John Weldon's Response To Mosser/Owen and FARMS
Note: This is an initial response to the paper "Mormon Scholarship, Apologetics, and Evangelical Neglect: Losing the Battle and Not Knowing It?" by Carl Mosser and Paul Owen. This response may be modified or expanded within the near future.
Appendix 1: F.A.R.M.S. -- Is Mormon Scholarship A Threat To Christianity,
Or Is It Evangelical Neglect?
Appendix 2: FARMS Review of Books
Appendix 3: The Evangelical Response
Appendix 4: Reinventing Mormonism
Appendix 5: Are Christians Anti-Mormon and is Criticism a sin?
Appendix 6: An Intelligent Defense of Mormonism?
Appendix 7: Signature Books
Appendix 8: Hugh Nibley
Another Study in F.A.R.M.S. Behavior: A Brief Response to
Mormon Scholar Dr. Daniel C. Peterson
Daniel C. Peterson's "Text and Context," is a critique of Signature Books, which publishes literature critical of Mormonism. In that article, Dr. Peterson responded to a critics charge and claimed the following:
"In December 1993, Gary James Bergera, Signature's director of publishing, announced to readers of the Salt Lake Tribune that, "Mr. Peterson continues to insist that character assassination and ad hominem attacks are respected hallmarks of the intellectual enterprise." But Mr. Bergera is wrong, and he is equivocating. By ad hominem "attacks," he obviously means the use of insulting or abusive language. I do not advocate such rhetorical attacks."
(Review of Books on the Book of Mormon Vol 6, No.1)Dr. Peterson's review of our book in the FARMS journal would belie that claim and has, also, apparently caused a few evangelicals to conclude our research in Behind the Mask of Mormonism was careless. Because this is not the case, we have prepared the following analysis indicating that careless is a more apt term for Peterson's review. As we illustrated in our Encyclopedia of Cults & New Religions (Harvest House, 1999), FARMS reviews of books may look impressive, but they aren't. More often than not, they engage in the same kind of behavior they often falsely accuse their critics of. For examples, see our encyclopedia, above, or for those on the Web, see Dr. James White's multiple responses to FARMS scholars at his website (www.aomin.org), including his critique of Drs. Peterson and Ricks scholarship in their Offenders for a Word. One can also examine the Tanners response to FARMS critiques in Answering Mormon Scholars (3 Vols.) and other works (See www.utlm.org and www.xmission.com/~country/reason/tanorder.htm). Thus, if one reads the FARMS reviews of the Tanners books, it looks as if 1) they frequently don't know what they are talking about and are often ignorant of "true" Mormonism, 2) research carelessly and make lots of errors, and 3) are sometimes just stupid. The same if you read L Ara Norwood's review of Dr. White's book. Or just about any review of any book critical of Mormonism. What FARMS excels at is taking basically good books, sometimes excellent books, and making them look as bad as possible by extenuating the negatives, --minor errors, alleged inaccuracies, and using lots of ad hominem and name calling. FARMS reviewers often attempt to undermine something good to make something not good look virtuous--i.e., to damage Christian books on Mormonism to make Mormonism look trustworthy. So, before believing in Peterson's review, our critics should have read our book, or read it more carefully. Whenever its faults, they were hardly sufficient to justify Dr. Peterson's scathing attacks and denunciations. Trying to dialogue with FARMS, unfortunately, is kind of like trying to grind your coffee beans with scissors, or even in the garbage disposal. You'll either get a lot of frustration or noise, but little satisfaction. Because FARMS makes serious research and researchers look bad, and can even damage reputations, FARMS little charms are 'yarns' that harm. Sooner or later, it will backfire. I, Dr. Weldon (not Dr. Ankerberg), did regretfully make some minor errors in our book and I also cited a few secondary sources that contained minor errors, even though I had reason to assume they were accurate. The errors consisted of some dictation induced phonetic misspellings which were not caught at galley stage and some spelling errors that were not caught since it had been 10 years since the ms. was first written. There were also a few instances of inadvertent biographical error, name transpositions, an erroneous assumption about language translation and a misinterpretation of the book of Mormon. But to err is human, so at least my humanity was reaffirmed. Dr. Peterson pointed these errors out and we made corrections, in some places giving him the benefit of the doubt. But the vast majority of what Peterson claimed as error was not. His review made it seem if there were far more errors than there actually were, and since this seems to be a common technique of FARMS Review of Books, we felt a response to our review might be valuable in illustrating how Mormon scholars at FARMS do apologetics. Clearly, a 500-page book that used 200 books and sources on Mormonism, cited 1500 footnotes, and contained ¼ million words, is likely to contain some errors if there were less than perfect writing conditions. This does not excuse these errors by any means, but it does help explain them. As Dr. Peterson noted in his own work, "Given the very large number of references that we cite in the course of this work [i.e.,729], it is inevitable that some unintentional errors may have crept in.""(Offenders for a Word, 1992, 1998,p.xiii) The great majority of what Peterson charged as error results from interpretive differences, his premise that Mormonism, especially his interpretation of Mormonism, is true. Therefore, anytime we rejected Mormonism for specific reasons or presented evidence against Mormonism, for Peterson, it had to be an error. Dr. Peterson concentrated on our discussion of the Book of Mormon, but, given his premise of the truth of Mormonism, Peterson would find "errors" on every page. But the debate between Mormonism and Christianity isn't about minor errors in research, it's about truth in religious claims. Indeed, one wonders how many much more serious errors one could find in Mormon books and reviews of books by FARMS scholars? Drs. Peterson's and Ricks Offenders for a Word illustrates that errors of religious philosophy that permeate a book (the assumption that Mormonism is true) are going to result in a far greater number of actual and major errors than my small unintentional errors of fact resulting from occasional misunderstanding, the inadvertent repetition of others' errors, or carelessness (deadlines leading to, in places, hasty galley review, which accounted for most the spelling errors). Indeed, given the true nature of the Book of Mormon as myth, the downside for Mormon apologists is that every time they write about Book of Mormon, they are writing about fiction not fact. So, is FARMS and Dr. Peterson interested in producing scholarly reviews-- or in making books critical of Mormonism look as bad as possible? As we documented in our encyclopedia, it appears the latter. Of course, this is generally not difficult to do with any book, no matter how good it may be. Consider Harvard University's Dr. Stephen J. Gould's scathing review of Phillip Johnson's Darwin on Trial for Scientific American. Based on this review alone, it would have been easy to conclude that, despite his obvious skill in research and reasoning, Phillip Johnson didn't know what he was talking about. But that would have been a mistaken conclusion. Even though Gould made Johnson look bad, the problem lay in Gould's review, not Johnson's book. One can only get a fair assessment of the book being reviewed if the reviewer is more or less objective in his or her critique. But this is certainly not what we find with Gould's review or FARMS reviews. Consider Dr. Peterson's 1993/1996 reviews of the first and second printing our book, the first of which was colorfully titled, "Chattanooga Cheap Shot, Or the Gall of Bitterness." He begins his review by quoting T. S. Eliot, informing his readers as to his opinion of us:
"We are the hollow menAlas, indeed. For the good doctor we are little more than hollow and stuffed men with heads filled with straw. (A look at Peterson's book review titles and introductory quotations often says more about his methods than he must realize.) In his first few paragraphs Dr. Peterson tells how he bought our book and a book by Dr. Robert Morey at a Christian bookstore. He calls Dr. Robert Morey's The Islamic Invasion a "dreadful little screed" and proceeds to claim there is an alleged "bigotry and intolerance" in conservative Protestantism. (FARMS folks are fond of claiming Christians are "intolerant" of other religions and in particular, bigoted against Mormonism, apparently not understanding the meaning of these terms or the position of "conservative Protestantism.") We decided to begin this response by mentioning Dr. Peterson's comments about Islam because these illustrate his concern with inter-faith religious understanding/dialogue, as well as his approach to comparative religion and our book in general. Thus, in his review, he criticizes our The Facts on Islam in the following words. We "ignorantly describe Allah, the object of worship in Islam, as an evil, pagan deity. They are evidently unaware that the word Allah is closely related to the Hebrew word Elohim, and that it is simply the Arabic equivalent of the English word God. (It is so used throughout the Arabic Bible.) Thus Dr. Ankerberg and Dr. Dr. [sic] Weldon, in denouncing the Muslims as heathenish devil-worshipers, also blithely condemn millions of their Arabic Christian brothers and sisters." Note Dr. Peterson's tone. Note that he disagrees with our conclusion that the Muslim God was derived from paganism, and that, from a biblical perspective, Allah should be considered an evil deity. But many reputable scholars agree with us and we have conducted more than sufficient research into Islam to justify our conclusions, only a small portion of which were placed in our booklet. For Dr. Peterson to argue that the Muslim God Allah is not evil or pagan is understandable from his perspective as a Mormon, but false nonetheless. (One dictionary definition of pagan as "not a Muslim, Christian or Jew" does not mean that Muslims never derived their God from paganism) Peterson also entirely misses the point when he discusses the words Allah and God, as if to imply that when a Muslim refers to Allah and a Christian refers to God they are indicating the same deity. Certainly, Dr. Peterson does not think there are no serious differences between the biblical God and the God of Islam? What then is the point to his argument? In The Facts on Islam, we showed just how different the God of Islam and the God of the Bible are. Finally, to claim we "denounce" Muslims as "heathenish devil worshipers" are his words, not ours. As we will see, Dr. Peterson not infrequently misrepresents what we say. What we did was to offer legitimate evidence from Islamic scholars and those who knew Muhammad to show there was good reason to believe that Muhammad's revelations from the alleged angel Gabriel comprising the Koran were received from a jinn (spirit)--in Christian terms, a fallen angel or demon-- and not from the one true God, as Muslims claim. But never did we "denounce Muslims as heathenish devil worshipers," since that would be untrue. So why did Dr. Peterson misrepresent what we said? Finally, in claiming that we have condemned millions of Arab Christians because we declared Allah is a false God of the Muslims, is without merit, and indeed, unconscionable. Again, does he really believe there is no difference at all between Allah and Jehovah? Perhaps in his praise for Islam as "one of the world's greatest religious traditions," he has forgotten how thoroughly the Koran denies the deity of Jesus Christ, how frequently Islam has persecuted Christians historically and today, or how the Koran logically supports Muslim terrorism. In the latter part of the first Millenium, Islam almost destroyed Christianity by military conquest and historically Islam has been an undeniable enemy of Christianity either physically or spiritually, as the Koran dictates. Even today, Islam holds high honors in the persecution of Christians. For example, The Janurary, 1996 World Watch Persecution Index, published by Open Doors revealed that, apart from North Korea and China, Islamic countries held every single spot on the top ten list of countries where persecution of Christians was most severe. Christian homes and churches are burned, Christian women raped and Christian men, women and children have been murdered. The persecution continues to this day in Muslim nations around the world. Does Dr. Peterson really think a world dominated by strict Islamic law would not persecute or even exterminate Christians who did not renounce their faith and adopt Islam? Does he possibly believe a pagan, polytheistic faith like Mormonism would survive Islamic rule? Indeed, given the influence of Islam in the modern world-- the terrorism of 'radical' Muslims, it's spiritual or physical "holy wars" in the name of Allah, it's denial of God, Christ, the gospel etc., thus leading hundreds of millions of Muslims to eternal judgment -- all in the name of Allah, -- if that isn't evil from a biblical perspective, what is? But our differences here point out much more. Because of their contrary theology and worldview, Mormons and Christians view almost everything theological differently. As a Mormon and presumably a universalist, Dr. Peterson is not concerned with the eternal damnation of Muslims. He thus has no concern with the biblical gospel, which freely offers salvation by grace to sinners facing the eternal wrath of a holy God. Since Dr. Peterson worships an entirely different God than the biblical God, he has no concern with that God's interests at all. But back to the review. After taking potshots at Dr. Weldon's degrees, (to which we will return later), Dr. Peterson declares that, in contrast to our stated objectives, we did not fairly present the claims of Mormonism, nor did we adequately examine the evidence in order to determine whether or not Mormonism was true:
We are the stuffed men
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!"
