Mormon Apologetics = Personal Slander and Misinformation
MORMON APOLOGETICS GROUP TO MEET
SALT LAKE CITY - The Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR), will be sponsoring its annual conference at the South Towne Exposition Center located at 9575 South State Street in Sandy Utah on August 3 - 4, 2006 from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm each day.
Speakers will address various topics defending Latter-day Saint doctrine, history and practice including the legal trials of Joseph Smith, DNA and the Book of Mormon, Mark Hofmann's Mormon document forgeries, the Book of Abraham, New World evidences of Book of Mormon historicity, reflections on race and the restored gospel, linguistic connections between the Middle East and the Americas, and other issues (how can we get Mitt elected?).
The public is invited to attend the conference. More information is available at www.fairlds.org.
FAIR is an independent organization dedicated to defending the LDS faith through sound research and logic. FAIR is not affiliated with nor do they receive support from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. FAIR is made up of independent researchers who are both members and non-members of the LDS Church.
Note: This webmaster was blocked from posting on their electronic bulletin boards.
Mormon advocates meet to defend their faith
By Peggy Fletcher Stack
The Salt Lake Tribune
What began in 1997 as an Internet
conversation about how best to defend the LDS Church from its critics is now a
national nonprofit organization of Mormon apologists.
A handful of participants, each with expertise in a different aspect of
Mormonism, found each other on message boards that dealt with controversial
aspects of LDS philosophy and history including polygamy, the banning of black
men from the faith's all-male priesthood until 1978, the role of women in the
church, homosexuality and problems with the historicity of the Book of Mormon.
Writers in various states found themselves answering the same questions and
criticisms over and over. So they pooled their respective research and thinking
at one Web site, which became the nucleus of The Foundation for Apologetic
Information and Research (FAIR).
FAIR is not sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and
takes full responsibility for its authors' positions and perspectives. But it
does require that its writers refrain from calling their opponents names.
"We ask them not to make negative comments or attack anyone personally,"
Scott Gordon, FAIR's president, said Wednesday, from his home in Redding, Calif.
On Thursday and Friday, FAIR will hold its eighth- annual Mormon apologetics
conference at South Town Exposition Center in Sandy. Organizers expect about 300
attendees, including people from as far away as New Zealand and Saudi Arabia.
At the conference, many of the same topics hashed over on the Internet will
be discussed face to face.
Speakers will include:
1) Renowned Mormon feminist and historian Claudia Bushman will explore the
role of women in the church.
2) Marcus Martins, chairman of the religious studies department at Brigham
Young University-Hawaii and the first Latter-day Saint with black African
ancestry to serve a full-time mission, will offer his thoughts on being ''a
black man in Zion.''
3) David Stewart will look at the charge that DNA research undermines the
Book of Mormon claim that American Indians descended from a family that traveled
to the New World from Jerusalem.
4) George Throckmorton, a Utah forensics expert, will look at Mark Hofmann's
Mormon document forgeries.
"We are hoping these speakers will give us unique ways of looking at these
same issues," said Gordon, a professor at Shasta College of Business and
Technology. "And there are always new people who haven't heard this before,
people who are encountering it on the Internet for the first time."
But this year's program offers at least one new development - a look at the
LDS Church's problems internationally.
Kim Westman, a native of Finland who has studied Mormon history in his
country, will explore its relationship to the Finnish society from the 1800s to
"Kim is a member of our FAIR volunteer list who spends a lot of time
answering questions from people in Finland," Gordon said. "He has heard all the
accusations about the church's CIA connections. The view that Mormon
missionaries are spies is pretty prevalent in Finland."
At the conference, FAIR will announce a new Web site to deal with issues
that arise for the LDS Church in Germany - http://www.deutsch.fair.lds.org. It
will be staffed entirely of German members who will decide what issues are the
most relevant to them.
"Sometimes we get so myopic in our looking at Mormonism," Gordon said. "It's nice to get a different perspective."
Attend the conference and bring
What: Eighth Annual Mormon Apologetics Conference
When: Thursday and Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Where: South Towne Exposition Center, 9575 S. State St., Sandy
How much: Fees range from $59.95 per person for the full conference to $34.95 per person for a single day
For more: Go to http://www.fairlds.org
Documentary Film Seeks to Counter Mormon Stereotypes
January 14, 2007
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The filmmaker behind a new four-hour documentary about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said she hopes her work will debunk some myths about the Utah-based church.
