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Greg Smith, Dan Peterson, John Dehlin, & Lou

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It's been no more than two weeks since I predicted, in a conversation with Lou, that you would eventually self-destruct. I just didn't expect it to occur this soon.

What self-destructing was there? I saw an attempt to get his admittedly frustrated side of the story out.

Will, from my experience, you're definitely not one who should be throwing stones when it comes to making posts perceived as ranting on-the-offence cries of persecution.

While the attempts to stop the publication may or may not have been wise (I claim no information either way), the public infighting on both sides is stupid. The comments from people on the side of Maxwell have been extremely off-putting, and give more credence to Dehlin's characterizing what is going on as a 'hit piece'. Whether or not that ends up being the case, this is the impression I'm getting.

Maybe there's more going on behind the scenes that would make such a publication at this specific time particularly unproductive. Or maybe not, and Dehlin's response is completely paranoid. I don't know.

Either way, I'd expect at least more of a professional response from those defending - or even representing - Maxwell Institute. It puts a very sour taste in the mouth.

Edited by David T

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It's been no more than two weeks since I predicted, in a conversation with Lou, that you would eventually self-destruct. I just didn't expect it to occur this soon.

Oh, well ... as the old saw goes:

"All's well that ends well."

Given the earlier discussion about people being wolves in sheep's clothing -- here we just have plain old wolves now.

The question was asked earlier on whether anyone would listen to mormonstories and be helped to stay in the church. My answer? Much more likely than a few minutes reading the general tone here.

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The generalized nature of John's accusation here, as well as the tone, strikes me as not well considered:

I did it because I believe in my heart that the old school, disingenuous, ad hominem-style apologetics a la Daniel Peterson and Louis Midgley are very, very damaging: to the church, to its members, to its former members, and mostly to its targets.

Is it fair and objective and productive and healing to offer a blanket characterization of Daniel Peterson and Louis Midgely, and by implication FARMS and FAIR this way? To claim that an old school generally relies on deliberate disingenuousness and personal attack? And such a counter claim directed at Louis and Dan is impersonal, objective, not an attack, and fair, in keeping with the ideals of open discussion of difficult issues in order to arrive at increased mutual understanding and tolerance?

Really? As a typical general approach, which would mean that a random sample conducted by just about anyone, not cherry picking incidents to generalize from, would inevitably reach the same conclusions? That is what we do? Always? An obvious conclusion shared by all unbaised observers?

For example, was it disengenuous and ad hominem to observe that Grant Palmer, for instance, in making his claims about an 1834 invention of the angelic priesthood restoration, ignored Joseph Smith's 1832 account (a document that he had discussed elsewhere), and relied on statments from the 1870s and 1880s. "Palmer favors these late accounts of not hearing of angelic priesthood restoration over early, consistent, eyewitness accounts of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery." (see Steven C, Harper, "Trustworthy History?" FR 15/2).

For the record, I do have considerable sympathy for the original goals and ideals of Mormon Stories. In 1995, I wrote this in RBBM 7/2

Take note that those who send out the young unprepared, or who create faulty background expectations for them, have just as much to answer for as those who stand in the great and spacious building, zealously or morbidly pointing out problems. Whether they intend to or not, both camps can lead innocent individuals to feel shame at clinging to the iron rod, and to lose their way, and wander lost in the broad roads. The disillusioned got their illusions somewhere.

It's not a matter of claiming to be objective or neutral though, as Peter Novick explained at Sunstone:

The criterion of selection and the way we arrange the bits we choose are not given out there in the historical record. Neutrality, value-freedom, and absence of preconceptions on the part of the historian would not result in a neutral account, it would result in no account at all because any historian, precisely to the extent that she was neutral, without values, free of preconceptions, would be paralyzed, would not have the foggiest notion of how to go about choosing from the vast, unbelievably messy chaos of stuff out there.

John's selectivity and valuations inevitably come out in every interview. The only way to see some else's criteria of selection is have enough back ground to comprehend the selections and valuations. And during that process, one ought to come to a better understanding of one's own selections and valuations. That process that inevitably takes time and goes through stages. And that is why I like the Perry Scheme for Cognitive and Ethical Growth.

