edu
    Organization: BYU
    X-Mailer: Mozilla 3.04 (Macintosh; I; PPC)

    Mr. White:

    “School-yard behavior”? You’re the same sweet and Christian fellow as
    ever! I have offered you a civil conversation, but I take it that is
    not the kind of thing that interests you. I have offered you serious
    arguments and considered positions, but it seems THOSE sorts of things
    frighten you off (even on the rather minor issues we were discussing).
    You seem to prefer the kind of correspondence with a “Mormon elder”
    where you get to write both sides.

    Please post the exchange. I plan to do so.

    Daniel Peterson


    The term “obsession” begins to take on new meaning as the unsolicited, and unwanted messages pile up:

    Date: Mon, 20 Apr 1998 18:51:24 -0700
    From: Daniel Peterson <dcp6@email.byu.edu>
    Subject: On James White as a Christian Paradigm
    To: orthopodeo@aomin.org
    Cc: Skinny-L <SKINNY-L@LISTS.TELEPORT.COM>
    Reply-to: Daniel_Peterson@byu.edu
    Organization: BYU

    Mr. White:

    You wrote the following to some fellow or other, and I was privileged to
    see it: “I’ve gotten messages from people who teach at BYU that sounded
    like they were written by someone on an 8th grade playground.”

    I assume you are referring to me. You outdo yourself! I had heard it
    said that you have a vicious temper, that you ignore the issues when
    they don’t go your way, and that you frequently mischaracterize your
    opponents in demonstrably inaccurate and remarkably uncharitable ways.
    But I had never personally experienced it. Thank you for remedying that
    gap in my personal history.

    Daniel Peterson


    That one got ignored, too.  Did that stop Dr. Peterson from his campaign?  No, it didn’t.  Instead, more “let’s make sure I send this note I wrote to Louis Midgley to White so that he knows I’m insulting him again” posts arrived:

    Date: Wed, 22 Apr 1998 16:59:33 -0700
    From: Daniel Peterson <dcp6@email.byu.edu>
    Subject: (John) Calvin and (Thomas) Hobbes
    To: James White <orthopodeo@aomin.org>
    Cc: Skinny-L <SKINNY-L@LISTS.TELEPORT.COM>
    Reply-to: Daniel_Peterson@byu.edu
    Organization: BYU

    Lou:

    Mr. White was a bit less obnoxious in this last communication. I wonder
    why? Perhaps he realizes that he overdid it in his previous few
    postings. Probably not, though. Self-scrutiny does not seem to be one
    of his strengths. Did you notice that he is still going on with his
    silly generalizations about “the attitudes of FARMS and BYU professors
    in general”? He really does seem to be incorrigible. But then, what
    incentive does he have to change? He is one of the world’s winners, and
    there seems little reason for him to be held to the rules (e.g., of
    evidence and logic, let alone of civility) that bind the terminally
    depraved masses.

    He ought, though, to try to see things from our perspective. He is far
    more brilliant than we are. He is a far better person than we are —
    noble and courageous where we are craven, a model of mature manhood to
    be universally emulated (as his recent notes have strongly hinted),
    forthright and bold where we are sniveling and dishonest, inevitably
    victorious where we merely manage to stumble pathetically from defeat to
    ignominious defeat. Furthermore, as if all of his enviable natural
    qualities were not enough, he enjoys supernatural advantages as well:
    God loves him, and has predestined him to paradise, whereas God hates
    us, holds us like loathsome insects over a fire, patiently but happily
    waiting to plunge us into the flame, and, in fact, quite justly
    condemned us to hell before we were even born.

    Mr. White ought to pity us — although, on second thought, God evidently
    doesn’t, so perhaps he shouldn’t either. But at least he could indulge
    our sad little attempts to enjoy ourselves before we commence upon our
    foredoomed eternity of torture and agony.

    Incidently, hearing that Mr. White is debating the Catholics rather
    warms me up to the Church of Rome.

    dcp


    Enough is enough, so I tried the direct approach:

    >Lou:
    >
    >
    >Mr. White was a bit less obnoxious in this last communication. I wonder
    >why? Perhaps he realizes that he overdid it in his previous few
    >postings. Probably not, though. Self-scrutiny does not seem to be one
    >of his strengths.

    Please, it is considered childish and rude to continue to send messages to those who have shown clearly that they do not desire such communication. As I have said, you have communicated your viewpoint clearly. I need no further examples of your expertise at ad-hominem argumentation. I will gladly post all your lovely messages when I return from speaking.

    James>>>


    Even the direct approach has no impact upon a person on a crusade:

    Date: Wed, 29 Apr 1998 06:40:51 -0700
    From: Daniel Peterson <dcp6@email.byu.edu>
    Subject: Re: (John) Calvin and (Thomas) Hobbes
    To: James White <orthopodeo@aomin.org>
    Cc: Skinny-L <SKINNY-L@LISTS.TELEPORT.COM>
    Reply-to: Daniel_Peterson@byu.edu
    Organization: BYU

    Mr. White:

    Thank you for your latest note. It was, as usual, a model of
    graciousness and the Christian spirit. My tardiness in acknowledging it
    comes only from my having been out of the state and away from my e-mail.

    You say you plan to post our exchange. Good. You may be interested to
    know that your self-revealing messages to me — naturally including
    their forthright refusal to have a real dialogue with a Latter-day Saint
    on legitimate issues and their resort instead to unembarrassed evasion,
    personal insults, and ad hominem attacks — have already been posted for
    some time.

    Daniel Peterson


    Now, as anyone can see, Dr. Peterson was never interested in a “real dialogue” with anyone, let alone me.  What I have refused to engage in is not a dialogue, but a spitting contest.  The fact that Peterson is intent upon sending me second-hand posts containing glaring insults and swipes, all the while accusing me of being mean-spirited, is so self-evident that it makes one wonder about the pride he shows in knowing that these posts would be made available on our web page and on the SHIELDS page (which just happens to be operated by a group of men I knew well when a regular on the old “MORMON Echo” back in the days of BBS’s; two of the three men who run the page have engaged in the very same kind of emotionally-laden ad-hominem argumentation provided here by Dr. Peterson). He may not understand what I meant by “FARMS mentality,” but other folks do.

    Now, Louis Midgley, likewise, did not give up his writing.  I return to his missives.  I had indicated to him with my last response that I did not feel I could be of any more assistance to him.  That didn’t stop him, however:

    Date: Fri, 17 Apr 1998 08:40:44 -0600
    From: “Louis C. Midgley” <midgleyl@burgoyne.com>
    Organization: TE ARIKI.
    X-Mailer: Mozilla 4.04 [en] (Win95; I)
    To: James White <orthopodeo@aomin.org>
    CC: skinny <skinny-l@lists.teleport.com>
    Subject: MODERN LDS APOLOGIST…HAVE LITTLE DIFFICULTY DEMONSTRATING…

    Dear Brother White:

    Once again I must insist that I do not wish to pick a fight with
    you. I did not write to you to engage in some unseemly, insulting
    quarrel. I wrote to you to get some information–that is all. The
    controversy over the nice little shorthand label “anti-Mormon” was your
    doing. Unfortunately I took the bait.

    What I requested, if I remember correctly, were a few clarifications
    on one paragraph in your IS THE MORMON MY BROTHER? Even in my request
    for clarification you saw signs of my having hacked up your words and
    then later of having misinterpreted them. The fact is that all I want is
    your opinion about your words, so that I can be confident I understand
    your language the way you do.

    In order to see if I understand you correctly, I will paraphrase
    what I think you are trying to say in the paragraph on page seventeen of
    your recent book. You seem to me to be saying something like the
    following: modern Latter-day Saint scholars and apologists have little
    difficulty demonstrating inconsistencies and half-truths in the
    literature written by critics of their faith. Now why do you think that
    this is so? Well, at least for many critics of the faith of Latter-day
    Saints, those they like to call “Mormons” are simply polygamous cultists
    who are out to destroy the souls of anyone unwary enough to be caught in
    their clutches. Yet, it turns out, many of these critics of the faith of
    Latter-day Saints who would provide the strongest denunciations of the
    beliefs and practices of Latter-day Saints are the very ones who have
    done the least work in seriously studying LDS writings and they have
    also not interacted with LDS viewpoints. The result is that a large body
    of literature exists that is not based upon a fair, even-handed study of
    primary source documentation but is, instead, based upon a very large
    dose of emotion and bias. The resulting literature normally (that is,
    regularly, usually) emphasizes the sensational, seeking to arouse the
    emotions of the reader against the LDS faith.

    I believe that something very much like this is found in that
    paragraph on page seventeen of your recent book. In addition, you
    acknowledge that many of these incompetent critics of the faith of the
    faith of Latter-day Saints still maintain that the Church of Jesus
    Christ of Latter-day Saints is a devil-inspired cult and that is about
    all there is to it. For such people the question of interacting with
    genuine LDS points of view simply does not arise. Why? For those who
    find in what they call “Mormonism” the embodiment of evil itself, there
    is little reason to even ask if the Church of Jesus Christ is Christian.
    There is even less reason to spend time fairly evaluating the arguments
    put forth by Latter-day Saint scholars.