"I hope that most of the stereotypes ideally, all of them will be blown away," Helen Whitney told The Deseret Morning News from a television critics gathering in Pasadena, Calif. Saturday. "Because so many of them are just based on ignorance. Ignorance about Mormon history, ignorance about Mormon theology. Ignorance." (cult members will always call you ignorant when they are confronted with the facts of their religion - webmaster note)
The two-part film called "The Mormons" is a joint presentation from public broadcasting's "American Experience" and "Frontline."
The "American Experience" segment is expected to air April 30 and cover the church's history, including its founding, persecutions leading to exodus and polygamy.
The "Frontline" broadcast is planned for May 1. Its focus is the modern church, including missionary work, family life, temples and the elevation of the faith to a mainstream religion.
"It is not exhaustive. It is not comprehensive. It is thematic," said Whitney, who spent three years on the project. "I have chosen what I felt to be the defining ideas and themes and events in Mormon history that would help outsiders go inside the church."
Whitney worked with Mormon and non-Mormon consultants while making the film. She said she interviewed "hundreds," from everyday members to church President Gordon B. Hinckley and those antagonistic toward the faith. She also traveled cross country and sent a film crew to Ghana.
"Mormons are everywhere, and I wanted to make that point," she said. "There are more Mormons outside of America than in this country. And even within America, there are many Mormons outside of Utah. So only a small part of it was shot in Utah."
Whitney, who won both Emmy and Peabody awards for her films profiling monks and Catholic Pope John Paul II, said Mormon church leaders, said the film's goal is neither to recruit new members to the church, nor discourage its believers.
Mormon Defender Skirts Christian Question; Instead Calls for Unity
By Michelle Vu
Christian Post Reporter
July 12, 2007
The chosen defender of Mormonism in a much talked-about online debate avoided the challenges posed by one of the nation’s preeminent evangelicals Wednesday on why Mormons cannot be considered Christians. Instead, well-known science-fiction writer Orson Scott Card called for unity among believers of Jesus in his latest blog.
The former Mormon missionary spent an extensive amount of his essay detailing how he was seen as an outsider by some Mormons who considered a good Mormon to be a Republican and someone that holds a steady day job. Card, a democrat and writer, noted that these Mormons were from a town in Utah where 98 percent of the population was Mormons.
However, when he moved to the east coast where Mormons are the minority, fellow Mormons there embraced him and accepted his differences.
The long personal narrative was given as a micro-example of how one’s point of view can change depending on if people feel they are in the minority or majority.
Card contends that the major Christian denominations view Mormons as the odd minority group and thus thinks they can afford to reject it. However, when these Christian groups consider the secular world as its opponent then it is the minority and therefore all believers of Jesus Christ should band together to confront the opponent.
“Instead of ‘mainstream Christianity’ seeking opportunities to shun and exclude and deny the Christianity of Mormons, it might be more helpful for us to admit our irreconcilable differences but then recognize that in this world, today, right now, we can gain more for the cause of Christ by treating each other with respect and honoring each other for the degree to which we do live up to his teachings,” wrote Card in his second blog entry.
The Mormon author and Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, have been engaged in an ongoing “blog dialogue” since June 28. The debate is sponsored by the Web site Beliefnet.com and confronts the question whether Mormons can be considered Christians.
Though Card’s long essay does provide points why Mormons should be considered Christians, it avoids responding to Mohler’s second blog, in which the evangelical scholar asked why Mormons now want to be considered part of mainstream Christianity when at Mormonism’s founding it declared itself as the only true church and denounced all other churches as corrupt.
“Why would Mormonism now want to be identified as a form of Christianity, when its central historical claim is that the churches commonly understood to be Christian are part of the Church of the Devil?” questioned Mohler.
In addition, Mohler had explicitly stated in his second blog that Beliefnet had asked him to debate whether Mormons can be considered Christians based on Christian orthodoxy. In other words, the arguments as set by the sponsor site should revolve around Christian orthodoxy and theology.
Mohler noted that if Christianity was defined in terms of sociology, the history of religions or other disciplines, then an expert from that field should take part in the debate rather than himself.
“The question could simply refer to common opinion – do people on the street believe that Mormonism is Christianity? But then the matter would be in better hands among the pollsters,” Mohler commented.
The Baptist theologian’s clarification of the debate was in response to Card’s challenge in his first blog of “Who Gets to Define ‘Christian’?”
