Notes From the FAIR Conference: Robert White and Ron Barney

By August 6, 2009

Here are some notes from Ron Barney’s presentation and that of Robert White. I would encourage everyone to read these notes, especially from White’s talk. There is a lot there to digest including jabs at the “Sunshine” symposium and other things. As always, these are notes and are not a complete transcript. Official proceedings including transcripts and MP3s will be made available at the FAIR official site. Please see their site for full proceedings.

Robert White

As my public ministry came to an end, I was introduced to FAIR and encountered faithful LDS who felt a divine mandate to put themselves forward to defend the true gospel of Jesus Christ. I?ve considered it a miracle to watch and be there today and feel the influence of the Holy Spirit and spoken of things that can save souls. There?s no place I?d rather be.  Sorry I don?t have a tie, I?ve been waiting 40 years to stop wearing one…

We have been edified and touched by those who know what to say and that what they say is right.  ?For there are many yet on the earth among all sects and parties, and denominations who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it?(Doctrine and Covenants 123:12)? The problem is, it is because there are those who are doing their utmost to see to it that they can?t find it or recognize it when they do.

My mother and father and I were first Presbyterians in Edmonton, I was raised as a Scottish Presbyterian. First Presbyterian church I encountered?you may think you know Presbyterians, but if you don?t know a Scottish one, you don?t know real Presbyterian.  Get to know Scottish Presbyterians, you can take a walk on a Sunday but be sure you don?t enjoy it. [laughter]  I?m thankful for Rev. J. Macbeth Miller, a sainted man, who introduced me as a boy to God and told me he was real, and that he loved me and that I ought to mind him. You can see it was a wealthy church, we were very poor. Rev. Miller would take us on picnics, take father golfing, and although my father was an alcoholic, he was trusted enough to be made elder in the church by Rev. Miller, I loved that man, I?m certain that one of the very first things my father, when he passed from this life, he would have looked for MacBeth Miller. I asked him a deep theological question once, alarmed by angel pictures, I asked, Where are the wings going to grow out of the back and how can we get our clothes on?  He was deep theologian, smiled, said [imitating a Scottish accent], Laddie, that? a mystery of God [laughter]. Most things were, except for the love of God.  I?m aware as a LDS who does apologetics that there are many people who are not of our faith, and would be if they could be, and should be if they knew, and so I?m like Paul, not ashamed of being an LDS apologist.

How in the world did we get ourselves into this (apologetics), what were we thinking, much misunderstood, maligned, suspected by members of the Church, why are you apologizing for being Mormons? Others think we should be apologizing to them?they think it their right to define us however they want, and we should apologize for all the secrets locked up in the first president vault, we know that?s where all the bullion is kept so we can take over the country, etc.  We?re not the only people of whom unreasonable apologies are asked [shows a Power Point slide of a news story with a picture of Kim Jong Il and the headline: ?N. Korea asks UN Security Council to Apologize?] [laughter].

Never apologize.  [Power Point picture of Bill Maher flipping someone off] Apologists can be like mission field Bible bashers who never grew up, making life miserable for the poor defenseless anti-Mormons and it hurts and our fellow religionists don?t understand and what we?re doing.  And so nevertheless, here we are as LDS Apologists, I believe that as LDS apologists we?re mandated by heaven in what you do and what you accomplish. I?m going to suggest that in the revelations there are three direct references, sometimes obscure that are passed over in which the lord anticipates the work done by FAIR and FAIR only because the institutional church can?t do it. The magnificence of which has been described to us.

The first, a revelation when JS went to Kirtland to Hiram, abut 60 Km, I know you?re not desynchronized form the mother country [we use English measurements not Metric], that?s about 35 miles. While in Hiram, many revelations and translation of the Bible, completed by JS, John Johnson, this is how it looks now.  Ezra Booth joined the church because of a miracle and left because there weren?t enough miracles. He started the first anti-Mormon blog, through the pages of the Ohio Star. He wrote 9 articles critical to the character of JS. Joined soon by Simons Ryder, I can never remember how to spell that [laughter].  There?s a lot of evidence that the Lord has sense of humor, his [Ryder?s] tombstone has a spelling mistake on it.  I think that was inspired.  Plural marriage will be in the Sunday School manual before that one [the comment about the spelling mistake being inspired].  The Lord said this to the Prophet, Wherefore, confound your enemies, call upon them to meet you both in public and in private an inasmuch as you are faithful their shame shall be made manifest, wherefore let them bring forth their strong reasons against the Lord verily thus saith the Lord unto you there is no weapon that is formed against you that shall prosper and if any man lift his voice against you, he shall be confounded in mine own due time (D&C 71:7-11).

Where?s Boggs, where?s Sharp, how many more stakes do we have to pound in the heart of the Spaulding Theory? Where are the Kinderhook plates, where is Ethan Smith, etc?  We just heard from a brother [Ron Barney] who has given his life to be acquainted to knowing the life of JS and is more convinced than ever of his work.  The church institutionally does not engage now in going forward in confounding their enemies and meeting them in a formal sense. But we do it.  The brethren concluded that we wouldn?t be afraid of the internet but that we would own the internet.  Our version of our religion made available on the net, the recent campaign by Romney shocked the brethren about how misunderstood we are and how much we?re disliked. Therefore, there is still a need.

To meet those who oppose us in public and private, we do that and FAIR on the internet and in other ways, we don?t go picking fights with them, instead we place ourselves before them to take whatever shots they wish to, the Faith of the Lord Jesus Christ is restored to the earth in these latter days, and let them bring their strong reasoning their new book on the Spaulding Manuscript, God help us. A biography, George Smith?s thing about Joseph Smith, DNA, which was of course supposed to be the end of the Church. Hoffman and the Salamander Letter, I was a bishop during the Salamander Letter. There were a couple of pages in Time Magazine, which never devoted much favorable to us, devoted a few pages to this, and some poor man and his wife said that was enough for them. The Salamander Letter did it for us. One of my counselors asked, What do we do? Well, I said, if it?s genuine it?s (the Church is) not true.  That?s a bold statement, he said. No, because the church IS true, so you can take it that the letter is a fake. I said, the experts will not say it?s the right paper, and the right ink, they?ll say it?s consistent with the time.  The only exemplar of Martin Harris? handwriting was found by the same fellow and where he got is isn?t some dark secret.

When we know this is the truth, how many things do we have to know about why the critics are wrong?  We know it, we may not know why, we may not understand how, but I wonder my beloved brothers and sisters, if as apologists we must not be careful and realize that Christ is the way the truth and life and that no man will come to the Father but by Him.  And that what we need to do is to protect everyone. We need to protect to ensure they receive of themselves a testimony of that truth. Now we need our line in the sand.  We do not attack others, we do not promulgate doctrine or declare it, we are not officially assigned by the institutional church, but we are all LDS, true to the truth that our parents have cherished, true to the truth for which martyrs have perished, and we put up a boundary that says this far, no further. In Elder Maxwell?s memorable statement, we protect those fragile souls whose faith may falter if we can?t demonstrate that what we say cannot be defended. They [apologist tactics] will convert no one, but will protect those that have been converted.

There?s a second mandate. In numerous places, the Lord taught that faith is the actuator of mankind and faith is the true, fundamental premise of all positive action, and we know that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ fits the principle of the restored gospel. Obviously it?s important that we have faith, that we have it, if the Lord undertakes to explain what to do so that people will have faith, that?s worth listening to. The Lord said it, he said, And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom, yea seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom seek learning even by study and also by faith  (D&C 109:7).

Why are people then, diligently learning wisdom to study out of the best books and to seek learning? Because all have not faith.  Now, we?ve heard from today and you will hear from tomorrow, sisters and brethren who have sought and obtained great learning, tremendous erudition. They use it in their careers to earn a living and advance in their fields, but when they come to this conference, not the ?Sunshine? conference or whatever [Referring to Sunstone].  Elder Maxwell [?] talked about small equivocations leading to large deviations. This is one of the reasons FAIR shall be kept, must be kept as clean as it is from small equivocations that lead to large deviations, these have brought their knowledge not to show off but because not all have faith, and so that all those that have faith, get that faith too because for some it is given to know and others given to believe on their words. If they continue faithful.  Brother Barney, all of you, god bless you.  That you aren?t going to symposiums to show off, but you?re coming to present in answer to what I tell you is the Lord?s hand upon you. It is long forgotten, the veil having been drawn, I know it?s been put on your heads, that the parables of Sarah can be made real today to those who do not have faith, so they won?t? be troubled by DNA and plural marriage, etc. I hope you feel as I certainly do the Holy Spirit bear witness that you have been divinely mandated, and God bless you. You haven?t been lead into the paths of equivocation.

There?s another mandate, the third.  Joseph got to Jackson Co. and determined that that was the place of Zion.  The culmination of and highlight of a very busy week, placement of cornerstones of the temple, that before the Lord returns will be built on that place. Joseph had to get back to Kirtland, was being questioned about everything, as he always did, he went to the Lord, the Lord said, Men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness, for the power is in you wherein you are agents unto yourselves and inasmuch as you do good you shall not lose your reward. That?s not optional, that is a commandment, it is a commandment of the Lord that without a calling or formal assignment, we will be about good works, and there are many from which to choose, and you have chosen the defense of the faith of the LDS, and in doing so you are fulfilling that third divine mandate, and we should not have to have any apologies for that.  But I am becoming very concerned for you, I made the transition from what I?ve done for so long to wondering what I can to pitch in a little here. I saw quickly that the adversary knows he has to destroy you.  And that you stand between him and many of his objectives. That will not go to your heads you wouldn?t be here if you were. Apologetics is extremely perilous and dangerous work. We can?t do the kind that CS Lewis did, came from a different point of view, we quote him often and occasionally in context [laughter].  This is one of those times when the context speaks,

?I?ve found this soul said, that nothing is more dangerous to ones own faith than the work of an apologist. No doctrine of that faith seems to me so spectral, so unreal, as one that I have just successfully defended?.for a moment, you see, it has seemed to rest on oneself as a result and it seems no stronger that the weak pillar. That is why we apologists take our lives in our hands and can be saved only by falling back continually from the web of our own arguments from Christian apologetics into Christ himself. That also is why we need another?s continual help…?

And so we need to understand that the things we know so much about as apologists, that we are careful that they don?t become substitutes for our faith that we?re not LDS apologists, we?re Latter-day Saints and we do the work of apology. Now, I ask only questions cuz I have a commission implied or real to provide any answers and defer to those who have thought things through before me and better, but there is a matter that I wonder if we should worry about, ?For behold, God hath said a man being evil cannot do that which is good, for if he offereth a gift, except he shall do it with real intent it profiteth him nothing??can paying tithing be unrighteous?  Yes. One man became a full tithe payer four months before his daughter was to be married. Well, the tree gives good fruit, but the Lord says, test the fruit, test the gift, the prayer, and you?ll know about the tree?a man being evil can?t do that which is good as good as it looks, if you taste it you?ll know.  So, a man and a woman examine themselves, and be aware that we?re not doing what we?re doing because we love contention.

This is not a forum in which to display ones supposed erudition, there are many of those forums around, notwithstanding, Elder Oaks repeated a warning in General Conference of attending a certain event which will happen a week from now, I will have to step behind elder Oaks if you want to be offended with me, be offended with him. Be so careful, he said.

This is not an outlet for pent up church related frustrations.  Pres. Packer?s talk on little factories, hahaha [he mock laughs], it?s saved souls.
This is not a place to search for appreciation where none has been discerned before.  You?ve never been a ward clerk, you?ve never held leadership in the church, so we look for a club where we can be appreciated.