My RBBM 7/2 essay also has this, which comes to mind:

Our scriptures caution all of us against limiting knowledge in order to cover sins, gratify pride and vain ambition, or to exercise control, dominion, or compulsion over people in any degree of unrighteousness (cf. D&C 121:37). Pure knowledge, we are told, greatly enlarges the soul, without hypocrisy and without guile (D&C 121:42). That is, if the knowledge is pure, we can expect to see an increase of love and empathy, as when Enos first prays for himself, then for his family, and then for his enemies. It follows then, that impure knowledge leads to hypocrisy, impatience, and intolerance, all of which signify a contracting of the soul (D&C 121:39). This does not mean, however, that pure knowledge, sharp criticism, and love are always strangers to each other.

I don't see how claiming that an opponent represents a tainted source will ever lead to the kind of pure knowledge and mutual understanding that enlarges our souls towards one another. The contraction going on stands as evidence that the guiding knowledge in this discussion has been of a different sort,

Can't we all get along? Seriously?

FWIW

Kevin Christensen

Pittsburgh, PA

Edited by Kevin Christensen

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On another board where this alleged article was first discussed, it was disclosed that I am also about to be the target of Maxwell Institute hit piece. I have less first hand knowledge of this than John claims for the article he believes is about him. I have not made any attempt to stop its publication (if it exists). I have no GA friends to whom I might appeal, but I do have a couple of men inside the Maxwell Institute whom I call friends. I haven't even asked if it is true.

Echoing John, I don't mind being criticized. Standing on what I have written, I would want such an article published.

IMO, Brant Gardner is the real winner of this thread. Not John Dehlin, not Maxwell Institute. Brant Gardner.

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On another board where this alleged article was first discussed, it was disclosed that I am also about to be the target of Maxwell Institute hit piece. I have less first hand knowledge of this than John claims for the article he believes is about him. I have not made any attempt to stop its publication (if it exists). I have no GA friends to whom I might appeal, but I do have a couple of men inside the Maxwell Institute whom I call friends. I haven't even asked if it is true.

Come on Brant, this isn't about you, it is all about John Dehlin! :crazy:

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I'm looking forward to the piece on Brant. Maybe I will change my mind again.

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There are, now, by my count, ten threads over at the board where my Malevolent Stalker and his chief disciple run the show, devoted to The Affair of the Vicious Smear that Nobody There Has Seen. They total nearly forty pages (one of them is twenty-one pages long by itself), and they're crammed with moral indignation, with unflattering name-calling against me and my fellow villains, with descriptions of the unseen essay as "venomous," "vicious," "ad hominem," "underhanded," "sneaky," and the like.

I don't know what may or may not be going on elsewhere in the ex-Mormon demimonde -- I haven't looked, though I've been told that critics are also hyperventilating about this matter elsewhere -- and, because it's not directly related, I also haven't included in my count a two-page personal attack thread that the Stalker, apparently caught up in the sheer joy of the current feeding frenzy (this is the kind of thing he lives for), has also launched against me within the past couple of days.

In response to this joyous orgy of satisfying outrage, I've responded publicly and directly with precisely one relatively brief blog post and with perhaps four very short posts on a thread on this board.

It has always been and it remains my policy not to talk publicly about the background of personnel and editorial decisions. And, needless to say, neither I nor any of the other members of the editorial team for the Mormon Studies Review went public with this story.

John Dehlin has now taken it upon himself to publish -- on his own site and on at least two message boards of which I'm aware -- my response to him when he contacted me about the piece that he sought to suppress.

Interestingly, though, he hasn't shared his emails to me.

He first contacted me regarding this matter at roughly 10 PM on Sunday, 25 March. I was away lecturing on the east coast, was armed only with an iPhone, and was not in especially good spirits, as my only sibling, my older brother (with whom I was very close), had died unexpectedly and suddenly two days before.

Now, John Dehlin and I have never been buddies. But we've always been civil. So I was more than a little surprised when I noticed that this email hadn't been sent only or even primarily to me. Instead, it had been sent to a member of the Seventy, with an appeal for him to stop publication of what Dehlin characterized as a "hit piece" and a promise that Dehlin was prepared to go further up in the hierarchy if he didn't get what he wanted. Thereafter, it was copied to me, as well as to three influential non-BYU LDS academics (friends of mine, actually) who presumably might be able to help in squelching the unseen article, and to one other person whose name I didn't recognize.

I wasn't in the mood, it was late, I hadn't (I think) as yet read the article in question, and I didn't respond.

The next morning, at 8:42 AM, I was copied on another email from John Dehlin, which was principally sent to the same member of the Seventy and which was also copied to the same addressee list as the one from 10.5 hours earlier.