Still, as debate spectators noted, Card’s latest response was also not based on Christian orthodoxy or theology but rather on general logic.
“Did you intend to walk out of the original debate? Because...you did,” wrote a person identified as “Dal” in the blog’s comment section. “It's nice and all that you posted a very qualified…essay, but it really isn't that relating to the topic at hand. Please qualify the question 'Are Mormons Christian' instead of qualifying your intended agenda.”
In addition, the Mormon defender also wrote extensively on former Massachusetts governor and presidential contender Mitt Romney, praising him as a faithful family man and a devoted religious follower that even evangelical Christians could be proud of.
“What I find myself puzzled by, as an evangelical Christian, is Mr. Card's penchant for skirting the issue and speaking in generalities, of spending so much time on Mitt Romney, etc,” commented another spectator.
“That said, the issue is not, ‘is Mitt Romney a good guy’, or ‘are Mormons moral, ethical people,’ or anything like that; it's simply, what does the Bible teach, and how does the Mormon church stack up with its teachings?”
Card concluded by calling on Mohler to accept Mormons as Christians, despite their theological differences, based on their merits done in Jesus name.
“But just as the Catholic Church has accepted Mormon help in serving the poor in the name of Christ, and just as ordinary Republican Mormons have found it in their hearts to accept me, a Democrat, as if I might be a real Mormon all the same,” wrote Card.
“I wish Dr. Mohler would take the tiny, tiny step of saying, not that Mormons are right, but that a person can believe as a Mormon does and still do good works in the name of Christ, that would be acceptable to Christ by that clear, bright standard: Even as ye have done it unto the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
As controversy around high-profile Mormons continues to swirl, questions have been raised about the doctrine and beliefs of the LDS church.
To answer these questions, the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research is holding its ninth annual conference this weekend at the South Towne Exposition Center in Sandy.
FAIR is a non-profit organization that focuses on providing answers to criticisms of LDS doctrine, belief and practice.
"The purpose of FAIR is to provide members of the church with responses to the critical questions about the church," said Scott Gordon, FAIR president.
The group is dedicated to giving information - not bashing or arguing, Gordon said.
"We are not a debate group," he said. "Our goals are to provide a forum to discuss the issues that come up."
Many well-known scholars and speakers have been invited to speak at the event, including two BYU professors: Daniel C. Peterson, a professor of Islamic studies and Arabic, and John L. Sorenson, a professor emeritus of anthropology.
"This is perhaps the most influential group of speakers we have ever assembled," Gordon said in a news release.
The presentations will address topics such as the Mountain Meadows Massacre, spiritual experiences, the Book of Mormon and controversies over the foundational stories of Mormonism.
More than 250 people have registered for the conference and more are expected to attend, said Mike Parker, FAIR conference registration.
"This is already our best year," he said.
There is more interest in the conference because the church is high profile right now, Parker said.
While the majority of those registered are from Utah, attendees are expected from more than 25 states, as well as from Canada, England, France and Sweden.
"Hundreds of attendees from around the world will gather to find out the truth about many misunderstood Mormon issues," Gordon said, in a news release.
Attacks on Islam, Mormonism spring from the same dark well
By Eric Dursteler
Salt Lake Tribune
As a Mormon and a historian, I have watched with a certain fascination the maelstrom which has raged around Mitt Romney's presidential candidacy.
While religion has been front and center throughout the campaign, Romney has
assiduously avoided any substantive theological discussions of Mormonism's basic
tenets, and generally his fellow candidates and the media have not delved too
deeply into the doctrines and practices of his uniquely American religion.
The gloves came off, however, in an apoplectic broadside delivered by
liberal pundit and television writer/producer Lawrence O'Donnell during a
McLaughlin Group debate of Romney's "faith of my fathers" speech. O'Donnell
derided Romney's religion as "based on the work of a lying, fraudulent criminal
named Joseph Smith who was a racist, . . . a slavery champion, [and] the
inventor of this ridiculous religion."
To O'Donnell's credit (or shame), he did not recant. Indeed, he expanded on
his views in other forums. Of the Book of Mormon, he said "it's an insane
document produced by a madman who was a criminal and a rapist," and he asserted
that Mormonism "was founded by an alcoholic criminal named Joseph Smith who
committed bank fraud and claimed God told him polygamy was cool after his first
wife caught him having an affair with the maid."
