Louis Midgley seems to think it is. My own feeling is that it probably depends on one’s reading of the phrase “anti-Mormon.” And what exactly is an anti-Mormon book? In the essay directly preceding Midgley’s, Davis Bitton suggests that anti-Mormon books are the equivalent of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Is this combination of two descriptions coincidental? (Dan Peterson?) Let’s put the obvious two and two together –as the FARMS Review reader is likely to do — and ask:
Is Signature the equivalent of the Protocols? Or (to use one well-known Signature book which FARMS has criticized): Is Todd Compton’s In Sacred Loneliness the equivalent of the Protocols?
I must say, my initial reaction was that a strong argument could be made that Compton’s work, the product of his own historical research, was probably quite different from the fabrications of the Russian police. In addition, I’m not aware of anyone who has launched a pogrom or started killing Mormon neighbors because she read Compton. But perhaps FARMS is aware of such incidents. They’re the experts, after all. I don’t want to question their wisdom in putting Bitton’s descriptions of anti-Mormon materials (“Anti-Mormon works demonize their subjects.”) immediately before Midgley’s characterization of Signature as an anti-Mormon press. So deferring to the greater wisdom of FARMS, I find my initial impression wrong: It must indeed be that Signature books demonize their subjects, and are our version of the Protocols (yikes!), and it’s my own fault, silly neophyte that I am, that I haven’t sufficiently noticed this yet.
Thank you, FARMS, for saving me from the evils of Signature. (Whew!). I’ll now take that $180 that I had been intending to buy New Mormon Studies with, and donate it to the Perpetual Education Fund. And may I recommend that everyone check first with the FARMS Review before buying, or even opening up, any books that purport to deal with Mormon topics.
p.s. After reading Midgley’s unflattering description of John Hatch, I’ve sworn off of reading BCC as well. Shame on Steve Evans for giving that man a blogging platform! (One wonders — is BCC an anti-Mormon blog?).
Anti-Mormon is practically a worthless term, these days. It could be accurately applied to people like the Tanners and those who actively work to lead people out of Mormonism. Instead, it’s hijacked by people like Midgley to marginalize writings he disagrees with or that provide a different viewpoint. It’s just another label used to draw the line in the sand and separate “us” and “them.”
No, Kaimi, BCC is an “anti-Mormons-we-don’t-like” blog. We are anti-those-who- don’t-agree-with-our-opinions about this or that LDS issue. And we’re in good company. Everyone is anti- what they’re not pro-.
Suppose that I firmly believe that Mormon truth claims are false and I busily produce arguments to that effect and publish them. Does this make me an anti-Mormon?
It would certainly cover the Tanners, but it would also cover Dan Vogel. Should I think of Dan Vogel as an anti-Mormon? I assume that you don’t think so. (Maybe you do.) Perhaps it is that Dan does not have the stated goal of transforming Mormons into non-Mormons, whereas the Tanners do.
Kaimi, my first reaction is that now we’re into controversy with a capital “C.” My second is that you’ve got your tongue stuck so far into your cheek that I really don’t know your position or how to respond to it.
But let me emphatically say, it depends. It depends, as you say, on the definition of anti-Mormon. Also, it depends on the book.
Of course, Todd’s Compton’s book isn’t. Before the 2002 Olympics when some of anti-Mormon pieces appeared in the national press (the New Yorker piece, I think?) Rick Turley, head of church & family history department, quoted Compton favorably.
Generally, when anyone defines a binary (in this case Mormon and Anti-Mormon) – one side (usually the side a person is on) gets defined narrowly and the other side gets labeled as “everything else.”
It happens all the time. Some claim anything that doesn’t praise the church is anti-mormon. Others claim that anyone who refuses to dwell on the chuch’s failings and historical problems is a naive sheep.
Both sides do it. However, Midgely’s article was rather well-written and argued. However, I do agree it had an unfortunate placement in the FARMS review which causes the argument to seem harsher than it really is.
Kaimi, do you think Signature publishes some anti-mormon works?
I think FARMS’ discussion of the “anti-Mormon” question is more nuanced and fair than caricatures of it often pretend. And it is fair to raise these issues, even if one doesn’t ultimately draw lines precisely where a FARMS author would.
I often enjoy reading Midgley, but why does it feel like he’s always talking about the same couple of issues all the time? My mental image of Midgley is of an elderly obsessive gentleman, muttering about Brodie, et al., trying to get the grandkids to listen to his story about McMurrin’s rejection of angels giving books to farmboys for the umpteenth time, and all the kids rolling their eyes in unison.
Rob, et al,
I’ve said in other contexts that the FARMS Review sometimes (often?) goes over the line in tone and mean-spiritedness. It’s a publication that sometimes makes me feel dirty after reading it. I’m amazed at the willingness of faithful Mormons to engage in awful behavior towards fellow human beings and children of God. FARMS Reviews often seem calculated to inflict pain on an author.