It provided the Seventy in question with five quotations culled from Dehlin's unscientific survey of disaffected Latter-day Saints, all of them highly critical of (and more or less insulting toward) me and my associates.

They were included, Dehlin explained, "to aid you in your decision-making about these issues. I hope you find them useful. If you want more examples, I'm happy to provide."

I confess that I didn't find this particularly nice. Slandering me to one of the leaders of my Church and to academic friends of mine didn't seem a particularly charitable opening gambit.

Thus, at 9:57 AM, I responded: "Speaking of hit pieces . . . ," I wrote. "Good grief."

That's it.

Dehlin responded, five minutes later, with a defense of his approach and with further harsh criticism of his own about my apologetic work.

Answering him, I sent the note that he's reproduced in his opening post, above. He responded with condolences, as shown above, accompanied by still more criticisms.

I didn't respond further.

May I just add, by way of historical parallel and contrast, that when, quite a few years ago now, I learned that Sunstone was going to run a very long essay by John-Charles Duffy about the Maxwell Institute or FARMS that would be focused to a considerable extent on me, I knew, given the venue but more especially given the author, that it would be extremely (and, from my vantage point, unfairly) critical. By the standards of my critics at the Stalker's board, who have, for days now, been fervidly denouncing an unpublished essay that none of them has ever seen as an example of horrific cruelty, injustice, and immorality, it would certainly qualify as a "hit piece" or a "smear," though I myself wouldn't use such terms. (Ultimately, for what it's worth, it even included a cartoon comparing me to Hannibal Lecter.) I knew the then-editor of Sunstone very well, but it never occurred to me to try to block publication of the piece. Such things happen when one is engaged in controversies, and one simply takes it and moves on.

.

Edited by Daniel Peterson
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Nice to know where JD draws the line about promoting diversity of opinions and individual conscience, etc.

:lol:

In the immortal words of Big Dan Teague:

"You don't say much, my friend, but when you do, it's to the point, and I salute you for it."

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While still holding to what I said above, I definitely agree that John's posting Dan's response without posting the initial email was in bad form.

I don't spend any time at the other board. The ratio to meanspirited high-fiving (from both sides) to thought-provoking content over there is too poor for my taste. It's generally (at least now) much, much better over here.

Edited by David T

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Does every church leader Seventy and above have the authority to exercise editorial control over the Maxwell Institute?

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Dan, thanks for giving us your side of the story.

So, as I now understand it,

1. John Dehlin heard there was a hit piece on him

2. Rather than verify the information in a calm and nice manner, Dehlin chose to go immediately to a GA and threaten you and others with ad hominem attacks.

3. When DCP did respond, he explained he was out of town and not focused because of a death in the family.

4. Dehlin continues on the attack.

5. While no one has seen the "attack piece", Dehlin publishes this here and everywhere else, hoping for sympathy and outrage, conveniently leaving out the stuff that make him look paranoid, angry, and stupid.

So, I hope we all have this down now.

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Don't jump to conclusions, phaedrus. Remember, you don't actually know the whole story.

I actually don't know any of the story. In fact I'm surprised it's happening at all. After publishing his latest "Informant" rumors on the other board I actually started a thread challenging your #1 fans convenient stream of informant information and the need to have a healthy dose of skepticism about his "secret" information. It looks like he was at least partially right and I chose the wrong rumor to publicly question.

Managing situations like this must be one of the least enjoyable things you have to deal with and I can honestly say I feel a great deal of empathy for all the BS you are routinely subjected to.

Best wishes,

Phaedrus

Edit: Also I'm very sorry for your recent loss.

Edited by phaedrus ut

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The Affair of the Vicious Smear that Nobody There Has Seen.

Classic.

Kevin Christensen

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I've got shivers in anticipation for it now, don't you, Kevin? ;)

Whatever else JD has accomplished, he's guaranteed a much wider audience than the article likely would have had in the first place, I suspect.

Edited by calmoriah

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I've got shivers in anticipation for it now, don't you, Kevin? ;)

Whatever else JD has accomplished, he's guaranteed a much wider audience than the article likely would have had in the first place, I suspect.

We can only hope that Greg Smith--a guy with a face for radio if ever there was one!--never becomes the "face of Mormon apologia".

