Daniel Peterson Quotes a Questionable LDS Apologist, But the Rest of His Presentation Was Good

At the recent FAIR Conference, among the very interesting presentations was Daniel Peterson’s excellent reminder about the gaps and fallacies in the commonly mentioned CES Letter. His talk, “Some Reflections On That Letter To a CES Director,” was generally thoughtful and intelligent, though it begins with a rather embarrassing gap in which he quotes from a highly questionable amateur LDS apologist, whose frequent gaffes and missteps have been regularly called out right here on this blog (so I am often told). Apart from that little blunder, his presentation was pretty solid and worthy of consideration and debate (the kind where actual logic and factual analysis are used, not just sarcasm).

If you had only 45 minutes to respond to the Big List of anti-Mormon attacks, what points would you want to make? Did Daniel’s selection of topics and responses make sense to you? I liked it and appreciate the way he calls attention to some of the big picture issues as well as touching upon some salient details. Of course, there are many, many ways in which a short time can be used to address what could really take weeks or months to be thorough. I am curious to know how any of you fellow LDS defenders would have handled it?

Author: Jeff Lindsay

47 thoughts on “Daniel Peterson Quotes a Questionable LDS Apologist, But the Rest of His Presentation Was Good

  1. After reading the CES letter and Jeremy's responses to FAIR, I no longer try to defend the church. It was enough to convince me.
    Ten years ago I never thought I'd say that, but now I can't help but face the real truth about the LDS church.
    It must be nice to know your hero reads your blog, though, Jeff. I hope he reads the comments too.

  2. Anonymous, the contents of the letter constitute a particular type of fallacy designed to provoke an exhausted and emotional negative reaction.

    Just because you had the reaction the letter was designed to produce doesn't mean the actual points in the letter are valid, it just means the technique worked.

  3. Hi Jeff,

    I quite enjoyed Daniels essay. Well informed and on point in what he mentioned, and pointing directly to other useful resouces. I notice that FAIRMormon has also added to their response to the CES Letter, which is now more specific and detailed amd comprehensive than it was when Runnells published his original response.

    Left to myself to respond, I'd do what I did in my own response at the Interpreter, that is, respond to some specific issues that I thought particularly telling, as well as point towards other useful resources for those who wanted further light and knowledge.

    What I would not do, would be to simply state something airy and vague void of specifics like "It was not enough to convince me." That sort of thing might work in politics or shopping, at a lynching, but is not how scholars work. There is a difference between facing the real truth, and leaving evidence of an effort to search out things as they were, as they are, and as they are to come, and admitting that humanity always comes short of full knowledge and certainty, and facing a finite perspective, and confusing that with real truth.

    One of the things I've liked about your own efforts is that they are ongoing and open-ended.

    On the DNA issue, for instance, Daniel is specific in citing the complaint, offering a response that points to the detailed book on the topic, referring to Sorenson'ss Mormon's Codex, and his own knowledge of the committee debates behind the non-canonical introduction the Book of Mormon.

    Daniel's response of the Ferguson issue is interesting because he need only point to his own published essay on the topic, with obvious lament that Runnells's obviously did not read it.

    Daniel shows the Holly map, which is hillarious because it apparently equates Zarahemla (in the land South in the Book of Mormon) which means that Cumorah cannot be the Hill in Palmyra.

    I also liked his citation of Larry Morris's essay on Cowdery's Vermont years in relation to the insinuation that Cowdery was a source of input using View of the Hebrews. For my own part, I simply cannot take seriously any reference to View of the Hebrews and the Roberts Study that does not mention Welch's 1985 essay. I read View of the Hebrews myself, and was not impressed.

    However, I learned years ago that any scholarship, any evidence we bring up can be ignored or devalued with a simple "So what?" I prefer substantive thought. I understand that Runnells is working on a response to my own essay. Years ago Nibley wrote about the difference between standing on the sidelines and being in the arena.

    Kevin Christensen
    Bethel Park, PA

  4. What would I do with 45 minutes? (Or rather, what would I do if I had the skill to do it?)

    I wouldn't go down the list of charges in the "Letter" and challenge the errors/misstatements/lies. I know those challenges and corrections need to be made — but FAIR and others have already done that. There isn't anything new in the "Letter" that needed attention.