I’ve also found that any attempts to point out problems in tone — which are FARMS’s biggest problems — will be met with a triparte defense of (1) prove it (since so many of the reviewers are heavy on innuendo); (2) it’s okay, we’re the good guys, (3) you’re just looking at tone because you can’t touch our substance. (Sometimes mingled with (4) you’re just a neophyte anyway, aren’t you?).
Instead of saying “FARMS has tone problems,” this post simply applies some FARMS conclusions in a direct way — you decide whether or not the result is accurate.
(1) Anti-Mormon lit is the equivalent of Protocols.
(2) Signature is anti-Mormon lit.
(3) Signature is the equivalent of Protocols.
If the FARMS’s position is so silly that straightforward syllogistic application produces absurd results, then perhaps there are real issues (mostly of tone, I think) that should be addressed.
truthfully, i love signature books, at least the ones i’ve read. up until i discovered some of their titles i found learning about church history quite boring. at least they’ve brought the human side out in a lot of the historical figures of the church. granted, a lot of the topics they discuss make the majority of the membership uneasy, but if not for the likes of signature a lot of these stories would never be told. does anyone think that FARMS or Deseret Book or the like would ever publish works like in sacred loneliness or mormon polygamy. academic presses may pick up some of these titles, but for the most part w/o a publishing house like signature they would never be published.
so is signature anti-mormon? i guess it depends on your level of comfort w/ discussing these types of issues. but they’re definitely not of the ed decker or tanner variety. their motivation seems to be to make people aware of certain historical aspects of mormonism, rather than sway their commitment to the church.
whether or not you agree w/ authors like grant palmer, i think that it is good to have their views out there in print, to initiate dialogue into some of the less comfortable sides of mormonism. but it is evident that FARMS feels quite threatened by the people over at signature, or they wouldn’t devote so much effort to putting them down. i think they are actually just driving more readers to signature, who by their very human nature want to know what these guys at FARMS are making such a fuss over.
Kaimi, responding by paragraph,
Agree, agree, agree, agree & agree.
However, one caveat: Again we’re conflating Davis Bitton’s position into “the FARMS position.” It was an argument Bitton advanced in one review.
Bitton has made major contributions to Mormon history & cultural studies. This, however, may not have been his most nuanced piece.
(1) is wrong.
I just read Bitton’s piece. It was thoughtful and very careful. It was notably not mean spirited. He has one throwaway line about the Protocols as an example of why one should not trust anti-X to be one’s main source for X. He certainly does not attempt to say that all (or even any) anti-mormon lit is the same as the Protocols. Your characterization of his essay is exactly the type of argumentation you despise.
Frank, Nate, et al,
The problem (or a problem) is that “anti-Mormon” can mean a lot of things. Two major potential definitions are:
(a) “designed to drive one from the Mormon church”
(b) “having the potential to cause one to leave the Mormon church.”
There is no doubt that books in group (a) are problematic. Books from the Tanners, tracts handed out by anti-Mormons at the temple, and so forth fall into this category. Notably, many works in category (a) are very fast and loose with history and fact themselves.
I think that much (most?) of Signature falls into category (b). At the very least, something like Compton falls into this category. It’s not designed to drive people from the church. It’s careful with its history — subject to critique, as with any historical work, but clearly in a different class from the Tanners.
Placement of the two together — Bitton’s comments about “anti-Mormon” books (which seemed directed at (a)) next to Midgley’s characterization of Signature as “anti-Mormon” has the unfortunate consequence of naturally lending itself to a conflation of (a) and (b).
Aaron, I agree completely. I think a lot of the essays in FARMS Review are very repetitive – often with several people making the same point over dozens of pages. And then the next year rolls around and the same point is made. It’s unfortunate and I think the FARMS Review, while occasionally having some genuinely useful articles, ends up detracting from what I see as FARMS original aims.
I’ll agree with you that Davis Bitton’s piece was not itself mean-spirited. However, he does seem to equate anti-Mormon literature with the Protocols. If they are not similar, it’s unclear what his point is. He writes:
Some people find it difficult to believe there is such a thing as an anti-Mormon book. Others think that only anti-Mormon literature can be relied upon. After all, if this material tells them what they want to hear and tears down the church they wish to tear down, why would they not read it and recommend it? I wonder if they turn to the abhorrent anti-Semitism in such works as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion for their information about Jews.
His take-away point is “going to anti-Mormon literature for information on Mormons is the equivalent of going to the Protocols for information on Jews.” And that point strongly implies that anti-Mormon literature is the Mormon equivalent of the Protocols.
(b) â€œhaving the potential to cause one to leave the Mormon church.â€?
This is a broad (overbroad?) category & potentially includes the BoM, D&C & BoA. After all, some that leave cite one or more of these among their reasons for leaving, as in “I can’t believe they’re historical/scriptural.” I think that category needs further delimiting.
I really don’t see the point in labeling an outlook, an author, or a publisher “anti-mormon” unless the goal is to somehow imply they are so tainted by bias that their analysis cannot be considered reasonable.
