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The Dehlin Affair–The Current Uncivil War


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I am really slow on the uptake, sometimes, but I think I am beginning to see the picture, here. I went back and read the beginning of this thread, again, as a refresher to what the subject was, exactly. I picked up on something that I had missed, before. You say that John Dehlin asked you and Dr. Peterson to join him in helping people who had become disaffected...but, John wanted you to change your style of writing, from boring academic papers to...I'm not sure what...something easier to understand...shorter, more compact, less academic (no footnotes, etc)...right? So, when the two of you refused his offer, you believe that John decided to take things into his own hands and, basically, run the LDS apologists out of business, so to speak? Is that close to what you are saying?

Now, finally, we are getting somewhere. The answer to your question is an emphatic YES! Well, there are more details that will, of course, flesh out and qualify and extend things a bit.

If you will read again John Dehlin's initial attack on Professor Peterson and me, and look for how he stages this attack, then the context (the text which provides the starting point and initial setting) for my phone conversation with Dehlin and my subsequent five plus hour conversation with him will make sense. And then you can begin to figure out how he came away from that conversation and what his next plan was to neutralize those he saw as competition for his own undertaking. And all this provides a useful key to understanding what has subsequently taken place.

So what exactly did Dehlin and I discuss on the phone prior to our long conversation at the FAIR conference? The answer is that we essentially discussed Grant Palmer and his simply awful An Insider's View. Dehlin was anxious to defend Palmer and his book and he saw Professor Peterson and me as getting in the way of Palmer's understanding of the core narrative upon which the faith of Latter-day Saints rests and which provides access to the contents of the faith of the Saints. (I have explained on one of those other threads on Dehlin what I mean by "core narrative.") From his perspective, my response to Palmer's book (See my "Prying into Palmer," and the four other essays dealing with that dreadful book) challenged Dehlin's own exotic worldview.

In that initial phone conversation, and in the longer conversation, he agreed with me that virtually everything in Palmer's book is problematic or factually false, but he still believes that it is the truth about the core narrative despite being wrong on the details. In that phone conversation, I pointed to what I believe is one of Palmer's flat out inventions--fibs. Palmer has told a story about seeing a seer stone in the vault of the First Presidency that had never before been reported to exist. Dehlin had never heard a thing about this. So I went into the details. Mike Quinn in the 2nd edition of his magic book, cites Palmer as the source for a seer stone that the Church owns that no one had ever reported to exist. The story goes as follows. Palmer took a class at the UofU from Jim Clayton on Mormon history. In that class, Clayton invited the Church archivist to come and gab with his students. Leonard Arrington tagged along. At the end of the class the Church archivist invited any students who would like to see the seer stone in the vault of the First Presidency to come with him and he would allow them to see those seer stones. Palmer took up the offer and was shown a seer stone that no one had ever reported seeing before. Quinn believed that story. But Mark Ashurst-McGee did not. So he contacted Jim Clayton and was told by Clayton that he had never ever taught a class on LDS history, had not met the Church archivist, had not even met Arrington, and so forth. And on and on. Nothing that Palmer had claimed in his seer stone story turned out to make sense or be true.

The first thing that Dehlin told me when we began our five hour conversation at the FAIR conference, was that he had phoned Palmer and he said his seer stone story was true. Palmer makes things up or picks up bits and pieces of information and molds them into his own story for his own purposes. For instance, in Dehlin's first podcast interview with Palmer, he asked Palmer how he came to use the name "Paul Pry Jr" to hide his identity when he circulated the first draft of his book (which was then known as "New York Mormonism." Palmer explained that he loves to travel and once visited London, and he found a bulletin advertising plays in the theater district that carried the name "Paul Pry." This is simply not true. There once was a penny tract that was circulated in the theater district, when the censor had not shut it down for its gossip about public officials. But that was in the 1850s. How do I know this? My wife and I have visited London perhaps 8 or 10 times. On one of these visits we had a look at Covent Garden and then went directly down the street opposite the main entrance to that exotic place. One block down that street on the right we went into the now closed theater museum, and the very first thing my wife spotted was item with the name "Paul Pry" on it. I immediately took notes and I may have tried to photograph the item. I then wrote to Grant Palmer and told him about finding this little item, and about a host of bits of curious information about the name "Paul Pry," including a famous play by that name and the famous actor who played the role, and about the three Pubs that carry the name Paul Pry and so forth. This is where Palmer picked up the story about his finding something advertising plays in the justly famous Leicester Square in the heart of the theater district. I can document all of this, including my correspondence with Palmer.

