FairMormon Conf: Bob Rees – Earl Wunderli’s Imperfect Book

Bob Rees: Earl Wunderli’s Imperfect Book

Earl Wunderli wrote “An Imperfect Book: What the Book of Mormon Tells Us About Itself” (2013).  Bob Rees discusses Wunderli and his book in his FairMormon Conference presentation.

Rees begins his review by showing a video (available on Youtube) by Richard Wiseman, entitled “Color Changing Card Trick”.  In the video, two people are shown, with one performing a card trick for the other.  Once done, the video is shown again, but this time pulled back to show the entire scene. Instead of focusing on the cards, one sees the two performers changing their shirt colors, the background color and the table cloth colors, things not noticed when the camera and our focus were on the cards.

Rees notes that while the card trick is an interesting one, it is only a small part of the whole picture.  We see the same thing occurring with the Book of Mormon and Wunderli’s depiction of it.  While Wunderli focuses on the minutiae, he completely misses what is going on in the big picture.

Rees notes that Wunderli seems to have made a “sincere attempt” at researching the Book of Mormon.  As a lawyer, Wunderli attempts to place the Book of Mormon on trial in a court of law.  And as its prosecutor, he is selective in his use of witnesses, making his case seem convincing that the Book of Mormon is a piece of 19th century fiction.

Wunderli brings up several issues that are very familiar to FairMormon audiences: the use of the KJV Bible, anachronisms, internal inconsistencies, geography, mythology, etc.  Rees quotes Wunderli, “critics prefer evidence and reason over faith and prayer in finding truth.”

Here in lies one of the weaknesses of Wunderli’s book, according to Rees.

While using reasoning and the scientific method is valid in studying the Book of Mormon and its claims, so too is using spiritual methods.  We are encouraged to use both heart and head in finding the truths and evidences of the gospel.  Those who use both approaches see things differently than a person who uses just one or the other.

Rees explains that it is similar to how we view a poem.  We can hold it up to the light, read it silently and then aloud, listen, ponder, and see it from many angles.  Wunderli’s methodology would be to tie the poem to a chair and intensely interrogate it.  You do get information from the interrogation, but miss the most important concepts regarding the poem.  In some ways, this is not really being rational, but is substituting one flawed method for another.

Wunderli goes shallow in his research and methods.  For instance, on inconsistencies in geography, he notes two verses in the Book of Mormon.  Two inconsistencies, according to him, show that the Book of Mormon is seriously flawed.  Looked at another way, however, and we see how incredibly consistent the Book of Mormon is on its geography.  Rees notes that the two inconsistencies in geography are in sections compiled by Mormon, centuries after the actual events, and more likely to be in error than something written originally by Nephi.

Rees notes (as did Kerry Muehstein earlier) that we all need to challenge our assumptions.  If we start from a certain perspective and then just look for those things that support our view, we miss out on the bigger picture.  Worse, we end up with a twisted world view.

He notes that Wunderli dismisses chiasmus as common place and found everywhere. Rees contends that this is not as apparent as Wunderli believes. Rees compared Joseph Smith’s writings with many of his contemporaries: Emerson, Whitman, and several others.  He noted that these others spent years preparing to be the great writers they became.  Meanwhile, Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon in 90 days, while having mobs harass him and being forced to move on several occasions.  While an Emerson may be able to compose a a classic writing over a period of months in his quiet writing room, Joseph had no such luxury.

When one begins from a doubting world view and then seeks only those evidences that will support that limited world view, you end up with a book like Wunderli’s Imperfect Book.

Guest post: support for SSM correlates with support for other nontraditional social views

By Jonathan A. Cavender

Jonathan A. Cavender is an attorney working in Provo, Utah. He is an avid fan of C. S. Lewis and Japanese modern literature. He is the proud father of four children, and records his daily thoughts on the scriptures (along with other odds and ends) at http://cavenderletters.blogspot.com/

Those who oppose same-sex marriage often hear from those who are in favor of it, “why does it matter?” When we share the concerns we have about a slippery slope leading from support for same-sex marriage to other destructive influences on religion and individual belief, we are sometimes derided.

Now, a survey posted on “The Public Discourse,” and performed by Mark Regnerus, has shown just what the results of adopting the world’s standards of morality regarding same-sex marriage can be.

In a massive study, involving 15,738 Americans, representative nationally, the study showed a strong correlation between support for same-sex marriage and other beliefs in opposition to traditional Christian morality. Churchgoing Christians who supported same-sex marriage were 726% more likely than churchgoing Christians who do not support same-sex marriage to believe that viewing pornography was ok, 341% more likely to believe that premarital habitation was a good thing, 647% more likely to believe that no-strings sex is ok, only 64% as likely to believe that couples with kids should stay married except if abused, 577% more likely to believe that marital infidelity is sometimes ok, 602% more likely to support abortion rights, and an astonishing 1,292% more likely to say that 3+ adults living in a sexual relationship was ok.

What is even more alarming is the fact that in each of those categories, the active, churchgoing supporters of same-sex marriage were closer to the average views of the world at large than they were to the average views of the Christian population. In other words, the distinctiveness of traditional Christian beliefs on sexual morality are lost among those who support same-sex marriage. In fact, churchgoing Christians who support same-sex marriage are actually more likely to say pornographic viewing is ok and that they support abortion rights (and equally like to say they believe marital infidelity is sometimes ok) than the general population at large.

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Fair Mormon Conf – Sharon Eubank: This is a Woman’s Church

Eubanks[Sharon Eubank is the Director of LDS Charities, and her board of directors includes the three men who make up the Presidning Bishopric and the women who make up the Relief Society Presidency. In this role she travels the world and interacts with world bodies such as the United Nations.]