"It sounds great. But such pretensions, intoned by the likes of Ankerberg and Weldon, are utterly and absolutely bogus. They do not "fairly state" Latter-day Saint claims. They refuse to "adequately examine the evidence." Thus, they are not even remotely qualified to "discover who is right." Like Caesar's Gaul, Ankerberg and Weldon's gall is comprised of three parts: (1) Their book shows virtually no trace of any acquaintance with Latter-day Saint writing and betrays not the slightest evidence that they have ever, even once, tried to sympathize with, or to understand, the faith of those they have targeted for attack. (2) Their book slavishly repeats anything it can find in anti-Mormon writing, no matter how implausible or even downright stupid it may be, and positively rejoices in real, imagined, or manufactured Mormon iniquity (see 1 Corinthians 13:6). (3) It claims, nonetheless, to be an objective and exhaustive examination of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of its history, and of its teachings. I will not hide my opinion: This is an ugly, incompetent, uncharitable, dishonest book, of which its authors and its publisher ought to be ashamed."Whew, how can we ever redeem ourselves? Unbelievably, he charges our "book shows virtually no trace of any acquaintance with Latter-day Saint writing." Is reading and citing over 100 books and other sources by Mormons "no trace"? And the truth is that we did state Mormon claims fairly and accurately. For example, in chapter 2, where are our inaccuracies on the crucial first vision account of Joseph Smith which we discussed on pp. 33-36? Can Dr. Peterson find any? Anyone who wishes may read this account and determine if we were fair and accurate. Again, when we discussed Mormon claims regarding the atonement in chapter 15, pp. 197-98 we were fair and accurate, as anyone can see. In chapter 22, p. 282-83, we fairly and accurately discussed the Book of Mormon claims as to its alleged historical background. At many places throughout the book we cited official Mormon sources read and used by LDS, including the standard works and books by the general authorities -- Mormon prophets and presidents. Again, anyone may prove this by looking at our footnotes and bibliography. But Dr. Peterson thinks we misrepresented Mormonism. Why? Largely because we do not agree with his views on Mormonism and thus did not limit our citations to the standard works and general authorities or other sources he approves of, especially material by FARMS. Had we done so, and cited only sources that Peterson would approve of, we would then have presented a biased and inaccurate portrait of Mormonism. Peterson next says: "The problems start with Ankerberg and Weldon's failure to master even basic facts about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Errors and misinterpretations and highly questionable presuppositions pervade this book." This is also amazing. To allege we fail "to master even basic facts" concerning Mormonism is about as erroneous and egregious a misstatement as possible. Further, "errors, misinterpretations and questionable presuppositions" are often in the eye of the beholder. Thus, anything we state in our book that Peterson doesn't believe is true, based on his own strained or faulty interpretation of Mormonism or Christianity, is by definition an error, misinterpretation, etc. On what logical/historical basis does Dr. Peterson prove the validity of his interpretation of Mormonism or Christiantiy? He also declares we said: "Members of the Latter-day Saint Church, Ankerberg and Weldon falsely declare, are discouraged from reading the Bible (p. 378)." Dr. Peterson is wrong again. We never implied such a statement, which suggests LDS generally are discouraged from reading the Bible. This is obviously not true. So, we never said this on page 378, but on page 379 here is what we did say, carefully qualifying our allegation: "The Bible's supposed inadequacy and corruption is why Mormon counselors frequently tell Mormons who are reading the Bible too much (or attending Bible studies) to stop such activity and read only Mormon literature." The truth is that attending Bible studies and reading the Bible too much can present real problems to LDS doctrines and lead to questions and doubts among the faithful--and so such a response to stop such activity is hardly surprising. Thus, what we actually declared is quite different from what Peterson reports us as saying. Why did he misrepresent us again? Clearly, such misrepresentation can sometimes be due to Petersons beliefs and assumptions as a Mormon. Unfortunately, he does not always distinguish what Mormons and Christians mean when they use the same words. Thus when we argued that Mormons deny the atonement, Peterson's response is to charge us with error because "every week, Latter-day Saints partake of the sacrament 'in remembrance of the blood of [the] Son, which was shed for them' [Moroni 5:2; cf. D&C 20:79]." Obviously however, if Mormonism has a radically different view of the atonement than Christianity, it makes little difference what is remembered if it denies what the Bible teaches about the atonement. We documented in some detail the reasons for our conclusion that Mormonism denies the atonement. But Dr. Peterson ignores this because as far as he is concerned, Mormonism honors the atonement of Christ and it is Christians who are wrong on the atonement. We had called the Marcionites "pagans." Dr. Peterson responded: "The Marcionites were not pagans. Rather, they were "heretical" early Christians." Obviously, they were heretical "Christians," but our point in using the term pagan was to show that they were not Christians at all, anymore than Mormons are. For this we employed the definition of pagan as "one who is not a Christian, Jew, or Muslim, with stress on the term Christian." Peterson is using the term with reference to another definition of pagan as involving polytheism, which the Marcionites were not guilty of. (But even Dr. Peterson would have to agree the charge of polytheism applies to Mormonism, and, since Mormonism is not Christian either, this would have to classify Mormon religion as pagan. Then again, perhaps not.) Nevertheless, Dr. Peterson is wrong again. Based on how we used the term, the Marcionites were pagans. Still, Dr. Peterson's quotation marks around the word "heretical" are telling. Dr. Peterson could hardly deny that Marcion held certain gnostic beliefs. Dr. Peterson next accuses us of exhibiting a double standard in claiming that Mormon women are given a secondary status within Mormonism when we know very well that the Bible teaches women are to obey their husbands:
"Simple error, however, is not the only resource of which Ankerberg and Weldon avail themselves in their assault upon The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. One of their most useful weapons against Mormonism is the double standard. A clear instance of this can be found in their remarks on the place of Latter-day Saint women: 'Unfortunately, as in Hinduism and Islam today, Mormon women are accorded a secondary status.' This is a caricature of the Latter-day Saints, of course, and it is not altogether fair to Hinduism and Islam. Nevertheless, to support it, they then immediately cite what is meant to be an appalling passage from Brigham Young, to the effect that 'the man is the head and God of the woman' (p. 113). They fail, however, to acknowledge such biblical passages as Ephesians 5:22-24, in which, as fundamentalists, they indisputably believe, and which teach virtually the same thing that Brigham Young was saying, and in very similar language."Dr. Peterson is wrong again. And besides, how can he read our mind to know that we intended the Brigham Young passage to be appalling? In Mormonism, Islam, and Hinduism women are accorded a secondary status, period. It is incredible Peterson would make such a statement that could suggest otherwise. For example, in Muslim and Hindu cultures we find the practice of so-called "honor killings" –in effect the murder of women for alleged and real sexual sins that bring embarrassment to the family. (Often the women are, upon autopsy, proven virgins and thus innocent of the alleged crimes.) This practice is infrequent and not directly tied to religious doctrine, but this is hardly the issue. The practice is part of a religious culture that here endorses double standards for men and women in the most important issue of all--life and death. Women are murdered while the men who murdered them (often family members) are given light to nonexistent punishment. And the men engage in the same behavior with impunity that the women are murdered for. Isn't this giving women a secondary status? Further, has Dr. Peterson no concern whatever over the fate of Mormon women historically who suffered so greatly within the confines of Mormon polygamy? (Yes, some Biblical personages practiced polygamy, but God specifically forbade it (Dt. 17:17), and encouraged monogamy (1 Tim. 3:2). Certainly, God never declared polygamy an eternal covenant that men would be damned for not abiding in-- as the Mormon God declares in Doctrines and Covenants, section 132. (If Peterson is concerned with 'double standards,' one can only be surprised at his belief in Mormonism as a divine revelation when God demands early Mormons practice polygamy as an eternal covenant on pain of damnation while modern Mormons face excommunication for obeying the eternal covenant.) LDS President Gordon B.Hinckley's comment that "I condemn it [polygamy], yes, as a practice, because I think that it is not doctrinal" only illustrates Mormon doctrinal poverty generally. (Sunstone, December, 1998, p. 72). In "Mormon Index" (no byline) :
2-5 = "Range of percentage of adult Saints involved in polygamy in early Church history according to President Hinckley on Larry King Live" 20-25 = "Range of percentage of adult Saints involved in polygamy according to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism."
