Jump to content
Seriously No Politics ×

My Journey with Apologetics


Recommended Posts

I read non-LDS books like Margaret Barker and Raphael Patai, and those lead me to read the ancient texts, since they gave me things look for, a reason to look at them in context.

But it was LDS apologists who turned me to these books and saved me a lot of time since I'm not classically educated, I'd rather not waste my time on years of endless books that don't know what they are talking about. They don't know the Book of Enoch's three heavens, the role of divine kings, that the council of gods are not human judges. LDS Apologists do. 

Edited by Pyreaux
Link to comment
1 hour ago, Pyreaux said:

I read non-LDS books like Margaret Barker and Raphael Patai, and those lead me to read the ancient texts, since they gave me things look for, a reason to look at them in context.

But it was LDS apologetics who turned me to these books and saved me a lot of time since I'm not classically educated, I'd rather not waste my time on years of endless books that don't know what they are talking about. They don't know Enoch's three heavens, divine kings, the council of gods. LDS Apologists do. 

A lot of Margaret Barker's findings have striking parallels to our theology. Those are worth exploring. However, her views are not mainstream, so I wouldn't rely too much on her work.

Link to comment

Cool journey HP.  Mine is similar.

I was newly converted in the late '90's, and would frequent BBS's, usenet groups, discussion forums, etc.  I was quiet for years, just watching the debate go by.  Early on, it seemed to me, we were losing the debate from just sheer numbers of critics, with nobody knowing what to say to them.   

I'm not a scholar, I'm not particularly bright, have no particular rhetorical gifts, and I'm a slow thinker.  Watching faithful and critic interact online, and reading FARMS articles, was about my speed through the '90's and the decade that followed.  Eventually I began participating, whenever I'd see a criticism that had been answered since the 1840's appear again, I'd produce the answer I had encountered that made sense to me.  (If nothing else, we eventually won the "Nephite coinage" battle.   It's been years since I heard "The BoM couldn't have been translated, because it has the word 'adieu' in it, and that's not English!").  My usernames evolved along with my familiarity with the material into the proud battlin' apologetic warrior you see before you today.  I entered semi-retirement after having achieved two of what I consider the greatest accolades an average IQ armchair apologist like me could achieve:
1- One of the prolific posters on the UK-based Reachout Trust Counter-cult forums 'non-Christian religions' board, admitted to me, after years of arguing, the possibility that I may indeed be a saved Christian.
2- Dr. Peterson called one of my points "salient", in the forum that eventually became mormondialogue.org. :)

I'd cut/paste stuff into my Word doc, my apologetic database currently stands at 212 pages.  I still refer to it on occasion, because it has such gems.  Like this one, which at 17+ yrs old seems to have aged remarkably well:

Quote

http://www.fairboards.org/index.php?s=38481705af845c55f2802962b94cbfff&showtopic=19865

Daniel Peterson  Nov 24 2006, 12:03 AM Post #15 

Dear "team friendly/howdy":

Thanks for your question about peer review at FARMS. I notice that you've also posed your question on the peculiarly-named "Recovery" board. You're not likely to get an accurate or unjaundiced response there, of course, but you're perfectly free to post your question anywhere you please.

Incidentally, the claim (made by one of the "Recovering") that "Nothing written by FARMS circulates outside of BYU because it would be laughed at" is flatly untrue. (The claim furnishes an excellent test case by which you can judge the level of accuracy and information of your informants at the strangely-named "Recovery" board.) FARMS circulates its materials as widely as it can, and is happy to receive feedback wherever possible. (For instance, I myself was pleased, last week, to attend a session of the Evangelical Theological Society in which Dr. Michael Heiser offered a very substantial scholarly critique of a FARMS article that I had published some years back.) Our series of publications on the Book of Abraham is distributed by the University of Chicago Press -- arguably the foremost academic press in the United States. Our Abraham series is carried in the catalog of the University of Chicago Press and is featured (and sold) by the University of Chicago Press when Chicago exhibits its materials at relevant scholarly conferences. And, for a number of years (until quite recently), FARMS itself exhibited and sold the full range of its publications at such academic gatherings as the massive annual joint national meeting of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature (AAR/SBL). FARMS-affiliated personnel regularly present on FARMS-relevant topics at such gatherings (e.g., in various sessions at the AAR/SBL meeting that just concluded last Tuesday, also in Washington DC).

Here's the basic process for the FARMS Review, which is not the process for FARMS as a whole:

Every manuscript that is submitted is carefully read and commented upon (and either approved or rejected) by me (Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, UCLA), my two associate editors (Ph.D. in political philosophy, Brown; doctoral work in political science, Columbia), the Review's production editor (Ph.D. in family sciences, BYU), and the FARMS/Maxwell Institute publication director (M.A. in ancient Near Eastern studies, BYU). Manuscripts are always offered for reading (and comment and possible rejection) to other members of the FARMS/Maxwell Institute leadership as well, which includes people trained in religious studies at UC Santa Barbara, in Hebrew Bible at Harvard, etc. Not uncommonly, when special expertise is required (for example, on matters of genetics), we send manuscripts out to people possessing the required expertise. Every manuscript is subjected to meticulous source checking by student employees.