    This is not an attack on Dan Peterson to say that I wouldn't do what he did. He does what he does, and it's what the audience at FAIR conferences wants and expects, and probably nobody does what he does better than he does.

    But I wouldn't do that. I don't think it helps the real problem at all. The real problem isn't that the "Letter" needs to be addressed — the "Letter" was boring and trite and didn't make any charge that hasn't been made and answered many times. The real problem is why do Latter-day Saints bother to read anything like the "Letter" in the first place — why do they go looking for it? or why when someone sends it to them, are they not prepared to recognize it for what it is, and answer its challenges for themselves?

    When a Latter-day Saint is not prepared by his earlier training to recognize the "Letter" for the manipulative nonsense is, and then succumbs to an "exhausted and emotional negative reaction" as Anonymous above called it, then he is not in any mental or spiritual state to appreciate the corrections offered by DCP or anybody else. He's exhausted! He's been bludgeoned by more ideas and claims than he can handle, and responding with more ideas and claims — true as they may be — is more than he can absorb.

    I think the real need — and what I would do with 45 minutes, assuming I had the answers (and I admit I don't) is to examine why some Latter-day Saints turn to this stuff, why they aren't prepared to recognize it for what it is as others of us do, and how we can better prepare Latter-day Saints for their encounters with this it in future.

    We have the answers the "Letter" pretends that we do not have. The truth is freely available, and some of us manage to find it long before we encounter the falsehoods. So it isn't a matter of making the truth available — it's a matter of somehow reaching people with the truth, convincing them to know the gold before somebody hands them a load of pyrite.

    Examining that question, and working on practical solutions, is where I'd spend my 45 minutes. If I had the solutions, that is …

  5. I think Ardis is probably correct. Why does this trite and shallow "Letter" get any traction at all? It seems to me it is because: (1) many "saints" are lazy and do not know even the basics of these issues and have not looked into them; (2) we have not created a safe space to discuss them (although arguably FAIR is a safe space — so go Daniel).

  6. Okay, then. Simply dismiss it as a fallacy, while members continue to exit the church.
    Why limit yourself to 45 minutes though? This is the internet! Take all the time and space you need refute it point by point, and do it in a convincing manner. FAIR couldn't, but maybe someone else can.
    I will say, it's incredibly disingenuous to attempt to refute the items listed when you only cite sources playing on your team. If it's true, it should be true for scholars inside and outside the church, right? Where are the non-mormons lining up to defend against this so-called fallacious letter? Is there even one?

  7. In the event "Blake" is the person who I admire for bringing deep philosophical insight into mormon discourse through several massive books, then it saddens me to admonish this "Blake" for the hubris I have repeatedly seen in his discussions about how "lazy" everybody is who encounters intellectual doubts, how it was so simple for this particular "Blake" to answer all the great mysteries of mormonism and life before the 9th grade because, unlike all the other "lazy" Saints, he actually read. After hearing this nonsense in podcasts and seeing it on blogs, I've had enough.

    Get off your high horse. Humble yourself. Show some empathy. Seriously, your salvation depends on it.

  8. Anonymous: Yeah, I am that BLAKE. When I see members taking things like this letter seriously, as if it is raising issues that have not been addressed while ignoring the work that has been done, and members have no clue that he is ignoring the responses and evidence that is there, it is evident to me that they are no seriously researching and reviewing what is available. My salvation is not at issue for recognizing how ill informed saints are because they have failed to pay attention. I am tired of victims and those who want to blame and cast fault when it is their own failure at issue. Play the blame game and wallow in the self-pity of self-made victim all you want, I will just point our how pathetic such a stance really is. Members who are ill-informed and willing to buy such shallow arguments have no one to blame for their lack of knowledge but themselves.

    BTW anonymous, take accountability by daring to use your own name. Cowards hide behind an anonymous attack and blaming others.

  9. BTW Anonymous, arguing that an argument or response is not valid because non-Mormons do not buy it is: (1) lazy because many of the responses are accepted by non-Mormons (so you will have to get more specific); indeed, the evidence and arguments are often derived form non-Mormons; (2) it is simply a logical fallacy to argue that an argument is not valid unless everyone accepts it (and really stupid too); (3) what is cogent is person specific and does not have to persuade everyone.