(Sunstone, Dec '98, p19.)And is the good Dr. Peterson not reading the books and articles written by Mormon women describing their experiences as Mormon women? In "Only for Eternity" Andrea Moore Emmett shows "the LDS church forbids polygamy on earth, but its male members continue to be sealed to more than one woman for the afterlife." She also gives evidence that current LDS president Gordon B. Hinckley was deceptive about the subject when interviewed by Larry King on television in September 1998. Further, the Mormon practice of marriage and divorce is analysed, with the notation that women are treated "like a transfer of ownership -- as though a woman is an automobile." Cover story. Salt Lake City Weekly, Jan 28 '99. (From Apologia Report) See also http://www.sltrib.com/1999/jan/01311999/politics/79279.htm Women today continue to suffer the results of early Mormon polygamous doctrine. In "Memories of a Plural Wife" Celeste Fremon offers the factual testimony of Carmen Thompson, of Tapestry of Polygamy, "a unique support group for wives and children fleeing polygamous families." Good Housekeeping, Mar '99, p118. (From Apologia Report) Even the scholarly Dictionary of Christianity in America (1990, p.776), in its article on Mormonism by I. Hexham agrees that the LDS priesthood "highlights the status of women in Mormonism as an inferior group, with their salvation depending on marriage and the spiritual status of their husbands." Finally, to parallel the Ephesians 5:22-23 with the statement of Brigham Young only further illustrates Peterson's misreading of the Bible, something he does routinely as a Mormon. He should also look at verse 21 and verses 25-28. Where in this passage, or anywhere in the Bible, do we ever find it declared that the man is the God of the woman? Dr. Peterson proceeds to offer another example of our double standard:
"Another instance of the double standard occurs in Ankerberg and Weldon's self-congratulatory paean to born-again scriptural exegesis. Mormons, they say, read the Bible through the lens of Latter-day Saint presuppositions. Fundamentalists, on the other hand--perhaps unique among all human beings who have ever lived--come to the text with no presuppositions or assumptions of any kind. They 'permit the Bible to speak for itself' (p. 376). And, of course, what the Bible says, unambiguously and beyond honest dispute, is 'Protestant Fundamentalism.' But this is rubbish."Whoever reads what we wrote on page 376 may observe once again how Peterson has implied things that we never said. Where did we imply or declare we had no assumptions? And why would having our 'fundamentalist' assumption that an ancient text is to be interpreted according to standard conventions, mean the Bible could not speak for itself? Isn't it slightly presumptuous to argue the Protestant interpretation of the Bible is 'rubbish' but the Mormon interpretation truth when Mormonism came on the scene 1800 after Christianity was established? Regardless, how is it that the majority of religious scholars have never classified Mormonism as orthodox historic Christianity? The few who have are those whose biases are walking before them, who do not know what orthodox Christianity is, or who have been uncritical of Mormon claims to be Christian. Peterson goes on with, "Latter-day Saints believe that the lens through which they read the Bible comes from divine revelation, while fundamentalists don't even pretend to anything more than a hodgepodge of inherited cultural norms and prejudices along with a substantial number of Hellenized theological speculations." No bias here Dr. Peterson, and certainly not the double standard you accuse us of. But speaking of double standards, at this point we are reminded of part of a lengthy email correspondence between Dr. Peterson and Dr. James White, an evangelical scholar who has written two excellent books on Mormonism and corresponded with/ debated Mormon scholars for years. (He has also personally witnessed to thousands of Mormons.) Please note carefully the tactics being used by Dr. Peterson. Up until this point in the correspondence, in Dr. White's words, Dr. Peterson
"has been about as impolite and aggressive as one can be." "He has used sarcasm and insult in almost every paragraph, yet, when I choose not to respond in kind, what does he do? He accuses me of the very things he has been doing himself. Throw in a little school-yard taunting, and one is amazed to realize that such messages are being written by one of the leading LDS scholars at Brigham Young University, a man who has often criticized Christians for their attitudes in dealing with Mormonism."And,
"I've only a few times received a post that took so much time to completely twist every syllable I had written. And the little arrogance meter over on the right hand of my screen is now completely broken. I have no idea how to get it fixed.... but I know when not to give credibility to such silliness and spend my time on worthwhile pursuits. You have fully substantiated that subtitle in the CRI [Christian Research Institute] Journal article: Farms Out of Control. Dr. Peterson responded with, in part, "...I'm sorry you broke your arrogance meter. Was it a gift from your mother?"Dr. White earlier stated, responding, in part, to FARMS charicature that LDS critics are "anti-Mormon" (against Mormons as people, rather than against their beliefs),
"If you embrace Joseph Smith, you are anti-Baptist. His beliefs are directly opposed to mine, and he identified my God as a "monster" and my beliefs as an abomination. It is almost amusing (if it were not so serious, and sad), to watch LDS scholars swing wildly between internal contradictions in their beliefs at this point, with one hand agreeing that my beliefs are an "abomination," but with the other saying you are not opposed to them. If you aren't, you should be ashamed of yourself, taking an attitude of indifference toward something God says is an abomination!" "Now, as anyone can see, Dr. Peterson was never interested in a 'real dialogue' with anyone, let alone me. What I have refused to engage in is not a dialogue, but a spitting contest. The fact that Peterson is intent upon sending me second-hand posts containing glaring insults and swipes, all the while accusing me of being mean-spirited, is so self-evident that it makes one wonder about the pride he shows in knowing that these posts would be made available on our web page and on the SHIELDS page (which just happens to be operated by a group of men I knew well when a regular on the old "MORMON Echo" back in the days of BBS's; two of the three men who run the page have engaged in the very same kind of emotionally-laden ad-hominem argumentation provided here by Dr. Peterson). He may not understand what I meant by 'FARMS mentality,' but other folks do."That mentality, in part, is that FARMS knows more about Mormonism than anyone and critics of Mormonism are wrong by definition. Less than scholarly methods are even justified to win a debate so that no one ever wins with FARMS. As we wrote in our Encyclopedia of Cults and New religions,
"For example, Dr. White refutes the claims of Dr. Daniel C. Peterson and Dr. Stephen D. Ricks in Offenders for a Word: How Anti-Mormons Play Word Games to Attack the Latter-day Saints (Aspen 1992; FARMS 1998). In this book, among other things, Peterson and Ricks allege the early Church Fathers taught secret doctrines/rituals and believed in what is called the "deification" of man (theosis). They argued that this supported the Mormon doctrines of, respectively, secret temple ceremonies and exaltation, the Mormon doctrine that men can become Gods. However, Dr. White shows how wrong Peterson and Ricks are and how often these Mormon scholars take quotations out of context to support their views."Theosis was a term used in a relative sense to explain man's creation in the image of God giving him a spiritual nature, and that he could, by grace, attain union with God. Those who used the term never intended by it the Mormon doctrine of exaltation, or anything similar--i.e., that men could become Gods and that the God of the Bible was once a man who progressed into Godhood by good works and righteous character. The Church Fathers would have been apalled by such paganism. As to acceptance of alleged secret rituals in the Fathers, Peterson And Ricks miscite, misinterpret or fail to document their claims with Jeremias, Ignatius of Antioch, Tertullian, Origen, etc. For Example, "Even a brief reading immediately communicates that Tertullian is, in fact, arguing directly against the position attributed to him by the misleading form of citation found in Offenders." (James White, "A Test Case of Scholarship," unprinted paginated Internet copy, p.14, emphasis added) Dr. White then remarks, "All of us make mistakes. Sometimes we hurry, have deadlines, etc. One major error, such as the above, doesn't prove much. However, if a pattern of such misuse of sources can be discerned and documented, we have cause to wonder. And just such a pattern can, indeed, be found."(Ibid., p. 15, emphasis added) After citing more examples of misquotation, White remarks,
"Any person desirous of honestly representing the beliefs of the early Fathers could not possibly ignore the context of the passages cited, yet, this is exactly what we find in Peterson and Ricks, and in the earlier work by [Stephen] Robinson [Are Mormons Christian?]. Again we have to ask how this kind of a-contextual citation can end up in print, and, in fact, be reprinted by FARMS seven years later, without any correction or emendation, despite it having been pointed out in Is the Mormon My Brother? Scholarship means honestly dealing with historical facts, and quoting items fairly, and in context. How can these scholars present this kind of material? There are, however, many more examples of this kind of lack of concern for accurately handling the words of past Christian writers."
(Ibid, p. 17)So Dr. White finds a pattern of misuse of sources in Peterson and Ricks--and yet Peterson has the cheek to accuse us, falsely, of a pattern of dishonest, shoddy scholarship. What was that about double standards? Consider other problems with Offenders: Next, in criticizing the relatively small amount of space we devoted to certain topics, Peterson engages in another one of his many unfair tactics. We never evaluate enough sources, especially the ones he likes, e.g.,
"Their specimen of "Mormon Biblical scholarship" is Bruce McConkie's multivolume Doctrinal New Testament Commentary. Where, however, are the works of Sidney Sperry? Why is there no reference to Hugh Nibley's Old Testament and Related Studies? Where are the anthologies on the Bible edited by Kent Jackson and Robert Millet? Why do Ankerberg and Weldon take no notice of Richard Anderson's fine book on the Apostle Paul or of Richard Draper's fascinating commentary on the Revelation of John? Where are Victor Ludlow and Avraham Gileadi on the prophet Isaiah?"Well shame on us, as if citing the above men would change anything. The point is there wasn't enough room to cite them. But Dr. Peterson has similar problems. According to Dr. White, e.g.,
"On an even more basic and fundamental level of error, Peterson and Ricks show no familiarity at all with the standard works on Old Testament canonization, such as Beckwith (1985), Bruce (1988) or Sundberg (1964)"
(White, A Test Case of Scholarship, p.19).And what was wrong in citing the late Bruce McConkie, who was highly recommended to us by several Mormons as a keen Mormon scholar and the leading doctrinal theologian of the church? Is he not considered a leading doctrinal theologian within the Mormon church? Would it be impudent for us to say we did not cite the other individuals because were so appalled by what we had read in McConkie and elsewhere that we didn't think it worth the time? Forgive us, but we just aren't thrilled by anything we have read in the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies or FARMS materials. It is hardly impressive to see the Bible consistently mishandled and biased interpretations of the data put forth as 'scholarly' conclusions for the 'truth' of Mormonism. And it is not that there is never anything good in FARMS/BYU research either, it's just that it doesn't matter. Their best arguments and evidence are no more significant than the alleged evidence of higher criticism is for proof of a human Jesus and a disproof of Christianity. In either case, the arguments may be sophisticated at times, but overall, they have little value. But let's say some objective evidence for the Book of Mormon did exist, so that parts of the Book of Mormon story could be true. What if there were some evidence that hundreds of years B. C. there was a migration of Semite peoples to the Americas or that in 385 A. D. some 230,000 'Nephites' had been killed in war near the hill Cumorah in New York (Mormon 6:10-15;8:2)? What would it matter? Mormonism would be just as false doctrinally as it always was without the 'evidence'. Some Mormons still need to understand that it is Mormon doctrine that proves Mormonism wrong and always will. Anyway, our 500-page book would have been at least 1000 pages had we dealt with everything Peterson recommended. But Peterson never seems to be satisfied unless one spends full chapters discussing particular issues, regardless of how long it would make a book:
