Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

"If Only I Had Known BEFORE I Left the Church..."

I received poignant email today from a good woman who left the Church several years ago, disillusioned by seemingly powerful anti-Mormon attacks on the Book of Abraham. The power of that book had been an important part of her early testimony, but when she read that it was all "proven" to be a fake, she was devastated. She and her husband left the Church, as did one other couple I know who were upset over the Book of Abraham issue. After reading my rebuttal on the Book of Abraham, she wrote me and said how she wished she had known about this before she left. Her old testimony is coming back and makes more sense now, but so much has changed now that the path back to the Church will be difficult and painful, if it is even possible.

I know a little of what the woman went through, as my testimony was shaken sorely when I read what the Tanners had cobbled together regarding the Book of Abraham over a decade ago. I turned to the Lord in prayer to understand the answer to the issue, and felt that I needed to keep reading and looking, and soon found that the Tanner's had left out some important details that destroyed their case against the Book of Abraham. I, like many others, had been tricked. I realized that I would always have to be very careful in dealing with anti-Mormon literature, for it tends to be the work of dedicated enemies with a deadly ax to grind. Some pose as loving ministers, some as noble and objective Galileos seeking only truth, and as we have seen on this blog, some even pose as sincere members of the Church or sweet investigators, looking for truth.

People need to know that there are answers. Perhaps not yet for every attack, not for every puzzle, not for every question, but for many, many issues, there are answers and good reasons to believe. How sad that the adversary does manage to deceive some very good people and lead people to reject years of faith and testimony-building experiences with some of his sly attacks. Those who have left may not return, but many will, even when they seem hardened and harsh at the moment. Be patient and loving, and continue to minister, for perhaps some will wake up and return. I hope the woman who wrote me can manage to come back with her family.

98 comments:

Richard said...

From "An Insider's View of Mormon Origins" - Grant Palmer, three-time director of LDS Institutes of Religion:

"According to scholars, the scroll was written during the 1st century B.C. The papyri do not deal with Abraham. In fact, Abraham's name does not appear anywhere in this narrative."

"Joseph Smith used other sources in 'translating' the Book of Abraham." He continues on to cite "The Works of Flavius Josephus," and "the Philosophy of a Future State" as source references, both of which Joseph and Oliver Cowdery are directly linked to (they owned copies).

Sixty six out of seventy-seven verses in chapters 2,4,5, and 12 are quotations or close paraphrases of KJV wording. "The few Hebrew names and words in the Abraham text reflect Joseph's study under the Hebrew scholar Joshua Seixas in Kirtland, Ohio, during the winter of 1835-36."

"I know of no substantial evidence to support his claim to have ever literally translated any document, leaving me to appreciate his writings at face value rather than because of their antiquity."

Palmer, pgs 12-22, 36.

Anonymous said...

3 time director of Institute is no big qualification.

Daniel Peterson said...

The "three-time institute director" bit is also, well, ahem, something of an exaggeration.

But the simple fact is that Grant Palmer's book isn't very good, and that, since he refuses to read or acknowledge FARMS materials, and since FARMS, over the past quarter of a century, has been the principal publisher of relevant articles and books, his ignorance of substantial evidence supporting Joseph's claim to translate is rather less impressive than it might otherwise have been.

The FARMS reviews of Palmer's book are well worth reading. Professor James Allen's "Asked and Answered: A Response to Grant H. Palmer," in FARMS Review 16/1 goes along with the several essays on the subject in 15/2. They are all available on the FARMS website.

Anonymous said...

There are some answers. But many of them aren't very good answers. There are reasons to believe. But many aren't very good reasons.

There are also reasons to doubt, many of which are very good reasons to doubt.

If one wishes to make an honest judgement, all of the evidence needs to be jointly weighed. If only evidence from one side is considered, how can an honest conclusion be made?

BYU alter ego said...

My only suggestion is that people actually read Palmers book themselves.

James Allen's review covers a great deal of the content, but he overlooks a great many of the important details. An accusation he actually makes of Palmer over and over.

Also, Allen spends far too much time questioning Palmer's credentials, an arguement that bewilders me. In essence Allen argues that because faithful LDS scholars do not agree with his theories, then they, as well as Palmer shouldn't be given credence.

For example:

"I will not attempt here to answer all the problems raised by Palmer; a few examples will illustrate the kind of faulty speculation, incomplete evidence, and misleading "parallels" that plague his book. My intent is simply to summarize some of his assertions, show that nearly all of them have been dealt with in detail by well-qualified LDS scholars, and point the interested reader to some of their readily available writings. These scholars all have advanced degrees, usually doctoral degrees, with a wide variety of specialties, among them early American history, ancient civilizations, ancient languages, linguistics, anthropology, law, and philosophy. It is clear in their writings, moreover (though they avoid belaboring the point), that they are also believers."

Any logicians readings this will recognize that a citation of authority is a bad way to prove an argument.

Allen continues:

"There seems also to be an implication that, over the years, Palmer has discussed these issues with other Latter-day Saint scholars and that some may agree with his analysis. I have no personal knowledge of any such conversations..."

Is Allen's personal knowledge required? Is Allen really arguing that because he hasn't been included in any such conversations that he should have something to say about them?

He goes on:

"But such responses hardly imply that [the Scholars] agree with whatever viewpoints they are discussing, though some observers may be misled into thinking so. Of course there are people who agree with Palmer, but those he seemingly alludes to in his preface are not among them."

Without any personal knowledge how does he know? So sloppy... :(

The worst example:

"There is another implication, not stated by Palmer but apparently circulated in much of the discussion that goes on through the Internet and other places, that some people still in the employ of the church dare not come out with their "true" feelings because they are intimidated by fear of loss of employment and even loss of church membership."

Why bring this up if Palmer didn't say it? It's wrong to attach this issue, the readers inevitably are going to wrongly associate it with Palmer regardless.

The above analysis just comes from the beginning, and it doesn't get any better.

I personally found his coverage of the "Golden Pot" theory lacking. Just for emphasis here is an incomplete list of the parallels:

Both Joseph and Anselmus,

1. recieve a shock, have a visions of angels, and recieve a message
2. Are called to translate ancient works
3. The next morning walk to the appointed place
4. Think about riches
5. Encounter an evil force
6. recieve a brief sketch of the "ancients"
7. The messenger in both accounts is a descendant of his people's founders
8. The messenger is the people's last archivist
9. The messenger is a spirit prince
(Note: According to Abner Cole, "the elder Smith declared that his son Jo had seen the spirit," also called "the prince of spirits."(Cole, 12 June 1830; 14 Feb. 1831))
10. The message is repeated and expanded
11. Both Joseph and Anselmus are chastized for disobedience
12. Have to wait one year
13. The next visit is connected with the Fall equinox (Look it up if you need to, but Joseph receives the plates September 22nd 1827)
14. Both were accompanied by a woman
15. The characters are in an unknown language
16. He translates by inspiration
17. He produces a most correct book

It's very true that the Golden Pot does not read the same at all as Joseph's story. But the parallels are indeed there and are specific.

Allen doesn't address the points in Palmers book in a way that delineates them and refutes them. He cites LDS scholarship as his rebuttal.

My suggestion again, is those who are truly curious need to not rely on the assertions of a review such as this but need to read both the LDS work and the work of the "Palmers" of the world for themselves.

Dan said...

Jeff - Can you provide a feed to your blog? Blogger makes it really simple, you just need to turn it on and copy and paste the link.

Thanks
Dan

http://www.ldsteenhelp.com/blog.php

Anonymous said...

good points byu gestapo, about the farm essay. you made it sound kind of ridiculous. then again, most anti-mormon works are rather ridiculous, w/ outrageous claims and a twisting or selective choosing of facts. you are one of the few i've seen who don't seem to do that.

i will admit, byu gestapo, that that list is very similar to joseph's story. the only one's that are questionable are 1,6,9, and 12, though only somewhat. however, it's hard to believe your claim is that joseph read the golden pot and based the entire moroni/bom/translation story on it so obviously. did joseph not expect anyone to ever read it and make those conclusions? if i was going to make up an unbelievable story, i wouldn't base most of it on hamlet or something. you have to admit that if joseph is a fraud, he was a pretty darn good one, and it just seems unrealistic that he would do something like steal his story straight out of one book. unless of course your argument is that he was playing reverse psychology, and making his plagiarism too obvious to be true.

the parallels between the two may be strikingly similar, but the logic of the conclusion it draws does not cut it in my mind, though it may in yours. having read and reread the bom, i can't deny the original doctrines it teaches, and how they seem to mesh w/ the bible so well. i can't deny the power of the book. you can claim that joseph stole the whole JSH from the golden pot, and it is a good argument palmer has, but it's hard to believe joseph would do that. or do any of the things critics claim. sorry.

Anonymous said...

What I find odd about this is that he doesn't tell us the names of these agnostic Jewish members of the so-called "Berkley group." He (along with Jeff and Samuel) use their alleged non-LDS religion to give credibility to his findings, but never tells us what their names are.

He also never mentioned whether "the Berkley Group" with its unnamed non-LDS scientists published their findings in a peer-reviewed journal. I infer from that that the answer is no. I also infer from that that the reason isn't because they didn't try--it is because their science is junk.

Am I wrong? Who are the non-LDS research partners? Was their work published in a peer-reviewed journal? If not, why not?


know the answer to this, jeff? i'd love to know the truth

Mormanity said...

Youi can read the Golden Pot yourself at http://www.blackmask.com/books72c/goldpot.htm. Please read it! And then explain how that could possibly be a basis for the Book of Mormon. You can find MANY MORE and convincing but entirely random parallels in Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass - and in many works of fiction. A comparison of the Golden Pot and the Book of Mormon tells us more about Grant Palmer than it does about Joseph Smith.

Mormanity said...

More discussion on the Golden Pot is on my LDSFAQ page on alleged plargiarism for the Book of Mormon.

Samuel said...

Okay, so I am supposed to believe that Joseph Smith was a brilliant enough forger to make up the Book of Mormon, the vast majority of which is found in no other book, but he had to have something to use for his story of the angel Moroni? Why, did his incredible intuition for forgery and deception desert him?

Of course, the whole idea of the Golden Pot being the source of the Book of Mormon was probably the work of Mark Hoffman who first linked the work to the Book of Mormon by using the "Salamander letter" as the basis of Joseph's interpretation (being that Salamanders are found several times in the Golden Pot and play an important role therein.)

However, there is no real evidence that Mark Hoffman had used the Golden Pot, but he had a heck of lot more chances to access it than Joseph Smith, ie, he probably could have found it in any library he chose to enter.

As for Joseph Smith having access, the first translation of the story into English was made by Thomas Carlyle in 1827 (this was in England.) I do not believe an American edition came out for quite some time. Now of course, JS could have had access to Carlyle's four volume treatise of German literature, which was extremely limited in production but could have been sold in America, and he would have only had to dig around in the third volume to find the story.

I mean come on people. If this is the best evidence you have for Joseph Smith being a fraud and a liar, I am even more convinced I made the right decision in joining the Church.

Daniel Peterson said...

BYU Gestapo: "James Allen's review covers a great deal of the content, but he overlooks a great many of the important details. An accusation he actually makes of Palmer over and over."

Professor Allen's review should be read in conjunction with the related essays in the previous number of the FARMS Review (particularly those of Mark Ashurst-McGee and Steven Harper).

BYU Gestapo: "Also, Allen spends far too much time questioning Palmer's credentials, an arguement that bewilders me."

Palmer's claim (in the very title of his book) to being a historical "insider" implies for him a status that his non-existent scholarly track record prior to the publication of An Insider's View of Mormon Origins utterly fails to justify. Moreover, his repeated tacit suggestion that he represents the silent consensus of professional Mormon historians is risible -- a fact addressed particularly by the Davis Bitton review and the statement from the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History.

BYU Gestapo: "Allen continues:
'There seems also to be an implication that, over the years, Palmer has discussed these issues with other Latter-day Saint scholars and that some may agree with his analysis. I have no personal knowledge of any such conversations...'
Is Allen's personal knowledge required? Is Allen really arguing that because he hasn't been included in any such conversations that he should have something to say about them?"


As a former assistant Church historian, a past president of the Mormon History Association, a longstanding professor of history at the Church's university, and one of the most-respected and most-published of all the historians of Mormonism, Professor Allen is a genuine "insider." The fact that Mr. Palmer is essentially unknown to Dr. Allen (co-compiler, with David Whittaker, of the recently-published definitive bibliography of Mormon historiography) casts serious doubt upon Palmer's claimed "insider" status as well as upon Palmer's qualifications to somehow represent any consensus of the Mormon historical community.

BYU Gestapo: "I personally found his coverage of the "Golden Pot" theory lacking."

Professor Allen scarcely deals with The Golden Pot. But the reviews by Louis Midgley and Mark Ashurst-McGee deal with it in devastating detail.

pate said...

Thanks Br Peterson for a nice 'breadth and depth' response to BYU Gestapo's post. Not being particularily well read or connected in Mormon History circles, it's nice to see someone who is responding publicly in a way that helps bring the picture into focus.

why me said...

I tried to read the Golden Pot linked to Mormanity's post.

I had difficulties in following the story. Perhaps I am an idiot.

But what I skimmed through, it was difficult to see a connection. I have a difficult time in imagining Joseph Smith highly engaged in this book and gaining inspiration for the Book of Mormon.

I understand that Palmer does have his theory but I also understand that much of historical interpretation can be highly speculative in analysis.

Daniel Peterson said...

I'm absolutely convinced that the best cure for believing in Grant Palmer's Golden Pot scenario is actually reading The Golden Pot.

I might note that, among other places, it's available for a dollar in a Dover paperback edition, accompanied by Hoffman's other (much better known) novella The Nutcracker.

Mormanity said...

BYU Gestapo's post alleges, among other things, that Anselmus tranlates a book by inspiration. OK, it's contest time: I have a standing liberty 1-ounce legal tender silver dollar as the prize that I will mail to the first person who can point out the place in the Golden Pot where Anselmus does actual "translation" by inspiration.

Anonymous said...

In the translation of G.P. you linked to, there are no words beginning with "transl," so it looks like "nowhere" is the answer. But he does copy some words, but copying is not translating - not the kind that Palmer means. But don't blame Gestapo for this - he just bought Palmer's spin (and book, unfortunately). But what Palmer did is to contort the meaning to try to force a parallel where no plausible parallel exist. Can we trust his other "parallels"?

Daniel Peterson said...

The short answer: No.

BYU alter ego said...

Okay, are you guys realy getting hung up on one word? We refer to Joseph's experience as a translation, with Anselmus the word used is copy.

Is the short answer really to dismiss the whole analysis because the ambiguity of a single word? No.

Since everyone is so keen on reading the original text, lets do it:

Midgley, in his FARMS review, refers to a passage that states:

"...a number of manuscripts, partly Arabic, Coptic, and some of them in strange characters, which do not belong to any known tongue. These he wishes to have copied properly, and for this purpose he requires a man who can draw with the pen, and so [to] transfer these marks to parchment, in Indian ink, with the highest exactness and fidelity."

Indeed the word copied is used, and not translation, but contrary to what Midgley argues, the concept of a translation here is not "gratuitous."

Arabic, Coptic (adjective for Egypt) is apparently referring to a language from Egypt and also the mentioned "strange characters..." that are from an unknown tongue are all foreign languages.

What would be the point of copying them "with high fidelity," in Indian Ink. Indian Ink, used to write the US constitution by the way, is known for it's archival quality. It's meant to last. So why all the fuss to make such a high quality copy?

Later on, Anselmus begins to do more than copying, he "directed his eyes and thoughts more and more intensely on the superscription of the parchment roll; and before long he felt, as it were from his inmost soul, that the characters could denote nothing else than these words: Of the marriage of the Salamander with the green snake..."

Anselmus upon concentrating, gains understanding and knowledge of the works of these foreign tongues that was previously unknown to him.

Here is the primary definition from the dictionary for the word translate:

1. To render in another language.

Anselmus takes what was previously Arabic, Coptic, or an unknown tongue and then renders it into his own words, specifically German.

It's instructive that our historical understanding of the translation process for Joseph relates closely to the latter "Golden Pot" quote.

B.H. Roberts, undeniably a historical "insider" was of the opinion, "The translation of the Book of Mormon by means of the "Interpreters" and "Seer Stone," was not merely a mechanical process, but required the utmost concentration of mental and spiritual force possessed by the prophet... (Young Men's Manual, 1903-4, p. 69)"

One final interesting tidbit, ironically enough, two of the three BOM witnesses, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris described that the sentences would appear to Joseph already in English and he would read them off, ie; copy.

In fact much of the Book of Mormon was putatively translated through a seer stone in a hat, without the Golden Plates even present. Emma stated, "In writing for your father I frequently wrote day after day, often sitting at the table close by him, he sitting with his face buried in his hat, with the stone in it, and dictating hour after hour with nothing between us."(History of the RLDS Church, 8 vols. (Independence, Missouri: Herald House, 1951), "Last Testimony of Sister Emma," 3:356)

You can't translate if you have no source to translate from. Indeed those who were witness to the translation process have this recurring theme in their accounts of the words or characters appearing to Joseph in English and he reads them off.

So actually the two experiences are quite surreally similar.

Now listen, I do NOT think this is damning evidece however. Let's be clear on that before you all flame me to death. For emphasis, the "Golden Pot" theory is just that, a theory, and alone it means little. But it's place in the larger picture adds credence, however minute, to the idea that the BOM is literary.

Again, it's just a small piece in a large puzzle.

Many on this blog have been quick to dismiss it as completely irrelevant. I hope I've shown that at a minimum, that is a very myopic stance to take.

Anonymous said...

BYU Gestapo:

I was sufficiently interested by your post to read the Golden Pot. You really want me to believe that Joseph Smith lifted his story from this book? I'm not familiar with how this nonsense got started-- was there some sort of contest to come up with the next great fraud accusation? When this one runs it's course, let me know. I'd like an opportunity to win the next one. I've been working on a list of similarities between the J.S. story and Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown. I've never done this before-- what can I win?

John

Anonymous said...

Hi,

I’m not an American. I am from Scandinavia so please forgive me for my poor English.

I have actually read ”The Golden Pot” twice. The connection between Moroni and the gold plates narrative and the story in the novel is not very obvious unless you have read Palmer’s book. I appreciate Palmer’s book and I appreciate FARMS reviews as well. I got a clearer picture of the whole thing. During the last three years I have been studying a lot about Mormon theology and history. Both sides of the story and it have been enlightening in many ways.