  10. Hi Blake,

    I'm more than happy to admit that I'm acting cowardly. I think it's important to be honest about our shortcomings.

    What are you willing to admit?

  11. Hi Blake,

    I apologize for my previous posts, especially for inviting you to discuss your faults on a blog. These are matters that should be between you and God. And I have no right to judge you categorically based on a few comments I've heard you say.

    But I really would encourage you to speak more gently about people encountering "troubling" intellectual issues for the first time. Labeling all these people with a few derogatory adjectives does not seem very responsible, empathetic, or mature to me–and it certainly is off-putting, making it that much harder to comfort these troubled sheep.

    No doubt there are people that could put forth more "effort." But where should a member begin? They literally don't know what they don't know. I really would like to know what you think a person in this situation should do. Read the scriptures more? Read the Ensign more? Read the newspaper? Clearly these sources won't do the trick. And the problem is that when some members begin reading "outside" sources, they run into these problematic issues.

    It seems to me that what you're really expecting people to do is to automatically know about FAIR, FARMS, Dialogue, etc. But why should they?

    In short, you seem to be saying that members should be "reading more," but it does not seem that you acknowledge that there is nothing to direct them to the very small slice of the universe that is Mormon apologetics, rather than everything else written about mormonism.

  12. Blake – What are talking about? He has not ignored. Just the opposite. Hhe has done a work called Debunking Fairs Debunking.

  13. And people like the person who wrote the "CES Letter" think they know everything and have all the answers, but they too do not know what they do not know.

    And what the CES Letter gripes about can be done to any and all religions, Christian and non Christian alike.


  14. I agree with Ardis. It would be better to educate and help people before they have their faith crisis. Usually when someone is in the middle of a faith crisis it is very hard to go through with them point by point every concern they have. Sometimes (too often really) we don't find out about someone's faith crisis until they have made up their mind to leave the church.

    In my ward our Relief Society president from one month to the next up and decided to leave the church without any warning. There was not one thing in particular that made her start doubting but it was a combination of things all at the same time, and the Letter to a CES Director was one of them.

    Before she left the church there was nothing to indicate that she had any doubts about the church. After she left there were somethings that baffled me about her reasons for leaving. There were somethings about her reasons for leaving that made me think, "The things you are complaining about aren't actually church doctrine." or she would mention theological problems that are common in the rest of Christianity and ask why there was no answer and I would think, "That's what's so special about our church because it has answers to those questions and avoids all those problems. Haven't you ever read the D&C and the Pearl of Great Price?"

    It makes me want to go back and help her understand these things before she had her faith crisis. But at this point it may be too late. But for everyone else who has not confronted these things yet it is best that someone who loves them and cares for them can introduce them to the issues and help them through them. I know one person who told me that she has a problem with the practice of polygamy in the early church, but I recommended that she read Rough Stone Rolling and that has helped her deal with the issue of polygamy and have a different perspective on it. Since she has already confronted many of the hard questions she is not swayed by things such as the CES letter.

    An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

  15. Not knowing the motives of those who say their faith has been obliterated by claims such as those in the CES letter, apologists such as Dr. Peterson are constrained to respond to the charges rather than to the underlying motivation of those who make such obviously spurious and sometimes even self-contradictory claims. In my (limited) personal experience with people who have left the Church, the root cause has always been a failure or self-perceived inability to abide by God's commandments. Well, that is a painful realization, and one escape route is to determine that perhaps God's commandments aren't real and that one need not be concerned about them – problem solved! And usually they really, sincerely believe they are taking the correct course of action, and sometimes engage in fasting and prayer to assist in reaching their erroneous conclusion. This is self deception at its finest.

    This problem, I believe, can best be prevented by helping people understand, and correct where necessary, one primary aspect of our relationships with others and self, one that is masterfully addressed in C. Terry Warner's book "Bonds That Make Us Free". In a nutshell, our relationships with others (and self) can range in a spectrum that goes from an accusing, blaming, judging attitude (hatred at the extreme) to loving, forgiving, humble, and meek (with charity, or the pure love of Christ, at the other extreme).