"This dismissive attitude is apparent, too, in their passing comments on Stephen E. Robinson's Are Mormons Christians? (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1991). Although they never once deal with his arguments, Ankerberg and Weldon declare that, "In chapter 8," they have "examined Dr. Robinson's attempt to defend the claim that Mormonism is Christian." Their "examination" consists of three brief and superficial paragraphs. On that basis, they announce that Professor Robinson's "attempt to defend the claim that Mormonism is Christian" is, "at best," "a poor case of wishful thinking" (p. 363). "It will be convincing only to those who are unfamiliar with how to spot logical fallacies and are ignorant of Mormon history/doctrine and biblical/historic/systematic theology" (p. 82). At the risk of seeming immodest, I think I can truthfully say that I am a living, breathing refutation of Ankerberg and Weldon on this point. A much more serious but nonetheless wholly ineffective attempt to refute Professor Robinson has recently appeared, written by a professor at conservative Denver Seminary. See Gordon R. Lewis, "A Summary Critique," Christian Research Journal 15/2 (Fall 1992): 33-37."In fact, we had written quite a bit more on Robinson's book but due to space considerations only three paragraphs were finally included. As it turns out, only three paragraphs were needed. When Robinson claims that Mormons are Christian, and then proceeds to freely "concede that Mormonism 1) rejects traditional Christian orthodoxy; 2) rejects the historic orthodox the view of the Trinity and 3) rejects specific orthodox Christian teaching concerning God -- confessing that Mormonism teaches God was once a human being and that He has a tangible body" -- well, what else is needed to disprove Robinson's claim that Mormonism is Christian? But of course, the error is really ours for not accepting everything Robinson says as gospel. But Dr. Peterson is no more impressive, e.g., " ... Mormons are Christians precisely because they sincerely say they are. No other criterion is needed--for the Latter-day Saints or for anyone else. No other coherent criterion has been offered, and it is doubtful that any other can be." (Offenders p.191) Dr. Peterson and Ricks don't get it, and it appears doubtful they ever will. But, continuing with the review:
"At one point in this virtually interminable book, Ankerberg and Weldon set out to "evaluat[e] the quality of Mormon apologetics" (p. 361). But do they? One looks in vain for a consideration of the works of Orson and Parley Pratt or of John Taylor. B. H. Roberts wrote extensively in support of the claims of the Book of Mormon, and in defense of the Mormon Doctrine of Deity, but nothing of this was found worthy of inclusion in Everything. "Dr. Hugh Nibley is a prominent Brigham Young University professor," Ankerberg and Weldon note. "Some Mormons consider him one of the greatest scholars in the church" (p. 273). Yet Ankerberg and Weldon have evidently looked at none of his writing."In fact, we did read something of Pratt, Taylor, Roberts and Nibley, but we did not cite them except in passing. Again, Dr. Peterson often criticizes us because we don't cite the sources he likes, especially FARMS material. We discussed in our encyclopedia why we did not cite FARMS, and for the same reasons we did not cite these authors. When it comes to proving Mormonism, the data, the hard facts, are nonexistent, and thus the research into the data is at best speculative and tentative. When Mormon scholars do have a legitimate choice as to interpretation, they display their bias and choose the weaker interpretation that comes closest to supporting Mormonism, ignoring the implications. Nothing in the above works offers a better defense of Mormonism than what we cited, so we chose works we felt were most likely to be known by lay Mormons. Further, on p. 363 we never claimed to examine all Mormon apologists -- only that "in the following pages we will provide sufficient examples of Mormon evangelistic/apologetic endeavors that prove that the church garners its converts on the basis of misinformation and distortion of fact." What we provided was a representative, if brief, look at Mormon apologetics -- A Sure Foundation published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; President Joseph Fielding Smith's four-volume Answers to Gospel Questions, in which Smith is advertised as "the foremost gospel scholar" in Mormonism; Arthur Wallace's Can Mormonism Be Proved Experimentally? which was selected because of its title and claims. The tract titled "The Challenge" was selected because of its popularity. No general work can be exhaustive, but this doesn't matter to Dr. Peterson. Nevertheless, the works we cited and the arguments they contained did offer a broad representation of Mormon apologetics. But the point is this -- had we cited the works Dr. Peterson prefers, and all the endless Farms/BYU material, from a Christian perspective, what would it have changed? For his part, Dr. Peterson would have been as critical and condescending as ever. For our part, even the "different" and "better" arguments would have been shown to be as ineffectual as the once we did cite. Has it changed anything now? Dr. Peterson did (at least in part), correctly identify our perspective on Mormon apologetics when he wrote, "no Latter-day Saint argument can survive. Indeed, no Latter-day Saint argument even needs to be considered, for we know beforehand that it will be empty." True, we do not believe any LDS argument will survive when it comes to defending the truth of Mormonism. But we can hardly base this conclusion on unexamined evidence. Notice how Dr. Peterson has once again distorted our position when he attributes to us the argument that "no LDS argument even needs to be considered." If this assessment is accurate, why did we write a 500-page book considering all sorts of LDS arguments? Why did we include lengthy appendices on FARMS in our encyclopedia? Obviously, the reason LDS apologetics cannot survive is because they attempt to defend heretical teachings that the Bible has proven false. No argument can defend what is false. Dr. Peterson proceeds with: "Characteristically, they simply cannot look seriously at Mormon arguments." And, "They may have read little or no Latter-day Saint writing, but they know their anti-Mormon canon intimately. And, while all Mormon scholars are midgets, every anti Mormon pamphleteer is a giant of erudition and objectivity." Really, one becomes tired of the distortion and misrepresentation. When Dr. Peterson speaks of "the importance of rules of law and fairness", we don't know what to think. (Offenders, p. 182) Again, we looked seriously at many Mormon arguments and were not persuaded. To say we have read little or no LDS writings is just more fiction. And why does he feel the need to keep portraying us in a far worse light than a fair reading of our book would dictate? Where did we ever declare all Mormon scholars are "midgets?" If that is his emotional misperception of our argument, that is one thing. But he should not try to read our minds and imply we believe things we do not. "Every Mormon anti-pamphleteer is a giant of erudition and objectivity?" Really? Why were there were many sources we deliberately avoided because we did not think them reliable?
"But then, maybe Ankerberg and Weldon are to be excused, since they apparently know little about contemporary biblical scholarship. Perhaps their reading in this field has been as limited as their reading on Mormonism. How else is one to understand such preposterous statements as, "It is an historical fact that the New Testament accurately records what Jesus and the apostles taught and did; this is the general consensus of informed biblical scholarship" (p. 77). Have they ever attended a meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature? Do they read the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, or the Journal of Biblical Literature? I am not pleased to report it, and I do not agree, but today's "general consensus of informed biblical scholarship" by and large denies that "the New Testament accurately records what Jesus and the apostles taught and did." Haven't Ankerberg and Weldon noticed this obvious fact? If not, I can only presume that they have missed it because they have limited their reading of biblical scholarship to the writings of those who share their conservative Protestant presuppositions and that they have simply not read the works of mainstream scholarship. (This is not implausible: It is, after all, their approach to Mormonism.)""Informed" means one thing to Dr. Peterson and something else to us. The SBL, CBC, and JBL do not have a particularly high regard for the Biblical text. Given the Biblical claims for itself, and the evidence to substantiate those claims, we do not think such societies and periodicals are properly informed. Dr. Peterson may feel satisfied by citing "informed" liberal and neo-orthodox biblical scholarship, scholarship that is, as he knows, often cemented to a biased and destructive higher criticism which eviscerates the text, but it doesn't change the facts of the matter. Peterson is wrong again. Our use of the term "informed" was certainly not intended as an equivalent of his "mainstream." Dr. Peterson frequently claims or implies that we are inhospitable, mean, and condescending to Mormons. This was never our intention and we're sorry if in places it came across that way. But after re-reading most of the text, we do not find Peterson's charges accurate. We understand why he thinks so, because we were very critical of Mormonism. But this does not necessarily mean we deserve the labels Dr. Peterson gives us. To the contrary, unfortunately, he engages in precisely what he accuses us of -- he is the one who is frequently inhospitable, mean and condescending to Christians, as his book reviews and Internet email reveal.
"A constant refrain of irritation with Latter-day Saint stupidity runs through this remarkably unlovely book." "Ankerberg and Weldon quote one of their anti-Mormon sources as saying, "It never ceases to amaze me the number of intelligent people that are in the Mormon Church that still accept things that cannot be substantiated"
(p. 263).Based on the unwillingness of Mormons generally to deal fairly, objectively and adequately with the evidence against their faith, we thought this was a good quote. Let us illustrate why in context. After we had proven several cases of false prophecy in Mormonism, we stated the following about the September 22-23, 1832 prophecy to build a Mormon city and Temple in the western boundaries of the state of Missouri. First, we cited the standard Mormon scripture, Doctrine and Covenants (emphasis added): "A revelation of Jesus Christ unto his servant Joseph Smith.... [this] City shall be built beginning at the Temple lot... in the western boundaries of the state of Missouri, and dedicated by the hand of Joseph Smith.... For verily this generation shall not all pass away until an house shall be built unto the Lord ...which house shall be built under the Lord in this generation, upon the concentrated spot as I have appointed." (Doctrine and Covenants 84:1-5,31) The Prophecy further declared that the Temple would stand in western Missouri "upon Mount Zion" and that the city would be named "the city of New Jerusalem." This was to be the place Jesus Christ returns to at his Second Advent. In Doctrine and Covenants 97:19 (August, 1833) and 101:17-21 (December, 1833), God further declares that He is absolutely certain as to His intent and the location of this temple: "Zion cannot fail, or be moved out of her place, for God is there, and the hand of the Lord is there," and "there is none other place appointed than that which I have appointed; neither shall there be any other place." Now, can anyone logically deny that this prophecy -- a prophecy declared to come directly from the Person of Jesus Christ no less -- teaches that a Temple and city will be built in western Missouri in the generation of the men then living and that will be dedicated by the hand of Joseph Smith himself? But the city and Temple were never built. Twelve years later Joseph Smith died, so the prophecy failed exactly at that point. How could this be anything but a false prophecy? Could this be clearer? And even if we disregard the portion about Joseph Smith, there is still the problem of the temple and city being built "in this generation." Almost 170 years have passed since this prophecy was uttered, so, who could logically think "this generation" is still a viable option? After showing the unmistakably clear nature of such false prophecies, we did express amazement that Mormons would continue to cite such prophecies as genuine evidence of divine prophecies. We were amazed because of the implications for the nature and character of God--either God is not omniscient or he reveals falsehoods. "What is most disconcerting," marvel Ankerberg and Weldon, "is that modern Mormons do not seem to be concerned with . . . unquestionably false prophecy and refuse to recognize the implications" (p. 348; cf. 353). (We still marvel.) And we also marvel at what Dr. Peterson says next. Inexplicably, Peterson declares, "This is the familiar language of prejudice: "They are not like Us. They are lower, less rational, less spiritually sensitive. They don't think like normal people." In-groups always exalt themselves by degrading out-groups. Prejudice finds it hard to recognize individual variation; it judges whole classes, without nuance. It makes no real attempt to understand why others think or act or appear differently; it condemns them because of the sheer fact that they do. It is prejudice that leads to the notion that other groups need to be controlled, even enslaved, for their own good. It is prejudice that has led, in some extreme cases, to concentration camps, holocausts, and ethnic cleansings. Ankerberg and Weldon should be ashamed of themselves for resorting to such language." Such language? Lower than us, abnormal in their thinking, judging whole classes? Groups of people being controlled? Enslaved? Concentration camps? Holocausts? Ethnic cleansings? Where is Dr. Peterson getting all this? All we did was expressed surprise that people would continue to believe in such "divine" prophecies since they were so obviously false. But to make the kind of extensions Dr. Peterson does is clearly unjustified. Let anyone read what we wrote in our discussion of Mormon prophecy on pp. 341-48 (or p. 263) and see if they can even remotely come up with what Dr. Peterson arrives at. Indeed, we can hardly believe we are better people, in any sense, than Mormon people if we truly believe we are saved wholly by grace. But for the grace of God we would also be nonChristians. Mormons are created in God's image, eternally valuable, loved by God and people for whom Christ died. Many Mormons have become our true brothers and sisters in Christ. How can we possibly class them as inferior? Again, if it came across that way, we apologize. However, we must be critical of Mormon doctrine because it hinders Mormons salvation. And sometimes we are surprised by some of the things people believe, including sometimes, Christians, who even so are not guaranteed doctrinal accuracy if they neglect study of the issues.