This is not a place to search for answers to our own doubts. We must come with courage to resolve others? doubts not get ours resolved.

With that in mind, here is what I worried about, without condemning, I have no authority of inspiration or revelation, but I wonder about I, all things that advance safety are to be applauded though may have unintended consequences. The other month, I was surfing the net. I started to learn it?s true you can go anywhere if you click on enough links.  There was a blog that was discussing a gospel doctrine class. They were talking about the manual from which I teach, talking about a lesson I?d just given. They said there was a mistake in the manual.  Now I can see a mistake made by the curriculum committee?I read further.  This person flipped out his phone, he immediately contacted some place and confirmed the mistake whipped out his phone, texted the friend to point out the mistake, another friend, they got him involved, Charlie in the next ward, clued in, then everyone was aware that there was a mistake in the manual.  I worried that all they took home was a mistake in the manual, what was the mistake? The Marsh striping story. There?s more to it than what?s in the manual. [an aside] More which makes Marsh look better than he deserves to? When we know so much, we think that those that know less are making mistakes, so we may think we?ve got to do something and protect the LDS from their ignorance. You know, you go a long way into the D&C before any interest is shown on the Lord?s part aside from faith, baptism, (the first principles and ordinances of the gospel) all these things you hear that are true and strange (polygamy, etc), so we have to protect them and wonder about how to do it. I suggest?

Some safety devices have consequences. The intention is good, results are not necessarily so good. I?m not suggesting we tell people they ought not read everything they can find that the Church Historian?s office is making available, so never again the enemies can say we hide our history. Now the only place the true doctrine and history will be unfound by the LDS is in the Ensign. Well, metaphors can be dangerous because the subject of the metaphor may be very good, but when transferred to another context, they may give a misleading message.  I?m just wondering about this idea of inoculations, all of our people aren?t the same. The flu season is coming, the best minds in the world are not going to figure out what to vaccinate against, how are we?  I only ask the question how are we going to know what viruses to inoculate against and who?  In inoculation that may be wonderful for the first chap but may not be so good for those later in the line. We learned long ago when we interview youth for chastity not to teach them incorrect behavior, some youth learn about masturbation from their bishop and they are asked if they do it.  Did you know JS married many wives. Oh, I didn?t know that.. So they go to learn more and get questions. If we don?t know what vaccination to use, should we not wonder about what to vaccinate the LDS and inoculate the LDS with. Some complain about the new course of study for relief society and priesthood. This is a transfusion, not an inocculation. That’s what we need.

?If we are unsure what to answer someone, We can always resolve it by asking, What does Lu think? [clapping, cheering]  As the Church makes tremendous efforts, so that anything someone wants to know is there, appreciate the fact that our people cannot begin to think that they know everything, that every expectation for information will be fulfilled. Good people often have expeditions that are not satisfied. We don?t know the answer.[..long rambling on something?] we need to give transfusions not inoculations.

My approach is that everyone knows it. Stone in the hat? Why didn?t I know about that? My answer: I don?t know, it?s in the ?82 Ensign.  That gets one person in doubt, raises a question. What makes the difference between a doubt or a question?  Answer is this: If the salamander letter is true, the church is false, but the church isn?t false, and if I know it, and if our people know it, and if we declare it, no matter how strange, the fact people may hear of, as thinking LDS they will want to resolve the question, but it will not deprive them of their testimony of the truth.

I know some of you may be worried that I have fallen into the trap of the warm fuzzies.  On the message boards they say that we only get people to join with warm fuzzies…nothing farther from the truth. You must first hear the word and then act upon it. And acting upon it involves many things. You need faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, not an explanation of how the Book of Mormon was translated or why the rod of nature became the rod of Aaron?leads them to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and experience shows that when people have faith nothing doubting, they can get out of a boat in the middle of the sea and walk on water.  Remember the Lord reached out his hand and caught him, faith in the Lord can make man walk on water. DNA and Ethan Smith and everything else. Especially when FAIR is standing as the thin red line demonstrating that here are a lot of people that know about these things and we know about these things and to the degree that there are answers we?re saving souls.

Repentance leads to increase of faith.  Compels one to be baptized. Then comes the Gift of the Holy Ghost.  It comes sometimes accompanied with feelings of joy as if our hearts are burning within us.  Comes by still small voice.  Well, that?s the process that appears to be the Lords? plan.  And that as we encourage and have confidence in the church, making available everything we?ve heard of, making opportunities for each available to all, because you?re a member of the three divine mandates.

I testify that this organization has come together as a result of the hand of the Lord, it is spoken of in unreserved praise by the brethren.  Unreserved praise by the Brethren, and of course your organization.  I?ve been told by some that because they don?t have war [rambling] ?well, those that thinks to think about, when thinking about them?remember this very great testimony of a great man, Elder Faust, ?The gift of the HG comes after one repents and becomes worthy.. The HG bears witness to the truth and impresses upon the soul the reality of God the Father and the son Jesus Christ so deeply that no earthly power or authority can separate him from that knowledge.? I know of no inoculation, that can bind me to the Lord so closely that except for my surrender to the evil one I?ll never be separated from it.

I ask as I end, for you to think about, faith in Christ and repentance and in making and keeping covenants and learning through the Holy Ghost learning line upon line, expressing gratitude for the learned men and women of FAIR who have learned and talk at length on faith, and that maintain a firm commitment to praying for each other. Now I sit next to you as a brother in sacrament meeting I sit there next to you, but at the end of my public ministry the Lord?from our mind, that which had changed from a testimony to a witness, and just as a brother in the pew sitting next to you, my beloved friends, I know [ouches forehead and heart] that the Lord Jesus Christ lives and is our Savior and our Redeemer and that Joseph was his prophet and Thomas Monson. I know I know that.  And I bear witness in the name of the God of Israel, amen.

Question: What do you think of academic history like Richard Bushman?s biography of Joseph Smith?

Answer: What I think is altogether irrelevant. The whole point is that with faith in the Lord and a binding testimony what else is there?  That is the core.

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Ron Barney

Milestone when Dean Jessee published the Personal Writings of Joseph Smith. As part of his assignment, which was transferred to the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute, his assignment was to prepare a documentary edition of his personal writings. The first edition, 1984, was compromised because it included Mark Hoffmann forgeries. It lay dormant for a few years until 2002 when the second edition came out with rigorous attention to detail and to ensure its defendability, the Hoffman forgeries were removed, and some additions and I always recommend this remarkable volume when people ask for me to recommend five volumes, this is always one of them.

It was followed up by initiation of Jessee?s intent to publish the papers of JS. 6-8 volumes contemplated.  But Dean was doing it by himself, first volume in 1989, had autobiographical and historical writings, first volume of journals in 1992, project stalled, not until end of 90s that Ron Esplin, director of JFS Institute really jumpstarted the project again. The new project has as many as 59 people working on it, 22 full time staff working on it today, the first volume came out last fall, at press now is the first volume of the revelations series, published on Sept. 22, I know something of the rigor applied to ensure that these volumes will stand for a long time and will have a long shelf life. I don?t believe we have to make any apologies to anyone, the scrutiny applied by outside readers, dozens of reviewers who go through the material to make sure we have something very defendable, and to be relied upon, especially the featured texts themselves, we?re very comfortable in that project. We haven?t found a way to streamline the process like we ought to, but we?re confident that the project will come out as planned. I want to talk briefly about something the church did which is probably not as widely known, one of the most significant things the church has done in its history, there was a new copyright law Jan 1, 2003 in order to undermine the efforts of people who did not own the church documents who were having unrestricted publication access to some of the things we believed very important, we decided to publish many of our documents in a way that we could create a copyright for them that would serve our purposes for a generation or so, ambitions project to produce selected collections from the archives of the Church of JCofLDS, two volume DVD set, some have seen it, 31 collections in the archives represented here, including the totality of the JS collection.  The totality of the George A. Smith collection, and many others.  Including things like the church historians office journal which went up into the 1880s, hard to overstate the importance of these documents to the church and the study of Mormon history. The journal history, a thousand plus volumes, published all together, 74 DVDs [gasps from the audience] in the production of these, originally on CD, there were over 700 CDS of scanned documents, compressed to DVDS, at a ratio of 10:1, about 450,000 scanned images, and completely accessible, and purchasable, by anyone, most purchases form research institutions, but a number of private individuals have purchased copies.  In many cases easier to use than the original in front of you. Include on the left JOS diaries from the JS collection, correspondence, with the exception of what will be the primary text of next month?s publication, the earliest manuscript version of the revelations, the Book of Commandments and Revelations, and the Kirtland Revelation both served as the manuscript for the Book of Commandments.

Recently, the Church has published under Ron Walker, Glen Leonard, and Richard Turley, Massacre at Mountain Meadows. Not an easy subject, placed them in a position where few things that the church has done has endured as much scrutiny.  Two reviews about this volume?from the Military Book Club??Unlike previous apologists of the church?scholarly, even handed analysis of the massacre?? That?s the kind of stuff coming out from the church in the future.

Western American Literature?.the book is distinctive because of their painstaking search through the LDS library and archives. According to the authors, Church leaders supported their research by offering full disclosure. I know that from experience, everything that was available was made available. I think we?ll see this kind of historical production in the future. The church moves at a slower pace than an independent organization, but attention to detail, one leader said we want what we do to become bullet proof to withstand whatever criticism may be applied by an aggressive alternative.

Some derivative projects have come from the work on the JSP. A few of these, one thing is the creation of a new press, the Church Historian?s Press, likely documentary in nature for a while, then I think we?ll see narrative history. It will be the official press of the JSP, several other projects lined up that will find publication there, not documentary in nature.

A website, josephsimthappers.org, was created and eventually everything we produce in textual print will end upon on the website, there will be at time-lapse between when it?s in book form, and on web, but everything in print will end up on the website, this will be the source in the next generation on the JSP.  A living website where we can make adjustments as needed. All this in the spirit of other documentary editions on important Americans, the Thomas Jefferson Papers, George Washington, Ben Franklin, so this is not something that hasn?t an untried tradition, and fits in the norm of the most recent and careful scholarship done in American historical studies. About 30 volumes, 500-700 pages each. Journals, documents, revelations and translations, history, legal and business, administrative papers.

11 volumes are in production, one published last year, one next month, we hope two volumes next year, next will be first of the history series.  Generous funding by Larry Miller, Larry Millers? family also underwriting he website and for the last year and a half also underwritten the documentary we have on KJAZZ television. A weekly broadcast on the scholarship and research our editors have done. In fact the intent is that the same day Revelations 1 comes out, the first season of the series with 52 episodes will also be published through Deseret Book.

I want to talk the remainder of my time about the care to produce the Preisthood and Relief society manual.  You have seen some of the shows. I want to give more info so you know the care that was put in with the idea that this manual would withstand any scrutiny applied to it. As much rigor as you can image was applied. Church history department provided the documents. Prepared and handed off to Curriculum committee, manual produced. In the same style and same format as the other teachings of the Presidents volumes. I want to give a background about why this is such an important book, in a historical context, even though the Teachings of the Presidents is not a history book, it?s a book of teachings with application for saints today, but I want to explain how LDS in the years have collected the teachings of Joseph Smith. The first compilation was the serialization of the history of the Church, begun in the Times and Seasons in 1842. All those published and a long series called the History of JS, published in the Deseret News 1859. To have this collection, you had to collect all the issues of the Times and Seasons and Deseret News, not until a generation later that there was an attempt to compile his teachings. In the Contributor. Serialized between 1881-1883, some of the teachings of JS. Sermons and writings of the prophet Joseph.