    How does this apply? Those caught up in the wrong style of relationships – specifically with self – blame and accuse themselves when they fall short of God's standard, and this creates internal conflict that causes more pain than is useful, and points them in a direction that doesn't resolve the problem but rather sweeps it under the rug. The correct response is to understand that they are still loved, are still redeemable, and that some work and some help from the Savior is needed. They are in fact still of inestimable worth and value to the universe and to God, and that God will lovingly help them correct defects and grow stronger through whatever the challenge might be. [Read the book – it's difficult to summarize in a blog comment.]

    I'm not saying that this is necessarily always the case, but it has been universal in my experience. Given that Dr. Peterson is not in the business of this sort of thing, he responded as well as he might be expected to respond.

  16. Yes, Marshall, we must always be "loving, forgiving, humble, and meek" to those who, unlike us, "fall short of God's standard."


    I wonder how many leave the Church because of anti-Mormon arguments, and how many because of sheer priggery.

  17. Mithryn has posted a great response to Peterson on his blog, but I won't link to it. He brings up a salient point though: Daniel C. Peterson is paid to do this for the church. It's literally his job to be an apologist. Aside from the self-righteous assumptions he makes about Runnell's innermost thoughts and feelings, Peterson presents zero counter evidence, satisfied to merely write it all off as a "Big List Fallacy." As if that will stem the tide of people exiting. Paycheck earned, Daniel!

  18. @Orbiting

    The descent into self deception is facilitated by how one treats one's self in a blaming and accusing manner. We all, without exception, fall short of God's standard.

  19. "Peterson presents zero counter evidence, satisfied to merely write it all off as a 'Big List Fallacy.'"

    Every point in the CES letter has been thoroughly debunked for years at FAIR. You are exactly the kind of "zombie" Peterson speaks of in his essay. Like the Spaulding claim, no matter how many times we shoot down the anti-mormon argument, it just comes coming back.

    Peterson's article can be summed up as: "see FAIR". The problem is not that there isn't an answer to Mormon attacks, but that many Mormon's don't know that it exists until it's too late.

  20. Oh, on the "dark as Egypt" comment by Joseph when he couldn't translate. I'm pretty sure he was referring to the plague of darkness:

    And the Lord said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness which may be felt. Exodus 10:21

    Tell me Peterson knew this, right?

  21. Mormonography: I am well aware that Runnells has done a "response" to FAIR — but in fact it is nothing but a self-serving justification for failing to address the relevant sources. He quibbles and cobbles and argues that FAIR accepts 75% of everything he argued. That is the hilarious part – he actually does not realize that a faithful member can accept the hard evidence without having to buy his conclusions that most often do not follow. His response was as shallow as his "Letter" because I can see nothing suggesting that he is aware of the relevant scholarship. He ignores the plentiful scholarship addressing versions of the First Vision; is oblivious to the fact that the animals and plants he argues cannot exist in the BofM in fact did exist in the Americas contemporaneous with humans; shows no awareness of counterarguments; does not even mention the option of an Expansion Theory, does not address the work on the Book of Abraham as a genuine Abrhamic pseudepigraphic work from the intertestamental period that the papyri were created; is completely ignorant about Joseph's polygamy and actual scholarship dealing with it. His counter-arguments do nothing to counter these arguments at all because it is obvious that he is oblivious to them.

    Anynymous: I am not asking members to be born with knowledge of anti-Mormon arguments and church sources. I am suggesting that they should care enough to inform themselves and become scholars so that they can assess the arguments for themselves without apologetics having to be done by someone else for them. Daniel did exactly what he should: he accurately acknowledged the arguments and then provided sources so that members can go see for themselves whether the "Letter" actually appears to be at all informed about the relevant sources and scholarly work. Hint – it is evident he is largely ignorant and has simply made a laundry list of well worn anti-Mormon arguments. Read the Table of Contents of Mormonism Shadow or Reality and you could come up with the "Letter". In my view, anyone really convinced by it is simply ignorant of what has been done.

  22. Anonymous: You are wildly misinformed. Peterson does not get paid a dime to speak at FAIR or do apologetic work; he gets paid to teach about Islam by the classes he teaches. At least have the decency to recognize your own ignorance regarding this matter.

  23. Blake,

    Mithryn at Exploring Mormonism explores whether or not Peterson is paid, and includes new responses from Peterson in a post that went up today. Read it and decide for yourself if there's any bias there.