"But one will look in vain in this uncharitable book for anything like an attempt at sympathetic understanding. Catty little formulations like 'Emma Smith, one of Joseph Smith's wives' (276-77; cf. 307), are only the tip of the iceberg. Throughout Ankerberg and Weldon's wearisome volume, Latter-day Saint faith is demeaned as 'pagan' and Mormonism is dismissed as a 'cult' (p. 359) What does any of this mean, though? Does it convey any objective information beyond the sheer nasty fact that Ankerberg and Weldon despise The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, despise its doctrine, despise its leaders, and despise its members?"Again, these are Dr. Peterson's words, not ours and this is unfortunately, more misrepresentation of what we actually believe. We never intended the Emma Smith comment spitefully or in any other than a purely descriptive manner, showing what she said was relevant to our argument because she was the wife of Joseph Smith and also his scribe. Therefore, what she said about the method of translation of the Book of Mormon was noteworthy. But neither was she Joseph Smith's only wife. Again, upon what basis is he able to read our mind so that he knows what is in our hearts or that we "despise" Mormons? If the charge were true, we would never have written anything. But this is the kind of material that forms the thrust of Peterson's reviews. "There is a growing consensus among professional anti-Mormons that I am one of the meanest people in Mormondom." Perhaps he doesn't he understand such a perception has less to do with the facts surrounding Mormonism than it does in how he treats others? And what wrong with calling Mormonism a cult? Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language defines cult, as we mean it,as "a religion that is considered or held to be false or unorthodox." Five of the dictionaries seven definitions are not pejorative. Extremist groups may have given the term a bad name but this does not necessarily mean the term is used improperly in describing or identifying Mormonism. In fact, Mormonism actually does have numerous other characteristics of negative cults, including additional revelation through which the Bible is misinterpreted, suppression of data, harming people psychologically or spiritually, often not allowing members to think independently, etc. "So fixated are Ankerberg and Weldon on demons that, when they look at the faith of the Latter-day Saints, they can often see nothing else." Fixated on demons? We gave a mere 30 pages out of 500 (6%) to a discussion of Mormonism and the occult. The reason the topic was included was because it was an important topic neglected at the time of writing. But to say that we "can often see nothing else" but demons in Mormonism is another misrepresentation. Nevertheless, would Dr. Peterson deny that we certainly could have written a 500-page book on the subject of Mormonism and the occult? The Mormon sources we cited elsewhere are proof. Peterson, unfortunately again, has little concern with this, apparently not understanding the implications of Joseph Smith's occult involvement. And just as certainly, in their reviews, Peterson and FARMS have refused to deal responsibly with the data presented in Dr. Quinn's Early Mormonism and the Magical Worldview, Brooke's The Refiners Fire: the Making of Mormon Cosmology 1644-1844 or Lance S. Owens 80-page Dialogue article, "Joseph Smith and the Kabbalah: The Occult Connection" which received the Mormon Historical Association 1995 "best article" of the year award. All this seems irrelevant to Dr. Peterson, since he knows by faith that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God and therefore could not have been extensively involved with demons and the spiritual darkness of the occult. By refusing to look objectively at the evidence, Dr. Peterson solves all kinds of problems. God however, was very clear at this point and also spoke directly to Joseph Smith:
"Let no one be found among you who ... practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium, or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord ... "( know we did not want to look at FARMS material? How could he know that we fear Mormon ventures into subjectivism? Peterson continues: "It is not an admission of any alleged weakness in the Latter-day Saint position to acknowledge that scientific and historical evidence for the restored gospel [Mormonism] is not, and is not likely to be, definitive. Many questions remain as yet unresolved with regard to the Book of Mormon, just as they do with respect to the Bible..." Actually, we consider this an admission of weakness. A virtual dearth of supporting evidence is hardly a position of strength. And for Peterson to imply that the Bible, as to lack of scientific and historical evidence, is in the same league concerning unanswered questions in the Book of Mormon betrays Dr. Peterson's truly unfortunate ignorance at this point. And we say that most sincerely. Regrettably, it gets worse:
"Alas, though, Ankerberg and Weldon grossly overstate both the archaeological weakness of the Book of Mormon and the archaeological strength of the Bible. For one thing, they ignore the vast difference between the state of development of Palestinian archaeology and that of Mesoamerican archaeology." "Even so, however, archaeology comes nowhere near 'confirming the Bible historically.' Ankerberg and Weldon offer no specific references for the alleged comments of W. F. Albright and Millar "Burroughs" that they cite, so we are unable to evaluate just what those two eminent scholars may have said. However, we are fortunate to have a statement on precisely this subject--archaeological evidence for the historical claims of the Bible--from one of the foremost living "biblical archaeologists," Professor William G. Dever. Does Dever believe that archaeology "confirms" the Bible? Manifestly, he does not. "The Bible," he says, has its limitations as a historical document. It is a composite of diverse genres--myths, folktales, epics, prose and poetic narratives, court annals, nationalist propaganda, historical novellas, genealogies, cult legends, liturgical formulas, songs and psalms, private prayers, legal corpora, oracles and prophecy, homily and didactic material, belles lettres, poetry, apocalyptic and on and on.... To what extent is history embedded in these diverse genres? The myths of Genesis 1-11, comprising the "primeval history," which deal with the creation, the flood and the distant origins of the family of man, can be read today as deeply moving literature, with profound moral implications. They inform us about the thought-world of ancient Israel, but they can hardly be read in the literal or modern sense as history.... And the situation is not improved for the later chapters of Genesis and the Pentateuch.""After a century of modern research," Dever notes, "neither Biblical scholars nor archaeologists have been able to document as historical any of the events, much less the personalities, of the patriarchal or Mosaic eras." Peterson continues, "I do not reproduce such comments--which could, by the way, be multiplied indefinitely, and with regard to the New Testament as well as the Old--because I like them,..." But scholars often let their biases get the best of them. As we noted in Ready with an Answer (pp. 273-75), the archaeological data supports Biblical reliability to the extent of clearly confirming the text and also refuting critics biases:
"To further illustrate, probably the three greatest American archaeologists of the 20th-century each had their liberal training modified by their archaeological work. W. F. Albright, Nelson Glueck, and George Ernest Wright all 'received training in the liberal scholarship of the day' ... [but] despite their liberal training, it was archaeological research that bolstered their confidence in the biblical text....Glueck forthrightly declared, 'As a matter of fact, however, it may be clearly stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a single biblical reference'.... [Albright stated, in the words of Eugene H. Merrill] "there is hardly a single biblical historian who is not at least impressed with the rapid accumulation of data supporting the 'substantial historicity' of the patriarchal tradition." And, in fact, this is true not just for the patriarchal tradition but the Bible generally. The earlier statement by assyriologist A.H. Sayce continues to hold true today: 'Time after time the most positive assertions of a skeptical criticism have been disproved by archaeological discovery. Events and personages that were confidently pronounced to be mythical have been shown to be historical and the older [i.e., biblical] writers have turned out to have been better acquainted with what they were describing them the modern critic who has flouted them.' Miller Burrows of Yale points out that, 'Archaeology has in many cases refuted the views of modern critics. It has been shown in a number of instances that these views rest on false assumptions and unreal, artificial schemes of historical development...'"The previously cited statements by the great archaeologist Dr. Dever are about as biased against the Biblical text as Dr. Peterson's review of our book. One wonders why Dr. Peterson would cite this particular example? Again, biblical archaeology has confirmed biblical reliability, as many books show. Dr. J. Randall Price (Th.M., Old Testament and Semitic languages, Dallas Theological Seminary; Ph.D. Middle Eastern Studies, University of Texas, Austin) has done graduate studies in archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and taught biblical archaeology at the University of Texas. He has also excavated at Qumran and Tel Yin'am in the Galilee. In The Stones Cry Out (1997 p. 105, 329) he says "based on archaeology, we have a good case for drawing a reliable historical outline for the Patriarchs. Documentary parallels, places mentioned in the biblical account, the accuracy of historical details, and the continued existence of the tombs assigned to them from antiquity have helped to enlighten us about this era" and "archaeology...has great value in relation to validating the history of the Bible." So do we see here Dr. Peterson's bias in citing liberal sources and ignoring the overall facts of archaeology -- even though he claims he does not necessarily agree with the negative conclusions stated? Or do we see his ignorance concerning the facts of archaeology? We stand by our claim that the reliability of the Bible as an historical document is supported by archaeology and the Book of Mormon is not and challenge Dr. Peterson to prove us wrong. (Also, the statements by Albright and Burrows are given on pp. 261-62, 323-25 and in more detail in our Ready with an Answer, pp. 269-82.) Peterson continues,
"And I want to point out that Ankerberg and Weldon's contrast between a Bible that is archaeologically 'proven' and a Book of Mormon that is archaeologically 'disproven' is bogus. It is patently phony and transparently self-serving. It rests on a misrepresentation, or at least on a misunderstanding, of what biblical archaeology actually says."But Dr. Peterson has again misrepresented us -- we never claimed the Bible was "proven" by archaeology since this is clearly impossible. 'Proven' is his word--what we stated was, "accepted as a reliable archaeological guide by reputable archaeologists" (p. 289) and that archaeology had confirmed Biblical historicity (p. 290), which it has. Just as surely it has failed to confirm the Book of Mormon, which, based on Book of Mormon claims, is tantamount to a disproof. Dr. Peterson proceeds with page after page of alleged evidence for Mormonism criticizing us for not citing it. Again, why should we evaluate as legitimate evidence what the world of non-Mormon scholarship does not accept, unless it really is evidence? Again, why should we cite what we do not believe has merit, or is credible? The point is that we did cite sufficient evidence, more than sufficient evidence, for rejecting Mormon truth claims. This is exactly what Peterson and FARMS/BYU will not accept: the evidence against Mormonism and for Christianity. On and on we read the FARMS/LDS arguments. Nothing we say can be correct, no argument of ours is valid. We make errors everywhere. But when Mormons are pinned down at one point, they, not us, change the rules of the game. When one disproof of Mormonism is no longer avoidable, the story line is changed and the tactics altered--even though the grave of Mormonism is only thereby dug deeper. The "limited geography" invention is only one case in point. It is repeatedly used by FARMS in their reviews to counter critics who show that there is no evidence for the Book of Mormon claims re: America, e.g., in New York State where massive military battles were allegedly fought. In Sidney B. Sperry's "Were There Two Cumorahs? Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Spring 1995, the abstract reads as follows: "No one doubts that the hill where Joseph Smith received the plates is known as Cumorah, but is the hill where the final battles between the Nephites and Lamanites took place another Cumorah? The book of Ether tells us that Omer traveled to this place of the last battles of the Nephites, and that the relatively short duration of this journey would not account for the three thousand miles from Middle America to New York. A similar journey was undertaken by Limhi's men, of equally short duration. The description of the geographical features around the final battle site is also at odds with the topography of present-day Cumorah." Essentially, if we can't find any evidence in North America, let's disregard what the text plainly declares and try to find evidence in Central America. But for whatever reason, FARMS/BYU cannot see that it makes their case for the Book of Mormon much less believable-- if that were possible. Continuing on, we rejected the original 11 Mormon witnesses as to the existence of the Book Mormon's gold plates and/or its accurate translation on several grounds. Dr. Peterson responds:
"But this is an outrage. It is outrageous that two purported scholars of Mormonism would pretend, in 1992, to have examined the evidence on the Witnesses sufficiently to reject their testimony, without refuting--nay, without once referring to or citing--the works of Eldin Ricks (1961), Milton Backman (1983), Rhett James (1983), and especially Richard Lloyd Anderson (1981). There is no point in responding with detailed answers to Ankerberg and Weldon's stale allegations against the Witnesses. Those assertions have been dealt with many times before. And new evidence supporting the veracity of the Witnesses continues to appear." "It is awfully difficult to remain patient with this sort of slipshod pseudoscholarship." "Ankerberg and Weldon even compare the allegedly dishonest and traitorous Witnesses to the Savior's twelve original apostles, and find "a stark contrast" with those ancient Israelite "men of integrity" (pp. 298-99). One can only marvel. Perhaps Ankerberg and Weldon have never heard of Judas Iscariot or Peter's denial of Christ?"First, whatever their character, the 11 witnesses to the book of Mormon cannot possibly 'confirm' what has already been proven false on the basis of biblical authority and other lines of evidence. So no amount of scholarly work, conjecture or recent discovery could have relevance at that point. Second, we never mentioned Judas Iscariot, nor did we even have him in mind since Jesus Himself identified Judas as a devil. But since Peterson can read our mind, we should once again concede our error. Actually, for Peterson to deny that there is a stark contrast ethically between the Mormon witnesses and the apostles of Christ is the real outrage. Whoever wishes can research this issue for themselves and come to their own conclusion.
