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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Notes:

  1. John Taylor and Hyrum Smith.

FairMormon Conf – Barry Bickmore: Joseph Smith among the early Christians

Barry Bickmore: Joseph Smith Among the Early Christians

For those who haven’t read his book, in 1999 Barry Bickmore published an awesome book entitled, Restoring the Ancient Church: Joseph Smith and Early Christianity.  The second edition has just been released, and nicely updated.

Bickmore’s presentation covers a few points that you will find in his book.  He begins by discussing “mainstream” Christianity’s views Continue reading

FairMormon Conference: Marvin Perkins – Blacks in the Scriptures

Marvin Perkins: Blacks in the Scriptures

Marvin Perkins joined the LDS Church in 1988 and has since been a great speaker on race and the Church.

Perkins noted that we have to smash old paradigms in order to move forward. Some things need a much deeper look to truly understand them. And we can’t be afraid to ask the tough questions, in order to get to the truth. Continue reading

FairMormon Conf – Kerry Muehlstein on the Book of Abraham

Kerry Muehlstein: The Book of Abraham and Unnoticed Assumptions

Watching the presentations via video, definitely makes it easier to focus on the speaker (however, I miss rubbing shoulders with my fair weather FairMormon friends), and it was especially good for some of the sessions this morning.

The Book of Abraham has been a blessing for some, a curse for others,  and a puzzlement for all. Continue reading