    On a larger scale, do you not see the disconnect with citing so-called proof from sources that come from within the same organization making the claim? Or are you happy to simply imply people are stupid and lazy for not looking for answers and coming to the same conclusions you have?

  24. Anonymous: You really do not get it, do you? First, the sources are not from the Church. They are historical and from all over the Near East and New World etc. Where is any explanation e.g., of covenant renewal festivals (four of them clearly in the BofM), the Gattung of the prophetic call and Hebrew legal procedures that were only established and even discussed at all in post 1960 critical biblical studies?

    Second, getting paid for doing some editing oversight for BYU Studies has absolutely nothing to do with Interpreter, FARMS, and Dan's other works on Mormonism. This is just ignorance squared and the claim otherwise is so desperate that I am rolling my eyes.

    BTW Mithryn is one of the most clueless and mindless blogs I have ever read. His arguments and conclusions are just laughable in my view. Not a good "source" to cite at all.

  25. Blake,
    Can you refute the CES Letter, point by point without ever referencing a single LDS scholar? Can you refute a single point without relying on the research of an LDS scholar?
    Each and every LDS apologist who attempts to refute the CES Letter does so from the position of a foregone conclusion. They approach it with the conclusion already in place in their minds that the church is true, no matter what. This is intellectually disingenuous and not at all trustworthy. So, I ask again, where are the outsiders rushing to defend the claims the church makes?

  26. I'm Anonymous 2 from the second comment.

    Is Anonymous 1 the writer of the letter? I'm getting some of the same vibe, a constant effort to redirect the conversation; an attempt to wear people down rather than engage the valid points that have been made in the discussion.

    Why does Anonymous 1 keep suggesting that all LDS scholarship should be discredited? That's like claiming that you can only read American history written by non-Americans, Venezuelan history written by non-Venezuelans, etc. That's like claiming that you can't believe anything a public school teacher teaches because he or she is receiving a government paycheck.

    Scholarship should be evaluated on its own merits.

  27. I'm not Jeremy. He speaks for himself. If you can't handle anonymous posters perhaps you should take that up with Jeff.
    As for the scholarship, the answer is simple: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. This evidence must come from a disinterested party to be intellectually valid. I realize this goes against everything Mormons are ever taught. It's the same reason you should never, ever trust anyone involved with multi-level marketing (another concept difficult for LDS to grasp.) If someone has a vested interest in the evidence of their claim being positive, look to an outside source for proof. In the case of the claims made by Mormons, there is none. What evidence the apologists glom onto usually needs ridiculous mental gymnastics to fit into the pre-established answers. True science and intellectual honesty requires beginning with a question (did Joseph Smith have sex with any of his wives besides Emma) rather than an answer (Joseph probably didn't have sex with any other wives, but if he did that's somehow okay).

  28. The basis of the argument used by Anonymous 1 is a form of an ad Hominem fallacy. As explain in the link, "The fallacy claims that the only reason why they argue as they do is because of personal circumstances, such as standing to gain from the argument's acceptance….the fact that an arguer may gain in some way from an argument's acceptance does not affect the evidentiary value of the argument, for arguments can and do stand or fall on their own merits."

    To say that we must consider the questions at hand but then insist that we cannot rely on, use or even debate any argument put forth by any LDS scholar is a form of intellectual dishonesty. The point of Daniel Peterson's talk was to point out that Runnells failed to consider any of the work or arguments done by LDS scholars over the years and then proclaim, "Look there are no arguments or explanations for these questions!" Dr. Peterson pointed out that arguments had been made and these issues had been dealt with at great length and Runnells refused to even consider these arguments, and even with his response to FAIR Runnells still is not considering the arguments or scholars who have worked on these issues.

    While it is true that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" it is not true that the "evidence must come from a disinterested party to be intellectually valid." [Ignoring the subtle differences between evidence and argument] By insisting that only "disinterested parties" can present arguments or interpret the evidence in effect allows someone like Runnells or Anonymous 1 to set the terms of what constitutes a "disinterested party" and by extension an acceptable argument. How this works out in real life is someone like Runnells presents his questions [and after making some noise], gets a response, claims the response is inadequate and then insists that the only acceptable arguments should come from the "disinterested parties" of his choosing.