I am a Kool-Aid drinking Mormon, but I do believe that one can make a pretty strong argument that Joseph Smith was not a prophet. After all, many of those who knew him personally became convinced of that he was not a prophet (and many of the disillusioned did not become anti-mormon). At any rate, it’s by no means self evident that he was a prophet. Moreover, it simply won’t do to label everyone willing to argue that Joseph Smith was not a prophet an anti-mormon.
I’ve read quite a lot of Signiture; indeed, my copy of Talmage’s The Articles of Faith is published by them. Although I find the quality of their books to be somewhat inconsistent (e.g., The one on revisionist history edited by Quinn is better “American Apocrypha,” which in turn is better than “The Word of God”), I can’t really see how they are blinded by bias, much less that they’re intellectually dishonest.
My reading of FARMs reviews has not convinced me that the same is true of them.
It might help anyone on the fence about Signature to pick up something by the Tanners, who (though they produce by far the highest quality anti-Mormon literature available) are quite clearly blinded by their bias. On the other end of the quality spectrum is The God Makers, which really is like The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in many respects.
Editors put together articles by theme all the time. Sometimes the articles agree but typically they represent different views on the same material. As often as not they disagree. They are little mini-fora. Surely law journals do this all the time.
Both Bitton and Midgley have pieces on Anti-mormonism. Bitton sets up a general framework whereas Midgley wants to go after a particular publisher. Bitton names names, and yet he doesn’t name SIgnature. So the logical conclusion is that he is not convinced they are an anti-mormon press by his definition. At least not convinced enough to group with the Tanners.
Midgely is not building on Bitton, he is providing an alternative take, claiming that, under his definition, Signature is anti-mormon. You can disagree with his definition, as you disagreed with Nate’s, up above. But suppose Midgely considers some cleaned up version of your (b) to be his definition of anti-mormon. Well then that isn’t insane, though it may be wrong. And you already said that much of Signature fits in definition (b). The implied syllogism certainly seems more robust than yours above.
I think Aaron’s characterization of Midgley in post 7 is so spot on it’s scary. I obviously don’t always agree with Dan Peterson, but it’s clear he’s brilliant, thoughtful, and well…normal. I don’t think the latter can apply to Midgley.
Let’s review, shall we?
1) Midgley shows up at a candlelight vigil for Lynne Whitesides, berating people, calling them children of Satan, and putting some in tears. I’m not an uncritical fan of the so-called September Six, but this is just bizarre.
2) Midgley attends the 25th anniversary of Signature Books at the University of Utah, talking loudly during the presentations, getting many glares and hushes from others. After the event he goes over to a table displaying Signature’s titles and loudly proclaims, “pathetic!”
3) While researching on (guess what?) Fawn Brodie at the University of Utah archives, Midgley repeatedly yells out phrases like, “I don’t believe it!” and “My goodness!” to no one in particular, scaring the crap out of the other patrons who think he’s a crazy man.
4) Midgley quizzes Grant Palmer during Palmer’s presentation of his book at Sam Weller’s, but doesn’t address the topics in the book. Instead, Midgley asks why Palmer wasn’t well liked on his mission to New Zealand, and questions Palmer’s faithfulness based on his popularity among the Maori.
5) Midgley calls up my friend’s 70 year-old mother (who, until I get his permission, will remain anonymous) and hounds her and berates her about her son’s involvement with Signature Books. He keeps harrassing her for information so he can get some dirt on her son.
And on and on. Midley probably holds the record for being banned from the most Mormon e-lists and groups. He has a well-known reputation for showing up at places he’s not welcome for the sole purpose of harrassing those in attendance.
Does this change the charges in his article? Not necessarily, but since FARMS is such a big fan of telling us about the authors of the books they review, it only seems fair if it’s a two-way street.
I think the problem is that there is that lurking problem of naturalistic claims. FARMS obviously is writing from a position of faith wherein the possibility of angels, revelation, and Nephites, is taken for granted. Most (but not all) Signature writing is written from the perspective wherein such matters aren’t really seriously considered. That’s not to necessarily say they reject them as a possibility, merely that the possibility would have to be first proven by science before being invoked in any history or analysis of Mormonism. That does bias ones writing. I’m not sure it biases it such that it is anti-Mormon. But it gets murky. After all a lot of the explanations given by naturalistic critics attempt to wrap things up in a tidy ball that gives no credit to the actors involved. After all if you reject as a real functioning possibility in ones scholarship spiritual phenomena, then most of the actors are either conniving manipulators or delusional but honest quacks. It is very, very hard to write sympathetically to people claiming spiritual phenomena.
That’s not to say you have to accept what they say. Simply that the naturalistic bias does, I think, lead to a rather negative view of the group one is writing about. But if one is unfairly portraying a group negatively, isn’t that really a kind of anti literature?
It seems though that many of those who write above are correct? What constitutes anti-Mormonism? Many at FARMS are willing to accept The New Mormon Challenge as not being anti-Mormonism, even though it is highly critical of many Mormon beliefs? Why does Carl Mosser get a break while others don’t?
