The 2008 FAIR conference had some great presentations this year. Here are my personal notes from each presenter. Transcripts are forthcoming from FAIR. Several have been posted there; links added below.
Thursday, Aug. 7
Mike Ash: Shaken Faith Syndrome
Mark Wright: The Book of Mormon and Mesoamerica
Margaret Young and Darius Gray: Nobody Knows, the Untold Story of Black Mormons
Brian Birch, Blake Ostler, and James Faulconer: Philosophy and Mormonism
Jeffrey Bradshaw: The Message of the Joseph Smith Translation: A Walk in the Garden
Click here for a .pdf of Bradshaw's presentation.
Larry Poulsen: Book of Mormon Geography
Ugo Perego: Joseph Smith's DNA Revealed: New Clues from the Prophet's Genes
Friday, Aug. 8
Ron Esplin: The Joseph Smith Papers
Matthew Brown: The Israelite Temple and the Early Christians
Newell Bringhurst and Craig Foster: The White Horse Prophecy: Myth vs. Reality
John Lynch: What is FAIR and what isn't FAIR
Scott Gordon: Online Apologetics
Brian Hauglid: The Book of Abraham and apologetics
Brant Gardner: Mormon's editorial message and meta-message
See the transcript of Brant's paper here.
Daniel Peterson: Humble Apologetics
August 9, 2008
The 2008 FAIR conference had some great presentations this year. Here are my personal notes from each presenter. Transcripts are forthcoming from FAIR. Several have been posted there; links added below.
August 8, 2008
Peterson began by asking the audience to fill out our comment papers, he has already filled out about 30 of them for himself, of course. He apologizes for using no Powerpoint. The lights will be on, thus Peterson will be able to see the crowd fall asleep. He feels that nothing that he wanted to say went without saying already, and when a theme emerges in that manner, as often happens at the LDS General Conference, there is probably a reason for that.
"Basically I am offering myself as a model of that," Peterson said on the title of his paper Humble Apologetics. The phrase is from the title of book by Stackhouse on humble apologetics.
A verse that has been striking Peterson over the years is in 1 Nephi 11 when the angel asks Nephi "Knowest thou the condescension of God?" Nephi responds "I know he loves his children, but I don't know the meaning of all things." An awareness and acknowledgment of our own limits is important; being modest in what we say and gentle in the way we say it. "This is going to seem odd coming from me."
Peterson remembered a conversation with a man who has been through many struggles with his children, and has served much in the Church. Through it all, the man said, he can live by the phrase "the just shall live by faith." He doesn't always see the evidence for the loving God he'd like to see. (The theme shows up especially in Habakkuk and Romans.)
We walk by faith.
There is a tendency on the part of some apologists to pretend that we have an answer for all things. We must know the GPS coordinates of the Jaredite city of Lib. Actually, we aren't supposed to know everything.
As the scripture in 1 Nephi says, "I was led by the spirit not knowing beforehand the things I should do."
Faith as a leap in the dark actually isn't that negative; Peterson believes there is some dim light there. But still, there is a first step, not knowing for sure what it will be. Peterson thinks of Bushman's bio of Joseph Smith, and what struck him the most was the accounts of Joseph in Missouri. LDS today tend to see JS as knowing everything, but in Bushman's depiction of JS in Missouri, JS seems almost lost. He had received revelations about Missouri, the promised land, etc. and he is trying to figure out what is going on when things seem to be falling apart. There are instances of men on horses going to visit people and Joseph is just riding along, not leading the way. His plea in Liberty Jail asking where God is, or why he is staying his hand; those aren't just terse statements. We see though a glass darkly. Even prophets. That cry was sincere. In that jail JS knew things weren't supposed to be that way, his cry of agony was genuine (see D&C 122).
As Peterson began looking at his note cards again he said "I am mystified about the thought process that put these things together," [laughter].
A man Peterson knows who has since lost faith had an experience as a missionary in Paris. He had a distinct dream of a street and a neighborhood in Paris. He saw the name, the apartment number, the person in the apartment, he wrote it in the journal. They found the place, they knocked, the person joined the church. Peterson later met the man's companion who verified the account. He remembers talking to the man about that dream; even though the dream was true the account was not quite accurate as written in the journal. It didn't happen as written. Peterson believes that must be how it is with revelation, not always being absolutely clear how things work out. We can develop expectations that are unrealistic. We have these ideas. So with prophets, he believes that is how it works. We are walking in our limitations. To an extent we are left much to figure things out, such as in Nephi's comment not knowing the meaning of all things. The members of the 12 don't know it all, etc. God doesn't give everything to anyone in mortality.
Think of the answer Job gave to God. The Lord shows Job a display of power and says "who are you? Where wast thou when I lay the foundation of the earth?" We use that as a proof-text for premortality, but in reality this verse is saying that God has power, man doesn't understand, can't understand. Job responds by abasing self. The answer from the Lord is often "just submit." We won't always or often understand it now.
Why would the Lord do this?
Epistemic distance, the idea that God deliberately withholds things from us to allow agency. LDS refer to it as the veil. We don't know very clearly, and we must walk by faith. Kierkegaard talks about it, too. If God were to reveal himself directly it would be so powerful it would destroy our agency. Also, in order to work with us, God must condescend, he must serve, that is the life of our great God and Father. Think of the King who comes down to dwell among his subjects, just as Christ comes down to live with His people on our behalf. Being like us he would know how to succor us. Clear proofs would destroy the plan of salvation. We don't know, but we sense and feel certain things. What results from it is a revelation of what we really want and who we really want to be. Hunger and thirst.
Eschatological verification (Hick calls it) The scriptures don't promise we'll understand now. Take Malachi's book of remembrance. People are troubled about the blessed state of those not serving God. "It is vain to serve God. We call the proud happy! They that fear the Lord were heard, though, and a book was written for them that feared the Lord, and they will be spared. Then shall they return and discern between the righteous and the wicked." [I also believe this is when we will see some surprises in who is wicked and who is not.] At the end of times it will be made right, but you must trust in the meantime.
People who experienced near-death say often when they come back they seem to have forgotten much though they have a general answer or understanding. Isaiah: The earth shall be fll of the knowledge of the Lord," but this is not yet.
Testimony doesn't come on our schedule. The proper response is trust in the Lord. I'll hang on, there isn't much more I can do. Faith is things hoped for and not seen. Dispute not because you see not, you receive no witness until after the trial of your faith. This doesn't come from FAIR or FARMS answers etc. it comes from the Spirit.
Nibley wasn't playing games, but he also wasn't trying to desperately trying to prove things in the gospel were true. Peterson was struck by the simple and childlike nature of his faith. When he was arguing about the Book of Mormon, etc. he was not desperately trying to know things. He had a near-death experience. He almost died in the hospital. He said he realized he could do math really well when he was out of his body! Most of us wouldn't be thinking about that [laughter] we will learn much faster there. That isn't just what this life is about. The important thing, for him, was to learn to repent.
Testimony comes at different times in different ways.
Testimonies don't come strictly from pure intellectual inquiry, though. Peterson now relates again the story of the woman in Switzerland who had been investigating for seven years. He chatted with her for about 2 minutes and she was baptized the next week. He doesn't say this to boast because he didn't say anything brilliant or insightful, but something happened there that he couldn't do. We will not argue people into the church, they won't come solely by evidence, etc. It can help them get the plausibility, etc. but the Spirit goes where it listeth and that is what makes the difference.
So should apologetics be rejected?
Some see it as risible and objectionable to defend the faith. Maybe they have abandoned their faith, and thus oppose apologetics. Some believe it is wrong because it cannot be defended. Some say if it is true it should not have to be defended. Innocent defendants still need a defense, however. The truth can lose if not advocated. Many true science has gone opposed for years until forced to belief, etc. Some may feel there are no attacks on it, though Peterson feels that the crowd here likely doesn't suffer from that. The Mitt Romney campaign made some people surprised at the vitriol thrown at the church. "I told you so, you blank-blank blankety-blanks." There are actually people out there that don't like us very much.
Some are critical because they are concerned with the tone and method. Hard as it is to say we need to listen to them, though many of their accusations can be flat-out false. There is an ad hominem story about how apologists behave and they are wrong in many cases. Many people haven't even read the stuff. Still, it is never wrong to listen to your critics. And to the extent that tone has gotten into what we wanted to say, we need to improve in that area. Still, there is a great need to advocate the gospel especially in venues we may have been leaving to our critics. Elder Maxwell said the Church won't just passively sit back and accept criticisms, no more uncontested slam-dunks. We will respond. It is a scriptural mandate, 1 Peter "be ready always to give an answer with meekness and fear. " Apologia, apology, an answer, a defense, not "I'm sorry." Some who even criticize what is being done aren't doing much to pitch in. Teddy Roosevelt said "it's not the critic who counts; the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena. If he fails, he fails with those who tried" [paraphrased.] This job needs to be done.