"Ankerberg and Weldon are inordinately fond of the technique of damning Mormonism for problems that it does not have, problems that are mere figments of their imagination or that they have, for their own reasons, manufactured out of thin air."We are unaware of any problems manufactured out of thin air or as figments of our imagination. Why would we possibly want to invent more problems for Mormonism than it already has, since there are already too many to choose from? As the previously cited Dictionary of Christianity in America noted, "Major intellectual problems have plagued Mormonism from its inception ... " (P.776) The shoe is, once again, on the other foot. What of the many times Mormons have been unable to deal satisfactorily with various problems, and then proceeded to invent alleged solutions that convince no one but themselves? For example, Dr. Peterson cites us as follows:
""The Book of Mormon teaches that Jesus Christ was born at Jerusalem (Alma 7:10). Of course, the Bible teaches He was born at Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1)." However, since Bethlehem is five or six miles from Jerusalem, and a distinct town, "Alma 7:10 is clearly a false prophecy" (p. 364; cf. 353). I confess that I have never quite seen the point of this hoary old anti-Mormon chestnut."But that is exactly the problem -- Dr. Peterson hardly sees real problems since they cannot exist. His subsequent fairly extensive discussion--a full 17 pages-- attempting to resolve the problem, goes nowhere. When Dr. Peterson undertakes such extreme lengths to try to defend an obvious error in the Book of Mormon, claiming scholarship all the time, one perhaps understands why we find it difficult to trust him elsewhere. One may as well have spent 17 pages trying to argue Jesus was crucified in Bethlehem. But this type of methodology is common to FARMS. Again, we see a refusal to accept a clearly false prophecy. Let's look at what the Book of Mormon plainly teaches. In Alma 7:10 we read: "And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem, which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin. . . ." What could be clearer? For Dr. Peterson to spend so much time attempting to deny the obvious says a great deal about his faith in Mormonism and his refusal to read plain English.
"The Bible, say Ankerberg and Weldon, is all-sufficient (pp. 378-79). Therefore, they declare, the specifically Latter-day Saint scriptures are unnecessary and illegitimate. Their evidence for this proposition is 2 Timothy 3:16-17, which clearly says nothing of the sort: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." They also cite 2 Peter 1:3, which says that God's "divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness." However, without any warrant in the text and despite the fact that the word "Bible" never once occurs in the Bible, they say that it is "the Bible and God's power" that give us everything we need. (Fundamentalist Protestant bibliolatry could hardly be more clearly illustrated than it is in this arbitrary elevation of the Bible to equality with God himself.)"But one more time Dr. Peterson has distorted what we said--four times. First, to say we elevated the Bible to equality with God is false. Where did we ever say that? Only in Dr. Peterson's increasingly fertile imagination. Second, we never declared the Bible was "all-sufficient" Only that it was "sufficient." So why did Dr. Peterson add the word "all"? Third, our use of the term 'Bible' was not intended to reference 2 peter 1:3 directly; it was mentioned because this is a clear biblical teaching elsewhere, and implied here contextually. Regardless, the divine inspiration of the Bible is a product of God's power. Fourth, we never declared the LDS scriptures were unnecessary and illegitimate because the Bible declares its own sufficiency. We declared Mormon scriptures were unnecessary and illegitimate because they contradicted and denied what God had already revealed in the Bible -- and therefore could not have been a divine revelation. Four more times Dr. Peterson has misrepresented us. "This book is positively obsessed with "the Mormons' literal sexual polytheism." "Positively obsessed"? In fact, by comparison, we hardly mentioned it. "At one point, early in the text (p. 13), Ankerberg and Weldon inform their readers that they have subtitled their book "The Truth about the Mormon Church." However, that supposed subtitle occurs neither on the cover of the book nor on the half-title page nor on the title page. Only on the copyright page, in small print, is it to be found. I believe that this is significant." We stand by our original title and subtitle as included on the manuscript title page sent to the publisher, which the publisher changed. Publishers often change book titles for a variety of reasons. Why does Dr. Peterson think this is significant? Dr. Peterson frequently complains about book titles, criticizing authors for titles he does not personally like. But why would Dr. Peterson criticize authors for what their publishers do? Surely Dr. Peterson knows that standard contracts give the publisher, not authors, final rights for book titles and front and back cover copy? Turning to Dr. Peterson's review of the second printing of our book, (retitled as Behind the Mask of Mormonism), we discover little improvement. We are "still peddling, ... the same uninformed and poisonous bigotry that ruined the first printing of their book." Poisonous bigotry? Really? To be bigoted is to intolerantly adhere to ones beliefs to the exclusion of all others, to be a narrow-minded and prejudiced person. Intolerant is defined as "unwilling to permit or endure differences of opinion or practice." One would think that someone with a Ph.D. would know the meaning of common words and use them properly. But, after all, we all make mistakes. Obviously, to be critical of something is not necessarily to be bigoted against it. If Dr. Peterson wishes to label us as bigoted for believing the Bible alone is God's word, so be it. But he should recognize that mere criticism of Mormonism is not the same as being unwilling to permit it or endure it. Mormonism has as much right to exist and propagate its beliefs as the next religion. And if the evidence were really persuasive for the truth of the Mormon faith, we would gladly be Mormons and not Christians. So where is our bigotry? Peterson also says we erred in saying the Nephites were Jewish, even though in the very first book of the Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi, the Nephites are said to be Jews some 15 times. Also, in 2 Nephi--for example, "then shall the remnant of our seed know concerning us, how that we came out from Jerusalem, and that they are descendants of the Jews." (2 Nephi 30:4) Dr Peterson argued,
"Careful readers of the Book of Mormon will be surprised," I passingly remarked in my review of this book's first incarnation, "to learn [from Ankerberg and Weldon] that the Nephites were 'Jewish.'" This occasioned Dr. Ankerberg and Dr. Dr.[sic] Weldon's most effective argument against me. Indeed, in a sense it is the only argument, properly defined, that they adduce against me. 'Peterson,' they cry (on p. 480 n. 3), 'declares we are wrong in claiming the alleged Nephites were Jews!' ... They thereupon proceed to list sixteen scriptural references, eight of which come from 1 Nephi, and twelve of which have no obvious relevance to the issue under discussion. Two of the cited passages, however, do score points against my comment. First, 2 Nephi 30:4 represents the prophet Nephi as predicting that "then shall the remnant of our seed know concerning us, how that we came out from Jerusalem, and that they are descendants of the Jews." And Doctrine and Covenants 19:27 speaks of "the Jew, of whom the Lamanites are a remnant." These two passages seem fairly clear, and it looks as if I might be wrong. And I might add at this juncture that I would be perfectly happy to surrender this point to Dr. Ankerberg and Dr. Dr. [sic] Weldon. Nothing of any substance in my review rests upon the issue and, from a certain angle, their argument seems incontestable. But is the question really so simple? No. Many passages in the Book of Mormon imply a distinction between the Nephites and the Jews."And so we find a lengthy discussion to prove Peterson's point. But are the Nephites Jews or not? Are they of some other ethnic descent? If they are not Jews, the Book of Mormon is wrong, and not divinely inspired. If they are Jews, we were right and Dr. Peterson is wrong. (Or perhaps they are both Jews and not Jews and the book of Mormon isn't sure.) With Dr. Peterson one can never win. He happily points out the minor, cosmetic changes we made in our second edition, based on his first review. But because we did not cite him and notify readers of the corrections, he calls this "stealth-editing." He implies we are just as guilty of engaging in subterfuge as we claimed Mormons are. "Now, my review discussed these allegations of secret changes in Mormon texts, and I presented evidence to show that there has been no attempted cover-up on the matter. Dr. Ankerberg and Dr. Dr.[sic] Weldon have not troubled themselves to refute me; they have simply republished the same baseless accusations in Behind the Mask of Mormonism as if repetition equals proof. But if there is no reason in this regard to find the Mormons guilty of 'subterfuge and deception' (p. 312), as our two friends kindly put it, what are we to say of the stealth-editing that we find in this new version of their accusatory book? What clearer illustration could one ask for of "changes, additions, deletions, and corrections . . . all . . . done without any indication or acknowledgment of such action"? And if Latter-day Saint leaders have, in some cases, altered their texts under the claimed inspiration of God, what of Dr. Ankerberg and Dr. Dr. [sic] Weldon, who furtively changed their book on the basis, it would seem, of a review that, they proclaim, "proved nothing of substance"? " Dr. Peterson's review did prove nothing of substance. But we are dealing with apples and oranges here. First, authors are not required by law or convention to always acknowledge the source of their errata or other changes they make. Does Peterson always do this? It is really up to the author. In 75 books, I, Dr. Weldon, have never written a book I would not make at least some subsequent changes in, and I suspect this is true for the vast majority of authors. So, I made a few additional changes that had nothing to do with Peterson's review. But the real issue is much more profound. In Mormonism we are allegedly dealing with the Word of God, not a book written by fallible men. It is one thing for an author to correct minor mistakes; it is quite another to make substantial, clandestine alterations in what one claims is divine revelation. That is the real issue--and a very serious one. The subterfuge and deception are historical facts. But as far as Peterson is concerned, it seems that everything remaining in our book is wrong. Only if the book went out of print could we then not be charged with error:
"It continues flagrantly to distort the teaching of the Book of Mormon on plural marriage (p. 410). It continues to ignore Mormon scholarship, while loudly crowing that such scholarship does not exist (as at pp. 285, 294-95). It still implies, despite my informing its authors to the contrary, that the New World Archaeological Foundation at Brigham Young University was set up to prove the Book of Mormon, and insists that the Foundation has been a failure (pp. 289-90). Despite my detailed seventeen-page demonstration to the contrary, Behind the Mask of Mormonism still maintains, falsely, that Alma 7:10 is an incorrect prophecy that Jesus would be born in the city of Jerusalem (p. 364; cf. 353). It persists in baselessly slandering the Witnesses to the Book of Mormon, while taking no notice of the abundant evidence that confirms their integrity and supports their testimonies (pp. 295-99, 446). It continues to allege that Latter-day Saints are "hypocrites" (p. 382), "unethical" (p. 422; cf. 81, 86), and deceivers. It insists, still, on branding the leaders of the Church as liars. (The book's motto, wherein it boasts that it covers absolutely everything about Mormonism--spanning the entire range "From Its Early Schemes to Its Modern Deceptions"--has now been brought from the back cover to the front.)"