If T & S had two posts in seriatim, with these titles:
Nate Oman, Why Communists are Evil
Kaimi Wenger, Why Frank McIntyre is a Communist
would it be reasonable for readers to draw a conclusion from them that T & S thought that Frank McIntyre was evil?
Don’t you all see what is going on here? This is Kaimi’s transparent attempt to prevent the “Sunstone Boilerplate” thread (302 comments) from overtaking his “When Are Bloggers Permitted to Criticize…” thread (316 comments). Why else mention anti-Semitism, polygamy, FARMS, Signature, and Bcc in the same post. He’s a sly one, indeed. ;)
BTW – while I was blogging about a similar phenomena in philosophy, I think the following discussion of scholastic bloodsport might be applicable. I tend to see it among some on both sides of the fence.
Intrigued by this post, I tried to read the Midgley piece — only to be reminded why I end up not reading FARMS work — it’s so piecemeal, so heavy on quotation and so keen on exhaustive backgrounding that whatever argument is being made drowns in the documentation. Plus there are all these leaps were expected to make and sometimes weird assumptions.
I guess I just don’t have the taste for apologetic discourse (or at least not the FARMS brand of apologetics).
I’m not bringing this up in defense of Signature, however. They publish some decent literary titles (and some shrill ones). Other than that — see Clark’s comment #19.
I also note that Kaimi smartly titled the post so that it is truncated in the sidebar as “Is Signature Books an Ant.” Very tricky, K. I read you loud and clear, buddy.
(Doing my best to derail this thread before we have to hear how Midgley showed up unannounced at Lighthouse Ministries and rudely interrupted George Smith having fondue with the Tanners.)
“If T & S had two posts in seriatim, with these titles:
Nate Oman, Why Communists are Evil
Kaimi Wenger, Why Frank McIntyre is a Communist
would it be reasonable for readers to draw a conclusion from them that T & S thought that Frank McIntyre was evil?”
No, it would not… unless there was reason to believe that Nate Oman and Kaimi Wenger have synchronized their posts intentionally. Presumably, you guys don’t do that. With respect to a FARMS review, the issue is a bit different, as Dan Peterson is exercising his prerogative as editor to include and exclude different views, as well as to place certain articles next to each other. But with respect to the placement issue, I tend to agree with Frank McIntyre in comment #17.
I wasn’t going to say a word about this, but I’m bothered by the personal attacks on Midgley here. Granted that it’s hard sometime to talk about someone’s arguments, tone, and so on, without talking about the person. Perhaps it’s particularly hard to do this with Midgley.
But some of the comments here seem like out-right attacks on him and a number of them seem remarkably like “gossip”–gossip that was so roundly denounced in the “Sunstone” thread. This isn’t my blog, but what is going on here doesn’t seem fair, right, or consistent with the general rules of T & S as I understand them.
Wow. This is perhaps the most poorly written front page post I’ve seen in my time here: I can’t tell if it’s sarcasm, screed, inside joke, or what have you… but whatever it is, it’s not parsable by me.
I normally just skip the threads that seem more noise than signal… but it’s just so frustrating â€” I feel like I’m missing something.
“If T & S had two posts in seriatim, with these titles:
Nate Oman, Why Communists are Evil
Kaimi Wenger, Why Frank McIntyre is a Communist
would it be reasonable for readers to draw a conclusion from them that T & S thought that Frank McIntyre was evil? ”
Transparently no, because “T&S” has no opinions. Kaimi and Nate have opinions. Kaimi and Nate disagree all the time. Allow Bitton and Midgely the same privilege of disagreeing with each other and your syllogism comes apart.
I have in front of me a recent, representative issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives. It has 4 articles about the Middle East. There is no way that the authors of these pieces could be construed as all agreeing on what to do in the Middle East, just because they all wrote articles next to esch other, nor would I expect them to. Each person gets their own opinion. Allow FARMS the same privilege in how each person defines anti-mormon.
As for Bitton equating anti-mormon with Protocols, certainly he is comparing the two. Now plausibly there are some anti-mormon works on par with the Protocols in their level of inaccuracy. And others that aren’t. Are you really taking his throwaway line and suggesting that Bitton is claiming every anti-mormon work is as bad as the Protocols? That’s not exactly the philosophical “principle of charity” in action now is it?
Is a logical extension of your argument that Signature cannot appropriately be characterized as “anti-Mormon” (or any other broad characterization) because Signature authors regularly disagree with each other? You write that “T & S has no opinions”; does it also follow that Signature has no opinions?
Both of the FARMS pieces I discuss here accept the idea of institutional opinion. Yes, there are arguments against the existence of institutional opinion. But since both of these pieces seem to accept the possibility of institutional opinion, one reasonable way to assess them is by accepting this same principle and applying it to them, as evidence of FARMS institutional opinion.
Ditto to everything that Aaron says.