As I understand Grant H. Palmer he means that Hoffman’s novel describes the fundamental thoughts that where present in Europe and in USA as well among common people. The novel is built on traditional folklore and represents “the thinking of the day” among the not to well educated people. Hoffman’s puts this in to his story makes a novel out of it. Both the novel and Joseph Smiths story emerges from this magic environment. The parallels between the both stories should therefore not surprise anyone.

Palmer builds up his case in this manner. It is proven by fact that young Joseph knew Luman Walters in the early 1820:s. Luman Walter had been in Europe at the time the novel where published. The book was not printed in English until 1827 but Luman Walters probably knew German and French and thereby could be able to read and understand the story. Luman might have told the magic story during the evenings of fruitless treasure diggings and young Josephs frantic imaginations did the rest.

The English version of this book came out in 1827 the very same year as Joseph received the plates from the angel. There are no proofs however- as far as I know - that either Luman Walters or Joseph Smith ever owned Hoffman’s novel or were acquainted with it in any way.

The wording parallel that Palmer presents is weak because the likeliness that Walters told the story with a correct translation in English before the book was published in English are very small. The novel however describes the magic thinking of the early 19: th century. It shows that some element of this magic turns up in both the Moroni and golden plates narratives and in Hoffman’s novel.

Palmer makes a big mistake when he strengthens the weak parallels by using the word translates for copy etcetera. Here the FARMS review is very helpful. More examples are to be found in the reviews.

One very interesting details is the date in September. The magic day when night and day are equal in length (equinox). This day has been very important in the magic cults in a very same way as midsummer have been (I’m from Sweden Scandinavia so I know what the magic of midsummer is). The plates however are finally turned over to Joseph in 22 September 1827. The equinox however is 23 September. There however another way of looking at this very day. I got this from The Meridian.

Significance of the Date

This angelic visitation took place on the 21st - 22nd of September 1823, and Moroni returned four more years on September 22. Perhaps there is some significance in the fact that at the same time Moroni was instructing the Prophet, the Jews were celebrating the autumn pilgrimage Festival of Ingathering. This festival celebrated the beginning of the harvest season. In Hebrew this festival is called hag ha'asiph (the holy day of gathering). It is noteworthy that the word asiph and the name Joseph come from similar Hebrew words. Joseph means "he who adds / he who increases" in Hebrew. So just as the ancient Joseph increased the gathering of grain from the harvest and added to the Pharaoh's storehouse, so also the Prophet Joseph stood at the beginning of a new season of ingathering and through his instrumentality in bringing forth truth and light he increased the gathering of God's children.
(This writing can be found of the following link http://www.meridianmagazine.com/gospeldoctrine/dc/050111dc5.html).

What are my conclusions of all this? There needs to be opposition in all things. The same goes for the BofM and the Moroni and golden plates narrative. Do I Believe in the BofM? Yes, I do. Could the opponents to our faith find support for their conclusion? Oh yes they can. Palmer does not argue that Joseph actually read the story itself, only that Joseph in the same manner as Hoffman borrowed the general magic background when he created his own narrative.

I guess that is how must be if we are supposed to trust the Spirit. Are the Mormon theology shaken? Hardly. Should one read Palmer’s book? Only if you also reads the answers from FARMS. The worst in all this is the reply from Ron Priddis…… which is to be found at Signature Books…..

Samuel said...

"What would be the point of copying them "with high fidelity," in Indian Ink. Indian Ink, used to write the US constitution by the way, is known for it's archival quality. It's meant to last. So why all the fuss to make such a high quality copy?"

Ges, I really enjoy your posts and discussing these things with you, but you dont want to hurt your case by being loose with the facts. The US Constitution (and the Declaration and the Bill of Rights) were written with iron gall ink, not india ink. Just letting you know.

jlf said...

My family first joined the church in the 1830's and were among the first pioneers in Utah. I say this to establish that the Church in my family has historic roots and so I have heard it all. I doubt that there is little of the intolerance, bigotry, lies and distortions told by the Adversaries minions that I have not heard. I am of the opinion that if comes from an outsider's mouth it is wrong. There is only one source for informaton and that is the Prophet, the Twelve or other authorized person. The one thing all this noise has made clear to me is that I am absolutely, totally and irreconcilably adverse to anything coming from the mouth of a non-member when it comes to the Church or religious truths. I am sick to death of them.

Jay Mortensen said...

BYU Gestapo said:

"We refer to Joseph's experience as a translation, with Anselmus the word used is copy." (Emphasis added).

I am certifiably NOT a scholar, but I do understand the difference between the words translate and copy. In my profession, recurring problems happens when people start with a conclusion then try to find facts to support their position. Their arguments are contrived and the results are never good. The Anti- stuff seems to fall into this category. Ether 12:25-28 also seems to cover their comments.

I am grateful for the many serious studies of the gospel written by LDS and non-LDA authors. These works seem to start with questions then review the available material to reach conclusions. Sincere work and commentary, even when they ask tough questions, has strengthen my testimony of the divinity of Christ and the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith in restoring the gospel to the earth.

Being a natural skeptic, I find it comforting that I should not trust in any mortals’ work - Jeremiah 17:5, but can trust God - Psalm 56:4. For this reason my testimony of the Saviour, his atonement, and the latter-day restoration is built upon the “rock” of personal revelation from my Father in Heaven, not the arguments of men (sand?).

I appreciate the way Nephi (as translated by Joseph Smith) expressed this concept: “O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.” 2 Nephi 4:34.

So while I will continue to be educated by reading sincere works (including this blog) on the gospel by authors of many faiths, my testimony and faith is in Christ.

Jay Mortensen said...

Opps my emphasis was lacking - I meant to emphasis the words translation and copy.

Daniel Peterson said...

BYU Gestapo: "Okay, are you guys realy getting hung up on one word? We refer to Joseph's experience as a translation, with Anselmus the word used is copy.
Is the short answer really to dismiss the whole analysis because the ambiguity of a single word? No.


As Midgley and Ashurst-McGee demonstrate, the problems with Palmer's rather silly Golden Pot hypothesis go far beyond "the ambiguity of a single word."

Not even Palmer's fellow Signature authors Brent Metcalfe and Dan Vogel have been convinced by him on this.

BYU Gestapo: "Indeed the word copied is used, and not translation, but contrary to what Midgley argues, the concept of a translation here is not 'gratuitous.'"

It is gratuitous to the nth degree. There is a world of difference between copying and translating. I can promise you that a student in one of my Arabic classes who merely transcribed a passage rather than, as requested, translating it, would fail the assignment.

Much of the rest of what you say (about India ink and the like) is simply irrelevant obfuscation.

BYU Gestapo: "So why all the fuss to make such a high quality copy?"

What difference does it make? High quality copying no more implies translation than does accurate photography.

BYU Gestapo: "Anselmus upon concentrating, gains understanding and knowledge of the works of these foreign tongues that was previously unknown to him."

We're given no reason to believe that he accurately understands the meaning of the texts. He could just as easily be hallucinating a meaning in line with his own personal obsessions -- which, given the overall nature of this very weird story, seems more likely.

BYU Gestapo: "Now listen, I do NOT think this is damning evidece however."

It's not relevant evidence at all.

BYU Gestapo: "For emphasis, the 'Golden Pot' theory is just that, a theory, and alone it means little.

Little or, more accurately, nothing.

BYU Gestapo: "But it's place in the larger picture adds credence, however minute, to the idea that the BOM is literary."

It adds nothing of any substance to a critic's case against the Book of Mormon, and wise critics won't touch it.

BYU Gestapo: "Again, it's just a small piece in a large puzzle."

It's wandered in from another puzzle box, and has no relevance to this one. Time spent arguing for its importance to the Book of Mormon is time wasted.
 

Daniel Peterson said...

Incidentally, it isn't clear that Joseph Smith even knew Luman Walters ("the Magician"), and very, very little is known about Walters himself. (Some have even doubted his existence.)

So Palmer's suggestions that Walters might have lived in Europe and, there, might have encountered Der goldne Topf in its original German, and might have known German well, and might have read Der goldne Topf, and might have had extensive conversations with the Smiths, and might have recited to them a summary of the Hoffman novella, and etc., and etc., and etc., is the weakest of weak historical speculation.

Bookslinger said...

Ack. One of my buttons just got pushed, and I gotta get on my soapbox.

jlf allegedly wrote: "My family first joined the church in the 1830's and were among the first pioneers in Utah. I say this to establish that the Church in my family has historic roots and so I have heard it all."

Whether or not you heard/read/studied "it all" during your X years on earth doesn't have anything to do with the actions beliefs or affiliations of your ancestors. They've been dead for years. What you've heard/known/believed has been entirely dependent on you during your life. Your parents and your surroundings may have exposed you to certain teachings, but even that doesn't mean any of it sunk in.

You may be a humble person in real life, but the above statement paints you in an unflattering manner.

You may be a BIC, but all converts were outsiders and non-members at some point. So be careful what you say to or about outsiders and non-members. One of them might be your Elders Quorum president some day.

Bragging about ancestors or pointing out being of "pioneer stock" in order to establish credentials or believability is illogical, and in my opinion, is bad form in a convert-oriented church.

Next time someone volunteers the fact that his dad is a bishop in order to back up a point he is making, I'm going to call him a "Sonova BISHop."

Ok, I feel much better now.

BYU alter ego said...

I need to clarify to you all my reasoning about the India Ink/Archivist concept. I admit I often start a thought in my head, and fail to get it out fully in writing at times.

Anselmus seems to be doing an important work, hence the importance given to the materials he uses.

I know it's a small thing, but to me transcribing an unknown language only to have a copy in the same unknown language doesn't fit that scenario.

It would make sense to me that a translation would be a bigger deal and would warrant the archival quality materials.

About the India ink, I apologize for the error. Indeed I didn't fact check that point as all I was trying to convey was that archival quality materials were used.

My error stems from a show I watched about creating parchment from animal skin and the various inks used. It discussed documents such as the Constitution and the Magna Carta. Obviously I remembered my facts wrong... :(

To Daniel:

Having a bad day are we? I haven't obfuscated anything.

Your rebuttal is heavy on rhetoric, but lacks a single true counter argument. Citing other people without including the relevent argument involved is not a rebuttal.

You are either ignoring or have overlooked the core of my argument.

1. Anselmus gains an understanding of the formerly unknown languages.
a. it doesn't matter if he was right or not. Hoffman doesn't clarify lol... Since the work is a fiction, it's going to be unfruitful to go down that road. Obviously Hoffman wanted his character to understand.

2. Joseph's experience is indeed like Anselmus' because he copied as well.
a. It's well documented that for a period at least, Joseph didn't use plates, he simply read off what his seer stone showed him.

Let's not forget we've only been hammering at one out of the seventeen points I listed.

You haven't even addressed the Equinox similarity, the ancient people, the unknown characters, Emma being present when Joseph got the plates among others.

So forgive me, but comments like "gratuitous to the nth degree," or "wise critics won't touch it," seem to come more out of bluster than someone who has spent the time himself to really understand the issue.

Anonymous said...

...So like a free toaster oven? A cruise in the Bahamas? Seriously, I think I have a good one here.

John

Samuel said...

Ges,

I really dont understand the emphasis on the Golden Pot for this reason: even if Joseph heard the story (and one would assume with the parallels you cited, that he has access to a first hand account, ie the work itself), why would he so slavishly follow it? I mean why the absolute careful acting out of all these details? Just gives more fodder to the people who would want to claim he made it all up. Seems much safer to make up a crazy story rather than copy one from someone else.

This is one of my major problems with the idea of JS being this enormous forger. He is brilliant enough to create the BoM but not smart enough to come up with a plausible story of getting the plates. And oh yea, years after the forgery, he has to steal from Masonic ritual to come up with the temple endowment (which is silly; I am a Mason as well as an endowed member; the idea that they are similar is bogus, at least IMHO.)

It just doesn't make any sense. Please I would like to know what you think of this. Oh and while you are at it, why do you think that 11 men put their name as a witness to the BoM and never retracted their testimony?

BYU alter ego said...

To Samuel:

As always, I appreciate your comments as well.

I understand that the amount of back and forth here makes it seem like I'm putting a large amount of emphasis on the Golden Pot. My intention actually is simply to convince people that it's not dismissible, or just a crock theory.

But that doesn't make it the deal breaker IMO. Like I explained before it's just a piece of a very large puzzle.

As others have noted, Joseph didn't slavishly follow the story, but there are certain themes that bear a strong resemblence albeit, not in the same order as the original text.

On your point about Joseph being a forger, I've never argued that he didn't forge the BOM but did make up the story about the plates. I believe both are quite literary, and it's my own personal belief that he had help in doing it.

Now that's completely conjecture, but based on what we do know, either Joseph really was inspired, or he had to have had help.

About Masonry, perhaps you can't comment, but do the masons still have the "five points of fellowship?" It's no longer part of the LDS ceremony either, so I hope it's okay to talk about Jeff. But that portion was identical.

Masonry never was an issue with me, the BOM was, but I'm just being curious.

As for the witnesses, I don't have the sources in front of me, but there are many instances of witnesses getting really "soft" in their testimonies later in life. When I get home I'll address this with sources, as I don't want to risk getting my facts wrong again... :P

Bookslinger said...

BYUG: I looked at the online Golden [Flower] Pot. It's laughable. You really have to stretch to draw those parallels, and when there is a thin parallel, it's more like "so what?" because it is so thin.

Jeff's right, there are more parallels between the Book of Mormon and _Leaves of Grass_, then there are between The Golden [Flower] Pot to the JS History story.

So maybe Walt Whitman did plagiarize the Book of Mormon. :-)

You wrote: "1. Anselmus gains an understanding of the formerly unknown languages."

But Joseph did not. Because he was using the stones (Urim-Thummim) he never did learn to read Reformed Egyptian. It wasn't until after the BoM was published that JS didn't need the Urim-Thummim for revelation.

You wrote: "2. Joseph's experience is indeed like Anselmus' because he copied as well."

AFAIK, Joseph did not copy, and was not the scribe. He dictated, and the others wrote, Emma, Martin, Oliver. If I remember correctly, he only copied a couple lines for Martin to take to Charles Anthon, and that hardly qualifies him as a "copyist" or archivist.

The only way I can see even a remote possibility for a claim of fraud in the Book of Mormon was that it was Oliver who read those other books (Spaulding's manuscript, View of the Hebrews, Golden Pot, etc.) and who colluded with Joseph.

Yet, he was not in on it from the beginning. Joseph talked about it for 4 years prior to obtaining the plates from Moroni, then went through Emma and Martin as scribes before Oliver started as scribe.

Are you the one who wrote about feeling deceived from the painting that depicts Joseph writing the translation himself with his other finger on the gold plates? Sure, when I first joined, I thought it went that way too. But so what? That's just an artist's rendition. Ever hear of artistic license? Same thing with Friberg's renditions. The style Friberg used is called "Heroic Art" where it makes the good guys larger than life. They probably didn't really look like WWF wrestlers on steroids.

Just because the church sells or distributes that painting with "Joseph Translating" that hardly qualifies as endorsing the depiction as official history!

I sometimes fail to see the logic of lugging around 100 pounds (or whatever it was) of golden (or tumbago gold alloy) plates if he wasn't going to read off them. But hey, I'm not an expert on how the Urim-Thummim works, or how the Lord wants things done.

It's kind of weird reading about how people who don't claim to be close to God (and some even disavow any belief in a God) expound on how "if there is a God, this is how he should do things." And thereby they discount everything that doesn't conform to their preconcieved and admittedly uninspired notions.

Daniel Peterson said...

BYU Gestapo [= BYU Totalitarian Secret Police and Mass Murderer (do you have any sense how offensive and inappropriate this is?)]: "Having a bad day are we? I haven't obfuscated anything."

Not at all. Yes you did.

BYU Gestapo [= BYU Totalitarian Secret Police and Mass Murderer]: "Your rebuttal is heavy on rhetoric, but lacks a single true counter argument."

Not true.

BYU Gestapo [= BYU Totalitarian Secret Police and Mass Murderer]: "Citing other people without including the relevent argument involved is not a rebuttal."

Their arguments are easily accessible on the web. I see no point in regurgitating them.

BYU Gestapo [= BYU Totalitarian Secret Police and Mass Murderer]: "You are either ignoring or have overlooked the core of my argument."

There's precious little to your argument.

BYU Gestapo [= BYU Totalitarian Secret Police and Mass Murderer]: "Anselmus gains an understanding of the formerly unknown languages.

No. He "he felt, as it were from his inmost soul, that the characters could denote nothing else than these words: Of the marriage of the Salamander with the green snake." In other words, he imagines that the foreign characters are connected with the longstanding subject of his fantasies. We are given no reason to believe that his imagination is accurate -- that he has "gained" any actual "understanding" -- or that he has actually translated anything at all. He doesn't write his imagined denotation down. No document results, except the calligraphic copies he's been hired to produce. In fact, given the many hours that he has spent copying, it seems very unlikely that all those pages of text mean nothing more than "Of the marriage of the Salamander with the green snake," and, given the clearly hallucinatory character of the overall story and the oft stated focus of his obsession, it seems rather unlikely that they have anything whatever to do with that subject.

BYU Gestapo [= BYU Totalitarian Secret Police and Mass Murderer]: "Joseph's experience is indeed like Anselmus' because he copied as well."

Not true. Apart from twenty-seven words in the Original Manuscript, Joseph didn't copy or write at all.

BYU Gestapo [= BYU Totalitarian Secret Police and Mass Murderer]: "It's well documented that for a period at least, Joseph didn't use plates, he simply read off what his seer stone showed him.

Joseph dictated. He translated. He didn't transcribe.

Anselmus, by contrast, didn't dictate. Anselmus didn't translate. Unlike Joseph, Anselmus transcribed.

BYU Gestapo [= BYU Totalitarian Secret Police and Mass Murderer]: "You haven't even addressed the Equinox similarity"

No, but Mark Ashurst-McGee does.

BYU Gestapo [= BYU Totalitarian Secret Police and Mass Murderer]: "the ancient people, the unknown characters, Emma being present when Joseph got the plates among others."

I find them entirely uninteresting. They are wrested from a context that is utterly foreign to the Moroni story and are grossly exaggerated when not wholly invented. Midgley, Ashurst-McGee, and Allen do a good job on this, but, as I've said, the supremely convincing antidote to Mr. Palmer's fantasia on The Golden Pot is an actual reading of The Golden Pot itself. Palmer's list of alleged parallels and pseudo-parallels seems pretty impressive at first glance, but hasn't remained at all impressive, so far as I can tell, to the overwhelming majority of those who have actually read E. T. A. Hoffman's novella.