    You add one small caveat to this rather grim picture of the
    literature produced by emotional, sensationalizing and incompetent
    critics of the faith of Latter-day Saints. You claim that contemporary,
    I believe you say “apologists and scholars,” Latter-day Saints, who have
    little difficulty demonstrating inconsistencies and half-truths in the
    literature critical of their faith that you have just negatively
    characterized, like to focus on such dismal literature and that they
    often treat it as if it were the norm for all of the critical literature
    produced by those claiming to represent the true, historic, biblical,
    trinitarian version of Christianity. At this point you attach a note to
    a recent LDS video and to Professor Peterson’s book, presumably to
    indicate how Latter-day Saints easily deal with the bad literature
    produced by critics of their faith.

    That is all I see in that paragraph. I see nothing critical of
    anything published by FARMS. In fact, FARMS is not mentioned. And I see
    nothing that indicates that there is a good literature–a competent
    literature by critics of the faith of Latter-day Saints–in this
    paragraph. This is the reason I asked you if you see yourself as the
    only author to do the job right or whether you think that there is a
    body of competent criticism of LDS faith. And I also asked you to
    indicate who might have written this competent literature, if such
    exists in your estimation. You have more or less responded to these
    questions. If I understand you correctly, you think that there is a
    competent literature and you indicated three authors who have presumably
    helped produce it. And you suggested that I inspect the notes to your
    book for additional names.

    Now I have tried to point out that Latter-day Saints do not take
    Decker and Schnoebelen as the norm among their critics. We are what
    might be called equal opportunity critics of what we call anti-Mormon
    literature or whatever you might wish to call it. It seems to me, and I
    believe I am entirely correct on this matter, that we have dealt with
    virtually all of the even remotely significant authors of criticisms of
    our faith, including you. And so it turns out that your remark about how
    we take the really bad stuff as the norm is simply not true. We do not
    focus just on the really bad stuff, but we deal with all of our critics.
    If I am wrong about this, you can easily correct me by naming the
    significant, less incompetent authors whose works we have neglected.

    Now I have just one other tiny little point to make. I suppose I
    will agree to you describing me, in our correspondence and for purposes
    of conversation only, however, as “anti-Baptist,” if you will allow me
    the courtesy of using the nice little shorthand label “anti-Mormon” in
    our correspondence as an easy way of saying something like “critics of
    the faith of Latter-day Saints.” And I might add that I did not attempt
    to deal with or even characterize the general thesis or IS THE MORMON MY
    BROTHER? I merely cited one tiny thing that makes the book, for me at
    leas, boring. So I will just ignore all that stuff about my not
    understanding what you were up to in that book. I see all that abusive
    rhetoric as just your way of picking a fight and thus seeming scoring
    some points.

    Finally, I am interested in your relationship with, that is, your
    opinion of, the work of Walter Martin. Please address this question. Do
    you include Martin among those who did competent work or is he one of
    those we Latter-day Saints see as the norm for criticisms of our faith?
    This is a simple question. It should not be hard for you to express an
    opinion on Walter Martin’s work. Why am I interested in Martin? I am
    writing an essay on his work. There are several reasons I would like to
    know what you think of Martin. One is that he was not, as you obviously
    are, anti-Catholic (ops, critical of Roman Catholicism because it is not
    Christian, or however you would put it). This is a way of trying to find
    out whether people are competent and Christian who disagree with you on
    your stand on Roman Catholicism. In addition, Martin always advanced the
    old Spalding theory to explain the Book of Mormon. But the Tanners, who
    you seem to think are competent, strongly disagreed with Martin on this
    important issue. Where do you stand on this issue and on the conflict
    among your associates on this issue.

    Please remember that I am not trying to pick a fight with you. All I
    would like is clarification on some matters. If I have not paraphrased
    your stance on page seventeen of you book, please do not insult me, but
    just adjust what I have written so that it reflect exactly what you
    intended to say. I will accept anything you say about your intentions in
    that paragraph, since you are the only authority on this matter. I
    appreciate your responding to my importunings and I thank you in advance
    for dealing with what is contained in this letter.


    It was becoming self-evident that this conversation was going nowhere, either, so I tried to make it clear:


    > Once again I must insist that I do not wish to pick a fight with
    >you. I did not write to you to engage in some unseemly, insulting
    >quarrel. I wrote to you to get some information–that is all. The
    >controversy over the nice little shorthand label “anti-Mormon” was your
    >doing. Unfortunately I took the bait.

    Bait assumes I wished to draw you into the conversation. To be honest, ever since you wrote a few years ago about the “plan of salvation” being Joseph Smith’s idea, I haven’t had any desire at all to have further interchange, I assure you. And I shall end this one now. Thanks for writing.

    James>>>


    Dr. Midgley’s true feelings finally broke through:

    Date: Wed, 22 Apr 1998 07:22:17 -0600
    From: “Louis C. Midgley” <midgleyl@burgoyne.com>
    Organization: TE ARIKI.
    X-Mailer: Mozilla 4.04 [en] (Win95; I)
    To: James White <orthopodeo@aomin.org>
    CC: skinny <skinny-l@lists.teleport.com>
    Subject: WHAT HAPPENED TO THE SWEET REASONABLENESS?

    Dear Brother White:

    I must admit that I have enjoyed your messages to me and to others
    as well. I kind of enjoy seeing an anti-Mormon self-destruct. Yes,
    anti-Mormon. After all you are against, remember that is the meaning of
    that prefix, the faith of Latter-day Saints. I believe that you publish
    books attacking the Church of Jesus Christ, you come to the General
    Conferences of the Church of Jesus Christ and pass out literature and
    engage in conversations attempting to lure Latter-day Saints into
    abandoning their faith for your particular brand of Protestant
    religiosity, you make your living at least in part engaging in these and
    other similar and related activities. That would seem to qualify you as
    a card-carrying anti-Mormon, would it not?

    I must admit that I was somewhat stunned and also very amused to get
    something from you in which you claimed, if I remember correctly, that
    you are not anti-Mormon. I do not believe you offered an alternative
    label to describe your business. However, you were willing to accept the
    label, if I would agree to be known as anti-Baptist, even though I have
    never made my living creating or spreading anti-Baptist propaganda, have
    never written anything attacking any brand of Baptist ideology and so
    forth and so on.

    Now what has brought you to mind is that right now I am looking at
    the page-proofs to my essay entitled “Anti-Mormonism and the Newfangled
    Countercult Culture.” And I mention and quote you on pages six and seven
    of this essay. I quote the bulk of that paragraph on page seventeen of
    your recent anti-Mormon book, the meaning of which we have been more or
    less discussing. By that I mean that I have been discussing the meaning
    of that passage and you have been opining about your intentions. And it
    turns out that your opining is not supported by what is found in that
    paragraph in your book. That much seems obvious. Be that as it may, I
    have described you as “one of the more gifted among the current crop of
    anti-Mormons.” I am tempted to change this to read “one of the more
    belligerent (or pugnacious) among the current crop of anti-Mormons.”

    But the fact is that you appear to be brighter than the average
    anti-Mormon. So I must give you that much credit. But you are also one
    of the nastier anti-Mormons that it has been my displeasure to
    encounter. And I find that others share my opinion. I wonder if you
    could supply the name of a single Latter-day Saint with whom you have
    corresponded who has not found you just plain nasty. I would be willing
    to provide you with a list of those Latter-day Saints who have indicated
    to me that they have found corresponding with you unpleasant. In person,
    Professor Peterson tells me, you seemed at least not enirely unpleasant.

    The unpleasantness seems to come more often in correspondence where
    it turns out you end up typically throwing what amounts to a fit when
    you get corned. You end up blasting away with insults and then fall
    silent. I cannot believe that you do not regret firing back what amount
    to thoughtless replies to those you consider your enemies. In fact, I am
    confident that you are bright enough to know when you are in
    intellectual trouble. In this regard it will be interesting to see if
    you respond to Professor Hamblin. But you have seem to have such a dose
    of pride that you simply cannot ever even appear to concede a thing or
    ever to back down.

    I suggest that you try admitting when someone has gotten the best of
    you. Merely because you are or imagine that you are regenerated does not
    mean that you automatically win every debate. I have wondered if you are
    attacking and insulting others because lurking behind your posture of
    certainty there may be a kind of cosmic uncertainty that you need
    desperately to drive away by blasting others. In the large sense this
    might explain your anti-Catholic and anti-Mormon endeavors. But it also
    might explain you lack of civility in correspondence. By the way, is it
    true that Professor Blomberg has a special message on his telephone
    answering machine just for you?

