Harry Emerson Fosdick was among the most popular preachers and writers of the first half of the twentieth century. He’s particularly known for a trilogy of devotional works called “The Three Meanings:” The Meaning of Prayer, the Meaning of Faith, the Meaning of Service. These books have sold millions of copies; there are reports that Gandhi read them in prison; and they’re still in print today.
Despite Fosdick’s high profile,* however, it was the RLDS, not Harold B. Lee or J. Reuben Clark, who stepped up to the plate to represent Mormonism to Fosdick. The below is from Series IIB, Box 2, Folder 10 in the Fosdick Papers at the Burke Library, Union Theological Seminary, New York City. It’s dated February 7, 1945, under an RLDS letterhead.
Our attention has been called to a statement in your book, The Meaning of Faith. In writing concerning the Book of Mormon you say:
“As for the Mormon Bible, God buried the plates on which he wrote, said Smith, and then disclosed their hiding place, and his prophet translated them verbatim, so that the Mormon book is literally inerrant.”
We are sure you do not wish to be inaccurate, and so we call your attention to the fact that no claim was ever made that God either wrote on the plates or buried them. The plates were made by men and buried by men. The only claim of divinity is in respect to the translation, Joseph Smith alleging that God aided him by giving him the meaning of the characters used.
So far as the records are concerned, they themselves may have been in error, as all human effort is apt to be, although those who made the plates claimed to be priests of God and acting under inspiration of God.
The First Presidency
Fosdick marked the letter “Keep, but no answer.”
*More on this in a later post.