While the historical and logical flaws of O'Donnell's contentions are
obvious, I was intrigued by the language of the attack. In describing Joseph
Smith as a criminal, a fraud and a rapist, O'Donnell was drawing on
deeply-rooted themes and images which medieval Christians used in the age of the
Crusades, and which were revived in the 19th century by critics of Mormonism.
In the Middle Ages, European contacts with Islam through crusade and
commerce produced an expansive, almost obsessive, literature treating the
faith's history, beliefs and practices. Much of this polemical literature
focused on Muhammad as a means to disproving and discrediting Islam, and a
fantastical and fabricated pseudo-biography was invented to enumerate the myriad
personal flaws of the Prophet.
To this end, medieval writers such as Peter of Poitiers described Muhammad
as a hypocrite, a liar, a sorcerer, a thief, a murderer and an adulterer. This
latter charge was common, and authors made much of Muhammad's supposed
libidinousness and lechery, evident to them in his own personal life and the
Quran's validation of polygamy.
These medieval views of Muhammad and Islam enjoyed long shelf lives.
Variations on the same old themes resurfaced following the 9/11 terrorist
attacks in statements by conservative evangelical leaders who described Muhammad
as "a robber and a brigand," a "demon-possessed pedophile," and Islam as "a very
evil and wicked religion."
While the work of Edward Said and other scholars has familiarized modern
readers with the historical distortions of Muhammad and Islam, the Mormon
variation on this theme is much less well known. During the 19th century as
Mormonism began to expand, American commentators dusted off the centuries-old
rhetoric used against Islam and in similarly vituperative fashion equated the
Mormon prophet, Joseph Smith, with the Muslim prophet, Muhammad. From the
faith's earliest days, Smith was referred to as the "Yankee" or the "American"
Muhammad, and newspaper editors included him in a long line of religious
imposters, which included the Muslim prophet.
One of the earliest anti-Mormon works, Mormonism Unvailed, likened
Smith to "the great prince of deceivers, Mohammed." A later tract attributed to
the Mormon leader a laundry list of bad behavior: He was "a low, vulgar, lazy,
worthless, profane character; addicted to strong drink, and accused of
sheep-stealing." His alleged revelations on plural marriage were intended as "a
cloak to cover . . . [his] vileness . . . [as a] holy seducer."
This last charge was particularly common, and here too writers drew explicit
parallels between the Mormon and the Muslim prophets, especially after word of
Mormon polygamy began circulating. One author wrote that Mormonism "bears in
many respects a striking resemblance to Mahometanism, especially as to its
sensual character." Another intimated that "both Joseph Smith and Mohammed used
a word of God to settle their private needs and most intimate love affairs."
As with medieval Christians writing on Islam, for 19th century American
commentators on Mormonism, among the most compelling ways to prove the falsehood
of these new, competing faiths, was to expose their founders as frauds,
imposters and moral degenerates.
The post-9/11 comments on Islam and O'Donnell's recent diatribe against
Mormonism suggest that medieval modes of thought still resonate in contemporary
religious dialogue. When the ill-informed, the provocateur, or simply those
looking to boost ratings, they have a ready supply of well-worn,
tried-and-proven polemical firebombs at their disposal to denigrate and
marginalize individuals and communities that do not fit squarely into their
intolerant models of society.
* ERIC DURSTELER is an associate professor of history at Brigham Young University.
WHO WANTS TO READ ABOUT THE LIFE OF MO-HAM-MAD?
Faith in action (Mormonism = Don't run for President)
The Salt Lake Tribune
Article Last Updated: 08/01/2008
The 10th Annual Mormon Apologetics Conference, sponsored by FAIR, is Aug. 7 and 8 at the South Towne Expo Center, 9575 S. State St., Sandy. The main discussion will be on Mitt Romney's failed presidential bid. The organization started as an Internet conversation from around the country about how to best defend the LDS Church from its critics about LDS philosophy and history, including polygamy and the role of women in the church, homosexuality and problems with the historicity of the Book of Mormon. For more information about the conference, visit www.fairlds.org/conf08a.html.
LDS historians claim Brigham Young fueled hysteria, but didn't order the attack on Mountain Meadows
(Brigham Young was guilty of second degree murder per Mormons)
Mountain Meadows Massacre book
By Peggy Fletcher Stack
The Salt Lake Tribune
After six years of unprecedented access to LDS Church archives, hundreds of hours in the nation's libraries and thousands if not millions of dollars spent on research, three Mormon historians believe they can put to rest the question of what prompted a southern Utah Mormon militia to slaughter 120 unarmed men, women and children at Mountain Meadows on Sept. 11 1857.