Moses is described as being meek above all other men on the earth. It's not spinelessness. He is teachable, humble before the Lord, but not without strengths. We are not backing away from apologetics. We need to help those on the edge; those on the edge of leaving or joining. The lurkers, the people watching the battles are usually the souls won or lost to the kingdom. Austin Farrar's statement about argument not creating conviction, the lack of it destroys belief.A climate is maintained where belief may flourish.
Must be done properly.
The first rule must be: "First do no harm." If we do good it is icing on the cake, Peterson says. Always be prepared to give a reason for the hope, but do it with gentleness and respect. Message boards can be pretty strong, pretty argumentative. There is a lot of testosterone involved in that area.
The difference between apologists and historians is that the first attack the opponent and the latter want to take them to lunch. "What I like to do is to have the enemy for lunch," Peterson said. He doesn't see the distinction so distinctly.
The Utah Evangel was a production Peterson loved, it was rife with fallacies, etc. After an article on Joseph Smith's plates being made of tumbaga, their article was "FARMS Admits that Joseph Smith Lies: Plates Not Made of Gold."
People can look at situations differently, of course. A Muslim asked Peterson "Are you a Muslim?" "No." "Why not?" When this happens he responds that he is a Christian. The man asked "do you really believe God had a son, and that he sent him down and killed him to buy himself off?" Peterson said, kind of, I wouldn't put it that way. The man told him how stupid it was. However, many brilliant people have believed something so nutty over time. The same set of facts can look reasonable to one and perfectly insane to another. We need to understand that people in some sense need to want the gospel to be true. That opens us to charge of wishful thinking. That isn't what he means; he suggests that desires do make a lot of difference.
Peterson has had phone conversations with those who raise various objections. They usually get through them and demonstrate that there is another side to the story; but the listener was already done. "Do you want this to be true?" Otherwise, perhaps this is a waste of time. Maybe we can find ways to broaden apologetics to make the gospel attractive to people. Not that there is good reason, but that it actually is good news. Making it attractive is a great way to begin. It is good to eer on the happy side, on the light side. Is it rational to believe something you don't have unequivocal proof to? James responded that we do that all the time. Imagine you are in a carriage at the top of a hill. Your driver went in to get a drink. The carriage begins trolling. You wonder, would it be safer to stay in or to jump. It can be rational to make a decision either way. If it makes sense, you can choose the sunny side. Peterson believes we can do better than 50/50.
Not everyone wants the gospel to be true. They don't need to know everything to know it is false, ironically.
"Wretched Internet discussions" on a certain board which shall remain nameless there has been a discussion on the Mountain Meadows book. There are people who know it is lame and dishonest, and full of lies, hacks hired by the "Morg." One said he didn't need to read it because he knows BY ordered the massacre. It is impossible to have rational discussion at that point; they haven't seen the book but know it is flawed.
There will always be a leap of faith. If we must act on a certainty we should not act on religion. But then we must act on nothing at all, not war, not quest, nothing. True religion must go on despite evidence, etc. Otherwise you become like the dwarfs that you are so afraid of being taken in that you cannot ever be taken out.
Make the Gospel attractive and desirable
Not just didactic art, etc. but we must let the light shine before men that they may see our good works. We want them to make an experiment on the word. We want them to try it. It comes as Brigham said, more on your feet than on your knees. It comes by developing the habit of acting in a virtuous way.
How we treat people in apologetics
Vaughn J. Featherstone's neighbor had a conversation with his father on how he lets them do the yardwork though they were bad at it. His father answered that he was not raising wheat, but was raising boys.
Do we not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?
Even in winning an argument can lose you a soul?
He explained the night he had a bash with a Jehovah's Witness. They destroyed the man's arguments and the better they did the worse Peterson felt. But what good did that do? Nothing.
Modesty in apologetics
We are not the Holy Ghost and also we are not going to beat truth into people. We can suggest that various things make sense, etc. we are offering evidences or indications, pointers, rather than proofs.
1 Cor. 13: We know in part, prophesy in part. When that which is perfect shall come, we shall know...even as I am known. Faith, hope, and charity these three. But the greatest of these is Charity.
Question and answers
Q- Why do you get banned from boards?
Because I'm a swine
Q- Why do you jeep going back?
Because I am an addict. Really though, he keeps seeing things said that are so untrue he must respond and it becomes a huge ask and answer. He always ends up coming back. It's just a click and suddenly he's on a message board and there he goes.
Q- What do you think of the Millett discussions with other faiths
I'm not in favor of negotiating away the distinctive elements of the faith, but I really like building the amicable relations, and also help us learn much of our faith. We learn from speaking with Catholics, etc. He learned a lot about exaltation and the trinity by reading things from other religions. It isn't just a toleration, it is a place to learn. That is an affirmative reason to have conversations. We don't always do it well, we tend to give a little more away than we should, which is always a danger in having those conversations. We may downplay certain elements but wind up looking down that road of apostasy. This is what happened when people attempted to make their religion palatable, but distorted. We are making some progress, though it doesn't affect the Evangelical in the pew for the most part; there is still a great deal of misinformation; though they are worth doing, and doing carefully.
Q- What of the rebuttal to God is not Great by Hitchens
Bill had to head off to Oxford doing nothing now, though he wants to get the project back on line. It won't be a response simply to him, but broaden it to the new atheism in general.
Q- What are symptoms of people who want to come back?
Some come in tears and say they miss their faith. They seem ripe to share the goodness. Others are out there who literally hate the church, they are not promising candidates. Those who say they just struggle, they may be helped, they are to be loved either way. We shouldn't really waste time on the more belligerent ones, and Peterson says he is something of a hypocrite on that.We are not to cast pearls before swine. If you are spinning your wheels with someone uninterested you are neglecting someone else. There are people out there who would love to talk. Don't waste time spending time with folks who simply want to fight.
Wed. August 13, 2008, on MADB Peterson clarified his comments as follows:
I simply believe that the publicly agreed-upon facts are not decisive in either direction, theistic or atheistic, Mormon or "anti"-Mormon. There's enough to justify belief, but also enough to justify unbelief. I'm convinced that this is so by divine design. So we are left in a situation where purely rational argumentation is insufficient to settle the important issues -- which means that other factors (including desires) necessarily and inevitably come into play.
I was not saying that all unbelievers want to be unbelievers, and I was certainly not saying that believers believe simply because they want things to be so. But when the scales are just about evenly balanced -- as, for some, they are -- it doesn't take much to tip them one way or the other.
Gardner's paper is now available from the FAIR site.
According to Gardner, Latter-day Saints often misunderstand what Mormon did in the compilation of the Book of Mormon; a complex process. Some may think the Book of Mormon is a “zip-filed” version of the plates of Nephi, though Gardner believes this is mistaken. In other words, Mormon was active and intentional in his process. He didn’t include things because they were just there waiting, but because he selected those things that talked about what he wanted to include.
How Mormon did what he did.
Clues that Mormon had outline before committing material to plates:
Added before the rest of the text, not added later. They indicate Mormon wrote them prior to the chapters, thus he knew the contents first. In Mormon’s editing of the large plates Head notes absent from Mosiah, etc. because of the lost manuscript. Otherwise, it would have had a headnote. Mormon, Ether and Moroni did not have head notes. So Mormon was consistent in adding head notes to the books he included.
Didn’t just copy a previously written text though he copied from orig. source material he allowed himself to interact in tangents. “And thus we see,” etc.
an editor returning to an original text repeats a key word to show when the text is being interrupted. (See Alma 17:13) See also Alma 30: 56-58, "begging for his food" is repeated to bookend an editorial interlude.
The Book names seem to change when there was a new prophet, this occurred in the small plates. The Book of Mormon we have includes parts that replace the later lost parts.
Gardner argues the original outline was as follows:
Lehi, Mosiah, Alma, Helaman, Nephi (3), Nephi (4), Mormon
Mormon organized it by titling books but the books themselves contained abridged writings of many:
Lehi: Lehi, Nephi, and unknown rulers until reign of Mosiah. 400 yrs.
Mosiah: Mosiah 1, Benjamin, Mosiah 2, Alma the elder
Alma: Alma the Younger, and Helaman the elder
Helaman: Heleman the younger, and Nephi, his son
Gardner argues that the book divisions were based on the rulership, or change of political line. For example: The large plates contained the records of the subsequent Nephi's as kings. What happens between the book of Lehi and Mosiah? Omni tells us that Mosiah flees and founds a new dynasty, therefore he gets a new book. Alma begins at the change of rulership as well, thus beginning with the first of the new line of rulers, not Alma the first. Alma gives up that position, Helaman takes over. Change of political lines again. 3 Nephi is taken from a separate personal account, etc.
There seems to be something that queued Joseph Smith of a division of chapters. Numbers were not added, though. He told scribes to just write "chapter." Thus, the original chapters represent Mormon's chapter divisions as orig. reflected. Orson Pratt changed the chapter divisions in 1879.
