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Spencer Fluhman: The University and the Kingdom of God

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1 hour ago, churchistrue said:

This seems really big. He makes a persuasive case for all to bravely explore everything about their religion, even if it has the potential for faith loss. He believes it will be better individually and collectively as a church, if we all do that.   https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/j-spencer-fluhman/the-university-and-the-kingdom-of-god/

Quote from speech:

"If in the complexities and contradictions we must all face along the way, we are driven to our knees before the beautiful, startling mystery of it all than we will be latter day saints, indeed...This intellectual and spiritual work can be difficult. It can be exhausting. I know some of you are tired. You're not sure you can keep at it. You go ahead and find some stillness today. Gather your strength today. Rest up today because tomorrow we ride for Zion and it's not quite Zion if you're not there. Remember you don't ride alone. Step back and consider the thousands around you. Consider the thousands who preceeded you. Consider the unnumbered hosts yet to come. You don't ride alone. This path takes courage and vision, yes! It takes faith. And faith will always be counterintuitive in this world. So is love. Why believe or hope or care when the data seems so often stubbornly trailing in other directions. Faith, hope and charity are audacious in such a world as this. But make no mistake, we'll find the place that God for us has prepared, even if it seems far away today. Just when your strength is flagging, you'll catch the glint of some gleaming tower off in the distance and you'll sense that God is there. He is. Keep going. God is playing the long game and we should too. If we understand the scale of the struggle, the ride will not end. The restoration will not conclude until every daughter and son of God, who will come, has been safely gathered into his extended covenantal embrace."

here's my blog post with several other quotes from the speech and my thoughts. Hopefully transcription will be up soon at the byu site.

https://www.churchistrue.com/blog/spencer-fluhman-byu-devotional-the-university-and-the-kingdom-of-god/

I believe this is needed in the Church, and could lead to a Renaissance in Church thought and teaching, however, I caution against teaching this at too young an age. One needs a trained mind and good learning tools to be able to pursue truth free of fetters. However, I believe the Church needs to be able to move away from the paradigm that "when the prophet speaks the thinking is done." I believe if what the President has to say is true or prudent, the spirit should confirm it to others. However, I am one who feels it is important for one to feel free to explore ideas - to consider other ways of interpreting scripture. I think this is an important principle if the Church is going to pursue truth from wherever it may arise. I have never liked the idea that the Church president is the fount of all truth so I find the words of Fluhman encouraging, but I do believe there are some cautions which should be applied in one's pursuit of truth. If one disregards the Spirit in favor of intellectual reasoning, one can end up as Jeremy Runnels who has lost all faith in Christ.

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, churchistrue said:

This seems really big. He makes a persuasive case for all to bravely explore everything about their religion, even if it has the potential for faith loss. He believes it will be better individually and collectively as a church, if we all do that.   https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/j-spencer-fluhman/the-university-and-the-kingdom-of-god/

Quote from speech:

"If in the complexities and contradictions we must all face along the way, we are driven to our knees before the beautiful, startling mystery of it all than we will be latter day saints, indeed...This intellectual and spiritual work can be difficult. It can be exhausting. I know some of you are tired. You're not sure you can keep at it. You go ahead and find some stillness today. Gather your strength today. Rest up today because tomorrow we ride for Zion and it's not quite Zion if you're not there. Remember you don't ride alone. Step back and consider the thousands around you. Consider the thousands who preceeded you. Consider the unnumbered hosts yet to come. You don't ride alone. This path takes courage and vision, yes! It takes faith. And faith will always be counterintuitive in this world. So is love. Why believe or hope or care when the data seems so often stubbornly trailing in other directions. Faith, hope and charity are audacious in such a world as this. But make no mistake, we'll find the place that God for us has prepared, even if it seems far away today. Just when your strength is flagging, you'll catch the glint of some gleaming tower off in the distance and you'll sense that God is there. He is. Keep going. God is playing the long game and we should too. If we understand the scale of the struggle, the ride will not end. The restoration will not conclude until every daughter and son of God, who will come, has been safely gathered into his extended covenantal embrace."

here's my blog post with several other quotes from the speech and my thoughts. Hopefully transcription will be up soon at the byu site.

https://www.churchistrue.com/blog/spencer-fluhman-byu-devotional-the-university-and-the-kingdom-of-god/

 

 

 

Thanks for pointing this out- it is the key to everything we need.

Just a suggestion about a typo- check the spelling of "Nietzsche"

Edited by mfbukowski

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3 hours ago, mfbukowski said:

Thanks for pointing this out- it is the key to everything we need.