A year later, in a little volume called Compendium produced by Franklin D. Richards in 1882, contained a section called Gems Form the History of JS. There are selections taken from the History of Joseph Smith in the TS and DN, were compiled into this addendum to this compendium.  But then came this collection, the History of the Church of JC of LDS edited by B. H. Roberts, one of the most important things that the church published I think it created the base of a new identity, 1902-1909, based on the History of JS as appeared in TS, etc. Seventh volume later to get the seven volumes, the JS that you know today, the JS the church became acquainted with is this compilation of the history of the Church.  I don?t think we can overstate its importance in setting the foundation for our doctrine, everyone who wrote about it and the early church used it upon which to write their work, so important.

The year that the sixth volume came out, Edwin F. Parry, Joseph Smith?s Teachings A Classified Arrangement of the Doctrinal Sermons and Writings of the Great Latter Day Prophet, 1912. It wasn?t until a generation later, that this significant work, the Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith was published, 1938. A survey was done among religious educators to identify the most influential books in teaching, this was #1. It?s hard to overstate the influence of this volume to our understanding of JS and appreciation for what he taught. Since then there have been other publications, A religious educator Alma P. Buron published Discourses of Joseph Smith, Words of Joseph Smith, Andrew Ehat and Lyndon Cook, 1980. This is a big deal.  Where all the other compilation prior and subsequent are excepts arranged topically, Ehat and Cook decided to publish all the sermons in their totality during JS?s tenure in Nauvoo.  Only 1/5 of the 250 sermons we know he gave have any substantive text to them. Most of those in this book, now out of print, Ehat coming out with new edition in the near future and has made some important additions.

Joseph Smith?s selected sermons and writings, 1989, Robert Millett. Didn?t get much play among LDS.

Lary E. Dahl and Donald Cannon, Encyclopedia of Joseph Smith?s Teachings, very useful and functional, very user friendly, worth a purchase in identifying topically, what we would like to know about his teachings.

Method

It is the case, the way in which we determine how we were going to prepare the manual for Priesthood and Relief Society, we had to get our head around what we wanted to do with it. How we could properly prepare it to know we?d touched every base.  A book influenced me. In 1996, a Lincoln scholar and his wife published through Stanford, The Recollected Words of Abraham Lincoln. They took things of contemporaries that Lincoln said he said, and applied some scrutiny and criteria to say if it was reliable or not.

Once you look a that, it creates in your mind a certain level of expectation about what you read, you think twice about the text, maybe normally because it comes out in print you?d just think it had credibility, I was the one to pull these JS docs together, I decided to do the same thing, we created a committee and produced something a curriculum committee could look at and know if it was something they could include with confidence in a Teachings of the Presidents manual. We came up with a classification system.  A bit different from that created by the Farenbachers. We created A documents that seemed to fall into [describes the listing system, see BHodges? explanation here].

There are notes that many people took ?the same discourses. Levi Richards took notes, I can?t imagine what we?d be without those note takers. All in long hand. Bullock the longest of the King Follet Discourse reporters, and I can read a typescript in 17 minutes. The sermon was supposed to have lasted 2 hours, what would have happened had bullock not kept notes? Two other pieces affected grading, was it one year old, 20 years old? And circumstance, is it eyewitness, or second hand, third hand?

[Shows examples of differently graded documents]

We prepared all that, it took 17 3-inch binders of material we took all of that and people more smart than I created an electronic database, passed it on in one disk to the writing committee, and produced what I think is a manual that has great power. Something that is of consequence, something foolish to ignore if one wants to get to the morsels of JS teachings.

In closing, in 1974 and this has to do with methodology, look at not just what the Church produces but what others do, we owe it to ourselves to scrutinize what we get, what I?m telling you, what every presentation here today has said. If wer?e so lazy that we accept what someone says because they have a white shirt on [pauses, audience chuckles]?I didn?t want to say that?dressed in a tie and coat, we can?t be lazy about this, this religion is too important and very defendable, the more information I have, the stronger my belief in JS and his appointment. There is not much that has surprised me any more, I?ve been in this 30+ years, and feel more strongly now than any time in my life. We don?t have to cut corners.  JS has won me over in every way. It wasn?t going to be  a testimonial but I have one.

In the first issue of the Journal of Mormon History, a non-LDS scholar, Jan Shipps wrote The Prophet Puzzle, and many people have used this as a point of reference to scrutinize JS whether he is a ?pious fraud? as Dan Vogel says, or as Richard Bushman defends him as a man how had authentic experiences who represented himself in a real way. Somewhere between those points, someone can find a real JS. Shipps raised that question, I think it?s worth our while to answer those things to create a literature that demonstrates we?re not too loosy goosy and we?re careful about what we produce.

I came across a puzzle, each facet of this configuration represent facts and information, even indisputable info. Depends on how you arrange this information.  Each entity, how it is placed, adjacent to other pieces, how it is placed in contrast to the others has everything to do with how we understand events and how we appreciate events. It can be arranged in a way that there would be no familiarity to the pattern but a feature of chaos in how it?s organized. Others may want to make it (the story) very neat and tidy, maybe in a way that doesn?t represent it (the reality) well.  By placing some items of info outside of scrutiny, being selective in the use of material. Sometimes we do that, and I don?t think it does us any favors. There are all kinds of ways to apply the information, maybe if we?re brave enough and have confidence that as we place these things together, as we create from historical information, the impossible past that we really don?t have a chance to replicate exactly, but which we must give our best shot at, we must end up with something compelling, that causes us to think about our religion in ways maybe we have been afraid to in the past, but find in doing so that this thing of which we are apart, the reason for which this organization (FAIR) even exists, is something that must be defendable because of it is importance in this world and in the immortal world. I think it?s worth the trouble we take to make sure we do this right, I think this man (Joseph Smith) is worth all the effort to understand him. He?s won me over in every way. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Article filed under Miscellaneous


Comments

  1. Thanks for the detailed notes, Jared.

    Robert White’s comments leave me bothered, confused, humored, and partly disgusted. But I am one of those intellectuals who doesn’t feel obligated to use his knowledge to “defend the faith” against critics of the church, both real and imagined, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

    Thankfully, Ron Barney’s paper was much more satisfying, enlightening, and IMO, useful for those who set out to provide honest and sincere answers to troubled Latter-day Saints.

    Comment by Christopher — August 6, 2009 @ 11:51 pm

  2. Chris, yea, Ron Barney’s presentation was the most satisfying (not surprising) of the group today, and a much better example of how to not only defend the faith, but help teach those who have questions.

    To say the least, I was surprised by the other presentation.

    Comment by Jared T — August 6, 2009 @ 11:58 pm

  3. Thanks for posting Robert White’s comments. It is absolutely fascinating to read uncorrelated comments from those in the upper leadership circles of the church. I am quite astounded by White’s contempt for Mormons who don’t experience their religion the way he thinks they should.

    Comment by Sanford — August 7, 2009 @ 12:17 am

  4. I’m puzzled at the idea that an active Latter-day Saint — I assume, Christopher, that you are such an active Latter-day Saint — would feel no obligation to use what s/he knows in order to defend the Church against its critics, or to help struggling Saints.

    It seems to me that our covenantal responsibility to love and serve the Lord with our hearts, minds, and strength implies such an obligation, and that our temple covenants absolutely entail that we sustain and defend the Kingdom of God.

    If you’re not active or believing, of course, you’ll feel no such obligation. But if you are a believer, I’m sincerely curious as to how you justify your rejection of it.

    Comment by Theophilus — August 7, 2009 @ 12:28 am

  5. And it begins. Maybe you didn’t detect the sarcasm, O Theophilus?

    Maybe it didn’t occur that there is more than one way to defend the church and help struggling saints? For example, actually doing good history as an academic exercise. Oh, and the questioning of one’s activity, classic. And classy.

    Comment by Luke — August 7, 2009 @ 12:41 am

  6. I feel no obligation to do defend the faith against critics in the way that you and FAIR do, Theophilus, and have absolutely no desire to “justify” my reasoning to psuedonymous commenters.

    Comment by Christopher — August 7, 2009 @ 12:54 am

  7. it is the Lord who has defined the way for us to experience his religion. People may, of course, experience their religion any way they choose.

    Comment by White — August 7, 2009 @ 2:07 am

  8. I’m sorry. I mistook this as a place for discussion.

    Luke:

    I wholeheartedly agree that doing good history can be a service to the Kingdom. I’m not your enemy.

    I didn’t question Christopher’s activity. I simply don’t know anything whatever about him, having just stumbled across this place tonight because of a reference elsewhere. Obviously, if he were not, or were no longer, a believing member, he would be unlikely to share my notion of covenantal obligations. I didn’t want to presume falsely.

    Christopher:

    You’ve repeated your assertion that you feel no need to defend the faith as FAIR does (or as I do, whatever I may do). I was genuinely curious about your reasoning, because, admittedly, I can’t imagine offhand what it would be. I apologize for raising the question, for not realizing that pseudonymity disqualifies one from participating here, and for bothering you and Luke. I won’t do it again. (I won’t be back.)

    Best wishes,

    Theophilus.

    Comment by Theophilus — August 7, 2009 @ 2:37 am

  9. A place for discussion? yes. A place to discuss one’s activity in the church? No. A place for scholarly discussion of Mormonism’s past and present? Yes. A place for discussing whether an author or commenter is fulfilling his or her temple covenants? No. A place where psuedonymous comments are allowed? Sure. A place where the only thing the psuedonymous author does is leave snarky comments? No.

    You are more than welcome to participate here. No need to run away because your initial comment(s) didn’t sit right with those you called out. Surely you understand that we have certain goals, aims, and general standards here, and that we prefer when discussion fits within the parameters of those aims.

    Comment by Christopher — August 7, 2009 @ 2:46 am

  10. Theophilus – I regret to point out that your posts do seem to question Christopher’s activity in and faithfulness to the Church. This appears in the first paragraph of your first post, which expresses confusion that a faithful Latter-day Saint might disagree with FAIR’s methods, as Christopher did. It appears again again in the second paragraph which states that, proceeding from the assumption in the first paragraph, such methods are representative of, even intrinsic to, one’s temple covenants. And, regrettably, your second post appears defensive, and even perhaps something of an insincere backtrack.

    Of course, I should not presume to know your motives; perhaps your first post was written hastily and you honestly were not aware how it might be taken. So, presuming the best motives on your part, I’ll point out why it seems to me that Christopher was offended. Your post seemed to fail to recognize that it is the second assumption of your first post – that FAIR’s methods embody the fulfillment of temple covenants – in White’s talk that prompted Christopher’s distress, rather than, as your post seemed to assume, a malevolent desire that no work to aid the Church be done at all.

    Fortunately, you’ll no doubt be gratified to know that it was not distaste for the Church that inspired Christopher’s post, but rather a concern similar to your own for how best to live as a Christian and a Saint. Christopher is concerned that White’s combative and triumphalist tone, honorable motives though he may have, might lead him toward a lack of humility and joy in the defeat of his enemies that could, perhaps, become un-Christian.

    These distinctions made, hopefully we can all agree that support for FAIR, activity in the church, and honoring one’s temple covenants are not, in fact, identical. Though this is not, of course, to say that any such overlap of these circles is impossible. Given that, perhaps a constructive and useful conversation can heretofore proceed.

    And, an edit to echo Ardis below: Ron Barney is a class act. A kinder man you’ll never meet.

    Comment by matt b. — August 7, 2009 @ 3:24 am

  11. Thank you, Jared, for these summaries. Thank you, too, for posting them in the order you have done — Ron Barney’s decency and obvious love for the Prophet helped take the nasty taste out of my mouth left by the first one.