    I am, of course, expecting to hear from you. I will, I must admit,
    be disappointed if you have not only suddenly fallen silent but remain
    silent. But, on the other hand, if you really were to fall silent, that
    is, cease attacking my faith, then I would be very pleased. And I think
    that God would also be pleased if such were to happen.

    Grace and peace,

    Louis Midgley


    The terms “taunting” and “goading” accurately describe this kind of behavior.  For me, I will allow such statements to stand on their own.  It would be silly of me to respond to such personal attacks by dredging up the names of those who could give witness either in my defense, or in support of anyone who would point to the out-of-control antics of some at BYU.  Personally, I think these messages speak far more clearly than anything I could ever say.  I replied to Midgley:

    >Dear Brother White:
    >
    > I must admit that I have enjoyed your messages to me and to others
    >as well. I kind of enjoy seeing an anti-Mormon self-destruct.

    Thanks for writing, Dr. Midgley. I think I’ve made it fairly plain that I have no interest in the continued provision of evidence concerning the attitudes of FARMS and BYU professors in general. I’m not sure why you and Dr. Peterson feel such a drive to continue providing these gems, but I assure you, I have more than enough to convince the even semi-unbiased observer. Thanks for writing, but you really don’t need to continue to do so. As I’ve informed everyone up there, I’m busy preaching, teaching, and debating here in the New York City area. Last evening we had a tremendous time debating the Papacy against Dr. Mitchell Pacwa, and I yet have eight more speaking engagements before I head home on Monday. I note with great humor your reference to my “falling silent.” I can only guess that BYU doesn’t keep you folks very busy. As for me, I really am glad to have work that keeps me quite absorbed.

    James>>>


    At this point I included a note about attaching future nastigrams.  Much to my chagrin, Dr. Midgley took that as an open invitation to continue sending me nastigrams.   Dr. Peterson sent me one more note and finally got the clear idea that I had no intention of giving in to his taunts.  But Dr. Midgley decided that he now had the right to have anything he writes posted here.  I never considered that possibility, but, I should have.  Sorry, Dr. Midgley….you’ll have to post your nastigrams elsewhere.  What has already been provided is more than sufficient to give anyone who is interested a unique insight into BYU apologetics.

    James White

    Addendum:

    As amazing as it is, months after making it very clear that I had no intention of joining in the “fun,” Dr. Midgely, without the slighest bit of provocation, fired off the following note in mid-June. 

    Date: Mon, 15 Jun 1998 09:54:58 -0600
    From: “Louis C. Midgley” <midgleyl@burgoyne.com>
    To: James White <orthopodeo@aomin.org>
    Cc: skinny <skinny-l@lists.teleport.com>
    Subject: JIMMY WHITE’S FAILURE TO REPLY

    Dear Jim:

    I am astonished and just a little disappointed that I have not
    heard heard a single word from you concerning my brief mention of
    your opining in the essay I recently published. It can be
    accessed at
    http://www.farmsresearch.com/frob/frobv10_1/midgley.htm or
    through the SHIELDS web site.

    Certainly one with your rather obvious passion for controversy
    will not let this opportunity to ventilate pass you by. Or have
    you finally noticed that you have not served your interests well
    by pouring out venom on those you obviously consider your
    enemies? I trust that you now regret posting the first portions
    of the correspondence you had with Professors Hamblin and
    Peterson, and perhaps even my little exchange with you.

    Grace and peach

    lcm

    “Amazing” is about the only word that works.

    NO, I AM NOT YOUR BROTHER,BUT A LITTLE HONESTY WOULD BE NICE ANYWAY – A Brief Reply to D.L. Barksdale – Vintage

    It doesn’t start well: “What’s with Anti-Mormons these days? It seems like someone has turned up the heat a couple of notches. Either that, or they are getting increasingly desperate. Or both, I guess.” Unfortunately, it only goes downhill from there.

    Ever since Is the Mormon My Brother? was released by Bethany House Publishers in November of 1997, I have waited to see what kind of meaningful response it would garner from LDS authors. I was particularly interested because of the nature of the work: it is very focused upon the central issue (that being the nature of God). The first chapters present a lengthy, tremendously fair presentation of the LDS doctrine of God. The sources used are exclusively LDS—the General Authorities of the Church, publications copyrighted by the First Presidency, the LDS Scriptures, etc. The biblical response to the LDS position is concise and straightforward. The included discussion of How Wide the Divide? asks many penetrating questions of Stephen Robinson’s presentation. What is more, the work avoids unnecessarily inflammatory language. It is, to any even semi-unbiased reader, a tremendously fair discussion of a vital issue. It is written firmly from the Evangelical perspective, and the conclusions drawn are hardly surprising. But the work strives to make sure that any reader is fully informed as to why and how the conclusions presented are derived from the data examined.

    How would LDS reviewers respond to a fair, thorough discussion of the single greatest difference between historic Christianity and LDS teaching? I hoped that some would seriously interact with the book, but, I was also aware that such interactions have been very rare with other fine works written by other Christian writers. So far, my fears have been realized fully: the responses, few as they have been, have been nothing short of simply miserable.

    Complimentary copies of the book were sent to Brigham Young University professors Stephen Robinson, Daniel Peterson, and William Hamblin. I would like to think that the recent deluge of simply incredible e-mails from BYU are not representative of any kind of “response” to the work, but I have to admit a certain level of suspicion (click here to see examples). Given the tremendously surface-level review presented by FARMS of my first work on Mormonism, Letters to a Mormon Elder (click here for information on this review), I hope that whatever appears in the future regarding Is the Mormon My Brother? will prove more worthwhile. However, given that Mr. Darryl. L. Barksdale has indicated that he will be writing that review, the original work by L. Ara Norwood may prove the most scholarly and in-depth response I will ever see from FARMS.

    While teaching an intensive summer course on Christian philosophy and apologetics on the campus of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, California, I received an e-mail note from LDSApolog@aol.com —Mr. Barksdale—announcing the fact that he had just completed a review of Is the Mormon My Brother? and inviting me to his website (www.fair-lds.org). He also informed me that I was on the “cover” of the June issue of his publication. So, I went to his site and downloaded the referenced article. Since I had encountered Mr. Barksdale in electronic forums, I feared the worst. And my fears were realized.

    Mr. Barksdale indicates that his full review will be posted in the next edition of his publication (“I’ll fight the temptation to pick it apart here, and will defer that to next month’s newsletter”). But if the level of simple dishonesty that is found in this brief commentary is any indication of what is to come, we can only hope that he will think better of the project. Let’s look at some of the incredible commentary provided by Darryl Barksdale in his article titled “Is James White Our Brother”?

    Anti-Mormons, Again

    It seems that all LDS apologists have signed a compact: we will emulate our Roman Catholic brothers in using the “anti” label of everyone that we don’t like, and wish to marginalize (without dealing with the substance of what they have to say). Rather than taking the high road, Mr. Barksdale follows after the FARMS path of showing great disrespect for those with whom there is a disagreement. While my works refer to BYU writers as “LDS apologists” and not “anti-Baptists” or “anti-Christians,” BYU writers, and Mr. Barksdale, refuse to return the favor, preferring to excite the emotions and play to the audience by using such terms as “anti-Mormons.” I would propose to the fair reader that the use of such terminology indicates a lack of seriousness on the part of the person using it. I look forward to reviews by those who will have the temerity to reject this path, and who will instead refer to those who reject LDS claims by terms that accurately reflect who they are and what they do.

    Throughout this brief article, Barksdale attempts to paint me as angry, mean-spirited, and vengeful. He portrays a supernatural ability to interpret my emotional state and motivations, though, he never indicates just how he is able to do this. Note the next paragraphs:

    One example of this can be seen in James White’s new book Is The Mormon My Brother? White is furious that Craig Blomberg, Ph.D., and Stephen Robinson, Ph.D., collaborated on a work titled How Wide The Divide? A Mormon and Evangelical in Conversation, published last year by Intervarsity Press.

    White is appalled at the notion that Mormons and Evangelicals should speak to one another. He dearly wishes that we wouldn’t. And so, lest any hapless Evangelical foolishly surmise that such a dialogue is in any way beneficial, and being unsatisfied with writing a scathing review of HWTD? for CRI, he seemingly felt the need to write an entire book devoted to why Mormon theology is just plain sick and wrong.

    Note the terms “furious” “appalled” “dearly wishes” “foolishly surmise” “scathing review” and “just plain sick,” and all within only a few lines! The motivation for such writing is easy to determine: the book provides Mr. Barksdale with a calm, fair and very biblically-based discussion of the central issue that separates Mormonism from Christianity: but, if his readers are going to read the book (and it would be my guess that such a review would hardly motivate them to do so), it is always best to poison the well before they run into such a fair discussion of the issue.