In many cases, but not all, Mormon makes a new chapter at an inserted sermon, or when a sermon ends. Often these are marked with "amen." Mormon then placed concluding material at the beginning of chapters rather than the end. When O. Pratt re-cut the chapters he followed a modern understanding, moving them to the conclusion rather than the beginning of the next chapter.
What does this tell us?
Mormon considers the sermon unit as more important than the narrative. Second, he is likely quoting narratives rather than paraphrasing. Mormon is shifting sources. This is another time he makes a chapter division. He is quoting sermons. The sermons are from the plates, the history are from Mormon's interpretation.
Textual Flow Indicators:
Sentance endings and punctuation was added by publisher not the translator or scribe. And it came to pass was a visual cue, starting 37 out of 49 paragraphs in original edition. Gilbert, the publisher, noted "and it came to pass" and the other "and now" were cues which functioned like paragraph breaks or topic changes. "And it came to pass" refers to time, "and now" marks the change of concepts. This is why "and it came to pass" only 13 times in 2 Nephi. It is not a story-bound book, it is more conceptual. 1 Nephi uses it 109 times, because it is a different style, more historical in focus. The historical chapters in 2 Nephi are the ones "and it came to pass" was used in 2 Nephi.
It would be unusual for JS to come up with these phrases to mark paragraphs, etc. Perhaps JS got it from the Bible. But this isn't a case of just using phrases, but actually the phrases function flawlessly as textual markers. This has historical precedence among Mayan texts. "It happens," and "it happened." Gardner is not suggesting that the BoM influenced the Maya or that the Maya influenced the BoM. He argues that the function itself is similar because of its necessity in a similar circumstance.
Mormon's Interaction with his Material
How faithful was he to his sources, etc. It seems Mormon did intend to produce sermons faithfully, etc. How faithful was he to his sources in constructing the history? Mormons purposes were didactive, not reconstructive. The facts would be shaped around the intended meaning.
When he tells story of people of Zeniff, he quotes the whole record. Next, he switches to Noah's reign and describes it himself. The descriptions are clearly from Mormon's own descriptions. It seems Noah had some good things going, making things happen. Mormon repainted Noah as rotten from the start, even though the early sources couldn't have said he was that bad off the bat when the king himself was bad. Thus he manipulates the material. Similarly to the story of Nehor. Mormon makes sure we don't like him, though some really like him. Mormon names a religious movement for him. Nehor was not the earliest nor the most infamous foe, there was much more serious things. Gardner named the religion for a murderer to link it with the unsavory. "Order of the Nehors" then was Mormon's label. Other times Mormon tells things he couldn't know. Mosiah 22:16 says after being pursued for 2 days their trackers were lost. The Limhites wouldn't have known why the Lamanites stopped pursuit. Still, the record tells what happened to the Lamanites. Later he describes a war wherein the Nephites drive the Lamanites out. Mormon suggests they were then devoured by beasts, etc. because the bones were found. What if the bones weren't even theirs? It is possible.
Does this mean Mormon was less than a prophet?
No. It means his understanding of his task was ancient. The ancient world say history as the things that fit into his religious understanding. He used history to construct a moral story. Mormon wrote to convince that Jesus is the Messiah, not that the doctrine itself is true.
4th Nephi is so unique, it is the "Seinfeld" book, the book about nothing. The typical editorial method was stringing quotes together with historical narrative. In the absence of content of 4th Nephi we see how Mormon intended to convince us that Jesus is the Christ.
4th Nephi starts out by simply saying that All the people were converted, and everyone dealt justly. This verse says that only 2 years after the Messiah's visit all are converted. There was no enmity, etc. What kind of sermons did they receive? We are not told. We learn they were living happily ever after.
Was it true that all were converted in the land?
Yes, but this was a limited geography. Only 2 years had passed .Mormon doesn't say how far the actual gospel message was spread. As Mormon moves to more historical info in the next verse, "they had all things in common, no rich and poor, all made free, partakers of heavenly gift." (4 Nephi 1:3). Shows that culturally things were right, but in all, this info is nothing to chew on at face value. Empty information, "married, blessed, etc." This shows the normal continuation of life during this time of peace. "They did not walk after law of moses, etc. they walked after the new laws, fast, pray, word of Lord." Mormon has already explained the Nephite religious observances were after the pattern Christ gave. Thus, Mormon is marking empty time here. Structure, not episodes, carry the message. Communicates info rather than relates history. (See 4 Ne. 1:6; 4 Ne. 1:14). Large blocks of text about the time passing away. Mormon repeats series' of years where nothing happens. Mormon has marked empty years before in the record, too. He seems to be using a dated chronicles of some kind. In this case, he gives the most he has ever given.
Mormon's use of time in 4 Nephi:
41, 51, 71
42, 52, 72
49, 59, 79
These years are place holders. Mormon has gone from history into story. The spacing separated by 7 years, Mormon divides 4 Nephi into 4 blocks of 100 years each. He molds history into the pattern. Mesoamericans grouped things into 400 year periods (Bachtoon, like the concept of a century, etc.) Each of the hundred year blocks is treated as one event, etc. It is important to Mormon that the effects of the Messiah's meeting last for 200 years. Thus, there is a purpose in 4 Ne. which is to convince Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Messiah.
Lehi: 400 yrs.
Mosiah: 100 yrs.
Alma: 35 yrs.
Helaman 48 yrs.
3 Nephi: 35 yrs.
4 Nephi 400 years in forty verses. After the Messiah has come, the narrative is rapid in one book. All of 4 Nephi is a placeholder between the appearance of the Messiah and Mormon's own story. This is the strongest evidence of Mormon's historical intention. Mormon was the Messiah's apostle, his witness. Thus, he describes the pattern of history that precedes the appearance of the Messiah; thus what went before will parallel what is yet to come.
The historical pattern as shown by Mormon:
Decent to apostasy,
Destruction of Nephite polity,
The Messiah comes
The book ends with pessimism. But this isn't the message. The message is the cycle of history. Darkness before glorious light. He did so that we, too might know that the pattern will end with the appearance of the Messiah. The Messiah will come. That is Mormon's optimistic message, that Jesus is the Messiah who came, and will come.
Question and Answer:
Q- Wasn't Mormon's abridge of Ether in the sealed plates?
It seems a certain set of prophecies were those of the brother of Jared. Mormon says we'll get the info, and Moroni gives us the commentary on it (which is the info furthest removed. It was a very complex source)
Q- How were they physically put on the plates.
Brent Metcalfe asked him several years ago and he has an answer: I don't know. He believes they were at the end. Regardless of where they were physically, it seems JS translated them in the correct order. JS wasn't looking at the plates at least some of the time, so there you have it.
Q- How do the chapter breaks affect chaismus
Gardner disagrees with some of the foundings regarding Chiasm but did not offer detail.
Q- How old was Alma the younger when the angel appeared?
We don't know, it is hard to tell from the text. Old enough to know better.
Q-Was Capt. Moroni one of Mormon's fav's? Why did he like him so much?
He seems to have really liked Capt. Moroni. I have the impression of him reading Moroni like some people read the art of war. He was written in the text as the ultimate hero. Mormon seems to absolutely love the man. It seems there are some war stuff included precisely because he really admired them. Wars were included because of the wars preceding the 2nd coming. But he really took off with it. A little self-indulgent on that one.
Q- When Mormon records the teaching of Alma to his sons, can we assume this is a direct quotes from letters, etc.?
There are a lot of wordprint studies, etc. take a look at the pro's and cons. It seems that Mormon is frequently quoting the large plates. He is confident that he is getting at least some direct quotes. Take, for example, that Mormon cuts down on the stuff related to Shiblon.
Q- Do you accept the Arnold Friberg translation?
He did us some disservices. It has ruined the self-body image of the men of the Church! Take a look at the strippling sons! They were 12 to 14! I've never seen anything like it! Arnold and I don't get along on those topics.
This is an ancient book. Mormon put it together for us in a very specific way. It is a remarkable work that Mormon did to get us what we have. Think of how long it took to teach us from 1,000 years of history to teach us that Jesus is the Christ! Fascinating, wonderful stuff! Thank you.
A documentary edition of all the papers associated with the Book of Abraham, etc. much like the Joseph Smith papers project is underway planned for release next year.
He said he stands by the general arguments he made a few years ago, though he himself still has questions on the papyrus. He said can know for sure that these materials that we currently have are not those JS used to create the Book of Abraham.
Hauglid hopes to have a publication out next year on what has been going on which will open the gates again and get the flood waters roll along.
He is not an ink specialist or a pure textual critic. None of this work is done in a vacuum, however, and so people are pitching in. He wants to give a few suggestions on talking about BoA. He prefers a face to face discussion on the issue.
On the 2008 Bushman Seminar "Joseph Smith and His Critics"
Hauglid recently participated in the Bushman seminar. He said they didn't want to recreate the wheel; the information presented by FAIR and FARMS was educational to many of the participants. They all agreed, and are on the same page, that we are trying to work with neighbors, friends, family members, taking more of a pastoral approach. Regular concerned members were in mind.