Just a suggestion about a typo- check the spelling of "Nietzsche"

Doh, thanks.

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Posted (edited)

Is this as big as,say, a General Conference talk? Is this a call for more or less literalism in the truth claims of the Church? To examine them in the light of modern scholarship or to rely on faith? A combination of the two? Contemplating a theme in Nibley’s The World and the Prophets, how do we ensure we do not fall into the trap of Clement of Alexandria who “with his training and his eager project of helping the church out of its morass of old-fashioned ideas and childish literalism” would “make [the Gospel] intellectually respectable”? (“The Schools and the Prophets,” pp. 66-67). While we should not be like Iraneus who was “more than a little embarrassed and ashamed at the unsophisticated and unphilosophical nature of his simpler brethren,” (p. 69),  what is the proper relationship between the prophets, the scholars, the Schools, and the Saints?

Edited by Bernard Gui
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20 hours ago, RevTestament said:

the Church needs to be able to move away from the paradigm that "when the prophet speaks the thinking is done."

I've heard that depiction a lot online.   And I have occasionally heard it in conference talks.   It has never, however, been the lived experience of how the some 20 congregations I've been in over my lifetime talked or acted.   And I don't think that is just because I've known about the BY quote made several years after Mountain Meadows:

I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are lead by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purpose of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders did they know for themselves by the revelations of Jesus that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves whether their leaders are walking in the path the lord dictates or not. This has been my exhortation continually.

https://www.sixteensmallstones.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Deseret-News-Feb-12-1862-257.pdf

 

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2 hours ago, rpn said:

I've heard that depiction a lot online.   And I have occasionally heard it in conference talks.   It has never, however, been the lived experience of how the some 20 congregations I've been in over my lifetime talked or acted.   And I don't think that is just because I've known about the BY quote made several years after Mountain Meadows:

I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are lead by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purpose of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders did they know for themselves by the revelations of Jesus that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves whether their leaders are walking in the path the lord dictates or not. This has been my exhortation continually.

https://www.sixteensmallstones.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Deseret-News-Feb-12-1862-257.pdf

 

So, what things that President Nelson currently "thinks" would you say you've heard other people in your congregation express disagreement with?

Edited by cinepro
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10 hours ago, The Nehor said:

Random Ensign articles from over half a century ago that were discredited by General Authorities shortly after they left the presses are part of a prevailing paradigm now?

Yes, in short.  Mc Conkie still rules supreme hereabouts.  No facecards allowed or burn in hell forever.  ;)  And people think that the right name for that big river wall is "Hoover Damn" because of course everyone knows that "damn" and "dam" are just synonyms.  And the BoA is a literal translation- and what a miracle that Joseph got that particular papyrus!!  And of course Joseph stared at those gold plates until he knew what they meant.

Quote

"when the prophet speaks the thinking is done."

Where was this quote "discredited"?  I am not challenging you just asking you.  Seriously, if it was in some way discredited I would just like to know.

  I did not receive the memo, but of course I never believed it in the first place.  I honestly think you guys get a lot more info on the Wasatch Front than we do in the "mission field"- we don't have newspapers and LDS gossip available here, so if it's said in conference all we get is conference and no detractions, no racy Tribune articles or words from our neighbor who works in the Church office building.

Edited by mfbukowski
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10 hours ago, The Nehor said:

Random Ensign articles from over half a century ago that were discredited by General Authorities shortly after they left the presses are part of a prevailing paradigm now?

 

2 hours ago, rpn said:

I've heard that depiction a lot online.   And I have occasionally heard it in conference talks.   It has never, however, been the lived experience of how the some 20 congregations I've been in over my lifetime talked or acted.   And I don't think that is just because I've known about the BY quote made several years after Mountain Meadows:

I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are lead by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purpose of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders did they know for themselves by the revelations of Jesus that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves whether their leaders are walking in the path the lord dictates or not. This has been my exhortation continually.

https://www.sixteensmallstones.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Deseret-News-Feb-12-1862-257.pdf

It's one thing to say it, and quite another to live it. In my experience the Church has had its neat little package or "story" and is not open to other truths. Now, as I say this I acknowledge that it is not some comprehensive truth, but I believe it to be a generalized truth. Members were taught out of the same materials, and generally have had a "knee-jerk" response to various issues and scriptures. That has changed somewhat which I applaud. Nevertheless, it has been the case for some decades. I have met numerous members who are independent thinkers, but in the ward building it is the tow-the-line kind of response, and the independent thinkers are not willing to speak up because they have learned what I have. I wish my experience had been different. I would like for it to have been. I don't really want to seem like I am criticizing the Church - I feel I am just more critiquing it. I am just expressing the truth from my perspective. So, I do welcome the change away from the "canned" materials. I believe it is more amenable to exploring issues and allowing the spirit to work. But that is a very recent thing, and I would pose that a majority of the members still operate under the old paradigm without really realizing it.