And my essay entitled "Prying into Palmer" provides a documented history of Palmer's apostasy. Dehlin has become an apologist for Palmer despite the fact that his book is outrageous. But it was Palmer's book, and our devastating response to it that presented a challenge to Dehlin's reliance on Palmer's book as a justification for his own loss of faith in the essential core narrative upon which LDS faith necessarily rests. Dehlin responded to this challenge by, among other things, lashing out at Professor Peterson and me in that blog entry that can be read above. Instead of showing the mass of flaws in Palmer's book, we should have been building bridges with Palmer and those who have gone down that path. We were denigrate as nasty "apologists" who lack empathy for those who are in pain over finding that the Church has lied to them, or hidden its past, or found that what they were taught and told to believe, including the Book of Mormon, is simply not true. We should join him in building bridges to those victims. We should strive to help them see that the Church is still a good place to raise children, find happiness and so forth. Hence, eventually Dehlin's "Why Stay" initiative.

If anyone is interested in the rest of the story, stay tuned.

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Dr. Midgley, We've now been privy to a thorough trouncing of John Dehlin lately. At this point in the game, what response or actions would you like to see from him that would satisfy you?

I do not see this as a question of how he can satisfy me. Getting back into the Church is not just starting to attend some Church servies on Sundays, and hence finding it necessary to endure what are often boring meetings. I still have hopes that Dehlin will get things properly sorted. He has to decide whose side he is on and how he will find favor with God. That is, after all, what being a member of the body of Christ, or part of the Covenant People of God, or a Latter-day Saints has to mean, is it not?

Now I can just hear the chorus: "what about all of us with questions, or doubts" and so forth. Well, the fact is that I have all of those in spades. One of my most persistent doubts is that I have things sorted properly, and that my deeds match my words. I often find myself admiring people with far more deeds and far fewer words. This is part of my love affair with the Saints in New Zealand. I went there once upon a time as a brash, confident kid with a genuine desire to teach and preach, and I found a people who were not bookish as I was, but whose understanding of the Book of Mormon, which is with our other scriptures, about all they had, who understood that book far better than I did. And who allowed it to regulated the lives remarkably well despite little tiny little trivial things like drinking tea. Oh the stories I could tell. And I have been reminded by Saints in New Zealand that I was not quite the heroic figure that I had turned myself into in my version of my stories when I was back home, but I was a kind of exotic comic figure. Which was clearly true. What has brought great satisfaction to me is that they and their children remembered me, despite my quirks and youthful arrogance. I have said often that I have lived a charmed life. Except going to New Zealand on my first and second missions there, I have never really planned anything. Everything has seemed to just happen or to find me. So I am in no position to set out what would satisfy me. God is the judge and that is all that counts, and it that does not count then there is no real meaning or purpose in what we do or say. It is all just a tale told by idiots. I hope this answers your question.

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John can stop the personal attacks against Dan and others. Much better to critique the information than the people who are behind it.

I sort of agree. I would not mind being set right by a critique of what I have published. If one is going to play the academic game. which is the game I found myself playing as well as I possibly can, given my obviously limited intellectual fire-power, then one must expect being shown to be wrong. And one should even invite it. Why not?

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Dr. Midgley, that is very interesting about Grant Palmer. I've not read his book or even seen the podcast, but I've been aware of him, as a critic of the church, as he is often mentioned by other critics. So, John is aware of these problems you pointed out? If this is true (and I have no reason to doubt) it goes way beyond simple inaccuracies. The disaffected have more than enough to deal with in the things that are true, without adding the extra burden of things that are made up, by some critic.

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Dr. Midgley, that is very interesting about Grant Palmer. I've not read his book or even seen the podcast, but I've been aware of him, as a critic of the church, as he is often mentioned by other critics. So, John is aware of these problems you pointed out? If this is true (and I have no reason to doubt) it goes way beyond simple inaccuracies. The disaffected have more than enough to deal with in the things that are true, without adding the extra burden of things that are made up, by some critic.

