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""Vocal doubters are a small and shrinking minority that finds itself much closer to anti-Mormons in its interests and views than to the general LDS community""

I feel many who have doubts are really having doubts about the many social aspects of the Mormon culture. That does have a habit to lead to anti-church beliefs.
When doubts arise you go to people you trust, the bishop for example, and he gives you the standard "pray on it" reply. This is what is not needed. Free discusion with other members without ecclesiastical authority is probably the best thing to work through doubts and issues.

My .02 $

While I'm sure gunner is right that "many who have doubts" have difficulty with Mormon culture, too, I think the implication that the doubts of most of those who question the historicity of the Book of Mormon have their roots in social issues is incorrect. I think the questions of historicity stand on their own, and the social issues contribute to a more general dissatisfaction with the Church.

But this kind of response, along with the "you must not be living right if you have doubts" kinds of responses, teach many people to be silent about their doubts.

I think _How Wide the Divide_ and the recent _The New Mormon Challenge_ suggest most at FARMS can read critical papers on LDS theology and belief without labeling them anti-Mormon.

Gunnar, thanks for the comments. Somehow I imagine if a Catholic, especially a youth or college student, approaches a priest and confesses to doubts or concerns about their faith, the priest would give perspective as well as encouragement, along these lines: "It's understandable to have doubts; many do, but many also reconcile those doubts with their faith. Here, borrow this book to read, you'll find it interesting. Come visit again when you get the chance." Mormons (and Mormon Bishops) tend to see doubt as a sign of sin rather than as part of (for lack of a better term) a personal growth process.

Clark, tell me more. Are you referring to the FARMS Review of Books reviews of these books? The one FARMS review of New Mormon Challenge I've read was by David Paulsen, a philosophy prof at BYU, not a FARMS regular. And Robinson is a BYU relgion prof, not really a candidate for the FARMS "anti-Mormon" label, at least in public. I thought the recent Sunstone article on orthodox Mormon scholars was fairly enlightening on this general issue.

Paulsen's actually written quite a few reviews for FARMS. However many at FARMS have commented on the New Mormon Challenge and don't considered it anti. I won't say all, since I've not heard everyone's comments. Likewise the editors of that volume were on LDS-Phil for quite some time and there were many interesting discussions. Although the last I heard were some flamatory comments when someone heard their next volume *would* be a more traditional anti-Mormon book and several LDS felt betrayed. (I don't know whether that was true or not so perhaps it was misinformation or else perhaps the nature of the volume changed)

The point being that I think FARMS isn't quite the reactionary group that some argue. That's not to say they haven't been reactionary at times. But I think that often gets more airtime than perhaps it deserves.

In certain ways I think the Sunstone article was misleading as well. Several of his points were good. But there were parts I recall disagreeing with also. Alhough I'd have to reread it to say which is which, of course.

The article gave me hope. It made it clear there are BYU profs (which I knew), even BYU religion profs (which I didn't), who decline to be associated with the FARMS approach and are, in fact, pursuing their own approach to interacting with scholars of different faiths as well as secular scholars interested in Mormon Studies themes.

My concern is that it's too late, and that the FARMS approach has already become the semi-official LDS approach. Posting the Turley book review (very much in the FARMS Review style) of Krakauer's book on LDS.org last year was, to me, a clear indication senior LDS leaders see the "FARMS adversarial apologetics" model as one to be encouraged.

PS: I think Reynolds is a fairly restrained and "fair" commentator on these issues. I was a bit rushed in my initial post so that probably didn't come through well. For example, had I had more time I would have noted that he often refers, in the Introduction, to "secular and anti-Mormon authors," seemingly recognizing that some authors are more neutral in their approach while others are implementing what might be termed an anti-Mormon agenda. But I don't think "secular" and "anti-Mormon" work as contrasting terms: there are authors who are both secular and anti-Mormon, and others who are neither secular nor anti-Mormon. I don't think Reynolds was proposing the terms this way, but just using them loosely in reference to the wide variety of authors who publish books or articles deemed critical of the Church and its claims.

In one of the section introductions, Reynolds reviews philosophical versus methodological naturalism, which came up in the McMurrin book and discussion. I'll blog that next week if I get to it.

I'll hopefully get my Qwest modem today so I can get caught up with that bloggin on the books.

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