"Indeed, I should like, here, to offer a few suggestions that they might want to incorporate into the next printing of this book, when it will presumably come out with an even less subtle title than the one it now bears (perhaps something along the lines of How to Profit from Whipping Up Hatred and Contempt for the Evil, Stupid Mormon Deceivers)." "Since they have established my unspeakable nastiness beyond dispute, it might now be useful for the tender-hearted Dr. Ankerberg and Dr. Dr. [sic] Weldon to turn to the actual issues that I raised."But we never said Dr. Peterson was "unspeakably nasty," he did. Never did we intend to "whip up hatred and contempt" for "evil, stupid Mormon believers." And we never said the New World Archaeological Foundation was set up to prove Mormonism--Dr. Peterson is again misrepresenting us, as anyone can see who reads pp.289-90 in our book. Further, we never said all Mormons were always hypocrites, which seems to be the implication of how Peterson has it worded. On p. 382 what we said was that it was hypocritical for Mormons to claim to believe in the Bible as God's Word, given their treatment of it which we had discussed in the previous 7 pages and throughout the book. The hypocrisy is for Mormons to claim that they really believe in the Bible as a divine revelation and then treat it as if it were not the Word of God. We can make the same charge against the Jehovah's Witnesses, and others who say one thing and do another. And, frankly, we think the "unethical" and "deception" charges, in the context we cited them, are perfectly true. "Their attitude toward the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is, it would seem, precisely their attitude toward all religions that differ from their own. For example, in their 1991 assault on the faith of Islam they declare that, just like mine, "Muslim apologetics are done primarily by distortion," that "the arguments presented in defense of Islam are largely subjective and"--you guessed it--"prove nothing." In fact, Dr. Ankerberg and Dr. Dr. [sic] Weldon observe, Muslim argumentation is (surprise!) merely "ad hominem."35 Well, if the shoe fits... But we'll go the good doctor one further. You can't make a case if you have no evidence. Only biblical Christianity has credible historical and other evidence on its behalf: No other religion in the world, large or small, has compelling evidence that would indicate its religious claims are fully true (Judaism, to the extent it accepts the OT has the same evidence Christians do for the divine inspiration of its scripture, but cannot be considered fully true since it rejected its Messiah and God's new covenant). All other religions in the world, past and present, base their claims to truth exclusively or largely upon subjective evidence, which, in the end, is no evidence at all. Does Dr. Peterson really think Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam etc., can provide real evidence for their religious claims? We challenge Dr. Peterson or anyone else, to give us just one other Scripture or religion with the evidence to prove its claims.
"But this is manifestly disingenuous, or else it is manifest ignorance. Dr. Ankerberg and Dr. Dr.[sic] Weldon cannot plausibly persist in their assertion that no serious arguments exist for any religious beliefs other than their own. Some of the most intelligent people who have ever lived--men such as al-Ghazali, Ibn Sina, Abu Isa al-Warraq, the Mutazilites, Ibn Taymiyya, the Mutakallimun, and many others--have contended, and contended brilliantly, for the truth of Islam."Of course, "serious arguments" exist. We never said otherwise. But serious arguments exist for virtually everything, even human sacrifice. The issue is -- are the arguments convincing? Is objective, credible evidence offered? Of course, there are brilliant people in all religions. But why should someone's intelligence alone prove their faith true? Peterson continues: "They seemed, in Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Mormonism, to depend almost entirely on Jerald and Sandra Tanner to do their reading, thinking, and evaluation for them. In Behind the Mask of Mormonism, they still do." This is more (!) distortion. Since Dr. Peterson is aware that our book was a reprint with minor corrections, not a new edition, what's the point of saying nothing has changed in the second edition? Regardless, did we "depend almost entirely" on the Tanners, to do our "reading, thinking and evaluation" for us? Dr. Peterson never offers evidence; he just makes the charge. Here the approximate number of times we cited the Tanners, section by section. In the: Introduction -- 1of 9 footnotes
Section 1 -- 8 of 55 footnotes
Section 2 -- 7 of 88 footnotes
Section 3 -- 2 of 65 footnotes
Section 4 -- 15 of 183 footnotes
Section 5 -- 3 of 303 footnotes
Section 6 -- 11 of 119 footnotes
Section 7 -- 70 of 286 footnotes
Section 8 -- 80 of 340 footnotes Thus, in over 1450 footnotes, we cited the Tanners 196 Times, about 13% of the total. Is this slavish dependence? If we delete the two sections in which they were cited the most, we referenced the Tanners 47 times in some 850 footnotes, about 5% of the time. Still, we would estimate 50-60+% of our footnotes came from Mormons sources, some 80% if we include sources by former Mormons. Again, Does Dr. Peterson consider this slavish devotion to the Tanners? Does he consider this a use of entirely biased sources? The following statement by Dr. Peterson merits little comment on our part. Remember that not only does Dr. Peterson defend Joseph Smith, who has been proven a false prophet, but he defends the man who also called the God of the Bible "a monster." And not only does he defend the God of Mormonism who calls all of Christianity "an abomination," he now implies that the God Christians worship may be a pagan God after all. He does this after criticizing us for being so unkind as to call the Muslim God pagan! "Incidentally, although Allah has no necessary connection to paganism, it can be plausibly argued that the God preached by Ankerberg and Weldon does. From the days of the early "Apologists" Aristides of Athens (A.D. 140) and St. Justin Martyr (A.D. 155), hellenized Christians attempted to show that Christians worshipped the same God as their sophisticated pagan neighbors.... this hellenized deity is the God of the classical creeds and, consequently, the God of Christians who, like Ankerberg and Weldon, accept those creeds." For Peterson to argue the Biblical God is a hellenized deity is preposterous, and he should know better. But somehow, he doesn't. Dr. Peterson also frequently doubts the credibility of people because he can't find them mentioned in standard sources, as if exclusion from such sources means that their character and work must be called into question. For example, if someone's book or books are not found at the BYU library Dr. Peterson seems to have a problem. He wonders why and suggests something is amiss. "But who is the "noted Biblical scholar, Dr. Nix"? I honestly don't know. Brigham Young University's multimillion-volume library apparently possesses not a single book written by him." "...New Age Medicine, [is] the only John Weldon book among the three million volumes of the Brigham Young University library." Dr. William Nix is the co-author with Dr. Norman Geisler of A General Introduction to the Bible, a standard work that Dr. Peterson would certainly profit from reading. And who knows? BYU may have its own reasons for not carrying Dr. Weldon's 75 books, including his Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs, a 1997 finalist for the Gold Medallion Book Award of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, or his When Does Life Begin? which the Conservative Book Club called "the best pro-life manual available, anywhere"-- or his other books, some of which have won awards, been published in numerous languages reaching into dozens of countries, and which have collectively sold some two million copies. Why should this matter to BYU? "Dr. Dr." Weldon is just a mean-spirited, ugly Protestant fundamentalist who knows nothing in the field of comparative religion and regardless, his books certainly do not merit placement at BYU. Finally, Dr. Peterson seems to have very difficult times ascertaining our graduate degrees. "For, as things currently stand, it is more than a little bit difficult to make out just what degrees they do have. (See appendix 3.) " "Although they themselves insist that their academic background qualifies them to critique the faith of the Latter-day Saints, it is very difficult to figure out what degrees Dr. Ankerberg and Dr. Dr.[sic] Weldon have and what sort of education they have received. "
"The In the case of John Weldon, I fear that the situation is more complicated still. The back cover of Behind the Mask of Mormonism assures us that he has 'master's degrees in divinity and Christian apologetics, and a doctorate in comparative religion.' But it would be nice to know where he received these degrees.... And does he really have only one doctorate? Behind the Mask of Mormonism says on page 14 that John Weldon 'has a Ph.D. in comparative religion, including a second doctorate specializing in cultic theology.' Why was this second doctorate not mentioned on the back cover? It was also omitted on the back cover of Ankerberg and Weldon's 1991 attack on Islam, which mentions for him only 'a doctorate in comparative religion, with an emphasis on Eastern religions.' Where did he obtain this second doctorate? What kind of a field is 'cultic theology' anyway, and what kind of school teaches it? (By Ankerberg and Weldon's standards, I suppose Brigham Young University does!) And what does it mean for one doctoral degree to 'include' another? In all my experience in academic circles, I have never heard of any such thing. Nor has anybody with whom I have spoken about it. (Is it some sort of quantity discount? "Buy one and get the second diploma free"?) ... Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Mormonism, however, ...also described him as 'a graduate of [Simon Greenleaf] law school, where he majored in the subject of evaluating evidence for the true [sic] claims of Christianity'--a somewhat unusual legal specialty, as I noted earlier--although Behind the Mask of Mormonism now says that he is 'a graduate of Simon Greenleaf University, where he majored in the subject of evaluating evidence for the truth claims of Christianity' (p. 14, emphasis added). All of this continues to be perplexing." "As I reported in my 1993 review, a search of the Comprehensive Dissertation Index turned up no mention of Mr. Weldon, which appeared to indicate that his doctorates were earned at the kind of institution that either (a) does not require a dissertation or (b) is not represented in the Comprehensive Dissertation Index. (Or, alternatively, that his dissertations were submitted prior to 1861.)" "...