BYU Gestapo [= BYU Totalitarian Secret Police and Mass Murderer]: "So forgive me, but comments like 'gratuitous to the nth degree,' or 'wise critics won't touch it,' seem to come more out of bluster than someone who has spent the time himself to really understand the issue."

I've read Palmer's book. I've read The Golden Pot in Thomas Carlyle's English translation. I've read Der goldne Topf in E. T. A. Hoffman's original German. I edited James Allen's review and Louis Midgley's review and Mark Ashurst-McGee's review for publication. I am thoroughly unimpressed with Palmer's attempt to link Anselmus with Joseph Smith. As are such people, otherwise disposed to be sympathetic to Palmer's project, as Brent Metcalfe and Dan Vogel. Why is this? The simple fact is that they have excellent reason to ignore his "Golden Pot" hypothesis, and, therefore, they do. This dog won't hunt.

BYU Gestapo [= BYU Totalitarian Secret Police and Mass Murderer]: "As for the witnesses, I don't have the sources in front of me, but there are many instances of witnesses getting really 'soft' in their testimonies later in life."

No there aren't.

Daniel Peterson said...

As far as the Witnesses go, the best book ever written on them, which I enthusiastically recommend to anybody with even the slightest interest in this topic (and even to those who don't think they have any interest), is Richard Lloyd Anderson's Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses, which I rank among the great classics of Mormon historical scholarship.

Also good is Lyndon Cook's collection of David Whitmer Interviews.

Mike Parker said...

Dan: I heard you say once that David Whitmer had his testimony etched as his epitaph. Is that correct? If so, what is Whitmer's epitaph?

BYU alter ego said...

To Daniel,

I can't help but get the feeling your either trying to prod me and test my patience.

I think the one thing most of us here can agree on is that I try very hard to keep things civil in my posts. I don't understand why you don't feel similarly inclined.

Quoting with "BYU Gestapo [= BYU Totalitarian Secret Police and Mass Murderer" in front of every one of my quotes is certainly not necessary.

Maybe you don't realize that American English allows for sarcasm.

You've never felt the need criticise my moniker, why now?

Daniel Peterson said...

As it happens, I visited David Whitmer's grave about a week ago, in Richmond, Missouri.

His burial place is marked by an upright pillar surmounted by a sculpture of two books, the Bible and the Book of Mormon, and inscribed "The record of the Jews and the record of the Nephites are one."

There is a photograph of the monument at

http://tinyurl.com/dbjap

Daniel Peterson said...

BYU Secret State Police: "I can't help but get the feeling your either trying to prod me and test my patience.
I think the one thing most of us here can agree on is that I try very hard to keep things civil in my posts. I don't understand why you don't feel similarly inclined."


How have I been uncivil?

Are you not aware how obscene and pointlessly offensive it is to flippantly compare anybody who really isn't a totalitarian mass murderer to the Gestapo?

With your pseudonym, I wouldn't be feigning oversensitivity.

BYU Secret State Police: "Quoting with 'BYU Gestapo [= BYU Totalitarian Secret Police and Mass Murderer' in front of every one of my quotes is certainly not necessary."

True. I choose to go beyond the call of mere duty.

BYU Secret State Police: "Maybe you don't realize that American English allows for sarcasm."

Maybe. But I don't think anybody who's read much of my writing has ever accused me of that failing.

On the other hand, since you claim the right to be sarcastic (in implicitly comparing BYU or some element of BYU to Hitler's agents of state repression and genocide), it seems rather inconsistent for you to object, on the grounds of your sensitive and delicate nature, to my sarcastically chiding you for it.

BYU Secret State Police: "You've never felt the need criticise my moniker, why now?"

Because of my patient and forebearing nature. You would have preferred that I criticize you earlier?

J White said...

BYU *******:BYU Secret State Police: "Maybe you don't realize that American English allows for sarcasm."

Daniel Peterson:Maybe. But I don't think anybody who's read much of my writing has ever accused me of that failing.

I've had classes and worked as an RA in the Arabic Department at BYU. I can back Dr. Peterson's statement up here! ;)

Samuel said...

"Now that's completely conjecture, but based on what we do know, either Joseph really was inspired, or he had to have had help."

Ges, I agree with this. The question is, who could have given him the help he needed to create a work of this size and complexity? I dont think even the most educated person could have done it. I doubt the most educated of us today could do it.

Orson Scott Card (one of my favorite authors, who I liked before joining the Church) wrote an article on this subject here (hope you dont mind me putting this link here Jeff):

http://www.nauvoo.com/library/card-bookofmormon.html

It is a very good article written from an author's perspective. If you havent already read it, I highly recommend it.

As for Masonry, this is a long and complicated subject and probably not appropriate for this forum. Let me just say that I have been a Mason longer than I have a Mormon, and believe that the Masonic ceremonies have their place in the Temple of Solomon. Not to the extent that Masons claim, but a more recent usage (long story, if you want to know about it, email me.) Someday I might write an article on it.

Anyhow, when I went through the Temple, everything clicked for me. I could see where the ceremonies of Masonry tried but failed to teach the things that the Endowment taught so well. It is my not so august opinion that the true underlying theme of Masonry is to teach of a journey to our God, not brotherly love and tolerance, which I think of as outgrowths of the mindset required to undertake such a journey. I believe that most Masons would disagree with my assessment however.

In that regard, I can see where the parallels match up. As for specific similarities, such as the 5 points of fellowship, yes it is still present in the ritual of Masonry, but it is of frankly little use (it could be removed without harm to the message and meaning of the ceremony and a much easier to do substitute added. It does not involve kneeling, but much of the ceremonies do and as Masons get older, it might be harder and harder to keep kneeling in the work.) I dont particularly know why it was in the endowment, but its inclusion or absence really makes no difference to me. I could say the same for the explanation of certain symbols which are similar between the Temple and the Lodge (these are few in number however.)

Just my two cents.

Mike Parker said...

BYU-Gestapo,

I have to agree with Dan — your display name is offensive. You may think it's funny to compare others to Nazis, generally considered the most evil society of modern history, but as a Latter-day Saint, I'm offended.

Perhaps some of us here should take to referring to you as Josef Mengele. Would you feel the label would be appropriate?

Mark T. said...

B.H. Roberts, after being commissioned by President Heber J. Grant to investigate Mormon origins, came to this conclusion:

“In light of the evidence, there can be no doubt as to the possession of a vividly strong, creative imagination by Joseph Smith, the Prophet, an imagination, it could with reason be urged, which, given the suggestions that are to be found in the “common knowledge” of accepted American antiquities of the times, supplemented by such a work as Ethan Smith’s “View of the Hebrews”, would make it possible for him to create a book such as the Book of Mormon is.”

BYU alter ego said...

To Mike Parker:

I have no problem accomodating you on the moniker issue. I appreciate the dialog here and don't mean to offend. I hope the change I made is sufficient.

To Samuel:

I read the article by Orson Scott card, thanks for the link... :) As expected, it was well written. I mean, who doesn't love "Ender's Game?" :P

His thesis about Joseph's "Cultural Confession" makes a lot of sense. I too agree with the idea that if the BOM is a fabrication, elements of Joseph's, or whoever might have contributed should be evident.

I'm surprised however at his reasoning. He obviously believes the BOM to be authentic. So of course he and I start with the same hypothesis and come to different conclusions. But the way he arrives at those conclusions is lacking.

For example he argues that if the BOM was an "artifice" as he called it, instead of an artifact then, the story would more closely emulate the thinking of the 19th century more closely.

He mentions, the then perception of Lawyers, Romantic traditions in literature, the phrase "great spirit" among others.

Mr. Card starts with a lot of points, but devotes too little time to each one IMO. If he were to spend more time analyzing his reasoning, I think he'd begin to find problems.

For example, one assertion of his that really stuck out to me was the idea of the Indians being part of the lost ten tribes of Israel.

This actually is not just a 19th century assertion, but one that seems to have originated even back to Columbus. He thought the new land he was to find would contain members of the lost ten tribes. My understanding is that he'd brought along a Marrano Jew to speak Hebrew to better communicate.

Obviously he didn't find the true Indians, but the association trasferred immediately to the inhabitants of the New World.

But I digress...lol.

To quote Mr. Card, "Speculation about the Indians being descended from the lost tribes of Israel was common. Why wouldn't Joseph Smith have followed that line of speculation?"

Is not the Book of Mormon riddled with similar themes?

For example,

1 Nephi 22:4

4 And behold, there are many who are already lost from the knowledge of those who are at Jerusalem. Yea, the more part of all the tribes have been led away; and they are scattered to and fro upon the isles of the sea; and whither they are none of us knoweth, save that we know that they have been led away.

2 Ne. 29: 12
12 For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it.

2 Ne. 29: 13
13 And it shall come to pass that the Jews shall have the words of the Nephites, and the Nephites shall have the words of the Jews; and the Nephites and the Jews shall have the words of the lost tribes of Israel; and the lost tribes of Israel shall have the words of the Nephites and the Jews.


Also, 1 Nephi, 15:13-14 states:

13 And now, the thing which our father meaneth concerning the grafting in of the natural branches through the fulness of the Gentiles, is, that in the latter days, when our seed shall have dwindled in unbelief, yea, for the space of many years, and many generations after the Messiah shall be manifested in body unto the children of men, then shall the fulness of the gospel of the Messiah come unto the Gentiles, and from the Gentiles unto the remnant of our seed—

14 And at that day shall the remnant of our seed know that they are of the house of Israel, and that they are the covenant people of the Lord; and then shall they know and come to the knowledge of their forefathers, and also to the knowledge of the gospel of their Redeemer, which was ministered unto their fathers by him; wherefore, they shall come to the knowledge of their Redeemer and the very points of his doctrine, that they may know how to come unto him and be saved."

While it's true that Joseph doesn't explicitly make the Nephites/Lamanites part of the lost ten tribes, the theme of who they are is indeed implicitly present.

What's Ironic is that Joseph should have made to descendents of Lehi part of the 10 tribes.

I'm sure you realize this, but only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, plus much of Levi are not considered "lost." So since Lehi was a descendent of Manasseh and thus Joseph, technically the Nephites/Lamanites ARE part of the Lost Ten Tribes.

So although the article was nice on the reading eyes, and pleasantly written, I think it's conclusions are incredibly premature. No disrespect to Mr. Card of course, but I think its worth saying.

Anonymous said...

actually, ges, i think the BoM does consider the Nephites/Lamanites to be a "lost tribe" of Israel. it doesn't specifically state which of the ten (other than IDing lehi w/ manassah), but i think it is pretty clear from the nephite writers that they considered themselves part of the lost tribes who had been led away. in the quotes you have, nephi is simply writing about ADDITIONAL "lost tribes."

Mormanity said...

I would also like to join Daniel Peterson in apologizing to BYU Gestapo for not critizing his moniker earlier.

Sometimes we are just too darn accepting and nice, when what some people really need is just a slap in the face. Slap.

Seriously, Ges, it's a rotten name and speaks of a real attitude problem that assures me that anything we say to you is a waste of time. If you think it's funny to associate the Church or a Church school with Nazi's, you're far past the point where reasonable discourse will have any value. Could I suggest you rethink your position?

BYU alter ego said...

To Jeff:


???????????????????????????????? :-O

Jeff said: " I would also like to join Daniel Peterson in apologizing to BYU Gestapo for not critizing his moniker earlier."

Please Jeff, save me the patronage.

Are you going to judge me by my words or by a stupid moniker?

I changed it within 24 hours of Daniel's eloquent expression of his distaste.

What attitude problem could you possibly be referring to then?

I suggest you read "The Lord's University: Freedom and Authority at Byu" by Bryan Waterman and Brian Kagel. You will see that BYU does indeed parallel totalitarianism and is a authority driven organization.

So I'm not being flippant.

If you were to argue that an attitude problem is defined as being more discriminating in what authority I'm willing to submit to then you'd have me.

You went to BYU, didn't you chafe at all the superflousness? If not, why not?

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that the focus here often is a little less on the debates themselves and more on finding character flaws with those who disagree.

BYU alter ego said...

By the way Jeff, I don't feel guilty for associating the Church or BYU with Nazis at all. The Church has already done that for me.

I won't post a link, because I know your rules, but I suggest you look up the following reference:

Jan 25,1936 - Church News Section photograph of LDS basketball team in Germany giving "Sieg Heil: salute of Nazi Party."

Samuel said...

Ges,

I think what was meant that your unfortunate name choice was an unfair comparison (between the LDS Church and the Nazi party.)

As for BYU, it is owned and operated by the Church. It is a private institution. They can do whatever they want. If you don't want to be restricted by its rules, don't attend. Of course they are going to be strict and follow the rules of the Church and not use the money the school receives from the Church to support people or groups of people who want to destroy or tear down the Church. Just common sense. What else did you expect them to do? That is a plus for me; I would rather send my children to a school where they are going to be reinforced in their beliefs rather than go to a state school and be told (at taxpayer expense) that all they have cherished in their life is a lie.

By the way, the book you cited, The Lord's University: Freedom and Authority at BYU is available at the library at BYU! Someone better give the library the totalitarian lecture. Seems strange that you would find a book critical of the school at the school, if they were such Nazis. Somehow I don't think you would find a book critical of the Third Reich in a Nazi library. Oh wait, the Nazis burned books that disagreed with them.

And the authors are both graduates of BYU; guess only hearing pro Church ideas and messages didn't take away their ability to think for themselves.

"Jan 25,1936 - Church News Section photograph of LDS basketball team in Germany giving "Sieg Heil: salute of Nazi Party.""

Um, Ges, were the members of the basketball team German citizens?!?!?!? Then of course they gave the Nazi salute; probably would have been imprisoned/killed if they didn't. That is the real price of totalitarianism.

You said "Are you going to judge me by my words or by a stupid moniker?"

Frankly, it is hard to do otherwise when you have chosen such an inappropriate name for yourself. And it is more than stupid; it is offensive. I have tried to be civil and even handed in the course of my debate with you, but I have had trouble doing so considering my own family's experiences with Hitler's regime. But I never asked you to change your name. To me, that is the truth of our Church, that we respect others more than they respect us. That is one of the many reasons I am a member.

BYU alter ego said...

To Samuel:

They were not German citizens, they were from Utah. My understanding is that they were a delegation from the Church, similar to "Lamanite Generation," the BYU Ballroom, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

I doubt that the presence of the book in the library has caught admistrations attention yet. They DO pull books. Grant Palmers is in the library too actually now that you mention it.

If his book wasn't a problem, then why isn't it sold at the BYU Bookstore anymore? It had been there two years no problem?

The answer is that BYU, like other bureaucracies is segmented.

For example, I wanted to film a video of a business presentation for my work. I got a faculty sponser to sign off on what I was doing. Nonetheless, campus scheduling wouldn't let me have a room to do it because they didn't know what my content was going to be and didn't care to take the time to find out. There was no appeal, even though I was following protocol.

But the library offered me a room no problem.

So I guess I just had to ask the nicer parent for permission... :P

Look, there was lots and lots I enjoyed about BYU. I met my wife there, and have many life long friendships that were formed there.

Just like Germany as a country is filled with great people and wonderful culture, (I love climbing for example), but a certain group left a horrible stain on it's reputation.

BYU is no different. I've clarified in the past and I'll clarify again, it's the administration I have a problem with.

As to the point about me going there. I didn't know BYU was going to be like this. It wasn't until I was a junior that I really began to get angry and some of the shadier dealings.

Besides the issue never was that I wanted to drink, have sex (okay that's a lie, but I didn't act on it until I was married...lol), smoke pot, or grow long hair or break the honor code in any way.

The problems of abuse of power and control that BYU displays deals with issues far more basic than that.

Those familiar with the BioAg department will know all about the controversy with the BioAg dean and the three full professors who were systematically marginalized because of it and ended up leaving BYU altogether. Why were they marginalized? They protested the president's decision to put one of his friends in the position who was sorely unqualified.

My neighbor is a full time employee of BYU. His carpool buddie hit his head while falling on a curb and got a concussion. He ended up walking into the BYU Bookstore for help and supposedly grabbed a book without thinking and started walking out. He was charged with shoplifting until the doctors confirmed his concussion and the charges were dropped.

Now here's the good part, he LOST HIS JOB at BYU! It gets better, to avoid any publicity he was offered a different position on a contractual basis which basically means he loses benefits.

Why couldn't he keep his job you ask? Because the administration themselves released him for his putative theft and wouldn't hear anything else about it. So his former boss had to jump through flaming hoops just so the guy wouldn't get completely screwed.

The privately held institution doesn't hold water in my book. Look, corporations are also private institutions but they are limited a great deal in how they treat their employees. BYU should be no different.

Of course it's true that I could have left as a junior and gone somewhere else, but it was far faster for me just to stick with it until I was done.

I mean it was my degree were talking about here. I didn't want to screw that up.

Now I was still a firm believer during that period. I didn't lose my faith until after I had graduated.

But I chaffe against the concept of "Be seen, but not heard." I'm mean, come on, don't you all still believe Unrighteous Dominion is bad?

Perhaps I'm coming off as raving, maybe that's fair. But I'm a big believer in personal freedoms and especially believe that people have a right to voice their opinion without material consequence.

BYU obviously disagrees.

Mormanity said...

Look, Ges, the words people use make a difference. I'm sorry if I've offended you by pointing out how offensive your name is. I could have done it in a subtler way - sorry about that. The abbreviation is better, but it still stands for Gestapo. Well, OK.

Now as for the allegedly totalitarian nature of BYU, I think you need to realize that every university and certainly every corporation and probably every organization on earth has politics, sometimes downright stupid politics. Yes, sometimes people in power do things that seem unjust to the rest of us. People lose their jobs for reasons that seem unfair. Professors get denied tenure or denied opportunities because they rubbed someone the wrong way. This is par for the course, I'm sad to say.

How familiar are you with the politics of other universities or corporations? There's a lot of troubling things happening every day, if you know the inside stories. Your focus on BYU is misplaced. From what I have seen, it's much better than average in that regard.

A friend of mine used to rant about BYU and lack of intellectual freedom. A few years later he was on the faculty at a major U.S. university and saw what really went on. He found that BYU had much higher intellectual freedom than the school he was at. At BYU, diverse opinions really can be debated, but where he was, there was absolutely no toleration for anything other than the atheistic paradigms that prevailed.