I think that people should tone it down a bit on the Midgley denuciations. If it makes you feel better, Ernie Wilkinson had spies placed in his classes in the 1960s and 1970s because apparently there were rumors that he was spouting communist propaganda. Lou is happy to tell that story as well, if you ask him.
As for Signature: Most of what they do is pretty good, some of it is pretty shoddy. Some of what they publish can, I think, be plausibly criticized as being repackaged anti-Mormon texts. (Their odd relationship with Wesley Walters comes to mind.) Admittedly, it is intellectual sophisticated and even academically useful anti-Mormon stuff. On the whole, however, I don’t think that they are an anti-Mormon press. They do, I think, feel a need to publish things that wouldn’t get published elsewhere. Sometimes this means daring and controversial stuff. As often as not, I think it simply means whinny stuff by self-obsessed Wastach-front Mormon dissidents that couldn’t get published by either Deseret Book or an academic press. Clearly, the whinny stuff is published out a sense of mission that can at times be a bit annoying.
On the whole, though, I don’t think that they are an anti-Mormon press and they have published some real gems.
Kaimi: Does this mean that I can impute all of my opinions to you? As in, Nate believes that private law is an inappropriate mechanism for righting historical injustices. Nate blogs at T&S to this effect, Ergo T&S believes that private law is an inappropriate mechanism for righting historical wrongs. Kaimi blogs at T&S. Ergo, Kaimi believes that private law is an inappropriate mechanism for righting historical wrongs.
You might want to look into this, because there is some guy claiming to be Kaimi Wenger who has posted a paper to SSRN about attenuation doctrines and tort recovery for slavery. ;->
“4) Midgley quizzes Grant Palmer during Palmerâ€™s presentation of his book at Sam Wellerâ€™s, but doesnâ€™t address the topics in the book. Instead, Midgley asks why Palmer wasnâ€™t well liked on his mission to New Zealand, and questions Palmerâ€™s faithfulness based on his popularity among the Maori.”
Having read Midgely’s account of this book store encounter, I would not characterize it this way.
“On the whole, though, I donâ€™t think that they are an anti-Mormon press and they have published some real gems.”
The New Mormon studies CD is invaluable. It’s too bad they never gave it an update.
More unfortunate is the fact that my copy of the New Mormon Studies CD (which is awesome!) was stolen in the HLS library. Someplace in Langdell their is a thief who has become very well informed about Mormon studies.
“But since both of these pieces seem to accept the possibility of institutional opinion, one reasonable way to assess them is by accepting this same principle and applying it to them, as evidence of FARMS institutional opinion.”
I also accept the possibility of institutional opinion, as do most of us. But only some institutions and only some opinions. You did not provide evidence that Bitton and Midgely think alike, you assumed it in order to construct your syllogism.
I should note that Nate Oman has written for FARMS. Therefore:
A. Nate Oman thinks the same thing as Bitton.
B. We have established already that you and Nate think the same way.
C. Thus you are arguing with yourself (er, Bitton).
Try to keep your schizophrenic behavior out of T&S! :)
“More unfortunate is the fact that my copy of the New Mormon Studies CD (which is awesome!) was stolen in the HLS library. Someplace in Langdell their is a thief who has become very well informed about Mormon studies.”
Weak! I don’t normally support physical punishment, but if this person is ever caught…
BTW, in case any of you are wondering. Frank McIntyre IS a communist.
Not that there is anything wrong with that…
Let me state for the record that Lou is my great uncle. That said, I don’t know him well. It is pretty clear from this and previous blog entries that John H. does not like the man, and in fact uses him as an example to fend off attacks on Sunstone. I am somewhat shocked to see John H’s usual calm, rational manner of explaining what might be considered controversial opinions fly out the window when Midgley comes up. C’mon guys, hold yourselves to a higher standard rather than sinking to the one that you claim Midgley holds himself to.
I suspect that John H’s manner is, in part, a function of what Midgley said about him personally in his review.
Mostly I’m a totalitarian; the specific form is not so important as long as it involves five-year plans, widespread starvation, and ruthless suppression of dissent.
Another disadvantage of the New Mormon Studies CD. IIRC, it costs 200 bucks. But it has excerpts from the Abraham Cannon journal (& many other things) that you can’t find outside of special collections at this or that archive. So I judged it worth the money.
Sorry, I didn’t mean to come across as so harsh when speaking about Midgley. No, I don’t like him or think too highly of him. This comes from hearing personal attack after personal attack by Louis Midgley on many of my friends.
If I went a bit overboard, I’m sorry. That said, it is interesting that when Midgley does similar, gossipy reports on George Smith and Signature Books, people say they find it useful and interesting. But when I share my own experiences with Midgley, it’s considered inappropriate. Perhaps it is. I’ve often said I wish FARMS wouldn’t bother with the kinds of personal attacks they go into, and would just focus on the issues in a respectful manner. A perfect example would be Mark Ashurst-McGee’s review of Grant Palmer in the Review. Professional and thoughtful all the way, minus the name calling and ad hominem in Davis Bitton’s review.