    I met Mike Parker at the library this week. He’s as courteous as they come. Almost he persuaded me to believe in FAIR’s claimed reformation. Then along comes Robert White.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 7, 2009 @ 3:36 am

  12. What, precisely, about “FAIR’s methods” is so offensive or wrong? Most criticism I’ve seemed aimed at it is extremely limited in scope.

    Comment by Ben — August 7, 2009 @ 7:54 am

  13. Ben, please read comments #1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 9, 10, and 11 for various issues certain people have with FAIR’s methods. The arrogance, cheap shots, snark, questioning of other Latter-day Saints’ righteousness and faithfulness, combative tone, and self-congratulatory approach to defending the faith employed by more than one FAIR representative (and exhibited so well by Robert White in his conference paper), all carried out under the pretense of helping those who are struggling with their faith rubs some people the wrong way, believe it or not.

    Comment by Christopher — August 7, 2009 @ 8:39 am

  14. Because I don?t want to marked for personal attack by FAIR?s sometimes overzealous self-defense swarms, I am anonymous for this. I would prefer to use my name because I normally own my opinions freely; the potential consequences in this case, however, are overwhelming.

    FAIR produces some fine written work. Their online presence is a welcome oasis of rational Mormon thought. Their research is often some of the best available. Their annual conference speakers ? those who address content areas rather than merely cheerleading for FAIR itself ? are stellar. Their motives are pure. In most ways I cannot say enough good about them.

    Their methods, however, too often have a murderous edge. Every time I approach them, whether in conference or on their blog or reading a report of a speech like Robert White?s above, I have the sensation of biting into a lovely piece of birthday cake and finding that all that sparkle on the frosting isn?t sugar, but ground glass.

    There is a mean edge to their gatherings; they aren?t contented with defending the church, but must utterly destroy the church?s opponents ? and too often, they don?t distinguish between people who question FAIR?s belligerence with people who question the gospel. They seemingly have no hesitation about attacking the reputation of members of the church who are faithful supporters of the church but do not support FAIR and its mean-spiritedness.

    There is an element of fanaticism to too much of what they do. How does White put it? ?The church institutionally does not engage now in going forward in confounding their enemies and meeting them in a formal sense. But we do it.? It is that same spirit that motivated the Danites in Missouri and the murderous rage at Mountain Meadows: ?We will go beyond the bounds of the church because we know better ? we can do what the church itself will not do.?

    They actively court disputes, and it doesn?t matter whether those disputes are over doctrine or over behavior, or whether those disputes are from rabid anti-Mormons or ordinary church members who are shocked by the mean-spiritedness they encounter. A dispute is an attack is proof that they are doing the Lord?s work, because the devil always attacks the righteous, doncha know, so if we?re under attack it proves we are righteous.

    In the past year or so, FAIR leaders have tried vigorously to tone down the sarcasm and the put-downs and the whole meanness too often expressed. They?ve come a long way, but old habits die hard. FAIR still is combative, still seeks enemies where there are none. The leaders are heading in a different direction, but the rank and file still thirst for rhetorical blood.

    Comment by Once bit, twice shy — August 7, 2009 @ 8:54 am

  15. Oh, good, this is JI. I thought I had stumbled onto the MAD board or Mormon Discussions by mistake.

    Comment by SC Taysom — August 7, 2009 @ 9:04 am

  16. I just want to make it clear that the “Ben” above is not JI’s Ben.

    Comment by Ben — August 7, 2009 @ 9:22 am

  17. “The leaders are heading in a different direction, but the rank and file still thirst for rhetorical blood.”

    I’m on the internal FAIR email list, and this is simply not consistent with my long experience there. Nevertheless, I appreciate the balance anonymous brings to his/her comment by listing the good perceived there.

    Christopher, by contrast, seems to view FAIR as little more than a gathering of mean people using religion as a cover for their snark. Can any good thing come out of FAIR, Christopher?

    Again, this criticism seems extremely limited in scope, to “tone” (which got discussed ad nauseum in a different context in a post at FPR a while back.) Some of this criticism is legitimate, but the vast majority of material that goes out from FAIR (hundreds of personal responses to emails that come in, the FAIR wiki, etc.) is undeserving of such disdain or rejection. It’s unreasonable to paint any group with so broad a brush.

    Comment by Ben — August 7, 2009 @ 9:24 am

  18. No, I’m an evil apologist, looking for enemies to wail on 🙂

    Comment by Ben — August 7, 2009 @ 9:25 am

  19. Ben, (16)

    Oh sure, Ben.

    😉

    Comment by Mark Brown — August 7, 2009 @ 9:30 am

  20. Ben (12, 17, 18),

    Even people on FAIR’s board have acknowledged an image problem. Do you disagree with them on this point?

    Until that is fixed, nobody should be surprised that many faithful, believing members take Elder Oaks’ advice to heart and recognize folks like Br. White for what they are: alternative voices it is best to avoid.

    Comment by Mark Brown — August 7, 2009 @ 9:35 am

  21. Ben #17: Then if I were FAIR, I would try to stop the bad examples from contaminating everything else.

    Comment by Ben — August 7, 2009 @ 9:36 am

  22. Wow. Reading the notes on Robert White’s presentation makes me feel kind of awful and embarrassed–I wish that he would keep his mouth shut. But he is what makes FAIR FAIR. Perhaps Jared T. can clarify whether White was reading from a prepared paper or whether he was extemporizing–has to be the latter, right? If he had a prepared text I would love to see it.

    Comment by oudenos — August 7, 2009 @ 9:47 am

  23. I’m genuinely impressed with recent efforts to change FAIR’s image, and I suppose it’s unreasonable to expect any group not to engage in “cheerleading” at their regular meeting. Having been on the receiving end of FAIR swarming, though, I have personal experience with the excessiveness of some FAIR members’ reactions to criticism and have no wish to repeat it. Bullying someone into submission should not be a matter of pride for any group.

    Ben (17), does it occur to you that you are every bit as anonymous as “Once bit, twice shy”?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 7, 2009 @ 9:53 am

  24. I’m not a PR guru, mein doppel-ganger in #21. How exactly does one do that? Constructive suggestions?

    This touches on a question raised at the LDS grads Yale conference a few years ago. What is the pastoral responsibility of LDS academics?

    In an ideal world, of course every LDS would be reading “pure” history which would naturally resolve faith-related questions (which seems to be Christopher’s approach, and one I advocate in my classes, “read more history!”)

    In my view, if LDS academics ignore the average LDS perspective by limiting our writings to narrow, specialized and thus inaccessible works, we should not complain when non-specialists fill that vacuum with sub-standard, inaccurate information. Mark Wright had a lot to say about this at Yale.

    Please note, this is not a continuation of the “tone” issue.

    Comment by Ben — August 7, 2009 @ 9:54 am

  25. Ardis, Ben is not a psuedonym. (I’d point out that “Ben” and “Christopher” also lack last names here and in their JI biographies.)

    They’ve got my full name and legit email address. I’m not sure why it matters here, though, unless you’re asking me “Are you or have you ever been associated with FAIR?” 🙂

    Comment by Ben — August 7, 2009 @ 10:01 am

  26. Ben may not be a psuedonym [sic], but it doesn’t identify you, either.

    I don’t especially care who you are. I do know who Ben and Christopher and all other permabloggers here are. You are a stranger; they are not.

    I only note that it is odd for you to refer to someone else’s anonymity when you yourself remain unknown.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 7, 2009 @ 10:06 am

  27. Ben #24: I brought up the same questions in this review/thread.

    Comment by Ben — August 7, 2009 @ 10:06 am

  28. #20, Mark, that assessment is absolutely correct. It would do us well to remember that FAIR is just as much an alternate voice as the “Sunshine” symposium (which I’ve never been to anyway) and as such, has redeemable qualities as well as serious flaws. The flaws should not cause us to discard the whole, and the redeemable should not blind us to the flaws.

    Thank you Matt, #10.

    Ardis, #11, Yep.

    And thanks #14.

    #7, Robert, I would like you to clarify your comment. What does that have to do with the discussion at hand?

    Comment by Jared T — August 7, 2009 @ 10:16 am

  29. #22,

    As far as I could tell it was extemporaneous. I was in the back row, so I couldn’t really see if he had something on the podium. I would encourage you to purchase the lecture on mp3 when it becomes available, it was definitely something that needed to be experienced.

    I have family in town and thus will not be able to attend today’s sessions. But I will say here, that had they not been in town, I would have made the decision to improve my time by continuing my research or going to the zoo with my kids or going to the temple with my wife instead of attending the conference. I think that had I done any of those things yesterday I would have felt much more edified than attending the conference. But I’m glad I did, and I feel that it was no accident, so if nothing else, I could present these notes.

    So, #24, one practical solution, but by no means foolproof, would be to actively talk with presenters about their tone and if they don’t follow the advice, thank them for their zeal in defending the kingdom and sticking it to the enemies of righteousness, but that certain elements of how they said things are not helpful. I have no idea how White comes out on the message boards, but I have trouble believing that this type of rhetoric is coming out of thin air and I would also have trouble believing that he wasn’t chosen for this very reason (and that he’s an ex-GA). After all, what were his qualifications to be speaking at all? He talked about the erudition of every other presenter, what was his authority?

    Tone was an issue to me through each of the lectures I heard excepting Ron Barney’s. But I’ll have more on that later.

    Comment by Jared T — August 7, 2009 @ 10:22 am

  30. Thanks, Jared T.

    Comment by oudenos — August 7, 2009 @ 10:23 am

  31. (Note the moniker change for clarity.)

    That’s an excellent discussion, at that link Ben #27. I particularly thought this comment hit the nail on the head.

    “I only note that it is odd for you to refer to someone else?s anonymity when you yourself remain unknown.” Ah. I only referred to the commenter as “anonymous” because I was too lazy to scroll up and see the moniker 🙂
    It was not meant as (hypocritical) criticism.

    Perceptions matter, whether of FAIR, of “academics” or “intellectuals” or of comments. For example, should I characterized this “a psuedonym [sic]” as aggressive snarkiness given the standards of blogging, or as the careful eye of a historian? Either is possible.

    Our perceptions are a function of our experiences and knowledge, and what might be aggressive snarkiness from one person could well be the careful eye of another.

    We should all be more thoughtful (I’m including FAIR therein) in how we critique other LDS with different backgrounds, perspectives, and struggles, “lest [they] esteem [us] to be [an] enemy.”

    Comment by Non-JI Ben — August 7, 2009 @ 10:33 am

  32. “I have no idea how White comes out on the message boards”

    As with many FAIR members (by which I mean those on the internal email list), I don’t believe he participates on any message boards.

    I can’t say anything about his presentation, since I’m not there. However, consider his background. I assume his rhetoric stems from frustration in dealing with the aftermath of some loudly prominent exmormons in his native western Canada, not from message boards, blogs, or academic conferences. I’m asking you to read Bro. White “in context” 😉

    Comment by Non-JI Ben — August 7, 2009 @ 10:51 am

  33. #32, it’s all fine and good to ask to read in context, but that context is not available. And a poster elsewhere, at M* I believe, said that she always liked his comments on the message boards. But if that’s incorrect, then that’s incorrect.

    Comment by Jared T — August 7, 2009 @ 10:58 am

  34. Jared,

    I am curious, why no notes on the Ashworth talk of yesterday? I have heard you took great notes of his presentation.

