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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.


One does not really get an idea of how extremely unfair FARMS reviews are until one listens to the responses of those attacked. As noted, we responded to Dr. Peterson's "review" of our book in a multi-part series in the Ankerberg Theological Research Institute News Magazine, too lengthy to print here. But we will briefly cite Dr. James White, who has carried on a dialogue with FARMS scholars for many years. In his website response, "A Study of FARMS Behavior" he replied as follows to a critique of his Letters to a Mormon Elder by L. Ara Norwood. Brief excerpts follow:

"Mr. Norwood begins his 38-page review of Letters to a Mormon Elder with a nearly 4-page introduction in which he questions my honesty, misrepresents my beliefs, attacks my character, wastes space in an effort to take digs and others, and engages in little more than pure (and false) ad hominem."

"I do not hold the position Norwood ascribes to me."

"The most daunting task facing me is the sheer volume of errors of understanding, logic and reason that are packed into the few pages of Mr. Norwood's review."

FARMS folks like to cite...other FARMS folks. It becomes a vicious (and rather small) circle: everybody cites Nibley, who, I am hardly alone in asserting, has never once cared about the contextual accuracy of anything he's ever cited. But then Sorenson cites Nibley, and Hamblin cites Sorenson, and Peterson and Ricks cites Sorenson and Hamblin and Nibley, and round and round it goes. It sure looks good on paper, but it doesn't mean a whole lot.... [T]he most telling criticism of the entire effort of FARMS [is] to come up with any kind of meaningful defense of the Book of Mormon in a historical setting: the few, strained, "parallels" that they have produced are more than completely negated by the vast mountain of "unparallels" that any person could note upon the most basic examination of the material cultures of ancient MesoAmerica. The fact that Norwood can see this in other instances, but fails to see how it undermines his entire position on the BoM, is quite telling."

"Norwood again seems to bank upon his readers not reading the book, for anyone who has would wonder how he could be so dishonest in his misrepresentations."

"Finally, one could spend (waste?) a great deal of time noting the dozens of snide remarks, insults, and generally childish comments sprinkled throughout Norwood's review. At times one has to wonder how such things made it passed the editors, but then again, this is a F.A.R.M.S. production."

Barksdale's review of White's Is the Mormon My Brother? is even worse-- and in fewer pages. Barksdale declares Dr. White is "vicious," "consumed with hatred," and a religious bigot. Yet James White went out of his way to be accurate and kind with Mormons. This is the kind of thanks he gets:

"Barksdale attempts to paint me as angry, mean-spirited, and vengeful. He portrays a supernatural ability to interpret my emotional state and motivations,...[there is] a rather blatant attempt to portray the work in the worst possible light.... Such phrases as "bitter, name-calling schoolyard charm" have become standard fare for LDS apologists, though, as the facts show, the term describes their own behavior, not mine. Any person who has read Is the Mormon My Brother? has to sit back in amazement at such dishonesty. Nothing could be further from the truth."

"Is it not far more likely that the "unrelenting hatred" is to be found in those who misrepresent others, are dishonest in their writings, and to seek to damage others' reputations by dishonesty?"

Dr. White lists the terms applied to him by Barksdale: hatred, healthy dose of hatred and religious bigotry, weird cultists, consumed with this kind of hatred, vicious, unrelenting hatred, bitter, etc. "The reader is invited to scan both of my books on Mormonism and see if such invective can be found. The truth is self-evident." But Barksdale goes even further: "Mr. White, this is not Nazi Germany, and Mormons are not a lower life form. Evangelical Christianity is not the "Master Race", and all others scum." Dr. White responds with, "Nazi Germany? Lower life form? Master Race? Scum? I invite any person to pick up Is the Mormon My Brother? read it, and think about what could possibly prompt such comments from Mr. Barksdale."

Dr. White concludes by wondering if FARMS

"will ever deal honestly with the issue[s]?... FARMS is so completely out of control that I no longer post the embarrassing emails I continue to receive from notable people associated with that organization."