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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.


Evangelicals Mosser and Owen, with their Mormon acquaintances (p.4) stand amazed, in light of the "massive amount of purported evidence" published by Mormonism that we could ever be so ignorant and unscholarly to question the intelligence or integrity of Mormon apologists and scholars, or that we could be so hypocritical to accuse Mormons of being unwilling "to consider the established theological, textual, historical, and a archaeological facts surrounding Mormonism and Christianity" because it is we who are ignorant or apathetic and "who...display [an] unwillingness to give any consideration to such issues." (p. 23)

To the contrary, the amazement is on our part. We did our best to consider such issues -- this was the thrust of our 500-page book. And for a general book, we considered theological and historical issues in some detail, as anyone can see. Because we did not consider the minor peripheral issues Mosser and Owen think are so crucial, our book is worthless in their eyes. "The authors constantly belittle their opponents -- always questioning either their intelligence or integrity."

It's hardly that we constantly questioned the intelligence of all Mormons, but we did question the intelligence of Mormon leaders, apologists, writers, and scholars at points of defending Mormonism. Why? Because we do not think it is 'intelligent' to defend Mormonism. We are reminded here of theologian and apologist R.C. Sproul's comment concerning modern scientists' tendency to attribute causal power to chance. He remarked that they make a prophet out of Aristotle when he said, "'in the minds of the brightest men often reside the corner of a fool'. In other words, brilliant people are capable of making the most foolish errors. That is understandable, given our frailties as mortals. What is not so understandable are the ardent attempts people make to justify such foolishness." (Not a Chance p. 16).

When Mormons offer facts that do not exist in defense of Mormonism, we find it difficult to attribute the defending of falsehoods to intelligence. The truth is, it is neither intelligent, nor wise, to defend a religion already established as false. It is only futile. But those who willfully choose to make such attempts can hardly be considered immune from criticism for making the endeavor, especially if eternal destinies hang in the balance.

Put another way, does defending the indefensible constitute an exercise in intelligence? The Macmillan Dictionary for Students defines intelligence as the "ability to learn from experience, to solve problems rationally, and to modify behavior with changes in environment" and it defines intelligent as "having a high degree of intelligence and mental ability; quick to learn." Are Mormon scholars, apologists and church leaders, with their great mental ability, learning from their experience and solving problems rationally? Are they quick to learn even from those in their own church who have discredited any historical basis for Mormonism?

We did not constantly belittle our opponents, as Mosser and Owen charge, but it is true we did belittle them at places. The Oxford American Dictionary defines belittle as "to imply that (a thing) is unimportant or of little value." Frankly, this is our view of Mormon theology and apologetics. The truth about Mormon apologetics is that its scholarship in defense of Mormonism is unimportant and of little value. The truth about Mormon theology is that it has no value as far as saving a soul is concerned, or much else.

So again, we must be forgiven for speaking the truth at this point But in light of the degree of duplicity and deception in Mormonism historically and today, and its animosity toward Christianity claimed as scholarship, we think that what belittling we did was deserved. Indeed, what of the constant Mormon belittling of God, Jesus Christ and the Gospel? How many times have Christians heard in response to the Gospel, "I don't want your Jesus" or, "Don't give me that s---.", as we have?

But the shoe is also on the other foot, as we have seen. FARMS often belittles its opponents. And if one also reads the critical responses to FARMS such as those by more open-minded Mormon scholars or Christian scholars not fooled by Mormonism, one can see that FARMS does have real problems with its scholarship.

Nevertheless, as Peterson/Mosser/Owen charged, how can it be 'unscholarly' and inefficient for us and other researchers to cite acknowledged Mormon authorities and reliable secondary sources such as the Tanners? FARMS and our two evangelical brothers criticize us anyway. One again wonders why. Is it an academic sin to cite the Tanners when they are not only former Mormons who are personally familiar with how Mormonism works, but have also spent a lifetime evaluating Mormonism critically from primary sources? Is it not permissible to make use of reliable sources that would take one a lifetime to duplicate?

We were also criticized by FARMS/Mosser and Owen for citing Metcalfe's anthology, New Approaches to the Book of Mormon, as if somehow this citation were insufficient to document the point we made-- that Mormon scholars themselves continue to criticize and refute Mormonism historically. Mosser and Owen are "quite disturbed" that evangelicals have cited this book as a critique of Mormonism since some authors are naturalists who employ higher critical methodologies and would therefore also conclude negatively about the authority of the Bible.