BTW the sixteen stones represent the sixteen books of the Book of Mormon. Notice how they provide light during the journey - like the sixteen books of gospel light. And yes there are sixteen with Lehi. Not that there won't be other books - perhaps not abridged by Mormon. Cheers.

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with the snippets afforded us, it sounds to me like he's making good sense.  I' haven't listened to it and hope to see the text of his speech when it is ready.  

What he says is about what I would have said, of course far less articulately, over the course of the past 15 to 20 years or so.  I know there are a number of members sitting in the Church who have faced the difficulties he speaks of, even if a number of them don't consider them difficulties at all, as some here might say.   The majority, though, not so much.  It seems to me the growth and maintenance of the Church has been benefitted by members largely being naïve on many issues he seems to make mention of.  What he proposes will strengthen the avenues out of the Church, and very well will likely cause some division, leading perhaps to splintering.  Perhaps, if the Church is as divine as it claims, it is time for such moves.  I'd be interested to see it.  

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30 minutes ago, mfbukowski said:

Yes, in short.  Mc Conkie still rules supreme hereabouts.  No facecards allowed or burn in hell forever.  ;)  And people think that the right name for that big river wall is "Hoover Damn" because of course everyone knows that "damn" and "dam" are just synonyms.  And the BoA is a literal translation- and what a miracle that Joseph got that particular papyrus!!  And of course Joseph stared at those gold plates until he knew what they meant.

Where was this quote "discredited"?  I am not challenging you just asking you.  Seriously, if it was in some way discredited I would just like to know.

  I did not receive the memo, but of course I never believed it in the first place.  I honestly think you guys get a lot more info on the Wasatch Front than we do in the "mission field"- we don't have newspapers and LDS gossip available here, so if it's said in conference all we get is conference and no detractions, no racy Tribune articles or words from our neighbor who works in the Church office building.

Regarding the "When the prophet speaks, the thinking has been done" quote from the 1945 Home Teaching Message and the express rebuttal by George Albert Smith (and consider the irony of those who use the quote to assert the practical infallibility of prophets NOT considering the rebuttal from a Prophet):

https://www.fairmormon.org/archive/publications/when-the-prophet-speaks-is-the-thinking-done

And I've argued that the reasoning does not come from the most authoritative and important LDS leaders, but from human development, a strategy for dealing with complexity, Position Two of the Perry Scheme.  Joseph Smith and the Scriptures try to lead us to Position 9.  But as Brigham explained, the gospel net gathers all kinds.

FWIW

Kevin Christensen

Canonsburg, PA

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23 minutes ago, Kevin Christensen said:

Regarding the "When the prophet speaks, the thinking has been done" quote from the 1945 Home Teaching Message and the express rebuttal by George Albert Smith (and consider the irony of those who use the quote to assert the practical infallibility of prophets NOT considering the rebuttal from a Prophet):

https://www.fairmormon.org/archive/publications/when-the-prophet-speaks-is-the-thinking-done

And I've argued that the reasoning does not come from the most authoritative and important LDS leaders, but from human development, a strategy for dealing with complexity, Position Two of the Perry Scheme.  Joseph Smith and the Scriptures try to lead us to Position 9.  But as Brigham explained, the gospel net gathers all kinds.

FWIW

Kevin Christensen

Canonsburg, PA

Thanks Kevin.

I don't know how I could be so dense but I am finally starting to see the difference.  You have been a great help in that.

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12 hours ago, The Nehor said:

Random Ensign articles from over half a century ago that were discredited by General Authorities shortly after they left the presses are part of a prevailing paradigm now?

Natch.

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4 hours ago, cinepro said:

So, what things that President Nelson currently "thinks" would you say you've heard other people in your congregation express disagreement with?

That's not how it works in my lived experience.   It is that members wrestle with challenging things, with study and faith, and seeking more information, and seek their own confirmation from God when church leaders teach or suggest or counsel things.   And sometimes they never get that confirmation, and sometimes it takes a long time.

 

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8 hours ago, Kevin Christensen said:

Not impressed.  He waves lots of noble sounding abstractions about wrestling with truth.

He juggles high sounding abstractions, and asserts noble sounding principles.  But what about concrete and practical specifics?