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Here's another email I sent to Daniel Peterson and my supportive friends that was part of the dialogue:

[Names withheld]

I'm including below just a few of the comments about LDS apologetics from our recent survey of disaffected Mormons to aid you in your decision-making about these issues. I hope you find them useful. If you want more examples, I'm happy to provide. Thanks again for reconsidering your approach. -- John

From respondent 2108: “The biggest factor was the professional apologists. I watched FARMS and FAIR apologists treat people horribly. For example, Professor Daniel C. Peterson used to lurk on the Recovery from Mormonism site so that he could snatch up quotes from the people posting there, in order to humiliate them. This, coupled with the way apologists tend to treat critics (i.e., with ad hominem attack), was the lynchpin.// I would encourage him/them to do something about the apologists. I think they are the worst aspect of the current Church.”

From respondent 1746: “On honesty, stop leaving it to the apologetics. They are terrible and are doing more damage than good to people’s testimonies with their poor answers. For example....Book of Abraham.”

From respondent 1865: “Please stop the ridiculous apologetics. Their circular reasoning and logical fallacies do more harm than good.”

From respondent 2122: “Please stop with the apologetic as well. Fair and the Maxwell Institute contributed to my leaving the church.”

From respondent 2844: “As I studied Church history and uncovered many controversial historical evidence, I would frequent LDS apologetic sites for answers (e.g. FARMS (now the Maxwell Institute), Shields, FAIR). I soon discovered those sites rarely dealt with the controversial evidences but rather often skirted or obfuscated the issue and frequently resorted to personal attacks on the individuals who were publishing historical information.”

I'm happy to provide more facts/details...will try to consolidate them over at Mormon Discussions.

Edited by mormonstories

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FYI, JD, you cannot link to the Shades board from this board due to board rules.

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Incidentally, phaedrus, regarding the accuracy of my Stalker's secret informants (I went over to look at your thread there):

He sometimes gets some things right. I'm sure that he really does have people who find things for him on the web (e.g., that blog about my 1978 semester abroad in Israel of which even I wasn't aware, and the Amazon purchasing habits of my youngest son) and who keep their ears to the ground for rumors that might serve as grist for his ever-grinding mill. In fact, I even know the names of a couple of them.

When he does get things right, though, he inevitably spins them in clever but predictably hostile and often genuinely ridiculous ways (e.g., some prank that I apparently performed on a student bus in Israel thirty-four years ago and that I don't even remember, but that he's used several times in an attempt to portray me as anti-Semitic and a religious bigot).

And, not uncommonly, he's flatly and completely wrong. (But always negative. Always.)

I know for a fact that somebody out there -- two or three years ago, at least -- has been playing him like a fiddle, plying him with absurd "intel" that he greedily and uncritically laps up. I know it because the person wrote to me and told me so. Once or twice, he or she even told me in advance what s/he was going to be planting in the Stalker's mind, and then I got to read it in the Stalker's posts. I have no idea who this person is -- s/he wrote to me anonymously -- nor exactly what the point of the exercise was, or the end game. And I don't know whether it's still continuing.

But, anyway, don't believe everything the Stalker says. You'd probably have a better rate of success, in fact, if you flatly rejected all of his "intel." It's been that bogus, that consistently.

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I'm happy to provide more facts/details...will try to consolidate them over at Mormon Discussions.

What I find interesting here is that you choose to report reactions that may or may not be appropriate rather than using actual examples of how FAIR and FARMS attack or use inappropriate criticism, etc.

And none of your examples cite examples of attacks, horrible treatment, illogic, etc. either.

Edited by calmoriah

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For the purposes of full full discovery, here are two of the emails that Dehlin sent.

From: John Dehlin <[email protected]>

Date: March 26, 2012 12:07:10 AM EDT

To: XXXXXX

Cc: "Daniel C. Peterson" xxxx Richard Bushman xxxxx, Terryl Givens xxxxx, <xxxxxx

Subject: Potential Hit Piece from the Maxwell Institute

Elder XXXXX (cc'ing Daniel Peterson, Phil Barlow, Richard Bushman, Hans Mattsson and Terryl Givens),

I just received the following email from a friend and wanted to let you all know about it:

Hi, John. I don't want to get in the middle of any drama, and especially don't want to get any started up, but I did think you deserve a heads up, in case you are not already aware: I spoke with a friend (who also happens to be one of your Facebook Friends) who works at the Maxwell Institute today, and he mentioned that some of the other guys there are working on publishing something about you that I imagine will be something of a hit piece. You may already be aware of it, and maybe aren't too concerned what a paranoid ultra-conservative apologetic group was to say anyway. My friend did say that he will be attempting to dissuade them over the next few days from putting out the piece. Hopefully he will be successful and the drama will be avoided completely.