A few things they found out:
Some people try to get help from FAIR and FARMS and didn't for some reason. They took a look at why some people weren't responding well to FAIR and FARMS, etc. They found that when people get online and start getting these questions they begin to lose trust, especially in feelings, in things of the Spirit, revelation, etc. Once you begin questioning that you are in a hard place. There are things not taught in Sunday School, or the Church is trying to hide things, some people keep plugging along, others quit the Church. Those who work through their issues actually end up being stronger at the end of the trial. They know there isn't an answer for everything, but you still know what you know.
A real-life experience from Hauglid:
Grew up in Minnesota, blue collar family, 5 siblings, dad an iron worker, mother waitress. Catholic for generations. In his teenage years H became a trial. Hated High School, couldn't hold jobs well. He feels like he wasted a lot of time then, should have been reading or something! At a low point he received a spiritual impression that helped him know that God loved him, encouraging him that God loved him. He began reading the New Testament. His younger brother was dating a Latter-day Saint. H approached Matt. 24 and was fascinated with it. He asked if Mormons knew about the 2nd coming, so he asked his girlfriend and she didn't know, but her dad had a good library. So through them he got Gerald Luind's Coming of the Lord. He liked it. He asked for more. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary by Bruce R. McConkie was next. He didn't know who "Neffee and Maronee" was at that point. His little brother began taking the discussions and the elders learned H had read those books. The elders then introduced him to the Book of Mormon. Received a witness, etc. and was baptized June of 1976. He obtained a testimony of the ward too, in other words, he was socially adjusted. His parents were incensed that he left the Catholic Church. He was assigned a home teacher. On the teacher's first and only visit he gave the most dynamite discussion on 2 Kings he had heard, about Elisha. The guy was sharp, clean-cut, articulate, and H wanted to be like him, he felt the Spirit. Soon he went to a 5-and-Dime and saw the same guy reading a Playboy. This affected him. He had a hard time squaring how he could feel the Spirit when talking to this guy. Now that he is older and has been a Bishop he understands, but at the time he really doubted the Spirit in that case. A Bishop looked at him and let him know the Church is not a haven for Saints but a hospital for sinners. H realized of course that no one is perfect. He has since had brushes with reality with the "real Church history" which he struggled with a little; became slightly cynical regarding some of those things, but he hung in there. The one-on-one experiences really made the biggest difference to him.
At a singles group talking about Islam some middle-aged guy came to him and asked about the Book of Abraham. "How can you stay a member of the Church with what you know about the Book of Abraham." This man had been a member, elder's quorum president, but lost his faith after seeing things about the BoA, thus decided the church was a fraud, etc. They talked about the facts they knew at the time, but he could tell the man was already a little too far gone. He brought out the problems we are aware of. We have this papyrus and JS used it to make the BoA, but when you look at it, there is nothing about the BoA on it. He had correct views on translation not matching on what we have, etc. He also talked about Facs. 3 about names above the heads of the characters. "I'm not converted to the method or the history here, I am converted to the gospel. I can separate the two." There is no conflict as he is trying to understand the issues.
The Internet is not accurate most of the time in full, though there may be factual information but then shifted to implicate the prophet. This plants seeds of doubt in sincere people. It can make them infected with doubt; Joseph becomes a liar, deceiver, fraud. They learn this while reading the criticism. There is so much misinformation and even disinformation (some placed to misguide people) on the Internet. Usually younger people or neighbors and friends will talk to him. What about the fact-to-face stuff, in addition to sitting and reading it, etc.
What to do? A few thoughts:
1) Treat the person with respect.
One-on-one can help avoid this. After the Bushman symposium 3 people approached him on the BoA. He noticed that the important thing is that their questions do not make them bad Mormons, etc. Ask away. The three were appreciative of that. They had tough questions, however, but were sincere. So he treated them as such, of course. Sometimes, though, we are so anxious to answer the question that we forget to actually listen. This leads to the perception that you aren't really listening to them. It can be personal, so it becomes us to answer with love. This should be obvious, coming from people who believe in the Savior. Matt Roper mentioned the scripture at the Bushman seminar, "as all have not faith, teach one another."
2) Treat questions seriously
Instead of saying "that's a dumb question" or "oh, that old thing?" "Just pray and read the scriptures," or "that isn't important to faith." These answers can be insulting or can give the impression that you have something to hide or are confused or wrong, etc. Hauglid read excerpts from a letter of a doubting Latter-day Saint who wrote to a Bishop. The Bishop handed it to a counselor who responded in a very regrettable way. For example, because the letter misspelled Banking in the Kirtland Anti-Banking Society, the respondent said "Did he burn the cookies?" The counselor also mocked the writer and flat out called him an apostate. The writer said he had been praying, etc. and didn't know that he could stay in. The counselor told him that was false, and he must not have been sincere. Hauglid said this is a lost opportunity. Sometimes we do need to say "I don't know," especially when we don't know. Something like that would be better than a snarky response or a quick dismissal.
Hauglid talked about the name above the figure in facsimile 3, the JST calls it Pharaoh, but it is actually a name, etc. There are good questions we don't have perfect answers to. However, even with those answers we still can't know exactly what that means, or proves JS is a true prophet.
3) Sometimes we must acknowledge that the critics are right on some things.
We know JS did a little treasure seeking, that he had multiple wives, etc. We have those facts, but don't have to use them in the same way the critics do. They can have a hay day with some of this, but we must be very cautious and careful and plod through what our responses will be. We don't want to completely discredit the critics because, of course, they do present some facts or some truths.In researching the Kinderhook plates, many LDS believed that they were genuine for 130 years (until 1980 when they were determined a fraud.) Some have dismissed Clayton. However, Clayton was a very accurate source. Suppose JS did "translate" something from them? First, he may have believed, himself, that they were OK. He looked and tried for inspiration but got nothing. Perhaps he constructed something from it as best he could for a moment, conjecture. No inspiration led to no inspiration. Perhaps he was looking at them as a scholarly pursuit, and he wanted to test it out. Maybe he did both. We don't know. Why stick to one answer when it may be better and more accurate to allow other possibilities. It is no different with the Book of Abraham.
The critics are right: The papyrus attached to Facs. 1 doesn't translate to the BoA, it is a straight up conundrum.
However, the critics assertion that the manuscripts are dictation manuscripts is something with which Hauglid disagrees. So what are they, then? Catalyst theory is possible, that Joseph thought that is what the characters meant, etc. Hauglid doesn't really agree with that theory. The deeper he gets in the manuscripts, the more he sees that the simple explanation that JS was a fraud is too simplistic. He doesn't have a problem with these problems, they are a mystery but he is still OK.
4) Try to help them focus on what is IN the Book of Abraham, not just on how we got the Book of Abraham
According to H, that is the best witness to the book. Historically and doctrinally, and spiritually, the contents of the book is the best witness.
The text fits well in Middle Bronze Age period, famines, northern Ur of Chaldees, Egyptian influence there, etc. So it fits well historically. He found 35 themes in the Book of Abraham that are in other sources on Abraham but are not in the Genesis account. These things don't prove the BoA, but they place it in an interesting setting, especially compared to what JS had to work with.
Foreordination, priesthood, premortal, etc. very interesting, etc.
Personal experience shows that face-to-face work is the best way to help seekers. Treat them with respect and take them seriously. Dogmatism and innuendo can smack of snobbery, etc. It is better to acknowledge good arguments. There is much more to the BoA than its origins. It fits will within antiquity, contains powerful doctrines, and can be known as true through the Spirit.
See Traditions about the Early Life of Abraham, edited by John A. Tvedtnes, Brian M. Hauglid, and John Gee.
Questions and Answers:
Q- What about Dr. Gee's missing scroll theory, Abraham 1:12
Joseph Smith added the line himself, or the line itself was part of the translation. H thinks the line was a redaction by JS himself. There were witnesses who saw a ling scroll, which was burned in the Chicago fire, apparently. H said we are arguing from absence of evidence so it can't really be proven, only conjectured. Abr. 1:12 a 19th century redaction, H believes. Still, it is common where the pictures and texts don't match in Egyptian, etc.
Q- How could JS have been so lucky putting astronomy and the famine into the text?
H said he doesn't think it is luck. The natural man knows not the ways of God. Spiritual conviction overrides rational investigation. There are times when we can know things above our rational or empirical faculties.
Q- What about it strengthens your faith?
H loves looking at the manuscripts. This is the first time all the information will really be put out to everyone. It will be a reference book, rather than an interpretive work, etc. The Book of Abraham papers will be like the Joseph Smith papers. We may not solve all the problems or answer all the questions, but I hope we keep the faith, anyway.
Scott has been President of FAIR since 2001, and has since lost much of his hair (especially in the back).
On Dec. 15, 2007 Elder M. Russell Ballard gave a talk on LDS being more active online. Also due to the Romney campaign, discussion of Mormonism has taken off on the Internet. Biased, unscientific and unsupported views on online apologetics.
-Start a blog
-Send articles to friends
-Download videos, etc.