Why gut the Maxwell Institute website?  The recent disruption and loss happened on his watch.  I used to be able to sort through and use the serious effort of hundreds of faithful LDS scholars engaging difficult questions.   Overnight, without warning, certainly without consulting those who valued the rich trove of material that was easily available there, it is gone.  Sure there is a link to the Scholars Archive where some of the material can be found, but not all of it, and what appears in the new location is far harder to locate, search, and use.  The archive has nothing like the easily navigable alphabetical Author's list.  The change not only disrupted the Maxwell site, but also the dozens of of important LDS sites that used informative links designed for people who wanted to engage difficult questions.

For example, compare who is currently listed under "Scholars" with the hundreds that used to be listed under "Authors". 

I've long been concerned about what happens when the public posture of facing difficult questions becomes more important than the practical production of useful answers.  (As a specific example, compare my review of Taves with Fluhman's interview with Taves.  Who is actually addressing the difficult questions, and who just wants to parade them in public?  Which involves scholarship and which involves public posturing?) 

Those who produce useful answers can be dismissed as mere apologists, whereas those who pose on the edge of the abyss of existential nausea can assert that they have the courage to face the terror inherent in facing the dreadful unknown.   But production is more important that posture.

FWIW,

Kevin Christensen

Canonsburg, PA

You clearly are not happy with the changes made to the Maxwell institute, but I don’t sense that he is being disingenuous in his talk.  I don’t get the sense that he is just posturing and hasn’t wrestled with the hard questions himself or doesn’t really expect others to do the same. 

I think you and he would probably agree on the end goal but may simply differ in approach.  I can’t say why he made the changes but I doubt that it was to intentionally impede any spiritual questioning and growth.

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In Playing to an Audience, I quoted from a Fluhman editorial regarding the 2012 changes at Maxwell Institute:

Quote

A couple of years ago, Maxwell Institute leaders asked me to advise them on the future of the Mormon Studies Review. They were interested in engaging more fully with the rising academic field of the same name, but wondered if the journal should even continue given the already crowded periodical field. My response was brief — well, brief for me — and would not have impressed any capitalists in the room. Don’t worry about the LDS audience, I said. Other journals have that covered. Speak instead to scholars, period.…

Spencer Fluhman, “On Audience and Voice in Mormon Studies Publishing,” Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship (blog), November 21, 2016, https://mi.byu.edu/intro-msr-v4/

Would Elder Maxwell urge LDS scholars to "Speak to the scholars, period..."?  Would he say, "Let other scholars stand as witnesses at all times and in all places.  They have that covered elsewhere.  We have our professional standing in the larger community to consider."

It's not about being disingenuous. I believe he is being both sincere and honest.  It's about who we are writing for, who we want to serve, and who we want to impress.  Nibley commented that in "Nobody to Blame" that there were many LDS intellectuals who thought that the way to impress the gentiles was to defer to them in all things.  He talked about his encounter with a group of Swearing Elders who urged him to "tell us what you really think" and "you can't possibly believe any of this!"  William Hamblin has recounted how his apologetic writing at BYU hampered his career there, how he was denied promotions and raises.

Back in the 70s, when I was a student at the University of Utah, I ran across some RLDS Journals in the University of Utah Library.   The journal was named "Courage" and all of the essays sought to demonstrate the courage to face the most difficult problems without flinching from the abyss, especially if it meant undercutting the foundations of faith.  None of the essays date very well, which is tragic considering that they affected policy and institutional commitment in the community formerly known as RLDS.  Institutionally, they have not exactly blossomed in subsequent decades.  The change of name was a formal change of community identity.  When the whole point of an intellectual adventure is to demonstrate the moral courage to face difficult problems, answers are counter productive.  When answers come, one comes across like Emily Latella, the Gilda Radner character on Saturday Night Live, whose indignant complaints evaporate to "Oh.. that's different.  Never mind."  Once a daunting problem has been located, I frequently see is a paralysis of imagination, and a limitation on exploration, as well as a tendency to come to conclusions final prematurely.  (My first contribution to LDS letters, "New Wine and New Bottles", was a response to such an essay in Dialogue.   At the time I labeled the phenomenon spiritual masochism.)  Once Othello has bravely faced the evidence regarding Desdemona's behavior, and chosen to act with finality, salvaging through his action his honor and integrity as he sees it, the last thing he wants to do is discover her innocence.  Had he a little more faith, and a little more charity, he would have had options in the face of apparent difficulties that could have prevented the tragedy.

At this point, I would like to link to my FARMS Review essay on "Hindsight on a Book of Mormon Historicity Critique" showing how an RLDS author at Graceland college wrote in the early 80s to give a final determination on the prospects of the Book of Mormon, and how he was demonstrably wrong about everything, but alas, the links are gone.