Dr. Peterson -- Can you please confirm or deny the content of this message, and provide some detail?

Elder XXXXX -- Could you please let me know if this is this something that you feel is appropriate for FARMS to do? If not, is this something you might consider looking into?

I am hoping that the Maxwell Institute will not issue a hit piece on me. I would ask you both to please not allow this to happen. If such a piece is, indeed, in the works -- I would like notice so that I can contact Elder XXXXXXX as well. My guess is that he wouldn't approve of this either....but I can't say for sure.

If my friend is mistaken in his information -- I sincerely apologize for the error and annoyance.

Sincerely,

--

John Dehlin, M.S.

Psychology Doctoral Program

Utah State University

2810 Old Main Hill, Logan, Utah 84322-2810

Cell Phone: (435) 227-5776

======================================

On Mar 26, 2012, at 10:43 AM, "John Dehlin" <[email protected]> wrote:

Elder XXXXXX and Dr. Peterson,

I'm including below just a few of the comments about LDS apologetics from our recent survey of disaffected Mormons to aid you in your decision-making about these issues. I hope you find them useful. If you want more examples, I'm happy to provide. Thanks again for reconsidering your approach. -- John

From respondent 2108: “The biggest factor was the professional apologists. I watched FARMS and FAIR apologists treat people horribly. For example, Professor Daniel C. Peterson used to lurk on the Recovery from Mormonism site so that he could snatch up quotes from the people posting there, in order to humiliate them. This, coupled with the way apologists tend to treat critics (i.e., with ad hominem attack), was the lynchpin.// I would encourage him/them to do something about the apologists. I think they are the worst aspect of the current Church.”

From respondent 1746: “On honesty, stop leaving it to the apologetics. They are terrible and are doing more damage than good to people’s testimonies with their poor answers. For example....Book of Abraham.”

From respondent 1865: “Please stop the ridiculous apologetics. Their circular reasoning and logical fallacies do more harm than good.”

From respondent 2122: “Please stop with the apologetic as well. Fair and the Maxwell Institute contributed to my leaving the church.”

From respondent 2844: “As I studied Church history and uncovered many controversial historical evidence, I would frequent LDS apologetic sites for answers (e.g. FARMS (now the Maxwell Institute), Shields, FAIR). I soon discovered those sites rarely dealt with the controversial evidences but rather often skirted or obfuscated the issue and frequently resorted to personal attacks on the individuals who were publishing historical information.”

On Mar 26, 2012, at 12:03 PM, "John Dehlin" <[email protected]> wrote:

(taking the others off the thread)

I'm only asking you: 1) to confirm or deny the report, and 2) if it is true, to reconsider your approach.

These quotes listed below are not "hit pieces." They are (a small sampling of the) sincere responses volunteered by survey respondents about your tactics at FARMS/the Maxwell institute. There's a difference, I think.

Please, please stop the personal public attacks of people who are struggling with legitimate issues.

I appreciate your consideration.

John

Edited by Bill Hamblin

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I personally find it fascinating how reflexively (and universally) John Dehlin has become the hero du jour of Inveterate Apostate Evangelists #666 (IAPE #666), the union of perpetually bitter ex-Mormons that rants, rails, and raves 24/7 in the Great and Spacious Trailer Park.

They LOVE the guy!

Of course, they always have. He's been one of their champions for years now. But now he has risen to near demigod status among those who spend a significant portion of their lives kicking against the pricks, persecuting the Saints, and fighting against God.

Do you suppose one possibly draw any meaningful conclusions from Dehlin's popularity among the anti-Mormon crowd?

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Bob - I honestly don't know another way to stop the ad hominem attacks than to stand up to them...to confront the bully. If you have ideas, please let me know. I'm sorry if this disappoints you. Maybe if you were the target of such attacks, you would understand.

Feel free to read of some personal attacks made against me recently over at the Mormon Discussion Board. Ignoring them is really easy if you know the truth.

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For the purposes of full full discovery, here are two of the emails that Dehlin sent.

Thanks, but I more interested in seeing the email(s) where John threatened, blackmailed and defamed Professor Peterson.

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