This is not peer review as it is practiced for, say, the main articles section of the Journal of the American Oriental Society or Analysis. (The rest of FARMS follows conventional peer review.) But the FARMS Review is, first and foremost and by design, a collection of review essays -- something of an opinion journal -- and so its review procedures are properly compared to those involved with book reviews elsewhere. To put it in perspective: I've written several academic book reviews for non-LDS journals. To the best of my knowledge, none of them has been subjected to peer evaluation (or even to multiple readings by editors) at all. My only contact in these cases has been with the relevant book review editor, and not even with the overall editor of the journal. Reviews published in the FARMS Review undergo a much more rigorous evaluation process than I've personally experienced with book reviews published, for instance, in Al-Masaq, the Religious Studies Review, al-‘Arabiyya, the Review of Religious Research, The Medieval Review, the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, or The International Journal of Middle East Studies.

The general FARMS peer review process, for publications other than the FARMS Review, is roughly as follows:
1) A manuscript is submitted.
2) The manuscript is forwarded to the appropriate editor.
3) That editor, probably with other members of the staff, gives the manuscript a preliminary read, to determine whether or not it is worth taking further.
4) If the manuscript passes that initial review, the editor then identifies minimally two or three people with relevant expertise and asks them for their evaluation of the manuscript. Typically, this is done blind (i.e., the person who submitted the review does not know who the reviewers are).
5) If the manuscript passes peer review, it moves to the next stage (very likely with feedback included from the reviewers). If it fails peer review, it is rejected (or sent back for suggested revisions). If the peer reviewers disagree, further peer review is sought.
6) If it has survived, the manuscript then enters the editorial process, where it is carefully read by professional editors, who go over it not only for style but for cogency of reasoning and adequacy of documentation.

7) Next, it is subjected to source-checking. Its quotations and references are examined for accuracy. If any questions or doubts arise, it goes back to the author for revision.
8 ) Finally, it is read again by the principal editor and by one or more people on the staff or in the leadership of the Maxwell Institute. Even at this stage, the piece may well be rejected. And anyone, at any stage, can suggest (or demand) revisions.
9) If it has made it thus far, the manuscript goes back to the original author for final alterations and final approval -- he or she may well have seen it at least once or twice already during the process -- and then to press.

One objection that is commonly (but misguidedly) leveled against the FARMS review process as outlined above is that, although there are exceptions, that process typically involves only scholars who are believing Latter-day Saints. Why, it is demanded, do the benighted pseudoscholars affiliated with FARMS not send their materials out to non-LDS archaeologists, geneticists, Semiticists, historians, and the like? But this rests on a fundamental misconception of what FARMS is doing. FARMS is not generally engaged, as such, in cutting-edge archaeology, genetics, Semitics, ancient history, or similar enterprises -- although those who write for it very often are, in their other work. (And, in such cases, their archaeological, genetic, Semiticist, historiographical, or other scholarly work is published in mainstream non-LDS venues and is subjected to whatever peer review those venues require. John Clark, John Butler, Donald Parry, David Seely, William Hamblin, and other FARMS writers have substantial records of publication in non-LDS journals and books.) Rather, FARMS is engaged in the application of already-existing perspectives in fields like archaeology, genetics, Semitics, and ancient history, to the Book of Mormon and related Mormon-specific topics. Those already-existing perspectives have already received and passed standard peer-review. The question for FARMS is whether they are being competently and cogently applied to LDS topics. And, to answer that question, FARMS turns to peer reviewers competent both on LDS topics and on the subject matter being applied to those topics. The pool of such reviewers is overwhelmingly LDS.

Another misconception is that those LDS peer reviewers, being believing Latter-day Saints, will always be predisposed to vote "Yea" on a manuscript submitted to FARMS, simply because such manuscripts generally argue, simply, for the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and of Mormonism. But this is not true. Manuscripts submitted to FARMS for consideration tend to argue for conclusions much smaller and more specific than, simply, that Mormonism is true. Rather, they argue that (to choose a few examples as illustrations), Canaanite goddess imagery occurs in 1 Nephi 11, the Book of Mormon's River Sidon should be identified with the Rio Grijalva in Guatemala, the Original Manuscript of the Book of Mormon contained conditional sentences that reflect Hebrew conditional constructions rather than acceptable English grammar, and that Alma 36 is chiastic. But a believing Latter-day Saint is under absolutely no obligation to see chiasmus in Alma 36, or to accept the claim that Hebraic conditionals appear in the Original Manuscript of Helaman 7 and Moroni 10, or to prefer the Grijalva to the Usumacinta or any other river, or to believe that Asherah shows up in Nephi's vision. A faithful scholarly member of the Church could quite easily reject one or all of these claims. And, in fact, submissions to FARMS are quite commonly rejected. 