    This is why Dr. Peterson responded in the way he did. He was pointing out Runnells has failed to even engage or consider the bulk of scholarly work and arguments that deal with the very questions he is asking.

  29. In my experience, I have never come across a "disinterested party" when it comes to evaluating all angles and contexts of LDS history and policy. Anonymous 1's request is hollow and one-sided to me.

  30. Blake –
    Oh, I see, your definition of “ignore” is Runnels not professing your individual faith – that for which there is no evidence, or, better said in this case, that which reaches a conclusion in contradiction to the picture painted by the forest.

    I am curious, do you have a rejoinder to my observation regarding Ignatius Donnelly. I have been making this observation for years here on Mormanity and it is gone completely ignored.

    Ignatius Donnelly’s list of items in favor of his Atlantis theory were much more impressive which “ many modern historians consider to be pseudoscience and pseudohistory.” His lists are not seriously considered quality and it was more impressive than the Mormon Apologists.

    Debunking Fair’s Debunking and many others address the apologists lists. The immediate and obvious rejoinder is the fact that the apologist confess that NHM is their most impressive item, their high water mark if quality. What? NHM is their best result from over a century of extensive hunting? Even Ignatius Donnelly would scoff.

  31. "His lists are not seriously considered quality and it was more impressive than the Mormon Apologists."

    You're asking Blake, Jeff, and others to change your opinion that Donnelly is more impressive than LDS scholarship. You must understand why nobody has seriously embarked on that fool's errand, and how irrelevant it is to any of these posts, right?

  32. Pierce – Given your record of lying, it is highly probable that you know exactly how revealant the analogy is. Your crediblity is further detoriated by the obvious double standard when you give your position's defenders free reign to ignore extremely revealant rejoinders, while Runnells is required to concede your faith based (that for which there is no evidence) assumptions.

  33. Oh that's right, I "lie" and Jeff is "gay." Sorry, it will take me a while to get that down. It used to be accusations of ad hominem and misrepresentation in every post, so I guess this is somewhat refreshing.

    This is not an analogy–it is an opinion of yours. You feel that guy's far-out theories are more impressive than LDS scholarship. Fine. Whatever. Nobody seems to care or finds it relevant. So yes, people have free reign to ignore it. Will it take a few more years before you stop trying to shoe-horn it into discussions and insist that people address it?

  34. I've seen some great comments here. To answer the question posed by Lindsey, with a short amount of time I would address Runnel's use of the Terra Cotta soldiers in comparison to the BoM. It doesn't address the same macro concerns brought up by people like Ardis, Quantum Leap, and Blake in the comments here. As somebody getting a PhD in Chinese military history it certainly jumped out for me. I don't believe FAIR addressed that claim (though I have to look at it again) but it does connect to larger issues such as methodological problems in comparing archaeology from two regions.

    So again, its probably not the biggest concern for most people, but with limited amounts of time available for research, and limited time in presenting about it, I would pick something that already aligns with my research interests, that hasn't been specifically addressed by FAIR, but does highlight some larger issues.

  35. Pierce – Few more years, no, now that apologist have completely capitulated. You have just completely flip flopped, you suddenly no longer think a list of facts is a fallacy, you just don't like the way they smell. I assume the stuff flies are attracted to smells the same, the flies just like the way it smells. Anyways, the brief moment of honesty is refreshing. there is nothing wrong with Runnels list of facts, the list just makes you comfortable. Your inability to retort the Donnelly rejoinder pretty much says it all.

  36. Blake provides some interesting criticisms of Runnells's response.

    "He ignores the plentiful scholarship addressing versions of the First Vision;" Any layman can read them and see four different versions. It must be sophisticated scholarship indeed to harmonize them.

    "is oblivious to the fact that the animals and plants he argues cannot exist in the BofM in fact did exist in the Americas contemporaneous with humans;" Yeah, sure. Horses did exist in the Americas contemporaneously with humans–during the Pleistocene and after the Spanish conquest. We're waiting for FAIR to turn the world of North American paleontology on its head when it produces evidence for domesticated North American horses prior to the Spanish conquest.

    "shows no awareness of counterarguments;" Like the great ones just listed by Blake?

    "does not even mention the option of an Expansion Theory," That's probably because few people are aware of it, and even fewer take it seriously. Sorry. I know that hurts.