    Of course, I doubt very much if Mr. Barksdale contacted Craig Blomberg to see if, in fact, I had been “furious” with him when I spoke with him before writing my “scathing” CRI review. I have informed Mr. Barksdale, electronically, that I not only called Blomberg and spoke to him for an hour on the phone, but I sent him my review, asked for his comments, and incorporated his suggestions into the final draft. Hardly the actions of someone who is “furious” and “appalled.”

    And, as Mr. Barksdale further knows, my problem with How Wide the Divide has to do not with having a dialogue, but with the fact that the LDS position was not fully or accurately presented by the book. Hence, there is simply nothing of substance in these paragraphs, outside of a rather blatant attempt to portray the work in the worst possible light.

    I note in passing that while I most certainly say that LDS theology is wrong, I did so only after carefully defining that theology from official sources—-and Mr. Barksdale admits that he is not an official representative of the LDS Church. I never identified it as “sick,” I identified it as false. I did not use any stronger terms in my rejection of LDS claims than LDS writers have used in rejecting historic Christianity.

    Does Mr. Barksdale interact at all with the fact that this work expends a tremendous amount of time documenting the LDS position? No, instead, the old “straw-man” claim is made yet once again: without a single shred of documentation to back it up. Here are the comments:

    In this book, in true form, White elaborately sets up an imposing straw man to rip apart and burn, building his entire premise on the fact that LDS Theology differs from what he terms “Christian Orthodoxy”.

    I guess we shall have to wait for the full review to know how it is possible to set up a “straw man” by merely quoting in context the leaders of the LDS Church, but I will make a prediction: Mr. Barksdale refuses to be held accountable to anything but LDS Scripture. Hence, even though his own church speaks of latter-day revelation, the priesthood authority, living prophets and apostles, etc., and even though I provided a thorough foundation for the use of all the sources cited, this will be his main point: that Mormons cannot be held accountable for Joseph Smith, their Temple ceremonies, or for anything taught by their apostles and prophets. Let the reader decide who is erecting a straw man.

    Poisoning the Well

    Above I made the charge that this article by Mr. Barksdale is nothing more than an attempt to poison the well. He is attempting to set up his longer review, which he promises to post soon. This is plainly borne out by the following:

    Suffice it to say, rather than letting the facts speak for themselves, in this book White resorts to the kind of bitter, name-calling schoolyard charm that has made him a household name among the Counter-Cult Culture. He calls us “cultists”. He calls us “idolators”. And he absolutely refuses to call us “Christians”.

    Such phrases as “bitter, name-calling schoolyard charm” have become standard fare for LDS apologists, though, as the facts show, the term describes their own behavior, not mine. Any person who has read Is the Mormon My Brother? has to sit back in amazement at such dishonesty. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Note the allegation that “he calls us ‘cultists’.” I did a search of the electronic files on my computer system for the word “cultist.” It appears exactly one time in the entire book, and in a context that is almost humorous, given Mr. Barksdale’s desperate attempt to misrepresent the work. It is the same passage that attracted the attention of Professor Midgley as well, a passage in which I am talking about others who take an improper attitude toward the task at hand:

    There are many others, however, who have no doubts whatsoever about the LDS faith in general, and Mormons in particular. “It’s a devil-inspired cult” they say, “and that’s all there is to it.” For many, Mormons are simply polygamous cultists, out to destroy the souls of anyone unwary enough to be caught in their clutches. Yet many who would provide the strongest denunciations of LDS theology and practice are the very ones who have done the least work in seriously studying LDS writings, and interacting with LDS viewpoints. Therefore, a large body of literature exists that is based not so much on fair, even-handed study of primary source documentation, but upon a very large dose of emotion and bias. Such literature normally emphasizes the sensational, seeking to arouse the emotions of the reader against the LDS faith. Modern LDS apologists and scholars like to focus upon such literature, often treating it as if it is the “norm” for all Christians, and have little difficulty demonstrating inconsistencies and half-truths, thereby dismissing all efforts at refuting LDS claims and evangelizing the LDS people. But for those who find in Mormonism the very embodiment of evil itself, there is little reason to even ask the question, “Is Mormonism Christian?” And there is even less reason to spend any time at all fairly evaluating the arguments of LDS scholars on the topic.

    As anyone can see who is expending any effort at all to be fair in reading what I have written, I am decrying such attitudes as the one I am addressing here. Hence, where in my book do I merely right of Mormons as “cultists” as Mr. Barksdale has asserted? It is obvious that it is his desire that his readers believe that the book is filled with invective and insult—yet, anyone who reads it knows differently.

    Next, he speaks of calling Mormons “idolators.” That term appears once in the entire book—in an endnote—quoting someone else—about pagan idolaters in the days of Jeremiah. Perhaps Mr. Barksdale was just a little over-zealous, and meant to say that I spoke often, in the chapter on the biblical teaching concerning God, of idolatry? And I most assuredly did. But, of course, it does not have nearly the emotional impact to say “James White contrasted LDS belief in a plurality of gods with biblical monotheism, and concluded that to worship the god presented by Joseph Smith would be idolatry.” In fact, if he dared note that before coming to such a conclusion I spent over 100 pages making sure we knew what the LDS position was, and then took the time to carefully present numerous biblical passages that contradict the LDS position, his entire thesis would be destroyed, and he might actually find himself having to admit that the book is just the opposite of what he wishes it would be.

    But since the charge is made, here are the results of a search of the chapter titled “The God Christians Worship” regarding the term “idolatry”:

    Even though He taught His people from the start that He alone was God, the people of Israel were constantly falling into idolatry. Centuries after Moses, Isaiah was the mouthpiece God used to make some of His highest statements about Himself and His relationship to our world. Seeing that the people of Israel were steeped in idolatry, and were constantly being lured away from single-hearted devotion to Him, Yahweh convenes a “court,” and puts the gods of the peoples on trial.

    But God’s purpose is plain: “There is no God besides Me.” Idolatry is inherently foolish simply because there is no worthy object of worship other than the one true God, Yahweh Elohim, or as it normally appears in the English text, the LORD God.

    God takes His truth very seriously. This is not a matter of theological finery, it is the difference between idolatry and worship, salvation and eternal punishment. Joseph Smith has led millions to follow “gods whom you have not known.” Did not Smith himself say that we had imagined and supposed that God “was God from all eternity”? And is this not exactly what God is saying in these passages in Scripture? Yet Smith went on to say, “I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see.” These are the words of a false prophet, and God’s view of false prophets is plainly stated in verse 5 above.

    This is the only God worthy of worship and adoration. And God expects us to know this truth—He upbraids those who have forgotten by asking, “Do you not know? Have you not heard?” That this has always been known is plainly proclaimed. There is no excuse for idolatry, no defense for polytheism. In comparison with the true God, earth’s inhabitants are “like grasshoppers.” Are we truly to believe this is being said of an “exalted man” who was once a mortal like you and I?

    The true God is not liable to representation by the physical universe, for He is invisible, and infinite, and hence incapable of comparison with anything in the created order, which must be, by nature, finite. This brings us to the very nature of idolatry, for to represent God in any way that is untrue is, at its root, an act of idolatry.

    As strong as it may sound, we cannot possibly be honest with the biblical evidence and teaching, and the statements of LDS leaders we have examined, and not honestly warn our LDS friends that to worship the God of Joseph Smith is, quite simply, to engage in idolatry. To even think of God in terms of a creature, a man, is to denigrate His being beyond words. To worship any god other than the one true God who made all things, likewise, is to place one’s very soul in eternal peril.

    The sin of idolatry includes thinking of God in human categories. This is not to say that God has not used human terminology to express Himself and His existence—surely He has. But we are warned over and over again not to think of God as if He were a creature like us.

    Man slips down the slope into idolatry when he views himself in any way other than as the creature of God, bound by his creation itself to live in such a way as to honor and glorify his God.

    Yet in Scripture, God Himself uses sarcasm—regularly—to point out the foolishness of man’s idolatry. So we hear God saying, “Oh man, man! I am God, and you aren’t.” God likens rebellious men to an earthenware vessel, a mere inanimate object, yet arrogant enough to argue with his Maker!

    Two of the above uses of the word conclude that LDS teachings lead to idolatry. One could logically conclude, then, that a person embracing such beliefs will be led to idolatry as a result. However, it would not do for Mr. Barksdale’s purposes to present the truth of what the book actually says, for to say that someone examines the issues thoroughly and comes to the conclusion that a system leads to idolatry is a far cry from saying “He calls us idolaters and cultists.” If he were to deal with what I actually said, he’d have to admit that for him, to engage in ad-hominem attacks upon Mormons is to fairly evaluate their beliefs, compare them with Scripture, and come to the honest conclusion that they have been badly deceived. Yet, anyone can see that is not ad-hominem argumentation at all.