FWIW,

Kevin Christensen

Canonsburg, PA

Edited by Kevin Christensen
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39 minutes ago, Kevin Christensen said:

In Playing to an Audience, I quoted from a Fluhman editorial regarding the 2012 changes at Maxwell Institute:

Spencer Fluhman, “On Audience and Voice in Mormon Studies Publishing,” Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship (blog), November 21, 2016, https://mi.byu.edu/intro-msr-v4/

Would Elder Maxell urge LDS scholars to "Speak to the scholars, period..."?  Would he say, "Let other scholars stand as witnesses at all times and in all places.  They have that covered elsewhere.  We have our professional standing in the larger commity to consider."

It's not about being disingenuous. I believe he is being both sincere and honest.  It's about who we are writing for, who we want to serve, and who we want to impress.  Nibley commented that in "Nobody to Blame" that there were many LDS intellectuals who thought that the way to impress the gentiles was to defer to them in all things.  He talked about his enounter with a group of Swearing Elders who urged him to "tell us what you really think" and "you can't possibly believe any of this!"  William Hamblin has recounted how his apologetics writing at BYU hampered his career there, how he was denied promotions and raises.

Back in the 70s, when I was a student at the University of Utah, I ran across some RLDS Journals in the University of Utah Library.   The journal was named "Courage" and all of the essays sought to demonstrate the courage to face the most difficult problems without flinching from the abyss, especially if it meant undercutting the foundations of faith.  None of the essays date very well, which is tragic considering that they affected policy and institutional committment in the community formerly known as RLDS.  Insitutionally, they have not exactly blossomed in subsequent decades.  The change of name was a formal change of community identity.  When the whole point of an intellectual adventure is to demonstrate the moral courage to face difficult problems, answers are counter productive.  When answers come, one comes across like Emily Latella, the Gilda Radner character on Saturday Night Live, whose indignant complaints evaporate to "Oh.. that's different.  Never mind."  Once a daunting problem has been located, I frequently see is a paralysis of imagination, and a limitation on exploration, as well as a tendency to come to conclusions final prematurely.  (My first contribution to LDS letters, "New Wine and New Bottles", was a response to such an essay in Dialogue.   At the time I labeled the phenomenon spiritual masochism.)  Once Othello has bravely faced the evidence regarding Desdemona's behavior, and chosen to act with finality, salvaging through his action his honor and integrity as he sees it, the last thing he wants to do is discover her innocence.  Had he a little more faith, and a little more charity, he would have had options in the face of apparent difficulties that could have prevented the tragedy.

At this point, I would like to link to my FARMS Review essay on "Hindsight on a Book of Mormon Historicity Critique" showing how an RLDS author at Graceland college wrote in the early 80s to give a final determination on the prospects of the Book of Mormon, and how he was demonstrably wrong about everything, but alas, the links are gone.

FWIW,

Kevin Christensen

Canonsburg, PA

It would be great if you had a Blog with all your collected works in one place.

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4 hours ago, Kevin Christensen said:

but alas, the links are gone

New link, content isn’t there yet though:

https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/msr/vol22/iss2/

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I really enjoyed this talk.  The same with most of the articles or podcasts I hear and  the Living Faith series of books they have published with Deseret.  Its a different intellectual exercise with the Maxwell Insitute now.  There aren't defenses of the faith in classic FARMS like manner.  Hope and faith are explored in an intellectual atmosphere.  It seems similar to the Joseph Smith Papers.  Apologetics is still useful and there is a place for them.  Hopefully the old links to FARMS material will be restored to be more available.  I guess I like my old cake and my new cake.  I eat both of them.  

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On 8/2/2019 at 8:08 AM, Kevin Christensen said:

as a specific example, compare my review of Taves with Fluhman's interview with Taves.  Who is actually addressing the difficult questions, and who just wants to parade them in public?  Which involves scholarship and which involves public posturing?

Amen.  This hits at the heart of the matter. 

Thanks for your work.

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Posted (edited)
5 hours ago, Kevin Christensen said:

At this point, I would like to link to my FARMS Review essay on "Hindsight on a Book of Mormon Historicity Critique" showing how an RLDS author at Graceland college wrote in the early 80s to give a final determination on the prospects of the Book of Mormon, and how he was demonstrably wrong about everything, but alas, the links are gone.

Definitely purged along with many other scholars from the MI website, but you can get it from this BYU site:

https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/msr/vol22/iss2/8/

Edited by jpv
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