    "does not address the work on the Book of Abraham as a genuine Abrhamic pseudepigraphic work from the intertestamental period that the papyri were created;" So there's work showing that the Book of Abraham is genuine pseudepigrapha? Genuine pseudepigrapha. Just ponder that phrase for awhile. Kind of like genuine forgery.

    "is completely ignorant about Joseph's polygamy and actual scholarship dealing with it." No, I think he mentions Joseph's polygamy. As for the scholarship, no doubt it's very impressive.

  37. Amazing how long spam stays up on these boards, but a legitimate comment Jeff doesn't particularly like seems to disappear within minutes.

  38. Jeff and Others: As briefly as I can, may I present to you why I left the Church. I am 50 and have had gay feelings since I was very young. I tried very hard to learn all I could about all facets of the Church, and I paid rapt attention in seminary and took institute all 4 years while in college. I also attended graduate school and have a Master's Degree. I graduate magna cum laude. I don't say that to brag, I say that to demonstrate that I DID follow all the Church curriculum, every jot and tittle, and, when combined with the vitriol of recent apostles on same-sex marriage, the CES letter's issues, which are, to me, very, very different than what I was taught with all the Church's vast teaching resources and paid clergy (seminary and institute), that I don't care whether the LDS Church is true or not; I just don't like it or its doctrine, and if God is like you honestly teach through FAIR and other resources (even though FAIR adamantly states they don't speak for the Church), then I decided I don't want to be a part of your "heaven". Does that help you, Ardis Parshall, Jeff, Dan Peterson, and others, understand why some of us leave. It doesn't matter who is right or has the truth, because many of us just don't like your "truth" doctrine. And, you might ask, why I can't "leave the church but not leave it alone". That's because I have children and now grandchildren being raised in the Church, so I need to be somewhat involved in order to help them.

  39. To Kevin Rex, who is too cowardly to use his own name on reddit while he pukes on the names of others:

    Oh, forget it. You say there that you hate me — *I* am not the 'phobe in this conversation, plainly.

  40. Ardis, I am using my own name on reddit. I am using my own name here. I "hate" because it is so difficult to love in these conversations. I "hate" Elder Nelson, and you for supporting him and his bigotry, and I "hate" the way you act every bit as much as you "hate" me. I used to admire you, but it is harder now that I'm out of the Church. I used to admire Jeff Lindsay, too, but it's harder now because I can't love people who continue to support such a bigoted organization and claim God is telling them to act that way, Elder Oaks, Elder Packer, and you for supporting them, Dan Peterson, and, OK, I'll calm down now and re-read your posting and see if I can get something out of it. My name is Kevin Rex and you can find me easily anywhere on the internet.

  41. OK, Ardis, I re-read your posting here and I have the following questions. I apologize, first, for letting my temper get out of control on the exmormon subreddit. It is often a place where many of us express our worst emotions, and if you want to continue reading there, that's a lot of what you'll find. I don't use a moniker, I state again. My name is Kevin Rex. You said that "we have the answers the CES letter pretends that we do not have." I have read again and again your answers, FAIR answers, I follow Jeff's blog often here, and I agree. You have the answers, but the CES letter doesn't pretend you have them. The CES letter, much like me, doesn't like the "pyrite" we were handed by the CES itself. So, I ask, who are you criticizing? Elder Oaks? Because, he can't be criticized, remember, according to him, even if it's true, you just can't criticize him. I grew up in the church, I am 50 years old and left the church this year. I studied hard in seminary, spoke at my seminary graduation (and forgot to say "in the name of JC amen, darn it, I was so nervous), I took 4 years of institute, too, as I mentioned. Who handed me the "pyrite"? It was you, you members of the Church who continue to support it and can't criticize it because the Church says "no no", don't criticize us, we're the mouthpiece of God. If you want to reach the people with your gold before they get the pyrite, then something is systemically wrong in your Church.

  42. Sorry about the spam that I missed for two days. Deleted. But Illumi, I am not sure what you are talking about. I do not like many of the comments here but have deleted none other than the two spams you mentioned. When was the last time I deleted anything besides spam? I think less than 1% violate one of my few policies. Guess you are still upset about something in the past? Or is this a future grudge you are harboring?