-Write to news media online
This requires members to understand the basic and fundamental principles of the gospel. Many members of the Church have been eager to make arguments that are not Church doctrine. Members of the Church have left the church over various issues. Some analyze first vision accounts, or the translation methods. What disturbs people the most seems to be that they feel the Church has hidden these issues. Gordon says they have been hid very well, in a place maybe not many will look: the Ensign.
Still, he has been saddened to hear when people fall away.
(like LDS.org, Mormon Fortress, SHIELDS, etc.)
(real-time conversations in a room on various topics.)
(FAIR was born here. More rough and tumble. Discussions not in real time.)
(Web logs, popular in political arena. Personal or group, etc.)
(List-serve; e-list, where emails are sent to one address and distributed to every member of the list. FAIR maintains 5 lists, German, Spanish, Black, Journal, and Apologist)
(A group effort where many people can edit papers, etc. Wiki is a software, not wikipedia.)
(MySpace, Facebook, etc.)
(Created in 2005, a video site where people can comment, etc.)
(A term meaning one who posts controversial messages with the intent of baiting an emotional response, or trying to ignite a fire.)
(One who reads things online but do not really participate in the conversations.)
FAIR began in 1996 on AOL on chat rooms and message boards. The same issues regarding the Church came up over and over again. It was impossible to become an expert on all the issues (unless you are Kevin Barney) so they wanted to make a place where all the questions can be answered. Critics online were becoming fed up with the people providing good answers. So FAIR began. A website was started and a message board created.
Lessons learned about Message Boards
Message Boards are sometimes looked at like boxing matches. One must keep in mind, though, that many anonymous users are watching the conversation. Also, controversial discussions draw the most interest. In your face debate was going on. Soon, people online were talking about FAIR saying this or that, some of which weren't even by FAIR members so they decided to jettison the message board. (Now MormonApologetics.org)
The FAIR Site became a portal where links to articles, etc. can be put together. A bookstore was also created, where many good books can be acquired. Bookstores haven't been entirely interested in carrying historical books, etc. Website, book store, conference were all managed by Scott Gordon. The FAIR journal is sent out monthly. Rene Olson and Juliann Reynolds wanted a site dedicated to blacks and the Church. BlackLDS.org was established. Gordon called this a life-changing experience. He found racism within the Church, and he found amazing black members of the Church. He also found that black Americans have been treated dishonorably. The FAIR wiki was created with articles responding to various criticism. Gordon believes it is FAIR's best work. Translations have been and are being made.
Joseph Smith DVD created by anti-Mormons had a response done in about one week. An advance copy was received and 150-page response went out the same day the DVD was released, and the answer was linked to on the Church website.
FAIR blog was created where members of FAIR post various thoughts in articles to answer criticism. The FAIR YouTube chanel was created as well with hundreds of clips. Ask the Apologist feature is available. 871 questions have been responded to so far this year (multiple answers in many cases.)
"Anti-Mormon" refers to those who actively fight Mormonism. There are 2 broad types:
First, Evangelical anti-Mormonism.
It is typically done for boundary maintenance. Those most at risk are new converts and investigators. Common issues are becoming gods, Bible inerrancy, grace alone, polytheism, trinity, God had sex with Mary, etc.
Second, Secular anti-Mormonism.
Polygamy, marriage, polyandry, DNA, translation of BoM, First Vision, Kinderhook, Masonry, blacks and priesthood, bureaucracy, treatment of gays and women, etc.
The argument either way usually boils down to:
"Joseph Smith was a false prophet because..."
Loss of Faith
-Not happy with "plan of happiness" because they aren't happy
-Just want to fit in
-I am shocked by something I read
-Word of Wisdom issues
If a person comes with one question, they've usually already been very bothered by a number of questions. Often they have already decided to leave the Church. This is similar to people who are beginning to talk about problems in their marriage, they may already be preparing for separation. Similarly, those who are severely doubting may already be prepared to leave. Some people in the Church just want a quick answer, others want all the facts. Some have the gift of being believing and others have the gift of being skeptical.
Things to be cautious about online:
-There are "exit counselors" who wish to lead you out of the Church. Some of them still want to embrace the Church as a nice place for kids, etc.
-Anti-Mormon narrative, is similar to a testimony. It seeps over into active members where they begin saying similar things.
Some common anti narratives:
"There is no peer review at the Maxwell Institute."
"Scholars who write for BYU Studies, FAIR or FARMS are not recognized in their own fields."
"As people come to be more educated they will leave the Church."
Conversely, studies show that more educated folks are likely to stay.
"It is bad to be an apologist because they are not objective scholars."
Those who say this may be trying to poison the well, or may be misunderstanding what an apologist is. If you argue for a side or a point you are an apologist. There can be bad apologists and bad apologetics, it doesn't follow that all are wrong are bad. Those who claim apologists are bad are arguing for a position in an apologetic capacity.
"FAIR is mean, FAIR is ad hominem"
"FARMS is even more mean"
Both of these accusations can actually be indulging in ad hominem ("against the man") themselves. Some people say this without even having read the FARMS Review or FAIR articles. We currently have people trying to remove any snarkiness. Scott has seen this among students who think a teacher hates them because they get a bad grade. The teacher actually likes this student and feels bad that the student didn't do the work to get the grade. It feels personal to the person involved because of all they put into it. This is similar when someone points out flaws in a position. Talking about a person or their credentials is not always an ad hominem. For example, if one claims a special status or claims false things it may be good to point out that it isn't so.
"FARMS or FAIR causes people to leave the Church"
This goes back to an earlier point, FARMS and FAIR may be used as a last resort by those on their way out.
"Does the Church know about you? They would shut you down if they did!"
"Don't listen to FAIR, they are not official, etc."
FAIR has been linked to from the official site, they must not be all to opposed.
Are Online Apolgetics Efforts Effective?
FAIR receives e-mails every month from people who are thankful for the efforts of FAIR. This is almost always the only payment these volunteers receive.
Cynthia, a non-LDS "generic Christian," former Jewish agnostic
Apologetics is what got her to the point where she could consider God. Growing up with her doctor father she remembers much agnosticism. In her Jewish background also there was a certain aversion to Christianity. In Dec. 2005 she was approaching Christmas and said to a friend of hers named Jeff that he is the wisest person she knows but wondered how she could believe. He gave her Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. From there she looked into Messianic Judaism and other things but was very impressed and interested. She began praying as well. She received an answer from God and gained a faith of Jesus Christ based on spiritual experience. Apologetics got her on the road. Meantime her friend Jeff became LDS. FAIR became her "invisible missionaries." She then got through the Book of Mormon and began reading much of what FAIR has written. She read anti-Mormon material as well which didn't particularly impress her. Apologetics didn't give the faith, it created the space where it could grow. She believes that the Book of Mormon has "God's fingerprints on it," she believes she might be baptized in the future. For her, she said it has to go through her brain before getting to her heart and she feels that is happening.
Jan, baptized in 2001, prior agnostic, scientific minded.
When investigating Mormonism her hairdresser gave her an Ed Decker tract which led her to think that it may be different than she thought. She went online and found FAIR. She received answers there. So FAIR didn't cause the conversion but created the environment where the seed of faith could grow. It let her dare to hope that it might be true. She read many apologetic works seeing that some intelligent, reasonable people could give at least plausible reasons for faith. From there, she moved to a spiritual foundation.
"We need you," he tells the audience. Mormonism online is growing fast, and our resources are limited. We need people to link to us, to view and comment on blogs and YouTube vids. The more comments the better, rankings will rise. On the other hand, don't link to and blog about poor videos. It isn't a problem to leave a correcting comment, but try not to increase their popularity. Make people aware that FAIR is here, and that the Maxwell Institute is available, among other fine places. FAIR also needs donations.
Online Etiquette comment by Elder Ballard:
"As you participate in this conversation and utilize the tools of New Media, remember who you are–Latter-day Saints. Remember as the Proverb states that “a soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). And remember that “contention is of the devil.” There is no need to argue or contend with others regarding our beliefs. There is no need to become defensive or belligerent. Our position is solid; the Church is true. We simply need to have a conversation, as friends in the same room would have, always guided by the prompting of the Spirit and constantly remembering the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ which reminds us of how precious are the children of our Father in Heaven" (See "Sharing the Gospel On the Internet" by Russell M. Ballard).
FAIR is not a mouthpiece for the Church.
FAIR has resources that we make available; sometimes we research and try to provide the information ourselves. All of our answers carry the disclaimer that we do not speak on behalf of the Church.
What does the Church think of of FAIR?
The Church recognizes there is a need here, but if we make a mistake we'd like to be able to be severed from the Church. If the Church asked the Pres. of FAIR to stop the enterprise they would do so.
FAIR does not define the Church's doctrine.
The statements on Church doctrine are on LDS.org.
FAIR does not debate.
Critics are not the audience of FAIR. FAIR does not want to harm the reputation of others. In fact, FAIR would hope to bridge relationships even among different opinions.