Sharon wants to go on record from her own experience: the doctrine and practice of the Church have given her, as a woman, things that she cares more deeply about than anything else in her life.

Sharon has found her experience in the Cuhrch incredibly empowering. She’ll talk about the doctrine and the practices the doctrine has inspired.

The Doctrine of Intelligences. We’ve always existed and cannot be created or made. We chose to ally ourselves with God, Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. They made it possible for us to have a spiritual body and a mortal body, and Christ allows us to have a resurrected body.

[The rest of this is often in first person, as I was just having a great time trying to capture the substance of what Sister Eubank was saying.]

Let me call my intelligence my first self. No one has the combination of gifts and personality that I have.

We then are able to add additional stewardships and roles. Christ says, I am the self-existent one: I am.” And we declared that we, also, exist. Then as we take on roles, we define ourselves in relationship to others. So as a woman I have taken on attributes and responsibilities and bodily processes.

Sharon believes womanhood has roles related to binding, connecting, bridging, and gluing. From her own experience, being in an image of the divine feminine, this is what she feels responsible for. For example, there is the Roman goddess Hestia or Vesta, a virgin who has no family, yet she is responsible for all family reslationships, her symbol is the hearth fire, she connects all family relationships into family and community, she weaves all things together. Continue reading

Fair Mormon Conf – Dan Peterson: Some Reflections on That Letter to a CES Director

The videos from the Fair Mormon Conference are now available, for those of us who missed the actual conference itself.

Jeremy Runnells and Dan Peterson

Jeremy Runnells and Dan Peterson

Of those that haven’t been covered, I was drawn to Dan Peterson’s discussion of Letter to a CES Director, which is 90 pages of challenges to the truth claims of the Church. By way of history, a CES Director wrote to Jeremy Runnells, a young man who had left the Church, asking why he had left. And so the fellow assembled 90 pages of objections that would take 500 pages to respond to. [I note that Mormon Stories episodes 480-482 from June 2014 are with Jeremy Runnells.]

The motif of the letter is a shotgun blast of objections, the big list technique, which gives the impression that there are insurmountable objections. These objections are compiled by individuals too intellectually lazy (my words) to examine the many existing faithful explanations, and who are clearly also too intellectually lazy to investigate to defenders’ explanations. If the defenders ever answer “I don’t know,” the attacker can declare victory. It is a painfully familiar technique.

[Updated based on kinglamoni's comment objecting to my use of the term "lazy." When people fling objections to which there are valid responses and when these accusers don't give any indication that they've bothered to research the matter, and then go about promoting their views aggressively, then I'll amend my "lazy" to intellectually lazy, or intellectually dishonest. And anyone who swallows these objections whole without considering the data is likewise intellectually lazy. By the way, I went and invited Jeremy Runnells to read and consider the information I was writing in my Faithful Joseph series a few months ago, and he never bothered responding. So I have my own reasons for thinking he is unwilling to consider information that might challenge his new-found fame.]

The Fair Mormon wiki has done a good job of organizing responses to the objections raised by the letter. Dan Petersen goes through a few of the objections raised by the writer of Letter to a CES Director:

1) DNA evidence – the writer of the CES letter grossly simplifies the matter. Dan explains, for example, the reason that the Book of Mormon never makes claims that some have made on behalf of the book, such as the idea that Book of Mormon peoples were the primary ancestors of the Indians. But the Book of Mormon never claims this for itself.
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God’s Strange Act: A Legacy

[This post is the last of a series on Joseph Smith's Polygamy. To read from the beginning or link to previously published posts, go to A Faithful Joseph.]

Taylor and Shazia

In the fall of 2012, Taylor volunteered to campaign for one of the two US presidential candidates. He was primarily motivated by political ideology, but he also hoped that he might meet someone. He’d fought for his country in Iraq and served a mission to Thailand. For a couple of years since his mission, Taylor had been hoping to meet someone he could marry. He’d dated, of course, and he’d introduce whichever woman he was dating to his family, only to eventually have to tell well-wishers that, no, he was no longer dating this woman or that woman.

In the pre-dawn mist, Taylor surveyed the group of fellow campaigners that had gathered at the vans that would take them to a swing district for the weekend of campaigning. Instead of the group of college students he’d expected, the other campaigners were mature individuals or children. Resigned, Taylor set about making friends of those around him.

After dawn, the vans of campaigners stopped for a break. Taylor noticed that amidst the older folks and helpful children, there was a woman. She was bundled in her coat against the fall chill, hair pulled back in a knot, glasses framing an attractive face of undetermined age. Taylor turned back to his new-found friends and continued their discussion, not wanting to make his new friends feel he was willing to ditch them just for an attractive woman. Particularly if the woman turned out to be much older or married or otherwise uninterested in a person like himself. However Taylor’s new friends urged him to meet the lady on the other side of the group.

Her name, Taylor learned, was Shazia. And, no, she wasn’t in her thirties, nor was she married. As the weekend progressed, in the midst of their village of fellow campaigners, Taylor and Shazia began to learn how much they shared in common: music, academics, a love of the outdoors, politics, having a parent from Asia, pioneer heritage, ancestors who were shot at Carthage jail. 1

In time Taylor introduced Shazia to his family and updated his Facebook status. Eventually an e-mail from Taylor’s grandmother went out, days before Valentine’s Day, with the subject “Taylor’s technically not engaged yet, but the marriage is set…”

Thus began one of the myriad love stories of those who believe in the importance of marriage, of those who believe their unions can last for eternity.

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  1. John Taylor and Hyrum Smith.