 

QUOTE (Walker Lewis @ Jul 25 2006, 05:54 PM)   Who is the manuscript submitted to?

It is submitted to FARMS.

 

QUOTE (Walker Lewis @ Jul 25 2006, 05:54 PM)   Who is an appropriate editor?

I should have distinguished the academic editors from the editorial staffers. The latter are people mostly with degrees in English or history or the like, who deal mostly with, as it were, the "mechanics" of producing journals and books.  The former are the academics who head up our journals and edit our books. Examples would include myself (with degrees in classics and philosophy and in Near Eastern languages and cultures [Ph.D., UCLA; FARMS Review), Gerald Bradford (Ph.D. in religious studies, University of California at Santa Barbara; FARMS "Occasional Papers"), and S. Kent Brown (Ph.D. in New Testament studies, Brown University; Journal of Book of Mormon Studies).

 

QUOTE (Walker Lewis @ Jul 25 2006, 05:54 PM) What staff?

We have a small staff that includes people with graduate degrees in Egyptology, patristics, Hebrew biblical studies, Syriac studies, history, Arabic studies, New Testament studies, sociology, etc.

 

QUOTE (Walker Lewis @ Jul 25 2006, 05:54 PM)  How are these things determined? 

When a manuscript arrives, it's usually fairly obvious to whom it should be assigned.

  

QUOTE (Walker Lewis @ Jul 25 2006, 07:05 PM)  So, "peers" are other LDS members of FARMS?

 FARMS has no "members." It has subscribers. And, no, they don't have to be subscribers to FARMS. I've never checked our subscriber list before asking that somebody serve as a peer reviewer.  Nor do they have to have written for FARMS to serve as peer reviewers. Nor do they have to be employees of FARMS. (There are very few of those, anyway.) Most of the peer reviews I've been involved with have not involved employees of FARMS.

 And, although the reviewers are likely to be LDS because they are more likely than non-LDS to have expertise on LDS matters, there is no rule that they must be so, and non-LDS have served as peer reviewers for FARMS. 

 

Edited by LoudmouthMormon
Link to comment
16 hours ago, Hamilton Porter said:

I started purchasing and reading apologetics material since I was eighteen. I won't go into too much details, but in summary, Stephen E. Robinson, David Paulsen, and Roger Keller had the most impact on me when I was at BYU.

I started my foray into apologetics around the same time, except that I was in the Army, then on a mission.  I would write letters to my Dad and include questions about this or that issue about the doctrines or history of the Church.  He had purchased "LDS Infobases," a collection of Church history/doctrine publications and materials originally published in 1993 (with perhaps other iterations published earlier than that).  I was amazed at having access to something like 1,800 books on these discs, all searchable!  

When I returned from my mission, I started reading a lot.  FARMS Review of Books.  SHIELDS.  FAIR (I can't remember when it started up).  I also was on Zions Lighthouse Message Board, then moved to the FAIR board, which then morphed into this on.

16 hours ago, Hamilton Porter said:

It wasn't until I graduated when all this was challenged. Online, people were hammering away at apologetics, saying it wasn't peer-reviewed.

That can be a fair criticism, but I rarely saw it as such.  Instead, I saw it used more often as an excuse to not engage the substance of the apologetic argument/evidence.

I'm not particularly inclined to judge an idea based primarily on it having been peer reviewed or not.  Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Peer review: a flawed process at the heart of science and journals
  2. Let's stop pretending peer review works
  3. When reviewing goes wrong: the ugly side of peer review (Illustrating some of the most common ways that things can go wrong during peer review – and what to do if this happens)
  4. Peer Review is Not Scientific (How a process designed to ensure scientific rigor is tainted by randomness, bias, and arbitrary delays.)
  5. Is Peer Review A Big Bad Joke? (You, too, could have a paper in a science journal! An investigation reveals that dozens of sketchy titles were happy to publish a study so egregiously flawed it almost had to be fake.)
  6. Science Is Suffering Because of Peer Review’s Big Problems (How to reform the journal publication process.)
  7. Phony peer review: The more we look, the more we find
  8. This Study Just Revealed Why The Peer-Review Process Is in So Much Trouble (In recent years, scientists have been warning us about a reproducibility crisis in science, which has seen many seminal papers - particularly in psychology - failing to hold up when an independent team tries to reproduce the results.)

There are significant problems with bias, politics, funding concerns, etc. being implicated in scholarly research and publications.

Moreover, in terms of academic research into matters particular to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there just isn't much.  There are oodles of scholars from various discliplines and operating from every ideological point of view who are scrutinizing the Bible.  Not so much for the Book of Mormon.

A lack of before-the-fact peer review can be remedied - at least to some extent - by after-the-fact critiques of published scholarship on the Church.