Local Latter-day Saints' paranoia, poverty, miscommunication, isolation and greed - not a secret edict from Brigham Young - led to the Mountain Meadows Massacre, Ronald Walker, Richard Turley and Glen Leonard argue in their long-awaited volume, which hits bookstores this week.
"It is true that [Young's] rhetoric during a time of war was part of the backdrop against which the massacre happened," Turley said this week, "but he was not the proximate cause."
The LDS historians' approach in Massacre at Mountain Meadows (Oxford University Press, $29.95) will not satisfy researchers and critics who remain convinced Young ordered the execution of the Arkansas emigrants, at least covertly, in what many view as one of the darkest chapters in LDS Church history.
"No faith-believing Mormon could ever acknowledge Brigham Young's complicity in the massacre and no 'gentile' could think otherwise," said Salt Lake City bookseller Ken Sanders, who will host a discussion with the three authors next week. "We are going to be arguing about the details for another 151 years."
Sanders acknowledges there is no evidence for Young's involvement, but in the 19th century there was "a systematic effort to cover up and destroy records, diaries, and court records of the day."
Still, Sanders thinks Massacre is a ground-breaking book, not a Mormon whitewash.
"We have got to give a lot of credit to the LDS Church for stepping up and owning the Mountain Meadows Massacre," he said. "This is something that has been swept under the rug, denied and hidden for 151 years. This book represents a real paradigm shift and that's remarkable."
Sanders points to the fact that though all three authors are or were employed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they insist that LDS authorities did not dictate or approve the book's direction.
"We came up with the idea for the book ourselves. We were not assigned to do it," said Turley, assistant LDS Church historian. "We sought the cooperation of church leaders to get access to information [such as the First Presidency's confidential collection] but asked that we retain full editorial control and they've honored that."
Massacre is a gripping narrative aimed at the general reader that fills in many missing details of the notorious crime, laying out an almost hour-by-hour account of frenzied discussions among the participants during the week leading up to the attacks. Complex and nuanced with a deep awareness of psychology and social systems, the book also weaves in recent scholarship on religion and violence, especially acts done in the midst of hysteria and war.
Readers can sense the building anxiety about an army sent from Washington to unseat Brigham Young as territorial governor and can hear Young and others' war-like rhetoric as they prepared to defend themselves yet again. They can feel the anguish in the church councils as Mormon leaders in Cedar City wrestled with what to do to cover up their escalating violence against the emigrants. They can see the carnage of the innocents, strewn on the meadows.
In the days before the final episode, the authors write, Mormon militia members attacked the Arkansas wagon train, killing several participants. The murderers became convinced that if any emigrants made it to California, they would report Mormon rather than Indian involvement and even more troops would arrive in Utah to wipe them out. They believed the church's very survival was at stake.
"The trio of authors has properly tagged direct responsibility for the massacre on local church leaders and Nauvoo Legion officers, with Southern Paiutes playing a minor role," said William P. MacKinnon of Santa Barbara, Calif., author of the newly published At Sword's Point, a documentary history of the Utah War. "I give credit to the authors for this somewhat nontraditional view as well as their willingness to rescue the reputation of the victims from the appalling vilification that's taken place for 150 years. They have also identified the impact of Gov. Brigham Young's overheated rhetoric and provocative actions in helping to create a violent atmosphere in Utah leading up to the massacre.
It may "make obsolete previous studies and without doubt will constitute the necessary starting point for all future ones," adds Kathleen Flake, author of The Politics of American Religious Identity.
Walker, a retired Brigham Young University history professor who is now an independent researcher in Salt Lake City, said, "Our marching orders, as I understood them, were to find the truth and tell it. That's what we have tried to do."
That sentiment may be the book's greatest contribution - giving a full, warts-and-all portrait of LDS history to the Mormon faithful, who would not likely read or believe any of the earlier accounts.
"Many Mormons still don't know anything about it," Turley said. "My feeling is the best approach is to face it."
The massacre was a "shameful part of Mormon history," said Leonard, former director of the LDS Museum of Church History. "It's a terrible, sad story and a hard one to read. We can't condone what they did, but we can try to understand it. Good history brings you into the story in a way that you can understand yourself. You should wonder, what would I have done had I been there?"
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