FAIR is not a replacement for personal study.
FAIR encourages people to get involved and find their own answers. FAIR is apolitical with different views on politics.
FAIR has been successful in being a good resource for members of the Church.
Personal stories are often shared, such as a young missionary who was shaken on his mission when he encountered critical information. He stumbled upon FAIR and found answers. FAIR is about providing information.
But more than that, FAIR wants to help provide room to help the seeds of faith to grow by chasing out the weeds that may hinder them. There are unanswered questions and we continue to seek, but there is faith enough to keep going forward.
If the Lord wanted to prove the Book of Mormon true he would have left the plates, or would have had them discovered and brought to the world in the open rather than by a young man in New York.
FAIR wants to defend hearts to have the right to faith. In doing that a tremendous community has been formed; some who traveled through a valley of doubt, others who know people who were lost in the mists of darkness, and this community provides strength. Would we be able to withstand all the criticisms alone? Perhaps not; but with such a community of believers who are able to reason and articulate answers can work together to provide the needed support to have faith in Jesus Christ and His Church. There are so many great minds and great hearts associated with this great work. A covenant we make in the Temple is to defend the faith, the Church.
John expressed appreciation for all of those in attendance. There were many new faces at the conference this year. He then discussed the lawsuit that the Tanner's brought onto FAIR because they claimed that FAIR was attempting to steal their business. The website was abandoned immediately, the URLs were given up. The lawsuit was appealed to the 10th circuit court of appeals where it was entirely dismissed. FAIR operates on about $35,000 per year. The contributors are not paid, things run on a shoe-string budget. Jeff Walker and Ron Dunn stood up and defended FAIR pro bono. Lance Starr, a member of FAIR, also volunteered to help. Lawyer costs would be up to the tune of $90,000. A round of applause for all the lawyers.
The John Taylor Defender of the Faith award.
In writing their book Mormon Quest for the Presidency, they looked at the "white horse prophecy" issue closely. (10 Mormons have run for president from Joseph Smith to Mitt Romney.) An on-going study on the prophecy is being conducted by the authors. It is a mystery, in some ways "really crazy." More and more information is being discovered by Bringhurst and Foster even now. Many others have helped in looking into this issue including George Cobabe. (As an aside, Bringhurst thanked Scott who brought him kicking and screaming into the 21st century by requiring a Powerpoint presentation.)
What is the prophecy?
Came up during George Romney's, Orrin Hatch's, and Mitt Romney's campaigns in the media. It is among the most controversial "revelations" said to be given 6 May 1843, existence not known until after JS died. A man named Rushton said he was with JS when the prophecy was given, and he is the one who wrote the first known version after migrating to Utah working as a miller, farmer, and stock-raiser. Rushton had spoken of the prophecy often. In the first decade of the 1900s James H. Anderson from the Des News and Arnold G. Juke, witnessed the notarized statement. John J. Roberts preserved the prophecy in his journal as well.
The prophecy reflects the millennialism of early Mormons. "Great confusion, wickedness, etc. in the end times." It uses the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse as noted in the book of Revelation. Pestilence rides a white horse, war, a red, famine, a black, death, a pale. The four colors symbolize 4 major groups of people thought to be involved in future cataclysmic events.
The White Horse was thought to be the Latter-day Saints who in Utah would be rich and powerful. The pale would be the non-Mormon European descent in the US. The honest in heart would be gathered from them. The red horse was a powerful group playing a powerful role in the last day, acting as guardians protecting the Rocky Mountains. (Some associated with American Indians). The black horse then represented the people of African descent. They would fear being made slaves again, and would flee to overseas to get help and would be a terrible scourge. The government would hang like a thread as fine as silk fiber. If the thread breaks the US government would end. But the prophecy says the white and red horse's combined actions would save the constitution. Only power would be given to the white horse to rebuke nations far off. The final struggle will end in the whole of America being made the Zion of God.
What was the setting?
After JS reviewed the Nauvoo Legion he gave a toast rebuking the enemies of the Church, which was the setting for the prophecy.
What is LDS response?
Most oft-repeated portion talks about the constitution hanging by a thread. This has been quoted over 40 times in which JS and 6 successors have used the thread metaphor or something like it according to Rex. E. Lee and Donald L. Cannon. As early as 1854 BY proclaimed "will the constitution be destroyed? No. It will be held inviolate by this people." He then quoted JS saying the constitution would hang by a thread, etc. He made a similar comment again later.
John Taylor: "when the nations shall be convulsed, we may stand forth as saviours, and do that which will be best calculated to produce the well-being of the human family and finally redeem a ruined world, not only in a religious but in a political point of view." (JD 9:342)
Joseph F. Smith proclaimed that the time would come when the constitution would hang by a thread and the LDS would come to the rescue. Pres. Harold B. Lee also repeated it and asked "why the elders?" Because we alone know by revelation how the constitution occurred, etc. Pres. Ezra Taft Benson talked much about the dangers to the constitution. He said that this people will save the constitution from threatened destruction. The righteous will be rallied and strength will save the institutions of constitutional government.
By contrast, all have denounced most other parts of the white horse prophecy.
Joseph F. Smith and Joseph Fielding Smith denounced the version of the prophecy being circulated as a "preported vision or revelation that proceeds out of darkness, etc." It was characterized as "ridiculous" and "a lot of trash" by Joseph Fielding Smith. "broken sentences from the prophet Joseph Smith that they might have heard from time to time and formulated this prophecy" it is "simply false, that is all there is to it." Bruce R. McConkie agreed in Mormon Doctrine. He called it "a false and deceptive document that has cropped up again and again..." In a document called "How To Start a Cult" he said it refuses to die out among sensation seekers." It has never been accepted by the Church in that line. No authority of the Church has ever once spoken in support of the document. The credibility of the text was never corroborated by the prophet, and he never affirmed or corrected or saw it, etc. Even Duane S. Crowther even hesitated about the veracity of the prophecy, saying he doubted it, but said it "should be used with care and discretion."
George Romney, 1967 Dialogue interview was asked about the constitution hanging by a thread, He replied that BY in quoting JS meant that sometime the question of whether we proceed on the basis of the constitution would survive, then LDS in the ranks of government would help answer the question. Romney felt the constitution (in the 60s) was being wrested, etc. Mitt Romney said his father didn't believe in the prophecy.
In 1999 Orrin Hatch faced questions about it. In June 1999 he was asked if he received "a divine nudge" to run, inspired by the prophecy. Hatch was blunt in saying "if I had a revelation I'd tell you. I've never spoken with God, I'd be doggone pissed off if anyone said that." Later he said that the Democrats political correctness will ruin the country. Religious freedom is going down the tubes, the "constitution is hanging by a thread." This came in the wake of the Clinton/Lewinsky issue.
Mitt Romney also had to face the prophecy in Nov. 2006 called "White Horse in the White House," some LDS saw it as an opportunity for an old prophecy to be fulfilled. Romney discounted the prophecy noting he hadn't heard his name associated with it, and it is not official Church doctrine. Many things are discussed that aren't official Church doctrine, it is not at the heart of Romney's religious belief, he said. In June 2007 Giuliani sought to tie Romney to the prophecy suggesting that underlying the candidacy was a desire to save the constitution. They hoped it would receive "wide, wide, play." Romney campaign denounced it as an effort to question Romney's faith.
George Cobabe, in 2004 essay, sought to discount it saying it isn't fair to bring up at all. It has been rejected by every president. But the prophecy had persistence, Bringhurst said, and that it would be brought up yet again if Romney would be selected as VP candidate. It also lives on because of persistence with which many LDS to spread it still.
Question and Answer:
Q- Why do you classify yourself as a renegade Mormon?
Bringhurst said he is a liberal bleeding heart Democrat. A "cultural Mormon." He isn't a regular, orthodox LDS.
Q- What are the new findings you found this week in the archives?
How pervasive the He went through a collection of about 30 versions of the prophecy in the archives. Most are hand or type-written versions, showing it was pervasive. Wide circulation caused J F. Smith in 1918 to sepcifically denounce it. It is becoming clearer that it is a product of the late 19th century but it does not reflect the world-views of Joseph Smith in 1843. Also, the prophecy received even wider circulation after it was denounced by JFS in 1918.
Foster: Had been doing background research on the people involved in writing the document, etc. Foster told Bringhurst that it seems this was largely stuff passed on by missionaries. He also passed along a talk by Alvin R. Dyer [which is STILL passed along; I got it in my mission in 2001]. It is part of the missionary culture where the spectacular may cause its dissemination. "Look what I got from elder so and so!" etc. This was somewhat confirmed by the copies Bringhurst recently located, a goodly number of which coming from return missionaries, etc. One of the most quoted versions came from an RM from Samoa.
Q- Comment on how civil war history relates to the prophecy
I dont see a direct relationship between that. D&C says the constitution says that we are not to be held in bondage, etc. (Being in bondage to other countries, too.)
Q-Comment on if the "thread" element predated the written version.