16 hours ago, Hamilton Porter said:

I didn't take their objections seriously at first; after all, apologists had PhDs from top schools, so why should I listen to a bunch of anonymous hobos on the internet?

The "appeal to authority" fallacy.  Yep, it generally does not work well.

16 hours ago, Hamilton Porter said:

However, a classicist showed me some flaws in a FARMS article, where a parallel the author used was already known in Joseph Smith's milieu. That made me think. Which of FARMS's books is peer-reviewed? All I could think of was Paulsen's article in Harvard Theological Review and Givens's book By the Hand of Mormon. I even met Givens at a fireside, and he confirmed what I read on the internet: FARMS just citing each other is incestuous (his words not mine).

Again, I'm just not seeing much substantive scholarship on the Book of Mormon.  The Latter-day Saint "apologetics" crowd are sort of on their own.  But there is nothing keeping scholars from critiquing their published scholarship now, right?

16 hours ago, Hamilton Porter said:

I didn't take FARMS articles at face value anymore.

That's okay.  I would hope that you didn't reject them out-of-hand, either.

16 hours ago, Hamilton Porter said:

The only type of evidence I deemed strong enough to accept without non-LDS people having reviewed it was the wordplay found in the Book of Mormon, that indicated the author knew Hebrew and Egyptian.

I don't think church affiliation should be a dispositive litmus test.  

16 hours ago, Hamilton Porter said:

Then, two trends started. With the Romney candidacy, a sudden explosion of books published on church history by Oxford University Press took place, most of them faith-friendly. There were even books on the Book of Mormon, starting with Grant Hardy's Understanding the Book of Mormon. One can no longer say that apologetic material isn't peer-reviewed.

Most of this stuff was pretty basic and introductory, and not really "apologetic."

16 hours ago, Hamilton Porter said:

In fact, almost all anti material isn't peer-reviewed.

And yet we ought not reflexively ignore it, either.  Apologists certainly haven't.  FARMS in its heyday did a very good job.  FAIR is doing well now.

16 hours ago, Hamilton Porter said:

The other was the direction that Old Testament scholarship took. Although this happened all the way back in the 1950s, I first encountered this at BYU where I read an email exchange between Paul Owen and Bill Hamblin about the discovery of the Ugaritic tablets and the divine council. Later, a debate surfaced in FARMS between David Bokovoy and Michael Heiser about the divine council, where the LDS guy was just arguing the majority position, and the evangelical guy was arguing a minority position (Heiser's position is actually more nuanced; most evangelicals hide their heads up their butts when faced with evidence .) After that, I gradually stopped reading LDS-written material, and just read mainstream divine council scholarship. I'll read LDS articles if they're published in a mainstream venue, because those are "sexier."

I think you repose too much trust in "mainstream venue" outlets.  A lot of crapola gets by their purported fact-checkers, "peer reviewers," etc.

16 hours ago, Hamilton Porter said:

Today, I read almost no apologetics, preferring to draw closer to God by engrossing myself in His word, reading books about scriptures as literature and philosophy. 

My stance on scholarship pertaining to the Church's doctrines and history was materially affected by Mosser and Owen's 1999  Mormon Apologetic Scholarship and Evangelical Neglect: Losing the Battle and Not Knowing It?.  Here are the five main conclusions Mosser and Owen reached in their paper:

Quote

The first is that there are, contrary to popular evangelical perceptions, legitimate Mormon scholars. We use the term scholar in its formal sense of "intellectual, erudite; skilled in intellectual investigation; trained in ancient languages." Broadly, Mormon scholarship can be divided in to four categories: traditional, neo-orthodox, liberal and cultural. We are referring to the largest and most influential of the four categories-traditional Mormon scholars.
...
The second conclusion we have come to is that Mormon scholars and apologists (not all apologists are scholars) have, with varying degrees of success, answered most of the usual evangelical criticisms. Often these answers adequately diffuse particular (minor) criticisms. When the criticism has not been diffused the issue has usually been made much more complex.
...
A third conclusion we have come to is that currently there are, as far as we are aware, no books from an evangelical perspective that responsibly interact with contemporary LDS scholarly and apologetic writing.
...
Our fourth conclusion is that at the academic level evangelicals are losing the debate with the Mormons. We are losing the battle and do not know it. In recent years the sophistication and erudition of LDS apologetics has risen considerably while evangelical responses have not.
...
Finally, our fifth conclusion is that most involved in the counter-cult movement lack the skills and training necessary to answer Mormon scholarly apologetic. The need is great for trained evangelical biblical scholars, theologians, philosophers and historians to examine and answer the growing body of literature produced by traditional LDS scholars and apologists.

I think the bolded item above has become even more obvious in the 24 years since Mosser/Owen published this piece.  Most of the "apologetic" criticisms have long been asked and answered (and, in the main, answered adequately).  The remaining "apologetic" issues are, therefore, fairly complex and cannot be readily resolved in one way or another.