[Elsewhere] Unfortunately, though, there is no mention of a law degree, nor of an M.A. Nor, once again, are we told where he obtained his Ph.D. I have hypothesized,...that it was from this rather obscure Melbourne correspondence school that he received it. But the enigma remains thus far unresolvable.... It would have been interesting to know, if he wrote one, what his dissertation was about.... What is more, it is not at all clear how a D.Min. degree would qualify Weldon to research and write on either 'comparative religions' or 'cultic theology.'" "Our authors could end my perplexity (and, no doubt, that of at least some other readers) by simply telling us clearly when and where and in what discipline they earned their degrees....So what are we to say of John Ankerberg, who sometimes claims a doctorate and sometimes does not, or of John Weldon, who sometimes mentions one doctorate and sometimes two? What are we to make of their vagueness on the subject, which persists in Behind the Mask of Mormonism despite my criticisms and despite their own obvious touchiness about it? Why don't they just settle the matter?"We are amazed Dr. Peterson had such a hard time with something so simple. And we're not touchy about it; we just didn't like having our character questioned by someone who had not taken even a little time to get his facts straight. Dr. Ankerberg has a Masters degree in church history and the history of Christian thought and the M.Div. from the fully accredited Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois and if I remember correctly, had completed most of the work for his Ph.D. before leaving for the mission field. His earned D.Min. degree is from Luther Rice Seminary in Atlanta, Georgia, which is not far from receiving accreditation. At any rate, Dr. Peterson can contact Dr. Ankerberg and the respective institutions directly for verification if he really cares about this. As to the variations in back cover copy, perhaps it may help Dr. Peterson to know that some publishers just do not list detailed academic biographical material, if they list any at all. Regardless, there's only so much space available on the back cover of our "Facts On" books or other books, so different copy is hardly unusual for people with multiple degrees. Why Dr. Peterson would make a nonissue his concern is beyond us. And, yes, Dr. Weldon did write a dissertation, in fact he wrote two dissertations. And, he has official transcripts for all his course work. if Dr. Peterson or anyone else would like to see them. The dissertation for his Ph.D. is from Pacific College of Graduate Studies in Melbourne. When Dr. Weldon joined the doctoral program, the degree was to have been issued by Queensland Christian University, the letterhead of which he has in his possession. PCGS was to become a college within Queensland Christian University, a fully accredited Australian University. In accordance with Australian requirements, it was approved by the Cabinet and subsequently earned the approval of a majority of the Attorneys-General of the States of Australia and the Commonwealth Government. It had met all requirements and was ready for presentation to the Parliament for final approval when the governing National Party was defeated and the Labour Party (i.e., socialist) came to power and gutted the entire program. Nevertheless, Dr. Weldon completed the program with PCGS and wrote his dissertation. The dissertation was 2500 pages in length, and, according to a letter in his possession from a representative at the Guinness Book of Records, was apparently the second or third longest dissertation on record. Charles Manske, Ph.D., Professor Emeriti, then Professor of Ethics and World Religions at Christ College Irvine (Now Concordia University, Irvine) and Concordia Seminary, Fort Wayne, was one of three academic reviewers. (The others were Dr. Walter Martin, widely regarded as an authority on the cults (except by Dr. Peterson and Mormons generally) and Dr. Clifford Wilson--see below). Dr. Manske received his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California where he was on the faculty from 1958-73. He said the following of Dr. Weldon's dissertation:
"The dissertation evaluates from a Christian perspective about 24 major groups primarily from Asia who have had a major impact upon the religious life of the United States ... . The length of 2,500 pages is the largest dissertation that I have evaluated ... Weldon's dissertation has particular importance for the Unites States as it evaluates its new position in the world ... . Certainly this may be considered the authoritative source for various eastern gurus and their movements in the world ... It is a superlative book in accomplishing the description and evaluation of various eastern gurus. I have no difficulty in recommending John Weldon for the doctorate degree as offered by Queensland Christian University."
(Letter on file, dated April, 1988)Dr. Martin's and Dr Wilson's evaluations were also quite favorable. Dr. Weldon's second doctorate was a D.Min. degree from Luther Rice Seminary and also included a dissertation. ('Cult theology' was descriptive, Dr. Peterson). Regardless, whoever said anything about one doctorate "including" another? No wonder Dr. Peterson never heard of such a thing since it was another invention of his imagination. And what about his use of the phrases, "quantity discounts" and "buy one [diploma] and get another free"? Is it fair to make innuendoes about another's degrees when one is ignorant of those degrees? And since when is a D.Min degree or a Ph.D. degree a necessary requirement for qualifying someone to research and write on comparative religion or the theology of cults? People with a only grade school education can be come qualified to write on these subjects if they learn the issues and how to write well. Dr. Peterson may be too impressed with academic qualifications. (There are people with no degrees wiser than some Nobel Prize winners.) Dr. Weldon happened to receive a letter at the time of writing from "Holyfield Management, Inc." with the logo including a pair of boxing gloves below those words. In the left margin it reads: Evander Holyfield
Three Time Heavyweight
Champion of the World
Chairman Three time heavyweight champion of the world. For many people, that is a lot more impressive than someone's Ph.D. degree; personally, John Weldon thinks it a lot more impressive than hisown degrees. But who would argue that Holyfield was unqualified to research and write on comparative religion simply because he was a boxer and had no graduate training? So, even if Dr Weldon had no degrees, instead of 7, he would still be qualified to write on Mormonism --if he did his homework. Of course, he would never know as much as Dr. Peterson and other Mormon scholars who concentrate all their studies on Mormonism. Continuing, nowhere has Dr. Weldon ever stated he had a law degree, nor has this ever appeared on one of his books. Publishers have only listed him as being a graduate of Simon Greenleaf School of Law and/or as having a M.A. in Christian Apologetics from that institution, which is true. When Dr. Peterson called Simon Greenleaf, he clearly did not take the time to ask a simple question about the nature of Dr. Weldon's degree. The Simon Greenleaf School of Law, in addition to its degrees in law, also offered a master's degree in Christian apologetics. Again, that is one of Dr. Weldon's graduate degrees and as Dr. Peterson knows, apologetics involves testing Christianity's truth claims. The phrase "evaluating the evidence for the true [sic] claims of Christianity" that appeared on p. 14 of Everything, was an editors post-galley alteration from that which Dr. Weldon had originally written, which is why the error ended up in print. Things like this do occasionally happen, even when they perplex Dr. Peterson. (The Simon Greenleaf School of Law is now Trinity Law School, the Law School of the noted Trinity International University.) Simon Greenleaf University is now apparently Trinity Graduate School, Los Angeles campus. (In addition, the reason one school description on a book reads Simon Greenleaf University while another reads Simon Greenleaf School of Law is because the latter changed its name while retaining its law school to better incorporate its objectives.) Nor did Dr. Peterson take the time to adequately investigate Pacific College of Graduate Studies, which he condescendingly (belittlingly?) refers to as "a rather obscure Melbourne correspondence school." If he had taken any time at all to investigate the college, he would have found it acceptable academically. Many other accredited graduate schools do, but this may be insufficient for Dr. Peterson. When Dr. Weldon received his degree in 1988, a decade ago, of the then 43 tutors, supervisors and consultants, 20 had earned doctorates (17 Ph.D.'s), and 12 had at least two graduate degrees. Men of such stature as Dr. Leon Morris, an internationally acclaimed NT authority, would hardly become a consultant for PCGS, and recommend PCGS, were it academically questionable. It is also recommended by people like David Cummings, world president of Wycliffe Bible Translators. Dr. Clifford A. Wilson is its founder and President. Dr Wilson holds the Ph.D. in psycholinguistics from the University of South Carolina, was for many years Senior Lecturer in Education at Monash University (a State Body) in Melbourne, in charge of Psycho-linguistics for the faculty, and a former Director of the Australian Institute of Archaeology. He is also the author of 70+ books. Dr. Peterson may not think so, but one can get a good and affordable education today through nontraditional methods. This is one reason why so many colleges and universities are now adding extension programs. Anyway, that's the story of my doctoral degrees, so now Dr. Peterson can relax. The truth is, we could continue to go down Dr. Peterson's list of objections one by one, showing that Dr. Peterson's allegations are far more frequently incorrect than valid. But to what end? Some FARMS writers allege Christians are "frightened" that people may take the Book of Mormon prayer seriously and ask for 'divine' confirmation that the Book of Mormon is true. The truth is, knowledgeable Christians aren't frightened over subjective apologetic methods. To the contrary, due to the lack of confirming evidence and presence of disconfirming evidence, it is often Mormons who are frightened of looking solid evidence squarely in the face. And that's understandable, given our frailties as humans. That does not mean it's wise. On 'Old Mcdonalds Farm' were lots of chickens--they still got 'plucked' and fried, because that's what happens to a chicken on the farm. What appears as a safe and nurturing environment can really be quite deadly. Still, there's not much difference between the nursery rhymes of children and the fairy tales of FARMS. One is juvenile, the other more sophisticated. Both are amusing -- and both lie in a fantasy world outside the confines of reality. To conclude, after doing substantially more reading on Mormonism and at the FARMS website, we are more convinced yet that Mormonism is, to be blunt, a religion of fraud and deception. And we also certainly care for and have empathy for Mormon people and wish to see their salvation. So, we will continue to pray for them and do programs about Mormonism. But we are also convinced that Mormons need to more carefully research this matter for themselves. The eternal soul is at stake, so only their best efforts are worthy. Mormons certainly shouldn't take FARMS at face value, but neither should they necessarily accept uncritically what Christians say about Mormonism. They should do sufficient research for themselves, asking the one true God for understanding, while reading the Bible at face value and continuing research. It will take time, but there is no other choice. It is far better to learn the truth late, even though quite painful. Learning it too late would be a tragedy.