JS made a number of statements expressing his concern about the preservation of our government, though the earliest known mention of the "thread" was BY quoting JS ten or so years later. The idea of constitution existed.
Foster: Personal opinion is that because it was such a well-known comment it was incorporated later into the prophecy to give it legitimacy. Which also explains why it has been so persistent, because it resonates.
Brighurst sees the Constitution as more flexible and malleable. He is optimistic about the current state of things with the election coming up. He thinks they were wise. Foster contrasts by saying he does think they were inspired.
Q- Why does this refuse to die?
Foster- thinks we look at the state of things and feel like things are going badly, we are in difficult times politically speaking, and socially. It is easy for people to put that in framework of evidence for the end days rather than looking for the good, etc. They turn to books on end times, and books by Crowther, etc. It is human nature to try to explain things in a framework or box; the WHP helps them do that. Another reason it won't die is because it has incorporated legitimate parts about constitution, etc. coupled with the added stuff. Mormon folklore and rumors have persistence. Many groups demonstrate this phenomenon.
See also George Cobabe's article on the prophecy in a .pdf from FAIR here.
-atonement made it unneeded
-rituals were never part of the gospel
A few objections of the critics:
The temple became obsolete with the disciples of Christ.
The New Testament itself did not make this apparent:
Acts 5:19-20, 42
They did not leave the temple behind, they were forcibly removed from its precincts. Paul even submitted to the rituals there before being removed.
Acts 22:17-18 where Paul prayed in the temple and received a vision of the Lord and instructions on building the kingdom. Attended often, experienced rites there, prayed there, taught there, and received revelation there, all after the temple veil had been rent.
Since Moses build the Tabernacle, the rituals must have been a part of the Law of Moses.
The office of priest predated the law of Moses and so did office of King, as in Melchizedek.
The Book of Revelation makes the connection of the Heavenly temple of God and the earthly counterpart. (Cf. Revelation with Exodus)
Revelation and Exodus
Slaughtered lamb - alter of sacrifice (Rev. 5:6; Ex. 27:1)
sea of glass - laver of water (Rev. 4:6; Ex. 30:18)
seven candlesticks - seven lamp candlestick (etc.)
golden bowls - table with golden bowls
golden alter of incense - golden alter of incense
ark of covenant - ark of covenant
Kings and priests in the heavenly temple
Christ had "made us" kings and priests unto God. Those surrounding the throne declared Christ had "made them" kings and priests. It included clothing in white raiment and a golden crown on the heads. What is the nature of the Christian kingship idea? Was it allegorical, or did they experience initiation rites as in the days of Moses and Solomon.
Promises in Revelation and Initiation as King and priests
1) Eat of the tree of paradise (Rev. 2:7) (Ps. 2:6)
-Inherit the garden of Eden.
-no more curse there (rev. 22:3)
-no more death or sorrow (rev. 21:4)
-act as servants in holy of holies (rev. 22:3)
-All motif's of Adam and Eve. (Gen. 2:9-10, etc.)
2) Not hurt by the second death (Rev. 2:11)
The priestly and kingly power gives people power over the second death because they have power to serve in the presence of God. (See Exodus 28:33-35) Rev. 21:12 shows that only some will be able to pass through the veil. (Lev. 16:2) Bells were attached to the robe of the priest when initiated. They were neccessary so he wouldn't suffer death when going within the veil. Didn't go through veil without making a sound at the veil and asking leave to enter at that point.
-Initiation of Priests: Ex. 40:12
-Initiation of King (1 Kings)
3- Eat of the hidden manna (Rev. 2:17) (Ps. 110:7)
During Christ's ministry he identified himself as the bread of life, as the bread or manna from heaven that fed the Israelites. The bread was part of the regalia that was handed to the new kings. See Psalm 110:7) This was considered mythologically to be the fountain of life, the water of life, which is something that will be done in holy of holies.
4- Receive a new name (Rev. 2:17; Ps. 72:20)
Bestowal of a throne name occurred from time of David to Zedekiah. This dealt with adoption, too. Image of the wrestle Jacob had with an angel; it depicts them as embracing. Instead of wrestle, embrace, receiving a new name. A symbolic relationship between God and Israel. 150-450 A.D. Chrysostom reported Christian embraces, etc.
5- Given power over nations (Rev. and Psalm 2:8-9)
6- Receive the morning star (Rev. 2:28; Psalm 110:3)
Representing victory and kingship.
7- Clothed in white raiment (Rev. 3:5 Psalm 110:3)
Temple priests received white clothing, but so did the king of Israel. Lev. 16:4, took place on day of enthronement. Garments, robes.
8-Name not blotted from the book of life (Rev. 3:5; Ps. 72:17)
The scene of judgment, a kind of citizen registry of the heavenly host.
9- Made a pillar in the temple, never leave (Rev. 3:12; Ps. 110:4)
Set forth dignity of faithful as priests in the next world; a priest forever.
10- Name of God, New Jerusalem (Rev. 3:12; Ex. 39:30; Ps. 89:24)
All who overcome are designated as high priests and have access to the holy of holies.
11- Seated upon the throne of Christ (throne of David, Israelite King, Deification) (Rev. 3:21; Ps. 110:1)
Sat with father in throne refers to deification, etc. Solomon sat on the throne of the Lord, etc.
12- Adoption and Inheritance (Rev. 21:7; Ps. 2:7-8)
King adopted by deity when consecrated. Sonship is divine guarantee of power and authority. Jacob adopting Eph. and Manas. Becomes "firstborn."
Referred to Margaret Barker; The Great High Priest and Temple Themes in Christian Worship
Early Christian rites not derived from synagogue but from the view of the Heavenly initiation, etc.
See also Documents of the Baptismal Liturgy.
Enter paradise by passing cherubim who guard the entrance. Their names written in book of life, adopted by God. Priests and kings anointed in Israel, do so likewise.
Christian anointing ceremony
-Initiate brought to temple to receive
-with olive oil
-oil is fine and scented,
-from container of horn-shaped
-anoints body completely.
Initiate receives a white garment as a piece of baptismal clothing called "the robe that Adam lost," etc. Garments of glory. (ex. 28)
Ephod is identified as ceremonial loin cloth girded about the waist, fastened by a belt. Embroidered by colored threads. Found in literature and in archeological findings on monks buried. (7th century)
Christian cemetary in Egypt is being dug right now, they wear aprons, robes, knot on shoulder, etc. Decorated over the breasts and the mark over the knee. Also depicted in early christian art in garments. Coptic Christians have marks on their tunics as well as on their veil above. Byzantine church in Greece has marks on a veil over a door, associated with Solomons temple, etc.
Other images showing Christ with compass, etc. as creator.
Initiates were approached by Satan and they instructed him to leave, etc.
Initiates also made covenants by clasping hands.
See more in Documents of the Baptismal Liturgy by E. C. Whitaker, Maxwell E. Johnson.
Eastern Christian church structure was built reflecting the axis of space and time, beginning with creation then moving through the events of Savior's life, etc. It is a close replica for Solomon's temple. Men and woman would be separated, there was a holy of holies representing heaven, etc. It paralleled the Tabernacle and the old temple.
Initiation rites of Greek orthodox monks also parallels it.
a-New name, investiture
b-Baptismal washing, return of prodigal son and marriage
c-goes to the veil where abbot meets him (representing the father from prodigal son's father) Vows are taken on obedience, chastity, angels are present, clothing is given and they embrace
given full monk clothing including apron, etc. garment not to be removed. Renounce world, etc.
Temple ceremonies never part of gospel? That is a claim that is now called into question. Early Christians had a distinct temple ideology. They were promised that they could then all receive the rites once reserved only for priests and kings.
Questions and Answers:
Q- What is symbol behind the horn-shaped vial of oil?
A symbol of kingly power, the horns used as strength and moving. Ephraim uses horns to push together the people to gather them.
Q- Why did some use leather for aprons?
Relates to sheepskins and goatskins, perhaps the leather was thought to be related to that. One community of early monks were wearing leather and the woll was still on them, but when removed they covered white linen.
Q- When is book coming out?
Which one? Brown has been asked to expand some of his current projects. Dan Browns' book on Solomon's temple will be coming out, so he will probably look at that. There is a symposium coming up at BYU on temples etc.
"Nobody ever gets anything done the first five years."
"The single most significant historical project of our generation." -Elder Marlin K. Jensen, Church Historian and Recorder.
We as Latter-day Saint scholars do not fully understand the documentary record of our beginnings in a way that allows us to have full understanding of what they say of our beginnings. Never before has a large group of scholars been focused together in collecting and publishing these documents in such detail.
In the 70s Pres. Hinckley was one of the liaisons for historians to the Twelve. He said the long meetings wouldn't be needed if we fully understood our history. In order to stay on track from the restoration on we must understand our history.
The Church is founded on historical events, thus it is crucial to understand the history.
What are the Joseph Smith papers?
