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Dave, do you ever wonder if some of the views you express here might generate a SMC packet? Palmer seems to be set up as an example. Of course, the court hasn't ruled yet, but the very act of a trial sends a chill up the spine of anyone who dares to think an uncorrelated thought.

Who knows, Hiding, maybe there's already a packet with my name on it just waiting for me? [Of course, they don't actually send the packets to those they target, but you know what I mean.] Or maybe you are actually an SMC troll yourself, merely posing as a sincere blogger?

There are two ways to run afoul of the LDS heresy hunters. Big fish get the attention of FARMS and SMC, who target people who publish facts and ideas they find threatening. Little fish get the attention of local LDS leadership by causing trouble with local members or merely by getting on the wrong side of a cowboy Bishop. I'm not worried because (1) I'm not a big fish and have nothing to do with Sunstone, Signature, or BYU, the primary institutional targets of FARMS and the SMC; and (2) as little fish go, I'm on excellent terms with my local LDS leadership.

I think Dave's take on big fish/little fish is mostly right. Still, you have to wonder whether the internet changes this dynamic a bit.

The press release is funny, in a not-funny way:

"The initial attack on Palmer's orthodoxy came from the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) at BYU, chief among Palmer's critics and known for its aggressive approach to doctrinal purity and combative rhetorical style."

"Attack on Palmer's orthodoxy"? Can someone please parse that in a way that makes sense?

Yeah, the Signature paragraph seems overblown. You'd think a publisher could write a clean paragraph. No one thinks of Palmer's book (or Palmer, who one assumes accepts the positions in the book) as expressing orthodox LDS history. The whole question is the extent to which someone like Palmer can dissent from orthodoxy yet still remain in good standing (more or less) within the Church.

As far as Randy's idea of the net changing the dynamic a bit, I think this is right-on. Think about Jeff Lindsey...I would not guess that if he was publishing apologietic material on paper and distributing them through conventional methods that he would have gained the attention that he has, particularly the DNA link on ldg.org. As for the strength of little fish like Dave here, let us not forget Rathergate's CBS forgaries and how that news was broken on a right-wing blog.

While liberal mormon sites like this one might not warrent strict attention, I bet it is on their radar. Then again, I've seen every X-files episode which might pre-dispose me towards conspiracy.

Dave, I thought that it was quite an exaggeration to state that an organization like FARMS has a hand in getting anyone excommunicated. If FARMS has anything to do with it at all, it's just because FARMS scholars took on Palmer's claims, which gave those claims publicity among more conservative members who aren't reading Signature titles.

If by engaging critics of the Church in scholarly debate, FARMS is contributing to their excommunication (which is what you seem to be saying), then it seems to follow that, in your view, it would be better for people like Palmer's views to go unchallenged because the mere act of challenging will invite fault for official Church action if the publicity ignited by the controversy brings the critic's statements to the attention of official Church organs charged with enforcing certain standards that are enumerated in e.g. the temple recommend questions.

A discontent with FARMS's apologetic activities has come through in some of your other comments on this blog before. That puzzles me. Would we all really be better off if there weren't a collection of people dedicated to challenging both founded and unfounded criticism of the Church with informed, well-documented, scholarly analysis?

I think it all boils down to the use of this word "orthodoxy". Palmer's book has been marketed as an "insider's view", and he clearly trades off his involvement with CES. He seems to be suggesting that his years of experience as an "insider" is what brought him to the "truth", as if there is a vast conspiracy that he has unmasked. No such conspiracy exists.

The true "inside view" is this: that the orthodox version of Church history is also the true one. I believe that the Brethren believe it, and I know that most members do too. Of course, whether the orthodox view is the correct one or not is another question. But there is no cover-up. Mormon orthodoxy is not conspiratorial, it's just how most of us are.

So this book's apostasy is its claim to present the view from the inside. It doesn't. It presents the view of certain revisionist historians and I think that the Church is acting in its own interest in clarifying this position lest any be mislead. That said, I wish Palmer well. I really wish that there wasn't this constant friction between academia and the Church. There must be a better way to allow people to vent without a) shaming the Church, or b) estranging them from their own religious culture.

John, are you on the FARMS payroll? Just curious. As I see it, FARMS has been too hung up on bombastic apologetics the last few years, and it is now trying (with a fair degree of success) to broaden its activities in line with its scholarly resources and agenda. I don't think that's an incorrect summary of what I have read FARMS people themselves say lately, and it's not even critical of FARMS.

I think you overreact to my occasional sharp comments on FARMS. I balance those by saying nice things about FARMS when I find the opportunity. If I self-edited to the point of only saying nice things about everyone, this would be a pretty boring weblog, wouldn't it? As it is, I restrict my self-editing to exclude only incorrect, unreasonable, or unsupportable statements, as well as gratuitously unkind statements.

While I'm practicing saying nice things . . . that United Brethren* site has a nice mix of participants. I've read some interesting posts there recently, including your old post on teaching an ethics class.

Ronan, that's an interesting take on "Insider." Yes, it relates to his CES experience, but I think the contrast is to the various "Outsider" accounts of Mormon origins. He's just advertising his book as more informed that "Outsider" treatments of the same material (which may or may not be accurate). I never saw any sinister allusions in the title, although I can see now how some might see his use of the term as unfair.