BYU alter ego said...

Jeff,

I appreciate your apology. I really have no problem changing the moniker, I was just trying to point out that the timing of people making an issue of it seemed odd and perhaps connected to their distaste for me.

I guess I didn't realize just how offensive it really was to people. I thought Daniel was just spouting off to get under my skin.

So if you'll tolerate me, I'll try to be accomodating as well.

I can think of something other than GES for my next post too, not a problem.

As far as corporate politics go, and intellectual freedom, those are just a couple of facets of what I'm talking about.

The lack of due process for those who putatively break the honor code, the material consequences for full professors speaking their minds or just general censorship, as well as the lack of distinction between one's personal affairs and what the University deems it's business I think ARE unique to BYU. And no, I'm not just talking about commandment breaking here.

I've worked for the Church directly, for BYU, was also a student, and now work indirectly for the University of Utah. I also have worked for Wordperfect (way back in the day). So I think I have a reasonable amount of corporate experience.

The UofU just has a different feel, a different atmosphere. My friend is a 4th year medical student there, as well as being very faithful in the Church. He specifically chose to go to Utah State for his undergrad rather than BYU because he didn't think BYU was a healthy place.

In fact many, many young saints won't touch BYU with a ten foot pole. My wife wasn't going to go originally, she had a scholarship to Utah State, but her parents are BYU alumni and she thought it would make them happy. It wasn't her first choice.

I think the UofU is misunderstood as being a spiritually hostile place. Contrary to what one might believe, you can voice your beliefs there all you want, and indeed it accomodates one of the Church's largest institutes. The catch is that you have to tolerate differing views and lifestyles. It's true that the curriculum isn't faith based, and there are no prayers before class, but the lack of those components shouldn't make for a hostile environment.

I'm not saying that you think that the UofU is hostile, but it's a general impression I get from a lot of people in Utah County.

BYU's problem ultimately is that it seeks to establish a code of ethics from the top down. The wise know that ethical behavior has to start with the individual.

BYU alter ego said...

This is BYU Gestapo, the above is the new name I'll be posting under.

Thanks... :)

Mormanity said...

Thanks for listening! And again, sorry about the way I expressed my irritation.

Daniel Peterson said...

BYU Alter Ego [formerly "BYU Gestapo]: "I suggest you read 'The Lord's University: Freedom and Authority at Byu' by Bryan Waterman and Brian Kagel. You will see that BYU does indeed parallel totalitarianism and is a authority driven organization.
So I'm not being flippant."


Comparing BYU to a totalitarian state -- even on the basis of a completely trusting reliance on every word in Waterman and Kagel's perhaps, er, not exactly inerrant book -- is unspeakably frivolous. For partisan advantage, it cheapens the tragic stories of the many scores of millions who have died (and continue to die) under truly totalitarian regimes in places like the Soviet Union, fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, Vietnamese "reeducation camps," the People's Democratic Republic of Korea, Castro's Cuba, and the "killing fields" of Cambodia. It is juvenile and silly.

BYU Alter Ego: "By the way Jeff, I don't feel guilty for associating the Church or BYU with Nazis at all. The Church has already done that for me.
I won't post a link, because I know your rules, but I suggest you look up the following reference:
Jan 25,1936 - Church News Section photograph of LDS basketball team in Germany giving 'Sieg Heil: salute of Nazi Party.'"


Good grief. Virtually everybody in Germany gave that salute between 1933 and 1945. It was the rough equivalent of a visiting American baseball team's removing hats for the Canadian national anthem. If everybody who did so was a Nazi, almost nobody resident or visiting in Germany or in Austria during that generation will escape condemnation as a genocidal totalitarian. And 1936 was prior to the invasion of the Poland and the opening of the Second World War, and before the Endlösung, the "Final Solution" of the "Jewish Problem," began to be put into operation. (Kristallnacht, in November of 1938 -- almost three years after that salute by a visiting LDS basketball team -- is typically considered the opening act of the Holocaust.)

BYU Alter Ego: "If [Grant Palmer's] book wasn't a problem, then why isn't it sold at the BYU Bookstore anymore? It had been there two years no problem?"

There are hundreds of thousands of current titles that the BYU Bookstore doesn't carry. All bookstores select. But the fact that the BYU Bookstore carried Mr. Palmer's book for two years, as you yourself observe, surely ought to count against the notion that the BYU Bookstore was somehow suppressing it. One possible explanation for the fact that the Bookstore (apparently) no longer carries it is that it has, in their view, lived through the most marketable portion of its life cycle. Books do that. I would guess that quite a few books, in quite a few bookstores, are no longer carried after a run of roughly two years. Such possibilities ought at least to be considered before one reaches for analogies to Nazi book burnings.

Yes, BYU has imperfections. And yes, administrators can be stupid. (I suspect that I have considerably more experience with BYU than anybody posting here.) However, there is often another side to stories of abuse and stupidity on the part of administrators, and sometimes apparent abuse isn't really abusive and seeming stupidity actually has rational grounds. Sometimes there are just differences of opinion. Sometimes the people complaining have an axe to grind. Sometimes the situation is just too complex to justify simplistic moralizing and black-and-white condemnations.

On the whole, my sense is that the politics at BYU are considerably less vicious than at a lot of schools with which I'm familiar or where friends of mine teach. (At academic conferences, I've heard literally scores of horror tales from colleagues, including some at very notable institutions.) I've knocked around quite a bit, and am fairly familiar with a number of other universities. I'm really quite content to be where I am. If BYU is compared with the Platonic ideal, it falls short. If it is compared with actual reality, it does rather well. Is it for everybody? No. But I have friends who hated their experiences at Harvard and Princeton, too, and got out as soon as they could. I'm happy that there are different schools for different folks.

Samuel said...

"They were not German citizens, they were from Utah. My understanding is that they were a delegation from the Church, similar to "Lamanite Generation," the BYU Ballroom, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir."

Okay then. Well let me just say that the so-called Nazi salute was used in this country (here known as the Bellamy Salute). A link here shows American schoolchildren making the salute:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bellamy_salute

In 1942, FDR made the civilian salute the right hand over the heart. But the Utahns that went to Germany grew up saying the Pledge in schools and saluted the flag exactly the same as the Nazis. A far, far cry from saying the Church is the same as Nazis.

Where is the source for this picture anyhow? Where did you see it? Where can i find it?

Bookslinger said...

BYU Alter Ego:
If it makes you feel better. I was on the receiving end of the unrighteous dominion thing during my MTC stay. I was there because I wanted to be, (I joined the church at age 24, the only member in my family, and received absolutely no pressure to go on a mission from other members) and I strove to keep the rules. Yet, every missionary was treated in a condescending, controlling, and bully manner as if he didn't want to be there, and wasn't interested in obeying the rules. Every talk by administration and ecclesiastical leaders was condescending, a little arrogant I thought (compared to those who spoke in sacrament and stake conferences back home), usually confrontational/contentious, and painted the body of missionaries with a broad brush, "guilt by association".

The "guilty until proven innocent" or "guilty, and don't even bother to try to prove you're innocent" attitude confused me at the time, and caused bitterness later. Callings were not "extended" at the MTC they were rammed down your throat.

After a few months in the mission field, after getting to know other elders, including those who had spent a year at BYU, I was glad that I had not grown up in the church, and I determined that I would never attend BYU to get any degree or training there.

If the MTC leaders of that time were typical of the administration of BYU or typical of men in Provo, I still would never consider living in Provo.

There have been lengthy discussions over on Millennialstar.org about whether there is a difference between Utah-Mormons and Non-Utah-Mormons, and whether Utah Mormons could further be broken down into Utah-County (Provo) versus Non-Utah County. My reply is HECK YES! Utah Mormons may not notice it, but most of us Non-Utahans do.

But all that stuff does not mean the church isn't true. Look at the corruption of the sons of Eli in the Book of Samuel, and Eli the prophet tolerated it. Eventually the Lord's people got so corrupt they had to be chastened by being taken captive to another country, before they were ready to return to the Lord.

Iniquity of individuals or even semi-institutionalized iniquity in a division of the church (BYU) doesn't mean the church isn't true.

Jeremiah as still a prophet even when the majority didn't follow him.

Unrighteous dominion is nothing new. Section 121 says it's the tendency of "almost ALL men." It's been in the modern church ever since the beginning. There just aren't enough perfect men to go around, so the Lord has to make do with what he's got.

Everyone eventually goes through opposition from fellow church members. I don't think it's avoidable. It's a test.

If the BYU-attitude or Provo-attitude offends you, move the heck out of Utah. I can promise you things are different outside of Utah.

However, if you return to church activity, I can also promise you that the testing will continue until the lesson is learned.

Bookslinger said...

BYU Alter Ego:
You mentioned a while back that you were considering requesting name-removal.

If you're open to advice from someone who has gone through that, read on.

What happens is that your conscience will stop bothering you with guilty feelings for a while .

However, there is a spiritual cord that is cut, and then you start slipping down-hill spiritually, morally, and probably emotionally.

When that cord is cut, you will then probably hit bottom before looking back up.

When that cord is cut, you'll feel a little "freer" at first, but it's merely freedom to sink lower.

When I went inactive (but before requesting name-removal) I told myself I was going to keep all the major commandments, but little by little, I crossed line after line. First of course was Sabbath breaking, then coffee and tea (but not liquor), then "just ONE cig", then "well, why not just break all the word of wisdom if I'm going to break most of it" so I started drinking again. Then just little more, just a little more, then a just little more, until finally I asked myself why be a member at all if I wasn't going to live _any_ of the commandments?

At some point you'll probably realize that the cord was holding you up, preventing you from slipping, not restricting growth or freedom in righteousness.

Unless you publish things against the basic tenets of the church (or other narrowly defined transgressions) there is no requirement for you to give up your membership.

Another thing I found out is that there is only one rebaptism allowed now. If one is excommunicated or name-removed a second time, and then wishes to repent, they can still repent. But they'll have to wait until a year after they die to get rebaptized by proxy in a temple.

Look at all the bitterness and gall on the RfM discussion boards. They can't seem to let it go and move on. They never really recover or heal the wounds. I hope you don't end up like that.

Anonymous said...

Hi, first of all, I've enjoyed reading all of your comments, thanks! I just wanted to put in my two cents about the whole Utah Mormons vs Non-Utah Mormons thing.

I would definately consider myself a "non-Utah" Mormon. I've spent most of my years on the east coast and now go to school in Chicago. Both my parents joined the church when they were adults, married and did the "Utah thing" for a while while I was a child. We moved back east because they never really felt like they "fit in." Indeed, it can be hard to adjust to the Mormon culture if one is not accustomed to it, and if you come to Provo thinking everyone will be happy and just "love one another," you'll be disapointed. Everyone loves to bash Utah'ans for being hypocritical, living in a bubble, etc etc. Heck, even Utah members bask themselves! I think it's a healthy sign when you can take a step back from yourself and have a hearty laugh. I enjoyed the Single's Ward for that very reason.

HOWEVER the stereotype can only be taken so far. It's one thing to poke fun, and another thing to make large generalizations. BOM Indy, I'm sorry you had such a negative experience in the MTC, and I understand your distast for Utah culture. I'm glad you made the distinction between the Gospel and the culture created by a bunch of people with the same religion living near eachother.
For one reason or another I had a much different experience. I loved the MTC (well, by the end of 11 weeks it was time to leave!)--it helped prepare me spiritually and made me humble to work around such wonderful missionaries.
I lived this past year in Provo, working and taking psych classes at the Y for grad school. Having graduated from a liberal college from the east coast (an enriching experience in itself) I did not feel in anyway stifled or limited intellectually. I actually feel like my education was expanded because I was free to explore the connection between secular and spiritual subjects, and integrate science, philosphy and history with religion. After reading some of these posts, I believe that is what this Blog is trying to do... In reality, the Gospel is woven through every aspect of life, giving deeper connectedness to all things. Not being boxed in by a postmodernist all-is-relative-everything-has-value-so-nothing-really-does fence was like a breath of fresh air.
Also, I found that the people I met in my single's ward and in my classes were everything but the stereotypical "peter priesthood" and "molly mormon" (whatever that means). They brought with them a variety of backgrounds and personalities. Yes I'm sure there are some who take their membership for granted, but I believe the majority are just like the rest of us...sincere members, just working towards perfection one day at a time. I became good friends with many of them, and I value my time spent in Provo.

I guess I just want to make the point that whatever you are looking for, you'll find. If you're looking for hypocrisy, it's there. If you're looking for real, faithful members like yourself, you'll find that too. And yeah, the Utah bashing does get tiring after a while.
Basically, I look at it this way: Everywhere you go, there will always be some bad mixed in with the good. In any given population there are stupid people (and there have been times when I've been one of them!).
It's just that in Utah, the population is primarily LDS! So, simple statistics says that yes, there are stupid members, there are bad members, or members that don't really know why they are in the church at all, t hey just come, because "everyone else does." We will all run into them. THey are also (surprise) outside of Utah as well. Only we might not run into them as often because they don't bother coming to church.

Anyway, thanks for reading this long post. I've actually never posted on a blog before. It's fun :)

On another note--where are all the female bloggers????? :)

thanks,
Madelene

BYU alter ego said...

To Indy:

You obviously left the Church for the wrong reasons.

To Samuel:

That was a way interesting piece of history that didn't know about before thanks.

You can find the paper at BYU special collections. I actually spoke over the phone with librarian to make sure and she actually confirmed the content as well.

The Church news online archives only go back to 1988 unfortunately no matter where you go, even BYU.

The factoid is part of an analysis from Michael Quinn's "The Mormon Hierarchy : Extensions of Power."

On another note, I never accused the Church of Genocide. Totalitarianism is but one Nazi trait.

To Daniel:

Your excuses for Church's behavior are inadequate. Persecution of Jews started long before 1936. For example Einstein was forced out of Germany in 1933.

The Church News even acknowledges the anti-semitism very casually in a previous edition. Another excerpt from Quinn's book:

Dec 9,1933 - Church News article "Mormonism in The New Germany," enthusiatically emphasizes parallels "between the LDS Church and some of the ideas and policies of the National Socialists." First, Nazis have introduced "Fast Sunday." Second, "it is a very well known fact that Hitler observes a form of living which Mormons term the Word of Wisdom. Finally, due to the importance given to the racial question by Nazis and the almost necessity of proving that one's grandmother was not Jewess, there no longer is resistance against genealogical research by German Mormons who now have received letters of encouragment complimenting them for their patriotism."

So Nazi racism is okay as long as they use geneology to do it?

The Church didn't see it as a problem because the Church saw racism as quite okay.

Bookslinger said...

BYU Alter, You seem to have emulated one of Quinn's habits taking things out of context and putting an evil spin on them.

Today's Political Correctness didn't exist in 1933. It was not necessary back them to posture on a high horse and point the finger. Failure to do so should not be construed as endorsing racism.

I saw nothing in the Church News quote that endorsed Nazi Racism.

To use your reasoning, German Mormons of the time should not have done any genealogy research because genealogy was also a tool of Nazism.

That's like saying the church should not use Internet video streaming technology because it was originally developed by or for pornographers.

Walker said...

Alter,

Interesting post. It went splendidly until your final conclusion ("the Church saw racism as quite ok"). Quite a leap! Unfortunately, your argument seems to rely more on getting blood pumping than getting my head thinking.

Racism in the LDS Church is a VERY tangled topic. Tomes have been written on this topic alone! (at least on racism towards African-Americans). Simplifying the topic with a mere flourish of "the LDS church was racist" does you an intellectual disservice by creating a caricature of . For every supposedly racist quote by church leader X, a "tolerant" quote can be provided by church leader Y. While caricatures of the church are often well-drawn and quite amusing, they are often quite wrong. B.H. Roberts fully supported Governor Brandenberg in his gubenatorial race (whose opponents, incidentally, used caricatures of his large nose in their anti-Brandenberg campaigns).

We're here for intelligent discussion, not dirt-throwing

Walker said...

MIstake in typing: creating a caricature out of a single wart, a single fault on the part of one member of the Church News Staff.

Afterthought: Please do not attempt proving that the Church News is the official voice of the Church on ANY issue. The reporters are paid like any other professional. Church News is hardly a revelation organ.

BYU alter ego said...

To Indy:

Nothing was spun. Maybe you should calculate a percentage of how much of my post was direct quote and how much my own analysis. It would tell you something.

To Walker:

Either you don't drop by this blog often, or you just don't read the entire series of comments, I believe I'm beyond civil in my arguements and presentation.

The Nazi subject came up because of critcisms of my former moniker. I feel those criticism were hypocritical, but I changed it anyways.

So don't lay "mudslinging" at my feet.

Can I also suggest that you try to be a little less selective in what you credit to the Church?

If the Church News published content that the World found "praiseworthy," or of "good report," (yes, pun intended)you would more than willing to connect the "mouth" to the "head".

But because it has also had unsavory moments in it's history, you shoot the messenger (me) and disavow the "mouth" and claim it doesn't speak for the "head."

Are you honestly arguing that the Church isn't cognisant of and/or doesn't have control over what's published in one of it's own periodicals?

I have a dear friend on the editing staff for the Liahona, every word, every photograph, every illustration falls under the directive of General Authorities.

Good or bad, deserved or not, the Church bears ultimate responsibility for what is done in it's name even by the newest of members.

If a man commits a crime in the name of the Church they must disavow that man. If a periodical of the Church is grossly insensitive then a retraction is in order.

The Church needs less avoidance of it's past and more transparency, more responsibility.

If my child scratches your car, you better believe I'm the one who's paying. So too, should the Church as a corpus act like a corpus.

Walker said...

Alter ego,

I have indeed read your other posts. Many (even most) times, you have been civil. For that, I commend you. However, on this occasion, your accusation failed to meet the standard for the reasons stated in my previous post.

And quite frankly, I know enough about intra-Church publication politics to understand that the Church's publications are not always under the tight control of the Brethren. Sometimes publications are killed IN SPITE of the brethren's approval. Translations of scriptures are sometimes terribly off, almost incomprehensible. Should I disavow the Church because of faulty translation or because some lackey decided to kill a publication? So it was with the Times and Seasons. While Joseph was editor, he allowed Parley P. Pratt to print items that he deemed "acceptable," while not necessarily in accordance with his own views. Hence, the paradigm of the parent-child is not accurate. A better analogy might an older brother/little sister, with the little sister ignoring the older brother's advice.