By way of example, back in 2020 we had an extensive discussion of Robert Ritner's critique of the Book of Abraham (from a very long podcast with John Dehlin).  I commented at the time:

Quote

I have lost count of the number of times I have come across triumphalist, conclusory, this-time-the-Church-is-really-done-for! rhetoric like what is presented above.  I become less impressed when such stuff centers on arguments

  • A) that are about complex, obscure, highly-specialized topics;
  • B) that involve definitive/conclusory statements about matters that necessarily involve considerable amounts of guesswork, conjecture, assumptions, etc.;
  • C) that are predominantly not susceptible to empirical analysis; and
  • D) that are larded up with bolstering language, appeals to authority, sneering, sarcasm, ad hominem, etc.

Also, Ritner seems to have a genuine vendetta / axe-grinding attitude against Gee.  How much of his animus is derived from personality conflicts (going back, it seems, to the controversy about Ritner's removal from Gee's dissertation committed)?  How much has that animus affected his scholarly assessment (see comments by Morris, quoted by Kevin here)?

Also, I'm very much not a fan of John Dehlin's meandering, ignorant (by his own admission), stacking-the-deck approach to interviewing.  I don't trust Dehlin to give the Church a fair hearing, or to accurately or fairly state or summarize the arguments presented by scholars and apologists who have marshaled evidence and argument on issues like the BoA.

Meanwhile, FAIR's annual conferences continue to present pretty good stuff, some of which is "apologetic."  Some examples from the past few years:

Jeff Bradshaw

Since Hugh Nibley: Remarkable New Findings on Enoch and the Gathering of Zion

 Transcript

Jeffrey Thayne

Worldview Apologetics: Revealing the Waters in Which We Swim

 Transcript

Don Bradley

Joseph Smith's First Vision as Endowment and Epitome of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (or Why I Came Back to the Church)

 Transcript

Richard Terry

The Dirt on the Ancient Inhabitants of Mesoamerica

 Transcript

Matt Roper/Kirk Magleby

Time Vindicates the Prophet 

Transcript

Matthew McBride

 Answering Historical Questions with Church History Topics Transcript

 

René Krywult

Fear Leads to the Dark Side: How to Navigate the Shallows of (Mis)Information

 Transcript

Brian Hales

Supernatural or Supernormal? Scrutinizing Secular Sources for the Book of Mormon Transcript

 

Scott Gordon

CES Letter: Proof or Propaganda?

 Transcript

John Gee

 Selling Our Birthright for a Mess of Pottage: The Historical Authenticity of the Book of Abraham 

Transcript

Wade Miller

 The Presence of Pre-Columbian Horses in America

 Transcript

Daniel Peterson Apologetics: What, Why and How? Transcript

Tyler Grifin Book of Mormon Geographical References: Internal Consistency Taken to A New Level HTML

 

Daniel Peterson

What Difference Does It Make? 

HTML

     

These things still have an important role to play, I think (though not nearly as important as more basic individual study of the scriptures).

Thanks,

-Smac

Link to comment
55 minutes ago, smac97 said:

Heh.  Yep, and then we had Ravi Zacharias speak at our tabernacle and we parted friends.  And then the Baptist Al Mohler spoke at BYU and we parted friends.  Between all that, and SLC hosting the winter olympic games, it just seemed to be less cool to bash Mormons and believe we were a dangerous cult bent on world domination and marrying our cousins.   As time went on, there was a marked decrease in things like the # of folks on the antimormon lecture circuit, the size of the antimormon book section in Christian book stores, and the numbers of passionate critics of my faith.

Good times. 

Link to comment

Re:  "FARMS quoting itself:

This is, in my opinion, a vague and unfair criticism, especially if we are talking about FARMS Review of Books.  Much of that publication dealt with reviews of books and articles that were critical of the Church, and we all know that many those criticisms are often repetitive.  It saves time to refer to other articles and sources that have already dealt with a particular criticism.  

This would be like criticizing the FAIR website for linking to itself for answers that have already been given.

Link to comment
7 hours ago, smac97 said:

I started my foray into apologetics around the same time, except that I was in the Army, then on a mission.  I would write letters to my Dad and include questions about this or that issue about the doctrines or history of the Church.  He had purchased "LDS Infobases," a collection of Church history/doctrine publications and materials originally published in 1993 (with perhaps other iterations published earlier than that).  I was amazed at having access to something like 1,800 books on these discs, all searchable!  

When I returned from my mission, I started reading a lot.  FARMS Review of Books.  SHIELDS.  FAIR (I can't remember when it started up).  I also was on Zions Lighthouse Message Board, then moved to the FAIR board, which then morphed into this on.

That can be a fair criticism, but I rarely saw it as such.  Instead, I saw it used more often as an excuse to not engage the substance of the apologetic argument/evidence.