    Unrelenting Hatred

    So why the tremendous misrepresentation in Mr. Barksdale’s article? The answer comes quickly:

    Why? Why are people so consumed with hatred that they feel the need to form organizations like CRI, or the “Counter-Cult” movement? Why is their hatred so unrelenting? What is the payoff for persecuting other Christians? One has to seriously wonder. And as can be seen by White’s most recent book, the tone of anti-Mormon works is getting worse.

    Note the assumption here: that I hate Mormons. Yet, Is the Mormon My Brother? contained the following statement:

    I love the Mormon people. In our culture today, that might sound strange. Secular folks could not possibly understand what I mean, especially since I have written an entire work demonstrating, from LDS sources, and from the Bible, that Mormonism is not Christianity. And since Mormons claim to be Christians, how can I say I love Mormons when I say that one of their most often repeated claims is not true?

    But the Christian reading this work will understand exactly what I mean. The Bible is very plain in telling us how we are to act as followers of Christ. We are to “speak the truth in love,” (Ephesians 4:15) even while we “refute those who contradict” (Titus 1:9) and “expose the unfruitful works of darkness” (Ephesians 5:11). Christian love does not ignore the truth, it revels in it. Indeed, there is no Christian love where truth is ignore or compromised. They go hand in hand, for “love rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6).

    It is my love for the LDS people that compels me to missions work in Utah and Arizona. And it forms a major component in my writing this book. If I love someone, I will tell them the truth, even if I know they may not appreciate my efforts. As Paul was forced to say to the Galatians when writing them a difficult letter, “Have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (Galatians 4:16).

    I believe it is not a sign of true, honest, uncompromising love to have the kind of disagreements I have with LDS people—disagreements that involve eternal issues, and yes, the eternal destiny of those involved—and yet dismiss those disagreements because it is uncomfortable to talk about them. We would never allow such a mindset to exist in almost any other area of our lives, but when it comes to this one area, we seem to go just a little berserk, allowing our emotions to run away with our thinking. If my Mormon friend is worshipping another god and has been deceived, how can I remain silent and still claim I am showing Christian love?

    And so in part I write out of love for the LDS people. But even more so, I have written out of love for Christian people. This book is meant to equip the saints, to provide them with the necessary facts, both from a biblical perspective, as well as from a dogmatic LDS perspective, upon which to act in deciding such issues as fellowship, interaction, and evangelism. Christians need to know the truth about LDS teaching, and I have sought diligently to present it. I hope that the Lord will be pleased, through the process of struggling with these issues, to re-ignite in the hearts of many a pastor and layperson a love for the great truths of God’s uniqueness, immutability, and creatorship.

    Is it not far more likely that the “unrelenting hatred” is to be found in those who misrepresent others, are dishonest in their writings, and who seek to damage others’ reputations by dishonesty? Yes, Mr. Barksdale accuses me of misrepresentation, just as I am accusing him. There is, of course, one glaring difference: I have documented his misrepresentations. He documented nothing. Instead, his desire is obviously to do nothing more than communicate to his readers that I am a hateful, vengeful person. If the above was not enough to convince you of that, read on:

    White has written yet another book, this time aimed at teenagers, called What’s With The Dudes At The Door? Not content with spewing his hatred in the general direction of any adult that will listen, White now feels it his imperative duty to indoctrinate Evangelical youth with a healthy dose of hatred and religious bigotry. These youth would be well-served to ask, as they read this book, “What Would Jesus Do?” as White has definitely ignored this rather rhetorical question as he repeatedly labels Mormons as “weirdo cultists”.

    Why? Why would an otherwise intelligent Child of our Heavenly Father be so possessed and consumed with this kind of hatred? What would possess him to be this vicious? Why would he do such a thing?

    Let’s put the terms together for the full effect: hatred, healthy dose of hatred and religious bigotry, “weirdo cultists,” consumed with this kind of hatred, vicious. Combine these with the ones we’ve already seen: unrelenting hatred, bitter, name-calling school-yard charm, etc. The reader is invited to scan both of my books on Mormonism and see if any such invective can be found. The truth is self-evident.

    Barksdale goes on to quote from Mosser and Owen’s famous paper, attacking my scholarship. Yet, he does not even quote from the book itself. While we could hope for more from the full review, the clear emotionalism and pure prejudice documented so far will undoubtedly preclude the full review from having any substantial meaning.

    I have indicated in written works and in many media appearances that Mormonism is attempting to “mainstream” itself. Mr. Barksdale admits it:

    It is my opinion that more work needs to be done in this area. More projects like How Wide The Divide? need to be pursued. Mormon scholars are well-accepted in mainstream Christian Scholarship. It’s high time that the rest of us were accepted as readily into the mainstream Christian community.

    I have addressed this issue fully in the book—-which is why Mr. Barksdale is so desperate to keep his readers from fairly listening to its argument. He is so desperate, in fact, that he’s willing to go this far:

    Mr. White, this is not Nazi Germany, and Mormons are not a lower life form. Evangelical Christianity is not the “Master Race”, and all others scum. We are all children of our Heavenly Father. Let’s act like it, and emulate His example in our lives. Let’s be a light to their feet, and show them the way.

    If we need to, let’s set the example for James in our dealings with Anti-Mormons. He obviously needs one. And who knows? It might just work some day.

    Nazi Germany? Lower life form? Master Race? Scum? I invite any person to pick up Is the Mormon My Brother?, read it, and think about what could possibly prompt such comments from Mr. Barksdale.

     

    Will They Ever Deal Honestly with the Issue?

    One is left to seriously wonder if any LDS writer will honestly deal with the issues raised in Is the Mormon My Brother? It is obvious beyond dispute that Mr. Barksdale is unwilling to do so. FARMS is so completely out of control that I no longer post the embarrassing e-mails I continue to receive from notable people associated with that organization. So who will step up to the bat and actually respond to the issue without first engaging in the most obvious, blatant forms of dishonest argumentation and simple name-calling? Only time will tell.

     

    James R. White, Th.D.

    July 1, 1998

     

    Addendum:

    Upon encountering Mr. Barksdale’s review, I asked him, in an Instant Message, to document some of his claims.  He said he is an honest man, and he’d retract anything that was in error.  Time passed.  No documentation.   Finally, Mr. Barksdale replied: with an article more shrill, and less true, than what came before.  Laced with childish invective and condescension, Barksdale blithely skipped over the vast majority of the above, choosing only to respond to what he could successfully twist to his own view, ignoring that which is simply too difficult to even attempt to misrepresent (Mr. Barksdale did not include the URL for this response entitled “If You’re Not My Brother, Then Why Do You Keep Hanging Around My House-“). Sadly, he has chosen to press forward with his “review” as well .  Again, the reader is invited to simply lay aside the emotions Darryl Barksdale is so desperate to invoke, examine the issues and arguments, and decide from there.

    Joseph Smith the Translator – by Sean Hahn – Vintage

    The average Mormon is probably unaware of the beliefs held by Joseph Smith regarding the nature of God and the creation account, as well as the hermeneutical weaknesses that underlie his position. A Christian apologist who is aware of these weaknesses and capable of demonstrating them succinctly, is in a better position to undermine the misplaced confidence of the Mormon in Joseph Smith and his teachings. The reader of this paper will understand the hermeneutical weaknesses of Joseph Smith particularly relating to who God is, and how creation occurred.

    Our purposes will be accomplished by first demonstrating that Joseph Smith had a limited formal education as well as an insignificant amount of Biblical instruction and religious influence from his parents. Second, we shall review and comment on the claims by Joseph Smith and other Mormons regarding his “most unique and thorough education in spiritual matters ever given to man. . .”[1] Our third objective is to expose the weaknesses in his later efforts to engage in detailed Biblical hermeneutics[2] by examining his exegesis of Genesis 1:1.

    HIS EARLY EDUCATION

    An ironic feature of the personal history of Joseph Smith has to do with his early education. He was not able to obtain a formal education during the early nineteenth century due to the impoverished facilities of the New England educational system. Furthermore, his educational deficiency was compounded by the insufficient financial and economic circumstances of his parents.[3]  Several well known and respected Mormon leaders frequently characterized Joseph Smith as an “illiterate and unlearned boy.”[4]  Others state that he “was scarcely in possession of an ordinary common school education.”[5]  George A. Smith, a cousin of Joseph Smith, spoke of him as “a ploughboy, . . one who cultivated the earth, and had scarcely education enough to read his Bible.”[6]  Joseph Smith made no attempt to hide his meager education and asserted in one of his revelations that the Lord preferred “the weak things of the world, those who are unlearned and despised, to thrash the nations.”[7]  A further irony is that Joseph Smith and his followers used the fact of his limited education to enhance his credibilities as a prophet. To prove his authenticity, Mormons will remark, “Considering that Joseph Smith was an unlearned youth, possessing the equivalent of only a fifth grade education, the only possible way he could have written the Book of Mormon and organized such an important church is by the inspiration of the Spirit of God?”