Also, let's not assume that the Church's world is divided into "good report/bad report" qualities. My experience (and I cannot speak for yours) is that the Church leaders understand quite well the nuances of right/wrong decision making. I would refer to the publication of Mormon Doctrine. While many of the twelve wanted to revise and reprint the first edition, they decided against it lest it impugn McConkie's reputation. Only years later would the correction be made in full. I do not know what was on the minds of the Church News Editorial Staff when that article was printed. My guess, however, is that even if it was a stretch, the Church had enough PR problems as it was without creating a new one.

Additionally, I would refer back to Indy: there were probably some leaders in high places whose views were not fully enlightened at the time. The issue of prophetic infallibility has been hashed over quite well in this blog, so I won't go into it now.

Daniel Peterson said...

BYU Alter Ego: "Your excuses for Church's behavior are inadequate."

We weren't talking about the behavior of the Church. We were talking about a salute given by an LDS basketball team.

It is ridiculous to suggest that such a salute constitutes some sort of endorsement of Nazi racial policy at the time, let alone a prior endorsement of that policy as it developed in after years. It could just as easily (and more plausibly) be interpreted as a gesture of minimal respect for local law, government, and patriotism -- much like the flying of a Uruguayan flag in front of the temple in Montevideo, much like athletes standing respectfully when the national anthem of another nation is played. This would, I grant you, offer no substantial material for attacking Mormonism, but it's more likely to be true.

BYU Gestapo: "Persecution of Jews started long before 1936. For example Einstein was forced out of Germany in 1933."

Persecution of Jews, in Germany and elsewhere, has a pedigree of centuries behind it. That's probably one of the reasons for the denunciation of anti-Semitism in 2 Nephi 29:4-6.

Mormonism has had a history of philo-Semitism since its beginning. It is both absurd and offensive to try to link the Latter-day Saints, of all people, with Hitler's Holocaust.

And, incidentally, Einstein wasn't forced out of Germany. He left -- fortunately -- because conditions there became very uncomfortable. But it was his choice. Many, many Jews did not choose to leave, and they died.

BYU Alter Ego: "The Church News even acknowledges the anti-semitism very casually in a previous edition. Another excerpt from Quinn's book:
Dec 9,1933 - Church News article 'Mormonism in The New Germany,' enthusiatically emphasizes parallels 'between the LDS Church and some of the ideas and policies of the National Socialists.' First, Nazis have introduced 'Fast Sunday.' Second, 'it is a very well known fact that Hitler observes a form of living which Mormons term the Word of Wisdom. Finally, due to the importance given to the racial question by Nazis and the almost necessity of proving that one's grandmother was not Jewess, there no longer is resistance against genealogical research by German Mormons who now have received letters of encouragment complimenting them for their patriotism.'
So Nazi racism is okay as long as they use geneology to do it?"


You are really, really straining. Nothing in the passage above endorses Nazi anti-Semitism.

And, once again, it is simply wrong to attempt to link Mormonism to the Holocaust, which had not yet occurred.

BYU Alter Ego: "The Church didn't see it as a problem because the Church saw racism as quite okay."

Outrageous nonsense. Your misrepresentation of the truth is slanderous and shameful.

An interesting discussion could be had of the dilemmas that sometimes occur when Christians, whose scriptures command them to respect and defer to government authorities, find themselves under intolerably immoral regimes. Such situations pose a difficult and challenging problem, and answers are by no means always clear. (Consider the cases of Helmuth Hübner and his branch president, at the close of World War Two.) However, your current disdain for Mormonism in no way justifies a disgusting attempt to portray the Latter-day Saints of the 1930s as anti-Semitic Nazi-sympathizers.

 

BYU alter ego said...

BYU Alter Ego: "The Church didn't see it as a problem because the Church saw racism as quite okay."

Daniel Peterson: Outrageous nonsense. Your misrepresentation of the truth is slanderous and shameful.


I'd have to be making a false statement to slander. I didn't, so I'm not ashamed, at least not of myself.

The "it" I was referring to was the use of geneology to discriminate, nothing more.

We used to discriminate by race/geneology all the time.

Lol...do you really want me to start posting all the racist comments by LDS apostles from Brigham's time to 1978 and beyond?

The Church did indeed endorse the concept of race and racial descrimination, it's actually doctrinal.

But you know that of course.

Brigham had this to say about the jews:

"I would rather undertake to convert five thousand Lamanites [native Americans], than to convert one of those poor MISERABLE CREATURES [Jews] WHOSE FATHERS KILLED THE SAVIOR.... Yes, I would rather undertake to CONVERT THE DEVIL HIMSELF, if it were possible. ...I would say, LEAVE THEM, AND COME HOME, THE LORD DOES NOT REQUIRE YOU TO STAY THERE, FOR THEY MUST SUFFER AND BE DAMNED. ...[L]EAVE THEM TO LIVE AND DIE IN THEIR SINS and IGNORANCE. ...[T]HEY TAKE PLEASURE IN THEIR WICKEDNESS...." Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 2, p. 143, 1854, emphasis added.

Yow!! BTW that's not the only nasty quote of his about the jews.

I mean, what message would the youth of the church take away from a talk like that?

Listen, let me put forth a few questions.

Do you think it's possible that Brigham, during his tenure as prophet, started traditions that were inappropriate and took a long time to dismantle?

Do you think he's the only prophet who started bad traditions?

Do you think it's possible that an indifference to the jewish people could have been sown among the Saints early on?

While it's true that B.H. Roberts was supportive of Governor Bamberger, who were the other group of Utahns publishing all the nasty anti-semitisms then?

Daniel Peterson said...

BYU Alter Ego: "I'm not ashamed."

I realize that. It's regrettable, but fairly obvious.

BYU Alter Ego: "We used to discriminate by race/geneology all the time."

Yes, we did. It's a complex phenomenon with roots deep in the Bible.

That still doesn't make our grandparents anti-Semitic Nazi-sympathizers.

(For that matter, Jews, too, have traditionally discriminated on the basis of race/genealogy.)

BYU Alter Ego: "Lol...do you really want me to start posting all the racist comments by LDS apostles from Brigham's time to 1978 and beyond?"

LOL. No. First of all, it would be irrelevant. Secondly, I probably know more of those statements than you do. Thirdly, some of the statements that you presumably have in mind don't demonstrate genuine racism at all.

I could also supply comments from the Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln, that would be shockingly racist by our contemporary standards. But doing so would be, again, irrelevant, and, unless done with some finesse and sensitivity, would demonstrate a gross cluelessness about historical context that would actually distort his position.

BYU Gestapo: "The Church did indeed endorse the concept of race and racial descrimination, it's actually doctrinal.
But you know that of course."


Yes, I do. It's your attempt to connect faithful Latter-day Saints with Hitler, the Nazis, and the Holocaust that interests me.

BYU Alter Ego: "Yow!! BTW that's not the only nasty quote of his about the jews."

Nineteenth century discourse on racial and religious issues was considerably different than the acceptable rhetoric of today.

This is, on the whole, a cheap game.

And it appears to be a highly selective one.

The earliest record of a Jewish religious observance in Utah concerns the celebration of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, in 1864, in a home belonging to a Jewish businessman, and it was in that same year that an organized Jewish congregation appeared in the territory. Losing no time to implement his vicious anti-Semitism, Brigham Young struck swiftly: In 1866, that alleged anti-Semite donated land to the Utah Jewish community for a cemetery. And he didn't let up. He continued to press his horrific proto-Nazi agenda with relentless vigor: In 1867, Rosh Hashonah (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur services were observed in the Latter-day Saint Seventies Hall, at his invitation.

Were you really intending, in your zeal to portray earlier Latter-day Saints as Nazi-sympathizing anti-Semites, to ignore President Heber J. Grant's counsel to the membership of the Church, given from the pulpit at the April 1921 general conference, to stay away from anti-Semitism?

Here are some relevant comments from the website of the American Jewish Historical Society:

"In 1916, Simon Bamberger ran for the office of governor of the state of Utah. Bamberger was the first non-Mormon, the first Democrat and the only Jew ever to seek that office. During the campaign, Bamberger visited a remote community in Southern Utah that had been settled by immigrant Norwegian converts to Mormonism. According to historian Leon Watters, the community's leader, a towering Norwegian, met Bamberger at the train and told him menacingly, 'You might yust as vell go right back vere you come from. If you tink ve let any damn Yentile speak in our meeting house, yure mistaken.' Bamberger is said to have replied, 'As a Jew, I have been called many a bad name, but this is first time in my life I have been called a damned Gentile!' The Norwegian threw his arm around Bamberger and proclaimed, 'You a Yew, an Israelite. Hear him men, he's not a Yentile, he's a Yew, an Israelite. Velcome my friend; velcome, our next governor.' The Norwegian was correct; Bamberger won the election.
"From the founding of their religion in 1830, Mormons (or Latter-Day Saints, as they are named) have respected Judaism as a religion. . . .
"The pioneer Jews of Utah fared well under the Mormon majority. Because Mormon doctrine proclaimed agrarian pursuits the only respectable calling and commerce morally corrupting, the role of shopkeeper, banker and businessman were left to Utah's Jews and other Gentiles. In early Utah, Jews and Mormons lived in symbiotic, commercial harmony . . .
"His Mormon friends noted Bamberger's civic mindedness and urged him to run for governor."

Your attempt to portray Latter-day Saints as anti-Semitic quasi-Nazis is shameful.

BYU Alter Ego: "While it's true that B.H. Roberts was supportive of Governor Bamberger, who were the other group of Utahns publishing all the nasty anti-semitisms then?"

If the Latter-day Saints were all, or mostly, vicious anti-Semites as you're attempting to depict them, who elected Governor Bamberger? It certainly wasn't the massive Utah Jewish community in 1917. How many Jews governed American states in that year, I wonder? (Hint: Moses Alexander had been elected the first Jewish governor in the United States only three years before, in 1914. And in Idaho, no less -- another home to many supposedly Nazi Mormons -- not in New York or Massachusetts or California or Florida.) In fact, how many Jews could even gain admission to Harvard, or serve on its faculty, in the early 1900s? (Hint: Think quotas and outright bans.)

Your attempt to paint Mormons as near-Nazis and as hateful anti-Semites isn't only shameful. It's absurd.

Walker said...

For some reason, my original post didn't go through. Dan, you took my steam. Perhaps it's for the better. Someone needs to cool down my longwindendness ;)

Alter Ego,

Your continued insistence on proving your case on limited evidence is remarkable, even odd considering that you acknowledge B.H. Roberts' (an indisputably high-placed Church leader) blatant support of Justice Bamberger.

As to Brigham Young's virulent bigotry, he said of the Jews that they were "of a chosen seed" (J of D--volume 12), that the Saints would eventually find success in preaching the gospel to them (once the Gentiles had been gathered--same volume), and that the "Jews had true principles." (J of D--vol. 1). The picture of Brigham's Semite senitment is far more complex than you portray it. By simplifying the picture, your arguments smack of demagoguery. While I am not accusing you of such, you might want to broaden your evidence pool to avoid sounding rash.

Daniel Peterson said...

I have to admit that I'm amazed at BYU Alter Ego's persistent if quixotic determination to depict Latter-day Saints as Nazi-sympathetic anti-Semites. It's perfectly astonishing, even bit embarrassing, to watch something so utterly perverse.

Latter-day Saints are the only religious group of whom I'm aware whose canonical scriptures contain an explicit condemnation of anti-Semitism.

From at least the days of Joshua Seixas and those Hebrew classes in the Kirtland Temple, even before Orson Hyde's prayer on the Mount of Olives for the return of the Jews to their ancestral homeland, Latter-day Saints have been deeply philosemitic. Steven Epperson's rather problematic 1993 book Mormons and Jews: Early Mormon Theologies of Israel at least leaves no possibility of doubt on that score. Here is part of what the non-LDS Library Journal said about Dr. Epperson's book when it appeared:

"Epperson argues that 19th-century Mormons propounded a uniquely positive theology regarding Jews and Judaism. He contrasts the prevailing American and British views of that time with the theology of founder Joseph Smith, who considered covenant Israel to have an ongoing integrity and who supported the restoration of a Jewish national commonwealth."

Not exactly reminiscent of Hitler and Goebbels.

Bookslinger said...

Are the Journal of Discourses online? Are they public domain by now?

I'd like to look at the context of the BY quote that BYU-Alter offered.

Walker said...

Indy:

They are available through gospelink.com. So you need a subscription. But those and more are available. If you can get access to that, you can find the quote easily. I found in about two seconds.

Walker said...

Indy:

You can also find them on journalofdiscourses.org (there's no www on that). Access is free.

BYU alter ego said...

BYU alter Ego: "The 'it' I was referring to was the use of geneology to discriminate, nothing more."

You guys need to relax.

To be fair however, the Brigham comment was superflous to my main argument and adding it was a mistake on my part.

Daniel Peterson: "I have to admit that I'm amazed at BYU Alter Ego's persistent if quixotic determination to depict Latter-day Saints as Nazi-sympathetic anti-Semites. It's perfectly astonishing, even bit embarrassing, to watch something so utterly perverse."

Quixotic, "Caught up in the romance of noble deeds and the pursuit of unreachable goals; idealistic without regard to practicality."

Um...FARMS anyone??

Daniel Peterson: "It's your attempt to connect faithful Latter-day Saints with Hitler, the Nazis, and the Holocaust that interests me."

By my own admission, the connection is a small one. Obviously certain Saints were happy that similarities existed between the Gospel and CERTAIN behaviors of the Germans.

And while I did question whether there might be anti-semitic feelings in 19th century Utah, that's not the same as saying that LDS people were glad about the Holocaust.

My point was and is that a totalitarian society such as the Nazi's, sans holocaust and murderous behavior, has parallels with other totalitarian societies.

Mormonism, by doctrinal definition, has centralized control, squelches dissent where it can, and looks down on intellectual autonomy, ie; totalitarian.

From what I can perceive, that's why the Church News piece had a favorable tone.

Daniel Peterson: "Your attempt to portray Latter-day Saints as anti-Semitic quasi-Nazis is shameful."

Again, not my argument. LDS history has some murderous behavior, but nothing close to the Nazis.

Daniel Peterson: "Your attempt to paint Mormons as near-Nazis and as hateful anti-Semites isn't only shameful. It's absurd".

We're well into strawman territory now.

What's perverse Daniel is that you actually take so much time to twist a person's words and then throw in language reserved for puppy killers.

"Perverse," "Shameful," come on!

I've now clarified what I was arguing, do you still believe I'm "perverse?"

Walker said...

Alter Ego,

While your tactical retreat on the BY point is appreciated. Besides the point that BY was hardly an anti-Semite (along with much of Utah's population), the mere portrayal of an organization as racist does not make them totalitarian. Totalitarianism is not a term that can be thrown around to describe any hierarchical institution. Do I think your argument is (to use a more polite term) distorted? Yes.

Let's use that bastion of totalitarianism, Nazism, as our case study.

1) Hitler's Youth
Youth-based program intended to create a band of Aryan fighters. In one speech, Hitler say, "I intend to have an athletic youth--that is the first and the chief thing. . . I will have no intellectual training. Knowledge is ruin to my young men." For the Church's counterpart to such sentiment, visit besmart.com. Indeed the most ineffective way to indoctrinate youth is to send them college. Either the Church stinks at indoctrination (unlikely considering the high level of church activity) or kids stink at learning (Mormons are among the most-educated of all religious sects). Or perhaps the youth ARE free to choose...novel indeed!

2)Police Force
"As long as the [Gestapo] ... carries out the will of the leadership, it is acting legally." Look at any set of missionaries (to non-Mormons, missionaries are the pinnacle of lackeyism). On one occasion, I strongly disagreed with my zone leader. What happened? Was I rebuked or ostracized by the leadership? Hardly. He told me it was something I needed to work out on my own.

3) Racial beliefs

Never in all my research of Mormon history (which has been a great deal--I work as a Mormon history researcher at BYU) have I found a coherent ideology of racial superiority. At most, there have been "anti" sentiments against specific races from certain leaders. And these have never as a matter of course. Even then, those quotes contradict other quotes from the same leader! You have seen that yourself with Brigham Young's supposedly anti-Semite disposition.

This goes without saying all the times when the Church HASN'T come checking my apartment for alcohol, when it HASN'T forced me to pay tithing (temple recommend revocation does not constitute force--if I didn't pay tithing, why would I want to go anyway), and when it HASN'T even made me feel guilty for not being married (my bishop is wonderful that way, the terrible dictator he is ;)

Daniel Peterson said...

BYU Alter Ego: "My point was and is that a totalitarian society such as the Nazi's, sans holocaust and murderous behavior, has parallels with other totalitarian societies."

Of course. What totalitarian societies have in common, if they have nothing else, is "totalitarianism." That's rather the way language works. (E.g., brown things have brownness in common, tall things have tall things in common, and ridiculous things have ridiculousness in common.)

BYU Alter Ego: "Mormonism, by doctrinal definition, has centralized control, squelches dissent where it can, and looks down on intellectual autonomy, ie; totalitarian."

Your premises are dubious, your definition of totalitarian is loose to the point of meaningless, and your conclusion is ridiculous. The Peoples' Democratic Republic of Kampuchea, and the Stalinist Soviet Union, and Mussolini's Italy, and Hitler's Germany, and Castro's Cuba -- these are totalitarian. With such specimens of the real thing so abundantly represented over the past century, for anyone to suggest that the voluntary, unarmed association called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is "totalitarian" or bears meaningful similarity to Nazism is, at the very best, intellectually frivolous and silly.

BYU Alter Ego: "We're well into strawman territory now."

We've been there since you began this nonsense.

BYU Alter Ego: "What's perverse Daniel is that you actually take so much time to twist a person's words and then throw in language reserved for puppy killers."

Nazism was an evil of unspeakable horror. It killed tens of millions in brutal concentration camps -- not only Jews, but Slavs, gypsies, resistance fighters, and others, and not only men, but innocent women and children -- as well as in the destructive war that it unleashed around the world. For that reason, I'm not very tolerant of attempts to use the Nazis in order to gain cheap rhetorical advantage. Such stunts are shameful. 

BYU alter ego said...

BYU Alter Ego: "My point was and is that a totalitarian society such as the Nazi's, sans holocaust and murderous behavior, has parallels with other totalitarian societies."

Daniel Peterson: "Of course. What totalitarian societies have in common, if they have nothing else, is "totalitarianism." That's rather the way language works. (E.g., brown things have brownness in common, tall things have tall things in common, and ridiculous things have ridiculousness in common.)"