I'm not particularly inclined to judge an idea based primarily on it having been peer reviewed or not.  Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Peer review: a flawed process at the heart of science and journals
  2. Let's stop pretending peer review works
  3. When reviewing goes wrong: the ugly side of peer review (Illustrating some of the most common ways that things can go wrong during peer review – and what to do if this happens)
  4. Peer Review is Not Scientific (How a process designed to ensure scientific rigor is tainted by randomness, bias, and arbitrary delays.)
  5. Is Peer Review A Big Bad Joke? (You, too, could have a paper in a science journal! An investigation reveals that dozens of sketchy titles were happy to publish a study so egregiously flawed it almost had to be fake.)
  6. Science Is Suffering Because of Peer Review’s Big Problems (How to reform the journal publication process.)
  7. Phony peer review: The more we look, the more we find
  8. This Study Just Revealed Why The Peer-Review Process Is in So Much Trouble (In recent years, scientists have been warning us about a reproducibility crisis in science, which has seen many seminal papers - particularly in psychology - failing to hold up when an independent team tries to reproduce the results.)

There are significant problems with bias, politics, funding concerns, etc. being implicated in scholarly research and publications.

Moreover, in terms of academic research into matters particular to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there just isn't much.  There are oodles of scholars from various discliplines and operating from every ideological point of view who are scrutinizing the Bible.  Not so much for the Book of Mormon.

A lack of before-the-fact peer review can be remedied - at least to some extent - by after-the-fact critiques of published scholarship on the Church.

The "appeal to authority" fallacy.  Yep, it generally does not work well.

Again, I'm just not seeing much substantive scholarship on the Book of Mormon.  The Latter-day Saint "apologetics" crowd are sort of on their own.  But there is nothing keeping scholars from critiquing their published scholarship now, right?

That's okay.  I would hope that you didn't reject them out-of-hand, either.

I don't think church affiliation should be a dispositive litmus test.  

Most of this stuff was pretty basic and introductory, and not really "apologetic."

And yet we ought not reflexively ignore it, either.  Apologists certainly haven't.  FARMS in its heyday did a very good job.  FAIR is doing well now.

I think you repose too much trust in "mainstream venue" outlets.  A lot of crapola gets by their purported fact-checkers, "peer reviewers," etc.

My stance on scholarship pertaining to the Church's doctrines and history was materially affected by Mosser and Owen's 1999  Mormon Apologetic Scholarship and Evangelical Neglect: Losing the Battle and Not Knowing It?.  Here are the five main conclusions Mosser and Owen reached in their paper:

I think the bolded item above has become even more obvious in the 24 years since Mosser/Owen published this piece.  Most of the "apologetic" criticisms have long been asked and answered (and, in the main, answered adequately).  The remaining "apologetic" issues are, therefore, fairly complex and cannot be readily resolved in one way or another.

By way of example, back in 2020 we had an extensive discussion of Robert Ritner's critique of the Book of Abraham (from a very long podcast with John Dehlin).  I commented at the time:

Meanwhile, FAIR's annual conferences continue to present pretty good stuff, some of which is "apologetic."  Some examples from the past few years:

Jeff Bradshaw

Since Hugh Nibley: Remarkable New Findings on Enoch and the Gathering of Zion

 Transcript

Jeffrey Thayne

Worldview Apologetics: Revealing the Waters in Which We Swim

 Transcript

Don Bradley

Joseph Smith's First Vision as Endowment and Epitome of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (or Why I Came Back to the Church)

 Transcript

Richard Terry

The Dirt on the Ancient Inhabitants of Mesoamerica

 Transcript

Matt Roper/Kirk Magleby

Time Vindicates the Prophet 

Transcript

Matthew McBride

 Answering Historical Questions with Church History Topics Transcript

 

René Krywult

Fear Leads to the Dark Side: How to Navigate the Shallows of (Mis)Information

 Transcript

Brian Hales

Supernatural or Supernormal? Scrutinizing Secular Sources for the Book of Mormon Transcript

 

Scott Gordon

CES Letter: Proof or Propaganda?

 Transcript

John Gee

 Selling Our Birthright for a Mess of Pottage: The Historical Authenticity of the Book of Abraham 

Transcript

Wade Miller

 The Presence of Pre-Columbian Horses in America

 Transcript

Daniel Peterson Apologetics: What, Why and How? Transcript

Tyler Grifin Book of Mormon Geographical References: Internal Consistency Taken to A New Level HTML

 

Daniel Peterson

What Difference Does It Make? 

HTML

     

These things still have an important role to play, I think (though not nearly as important as more basic individual study of the scriptures).

Thanks,

-Smac

Peer review has its problems, but it doesn't mean you shouldn't do it at all. And like CS Lewis said, we all have to take some things by authority. We're not going to replicate every experiment.

As far as the reproducibility crisis goes, they are reproducing historic studies right now. We can fix problems.