First, whenever they would do with the Bible, it is not inconsistent to cite such critics of Mormonism if their arguments are valid concerning Mormonism. One cannot dismiss books such as New Approaches simply because at places the methodology would result in a negative view of the Bible. One has to look at the many legitimate arguments they make against Mormonism as a whole. Second, one can hardly imply this book is more or less irrelevant, as Mosser and Owen do, when even Brigham Young University professor and FARMS member Louis Midgley declared: "The most imposing attack on the historical authenticity of the Book of Mormon has been assembled by Brent Lee Metcalfe.... the publication of New Approaches is an important event. It marks the most sophisticated attack on the truth of the Book of Mormon currently available either from standard sectarian [i.e., Christian] or more secularized anti-Mormon sources, or from the fringes of Mormon culture and intellectual life." (Jerald and Sandra Tanner, "Mormon FARMS: Battling the AntiMormonoids," website Review originally appearing in The Salt Lake City Messenger, Issue No. 90, May 1996 citing FARMS Review of Books Vol. 6 No. 1 Pp. 211-214)

Considering how thoroughly anti-Christian Mormonism actually is, why Mosser and Owen should be as favorable to Mormon scholarship as they are, when it proves nothing substantial--and never can--or be so distrustful of evangelical scholarship as they are-- is a mystery.

Further, neither James White, nor Jerald and Sandra Tanner, who have both published fine treatments on Mormonism, are credited with dealing accurately or thoroughly with Mormonism. According to Mosser and Owen, White's CRI article, fails miserably and Jerald and Sandra Tanner "are keen students of Mormon history, but do not have the skills necessary for a full-scale rebuttal of Mormon scholarship." As noted, the truth is that James White is a fine evangelical scholar whose books on Mormonism, Letters to a Mormon Elder and Is the Mormon My Brother? are among the best available. Even critics see Jerald and Sandra Tanner as among the most knowledgeable researchers of Mormonism in the world--which their voluminous works illustrate.

If the current quality Christian works available do not involve a complete rebuttal of Mormon claims, nothing does. As a Mormon reviewer of Mormonism: Shadow or Reality? wrote, "This is perhaps the most slanted, biased, and down right mean representation of the Mormon church there is. However, most of the stuff is true ... "

So why should Mosser and Owen eulogize Mormon scholarship, real or imagined, when it can never change facts that have existed for over a century, no matter how sophisticated its argumentation? Some may actually believe that evangelicals are losing the battle with Mormonism by neglect-- but again, the truth is that the battle was won long ago.

One wonders, what is it in Mormonism that Mosser and Owen and/or FARMS believe that Mormon scholars have adequately defended? Certainly, Mosser and Owen, for their part we presume, would not believe LDS scholarship has successfully rationalized or corroborated the following:

  • The serious confusion and contradiction between official Mormon doctrine historically and today.

  • The animosity that Mormonism has shown for God, Jesus, and Christianity throughout its history and today.

  • The existence of a nonexistent civilization.

  • The crude, sexual polytheism and finite godism of Mormon theology.

  • The unceasing Mormon defense of salvation by works, a doctrine the bible declares is cursed by God.

  • The book of Abraham and other Mormon scripture that not only contradicts the Bible but, given Mormon claims for them, are proven fraudulent.

  • That Mormon leaders, writers, and apologists should be trusted when they have a history of deception.

  • That the fraudulent and/or occult "first vision "account of Joseph Smith condemning all Christian Churches as an abomination to God was a revelation from the God of the Bible.

  • That the occult activities of Joseph Smith and Mormonism historically and in certain cases today are pleasing to God
  • e.g., that mediumism, divination, assisting or contacting the dead, and other occult practices can be blessed by God.

  • That there was a complete apostasy of the Christian church, despite Jesus' promise that "the gates of hell will not prevail against my church."

  • That Mormonism alone is the one true church on earth and Christianity an evil, apostate religion.

  • That the Mormon priesthood conveys the spiritual power and blessing of God.

  • That Adam was the one true God and that created men and women can become Gods, or that we have a "Celestial Mother" in heaven.

  • That Jesus Christ should be belittled as merely one God among endless billions and the product of a sex act between a male Mormon God and Mary.

  • That the church was evil and wrong in declaring justification by faith alone.

  • That an eternal hell is not something the majority of humankind, if anyone, must concern himself or herself with.

  • That Joseph Smith, despite his hatred of Christianity, his occult practice, false prophecies, and all the evil in his personal life was really a true and godly prophet of God.

  • That the errors, contradictions and lies in Mormon scripture/authoritative LDS writings are academically defensible.

From a Christian perspective, what is there for Mormon scholarship to defend here? In William J. Hamblin's review of Paul Toscano's The Sanctity of Dissent (1994, Signature books) in Review of Books on the Book of Mormon volume seven No. 1, 1995, we see illustrated the basic problem for LDS faith. Hamblin says, referring to the Mormon doctrine of a divine Mother in heaven, "I know of no Latter-day Saint who would deny the existence of our Mother in Heaven. Indeed, there is an article entitled "Mother in Heaven" in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, in which the existence of our Heavenly Mother is clearly affirmed. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, scripture provides little or no information on this subject."

This is precisely the problem with all Mormon doctrine -- little or no scriptural (biblical) documentation.

So, how can Mosser and Owen be correct that Mormon scholarship is defensible and Christian scholarship against it is not? Even the most prominent LDS scripture has no support in its behalf. As Dr. White noted, citing a 1973 declaration by Michael Coe:

"The bare facts of the matter are that nothing, absolutely nothing, has ever shown up in any New World excavation which would suggest to the dispassionate observer that the Book of Mormon, as claimed by Joseph Smith, is a historical document relating to the history of the early migrants to our hemisphere."