1. Cute, but I didn’t say that institutional opinions could the be imputed back to any particular participant. Only that they could be assembled from different pieces contributed by different contributors.
2. Nate, I think that we’ve established that your thief has suffered sufficiently by choosing to steal such anti-Mormon drivel. Now if the CD included BYU Studies, that would be more serious. But the New Mormon Studies CD? That’s like the thief who stole the briefcase that had a bobcat in it.
3. Take a look at the pieces, Frank; they seem pretty similar in perspective to me.
As if his behavior weren’t already fruity enough, I’ve heard from reputable sources that Midgley showed up unannounced at Lighthouse Ministries and rudely interrupted George Smith having fondue with the Tanners.
Is Signature Books “anti-Mormon”?
It does publish some books which explicitly try to undermine the basis for LDS faith. Has it published any which critiques those critiques or promotes LDS faith? In short, does it attempt balance?
More ot the point is that the founder and owner, George Smith, is a publicly self-proclaimed rejector of the Book of Mormon (including in a published article some years ago) and funds publishing those who attempt to undermine its claim as a book from God which reports the experience of a real people.
Yes, but assuming for argument’s sake that it’s true, is that “anti-Mormon”?
We’re back to whether there is a consensus on denotations & connotations of “anti-Mormon.”
“Cute, but I didnâ€™t say that institutional opinions could the be imputed back to any particular participant. Only that they could be assembled from different pieces contributed by different contributors.”
So your argument is that even though neither Midgely nor Bitton thinks Compton=Protocols, that “FARMS” does? What could this possibly mean? Who is “FARMS”? This smacks of “class consciousness”. Maybe I need more Marxist theory…
“3. Take a look at the pieces, Frank; they seem pretty similar in perspective to me.”
I’m sure the two fo them agree on lots of things, but Bitton clearly never says anything about Signature, even though he does point out other outlets he considers anti-mormon. So based on what evidence do we say that Bitton thinks Signature is anti-mormon? And, as I noted above, your treatment of the Protocols statement is just the kind of prooftexting you (rightly) find so disconcerting amongst “Crusaders” and Anti’s.
A few notes from an authoritative source:
There was no secret agenda in the placement of the Midgley and Bitton pieces.
Midgley and Bitton are distinct individuals who have different views.
FARMS is not a monolith.
The FARMS Review is not a monolith.
I am a very light editor. I do not attempt to enforce agreement among authors, and I do not prescribe either tone or content.
I like Lou Midgley very much, and suspect that most others here would too, if they knew him as I do.
I am unspeakably nasty.
I also like Lou — and I am worse than Dan.
I agree that it’s wrong to prooftext any particular line of Bitton’s, and in particular a throwaway line. I’m probably trying to make that line do too much work.
However, my observation (as an outsider) is that FARMS seems to have created a culture where throwaway lines of that sort are routinely accepted. And after a while, that starts to add up. How much of Midgley’s piece consists of gratuitous, cheap shots?
Where is the editor? If Adam Greenwood is routinely posting throwaway lines that contribute to an overall impression — “Frank is probably a communist, but what do I know?” — and Nate and I want to prevent people from thinking that T & S endorses that idea, then we should step in and oppose that idea, or should (assuming that we have editorial control, which we don’t) tell Adam to stop suggesting that you’re a communist. This applies even more if Adam is posting cheap shots at people he doesn’t like.
Thus, I think that the blame _can_ be laid at the feet of FARMS. Attribute it to Dan Peterson (who edited that volume), or to Jack Welch, or to some other actor, as appropriate. Or chalk it up to institutional views.
As usual, timing is everything. I started my comment when the comments were up to #47. Some of my questions are answered, in a fashion, in Dan Peterson’s comment (which wasn’t there when I started).
I have far too little experience to argue general pro or anti-FARMS issues. I was just a little confused by your treatment of the one article I read, which was Bitton’s.
In any case, better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know. :)
At this level of discussion and this level of understanding, anything that doesn’t cut the mustard is quickly revealed. Isn’t that a good thing, regardless of which side of the argument we are on. The ability to critique in a charitable way( both philosophically and Christian) allows others to learn and assess rather than burying their heads in a”happy valley” mentality. This has been a great blog site, as well as a learning tool for me in so many ways. I couldn’t buy an education that I get on this level anywhere, but here it is free.
So to here’s to both sides. Keep it up. I know where I am grounded but it is always good to see the other side.
I’m quite willing to take responsibility for things published in the FARMS Review. I’m the editor. I read and approve everything that goes into it.
That said, and recognizing differences in personal taste, I think that the alleged brutality of tone that I’m said to favor has been grossly exaggerated (if not altogether invented), and that the vast bulk of the Review cannot even remotely be characterized as harsh or mean-spirited. Moreover, attempts to depict the entirety of FARMS publications as mean-spirited, along with the Review, cannot be sustained by the evidence.
John H. said:
That said, it is interesting that when Midgley does similar, gossipy reports on George Smith and Signature Books, people say they find it useful and interesting.