    Signed,
    Waiting on pins and needles

    Comment by Joe Geisner — August 7, 2009 @ 11:06 am

  35. Jared, thanks for helping provide coverage of the conference. Robert White is a member of the FAIR board and has been instrumental in helping with the already mentioned crises in Canada, along with other issues. It may be foreign to some in this particular venue, but worldly qualifications are not necessary to give a worthwhile presentation at a FAIR conference. His talk did not appeal to everyone, but I think his point of view is worthy of consideration.

    It is unfortunate that you will not be able to attend the full conference. I’m sure you would have found some of the other presentations to be as informative and useful as you found Ron Barney’s. Since we don’t yet have enough attendees to have concurrent sessions, we attempt to have a wide range of topics and speakers, and what will appeal to some may not appeal to others, yet everyone should be able to get something worthwhile out of the conference.

    [admin note: As noted in Trevor’s follow-up comment (#37), White is not a member of the FAIR board.]

    Comment by Trevor — August 7, 2009 @ 11:38 am

  36. Agreed that he did not present that context.

    I ask for a charitable reading of a fellow Saint, then, of a non-academic presenter at a non-academic conference.

    On M* Tanya refers explicitly to “the FAIR email list” where he is indeed an occasional but thoughtful participant.

    Judging from comments elsewhere, most people have not received White’s comments the way Jared and Christopher have.

    Comment by Non-JI Ben — August 7, 2009 @ 11:39 am

  37. Oops, it appears that I goofed. Robert White apparently is not on the FAIR board as I thought, and I don’t see a way to edit or delete my post.

    Comment by Trevor — August 7, 2009 @ 11:51 am

  38. I ask for a charitable reading of a fellow Saint, then, of a non-academic presenter at a non-academic conference.

    That’s fair, Non-JI Ben. I only wish Robert White would extend those same efforts at charity to the intellectuals he demeans in his paper and hints at in his comment #7 on this thread.

    Judging from comments elsewhere, most people have not received White?s comments the way Jared and Christopher have.

    I’m curious, where are these comments? On the M* thread, no one in the comments really comments on White’s talk specifically. At Life on Gold Plates, there is one positive assessment of White’s talk and a few more defenses of his comments in response to my own comments. At the FAIR blog, there are no comments addressing Robert White’s presentation, positive or negative, aside from Jared’s note that he has posted these notes.

    On the other hand, I count nine different commenters on this thread who express some degree of frustration with White’s paper. I don’t doubt that his comments resonated with most folks in attendance at the conference or on the message boards, if that is what you are referring to.

    Comment by Christopher — August 7, 2009 @ 11:56 am

  39. Christopher, help a poor reader and highlight the passage where White uncharitably demeans intellectuals.

    In skimming through it again, and searching, I don’t see “scholar” “academic” or “intellectual” anywhere in there. I do see him multiple positive references to Ron Barney, who falls under those headings, and a statement that “This is not a forum in which to display ones supposed erudition”

    Was there something else which didn’t make it into Jared’s notes? His non-response to the RSR question?

    Help me out here.

    Comment by Non-JI Ben — August 7, 2009 @ 12:18 pm

  40. The comments I have heard are largely from those in attendance, yes. That doesn’t make them any less valid than those nine here.

    How many of those nine come from people in attendance, instead of going from notes and your broad-brush characterization of FAIR?

    Comment by Non-JI Ben — August 7, 2009 @ 12:22 pm

  41. Wait a sec…am I sensing some apologies coming from an apologist who is a member of an apologetic organization. I guess that I should not too surprised.

    Comment by oudenos — August 7, 2009 @ 12:38 pm

  42. Christopher, help a poor reader and highlight the passage where White uncharitably demeans intellectuals.

    I’m thinking mainly of his suggestion that those who use their knowledge to defend the faith were in attendance at FAIR instead of going to Sunstone next weekend. His suggestion that certain scriptures give “FAIR and FAIR only” a divine mandate also is relevant here.

    The comments I have heard are largely from those in attendance, yes. That doesn?t make them any less valid than those nine here.

    Nor did I suggest that attendance at the conference invalidated them.

    How many of those nine come from people in attendance, instead of going from notes and your broad-brush characterization of FAIR?

    But I guess my non-attendance invalidates my own comments and thoughts on White’s presentation.

    Comment by Christopher — August 7, 2009 @ 12:39 pm

  43. Wow, I missed comment # 7 completely.

    it is the Lord who has defined the way for us to experience his religion.

    And apparently Br. White thinks he is exactly the one to tell us how God defines things.

    the lord anticipates the work done by FAIR and FAIR only

    LOLOLOLOL!!!

    Nothing like a little megalomania with your apologetics.

    Non-JI-Ben, you seem like a reasonable person. Would you agree that statements such as these are out of order and indefensible, and also actually counterproductive to FAIR’s stated goals?

    Comment by Mark Brown — August 7, 2009 @ 12:51 pm

  44. Does Jared’s report of White’s presentation (acknowledging that no matter how hard he tried, Jared almost certainly didn’t capture every last word) fairly represent that talk, Non-JI Ben? I doubt Jared would resent your corrections if his journalistic imperfections have distorted the talk.

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — August 7, 2009 @ 1:03 pm

  45. I thought you were there Christopher. My bad.

    What I’m suggesting is that those who weren’t there aren’t getting a) a transcript nor b) those all-important non-verbal communicators, which make it more likely that his intent will not be accurately understood. Ever sent an email that was misunderstood?

    From reading your characterization of the presentation, one would expect White to be spewing fire and brimstone about anyone with grad degrees. It seems that a few phrases in Jared’s and LOAP’s notes really set you off. Roberts’ statement about hanging heavy weights on slender threads comes to mind.

    FAIR is explicitly an apologetic organization, Sunstone is not. Is it inaccurate to characterize those presenting at FAIR as using their intellectual capacities in defense of testimony and faithfulness? And note, several prominent FAIR folks like Kevin Barney, Mike Ash and others hop right over to present/attend Sunstone.

    If FAIR has an image problem, so does Sunstone. Note my comment <a href="http://bycommonconsent.com/2009/07/19/lowered-expectations/#comment-142791"here and (Dialogue editor?) Kristine’s at #54.

    Mark Brown- I don’t feel a need to defend his statements. They’re not mine, and I certainly wouldn’t have phrased things that way.

    On the one hand, it’s clear from personal feedback of various kinds and sources that FAIR meets a niche need among the struggling that no one else does, whether Church, Naccle, Sunstone, FARMS, whoever. On the other hand, I definitely don’t think we’re the subject of prophecy or whatnot, and I’m not nearly as prescriptive in my thinking as White’s *brief* comment appears to suggest he is.

    Christopher, where are your writings that “set out to provide honest and sincere answers to troubled Latter-day Saints” ? That sounds awfully… apologetic 🙂

    Comment by Non-JI Ben — August 7, 2009 @ 1:21 pm

  46. I don’t know Ardis. I don’t feel that I’ve offered any corrections to Jared’s notes, because I’m not there 🙂

    But it doesn’t accurately capture Robert White, certainly.

    Comment by Non-JI Ben — August 7, 2009 @ 1:26 pm

  47. “Non-JI-Ben, you seem like a reasonable person.”

    I must be doing something wrong then 😉

    Comment by Non-JI Ben — August 7, 2009 @ 1:27 pm

  48. Christopher, where are your writings that ?set out to provide honest and sincere answers to troubled Latter-day Saints? ? That sounds awfully? apologetic.

    I am not sure that I ever claimed to have any such writings (I know, I know, Theophilus feels that this constitutes a violation of temple covenants). I simply noted that for those interested in such activities, Ron Barney’s approach seemed to be a better alternative to White’s.

    Comment by Christopher — August 7, 2009 @ 1:34 pm

  49. It’s in your comment #1.

    Ron Barney?s paper was much more satisfying, enlightening, and IMO, useful for those who set out to provide honest and sincere answers to troubled Latter-day Saints.

    I wrongly assumed you were describing this group inclusively, since you seemed to be making a judgment call on that basis.

    Comment by Non-JI Ben — August 7, 2009 @ 1:46 pm

  50. Yes, you did wrongly assume something I did not say.

    Comment by Christopher — August 7, 2009 @ 1:54 pm

  51. I read into your statement… as you read into White’s 🙂

    As I said before, more charity all around.

    Comment by Non-JI Ben — August 7, 2009 @ 2:37 pm

  52. I’m at the conference as I type this. I have limited time at this computer, so I have only skimmed the comments.

    I have enjoyed the conference immensely; it has been a lot of fun.

    Those who speak at the conference are speaking for themselves, not for FAIR as an organization.

    I enjoyed Bob White’s talk (especially the humor). But there were aspects of it I disagreed with. I am not bothered by Sunstone the way he is; I’ll be attending and participating there next week. I disagreed with his characterization of the Thomas Marsh blog commentary. And in particular I disagreed with his rejection of the concept of inoculation (naturally enough, as it is an idea with which I have been closely associated in the past).

    I don’t mind listening to a talk I do not entirely agree with, especially one that is as funny as Bob’s was.

    A lot of the negative commentary about FAIR in the bloggernacle is based on old practices, the message boards (which FAIR divested itself of years ago), and unfounded assumptions.

    The way I experience FAIR, it’s almost total focus is on what I call “educative apologetics,” meaning that we are engaged in attempting to help those Sainst who freak out when they stumble upon unsettling information about the church (on the internet, from friends or family or otherwise). We have a lot of initiatives, but probably the heart of FAIR as I experience it is the wiki and the “ask the apologist” service.

    I think we do a good job at this. (I answer many of the “ask the apologist” questions myself.)

    People who participate in the Bloggernacle typically have the background knowledge not to need FAIR; they are already familiar with these issues and are not personally bothered by them. So I understand that most people in the Bloggernacle have no need for FAIR. But it doesn’t follow that a lot of average Saints do not need such a service.

    If someone gives a talk at the FAIR conference you don’t like, comment on that talk is fair game, but no one presenting a talk is speaking on behalf of FAIR itself; individual speakers are responsible for their own remarks.

    (I am on the board of FAIR, but I alone am responsible for what I write above; I am not speaking on behalf of the board here. And I am on vacation with very limited access to computers, so I probably will have limited capacity to respond to further comments to this thread.)

    Comment by Kevin Barney — August 7, 2009 @ 3:04 pm

  53. Kevin Barney and Blair Hodges and Mike Parker are all people associated with FAIR whom I respect.

    I don’t understand the fine distinctions that are made by both Kevin and Ben, and have been made from time to time on the FAIR blog and elsewhere, between those who speak “for” FAIR and those who only speak “at” FAIR. Well, intellectually I suppose *do* understand — it’s the same distinction we want to make between General Authorities speaking on assignment by the Church, and any random member spouting off his opinion on some social issue, justifying that opinion by appeals to his Mormonism.

    But just as many non-Mormons can’t distinguish between Glen Beck and Thomas S. Monson, non-FAIR people can’t always distinguish between official FAIRdom and random-member FAIRdom when so many of the same people take part on the blogs and the boards and laugh delightedly at the speakers who are invited by FAIR to speak at FAIR to members of FAIR. The distinctions aren’t that clear to those of us on the outside, and it would help if you would address whatever point is being discussed and not always dismiss it with a simple, “well, he’s speaking for himself and not for FAIR.” If FAIR isn’t somewhat responsible for a speech given from their platform by a speaker or writer (whoever “he” happens to be in the specific discussion), then why does FAIR give him (whoever “he” is) access to their platform?

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — August 7, 2009 @ 4:03 pm

  54. I was at FAIR and enjoyed Robert White’s talk very much. The humor was well done. I thought his comments about inoculation and other things were thoughtful, but I don’t feel I need to decide if I agree with every point.