Dr. White continues with,

"These words remain true. Let any person pick up the most popular F.A.R.M.S. materials and ask themselves a question: would the argumentation presented herein carry weight with me if I was not already committed to the LDS perspective? The current situation in the world of archaeology clearly indicates the answer, for F.A.R.M.S. has yet to convince the scholarly world -- including Christian scholars who believe in the supernatural -- that the BoM has anything at all to do with the early history of this hemisphere. The same scholars who will readily admit that the Bible has a great deal to do with the history of Palestine find no reason to believe Joseph Smith's story."
(James White, "A Study in F.A.R.M.S. Behavior" printed Internet document, page 12, available at Alpha and Omega ministries website)

William Bennett recently wrote a book, The Death of Outrage, to show how Americans have come to accept things that should, and once did, outrage them. No better illustration can be provided than with the nations continued support for President Clinton, in spite of the evidence presented for impeachment. But given the above doctrines of Mormonism, we think Christians should also be outraged--at Mormon teachings. This happened years ago with "The Last Temptation of Christ" movie. But if Christians were outraged then, there is no less reason to be outraged here.

Again, few religions are more blasphemous, anti-Christian and deceitful as Mormonism. This is strong language to be sure, but that is what has concerned us about Mormon teaching and practice all along. If someone wants to see something "ugly and unchristian," don't look in Christian books. Look at the reprehensible things Mormons have said about Christianity or Christians, or at what Mormons have done historically--opposed the gospel, hindered Christian missions, endorsed blood atonement, practiced deception, endorsed racism, defended the polygamy that infects Utah and other states even to this day, --not to mention other evils masquerading as pious religion.

If Mormonism is as godly and pristine an institution as proponents claim, how could Mormonism possibly be responsible for so many evils documented in our book and scores of other books--such as the Tanners works (e.g., Mormon Spies, Hughes and the CIA, The Mormon Purge, Unmasking a Mormon Spy, Mormon historian Dr. D. Michael Quinn's Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power, and sociologist Anson Shupe's The Darker Side of Virtue: Corruption, Scandal and the Mormon Empire (1991)?

And why does the Mormon Church continue to prohibit open access to its historical documents, unless it has something to hide? Why did the Church handle the Mark Hoffman murder case in the manner it did if it wasn't to keep its own sins hidden? Indeed, a statement on A&E's "City Confidential" for November 21, 1998 (a mild expose on Mormon power in Utah), only served to illustrate the birth, life and epitaph of Mormon religion when it declared, "Truth became the final casualty." (Mormon power is certainly illustrated when the Mormon Church virtually controls the state of Utah, but the Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the ACLU are nowhere to be found.)

So, in light of the criticism evangelicals have received, have evangelicals been wrong and sinful to point these things out and to document them from Mormon and related literature? Should they be ashamed for what they have done? Is it the Evangelical Churchs' response to Mormonism that has been fraudulent for the last 150 years? Are Mormon history, doctrine and deception of no relevance whatsoever? When the Mormon Church was first instituted and declared all Christian denominations "an abomination" to God, does this demand that a polemical response to Mormonism be considered unchristian?

Indeed, Mormons frequently ask Christians, "Why are you attacking us?" In fact, Christians are only responding to Mormon attacks. It was Mormonism who first began the trouble and attacked Christianity, and this has yet to cease. Will Mormons not allow for Christians what they reserve for themselves, the defense of their own faith? According to Joseph Smith's alleged revelation recorded in The Pearl of Great Price, God the Father told Joseph Smith that, as far as Christianity is concerned, "All their creeds were an abomination in His sight" and Christians "were all corrupt" and had perverted God's ways. Joseph Smith later declared the God of the Bible was "a monster"! So--who really started it all? And if Mormonism is so Christian, why has the Mormon Church not rescinded any of this?

In conclusion, it is far better to accept the truth now than to neglect the truth and later face the consequences. To make perception of academic scholarship the criterion of respectability or to display a preference for scholarly technicalities in comparison to the vast weight of LDS error and duplicity is just bad apologetics, whether it is done by Mormons or Christians.

Evangelicals who wish to find commonality with informed Mormon scholars who would then use them for their own purposes should perhaps reconsider the commandment of Jesus in Matthew 7:6,

"Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces."

FARMS/LDS is free to make everyone else wrong but themselves -- but this will change nothing. James White was right when he concluded that FARMS was "completely out of control."

Neither evangelical "supporters" of Mormonism nor FARMS scholars will be able to change the established theological, textual, historical, and archaeological facts surrounding Mormonism and Christianity. And as long as it refuses to deal fairly with the evidence and to respect the word of God, FARMS will continue to undermine its credibility in both the eyes of secular scholars who know better and most Christian scholars who never required FARMS to tell them what they knew all along.

And further, more Christians should be outraged.