I don't recall reading the conspiracy theme in Palmer's book. He was quite open about his differences with the orthodox account and approach to LDS history, but I don't recall him portraying orthodox LDS history as secret or conspiratorial. Except maybe for limiting public access to archival materials and documents, but Palmer's not the first to talk about that.

Dave, while I think there have been bombastic apologetics, I don't think they typically make up the majority. Further I'd say that having witnesses various academic wars they aren't even as explosive as we like to think in our provincialness. Now for a real blow up see how some write about Jacques Derrida.

i.e. I think the attacks on FARMS make a mountain out of a molehill.

Eyring-L has been debating the Palmer thing the past few days. A few apparently know him and suggest that the "insider" label wasn't his idea and he regrets it. However I tend to agree that the way it has been marketed does provide a context for it that is disturbing to many. Likewise I think a point someone else brought up was apt. Had Palmer provided at least the apologetic position along the way as a possibility few would be bothered. The analogy made was Raymond Brown's writings on Jesus and the Bible. Unfortunately Palmer focused only on those elements undermining the origins of the church. I've not read the book, except for a few chapters, but it does seem to be oriented towards persuading people to a more ahistorical view of church history. (Ahistorical meaning that even some basis to the stories is discounted)

I think anyone who expects to publish such matters and not be seen as attacking the faith is being naive at best.

Dave, I am not on the FARMS payroll, but I am very close to FARMS and it is very important to me. I certainly don't expect you to say nice things about everything or even anything. What I was looking for was an explanation of how this tendency towards "bombastic apologetics", if it even exists, is a bad thing. After all, if you can refute some of FARMS's "bombastic apologetics," go ahead and try. . . .

Thanks for the compliment on United Brethren. I like that blog a lot too. Ronan's a brilliant guy. I think that the ethics post you referred to was by John C. I have contributed there, though, most recently with the post on ecumenicalism not long before the Mouw/Zacharia fireside in the tabernacle (which I attended).

Interesting that you brought up speaking "nicely" of people in your comment to me. You even mentioned "gratuitously" unkind statements. The reason I find that interesting is that right before visiting you here and reading that comment of yours, I had just posted over at Headlife about the future of gratuitously unkind comments in judicial decisions. . . .

Ronan, I agree fully with your comment above. Excellent way to look at it. I think it is hard to argue that using the word "Insider" in the title of a book does not or cannot convey the implications of conspiracy when the book challenges the orthodox view.

i for one am a bit troubled by the whole affair. most of us that know much about church history realize that often the portrayal of historical events in mormonism through official sources is less than accurate. although there may be some parts of palmer's book that are a stretch or don't stand up to criticism (the golden pot chapter comes to mind), on the whole it portrays a much more accurate view of church history then what one you will get out of a SS manual.

most members have no idea that most if not all of the accounts of JS translating the plates state that he translated them w/ his face buried in a hat looking at seer stones w/ the plates not in the room, and his scribe on the other side of a curtain, unable to see what is going on. contrast this w/ the new restoration dvd that came w/ the ensign a few months back, which shows JS perusing the plates like a book w/ a scribe sitting next to him. i think people should know the real history, even if it might not be considered faith promoting.

many other issues are brought up in the book, most of which are not disputed on a factual basis. there are different versions of the first vision that were recorded or dictated by JS. there are statements by the witnesses to the plates that likely will make the reader see their statements in a different light. the recent DNA studies of native americans do make it extremely difficult to argue for a hebrew origin of any new world peoples. the church does have the papyri from which JS translated the BoA, and so on. people may not agree w/ the conclusions he draws, but for the most part they don't like the issues palmer brings up, even if they are supported by documentary evidence.

i for one believe that the membership of the church is mature enough to read about these kinds of issues, and can draw their own conclusions. i find it amusing that he is going to be put on trial for wanting to have the church focus more on christ and less on certain foundational stories that in all likelihood did not happen the way the are portrayed. i hope that there is room in mormonism for people like grant palmer (and me). whether or not FARMS is directly involved i don't know, but from what i've read on FARMS and FAIR (by those associated w/ FARMS), i can say that their views are often just as unorthodox as palmer's, if not moreso.

True, some of what FARMS says is unorthodox e.g. their preference for a limited BoM history and Lamanite ancestry of the Indians. But at no stage is their a suggestion that the Book of Mormon itself is not "true", just that within our belief that it is an authentic ancient record there is some wiggle-room. That's the difference between Palmer and FARMS.

I have a hard time seeing FARMS as being unorthodox, depending upon what one means by orthodoxy. If one defines orthodoxy as what Bruce R. McConkie and Joseph Fielding Smith thought, then yes. A lot of FARMS is unorthodox. However in the context of GA views and the acceptance of the brethren, it seems that FARMS is if anything the seat of orthodoxy.

I agree, Clark. I think a case could be made that FARMS invented Mormon orthodoxy.

I think a case could be made that FARMS invented Mormon orthodoxy.

What an odd assertion.

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