You have seen the point. Dehlin hated by essay entitled "Prying into Palmer." Have a look at it and see what you think. It can easily be located on the Maxwell Institute webpage, along with the four other essays by very able and even distinguished LDS historians. If one is an apologist for Palmer, then that literature is clearly a problem. Dehlin was clearly not buying any of it. After my phone call, he actually phoned Palmer and was told that the story of the seer stone in the vault was true. Not according to the all the evidence to the contrary, according to Ashurst-McGee. Dehlin told me that he would not think of challenging some statement made by someone. This shows on his podcasts. In fact, he actually adds bunk to some of them, as he clearly did in his interview with Mike Coe. In that interview it turned out to be a race to see who knew the least about the Book of Mormon and also the scholarship on the Book of Mormon. This has been demonstrated by John Sorensen's response to that podcast.

And you are right that those with real pressing questions, those caught up in doubts, or those you call disaffected already have enough with which to struggle without bunk. If the point is to validate the reasons why people are troubled or disaffected as a way of building some bridge to them and thereby absorbing them into one's little community, then Dehlin has been exceptionally able at doing that. And also, until recently, without letting the mask fall, except on FB and some podcasts, and especially that one interview with the Larsens.

And please cut out the "doctor" business. Just call me Louis or Lou.

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Dr. Midgley, that is very interesting about Grant Palmer. I've not read his book or even seen the podcast, but I've been aware of him, as a critic of the church, as he is often mentioned by other critics. So, John is aware of these problems you pointed out? If this is true (and I have no reason to doubt) it goes way beyond simple inaccuracies. The disaffected have more than enough to deal with in the things that are true, without adding the extra burden of things that are made up, by some critic.

you're missing the whole point. Lou is criticized for attacking Palmer personally, where it would have been enough to just address the content of his book. Lou is pretending, without any reference, that he was assailed for publishing about the book and the method of research and facts. i dont think anyone is arguing that midgley was obliged to not publish or review the book. there is however, a powerful and loud objection to his review of palmer personally, and his multi-year public crusade to discredit him personally, and not just counter Palmer's research or publication.

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Lou is criticized for attacking Palmer personally, where it would have been enough to just address the content of his book.

CFR that Lou actually did this.
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If you believe someone is doing something in error and you stand up to that in hopes that it will either be corrected or others will become aware of the error, is there some laudable reason to give up just because it takes longer than one hopes?

I guess you could spend as much time as you want doing battle. Me, if someone wants to persist in their mistaken ways, why expend any effort? 7 years just sounds...I dunno...obsessive?

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I guess you could spend as much time as you want doing battle. Me, if someone wants to persist in their mistaken ways, why expend any effort? 7 years just sounds...I dunno...obsessive?

If the only one involved are you two, then yes, I would see it as a waste of energy. I tend to walk away quite quickly from conflict or even simple debate and discussion where I see there is no intent on the other side to actually engage. However, if I continually am confronted by the harm that individual is doing to others, then I see persistence in trying to prevent that harm from spreading and perhaps even heal that harm to be a very worthwhile endeavour...going out and saving the lost sheep isn't always something that occurs overnight....and when it involved potentially hundreds of lost sheep it may take a lifetime of work.

And if we truly care about someone, it is hard to give up hope that maybe this one 'last' thing will be the one that gets through...and then the next 'last' thing and so on. We are told to forgive someone seventy times seventy, I think the same 'limit' goes toward trying to bring someone back to the faith (even in those cases that requiring helping them to recognize they have actually left it).

Is there ever a time we should give up battling ignorance, hatred, confusion, selfishness, deception, etc.?

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Use Lou's references and this thread.

Specifics are required, not just a general waving in the direction and saying 'look there'.
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7 years is a long time for you guys to be trading blows.

Who are "you guys"? Professor Peterson and I have said exactly nothing in anything we have published about John Dehlin. The only so-called "trading of blows" from the evil defenders of the false faith, aka apologists for the faith of the Saints, was an essay that Greg Smith wrote that we did not commission. It has been Dehlin's habit of blasting away at those he calls "apologists." Those are the facts.