    Fawn Brodie indicates in her biography of the “prophet” that the lack of academic endeavor on the part of Joseph Smith was similarly used to justify a lack of education on the part of his followers. For instance, “My source of learning,” W.W. Phelps had written in the Messenger and Advocate, “and my manner of life, from my youth up, will exclude me from the fashionable pleasure of staining my communications, with the fancy colors of a freshman of Dartmouth, a sophomore of Harvard, or even a graduate of Yale; nothing but the clear stream of truth will answer the purpose of the men of God.” The followers of Joseph Smith perceived him as the source of all wisdom often proclaiming, “Spring water tastes best right from the fountain.”[8]  Anti-intellectualism was apparently accepted and promoted among Mormons as Joseph Smith encouraged his followers, “The best way to obtain truth and wisdom is not to ask it from books, but to go to God in prayer, and obtain divine teaching.”[9]

    In addition to his meager secular education Joseph Smith also received an insignificant amount of Biblical instruction from his parents. Joseph and Lucy Smith, the parents of the “prophet,” did not commit themselves to any denomination or profess real interest in a particular church during their twenty years together in New England. Religion for Lucy Smith was a highly personal experience separate from the accountability and discipline of church membership.[10]  Considering the contempt his parents felt towards the church, Fawn Brodie suggests in her biography of the “prophet,” that the children of Joseph and Lucy Smith probably never learned to fear God.[11]  Therefore, the Biblical instruction Joseph Smith received did not come from his parents or any formal education, but rather as Dr. Andrus, Professor of Church History and Doctrine at Brigham Young University, declared Joseph Smith continued to be taught from his youth until his death from on high.[12]  Dr. Andrus goes on to say, “Therein he received the most unique and thorough education in spiritual matters ever given to man, with the exception of that which the Son of God received while in mortality.”[13]

    HIS SUBJECTIVE TRUTH SOURCES

    Throughout the course of his life Joseph Smith claims he received repeated divine instructions from the visitation of angels,[14] Jesus Christ, and even God the Father.[15]  Moreover, he claims that many ancient apostles and prophets made their appearances communicating Gospel principles and instructions to him including Moses, Elias, Elijah,[16] John the Baptist, Peter, James, John[17]and even Adam.[18]  Obtaining this celestial knowledge and instruction, according to Joseph Smith, was superior to reading and comprehending all that was written from the days of Adam.[19]  He proclaimed, “Could you gaze into heaven five minutes, you would know more than you would by reading all that was written on the subject.”[20]  Former Mormon President D.H. Wells commented on the remarkable insight of Joseph Smith.

    “It seemed to me that he advanced principles that neither he nor any other man could have obtained except from the source of all wisdom – the Lord Himself. I soon discovered that he was not what the world termed a well-read or an educated man; then where could he have got this knowledge and understanding, that so far surpassed all I had ever witnessed, unless it had come from Heaven?[21]

    The highest source of truth for Joseph Smith was the subjective and personal experiences he allegedly encountered during his life. It seems that for Joseph Smith and others of this persuasion that “truth was received through the feelings, the imagination, personal visions, inner voices, personal illumination, or other purely subjective means. This line of thinking borders on mysticism and forces all truth into the realm of pure subjectivity, even to the point of absurdity or dementia. The inherent difficulty with this type of reasoning is the experience of one person is as valid as the experience of another and objective truth becomes practically superfluous.”[22]  These “mystical experiences are self-authenticating and not subject to any form of objective verification. They are unique to the person who experiences them. Since they do not arise from or depend on any rational process, they are invulnerable to any refutation by rational means.”[23]  Moreover, this kind of thinking is antithetical to the clear and consistent teaching of the Bible.  “God is the originator of all truth and is the original Truth.”[24]  Jesus proclaimed that He is the Truth[25] and that His word is truth,[26] therefore, “His word must be the standard by which we judge all things and the starting point of our thinking rather than seeking subjective experiences.”[27]

    HIS LATER ACADEMIC ENDEAVOR

    In spite of his limited formal academic endeavor, Joseph Smith eventually developed a yearning for education later in his life. In March of 1833, Joseph Smith organized a School of the Prophets in Ohio for the instruction of his elders. Therein, the main emphasis of study, as indicated by Fawn Brodie, was his own revelations rather than a school of academic study.[28]  Louis Zucker, Professor Emeritus of English and Lecturer in Hebrew at the University of Utah has long been interested in Mormon-Jewish relations explains, “The next year, Joseph [Smith] was studying English grammar . . . and was teaching it at the school.” He further explains, “In November of 1835, the Mormon high Elders were determined to study Hebrew in the coming months and while selecting a Hebrew teacher, the Mormons acquired several Hebrew books including a Hebrew Bible, Lexicon and Grammar.”[29]  After locating a Hebrew instructor named Joshua Seixas, Joseph Smith spent the next two months anticipating his arrival and studying Hebrew. He began to show an increased interest in Hebrew during these two months as recorded in his journal,

    “This day we commenced reading in our Hebrew Bibles with much success. It seems as if the Lord opens our minds in a marvelous manner, to understand His word in the original language; and my prayer is that God will speedily endow us with a knowledge of all languages and tongues. . .”[30] 

    On January sixth, 1836, the School of the Prophets was enlarged to include classes in Hebrew with the employment of Professor Joshua Seixas. His term of ten weeks included teaching approximately seventy Mormon students for two hours a day and five days a week. Professor Lewis Zucker states that, “Professor Seixas was undoubtedly well pleased with him as a Hebrew student and after his teaching term ended, Hebrew was never taught again to the Mormons in Kirkland.”[31]  Commenting on the way in which Joseph Smith utilized his knowledge of Hebrew, Professor Lewis Zucker writes, “He used the Hebrew as he chose, as an artist, inside his frame of reference, in accordance with his taste, according to the effect he wanted to produce, as a fountain for theological innovations.”[32]

    Despite attempts by Joseph Smith to acquire academic knowledge late in his life these endeavors nevertheless appear to be ineffectual if one considers a close examination of his interpretation of Genesis 1:1. Rather than employ the legitimate insight yielded by a study of Hebrew grammar, Joseph Smith forces his own assumptions and presuppositions onto the text of Scripture. Thus Smith denies the clear and concise statements made in Genesis 1:1 regarding the identity of the Creator, and the origin of the world. He presented his ideas in a sermon entitled the King Follett Funeral Discourse, preached at the April conference of 1844, only a few months prior to his death. Approximately twenty thousand Mormons listened intently to the founding “prophet” expound upon and clarify the doctrines concerning the nature of God and the creation of the world.

    God an Exalted Man

    I will go back to the beginning, before the world was, to show what kind of being God is. What sort of being was God in the beginning? Open your ears and hear, all ye ends of the earth, for I am going to prove it to you by the Bible, and to tell you the design of God in relation to the human race, and why he interfaces with the affairs of man.

    God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by his power, was to make himself visible,–I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form — like yourselves in all the person, image and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with him, as one man talks and communes with another.

    In order to understand the subject of the dead, for consolation of those who mourn for the loss of their friends, it is necessary we should understand the character and being of God and how he came to be so; for I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see.

    These are incomprehensible ideas to some, but they are simple. It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another, and that he was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did; and I will show it from the Bible.[33]

    Meaning of the Hebrew Scriptures

    I shall comment of the very first Hebrew word in the Bible; I will make a comment of the very first sentence of the history of creation in the Bible–Berosheit. I want to analyze the word. Baith–in, by, through and everything else. Rosh— the head. Sheit–grammatical termination. When the inspired man wrote it, he did not put the baith there. An old Jew without any authority added the word; he thought it too bad to begin to talk about the head! It read first, “The head one of the Gods brought forth the Gods.” That is the true meaning of the words. Baurau signifies to bring forth. If you do not believe it, you do not believe the learned man of God. Learned men can teach you no more than what I have told you. Thus the head God brought forth the Gods in the grand council. . . .

    A Council of the Gods

    . . . Now, I ask all who hear me, why the learned men who are preaching salvation, say that God created the heavens and the earth out of nothing? The reason is, that they are unlearned in the things of God, and have not the gift of the Holy Ghost; they account it blasphemy in any one to contradict their idea. If you tell them that God made the world out of something, they will call you a fool. But I am learned, and know more than all the world put together. The Holy Ghost does, anyhow, and He is within me, and comprehends more than all the world: and I will associate myself with Him.