A comprehensive collection of all documents from Joseph Smith. We are not selecting the interesting or important. We are not de-selecting to controversial or boring ones. It is not a documentary history; they are bringing together all papers associated with him and his office; letters, minutes of meetings, legal docments, written revelations, etc.
Why is the project important?
Make some of the most essential sources on the prophet's life and work available accurately as reference material for scholars and students on JS, early Mormonism, etc. It will mean better scholarship. Also, it will preserve the aging manuscripts from damage or loss.
-Provide more accurate texts
-Easier access to records
-All in one place
-Put documents in historical context
-Facilitate more and better scholarship
Other paper projects have paved the way such as the Thomas Jefferson papers, the papers of George Washington, and the papers of Benjamin Franklin papers. "I can bear testimony to the importance of these because of the Benjamin Franklin papers. During master's thesis he came across a period of time that was already completed in the Franklin papers. It was a goldmine of information. We want things that accessible.
Dr. Ralph Ketcham explained how those working on the former projects "developed methods and benchmarks of thoroughness and accuracy for documentary publication that were so path-breaking that all previous such publication was rendered inadequate and incomplete, and all subsequent such publication has had to try to live up to those standards." (see his senate testimony here.)
Esplin and the Church want people to have confidence in the materials.
"What has been achieved thus far with the publication of the documents of US founders is all good history, accurate history, because materials have been brought together by fine scholars. Their value is unassailable and immeasurable, the footnotes are gold..." etc. paraphrased of author David McCullough
The task of documentary editors is to help readers understand the documents.
How does editing work?
1- Gathering the documents. 90% of the documents were brought across the plains, but the final 10% have been scattered everywhere.
2- Collection transcription and annotation.
3- Published volumes. (It's not a history, "it's not bedtime reading." "I have finished a tough slog," one General Authority reported after completing a volume.)
Importance for Latter-day Saints
"If it's not credible to scholars, it's not worth doing."
"If it's not accessible to Saints it's not worth doing."
Both of those being said, the initial and important audience is the scholarly community. This should improve biographical information for writers in the future. Bushman, who works on the project, had access to much of it in writing Rough Stone Rolling.
Importance for Scholars:
The General Authorities who have authorized the project have emphasized that the scholarly audience is first, that mindset must drive the project.
2,000+ documents, including those created by JS or requested by him
-Those received by Joseph or kept in his office,
-Legal matters involving JS
Anticipate apx. 30 volumes of 500-700 pages each, which will be divided into series'.
Journals Series (including volume 1 coming out this fall, 1832-1839):
All diaries and journals, both those JS personally wrote, and those written by clerks.
-1,587 total pages
-31 pages in the hand of Joseph Smith
-250 pages dictated by him
Esplin said those written by JS are unique, always ending in a small prayer for God's blessings, etc.
-projected a dozen volumes
-includes revelations, minutes, notes, etc.
-BoM transcript, earliest manuscripts of revelations behin Book of Commandments (D&C)
-Apx. 7 volumes
-early efforts of compiling the HC under direction of JS
-Later volumes prepared by Church historians.
Legal and business series
-200+ judicial proceedings
-plaintiff, defendent, witness, etc.
-minute and letter books of his office
How does the project work?
-collect relevent documents
-Identify document provenance (chain of custody for each document, etc.)
-3 independent levels of text verification for each manuscript
-worked with James Throckmorton on looking at documents, even using photoshop
Handwriting often difficult to read. "I will never forgive Joseph Smith for having assigned a doctor as his scribe," one papers worker said.
-"Emma had another child" the history added it didn't survive birth, but the record actually said "Emma had another chill.
Scholarly annotation takes much time, perhaps half of their effort going in that direction. There are also new maps, charts, illustrations, glossaries (including interpretation of LDS terms, even if used differently in the past by former Latter-day Saints.), works cited, and indexes.
Editing, source checking, copy editing, reviewing, internal scholarly reviews, external scholarly reviews. They are going above the norm to review everything much more closely than other projects have done. The website will keep up to date to correct and expand information, etc.
Shows the project meets rigorous standards and will be credible. Dozens are involved. Full-time employees funded by Larry H. Miller, the LDS Church, there are student researchers, part time volunteers, full time volunteers, etc.
Harry Stout, Stephen Stein, Mary-Jo Kline, Terryl Givens
The Church Historians Press, a new imprint to publish official authoritative works. Elder Jensen believed this was a chance for a press to be established by the Church and earn prestige and reliability. Trust will be earned, they believe.
The website will include additional chronology, biographical directory, geographical directory, glossaries, newly rendered historical maps, etc.
"The closer you get to Joseph Smith in the sources, the stronger he will appear, rather than the reverse, as is so often assumed by critics." -Richard Bushman
Esplin said the closer you get to him, even through this project, you learn that he did a pretty decent job of everything, and a magnificent job in many things.
Careful, capable and sophisticated.
Regarding the legal issues, Joseph Smith seemed to understand the law and worked within the law better than his critics, one legal worker on the papers said.
Esplin concluded by acknowledging Larry Miller for the support he has given to the project. The hymn by Phelps talking about millions knowing Brother Joseph again has become something of a motto for the project.It is demanding and large, but the support, blessings, and people involved, they are confident the project will be a huge benefit.
Question and Answer
Q- Say a word about Elder Jensen and his vision for history:
It has been a pleasure, we love him. He got us aside the other day and reminded us that not just in the published volumes, but in the website the scholarship has to drive everything. This has got to be designed for the scholars. Some might say we want to connect more with the members. Jensen said the department cares about LDS, and they want to better serve them, but with this project the scholarly foundation must be laid for later and focus should not be lost on that.
Q- What has been done to limit faithful bias, or is that desirable?
I think no serious scholars expect people to step outside who they are and write "without bias," it's not really possible. To be fair-minded, to understand rather than attack and defend, is the key. They can work with scholars of every other persuasion as long as attack and defense doesn't come into play. Bushman has contrasted between an apologist who wants to attack an enemy and a historian who wants to take him to lunch. Neutral language, fairness, evidence they don't like, all included. It will be from a Latter-day Saint perspective because we are LDS, but they can tell if it is grounded in the sources and if scholarly standards are met.
Q- What is the role of the Community of Christ
It is very important, the CoC has about 5% of the papers. They have given access, permission to publish, etc. The first volume has some revelations manuscripts from the CoC. In histories the John Whitmer history which is owned by CoC was lent, improved, etc. they were happy to have it done.
Q- I am 62 will I live to see them all published?
I am 64 and I intend to live to see them all published. One of my regrets is that E Maxwell didn't live to see these published. He and Pres. Hinckley won't see it from this side of the veil.
Q- Will it impact Church curriculum?
It will have an impact and already has. The new JS manual used in RS and priesthood reflects the scholarship. HC is referenced, but an attempt was made to use the absolute best JS sources rather than questionable material. Dean Jessee etc. examined it and tried to get it as best as they could. The curiculuum writers want access to the best materials, but they don't usually do the original research in the archives, etc. Someday it will likely have an impact on a new edition of the scriptures. Just like the 1981 versions, hopefully this will make an impact on future publications.
Q- Any new surprises?
Every day there are surprises. We thought there were a few dozen legal cases and instead there are over 200!
Q- Give some current history that is in error?
So many interesting little details. One they are dealing with now that isn't sorted out deals with D&C 107, published in 1835 D&C called "on priesthood." It was put together much differently than other revelations; iot is more like sec. 20. How it originated is difficult to find. Dated March 1835, but the setting listed, makes the date incorrect. If the date works the setting is wrong. If the setting is wrong the date is wrong. There must have been an error in the minutes and will likely be redated when they figure it out. This happens fairly often.
Q- Will it be database searchable, cross-referenced, indexed?
Yes, yes, and yes. "A documentary book is only as good as its index." There are 3 full-time people working on indexing volume one. Each vol. will have index.
Q- On the web?
One day it will be available free of charge online, but that is being sorted out. Clearly the church has an interest in making this available.
Q- What about the roles of the scribes?
New scribes have been discovered, there will be information about them. Revelations 1 published in first quarter of 2009 has a scribal directory. Each major scribe has an entry saying who he was and detailing the methods of each. The scribes are a positive and negative. Some left or died young, etc. Willard Richards began in 1841 a continuous record carrying through to the end was great.
Q- Are there previously unknown papers?
Yes, private collections, documents from the archives, etc. that were new.
Q- What are qualifications for the "best" when you have multiple papers?
There are 117 docs in the first volume, most of which are revelations. Many of them exist in more than one. They started out thinking they would take the last known version, but that didn't work well, so they choose the earliest complete manuscript of a revelation that they can verify and that is what they use. Sometimes there is a toss-up, these are acknowledged, all are listed in the document calendar.
Q- Will they include KEP or BoA?
Yes. In some fashion. It is yet to be sorted out fully. These should be in the documents three colume, with the help of Gee and Hauglid on the dating of the documents. In the rev. and translation series they hope to have a section on the BoA and Egyptian materials as well.
For more on the project, see the JSP website.