  43. Ardis, great perspective. Thanks. Agree that we need to help people be more able to cope with attacks in the first place. Also feel that we need empathy for the many who did not recognize that they were unprepared.

  44. Why must I be "criticizing" anyone at all, other than the writer of the Letter? I'm not. The problem I would address if I had 45 minutes (and the answers!) is, as I stated earlier, the problem of why people who respond to the manipulative Letter do respond.

    Why haven't people who so respond (for the sake of simpler sentences, may I just use "you" as representative of everyone, with your understanding, please, that I'm not challenging you personally, but meaning the whole group?) — Why weren't you prepared to recognize the Letter for what it was? Why didn't we recognize these issues as problems earlier, and prepare you with the answers long before you found the Letter? Why didn't we teach you in classes, and put books in your hands, and talk about these things in venues where you couldn't miss the discussions? The answer isn't "because the charges in the Letter are true" because they are not true — since we've had the answers, why didn't they get passed on to you, in time?

    I haven't worked out an understanding of every last challenge of the Letter, but I was familiar enough with enough of the issues to be able to recognize the Letter as a sloppy and manipulative thing. When I, or anybody else, recognizes that A and B and C are lazy or bad faith challenges because the answers have long been available and familiar, then I can easily suppose that D and E and F were either likewise lazy or made in bad faith, and not assume that the Letter was raising questions that couldn't be answered,, at least until I had actually looked for answers. Why didn't you recognize that?

    And I repeat, that is not a challenge to you, and I'm not blaming you or saying you were at fault or were lazy or stupid or practicing some secret sin, as Blake and others assumed above. (Please don't tar me with their baseless and uncharitable attitudes — I have as many problems with their approach as I have with the writer of the Letter, but in different directions.)

    Somebody — multiple somebodies — failed you. We didn't prepare you to recognize the Letter for what it was, before you ever saw it.

    If I had 45 minutes at FAIR, I would talk about why the system failed to prepare you, leaving you vulnerable to the Letter, and I would talk about what we could do so that the system didn't fail the next guy.

    That isn't a criticism of you, and it isn't a criticism of Elder Oaks, or Elder Nelson (don't know why you mentioned them in particular, but maybe that comes from some comments I haven't read here — I quit reading when they turned so ugly) or any other particular person. I want everybody to be familiar with the answers long before the next version of the Letter comes along. Our system of education and discussion and preparation has been inadequate in the past, meaning that only those who, like me, were prepared to recognize trash like the Letter. I want to change that.

  45. Thank you, Ardis, and Jeff, both for being open enough of a forum to discuss these things. It took me a while to calm down, and I appreciate your calming influences. I should explain that I didn't use the CES letter at all during my transition out of the LDS Church. It came along about the time I had already decided to leave. And, in summary, it wasn't all the CES letter's issues, many of which have been answered well and plausibly by you, FAIR, Jeff Lindsay, and many others, although I haven't ever liked Dan Peterson's tone in giving answers. Though the grand canyon exists between what I learned in my many years studying correlated doctrine in seminary and institute and also in Sunday School, it is a systemic problem with the Church that drove me away. I mentioned Elder Oaks because he seems to be the one carrying on the tradition of Elder Packer regarding homophobic tendencies, and Elder Nelson, as well in his recent BYU commencement address. The church is a very strong heirarchy, and the plausibility of so many of the FAIR answers is always in much doubt because the heirarchy hadn't come out in support of any of them, and yet the heirarchy's claim is that they are God's mouthpiece helping us in this generation to bolster our faith. Just the opposite seems to be occurring. I think the many contradictions and paradoxes in this life are avoided in favor of a "black and white" definitions of things that are not clear at all, and that is why I left. Coupled with 50 years of hating myself for having been "born" gay (I put it in quotes because of the big controversy it creates using that word, but I testify from the point of view of being gay, that it occurred in me very, very early in life and I was unable to deal with it emotionally), I just can't go on in a Church that has so many problems and not enough of any answers to reality. Thank you both again, Jeff and Ardis. I do appreciate your replies and remarks. I should like to correspond with either of you, though I realize you both have lives to live. It is a sometimes lonely place to leave the church and not have anyone to talk with about spiritual things. I would promise to try my best not to let my temper get out of control. I am at kevinrex@juno.com

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