    Meaning of the Word Create

    You ask the learned doctors why they say the world was made out of nothing; and they will answer, ‘Doesn’t the Bible say He created the world?’ And they will infer, from the word create, that it must have been made out of nothing. Now the word create came from the word baurau which does not mean to create out of nothing; it means to organize; the same as a man would organize materials and build a ship.[34] Hence, we infer that God had materials to organize the world out of chaos – chaotic matter, which is element, and in which dwells all the glory. Element had an existence from the time he had. The pure principles of element are principles which can never be destroyed; they may be organized and re-organized, but not destroyed. They had no beginning, and can have no end. . . .[35]

    Scriptural Interpretation

    . . . I will show from the Hebrew Bible that I am correct, and the first word shows a plurality of Gods; and I want the apostates and learned men to come here and prove to the contrary, if they can. An un-learned boy must give you a little Hebrew. Berosheit baurau Eloheim ait aushamayeen vehau auraits, rendered by King James translators, In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. I want to analyze the word Berosheit. Rosh, the head; Sheit, a grammatical termination; The Baith was not originally put there when the inspired man wrote it, but it has been since added by an old Jew. Baurau signifies to bring forth; Eloheim is from the word Eloi, God, in the singular number; and by adding the word heim, it renders it Gods. It read first, In the beginning the head of the Gods brought forth the Gods, or, as others have translated it, The head of the Gods called the Gods together.

    In the very beginning the Bible shows there is a plurality of Gods beyond the power of refutation. It is a great subject I am dwelling on. The word Eloheim ought to be in the plural all the way through – Gods. The heads of the Gods appointed one God for us; and when you take [that] view of the subject, its sets one free to see all the beauty, holiness and perfection of the Gods. All I want is to get the simple, naked truth, and the whole truth.

    Many men say there is one God; the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are only one God and I say that is a strange God anyhow – three in one, and one in three! It is a curious organization. . . All are crammed into one God, according to sectarianism. It would make the biggest God in all the world. He would be a wonderfully big God – he would be a giant or a monster. . . .[36]

    For the remainder of our discussion we will cross-examine and respond to only two assertions of Joseph Smith in his King Follett Funeral Discourse: 1) He denies the Christian doctrine that God created the world out of nothing, ex nihilo, and states that God merely organized the world from chaotic matter which has co-existed with Him from the beginning; and 2) Joseph Smith protests the Christian doctrine of monotheism, declaring that there exists a plurality of Gods, and further states that God was once a man. His assertions result partly from his understanding of the Hebrew grammar in Genesis 1:1 and also from his own presumptions. It is important to understand that his statements are very significant and fundamental to Mormon doctrine. A Christian apologist capable of exposing the amateurish and uncritical attempts made by Joseph Smith to exegete Genesis 1:1 will be able to challenge the unwarranted trust Mormons place in him as a true “prophet” of God.

    “The interpretation given to [Genesis 1:1] rests on the traditional reading of tyviareB. (bereshith) in the absolute:  ‘In the beginning.'”[37] Joseph Smith translates the opening phrase in Genesis 1:1 as a construct[38] which subordinates verse one to verses two and three: When God set about to create the heavens and the earth, the world being then a formless waste . . . God said, “Let there be light. “The implication of reading the phrase as a construct is that verse one would then be a circumstantial clause and would no longer carry the traditional sense of “creation from nothing” (creatio ex nihilo).”[39]  This reading of the text presupposes that the earth preexisted in some unmaterial form or indigested mass prior to God performing the first act of creation. Therefore, according to this view, the first act of creation would be the command in verse three, “Let there be light.” Those who defend this position argue that the absence of the article with tyviare (reshith, “beginning”) in verse one means that tyviareB. (bereshith) cannot be read as an absolute (“in the beginning”); therefore, they conclude it must be read as a construct (“in beginning”).

    “In defense of the traditional view (that bereshith is in the absolute), it can be said that reshith, along with several other adverbials, does occur in the absolute without an article (e.g., Isa. 46:10; cf. Konig, Syntax, par. 294g). Thus the argument that the article must be with bere€shith for it to be absolute does not hold in every case.”[40]  One reason for taking bereshith in the absolute is that such would agree with the Septuagint which also translates the phrase jEn ajrch/’ (“In the beginning . . .”) in the absolute. Moreover, “In the beginning God . . .” affirms unequivocally the truth laid down throughout the whole of Scripture (e.g., John 1:1-3; Romans 4:17, Colossians 1:15-17; Hebrews 1:2, 11:3; Psalms 33: 6,9; Amos 4:13; Isaiah 44:24 etc.)[41] that until God spoke, nothing existed.[42]  The idea that God used preexisting material to form the universe not only denies absolute creation but is entirely contrary to Biblical teaching.

    Joseph Smith, however, is correct in stating that ~yhil{a/ (Elohim) is plural, meaning literally “gods.” The name Elohim is based upon the singular and simpler form of the word God, lae (El). This is the generic name or designation for God in the Old Testament; that is, it functions in language as our generic term God. El is often used almost interchangeably with the plural for Elohim (Cf. Ex 34:14; Ps. 18:31; Deut. 32:17, 21). This Hebrew plural form of God, indicated by the im ending, and is used over 2000 times in the Old Testament. The im ending found in Genesis 1:1 does not express a plurality of Gods as maintained by Joseph Smith. “The religion of the Old Testament and Judaism is monotheistic. . .”[43]  The im ending in Hebrew functions as the indication of the superlative idea; to be understood as the plural of intensity or plural of majesty. The equivalent in English is the est ending on adjectives; i.e. great/greatest or high/highest. When the im ending is used in reference to God El, it serves to indicate His transcendence and superiority over all other (so-called) gods. “God is the God who really, and in the fullest sense of the word, is God.”[44]

    “God alone created the heavens and the earth. The sense of Genesis 1:1 is similar to the message in the Book of Jeremiah that Israel was to carry to all the nations:  ‘Tell them this,’ Jeremiah said. ‘These gods, who did not make the heavens and the earth, will perish from the earth and from under the heavens’ (Jeremiah 10:11). The statement in Genesis 1:1 is an affirmation that God alone is eternal and that all else owes its origin and existence to Him.”[45]  “The work recorded in chapter one in a very outstanding way sets forth God€s mighty works of power and majesty. God’s omnipotence outshines all other attributes in this account.”[46]

    The use of the name Elohim in Genesis 1 clearly has reference to the True God who has power over, and is other than, the created order. This sovereignty is also alluded to in the -im ending to this name for God. Much as a modern monarch might set forth his decrees with statements like, We determine. . . or It is our pleasure to announce. . . using the plural, not to indicate that his decisions are made by a committee, but that he, the sovereign, the majesty, has made them, so likewise this plural in Genesis 1:1 should be understood as indicating, not a plurality of gods as taught by Joseph Smith, but the Sovereign, Majestic and only true God.” His interpretation of Elohim carelessly contradicts the consistent “monotheistic” testimony found throughout Scripture (i.e. Deut. 6:4; Isaiah 43:10-11, 44:6-8, 45:5-6, 45:22; Psalm 96:5, etc.).

    Likewise, his understanding that God was once a man rests upon his incorrect interpretation of €Elohim and an improper inference of man being made in the image and likeness of God in Genesis 1:26. Joseph Smith infers from the true premise that Adam was created in the image and likeness of God, to his conclusion that therefore, God must exist in the image and form of a man. Commenting on Genesis 1:26 and man as the crown of creation, H.C. Leupold states,

    “. . . [this verse] sets forth the picture of a being that stands on a very high level, a creature of singular nobility and endowed with phenomenal powers and attributes, not a type of being that by its brute imperfections is seem to be on the same level with the animal world, but a being that towers high above all other creatures, their king and their crown.”[47]

    The phrase “image and likeness” aims to assert that man is to be closely patterned after his Maker. However, we cannot go to the extreme and assume that man has physical similarities to God. Since the being of God is an incorporeal spirit (John 4:24), and not contained by a physical body (Jeremiah 23:23-24), it would be incorrect to say that the body of man is patterned after the body of God. What may be correctly inferred from the phrase “image and likeness” are the qualities and characteristics that pre-fallen man received from God which separated him from the rest of His creation.  Such qualities would include: holiness, moral righteousness, obedience to reason, perfect intelligence, immortality of the soul, self consciousness, freedom of the will, correct use of moral capacities and dominion over the earth.  Moreover, the interpretation offered by Joseph Smith contradicts passages where Paul says that we (Christians) are being transformed into the image of God by the Gospel.  According to Paul, spiritual regeneration is the restoration of the image of God in man (Col. 3:10; Eph. 4:23).[48]  We conclude this section by observing the admonitions found in Hosea 11:9, “For I am God and not a man, the Holy one in your midst,”[49] and Numbers 23:19, “God is not a man. . .”  Furthermore, the people who thought that God was just like them received His rebuke in Psalm 50:21, “. . . You thought I was just like you; I will reprove you and state the case in order before your eyes.”