    Comment by DavidC — August 7, 2009 @ 8:58 pm

  55. Mormon Times has a piece on Ron Barney’s presentation (here). He seems to have made quite an impression, and not just in the Bloggernacle.

    Comment by Hunter — August 7, 2009 @ 9:25 pm

  56. I’m obviously already on record as liking Robert White’s presentation (at M*). But I’ll add some more anecdotal info here. I suspect my sister and bro-in-law are average intelligent members, who are aware of the bloggernacle but don’t ever read anything from it (they don’t object to it or anything, they just don’t have the time or interest), and who are in no way associated with FAIR (they’ve never attended a FAIR conference until this year; they were agreeable to coming when I invited them, though they didn’t know what to expect). And they don’t really have any interest in joining FAIR now, even though they think it’s a nice enough organization. They have, however, used the FAIR wiki when some issues and much drama recently came up involving polygamy, and they found it very helpful in answering their questions.

    So… average members. And they loved Robert White’s talk. It was their favorite one of the first day. They found nothing controversial in it. When I mentioned to my sister this morning that some online had found his remarks offensive and explained why, she was baffled. She found the talk enlightening.

    Admittedly, my data is limited, but I think those who are bothered by his remarks (and bothered by FAIR) are in the minority when it comes to average members of the church, those for whom FAIR exists, who use FAIR for its actual purpose (i.e., answering the claims of critics).

    Comment by Tanya Spackman — August 7, 2009 @ 9:49 pm

  57. Tanya, there’s a reason that most people aren’t aware of the issues involved that make White’s presentation objectionable. Thanks for stopping by.

    And thank you Non-JI Ben for pointing out that this was not a transcript. Apparently that wasn’t obvious to everyone (speaking seriously).

    I’ll have a post eventually on my reflections from the experience. I’m appreciative of almost everyone for their thoughts thus far.

    Comment by Jared T — August 7, 2009 @ 10:08 pm

  58. They aren’t aware of the issues because they aren’t really something significant? I find this the greatest problem I have in bloggernacle participation – sometimes I get wrapped up in things that don’t really matter, with insignificant issues seeming to suddenly grow out of proportion. Could just be me, though.

    Comment by Tanya Spackman — August 7, 2009 @ 10:48 pm

  59. When I mentioned to my sister this morning that some online had found his remarks offensive and explained why, she was baffled.

    Wait, your sister was “baffled” that someone took offense to being insulted? Really?

    Comment by Christopher — August 7, 2009 @ 11:11 pm

  60. Oh, Christopher! I love your wit, but you’re repeating my bad habits.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 7, 2009 @ 11:24 pm

  61. Tanya, could be.

    Comment by Jared T — August 7, 2009 @ 11:25 pm

  62. funny I have no idea who he is though he lives in my city…

    More on this tomorrow as my wife says GET TO BED… and I follow She Who Must Be Obeyed. (read Rumpole of the Bailey if you do not get the caps)

    Comment by JonW — August 8, 2009 @ 12:32 am

  63. actually I think he was a AA seventy at one time but more of his bio is here http://www.davis.ca/en/lawyer/Robert-B-White-QC
    I actually think someone of a legal background maybe by trade more confrontational and aggressive in arguing their position.

    But could be wrong. Got to run now.

    Comment by JonW — August 8, 2009 @ 12:36 am

  64. Jared, if only you came to Friday’s instead of Thursdays!
    🙂

    Comment by BHodges — August 8, 2009 @ 1:20 am

  65. #64, Saving the best for last, huh? What about, You only get one chance to make a first impression?

    Comment by Jared T — August 8, 2009 @ 2:39 pm

  66. Someone famous needs to make a good statement about how “they who decide based on first impressions may miss some great second-day presentations” or something. 😉

    Comment by BHodges — August 8, 2009 @ 2:49 pm

  67. I think somebody just did.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 8, 2009 @ 3:39 pm

  68. Yes, yes, BH, of course first impressions aren’t everything, it was just a bit o’banter for your Saturday afternoon.

    Comment by Jared T — August 8, 2009 @ 7:32 pm

  69. Ok after leaving a rather pathetic, “you wait until tomorrow” post I thought I would add my actual comments rather than my usual blather.

    I thought a bit about this whole issue after reading Jared’s version. Then I read a different but similar review at Life on Gold Plates.

    To me one of the most difficult tight ropes to walk is as a Mormon Academic in history. Often there is a perception that Mormon Historians are critical too much. As Bushman said so eloquently in the earlier post.

    I remember in the 1990s as I was doing my history degree I was genuinely worried about doing Mormon history specifically because of the perception that academics fill people with falsehoods.

    The institute I attended had wonderful teachers that would say some outlandish, and down right stupid things about academics. These comments honestly made me nervous.

    Years later as I returned to academia as an older person I was less afraid of what people might think. I found a website like FAIR and enjoyed how it supported some of the things I held as truth. I liked FARMS for how it researched Book of Mormon issues and tried to resolve questions about origins of the people of the Book.

    Then through FAIR and my own blogging I found the Bloggernacle in full swing. There were stories about church history and philosophy that I had never heard before. It set me a blaze with a desire to learn and study more about issues I had little knowledge of.

    So in the end when I wrote Essays I wrote from an academic standpoint. I could understand the world around me as a member of the Church through the eye of academia.

    Thanks to apologetics and academics I found myself better prepared to analyze all issues and not simply accept the face value approach.

    I think too often both sides, including the so-called liberal and conservative Mormons get caught out in presenting the better argument. Rather than presenting a good addition. Neither side is wrong, neither side is wholly right. It is just too simple.

    Personally I like the FAIR conference, I think it has contributions that are of value and should be commented on just as much as the negative viewed issue.

    I know some in the Bloggernacle have issues with tactics. I will be honest I live in Northern Alberta in a city of 800,000 with three stakes. Mormons here are less likely to care about whether you believe Joseph Smith looked in a hat or if Brigham Young liked Black people or hated them.

    In fact most will not have any idea about those issues. Not being close to the concentrated areas of Mormonism means you focus less on your differences and more on your togetherness.

    To me I would like both sides of the debate to do the same really. We need each other, we do not need to question anyone’s faith or common sense. I know, “I’m a dreamer,

    but I am not the only one.”

    Comment by JonW — August 8, 2009 @ 10:25 pm

  70. Tanya (58)it isn’t just you and Jon (69), you are not the only one.

    Comment by Juliann — August 9, 2009 @ 12:29 am

  71. Jon,

    Thanks. As someone who has heard a lot of stupid things about academics, I would like to see less questioning of faith and less presumption in judging whether or not people are experiencing this religion how the Lord defines it.

    I reiterate my comment at #28

    Comment by Jared T. — August 9, 2009 @ 1:01 am

  72. #43

    “the lord anticipates the work done by FAIR and FAIR only

    LOLOLOLOL!!!

    Nothing like a little megalomania with your apologetics.”

    Wow. Talk about out of context. Let’s look at the full quote:

    “the lord anticipates the work done by FAIR and FAIR only because the institutional church can?t do it.”

    It seems to me he’s simply making the distinction that FAIR can do apologetics, and the Church can’t. There’s no exclusion of other apologetic efforts.

    Comment by Joe — August 9, 2009 @ 1:04 am

  73. Joe, maybe one hyperbole invites another, no?

    Comment by Jared T — August 9, 2009 @ 1:20 am

  74. Ardis #53, I appreciate that to an outsider it can be difficult to know who is speaking on behalf of FAIR and who isn’t. Internally, our perspective is that no one at the conference is speaking on behalf of FAIR or giving some sort of an official FAIR position on anything.

    We deal with a lot of controversial subject matter. So we have an ethic that individuals are responsible for their own opinions and are not speaking for the organization. (There is a lot of diversity of thought within FAIR, so this approach is a necessity.) When we respond to ask the apologist questions, for example, we are supposed to include a standard disclaimer to the effect that we are speaking only for ourselves, and neither for FAIR nor the Church. We encourage anyone who wishes to to respond to questions, so that the questioner will get a variety of viewpoints and perspectives.

    Sometimes people don’t like that; they want someone who can speak officially and authoritatively for the Church to give some sort of set-in-stone response. That ain’t us.

    Our president selects speakers for our conferences based simply on the thought that they may have something interesting to say and to contribute in the field of apologetics. We get a title in advance for promotional purposes, but we don’t vet anyone’s talk in advance.

    For example, this year one of the speakers was John Lynch. He happens to be the chairman of our board of directors. But AFAIC he was speaking for himself in his presentation; he didn’t represent FAIR as an organization any more than, say, Claudia Bushman did when we had her come and speak.

    But again, I fully realize that that is an internal ethic that will not be immediately apparent to outside observers.

    Comment by Kevin Barney — August 9, 2009 @ 10:53 am

  75. Kevin, thanks for your post, but can you speak to who does speak for FAIR and when?

    I can understand the difficulties in having different viewpoints presented in the organization, but it seems fairly disingenuous every time someone speaks at a FAIR event or posts something on a FAIR board to say that they don’t represent FAIR. As members of the Church, we’re told that though only a few of us speak officially for the Church and only in certain places, every one of us is a representative and ought to conduct ourselves accordingly. An organization is a product of its members.

    Comment by Jared T — August 9, 2009 @ 11:14 am

  76. During the conference, the only official statement from FAIR as an organization was the presentation of the John Taylor Defender of the Faith Award to Roger Nicholson. That was listed on the program as “FAIR Business,” and the decision to give that award to Roger had been voted on by the Board.

    On substantive apologetic issues, no one speaks authoritatively for FAIR, because individuals involved in the organization reserve the right to take different approaches. FAIR is not a hive mind, and our organizational culture recognizes this and thus gives individual members freedom to hold to their own views and positions.

    For example, some FAIR members believe that God is omniscient in the classical sense, and knows the future in perfect, exquisite detail. Others, including moi, reject that and believe in libertarian freewill. Just as there is no agreemnt on this debate whenever it flares up on the Bloggernacle, there similarly is none within FAIR itself. So there is no FAIR position on the subject; individuals are free to hold and express their own views.

    I suppose the collaborative wiki represents something of an official FAIR voice. But we try to be careful to acknowledge different approaches and points of view there. (For an example, take a look at our article on Adam-God, which tries to outline the various approaches to the issue people have taken.) And it is a wiki, which means that if people call errors or problems with it to our attention, it is easy for us to fix it on the fly.

    Comment by Kevin Barney — August 9, 2009 @ 11:29 am

  77. Kevin Barney, you are a model apologist in every way. Instead of taking offense at the questions about who speaks for FAIR, you simply answered the them as best you knew. This is good.

    Comment by Hunter — August 9, 2009 @ 11:52 am

  78. #71
    Me as well. Can think of times when I have heard people effectively say that academics were evil but university was something you had to go to so that you could be a contributing member of society.

    Almost makes you wonder if you will find Home University schooling coming to the fore in later years. I just do not understand the imperative to hack down the knowledge of others because they do not see things like you do.

    Going back to that Institute, one of their big bugaboos was evolution. Rather than allow for differences they had to make up explanations. (The fall created Neanderthals was one I remember)

    My other favourite was the way they used to hack on the Journal Of Discourses for most things but then pull out some quote to prove their point from the JD. You cannot have it both ways.

    That is what I find frustrating.

    Comment by JonW — August 9, 2009 @ 11:56 am

  79. Thank you for all that, Kevin — I understand the legalistic, hair-splitting principle, whether or not I can keep straight the individual persons and platforms (not many, evidently) that speak “for” FAIR.