I should have caught that. I meant to say "has parallels with other totalitarian societies such as Mormonism."

Feel better?

BYU Alter Ego: "Mormonism, by doctrinal definition, has centralized control, squelches dissent where it can, and looks down on intellectual autonomy, ie; totalitarian."

Daniel Peterson "Your premises are dubious, your definition of totalitarian is loose to the point of meaningless, and your conclusion is ridiculous."


The American Heritage dictionary defines totalitarianism as:

"Of, relating to, being, or imposing a form of government in which the political authority exercises absolute and centralized control over all aspects of life, the individual is subordinated to the state, and opposing political and cultural expression is suppressed."

How is that so different from what I described?

As far as my premise, let me ask some simple questions:

Has any Apostle of the Church ever sanctioned violence for any reason other than self defense?

Has the Church in an official capacity, ever assigned material consequence to intellectual dissent?

Does the Church in an official capacity take an interest and apply consequence for dissent regarding the minute details of it's members, ie; dress, grooming habits, language, reading material, dating habits, hobbies etc...?

Has the Church ever in an official capacity gathered personal information on it's members through indirect means, ie; not asking directly?

Had the Church in an official capacity ever suppressed cultural diversity in it's members?

Has the Church in an official capacity ever tried to influence the membership towards a unified political end?

Has the Church in an official capacity ever taught that the individual should be subordinate to the Church?

The answer to all these is of course yes.

So I don't see where you find the dubiousness in my premise.

Perhaps if you had any rational that you could cite.... but wait, you didn't.

You spouted a flurry of knockdowns without even trying to qualify your argument.

You need a new MO.

Daniel Peterson said...

BYU Alter Ego: "I should have caught that. I meant to say 'has parallels with other totalitarian societies such as Mormonism.'
"Feel better?"


Not even slightly. Mormonism isn't a society at all. It's a doctrine. And, while the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a society, it isn't a "totalitarian society."

Your claim is puerile.

I'm embarrassed for you that you continue to try to press it.

BYU Alter Ego: "The American Heritage dictionary defines totalitarianism as:
'Of, relating to, being, or imposing a form of government in which the political authority exercises absolute and centralized control over all aspects of life, the individual is subordinated to the state, and opposing political and cultural expression is suppressed.'
How is that so different from what I described?


Well, let's see: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is neither a "government" nor a "state," and it claims and exercises no “political authority.” Moreover, since, as a voluntary association, it lacks the genuine coercive power that legitimately belongs solely to state institutions (as illustrated by Mao's famous dictum that "political power flows from the barrel of a gun"), it does not and cannot exercise the kind of "absolute and centralized control" that oppressive political institutions do.

In other words, apart from the fact that what you've attempted to describe is completely different from the subject of the dictionary definition you cite, they're virtually identical.

BYU Alter Ego: "As far as my premise, let me ask some simple questions:
Has any Apostle of the Church ever sanctioned violence for any reason other than self defense?"


An irrelevant red herring. Even if an apostle had done so, it would not make the Church a totalitarian state. Plenty of criminals sanction offensive violence in liquor stores and against children, among other things, but it would be ridiculous, simply on that score, to label child molesters and stick-up artists "totalitarians." It would be an absurd abuse of the English language. Which, come to think of it, is what your own use of the term totalitarian is.

BYU Alter Ego: "Has the Church in an official capacity, ever assigned material consequence to intellectual dissent?"

Not to the best of my knowledge.

Has the Church sometimes withdrawn fellowship from those whose ideas, in its judgment, contravened fundamental doctrines? Yes.

But this scarcely constitutes it a totalitarian state.

The Evangelical Theological Society does not accept as members theologians who deny the deity of Christ or the inerrancy of the Bible. Scientific American will not knowingly employ as a writer anyone who does not accept Darwinism, even if that person's duties involve nothing related to biology. The Federal Bureau of Investigation will not knowingly allow a committed communist to work for it. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People will not permit vocal white supremacists to join its ranks. Neither the Evangelical Theological Society nor Scientific American nor the FBI nor the NAACP is a totalitarian state. Nor is the Department of History at Harvard University, although I'm quite confident that it would neither hire nor retain a professor who denied the Holocaust

As Doctrine and Covenants 134:10 says, "We believe that all religious societies have a right to deal with their members for disorderly conduct, according to the rules and regulations of such societies; provided that such dealings be for fellowship and good standing; but we do not believe that any religious society has authority to try men on the right of property or life, to take from them this world's goods, or to put them in jeopardy of either life or limb, or to inflict any physical punishment upon them. They can only excommunicate them from their society, and withdraw from them their fellowship."

BYU Alter Ego: "Does the Church in an official capacity take an interest and apply consequence for dissent regarding the minute details of it's members, ie; dress, grooming habits, language, reading material, dating habits, hobbies etc...?"

A bit. Not much. Certainly to nothing like the extent that, say, an Orthodox rabbi or an Amish minister pays attention to such matters within his community.

If my hobby is viewing pornography, the Church will plainly disapprove. If my hobby is stamp collecting or quilting or bird watching or soccer or backpacking or knitting or classical music or playing in a rock band or painting landscapes or square dancing or collecting souvenir spoons or learning Latvian or gardening or woodworking or gourmet cooking or any of a vast number of other activities, the Church couldn't care less.

And so on and so forth through your entire list.

Nobody has ever seriously suggested that Orthodox Jewish and Amish communities are totalitarian states, and it would be grossly offensive, as well as risible, to suggest that they resemble Nazi Germany.

Those who don't like the Latter-day Saint community are permitted to leave it, as you have, and as Orthodox Jewish and Amish dissenters are permitted to do. In stark contrast, those who wished to flee from East Germany into West Germany were frequently shot. Thousands of boat people died while fleeing Vietnam. Nothing like the Berlin Wall surrounds the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Your claim that the Church is a "totalitarian society" is pathetic and absurd. It is foolish, and does not speak well for you.

BYU Alter Ego: "Has the Church ever in an official capacity gathered personal information on it's members through indirect means, ie; not asking directly?"

As in, say, asking somebody else? Certainly. I've done it, and I would imagine that you have, too.

Asking Bobby a question about Billy scarcely makes someone a totalitarian government.

If you're suggesting that the Church maintains some sort of intelligence-gathering operation (of the kind that the poor folks at the “Recovery” board like to imagine is spying upon them), then the answer, so far as I can determine (and that's fairly far), is No.

BYU Alter Ego: "Had the Church in an official capacity ever suppressed cultural diversity in it's members?"

Much too vague a question. What do you mean by "suppress"? In any event, though, the only kind of "suppression" that would come close to making the Church a totalitarian institution would be the kind delivered at gunpoint or under bayonets. And that kind I can categorically deny.

This is not only laughable, but wearisome.

BYU Gestapo: "Has the Church in an official capacity ever tried to influence the membership towards a unified political end?"

Occasionally. Not very often, but occasionally. But so have the United Auto Workers, MoveOn.org, the American Association of Retired People, the Democratic Party, and a host of other voluntary associations. Not one of them is "totalitarian" for having done so. And, like the Church, not one of them has access to polling booths to determine how people have actually voted.

Quite different from Castro's Cuba, Saddam's Iraq, Stalin's Russia, Mussolini's Italy, Pol Pot's Cambodia, Hitler's Germany. Quite different, that is, from real totalitarian states.

BYU Gestapo: "Has the Church in an official capacity ever taught that the individual should be subordinate to the Church?"

The Church has taught that priesthood holders should (voluntarily) obey priesthood leaders -- and that obedience has ranged from service as Boy Scout leaders and visiting teachers to work on the welfare farm, from accepting mission calls to settling Sanpete County. The Church has taught that individuals should subordinate their wills to the will of God. Those who did not wish to do so were and are free not to do so.

Totalitarian states behave rather differently than this.

BYU Alter Ego: "The answer to all these is of course yes.
So I don't see where you find the dubiousness in my premise."


I think you're actually serious!

BYU Alter Ego: "You need a new MO."

Perhaps you're right. Maybe downing a fifth of scotch and snorting some cocaine would help me to appreciate your position more.

Walker said...

You're killing me, ego!

Surely you recognize that your parallels have only the VAGUEST (vague to the point of worthless) parallels to totalitarian states. Indeed, the counterparallels are more striking (as noted in my post, which you have conveniently passed over).

I would urge you to begin using real evidence rather than innuendo.

BYU alter ego said...

To Walker:

Hopefully the following relieves "vagueness" enough for you... :)

BYU Alter Ego: "I should have caught that. I meant to say 'has parallels with other totalitarian societies such as Mormonism.'
"Feel better?"

Daniel Peterson: "Not even slightly. Mormonism isn't a society at all. It's a doctrine. And, while the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a society, it isn't a 'totalitarian society.'"


I guess I asked for it debating with an editor, but here it goes.

Instead of Mormonism, I should have said "Mormon society." I will be more diligent I promise... :)

BYU Alter Ego: "Has any Apostle of the Church ever sanctioned violence for any reason other than self defense?"

Daniel Peterson: "An irrelevant red herring. Even if an apostle had done so, it would not make the Church a totalitarian state."


Wow, you yourself have repeatedly used the violent component as an argument why the Church isn't totalitarian in nature.

How can you call that issue a "red herring?"

As for examples, Danites count, Blood Atonement counts, Mountain Meadow Massacre counts.

On the definition of "Totalitarianism:"

Daniel Peterson: "Well, let's see: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is neither a "government" nor a "state," and it claims and exercises no “political authority.” Moreover, since, as a voluntary association, it lacks the genuine coercive power..."


The Church does indeed govern. By your own statement you acknowledge that governments don't have to be democratic to be governments.

The Church does also meddle in politics. Locally, they're horrendous(the alcohol crap is so stupid), on a state/Nation/worldwide level, they do it, but admittedly not as often as they used to. Brigham had a de facto nation state.


BYU Alter Ego: "Has the Church in an official capacity, ever assigned material consequence to intellectual dissent?"

Daniel Peterson: "Not to the best of my knowledge.

Has the Church sometimes withdrawn fellowship from those whose ideas, in its judgment, contravened fundamental doctrines? Yes."


What you mentioned is very much material consequence.

Excommunication, especially when it becomes public, has potential for a great deal of material consequence. BYU Professors and CES teachers forfeit employment. Reputations are tarnished, families are disrupted.

The act of excommunicating, admittedly completely doctrinal, isn't unnecessary in my opinion.

Every Deseret book published by a GA comes with huge disclaimers, why not ask dissenters to do the same?

That could have avoided the whole "September Six" circus.

Daniel Peterson: "If you're suggesting that the Church maintains some sort of intelligence-gathering operation (of the kind that the poor folks at the “Recovery” board like to imagine is spying upon them), then the answer, so far as I can determine (and that's fairly far), is No."

Does, "Strengthening Church Members Committee" ring any bells?

The Church has publically admitted to it's existence and purpose.

Here is a nice Wikipedia article on LDS history. There is a subsection title, "The Strengthening Church Members Committee: keeping files on the public statements of potential dissidents" Here is a link.

A quote from the article, "The Church explained that the Committee 'provides local church leadership with information designed to help them counsel with members who, however well-meaning, may hinder the progress of the church through public criticism.' ("Secret Files," New York Times, Aug. 22, 1992)"

BYU Alter Ego: "Does the Church in an official capacity take an interest and apply consequence for dissent regarding the minute details of it's members, ie; dress, grooming habits, language, reading material, dating habits, hobbies etc...?"

Daniel Peterson: "A bit. Not much. Certainly to nothing like the extent that, say, an Orthodox rabbi or an Amish minister pays attention to such matters within his community."


On beards:

Amish: Wait till you're married.
Jewish: Just don't use a blade.
Mormons: Shave it baby!

On Marriage:
Amish: don't intermarry
Jewish: don't intermarry
Mormons: don't intermarry

On dress:

Amish: One or two suspenders? How many pleats in a bonnet? Funny enough it matters.
Jewish: You'd better wear a hat!
Mormons: White shirt or no sacrament passing you heathen deacon!

If you dissent:
Amish: Shame, kicked out of community.
Jewish: Shame, kicked out of community.
Mormon: Shame, excommunicated.

How is it that we're better again?

BYU Alter Ego: "Had the Church in an official capacity ever suppressed cultural diversity in it's members?"

Daniel Peterson: "Much too vague a question. What do you mean by "suppress"? In any event, though, the only kind of "suppression" that would come close to making the Church a totalitarian institution would be the kind delivered at gunpoint or under bayonets. And that kind I can categorically deny."


I apologize for the vague question. Let me illustrate with a Quinn "Heirarchy" example:

"7 Oct.[ 1984], Ronald E. Poelman gives general conference talk stressing need of central headquarters to adapt its programs to cultural diversity of international church, rather than require diverse peoples to conform to Utah Mormon culture. He is required to return to empty Salt Lake Tabernacle to re-deliver censored version of his general conference talk for videotaping which includes pre-recorded track of audience coughs but deletes his endorsement of cultural diversity and decentralization. He is not allowed to speak in general conference again for more than four years. [Although I have to observe that a member of the Seventy might not get his number called for several years anyway, even with the smaller number of general authorities back then."

That help?

BYU Gestapo: "Has the Church in an official capacity ever taught that the individual should be subordinate to the Church?"

Daniel Peterson: "The Church has taught that individuals should subordinate their wills to the will of God. Those who did not wish to do so were and are free not to do so."


Can I just offer as a soon to be former member that choosing to leave is not nearly as simple as you describe it?

Members, often are born into the religion and therefore have deep family connections. Converts generally soon cultivate through marriage and conversion of non-member family the same type of connections.

If I had chosen to leave while attending BYU I would have seriously jeapardized my education and degree.

Many, especially intellectual Mormons, receive employment from the Church and would have to face serious financial risk.

Contrary to what you've argued, the only thing required to create totalitarian environment is a form of control.

That, the Church has in abundance.

BYU alter ego said...

On the excommunication argument, I meant to say that it isn't necessary. Sorry... :(

BYU alter ego said...

To Walker:

Also, I didn't purposely pass your response over, tomorrow when I have some time I'll respond to you... :)

Walker said...

Ego,

Thanks for the info (you still have failed to address the non-similarities). No matter. As to your claims:

"As for examples, Danites count, Blood Atonement counts, Mountain Meadow Massacre counts."

Good old reliables, aren't they? :) On the contrary, all of the above examples are either blatant misrepresentations, or at best, connected with individual members of the Church. Even Palmer can make the distinction between what he believes is an official church action and that of lower level echelons. You know as well as anyone, I'm sure, about Brigham's blatant warning to not harrass the Fancher party. As to the Danites, your comparison is misplaced. They were reacting (and acting) in the midst of persecution, and only after years of it at that (most likely without Joseph fully understanding what they were doing--we'll never know how much JOseph knew). If "Mormon Society" were truly totalitarian by nature, the Danites were would have been in place at the creation. And your Blood Atonement example amuses me. Young was speaking in the hypothetical, when Church and State are unified de jure (not like Young's pseudo kingdom in Utah). Stalin's purges were publicly known within 2 years after his death. Critics have had 150+ and ya'll are still trying.

"The Church does indeed govern"

Odd that people aren't punished for not paying their tithing, for gossiping, or other personal transgressions. Odd that they excommunicate for adultery, a very private sin. Strange behavior for a power-hungry bunch of Eichmanns.

"The Church does also meddle in politics"

Meddle. Good word choice. It's got a nice burn to it. Really now, lobbying indicates that the group DOES NOT HAVE POWER, hence eliminating that group from the "totalitarian" group. The thought is ludicrous. Stalin never lobbied Beria, or Iagov. HItler never lobbied his gov't. Lobbying simply means that the Church has an interest in carrying out a policy, like thousands of other groups do.

"Excommunication...isn't necessary"

From a strictly secular point of you, organizations have ideologies. If they don't stay true to that, why exist? Presidents fire cabinet members. Organization heads are replaced. Loyalty to an organization does not constitute domination by that org.

Doctrinally, the Church is not just a club that people hang out at. They've covenanted with Father to be a member of his kingdom. When someone openly fights against it, it shows they do not want to be a member of that kingdom. Of course, one can openly disagree with the brethren on many issues. I have heard President Hinckley express his views about Iraq. I know many VERY faithful Saints who hold and voice a VERY different opinion. It is when you value your secular opinion over your spiritual knowledge (assuming one has it) that you make a mistake.

"Strengthening Church Members Committee"

There is an enormous difference between an espionage agency and collecting published materials. No spies probing your home. No stalkers. Nada. Nothing more than researchers, those who are in tune to the publication of anti-Mormon materials. Oddly, Eugene England, a faithful intellectual, actually criticized this committee. He would have been a prime target to make the "Six" into a "Seven." Somehow, he got off with an apology (perhaps because he actually supported the Church on the fundamental level?) Also, one of the September Six, bitter as he was, actually dared to be re-baptized. The Church must be the best political apparatus in the world if they can oppress and humiliate someone and still get them to come back.

Culture

Your examples are extreme and stereotypical. I know MANY inter-race couples in Provo. I've seen them serve in high-level Church leadership positions. As to beards, I've seen them worn in the temple, where the highest dress standards are expected. On dress, my EQP wore a blue shirt while passing the sacrament quite often i.e. white shirts are encouraged but not strictly enforced.

On diversity:

Bruce R. McConkie (the most doctrinaire of them all):
Many Saints "have a different background than we have, which is of no moment to the Lord . . . . It is no different to have different social customs than it is to have different languages. . . . And the Lord knows all languages". Nuff said.

Leaving the Church

I'm so sorry your family cares about your spiritual future. Darn those parents. And I would most certainly deem myself a Mormon intellectual. Most likely, my financial future does not depend on BYU (if anything, it hinders it because of the academic bias against BYU--but that's another story). And the only requirement to continue your education at BYU is to live by the Honor Code (which I've seen non-members do most splendidly). Should I choose to leave the Church, I can do it at BYU as well as anywhere. If I still live by the residential living standards and the Honor Code, I am welcome at BYU.

Satisfied?

Night.

Walker said...

Thanks. When I was writing my longer ditty, I hadn't seen that. Nix: (you still failed to address my non-similarities).

Daniel Peterson said...

BYU AE: "Wow, you yourself have repeatedly used the violent component as an argument why the Church isn't totalitarian in nature.
How can you call that issue a 'red herring?'"


Because violence, while necessary to a historically literate definition of genuine totalitarianism, is not sufficient for such a definition.