To my mind, “gossipy” means something that is based on hearsay and may (or may not be) unsubstantiated. It is idle chatter, lacking in substance, that is often fictionalized and can be used in a malicious manner.
Given my understanding of the term, I’m curious as to what you find gossipy in this specific Midgley article. At first reading it appears the entire piece is very well documented. What, specifically, strikes you as based on hearsay or something that is unsubstantiated? What within it is idle chatter, lacking in substance, or fictionalized?
I’m sure you disagree with the conclusions that Midgley draws; that’s OK. I would be interested in knowing what information you possess (and can share) that might lead you to different conclusions concerning Smith and/or Signature.
John H. said:
But when I share my own experiences with Midgley, itâ€™s considered inappropriate.
These are the experiences you shared:
1) Midgley berated people at a candlelight vigil.
2) Midgley talked loudly (and inappropriately) at an anniversary bash.
3) Midgley loudly uttered “pathetic” at a Signature product display.
4) Midgley talked to himself (out loud) while doing research.
5) Midgley talked to Palmer about his New Zealand mission (where Midgley also went).
6) Midgley hounded and berated a little old lady.
7) Midgley holds the record for being e-banned.
8 ) Midgley shows up at places he is not welcome for dishonorable purposes.
The only inapproprate thing I see concerning you sharing these is the assertion that they are “your experiences.” Did you personally experience them all, or were they told to you by friends who experienced them (or who heard them from other friends)? If they weren’t really your experiences, and you claim them as such, then that’s gossipy and inappropriate.
It is particularly inappropriate when you draw conclusions from experiences that may not be your own, such as claiming that Midgley “scared the crap out of other patrons who think he’s a crazy man.” Unless you talked personally to the patrons, how could you know that? Further, why would you say it if you don’t really know it?
I would also consider it questionable to attribute motive to an individual (something Midgley did not do in his article). You indicate that Midgley shows up at places “for the sole purpose of harrassing those in attendance.” How do you know this? Has he told you that is his sole purpose? If he hasn’t, then on what basis do you offer such a conclusion?
John H. said:
Iâ€™ve often said I wish FARMS wouldnâ€™t bother with the kinds of personal attacks they go into, and would just focus on the issues in a respectful manner.
If FARMS is to be judged by the authors they publish, should Sunstone and Signature be likewise judged? Many people (myself included) also wish that Signature and Sunstone wouldn’t bother with the kinds of personal attacks they go into.
Midgley’s article is a history of Signature Books, viewed from outside the organization. How is his choice of subject any more inappropriate than Signature or Sunstone publishing an analysis of Church history?
Go, Allen, go.
Is Signature Books â€œanti-Mormon”?
It does publish some books which explicitly try to undermine the basis for LDS faith. Has it published any which critiques those critiques or promotes LDS faith? In short, does it attempt balance?
More ot the point is that the founder and owner, George Smith, is a publicly self-proclaimed rejector of the Book of Mormon (including in a published article some years ago) and funds publishing those who attempt to undermine its claim as a book from God which reports the experience of a real people.
Yes, but assuming for argumentâ€™s sake that itâ€™s true, is that â€œanti-Mormon”?
Hmm, if one is attempting to attack the Book of Mormon and lead others into denying it and rejecting it and God (any belief in God, with a focus on saving Mormons from such beliefs), is that “anti-Mormon”?
I’m wondering about any definition where that is not.
Hmm, just got the news that a friend has lost one of their twins, the other is likely to die, funeral dates pending. Very premature, mother went septic so they had to do a c-section.
I already apologized for the inappropriateness of my comments. For the record, I left plenty off of the list that I personally have experienced, along with others. Look, if people have had rosy, positive experiences with Midgley, more power to them. But a lot of us have been on the receiving end of his unsolicited, out of the blue emails picking a fight for something we wrote or said online.
My larger point is, we often hear (particularly lately) from FARMS that it’s very appropriate to hear about an author’s motives, or their beliefs, since it may relate to what they’ve written. If Louis Midgley is getting some of his information about authors by calling up their elderly parents and grilling them on the phone, I think that’s an interesting point. Did I hear it second-hand? Yes I did. But Louis Midgley’s information about Scott Card’s experience with Sunstone also comes second-hand, from a biased source as well. But since that story (among others) was published, it’s called “well-documented.” The reality is, there is no difference.
As for one example I found to be heresay, Midgley’s account of my relationship with Signature Books definitely qualifies.
The inability of people to step past the minutia and see the forest through the trees is remarkable. When a critical, heavily biased article on Signature Books is published, people rush to defend it, telling us it wasn’t out of line and is just a “history” of the press. No one wants to hear about Midgley or his tactics or how he treats people or what he might be like. He’s done us a service, after all! But if a critic of the Church does the same thing, all we need to do is attach the necessary labels – apostate, anti-Mormon, and give a sordid history of them to discredit what they’ve written. Just ask Grant Palmer.