    But all organizations have cultures and personalities, whether or not they are officially constructed. Haven’t you ever felt cofortable working at one law firm, but totally out of sync at another, without there being any formal, structural, policy matters to explain the differences? When anyone speaks at General Conference, no one avoids the doctrine preached by saying, “Well, Elder so-and-So isn’t speaking for the church, just giving his private opinion.” Listeners have the right to expect that what they hear fits in comfortably with gospel doctrine and church culture, else the speaker wouldn’t have been invited to speak. You can’t honestly claim that listeners don’t have a right to form their perceptions of FAIR by the speakers who are invited, especially since there are so few speakers that surely those who DO speak for FAIR vetted them, even if they haven’t vetted the individual speech. (Ed Decker would have something interesting to say, too, but you wouldn’t invite him to speak — nor would I want you to. So “interesting” isn’t the only criterion.)

    At the very least, observers have a right to expect that when FAIR defenders voluntarily respond to criticism of FAIR’s culture, they address the substance of the complaints and not dismiss them with a glib, “Well, he doesn’t speak for FAIR.”

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 9, 2009 @ 12:03 pm

  80. I?m sorry. I mistook this as a place for discussion.

    I make that same mistake often. Enjoyed both talks, appreciate your publishing them here.

    FAIR produces some fine written work. Their online presence is a welcome oasis of rational Mormon thought. Their research is often some of the best available. Their annual conference speakers ? those who address content areas rather than merely cheerleading for FAIR itself ? are stellar. Their motives are pure. In most ways I cannot say enough good about them.

    Very much the intent of many who were there when FAIR was founded.

    It is interesting that those who criticize FAIR have tried vigorously to tone down the sarcasm and the put-downs and the whole meanness too often expressed. They?ve come a long way, but old habits die hard.

    😉

    /Sigh, it is a problem with some in all groups, and it has always been a constant struggle.

    Probably always will be.

    Kevin Barney, say hello to Julie (Pistas3) for me and everyone else.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — August 9, 2009 @ 1:07 pm

  81. Thanks, Kevin. I actually rather like the concept that FAIR will allow a wide range of veiwpoints under its umbrella. Now if some of its members could be convinced that such is the case and in a larger sense that such is the case in the Church.

    Hunter, I think you’re right to praise Kevin’s manner. There’s an additional element of this that I’d like to add. I knew (albeit in a limited fashion) Kevin and respected him before we ever had this conversation, Ardis also. So there’s an element of mutual respect that comes in having a civilized discussion. I don’t see any reason why Kevin would have been offended by the questions to begin with. Unfortunately, some “apologists” so-called and some “non-apologists” start having a conversation without that basic respect. It does the dialogue no service when a speaker attacks every other conference as “showing off”. To those who have presented at non-overtly-apologetic conferences (and heaven forbid, at ostensibly academic conferences), this does little to inspire respect for the person making such a flawed assessment.

    Yes, I say more of the apologetics I’ve seen Kevin do and less of what I’ve seen from R. White if what I’ve seen exemplifies his approach.

    And Ardis is right to point out that there is *some* vetting that goes on which reflects to *some* degree on the organization.

    Comment by Jared T — August 9, 2009 @ 1:25 pm

  82. “I make that same mistake often.”

    Stephen, are you saying that you feel you often mistake the JI for a place of discussion (implying it is not a place for discussion)?

    Please explain.

    Comment by Jared T — August 9, 2009 @ 1:29 pm

  83. For the record, I was simply trying to call for a charitable interpretation of White.

    If he was, in fact, anti-academic (which was far from clear to me from reading the notes here,) then I flatly disagree with his comments. I have an MA and further graduate work towards a PhD from a prominent University, but they have not affected my faith or faithfulness negatively.

    I think Sunstone magazine is putting out some valuable stuff. Sometimes I feel like a Sunstone-ish Mormon, but then I see things like this, (a preview of a Sunstone presentation from an exmo) which really make me rethink. BCC labeled that post “Hey everyone, wickedness IS happiness!”

    Comment by Non-JI Ben — August 9, 2009 @ 2:41 pm

  84. I can’t help but think that much of the strife evident here stems from our insatiable need to divide up into what the Book of Mormon calls “ites.” I’m uncomfortable with the heated rhetoric of broad labels–emanating from all sides of this debate as it plays out within the broader culture of Mormon intellectual life–that eschew complexity and nuance for the purposes of demagoguery. Every organization has people who like to do this. I don’t feel compelled to accept or defend everything that any organization or individual offers up, regardless of how much time, talents, or other resources I grant to it or them. I may be admitting to more heterodoxy than I would like, but in response to Ardis’s comment that

    no one avoids the doctrine preached by saying, ?Well, Elder so-and-So isn?t speaking for the church, just giving his private opinion.?

    I have to say that I have in fact done just that. Same with Sunstone, and FAIR and FARMS, and with things my mother tells me.

    Comment by SC Taysom — August 9, 2009 @ 4:07 pm

  85. Well, SC, that’s just your private opinion. You don’t speak for FAIR, the Bloggernacle, JI, or your mother. So there. 😛

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 9, 2009 @ 4:11 pm

  86. Heck, I don’t even like taking responsibility for things I say.

    Comment by SC Taysom — August 9, 2009 @ 4:32 pm

  87. Yes, FAIR picks its speakers, and so people are certainly entitled to make a certain amount of judgment about FAIR based on the speakers it picks.

    But quite honestly that is not the way I look at it. I see MHA as an organization that facilitates the study of Mormon history; if David Bigler says some offensive thing at an MHA session, to my mind that reflects upon Bigler, not MHA. I see Sunstone as an organization that facilitates the study of Mormon culture; if there is a session lionizing the Tanners, to my mind that reflects upon the people doing the lionizing and not Sunstone itself. In the same way, I see FAIR as an organization that facilitates the study of Mormon apologetics. I judge the individual presentations and the individual presenters.

    This is probably why I’m not bothered by Sunstone, and why most ordinanry members are. Because most ordinary members judge the organization by whatever is presented there. That’s not the way I look at it, but I certainly understand the impulse.

    Comment by Kevin Barney — August 9, 2009 @ 9:40 pm

  88. #87: Spoken like a true apologetict. (Noun: “A person who argues to defend or justify some policy or institution.”)

    Then you go on to say others are judgmental of your group, also quilty of picking bad speakers, impulsive, and not mainstream.(ordinary members).

    Comment by Bob — August 9, 2009 @ 10:48 pm

  89. No. 88, huh? I think you are misreading me.

    Comment by Kevin Barney — August 9, 2009 @ 11:23 pm

  90. Bob, I’m also unsure about where you’re coming from on this. Kevin’s a class act, and has carried on a respectful conversation here, please do likewise as you enter it.

    Kevin, maybe we meet somewhere in the middle. Surely you don’t see conferences of FAIR, MHA, or JWHA, etc as all equal in their quality or aims? If you do, that’s fine, but I do not, and it’s because of what kind of presentations they offer and how those presentations were vetted, whether by a diverse program committee from a variety of academic backgrounds or a more homogeneous, non-technical group, or lottery, etc…Same with journals, etc. Anyway, not to belabor this point any further. Thanks for your perspective.

    Comment by Jared T — August 10, 2009 @ 12:01 am

  91. #89&#90: My apology to Kevin. He is a class act.
    My words were directed against the “apologetict”. Like any advocate, they are out for the win, not the tie (compromise).They use phrasing and humor to make their points. But at some point, they will move beyond just defending the cause, to defending themselves.
    I saw that here in FAIR defending FAIR. But, for me, it was late at night and I was being impulsive. Sorry.

    Comment by Bob — August 10, 2009 @ 9:10 am

  92. One of my errors is using the ?apologetict?, when i’ve meant “apologist”.

    Comment by Bob — August 10, 2009 @ 9:16 am

  93. Kevin: #87, I think most members are bothered by Sunstone because all we hear about is the bad stuff. All we see are posts about how fornication should be ok in preperation to Sunstone, or how a certain percentage of presenters names we are familiar with are known for their hostility toward the church. I don’t get a lot of “Blake Ostler’s presentation on the atonement was fabulous” or “Why I stay was amazing!”. I see very few presentations get publicity like Jana’s “How to give a talk” bit, but mainly see controversial things like the film “Fallen” extolled. I think John Dehlin made some efforts in that direction to balance Sunstone’s image more, but haven’t seen much of that lately. I think the average reaction to hearing about the good things from Sunstone in any case is people are grateful someone else went and found the diamond in the rough, because they didn’t want to wade through the rough. Just my two cents from someone who’s only been to General Conference, and no other LDS conference.

    Comment by Matt W. — August 10, 2009 @ 9:23 am

  94. Thank you, Kevin. That (#87) makes your view much clearer.

    Part of the confusion, for me at least, is tht the FAIR conference follows the General Conference model, with everyone in plenary session listening to the speakers the organization’s leaders have deemed worthy. MHA and Sunstone, with their breakout sessions, seem far less centralized: If I don’t want to listen to Bigler claim yet again that Brigham tried to bring on the Apocalypse, or don’t want to hear the latest “fornication is the new chastity” anti-gospel, I have other, better choices.

    But I’ll try to keep your perspective in mind from now on.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 10, 2009 @ 9:56 am

  95. Yeah, Ardis, I understand that not having breakouts leads to that impression. We’re still too small to have breakouts, although as the conference grows we may move to that model. We’re pretty much at capacity for the room we’ve been using at the Southtowne, and we’re not really sure at this point how to try to accomodate further growth (but there is a fair amount of hesitancy to move to a downtown hotel due to a far greater expense).

    Comment by Kevin Barney — August 10, 2009 @ 10:23 am

  96. David Bigler did much thankless service at the MHA convention in Salt Lake: more than thankless I guess since one of the plenary session speakers, a BYU professor, denounced him as a revisionist. But Bigler has never appeared at a Sunstone conference and I’d bet the farm he never will. Why he deserves to be insulted in this forum by someone who can’t back up her false claims is beyond me.

    Comment by Will Bagley — August 10, 2009 @ 3:38 pm

  97. I refer you, Will, to comment #87 where Bigler was used as an example by someone else; but for that use, I would not have mentioned him in my own comment.

    Poor Will.

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — August 10, 2009 @ 3:44 pm

  98. I have no idea “offensive thing” Bigler said that provoked Kevin Barney’s delicate sensibilities, but I have no doubt that whatever David said was true–and therefore unwelcome in whatever dim cave FAIR is conclaving in this summer. But I guess Bigler and I just don’t get it, being as unsanctified as the poor Saints the Old Boss tried to lecture and berate into the Millennium:

    We may talk about Priesthood, about power and authority, about blessings and exaltations, about the kingdom of God upon the earth, about gathering the house of Israel, about redeeming Zion and enjoying its fulness, about preparing for the coming of the Son of Man and enjoying celestial glory with him, but all this is vain if we do not sanctify ourselves before God, and sanctify the Lord our God in our hearts. We wish you fully to comprehend this; and when you go from this Conference, we do not wish to hear of contentions.–REMARKS BY PRESIDENT BRIGHAM YOUNG, MADE IN THE TABERNACLE, GREAT SALT LAKE CITY, APRIL 8, 1862. JofD, @10:35.

    Ah well, this is true too, but I doubt it will make the juveniles happy:

    An odd defensiveness characterizes the ?faithful? version of Mormon history that occasionally borders on paranoia: the most mild critical analysis is often condemned as yet another manifestation of the faith?s long-sanctified history of persecution by its enemies. To this day, the religion?s defenders paint the motives of those who do not subscribe to their version of history as suspect. The character of historians who raise serious questions about the nature of Mormon Kingdom building in the American West is considered fair game in the apologetic publications of the LDS church and its client organizations.