BYU Gestapo: "As for examples, Danites count, Blood Atonement counts, Mountain Meadow Massacre counts.

Mountain Meadows was a desperately unfortunate massacre of outsiders under very stressful wartime conditions, not an example of sustained government policy designed to control insiders. Moreover, there is no serious evidence that the Mountain Meadows Massacre was a centrally directed action, and there is considerable evidence against that idea. Blood atonement, to the probably very limited extent that it actually occurred (if it actually occurred), was not a method for controlling dissent. (If it was, it did a very poor job. The Godbe brothers, Amasa Lyman, the Stenhouses, the editors and writers of the Tribune and the Union Vedette, and many, many others, died in bed.) Apart from the Sampson Avard period in Missouri, the Danites are largely if not entirely mythical.

BYU AE: "The Church does indeed govern. By your own statement you acknowledge that governments don't have to be democratic to be governments.

Governments don't have to be democratic, but they do have to govern. The Church doesn't “govern” in anything like the sense that a state governs.

This is pathetic.

Your style of reasoning warps language to the point of incoherent meaninglessness. It's positively Orwellian (which, given the topic here, is unspeakably ironic).

BYU AE: "The Church does also meddle in politics."

As the Nazis and Communists "meddled in government"? Give me a break. Hitler didn't restrict himself to an occasional public statement endorsing liquor law reform.

BYU AE: "What you mentioned is very much material consequence.
Excommunication, especially when it becomes public, has potential for a great deal of material consequence."


Considerably less so than does divorce. Yet married couples are seldom considered "totalitarian governments." Not in normal English, anyway.

Many things have secondary material consequences. Dropping out of school, or failing out of school, does. Flubbing the Metropolitan Opera auditions does. Getting the lead in the next James Bond movie does. So does a major traffic accident. None of these has the slightest connection with totalitarianism.

The totalitarian equivalent of excommunication would have direct, intrinsic material consequences - such as, oh, death, imprisonment, the destruction of one's farm or shop, the execution of one's family and/or village, and torture.

I can't believe that you're sticking with this.

BYU AE: "BYU Professors and CES teachers forfeit employment."

True. As do Communist employees of the Defense Department, militantly atheistic employees of the Jewish Theological Seminary, Holocaust-deniers in the Yale Department of History, creationists at Scientific American, and any at the Centers for Disease Control who might reject the germ theory of disease. That doesn't make any of those institutions, or the hundreds and thousands that resemble them in this regard, into "totalitarian states."

BYU AE: "Does, 'Strengthening Church Members Committee' ring any bells?"

It does. I was specifically, if implicitly, referring to it.

Most if not all of the tingly-delicious fantasies about the "Strengthening Church Members Committee" at RFM and elsewhere are pure fiction, with not even a slight basis in actual reality. But even if we swallowed them lock, stock, and barrel, they wouldn't come within light years of making the Church a totalitarian state. The Strengthening Church Members Committee is not the Stasi, nor the KGB, nor the Gestapo, nor even the CIA. Nor anything close.

BYU AE: "Here is a nice Wikipedia article on LDS history. There is a subsection title, 'The Strengthening Church Members Committee: keeping files on the public statements of potential dissidents' Here is a link."

Keeping files on public statements. A clipping service. Something designed to assist harried, part-time local church leaders. How horrifying.

I clip articles from magazines and newspapers. Does this make me a quasi-Nazi?

BYU AE: "Amish: Shame, kicked out of community.
Jewish: Shame, kicked out of community.
Mormon: Shame, excommunicated.
How is it that we're better again?"


You clearly don't know much about Orthodox Jewish communities or about the Amish if you think that Latter-day Saints practice Amish-style shunning, or that Latter-day Saints formally recite kaddish (or anything like it) as they renounce errant sons and daughters, or if you imagine that Latter-day Saint communities are as controlling as the Amish or the Orthodox are in terms of dress, daily schedule, choice of career, choice of marriage partner, or scores of other elements of daily life. Ever read either of the Talmuds? Ever visited Lancaster, Pennsylvania?

Incidentally, I never said that we were "better." I have nothing against either Orthodox Jews or the Amish. (I would certainly never suggest that either group is totalitarian or Nazi-like.) But they are very different.

BYU AE: "'7 Oct.[ 1984], Ronald E. Poelman gives general conference talk stressing need of central headquarters to adapt its programs to cultural diversity of international church, rather than require diverse peoples to conform to Utah Mormon culture. He is required to return to empty Salt Lake Tabernacle to re-deliver censored version of his general conference talk for videotaping which includes pre-recorded track of audience coughs but deletes his endorsement of cultural diversity and decentralization. He is not allowed to speak in general conference again for more than four years. [Although I have to observe that a member of the Seventy might not get his number called for several years anyway, even with the smaller number of general authorities back then.'
That help?"


As an illustration of the forcible repression government of cultural variation by a totalitarian? Yes, it helps. It illustrates, once more, the fatuity of your argument.

BYU AE: "Can I just offer as a soon to be former member that choosing to leave is not nearly as simple as you describe it?"

It's a heck of a lot easier than trying to climb over the Berlin Wall under heavy machine gun fire, or drifting for weeks on the South China Sea, or evading sharks between Cuba and the Florida Keys, or drinking your own urine while crossing the desert from Marxist Ethiopia (as a friend of mine had to do in order to survive while fleeing execution as a dissident intellectual there), or facing the guillotine under the French Revolution, or trying to survive the Gulag.

For you to compare your personal travails with those who have fled (or died while attempting to flee) actual despotic regimes is truly pathetic.

BYU AE: "Contrary to what you've argued, the only thing required to create totalitarian environment is a form of control.
That, the Church has in abundance."


Language-corrupting and thought-destroying nonsense.

Every functioning organization, from the Republican Party to Greenpeace, from Ford Motor Company to the Society of Friends, has "forms of control." That's what makes them organized.

Daniel Peterson said...

Of course, the passage in my note above that reads "As an illustration of the forcible repression government of cultural variation by a totalitarian?" should read "As an illustration of the forcible repression of cultural variation by a totalitarian government?"

A cut and paste error, coupled with no edit function.

Incidentally, BYU Gestapo, I'm discussing the meaning of an adjective here because that's the issue. I value verbal precision for a reason: verbal sloppiness leads to sloppiness in reasoning. I'm not fleeing the question of the truthfulness of the Church -- a question that you have not raised here -- and I don't fear it.

I've read the commentary (as usual, misguided but deeply self-satisfied) over on that message board that you choose to regard as "sane" and non-"pathological." Junk thought. (And, for what it's worth, a certain western Canadian rock musician's vaunted superior commitment to Truth is pure self-glorification, so far as I can see, created ex nihilo.)

Daniel Peterson said...

Sigh. Oh BYU AE. I just glanced in, again, over at the Compound.

I am not now nor have I ever been a member of the Strengthening Church Members Committee.

And, on an even more trivial note, you rather thoroughly misunderstood my comment about that unfortunate western Canadian rock musician.

Walker said...

AE: tomorrow when I have some time I'll respond to you... :)

"Tomorrow" being defined as three days later?

BYU alter ego said...

Walker: "Tomorrow" being defined as three days later?

Doh! Sorry for keeping you...lol.

Walker: “Totalitarianism is not a term that can be thrown around to describe any hierarchical institution. Do I think your argument is (to use a more polite term) distorted? Yes.”

First, thanks for reigning in the adjectives, “distorted” would be a fair objection, well within the realm of professional dialog. Let me point out why my argument is not distorted.

Let’s also follow the examples you put forth:

Hitler’s Youth

Hitler you say is quoted as “…. I will have no intellectual training. Knowledge is ruin to my young men.” You mentioned www.besmart.com as indicative of the Church’s approach to the subject.

I’m sure you’re familiar with Boyd K. Packer’s quote about Church History from his famous (or perhaps infamous) talk titled “The Mantle Is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect.” He states as a caution, “There is a temptation for the writer or the teacher Of Church history to want to tell everything, whether it is worthy or faith promoting or not. Some things that are true are not very useful.”(Brigham Young University Studies, Summer 1981)

Packer clearly teaches throughout the talk that the Authority of the Priesthood trumps the intellect. Just as Hitler was wary of knowledge, Boyd shows concern that some truth is not that useful. He also disdains the concept of historical neutrality and laments the negative points brought up about the Church saying things such as, “He has taken something away from the memory of a prophet,” or “Do not spread disease germs.”

Striving for a neutral perspective and entertaining diversity of thought are the bastions of truth. Boyd wants the opposite. He very clearly argues for bias.

Just as Hitler was a very paranoid man, Boyd also expresses a consistent paranoia of Intellectualism throughout his talk. Forgive the following denigrating illustration of Packer, but I think it’s instructive that many refer to him as “Boyd KKK Packer.” The parallels are obvious.

Now I’ve picked on Boyd plenty. So let me offer other examples of Mormon Intellectual paranoia.

Free Speech is another necessary component of true intellectual inquiry; it’s connected with diversity of thought.

The Nauvoo Expositor for example did not libel Joseph Smith. So what was his motive to destroy it? The motives are personal and quite obvious. The truth of what the Expositor stated has been vindicated.

I suggest reading the entirety of the first and only publication by the paper. Here is a link to a Wikipedia article, LINK, within it you can find another link to the full text. (Jeff is that okay??)

Joseph Smith saw to it that the press was destroyed by the same logic as Boyd, not all truth is useful, particularly that which exposes a lie.

Yes, Joseph lied about polygamy publicy, while it certainly had been occuring all along.

Indeed Joseph had previously stated, on May 26th, 1844, that he only had one wife. He says:

“Be meek and lowly, upright and pure; render good for evil, If you bring on yourselves your own destruction, I will complain. It is not right for a man to bear down his neck to the oppressor always. Be humble and patient in all circumstances of life; we shall then triumph more gloriously. What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one.

I am the same man, and as innocent as I was fourteen years ago; and I can prove them all perjurers.
I labored with these apostates myself until I was out of all manner of patience; and then I sent my brother Hyrum, whom they virtually kicked out of doors.”(History of the Church Vol. 6, p. 408-412)

To illustrate the problem with this statement, one of Joseph’s more curious marriages, that to Helen Mar Kimball, took place in May 1843. The marriage is recorded in the Church’s database that can be accessed at familysearch.org. Here is a LINK.

Joseph stated the following about the incident:

"He (Smith) stated that no man was a stronger advocate for the liberty of speech and of the press than himself; yet, when this noble gift is utterly prostituted and abused, as in the present instance, it loses all claim to our respect, and becomes as great an agent for evil as it can possibly be for good; and notwithstanding the apparent advantage we should give our enemies by this act, yet it behooved us, as men, to act independent of all secondary influences, to perform the part of men of enlarged minds, and boldly and fearlessly to discharge the duties devolving upon us by declaring as a nuisance, and removing this filthy, libelous, and seditious sheet from our midst."(Brigham Young, History of the Church, Vol. 7, p.62-63)

Joseph’s official account (the document was signed by Joseph) of the incident states the following:

"In the investigation it appeared evident to the council that the proprietors were a set of unprincipled, lawless ebauches, counterfeiters, bogus-makers, gamblers, peace-disturbers, and that the grand object of said proprietors was to destroy our constitutional rights and chartered privileges; to overthrow all good and wholesome regulations in society; to strengthen themselves against the municipality; to fortify themselves against the church of which I am a member, and destroy all our religious rights and privileges by libels, slanders, falsehoods, perjury, etc. and sticking at no corruption to accomplish their hellish purposes; and that said paper of itself was libelous of the deepest dye, and very injurious as a vehicle of defamation, tending to corrupt the morals, and disturb the peace, tranquility, and happiness of the whole community, and especially that of Nauvoo."(Brigham Young, History of the Church, Vol. 7, p.126)

Joseph’s indignation was in reality more sanctimony than anything.

Now I appreciate that efforts like “besmart” exist. But besmart just shows that the Church wants it’s kids to go to Church owned schools.

Why is that?

If you go to the website it’s obvious that a large emphasis is placed on attending a college where you can get the right “atmosphere,” ie; student wards, devotionals, and my favorite, “secular learning in a spiritual environment.”

My assertion is that truth is truth, and if the light of Christ really does help all humanity recognize truth, then the packaging should be inconsequential. Obviously many leaders of the Church disagree with me.

About Police Force


You quoted, “As long as the [Gestapo] ... carries out the will of the leadership, it is acting legally.” I’m assuming Hitler stated that, you didn’t leave a citation, so if I’m wrong please correct me.

I want to point out that your comparison of missionaries to police is a poor match. They may be the contemporary “Army of God,” but like you pointed out are better described as lackeys. My examples contributed to real bloodshed, like the Germans.

Now, you may say, “that was the past,” “things aren’t like that anymore.” Thankfully, I’m glad you’re right. The present day Church doesn’t have a violent agenda.

But I want to point out that the “Rule of Law” in the United States is much more coherent and unified today than it was in Brigham’s day or Joseph’s day. It’s instructive that when the Rule of Law was lacking from the Federal Government, the Church created it’s own militia, it’s own flag, it’s own law. Violent acts were tolerated.

So when there was no “oversight,” much violence was committed by members of the Church. Was every member violent? No. Did violent retribution by members go apathetically unpunished? Yes.

Mountain Meadow is but one, not isolated, example of violence. Although it’s unique in it’s scale, many other acts of violence against dissenters, army sympathizers (later on), and various innocents occurred.

Daniel’s assertion that the Mountain Meadow Massacre happened during a time of war is inaccurate. At best, there was a “rumor of war” that President Buchanan was sending troops. The Fancher Party were clearly not Soldiers. And they were not unfortunate, unintended victims such as most wartime civilian causalties.

They had spent a great deal of time in the territory before the attack occurred. So was the Mormon’s motive self defense? That would be laughable. The fact that the attack occurred just as the party was about to leave the territory smacks of premeditation.

Daniel’s other assertion about the Danite organization being inconsequential after Samson Avard belies that many from its ranks later continued its vigilante tradition.

Indeed “Bishop” and “Major” of the Mormon Militia John D. Lee was a Danite “alumnus.”


Racial beliefs


Originally we were discussing the existence of racism as a correct principle among Mormons and how that might have lead them to be more accepting of the racial discrimination committed by others.

You have added the racial “superiority” component that the Nazis adhered to.

So we no longer are debating the same subject. But I'll address this a bit.

I agree in that I don’t know that there is a cogent argument that LDS leaders have consistently supported the idea either. Superiority hasn’t been claimed on the basis of race at least.

Superiority as a people, by members of the Church both directly and indirectly has been taught. I don’t believe however that the form it takes with the Church can be compared to the Nazis.

Mormons believe in being “a light unto the world,” to seek after anything of “good report.” Mormons are taught that they are a “chosen people,” “a royal priesthood.” Christ calls the chosen, “the salt of the earth.”

Perhaps special is a better word than superior, but the implication is still there. Peculiar frankly fits all too well…:)

The problem is that it engenders more smugness and hubris than anything else in my opinion.

BYU alter ego said...

Daniel Peterson: "I am not now nor have I ever been a member of the Strengthening Church Members Committee."


What I said about that was wholly "tongue in cheek." I should use more emoticons... :)

:) :) :) :) :).... okay j/k...

Daniel Peterson: "And, on an even more trivial note, you rather thoroughly misunderstood my comment about that unfortunate western Canadian rock musician."

Did the timepoint for the "ex nihilo" comment have anything to do with the slower phase in his music career then and not his leaving the Church? That's the only other thing I can think of.

Enlighten me... :)

:) :) :) :) okay...I'm seriously stopping.

Daniel Peterson said...

BYU AE: 'I’m sure you’re familiar with Boyd K. Packer’s quote about Church History from his famous (or perhaps infamous) talk titled “The Mantle Is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect.” He states as a caution, “There is a temptation for the writer or the teacher Of Church history to want to tell everything, whether it is worthy or faith promoting or not. Some things that are true are not very useful.”(Brigham Young University Studies, Summer 1981).'

Well? Are all things that are true useful? If a historian fails to include absolutely everything that he knows about a topic, is he guilty of dishonesty? Or, alternatively, is selection essential to the craft of the historian?

BYU AE: 'Packer clearly teaches throughout the talk that the Authority of the Priesthood trumps the intellect. Just as Hitler was wary of knowledge, Boyd [K. Packer] shows concern that some truth is not that useful.

It is a mighty leap -- and a ridiculous one -- from Elder Packer's remarks to Hitler. Yet you don't hesitate to make it. A vast chasm separates Elder Packer from Josef Goebbels, yet you pretend that it can be bridged by a hop, a skip, and a jump.

BYU AE: 'Striving for a neutral perspective and entertaining diversity of thought are the bastions of truth. Boyd [K. Packer] wants the opposite. He very clearly argues for bias.'

It would be interesting to have a serious and non-polemical discussion of Elder Packer's remarks. In fact, I've had such discussions. And I'm not sure that your rather Manichaean view of things captures the real point of what he was saying. But even if we were to take his nearly quarter-century-old remarks in the extreme way you would prefer, so what? He was a fairly junior member of the Twelve then, and remains only one of the Twelve today. What of Elder Dallin Oaks, who is actually a published historian (e.g., most notably but only in Dallin H. Oaks and Marvin S. Hill, Carthage Conspiracy: The Trial of the Accused Assassins of Joseph Smith [Urbana, Chicago, and London: University of Illinois Press, 1975])? Does Elder Packer speak for him on this point? Did a junior member of the Twelve in 1981 speak for the entire Church? Is there unanimity among the Brethren regarding the suppression of honest history? If there is, please supply your evidence.

In the meantime, you might want to consider the literally many hundreds of examples of solid academic history that have been published by believing Latter-day Saints over the past decades (by, for instance, such figures as Davis Bitton, Leonard Arrington, Dean May, James Allen, Thomas Alexander, Dean Jessee, Richard Lloyd Anderson, Milton Backman, Richard Bennett, Grant Underwood, Richard Bushman, Stanley Kimball, etc., etc., etc.).

In any case, bias is inevitable in the writing of history. And objectivity is impossible. Moreover, the concept of complete historical objectivity is arguably incoherent, and such objectivity, even if it were possible, would be undesirable. (I suggest, before you pontificate further on this issue, that you read Peter Novick's very important Cambridge University Press book That Noble Dream: The "Objectivity Question" and the American Historical Profession; it will save you from much embarrassing nonsense.)