When I spoke to Terryl Givens, I asked him how we can get secular scholars to peer review our work. He said we begin by treating the BOM as a literary work, because that doesn't require the assumption of historicity (which secular scholars don't buy). He's a problem solver.

The explosion of OUP books on church history has completely changed the game. They're not TOO apologetic; scholars don't like that. They think you're not pursuing the truth but rather have an axe to grind. But a lot of those books lend to the LDS thesis. We are in a golden age.

 

 

 

 

Link to comment
17 hours ago, Hamilton Porter said:

Peer review has its problems, but it doesn't mean you shouldn't do it at all. And like CS Lewis said, we all have to take some things by authority. We're not going to replicate every experiment.

As far as the reproducibility crisis goes, they are reproducing historic studies right now. We can fix problems.

When I spoke to Terryl Givens, I asked him how we can get secular scholars to peer review our work. He said we begin by treating the BOM as a literary work, because that doesn't require the assumption of historicity (which secular scholars don't buy). He's a problem solver.

The explosion of OUP books on church history has completely changed the game. They're not TOO apologetic; scholars don't like that. They think you're not pursuing the truth but rather have an axe to grind. But a lot of those books lend to the LDS thesis. We are in a golden age.

If you want to sit at a table run by secular scholars, you simply have to play by their rules, use their assumptions, demonstrate their conclusions, and appeal to their values.  That is obvious.  And I think there is room for LDS scholars to do that from time to time, and some very good work has been done.  But the question that interests me, "What do we surrender by doing so?"  Are there important aspects of the Book of Mormon that secular approaches by nature overlook?   

Quote

Science does not deal in all possible laboratory manipulations. Instead, it selects those relevant to the juxtaposition of a paradigm with the immediate experience that the paradigm has partially determined. As a result, scientists with different paradigms engage in different concrete laboratory manipulations. (Kuhn, Structure of Scientific Revolutions126)

It's one thing to temporarily make adjustments for the sake of having a conversation, and to thereby build bridges.  (That is how Ammon approached his mission to the Lamanites, biding his time till he had earned some respect and gained a respectful audience.)  It's quite another to recommend or insist that LDS scholars should adopt secular approaches at all times, in all places, and in all things. I've had exchanges with Terryl Givens when he commented that many LDS scholars actively hate apologetics on historicity in particular because it forces people to make decisions about the text and Joseph Smith.   It's not the quality of the work, but the implications for their professional relationships that drives them.  Back in 2005 Givens wrote me about the hostility to FARMS he often encountered, and commented that "If the BM is an ancient text, how long can we keep pretending that that doesn't matter, that we don't have to address that question explicitly or implicitly, that we can just dance everlastingly around the only issue that matters?" 

I notice that once Ammon had the respect and the attention of his audience, he was not at all shy or reticent about what he believed. Neither is Terryl Givens.

I think that Grant Hardy's Understanding the Book of Mormon is a more successful as well as more insightful attempt to play to a secular audience than say, Mark Thomas's Digging in Cumorah.  The main problem with Digging in Cumorah is that he purports to approach the Book of Mormon as its original 19th Century audience would have understood it, while making use of Robert Alter's The Art of Biblical Narrative, when it turns out that no one in the 19th Century read the Book of Mormon that way (as 19th century writing makes clear), due in no small measure to the fact that Alter's book had not been written.  Hardy wants to just read the text itself, but as R. John Williams observes in Americanist Approaches to the Book of Mormon, Hardy does not bracket historicity completely and does draw on outside  materials to explicate the text.  But of course, if even Hardy overlooks something that I think is crucial and essential for understanding Mormon and Moroni as editors and authors, then it should not be surprising that all of the authors who mentioned the issue of race in the Book of Mormon, to cite one hot-button issue, use the context and using the assumptions of 19th century, rather than seriously considering Nephi's warning that "there is none other people that understand the things which were spoken unto the Jews like unto them, save it be that they are taught after the manner of the things of the Jews."  That is another issue in which both a close reading and the purported cultural context can and does make a radical difference, and has radically different implications for how a reader ought to morally and spiritually respond to the existence of the text.  See for instance, my "Table Rules" essay at interpreter for details.

https://journal.interpreterfoundation.org/table-rules-a-response-to-americanist-approaches-to-the-book-of-mormon/

Incidentally, I noticed that the Ethan Sproat essay, "Skins as Garments in the Book of Mormon," that I called attention to in my article has recently become one of the top 10 downloads from the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies in the Scholars Archive, with over 5,400 downloads.

https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/jbms/topdownloads.html

For comparison, go to the current Journal of Book of Mormon Studies website at the University of Illinois, and you can count the number of downloads for recent articles on your fingers. That, I submit, comes of deciding, for the sake of one's career and professional reputation that we should adopt the assumptions of secular scholars, to fully play to the scholars, so as to gain respect and improve the quality of our work.