    Comment by Will Bagley — August 10, 2009 @ 5:55 pm

  99. This is hilarious, Will!

    Have you read the discussion to know who you’re agreeing with here (albeit in paranoic, exaggerated-to-the-point-of-meaninglessness terms)? or do you just assume that all believing Mormons automatically endorse FAIR and adopt its tactics?

    You made my day. 😀

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 10, 2009 @ 7:14 pm

  100. I have been watching this discussion from the wings for a couple of days now and just have a couple of observations and I am going to try and be as diplomatic and unassuming as possible. First, whether intentional or not, Robert White’s words as conveyed through Jared’s notes touched a nerve exposed by years of tricky relationships between some intellectuals and some church leaders. In the past, some members of FAIR have occasionally articulated this anti-intellectualism through biting humor and even ad-hominem attacks. Some intellectuals have definitely been guilty of the same thing. Completely unbiased scholarship is impossible and there are plenty of vendettas that populate academia. To the degree that these are haughty, self-righteous, and even prideful tactics they are obviously wrong. Once again, I can’t really speak to White’s motives, but his thoughts as conveyed might be interpreted along this vein. I agree with Kevin that we cannot really condemn an organization for perceived anti-intellectual strains within one talk at a conference, yet I think that historians and intellectuals have at times become bogeymen, painted as unrighteous and domineering predators seeking to pick off pious and unsuspecting members of the church. Our trade’s operations within a world of uncertainty and ambiguity, and our anger at perceived injustices make us potentially dangerous.

    I think FAIR can provide a great service by gently showing recently disillusioned members that faith can be saved by acknowledging a little gray in the history of the church. Most members don’t understand the subtleties of the historical craft and don’t understand that most historians conduct their examinations in a discipline wrought with ambiguities, judgments, and interpretation. I think that because of our need to protect disciplinary integrity, historians often do a poor job conveying the assumptions and ambiguity that we bring to the table to the general public. FAIR can be a powerful voice for conveying that there is still room for faith within a world created out of infinite shades of gray.

    I guess what I really want to examine is if line-drawing and chest thumping really helps either the apologetic or the historical endeavor. I think that in this I am in agreement with SC Taysom in #84. Demagoguery never makes anyone look good.

    Comment by Joel — August 10, 2009 @ 10:37 pm

  101. Joel, thank you for your perspective. And congrats on making the 100th comment /grin/

    Comment by Jared T — August 12, 2009 @ 10:04 pm

  102. Coming late to the game. (No time for bloggging any more)

    Ardis wrote:

    If FAIR isn?t somewhat responsible for a speech given from their platform by a speaker or writer (whoever ?he? happens to be in the specific discussion), then why does FAIR give him (whoever ?he? is) access to their platform?

    This just seems a double standard to me. I agree that some tar Sunstone on the basis of a few talks, but having been at several Sunstones (and even presented twice) I think the preponderance of sessions there are controversial. While the FAIR conference (which I didn’t have time to attend) had all talks one after an other this is true of many groups. (That’s how SMPT does it for instance – which I’ve also presented at)

    What bothers me is how some nab a real small number of comments and try to paint that as the whole. While I’ve not been a member of FAIR for several years now, when I was most were pretty open and tried their best to not be snarky. There were a few who did – usually because they wasted far too much time dealing directly with anti-Mormons. (Which I think is usually futile) It gets to you after a while and I think is ultimately counterpoductive.

    Do I wish everyone were as open as Keven is above and which I think characterizes the typical FAIR member? Yes. But it bothers me when a diversity of opinion is recognized among most other groups except FAIR and FARMS.

    Now you know Ardis I love to read your stuff. You blog remains one of my favorites. But I really think the characterization is unfair. (No pun intended)

    Comment by Clark — August 13, 2009 @ 12:26 am

  103. Part of what has not yet been recognized is that not all sessions carry the same institutional baggage.

    Part of Sunstone’s mission with the Symposium is to create space for dialogue. In that context, I don’t mind if some of the parallel discussions going on strike me as controversial, unorthodox, irreverent, or (even worse) boring. That sort of thing is inevitable.

    Some sessions, however, come with a more direct institutional endorsement. Take, for example, Sunstone’s decision to have Paul Toscano read from his book The Sanctity of Doubt as the opening Devotional for the Symposium. Given that this is a unique stand-alone session and intended to serve as a devotional at the outset of the first full day of regular sessions, I think it is fair to attribute at least some amount of institutional endorsement — for good or ill — to Sunstone itself. If nothing else, it give us an idea of what Sunstone believes qualifies as a devotional.

    Robert White’s comments at the FAIR conference strike me as coming with a not insignificant amount of institutional endorsement. It is one thing to give, say, Mark Brown an opportunity to discuss his views relating to Brigham Young’s teachings about Adam. It is another thing entirely to have a former general authority (what other qualification did he have for addressing the conference, by the way) come and discuss the merits of FAIR and the alleged demerits of those who take a different approach. For better or worse, a speaker invited by an institution to address the merits of the institution and its primary purpose at the institution’s annual conference is going to be saddled with some amount of implied if not express institutional endorsement of what gets said.

    Comment by Randy B. — August 13, 2009 @ 12:55 pm

  104. Clark, I’ve explained my inability to distinguish between who speaks for FAIR and whom FAIR has only chosen as a speaker — a great deal of the confusion comes from the format of the conference, as I’ve explained, with its by-invitation-only speakers addressing the full conference, vs. other types of symposiums where speakers ask for the opportunity to speak, with breakout sessions for attendees to choose what fits and overlook what doesn’t.

    The double standard you see is not my creation, but arises from the very different formats of the various conferences — including LDS General Conference. I have nothing more to say about it, and no apology to offer.

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — August 13, 2009 @ 1:29 pm

  105. I got that Ardis, it’s just that I find it a broader issue than just you. i.e. people pick a very small slice and then judge the whole.

    Comment by Clark — August 13, 2009 @ 3:06 pm

  106. And BTW, I’m still waiting for an answer from Stephen (Ethesis) on #82. Ironic given the apparent criticism.

    Comment by Jared T — August 13, 2009 @ 3:22 pm

  107. I’m Rene (real name), I’m a member of FAIR, and I mainly work on the German FAIR site.

    I’ve not been able to listen to all of the conference, but I’ve carefully read Jared’s and Blair’s blog posts on it.

    I’ve also read the comments here.

    Chris claimed that Bob’s presentation was anti-intellectual, and I’m really trying hard to understand why he would feel that to be the case, but I fail.

    When I came to #13, I immidiately re-read the comments mentioned there. Still, I cannot see the anti-intellectualism of Bob.

    #1 says that Bob seems to think all intellectuals should be doing what FAIR does, and since Chris doesn’t agree, he feels belittled.

    OK, that’s an opinion we could talk about, but I do not see, how this is “anti-intellectual” per se, especially since I do not see where Bob did claim this. But since English is not my mother tongue, probably I simply do not understand him correctly. Could somebody help?

    #2 says that Jared was surprised at what Bob said, but no specifics are given.

    Again, maybe it’s my bad English, but how does this show that Bob was sputtering anti-intellectual thoughts?

    #3 Seems to say taht Bob holds contempt against those who experience Mormon religion in a different way than he does.

    Again, could you give some example from his words? I simply don’t see it, and I do not know how the writer of #3 experiences his religion, so that he feels offended by Bob. It seems, though, that #3 does not talk about anti-intellectualism, but rather about offending others. Right?

    #5 says “Good history (or good academics) is a good way of defending the Church.”

    I’ve been a member of FAIR almost from the beginning, and I can tell you that without good academical research, there *is no* apologetics. See, currently I’m working on a review of a paper by a Lutheran religious study guy, who, among other things, claims that Eduard Meyer, speaking as scholar of religious studies, in 1912 classified the Church correctly not as a sect of Christianity, but as a new religion. We all know this Meyer-quote. But 40 lines down, Meyer claims that the Jews are not a religion, but a sect. And of course, nowadays nobody in his right mind would agree. This Lutheran’s paper is full of such inconsistencies. It’s not done by purpose, it’s just that teh author didn’t do a whole lot of research himself but relied heavily on what others have already written. Bad scholarship IMHO. So, I indeed need *good* scholarship in the first place. But then, I have to formulate what academics said in a language that even a teen in trouble can understand, and to bring different areas of scholarship together, in order to answer questions and attacks. And I do know that the other FAIRsters agree to that. It’s our mission. I know Bob well enough to know that he, too, agrees. So, how does this claim of #5 really deal with what Bob said?

    #6 Chris feels no obligation to defend the Church in the way FAIR does.

    This seems to be a repetition of #5. And it’s *good* that Chris does not feel this obligation. Obviously this is not given to him, and if he tried, he would not have much success, since it’s not what he wants to do. THere are other things, where he surely can do much more to build up and enlighten. Apologetics is *not* for everyone (Please, I see how this can be misunderstood as a snide commentary or a judgement. It really is not intended as such. It’s rather on the line of Paul saying: “Not all are bishops, not all are teachers, not all are prophets, not all have every gift, but each has a gift from which the church can profit.”)

    #9: I honestly do not see where this has anything at all to do with Bob’s presentation.

    #10 claims that Bob’s combative and triumphalist tone might lead him toward a lack of humility and joy in the defeat of his enemies that could, perhaps, become un-Christian.

    I would like to see what the writer saw as “combative tone”. I didn’t get that feeling. “Lack of humility”, well Bob says, “That will not go to your heads you wouldn?t be here if you were.” This can also be understood as: “Don’t let it go to your head, or I fear you will not be here soon.” And I have seen in the past 11 years that I’m with FAIR, that many of the apologists that switched sides (and became enemies of the Church) were those who had an oversized picture of themselves. Nevertheless, it would be worthwile to see which of Bob’s statements were seen as “triumphalist, combative and lacking humility”. Yet, #10 is the one I can understand best.

    #11 doesn’t go into any details, I just somehow get the impression, that FAIR is somehow bad and needs reformation.

    See, I’m new to this discussion, and probably you all have already gone the rounds, so that everybody here, when reading “combative” really knows where the anti-intellectualism lies in Bob’s presentation. Also, it could be that anti-intellectualism has a different meaning here in Europe than it has in the US. We see things like that a lot, when a European and an American discuss things.

    But being a member of FAIR, I really would like to know what people who obviously don’t like what we are doing, really mean. I really want to know, why I am one of the “bad guys” and in need of reformation in your eyes.

    Comment by Rene — August 14, 2009 @ 10:57 am

  108. Rene, yes we have gone the rounds, and I’m not interested in going them again at this time. Maybe another time, but I will say that no one said you are a “bad guy” or any such nonsense. Those words do not come up in any of the past comments. You see, implications and impressions cut both ways. Good luck to you.

    Comment by Jared T — August 14, 2009 @ 3:17 pm

  109. Ardis, of course people ask to speak at FAIR. And I hope that you will consider accepting my invitation to lunch some day.

    Comment by Juliann — August 14, 2009 @ 10:22 pm

  110. And BTW, I?m still waiting for an answer from Stephen (Ethesis) on #82

    Sorry, that was just drawn to my attention.

    I was commenting on how too many people in comment threads don’t really seem interested in discussing things, but I was glad that he had made the effort to begin the discussion and post the talks.

    Sorry that wasn’t clearer.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — November 17, 2009 @ 10:36 pm

  111. I guess I just don’t visit enough.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — November 17, 2009 @ 10:36 pm


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