BYU AE: 'Just as Hitler was a very paranoid man, Boyd [K. Packer] also expresses a consistent paranoia of Intellectualism throughout his talk.'

"Just as"? Raising the specter of Hitler on such slim pretexts as this is a disgusting and contemptible thing. (Just like Hitler, you believe that 4+4=8. So what?) Hitler is such a massively, iconically, evil figure that resorting to comparisons between anybody else and him should occur only in the most extreme and serious circumstances. Elder Packer's talk is scarcely grounds for invoking Hitler and, inevitably, his Nazi train of mass murder, oppression, and global war. Shame on you.

BYU AE: 'Forgive the following denigrating illustration of Packer, but I think it’s instructive that many refer to him as “Boyd KKK Packer.” The parallels are obvious.'

It's instructive, all right. But not in the way that you imagine. Revealing might be a better word.

Your blithe and baseless progression from the Nazis to the Klan does no credit to you as a serious thinker.

BYU AE: 'Now I’ve picked on Boyd [K. Packer] plenty. So let me offer other examples of Mormon Intellectual paranoia.'

Your treatment of the Nauvoo Expositor incident seems quite innocent of any real historical grounding. Your discussion needs more work. Perhaps some reading in serious historians? Not in polemicists and not on web sites? (Professor Dallin Oaks's nuanced work on the incident, which is not unwilling to criticize Joseph's handling of the situation, would be a good place to look. Perhaps you should start with Richard Bushman's superb new biography.)

BYU AE: 'Daniel’s assertion that the Mountain Meadow Massacre happened during a time of war is inaccurate."

It is entirely accurate.

BYU AE: 'At best, there was a “rumor of war” that President Buchanan was sending troops.'

President Buchanan was sending troops.

BYU AE: 'The problem is that it engenders more smugness and hubris than anything else in my opinion."

I'll believe that smugness and hubris are the principal if not sole effects of the LDS concept of chosenness when I see some supporting data for your claim. In the absence of data, and in view of its conflict with my personal experience in the Mormon community, I feel no obligation to accept your assertion.
 
BYU AE: 'Did the timepoint for the "ex nihilo" comment have anything to do with the slower phase in his music career then and not his leaving the Church? That's the only other thing I can think of. Enlighten me... :)

What "timepoint" is this? I have no idea what you're talking about.

But I'll try to explain the comment to you.

I said that this western Canadian pop musician's "vaunted superior commitment to Truth is pure self-glorification, so far as I can see, created ex nihilo."

There is no mention in that remark about any particular point in time. There is, however, a strong suggestion that the poor fellow's sense of moral superiority as regards his allegedly greater commitment to Truth was created out of thin air, that it rests upon nothing at all, that it is false, that it is baseless, that it is, at bottom, nothing more than self-flattery. Got it?

I couldn't care less about his efforts to make money in pop music, nor about how far his career may have risen or fallen. I know the title of one song by him; to the best of my knowledge, I've never heard it. Whether he's performed others, I neither know nor care.

Walker said...

AE,

When I first saw your posts, I gave you the benefit of the doubt. However, with your pattern of connecting evidence that have about as much similarity as beans do to brocolli (both start with the letter b), I am beginning to seriously question your desire (or even capacity) to make a compelling historical argument. On numerous occasions, you have reverted to a presentist interpretation of the past, one of the cardinal infractions of any historical study. You impose your judgments, which are based on limited evidence and present day understanding, on these hapless historical subjects. Now, if you want to take Foucault's approach, saying that history's only purpose is to meet political ends, feel free. Just know that you are not just abusing Mormon history, you are abusing history as a discipline.

"I’m sure you’re familiar with Boyd K. Packer’s quote about Church History from his famous (or perhaps infamous) talk titled 'The Mantle Is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect.'"

Quite familiar. So much so that I know when someone is ripping quotes from its context, as you have done. As a working historian that deals with Mormon materials, I am well aware of problems facing those who wish to write objective history about LDS studies (I would concur with Dan that you need to consult some "That Noble Dream"). I consequently feel quite qualified to comment on Packer's talk in relation to the historical profession.

As to Packer's supposed lack of scholarship, you exhibit a patent failure to understand Packer's goal. He was speaking to professional historians who often speak to non-professional audiences who will take anything a historian says as gospel truth. He is merely stating that every member of the Church is not a "mature, experienced historian." Hence, when a writer magnifies a characteristic beyond reasonable bounds, especially to an audience ill-prepared for such knowledge (for example, if they were to tell 12 or even 20-year olds that Thomas Paine was a traitor for writing a critical letter to Washington or that Lincoln a vengeful bigot that loathed black people simply because he used racial slurs), that historian has done history and society a tremendous disservice, even in the realm of secular history. When a historian makes a similar mistake in spiritual matters, he/she is not just destroying history, he's destroying lives.

Klaus Baer, whose qualifications need no defense, noted that "the truth or falsehood of a religion" does not depend on secular understanding of history." Baer did not want "to attack the faith of a man to whom his faith was a very meaningful part of his existence...and I am not in the business of making life meaningless for people." Is this dishonest? Hardly. He realizes that history ought not taint spirituality. And when dealing with a historical figure whose religious beliefs were a driving force of his/her life, to ignore them or baselessly denigrate them is to unfairly project the historian's values on the subject.

"Boyd KKK Packer"

You probably think this is cute and you're lol right now. However, as Dan noted, it proves further that you have difficulty stating a argument without resorting to oversimplication and/or demagoguery. Such failures on your part tempt your fellow debaters into writing you off as little more than a pundit, an anti-Mormon activist with nothing but an agenda in mind. Were such an attitude to surface in a research proposal given to a University Press, that proposal would see the cutting room board in about two seconds. I have not used any perjoratives to describe those whom I criticize(interesting that you complemented for it, but you can't seem to do likewise). So please return the favor and stop the name-calling.

Nauvoo Expositor

Dan's criticism's capture the problem well. Additionally, you contradict yourself in stating that J.S's motives were, at once, sanctimony and personal interest. Two VERY different motives, both of which miss the legal nuances of the decision (J.S. noted that if he erred, let the Supreme Court decide rather than a mob--see Bushman's new biography). Also, you chose your evidence from wikipedia poorly, as it supports the explanation that Joseph was acting with the legal understanding of his time rather than as a power-hungry tyrant. "It is not clear whether the city of Nauvoo's actions against the Expositor violated the Nauvoo constitution's freedom-of-press provision," your article notes. Additionally, the only opinion the article cites is that of Dallin H. Oaks (whose opinion on the matter is well known). Also, the fact that you are relying on wikipedia for your sources casts serious doubt on your credibility (it's open to the public for crying out loud--anyone can change the artilce. I read one on the Brown Berets that smacked of propaganda).

"A Poor match"

Precisely. Indeed, you've captured my point quite well. You continually speak in the present tense about the Church. So I used the most current example possible, one that, as I said, is as close as you can get to a "police force." Even with that supposedly prime example, your argument requires digging back to 19th century for supposed crimes.

That, of course, is to say nothing of the actually validity of your 19th century argument. "Violent acts were tolerated." Your evidence for this is simply (and ironically, considering Elder Packer's talk) gossip. No documenation. No evidence. Not even some secondary literature by a critic. The very least you could do is cite Juanita Brooks. But no, you prefer to make simplified assertions and quote open-source encyclopedias.

Your controversial assertions on the Danites ignores ALL the literature on the subject, both primary and secondary. Perhaps you feel that your argument is SO obvious that it needs no proof. As a reasonable thinker (which I still assume you are), you are certainly aware that controversial claims like this do not pass with mere words. You need documentation to prove guilt, both in the historical and the contemporary realms. You do not address how much Joseph knew about the Danites. You don't cite LeSuer or Gentry or the Albert P. Rockwood Letters. Now, I understand, we are all very busy people and do not have much time for full dissertations on a blog. But if we do make assertions, the same standard scholarship applies here as with a bonafide historian. A lack of time is a pathetic excuse for shoddy scholarship.

Racial beliefs

You accuse me of adding racism to the topic. Not quite. Nazism's fundamental component, as you know, was a race-based ideology. So if you're going to make a comparison, you'd better darn be able to show that the LDS belief has cohesive racial element. You have failed to do that. Another tally against the Church-totalitarian comparison.

And being a special people is NOT the same as superior racial ideology. Any member can lose that "special" status (as you call it) in a second with serious transgression. The blessings of the Lord are withdrawn and he/she has broken the covenant with Christ. Race based ideology states that this "special status" is basically immutable, that even if an Aryan is an idiot with a capital I, he/she is still fundamentally better off than the Jew. To address this question fully would take far too much space. In sum, the "peculiar people" syndrome is far more of a burden of the Saints than a blessing. The second any of us think otherwise, the heavens withdraw and amen to our priesthood (D&C 121).

If you're going to continue on this far-fetched argument (assuming, that is, that you even take ANY of this with a grain of seriousness), please improve your arguments for your own sake and the sake of the blog.

A rant, I know. But the can of worms was open.

BYU alter ego said...

To Walker:

You need to relax man...wow. First off, I'm not a professional historian, I'm a molecular biologist posting on a "grass roots" Blog commentary section.

BIG difference.

Do you really think the same standards do, or ought to apply here?

I said that Danite "[Alumni]" participated in violent acts later on. Was John D. Lee a Bishop, a Major, a Danite or not? Am a wrong? I'm not. So unless you have a citation that contradicts statements like that, you need to ease off the accelerator.

I never argued about the legality of what Joseph did. If destroying the press was legal, it was marginally so. Present day legal wisdom completely contradicts it.

My argument was that a culture of intolerance to free speech was displayed by Joseph's actions, and continues with Packer.

That disdain for true free speech greatly impedes intellectual inquiry.

Walker: "[Boyd K. Packer] was speaking to professional historians who often speak to non-professional audiences who will take anything a historian says as gospel truth."

You're explanation makes it sound like Packer is arguing that objectivity is still an ideal to be held, but selectivity and discrection are required.

I would agree with that. But that is not Packers arguement.

Packer: "In the Church we are not neutral. We are one-sided. There is a war going on and we are engaged in it. It is the war between good and evil, and we are belligerents defending the good. We are therefore obliged to give preference to and protect all that is represented in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and we have made covenants to do it."

One sided = not objective

Packer, "Your objective should be that they will see the hand of the Lord in every hour and every moment of the Church from its beginning till now."

That kind of loads the dice doesn't it? It's actually by definition, manipulation.

Why not let people hear all sides and then decide for themselves? If the spirit confirms the Gospel to be true, great.

What Packer wants is an environment where stay ignorant of the facts.

Packer, "There is a temptation for the writer or the teacher Of Church history to want to tell everything, whether it is worthy or faith promoting or not.
Some things that are true are not very useful."

Daniel asked, "Well? Are all things that are true useful?"

If you want to know the completely truthful balance of my checking account then no.

If you want to know whether the self-proclaimed "One true Church" was started by a lying, philandering, power abusive man then absolutely.

It's one thing to exclude mind numbing minutiae, it's another to purposely exclude incredibly pertinent details because they're unsavory.

How patronizing that you think college juniors (20yrs)shouldn't be hit with a real dose of the truth.

Perhaps it's changed, but Church History isn't really taught in Seminary anyways. At best you get background for the D&C, but that is not the same.

So unless things have changed since I was that age, who was Packer really concerned about?

I understand that true objectivity is perhaps unreachable. But it should still be strived for.

It's certainly no excuse to hide, or purposely withhold information.

I was lucky enough to have Honors Church History with Dr. Ronand K. Esplin at BYU. He presented, with copies of source documents, every little tidbit. More, frankly than I wanted at the time, it was a LOT of reading. I didn't think all his explanations for certain events held water, but I appreciated his candor.

I credit Dr. Esplin for not listening to Packer.

One last note to Daniel:

Man, you jump on me for every last sematical crack. Sometimes you are justified and sometimes not. But "pontificate?" Come on. That's the last stone you of all people ought to throw.

You're the pro, not me.

Anonymous said...

AE,

Pardon the heat. It wasn't necessary. But you surely must recognize that when you associate someone's spiritual leader with the KKK, it will create some strong emotions. I do believe, however, that the "blog venue" is not exempt for the standards of evidence, no matter what your profession is. "Grass roots" is not a convincing reason to allow leniency of judgment when the evidence allow such. Any intelligent person can be a fair historian, even if he/she is not one by trade.


I was not disputing Lee's role as a Danite per se. Rather, I was questioning the validity of your overall conclusion, that violence was tolerated and even directed. The fact that Lee was a Danite is easy to verify. It is the overall thesis that becomes more complex thus answering to a higher standard of evidence.

Concerning Packer's talk, we could quibble about "what he meant" all day (that's what keeps historians in business sometimes). Incidentally, Packer's quote about true things not being useful is a paraphrase from Benjamin Franklin on Franklin's opinion of deism (deism tho it may be true is not very useful). My opinion of Packer's talk is not that he is expecting a top-down directed academic experience. If he was that doctrinaire, trust me, I would not have learned many things I have (in one capacity or another, BYU, not critics, has debunked the majority of my faith-promoting myths). If Packer wants a more dogmatic university, he has been thoroughly ineffective at implementing it. Highly unlikely, given Packer's real sway in the CES system. Given my other experience in the Church's views on education, I interpret Packer's comments on the hand of the Lord as telling teachers to let their students know that inspiration is impossible IN SPITE of unsavory details, not because of them. He simply asks that we separate Joseph the man from Joseph the prophet, showing "how a man could be (I would add, in spite of his weaknesses a prophet). But we do not have Elder Packer here to clarify. So w/o an extended analysis of Packer's rhetoric and opinions elsewhere, we will be left to speculate. I can live with that.

On the objectivity question, you may disagree, but I believe that one-sidedness in Church history does not preclude discussing the gory details of problematic church historical events. If one has a spiritual testimony and acknowledges that leadership can be inspired and imperfect, then that teacher is good to go (easier said than done).

Joseph's destruction of the press was, in his understanding, a preventive measure from spreading a riot atmosphere. You're right. Present day wisdom does contradict this. Unfortunately, Joseph did not have that luxury.

I am firm believer in giving college students the truth, warts and all. This can be done, in the spirit of Elder Packer's talk, by showing "how a man can be a prophet." Packer never said that these details should never be uttered. However, he emphasized that one not spread disease germs. That can be done easily by passing out antiseptic along with the specimen, so that the student may learn about it while staying safe, much like Dr. Esplin did in his class. I believe that this method is the best way to instill faith. The truth sets one free.

Thanks for the dialogue. Perhaps we'll meet again on this blog.

BYU alter ego said...

To anonymous,

Thanks very much for you comment. Your tone is very reasonable and a welcomed relief.

Of course we disagree on some of the points, but at least your argument is focused on something other than me...lol.

For what it's worth I do try to fact check what I post here, I also try within reason to read source material as much as possible.

My frustration expressed above was with Walker's comparison of comments with this blog and publishing in a professional forum.

I don't have time for two full time jobs... :)

I also like your example about the difference between a benign factoid and a "disease germ." Infectious disease is kind of my thing, so I'm partial...hehe.

Your analogy would say that some issues, like a "hot" virus, require PPE(personal protective equipment) and are then simply very sensitive topics instead of secrets.

I guess I'm reticent to see Packer's message in that light only because the prevailing message one recieves from the leadership of the Church is "approved reading material" only. So "secret" seems to fit better to me.

But like you said, people have built entire careers over analyzing this sort of thing.

So again, thank YOU for the dialog and best wishes till next time... :)

Daniel Peterson said...

BYU AE: "I understand that true objectivity is perhaps unreachable. But it should still be strived for."

You really need to read Novick's That Noble Dream. It would spare you considerable embarrassment. As I said before, the concept of historical objectivity is arguably incoherent, and it would be impossible for a historian to attempt pure objectivity. If she did, she would never write a line. Read Novick, and you'll understand why.

I'll grant that this is not a seminar in historiography. But that doesn't mean that you can get away with false statements. If you intend to blast away at the Church and its leaders, don't expect that those who know better are obligated to grant you a pass simply because you're out of your league and uninformed. Life is tough.

At least we don't attack you personally (e.g., your character, your sanity, your appearance, your family, etc.) in the manner of the Compound. We criticize the errors you insist on here, as well as your persistent and very distasteful attempt to smear the Church and its leaders by linking them with the Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan.

Mormanity said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mormanity said...

Mormonism totalitarian? Friends, go spend some time in a modern Communist dictatorship. Find out what happens to dissidents in real totalitarian countries.

Or spend some time in ordinary organizations and corporations in the US. From the Boy Scouts to Corporate America to the NEA, organizations workd hard to control the content of official communications, to influence political decisions, to encourage certain attitudes and behaviors among members, etc. And sometimes people speak out against such decisions, only to find themselves disciplined, possibly even tossed out or unemployed. THIS IS NOT TOTALITARIAN - it's ordinary life. The root "total" is there for a reason: totalitarianism is about total power and loss of freedom. People who don't like the rules and policies of the Boy Scouts or 3M or the Church are free to leave. In fact, the Church is far more tolerant of dissent and other views than any corporation is, and is far less likely to kick out its members for poor performance. ("I see your tithing is down $500 this year, Sister Jones, and you missed your visiting teaching goal for the past two quarters. I'm afraid we're going to have to let you go. But to show we care, we've got a transition package with the local Lutheran congregation. In fact, Pastor Roberts tells me that your 8% tithing will be just fine over there. . . .")

I share the dismay over the repeated inferences that Church was aligned with anti-Semitism and the Nazis. It's so obvious that the Church has been one of the most pro-Jewish organizations of our times.

I grew up with frequent teachings from my Utahn LDS mother regarding the Jews, and it was very positive (in fact, it was almost as if we Mormons had some catching up to do to be as cool as the Jews). Sure, Brigham Young may have felt it was futile to try to convert the Jews - it's still a very rare thing, and something most Jews really don't want us to even think about attempting, of course - but if he really were anti-Semitic, his kindness toward the Jews in Utah and his assistance to them doesn't square with what you wish to insinuate.

Right now the Church has been very kind and respectful toward Chinese leaders and leaders of other Communist states. A fundamentalist could get all bent out of shape over that. How dare we send BYU dancers over to perform in China! How dare we shake hands with Communist leaders! One day anti-Mormons may be pointing to our efforts to gain entry into these other nations as evidence of Mormon totalitarianism, suggesting that were supporting the oppression of Tibet or other peoples. But you know that when LDs leaders or BYU dancers or basketball players treat China and its leaders with respect, it's not because we hate Tibetans.