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Professor Peterson and I have said exactly nothing in anything we have published about John Dehlin.

i see what you are doing here, you clever man. since you didn't "publish" a review or anything that was commissioned by the university or your board, you can declare that you have said exactly nothing about John Dehlin. all these comments on this board, are unsaid because they are unpublished. bit of a double standard, yes? should not the things written here be considered just as "said" as those of your shared blog, facebook, mormon stories or nom?

you have said a lot about dehlin. the hair splitting is not necessary.

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i see what you are doing here, you clever man. since you didn't "publish" a review or anything that was commissioned by the university or your board, you can declare that you have said exactly nothing about John Dehlin. all these comments on this board, are unsaid because they are unpublished. bit of a double standard, yes? should not the things written here be considered just as "said" as those of your shared blog, facebook, mormon stories or nom?

you have said a lot about dehlin. the hair splitting is not necessary.

I have had a lot to say on this message board since you and others started ranting about Greg Smith's essay, which has yet to have anyone lay a glove on it. If you were not an apologist for apostasy, including especially your own, you might be able to see that your defense of Dehlin and Palmer by insulting those who do not happen to agree with you is silly. Insults simply do not take the place of arguments and evidence..

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You have seen the point. Dehlin hated by essay entitled "Prying into Palmer." Have a look at it and see what you think. It can easily be located on the Maxwell Institute webpage, along with the four other essays by very able and even distinguished LDS historians.

Thank you for the reference. I'm reading your essay, right now. It's not very complimentary...but, if it's true, I guess I wouldn't expect it to be.

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7 years is a long time for you guys to be trading blows.

7 years is a long time... My in-laws and I are getting over a heated "fight" after a year and a half and we did way worse stuff to each other then call each other names over the internet(sad to admit). 7 years is a long time...wow I know it takes time to "heal" and it has to be done by you. 7 years though..... wow

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Thank you for the reference. I'm reading your essay, right now. It's not very complimentary...but, if it's true, I guess I wouldn't expect it to be.

Of course "Prying into Palmer" is not complimentary to Grant Palmer. There is little to compliment, and much to question. There is, I must point out, a mistake right at the beginning. A critic pointed this out to me. I thought I had figured out that the person who was behind the five or six essays in that appeared in a tabloid entitled Paul Pry's Weekly Bulletin in 1828-1829 and which constituted the first publish mention of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon (except for an item in the Wayen Sentinel on 26 June 1829) was the interesting and bizarre Anne Newport Royal. I was simply wrong about her involvement. She used the the almost one hundred year old stock figure of "Paul Pry" for her own purposes. Someone else was the one behind the Paul Pry Weekly Bulletin. I have already discussed this in other things I have published. That mistake, however, does not impact my argument and analysis at all. The use of that book to try to take people out of the Church is an outrage. And both the sectarian countercult movement has done this regularly, as well as those on the Recovery Board. I have a folder with the evidence. Be that as it may, the infatuation with Palmer explains the irrational responses of those who have hung their unfaith on that peg.

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Mayan Elephant, if you could point me to some of the things that I've written and published about John Dehlin, I would appreciate it.

And I would also appreciate your pointing to where I have ever mentioned his name in something I published.

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Well, after reading though all these Dehlin threads--not every post, mind you, but a lot of them--I'll say this: the Dehlin apologists had better up their game. It's all hurt feelings and allegations of personal attacks, unsupported by any evidence and without any effort to rebut what Greg Smith wrote.

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Mayan Elephant, if you could point me to some of the things that I've written and published about John Dehlin, I would appreciate it.

If you are asking me to do that because of a previous post, I think you misread it. I spoke directly to Lou, and never referenced you at all. I did not use your name. I don't have to scroll back very far to find comments about palmer or dehlin, by lou. you on the other hand, I don't have a reference in mind, right now.

that said, your executive editor resigned today. you are the chairman of the board at the interpreter. smith's piece was published under your watch, after your review, and following many consequences related to the authorship and editing of the piece. please tell me yourself, whether or not you would like to stand by the assertion made by lou, that you have never published anything about dehlin.

if lou is right, that means you allow things to be written, and posted on a blog, and that your name is not associated with it in any way. perhaps that is your position. if it is, i suspect there will be a few more on your team that might look for an exit strategy. without your support, or your willingness to attach your reputation and name to anything published by your group, they may need to consider different leadership. just sayin, "the buck stops with smith," is not a real powerful position.

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