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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.


In appendix 2 we noted that the basic problem for FARMS/LDS is that they insist on their own definition of what Mormonism is. Mormonism is bound by the standard works and what LDS authorities say it is, even though this denies official, earlier, divinely revealed church teachings. What is authoritative is only the Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, Pearl of Great Price and the Bible as interpreted by the General Authorities of the Church--the current apostles and prophets.

The General Authorities of the past are to be conveniently ignored at points of conflict or controversy, even though these men claimed to be apostles and prophets, were accepted as apostles and prophets and/or claimed divine revelation and inspiration. For example, President Hinckley, interviewed by Don Lattin of the San Francisco Chronicle, (4/13/97) declared "we have a great body of revelation, the vast majority of which came from the prophet Joseph Smith." And Brigham Young claimed "I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call scripture." (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 13, p.95). But the modern Church authorities, discarding "divine revelation" and vital history in the process, claim that only what they say is to be accepted.

In essence, the church "guarantee of doctrinal accuracy" is restricted to current teachings only, with the undeclared recognition that its doctrines may change generation by generation. And it's not just that original and modern Mormonism are contradictory, its that the Mormon Scriptures themselves are contradictory, e.g., The Book of Mormon teaches both Sabellianism and Trinitarianism, neither of which is "official" modern Mormon doctrine. As a divine revelation, this kind of thing makes Mormonism valueless.

The parallel situation in Christianity would be, first, for the modern Church to have denied numerous cardinal doctrines taught by the OT prophets and NT apostles. Second, to have then attempted to claim that its modern teachings that contradicted them alone were valid. Third, to have claimed that the earlier teachings of the prophets and apostles were invalid even though these were also said to be divinely inspired!

If this had happened, of course the Christian church would be worthy of charges of hypocrisy and deception. And, since it had such low regard for its divinely inspired apostles and prophets to begin with, it's hardly surprising if it would have attempted a cover-up to prevent its own embarrassment. If the Christian church had done all this, Christianity would now be the modern fraud that Mormonism is. And it would deserve the exact same criticism that Mormonism has received.

FARMS is free, of course, to complain about its Christian critics not understanding "true Mormonism," and to condemn them for allegedly engaging in shoddy scholarship. But until it deals seriously with its own religion, it can hardly be expected to be granted credibility in the eyes of those who know better.

For its part, FARMS of course, claims it has no bias and is only interested in promoting the truth. The truth would seem to be closer to an interest in distorting or suppressing criticism. As Sandra Tanner noted:

"There can be no doubt that FARMS is intent on undermining the expanding influence of Signature Books [a publisher whose Mormon writers are critical of Mormonism]. In addition, FARMS wishes to destroy the work of Utah Lighthouse Ministry and that of other ministries working with Mormon people. Furthermore, as we will show below, they are willing to spend a great deal of money to accomplish their goals."
(Tanner, Anti-Mormonoids p. 5)

At points, it becomes embarrasing. For example, FARMS and BYU scholars continue to cite the non-Mormon scholar Lawrence Foster's ill-fated attack on the Tanners in an alleged defense of Mormonism. This is despite Foster's own belief concerning Mormonism that "the official line [of the Mormon story] is almost always wrong if you get down the specifics." (Ibid. page 16). He also accuses Mormon leadership of "bad religion" and of carrying its zeal to defend Mormonism at all costs to "pathological extremes" (page 25). He even agreed, that in publishing all their works, "the Tanners probably care far more for the Mormon church [than] do the great majority of those Saints who have never rebelled or thought seriously about their faith...." (Ibid. page 29) As we will note in our next appendix, this is a good point.