    One must also question the claim of Joseph Smith that the Hebrew word ar’B’ (bara) means to “organize.” Bernhardt states the scope of the verb bara€ is greatly limited, being used exclusively to denote divine creation.[50]  A complete survey of the biblical use of bara reveals that the root bara€ has the basic meaning ‘to create,’ emphasizing the initiation of the object. The word is used only of the activity of God, and thus, a purely theological term. This distinctive use of the word is especially appropriate to the concept of creation by divine fiat. . . “[51]  As a special theological term, bara is used to express clearly the incomparability of the creative work of God in contrast to all secondary products and likeness made from already existing material by man.”[52]

    Whether or not God uses preexisting material when He creates, is not indicated from the word bara€ itself.  For example, in Genesis 1:27 God creates man in His image.  However it is vital to note that it is explained to us in Genesis 2:7 that God used preexisting material when He created man, “then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”  In this instance it is clear that God used preexisting matter in His process of creating. H.C. Leupold states, “The verb bara€ describing God’s initial work of creation is correctly defined as expressing the origination of something great, new and epoch-making, as only God can do it, whether it be in the realm of the physical or of the spiritual.” He continues,

    “The verb bara€ does not of itself and absolutely preclude the use of existing material; (cf. Isaiah 65:18) However, when no existing material is mentioned. . . no such material is implied. Consequently, this passage teaches creatio ex nihilo, ‘creation out of nothing,’ a doctrine otherwise also clearly taught by the Scriptures; Rom. 4:17; Heb. 11:3; cf. also Ps. 33:6,9; Amos 4:13. The verb is never used of other than DIVINE activity.”[53] 

    Moreover, one might further inquire as to where Joseph Smith obtained his information that an €old Jew€ without authority added the preposition be to the word reshith after it was written by the inspired man. According to the apparatus, found in Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, there is no evidence found in any Hebrew manuscript to support his claim.  This type of fantastic claim is consistent with the character of Joseph Smith. In that, it is not subject to equitable examination or verification and appears to have allegedly come from “divine intuition,” requiring ignorance to accept.

    In summary, we quote Professor Louis Zucker commenting on the translation of Genesis 1:1 by Joseph Smith; “But Joseph, with audacious independence, changes the meaning of the first word, and takes the third word “Eloheem” as literally plural.  He ignores the rest of the verse, and the syntax he imposes on his artificial three-word statement is impossible.”[54]  In full agreement with Professor Zucker, we assert that Joseph Smith demonstrates from his attempted exegesis of Genesis 1:1 that he understood very little about Hebrew grammar.  Therefore, we also conclude that the entire interpretation of Genesis 1:1 by Joseph Smith is based upon an improper exegesis of the text which blatantly contradicts foundational doctrines of the Bible.  Finally, it can be established that Joseph Smith approached the text of Scripture with his own personal agenda, consistently breaking rules of proper Biblical interpretation (i.e. failing to interpret Scripture with Scripture), and therefore his interpretation of Genesis 1:1 is reduced to mere subjective speculation, or as John Calvin would say, “buffoonery.”


    [1]Hyrum L. Andrus, Joseph Smith The Man And The Seer, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1979), p. 69.

    [2]For the reader who requires a definition of this term and further information see:  J.I. Packer, God Has Spoken, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1993) or Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994).

    [3]Cf. Andrus, Joseph Smith The Man, p. 52

    [4]Brigham Young, Journal Of Discourses, (London: F.D. Richards, 36, Islington, 1855), Vol.  XVIII p. 118, 210; Vol. XIX, p 28.

    [5]Ibid. Vol. XII, p. 357; Vol. XVIII, p. 157; Vol. XVII, pp. 283-284.

    [6]Ibid. Vol. VII, p. 111.

    [7]Ibid. Vol. XII, p. 72.

    [8]Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, (New York: Alfred A. Knopfp, 1993), p. 168.

    [9]Joseph Smith, History of the Church, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1978), Vol. 4, p. 425.

    [10]Cf. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, pp. 4-5.

    [11]Ibid. p. 5.

    [12]Cf. Andrus, Joseph Smith The Man,, p.69.

    [13]Ibid. p. 69.

    [14]Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 1, p. 11-17

    [15]Ibid., Vol. 1 p. 5

    [16]Doctrine and Covenants, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 110:11-16

    [17]Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 1,  pp. 39-41.

    [18]Ibid. Vol. 5, p. 92; Vol. 2, p. 380.

    [19]Cf. Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 6, p. 50.

    [20]Ibid. Vol. 6, p. 50.

    [21]Young, Journal Of Discourses, Vol. XII, p. 72

    [22]Cf. John F. MacArthur Jr., Reckless Faith, (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1994), pp. 19-34

    [23]Ibid. p. 27

    [24]Cf. Greg L. Bahnsen, Always Ready, (Atlanta, GA. American Vision; Texarcana, AR: Covenant Media Foundation, 1996), p. 24

    [25]John 14:6

    [26]John 17:17

    [27]Cf. Bahnsen, Always Ready, p. 25

    [28]Cf. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, pp. 168-169;

    In August of 1833, Mormon Apostle Parley Pratt similarly organized a school of the prophets in Missouri meeting once a week for instruction.  Concerning this school of the prophets, Elder Pratt remarks, “. . .we prayed, preached and prophesied, and exercised ourselves in the gifts of the Holy Spirit.” Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 1, pp. 400-01 fn.

    [29]Cf. Louis C. Zucker, “Joseph Smith As A Student Of Hebrew,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought,  Vol. 3:2 (Summer 1968), p. 42.

    [30]Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 2, p. 376.

    [31]Cf. Zucker, “Joseph Smith As A Student Of Hebrew,” pp. 47, 53.

    [32]Ibid. p. 53

    [33]Joseph Fielding Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976)  pp. 345-46

    [34]The argument set forth by Mormons to substantiate the eternality of matter is confirmed in many footnotes of the King Follett Funeral Discourse, of which one states:  “Robert Kennedy Duncan (1905), in his New Knowledge says: “Governing matter in all its varied forms, there is one great fundamental law which up to this time has been ironclad in its character.  This law, known as the law of the conservation of mass, states that no particle of matter, however small, may be created or destroyed.  All the king’s horses and all the king’s men cannot destroy a pin’s head.  We may smash that pin’s head, dissolve it in acid, burn it in the electric furnace, employ, in a word every annihilating agency, and yet that pin’s head persists in being.  Again, it is as uncreatable as it is indestructible.  In other words, we cannot create something out of nothing.  The material must first be furnished for every existing article. . . “Note by Elder B.H. Roberts”  Ibid. pp. 351-52

    [35]Ibid. pp. 348-52

    [36]From a corresponding sermon Joseph Smith preached June 16, 1844 entitled “The Christian Godhead – Plurality of Gods,” whereby,  he contributed  further critical information, Ibid. pp. 371-72.

    [37]John H. Sailhammer, “Genesis,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 2, Edited by Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids, Michigan: 1979), p. 21

    [38]When a Hebrew noun is in the construct, it indicates a genitival relationship with the following word.  (i.e., in translation, the word in construct is followed by the word ‘of ‘).

    [39]Sailhammer, “Genesis,” in The Expositer’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 2, p. 21

    [40]Ibid. p 21

    [41]We also mention the corresponding phrase found in the Greek New Testament appearing at the beginning of the Gospel of John,  jEn ajrch/’  (In the beginning), which clearly references to the ‘absolute’ beginning.

    [42]Cf. Derek Kidner, Genesis An Introduction and Commentary (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1967), p. 43.

    [43]Johannes Schneider, “God, Elohim,” in New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology,  Vol. 2 Edited By Lothar Coenen, Erich Beyreuther and Hans Bietenhard, Translated and Edited by Colin Brown (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1976), p. 67

    [44]Johannes Schneider, “God, Elohim,” in New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology,  Vol. 2 Edited By Lothar Coenen, Erich Beyreuther and Hans Bietenhard, Translated and Edited by Colin Brown (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1976), p. 67

    [45]Cf. John H. Sailhammer, “Genesis,” in The Expositor€s Bible Commentary, Vol. 2, Edited by Frank E. Gaebelein, (Grand Rapids, Michigan:, 1979), p. 20

    [46]H.C. Leupold, Exposition of Genesis, (Columbus, Ohio: The Wartburg Press, 1942), p. 40.

    [47]Ibid. pp. 92-93

    [48]Cf. Ibid.  pp. 88-90

    [49]All quotations from the Bible will be from the €New American Standard Bible,€ Updated Edition, (Anaheim, California: Foundations Publications: 1995)

    [50]Karl-Heinz Bernhardt, “Bara,” in Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, Vol. II (edited by G. Johannes Botterweck and Helmer Ringgren, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, 1975), p. 246.

    [51]Cf. Laird R. Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, eds.  €Theological Workbook Of The Old Testament,€  Vol. 2 (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), p. 127.

    [52]Karl-Heinz Bernhardt, Berlin, €Bara€ in Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, Vol. II (Edited by G. Johannes Botterweck and Helmer Ringgren, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, 1975), p. 246.

    [53]Cf. Leupold, Exposition of Genesis, (Columbus, Ohio: The Wartburg Press, 1942), pp. 40-41.  Emphasis added

    [54]Zucker, Joseph Smith As A Student Of Hebrew,  pp. 52-53.