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

And that is one of the underlying reasons why Barker is so often dismissed as "not mainstream" by some, and yet profoundly respected by a wide range of notable thinkers, including the Archbishop of Canterbury and N. T. Wright.  

Quote

Biblical studies should to serve the needs of the Churches; there are other goals, too, but if
the needs of the churches are not even considered, something has to be amiss. Perhaps the
time has come to break free from the Faustian pact between Church and Academy. We are
unlikely to solve the problems currently facing biblical studies using the methods which
created them. What we need is an approach, soundly based in scholarship, which enables us
to stand where they stood, look where they looked, read what they wrote and glimpse what
they saw. 

http://www.margaretbarker.com/Papers/ReflectionsOnBiblicalStudies.pdf

The moments when scholars, LDS or otherwise, enable me to "stand where they stood, look where they looked, read what they wrote, and glimpsed what they saw" are the most important and profound and affecting.  It's a dramatic and telling contrast from those who adopt secular approaches and conclude on that basis, while sitting at that table and playing by those table  rules, "Nothing to see here, move along."

FWIW,

Kevin Christensen

Canonsburg, PA

Edited by Kevin Christensen
typo
Link to comment
21 hours ago, Hamilton Porter said:

When I spoke to Terryl Givens, I asked him how we can get secular scholars to peer review our work. He said we begin by treating the BOM as a literary work, because that doesn't require the assumption of historicity (which secular scholars don't buy). He's a problem solver.

Richard Rorty, an atheist philosopher, who's work intellectually justifies religious belief,  famously left philosophy departments and instead started teaching in various areas of "literature".

It certainly enhanced his ability to communicate across traditional disciplinary boundaries since EVERYTHING can be classed as "literature", even scientific "literature".

Wittgenstein showed how these artificial categories no longer are definable, since ALL human communication is based on language, which carries with it it's own ambiguity.  Wittgensteinians, like Rorty, often believe that virtually ALL philosophical problems are reducible to semantic confusions.

The BIG questions about life that cross over all the boundaries require a unified general category studying the human experience- what it's like to be a human being living today.

A good existing category, familiar to university administrators, is "Literature".

It can be adjusted to cover anything!

Link to comment
21 minutes ago, mfbukowski said:

Richard Rorty, an atheist philosopher, who's work intellectually justifies religious belief,  famously left philosophy departments and instead started teaching in various areas of "literature".

It certainly enhanced his ability to communicate across traditional disciplinary boundaries since EVERYTHING can be classed as "literature", even scientific "literature".

Wittgenstein showed how these artificial categories no longer are definable, since ALL human communication is based on language, which carries with it it's own ambiguity.  Wittgensteinians, like Rorty, often believe that virtually ALL philosophical problems are reducible to semantic confusions.

The BIG questions about life that cross over all the boundaries require a unified general category studying the human experience- what it's like to be a human being living today.

A good existing category, familiar to university administrators, is "Literature".

It can be adjusted to cover anything!

Was Wittgenstein a quietist then? 

Link to comment
2 hours ago, OGHoosier said:

Was Wittgenstein a quietist then? 

Pretty much. He crossed a lot of classifications. Most find his work difficult because reading his works are not " statements" but more like exercises which lead you to his conclusions.

His method is very Socratic.

He is called an "ordinary language philosopher" and is considered part of the analytic movement, but crosses over many boundaries 

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quietism_(philosophy)#:~:text=Quietism in philosophy sees the,%2C including non-quietist philosophy.

Link to comment
On 3/24/2023 at 12:13 PM, Kevin Christensen said:

Back in 2005 Givens wrote me about the hostility to FARMS he often encountered, and commented that "If the BM is an ancient text, how long can we keep pretending that that doesn't matter, that we don't have to address that question explicitly or implicitly, that we can just dance everlastingly around the only issue that matters?" 

Yeah, scholars don't like apologetics, just as Bible scholars don't like theology. BTW, I'm aware of the book chapter you co-authored with Margaret Barker. I've had that book on my wish list for a while, but never pulled the trigger.

On 3/24/2023 at 12:13 PM, Kevin Christensen said:

Hardy wants to just read the text itself, but as R. John Williams observes in Americanist Approaches to the Book of Mormon, Hardy does not bracket historicity completely and does draw on outside  materials to explicate the text. 

Yeah, Hardy corrected the chapter by that other guy. I loved Americanist Approaches to death, but most of the non-LDS scholars just don't know as much about "Mormonism" yet. Some day that will come.

Link to comment

Best Books on the Book of Mormon:

  1. By the Hand of Mormon (Oxford), Givens
  2. Legal Cases in the Book of Mormon (BYU Press), J. Welch
  3. Name as Keyword (Interpreter/Eborn), M. Bowen
  4. Understanding the Book of Mormon (Oxford), G. Hardy
  5. Americanist Approaches to the Book of Mormon (Oxford), Hickman & Fenton, eds.
Link to comment

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...