I’m the first to admit I’ve been far too critical of FARMS and the Review. Both have offered very valuable contributions to Mormon studies. Dan Peterson’s comments about the FARMS monolith are appropriate. But I’ll confess, I don’t see a lot of the same charity extended to Signature and Sunstone on T&S that everyone seems so willing to extend to FARMS. I’d argue all three organizations deserve better from their critics.
Reconsidering, Ethesis, the portion you quote with the emphasis (twice) on “undermining the faith,” it may & probably does qualify.
I had in mind the case of those who (1) can’t accept supernatural explanations, (2) do accept naturalistic explanations, yet (3) also accept that the BoM has important spiritual messages and (in some sense) is a guide to faith. I’m NOT asking whether you think that is internally consistent. I’m wondering, however, if a person who writes a book with that as a central theme, is it “anti-Mormon”?
To cite a possible instance, Grant Palmer & Insider’s View. Is Grant Palmer’s book anti-Mormon? Is he? Is there or can there be a difference between the book & the individual? What do we look to, authorial intent, effects on the reader or something else altogether?
Right now I’m thinking about dinner & haven’t a clue.
You write “But Iâ€™ll confess, I donâ€™t see a lot of the same charity extended to Signature and Sunstone on T&S that everyone seems so willing to extend to FARMS.”
And you’re unironically writing this on a T & S thread that suggests that some FARMS reviews are unfairly critical of Signature. (And where various commenters, including the thread author — me — have continued to examine the point).
You’re in the wrong profession — you ought to be an attorney! We have a copyright on those kinds of arguments.
Yes, there are those around T & S who regularly berate Sunstone. (See, e.g., Nate Oman). But there are some Sunstone defenders around here. (I’m not a big defender myself; I’m pretty agnostic there, but Kris regularly takes Nate to task for taking Sunstone to task. And hey, if we were so anti-Sunstonian, would you guys regularly be raiding us for material?) And on the FARMS side, at least one T & S-er (me again) has had several protracted arguments with Dan Peterson, Juliann Reynolds, and others, largely due to various critiques of FARMS.
And take a look at the books suggested in the Essential Texts for Mormon Studies threads — there are quite a few Signature titles.
So I don’t think that you can characterize T & S as anti-Sunstone or as more willing to tolerate FARMS shananigans than Signature’s — we like to think of ourselves here as equal opportunity offenders. 8)
John H.: “Iâ€™d argue all three organizations [Signature, Sunstone & FARMS] deserve better from their critics.”
I’d bet that a consensus could be built around that proposition.
By the way, I’ll be leaving town tomorrow for a presentation, and won’t be back until Friday. So please don’t interpret my silence as evidence that I agree with anything that anyone says, especially that shifty Nate Oman character.
John H.: â€œIâ€™d argue all three organizations [Signature, Sunstone & FARMS] deserve better from their critics.â€?
I could never agree to that. The total depravity of those who disagree with me is an important article of my personal faith.
Daniel Peterson: I am unspeakably nasty.
Don’t let this get you down. I’m told that recognizing that you have a problem is the first step to recovery.
I got a nice compliment once from Davis Bitton, in an email. He liked one of my songs, the one which was sung at Eugene England’s funeral.
That family is the Folgers, if anyone is in the Dallas area. He is in our bishopric and, being shorter than his wife, is an obvious paragon (the lame attempt at humor in the face of disaster aside, he really is a good guy, as is each person in the bishopric we have).
It would be more than a little ridiculous to think of all who are not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as anti-Mormons. It might induce some needed humility to discover how many throughout the world’s population don’t even know we exist, or if they know, think of us on a superficial, inaccurate level. Those good folks are not anti-Mormons.
Getting back to the thread.
Since good books can be written by bad people and bad books by good people, I prefer to evaluate a book on its own terms. But if the author participates in anti-Mormon activities, denounces the church, or engages in behavior defiantly contrary to church standards, his portrayal of the Saints and their history will probably not be scrupulously accurate, much less fair or sympathetic. If he presents himself as a Latter-day Saint when in fact he has not set foot inside a sacrament meeting for twenty-five years, we have a right to be suspicious. If he indulges in snide, disrespectful, cruel comments about the Saints and those they sustain as prophets, we should not be surprised if his book is anti-Mormon. I am always happy to be proved wrong in such expectations, but when an author makes no effort to hide his contempt of the Saints and what they stand for, his predisposition is hard to ignore.
I have learned much from conscientious scholars who are not Latter-day Saints. Many of their works are friendly, neutral, or probing–willing to recognize complexity, willing to grant sincerity even when they might disagree with the religious faith of their subjects. Such publications are not anti-Mormon. I thank many of these good people who have a sincere interest in Latter-day Saints as a subject of historical or sociological investigation and who have made important contributions. Others of like mind are always welcome. The outside perspective can be illuminating.
I’m not sure I see much to complain about in Davis Bitton’s article.
An awful lot of passion here, coupled with arguments that, were I a third party neutral (for discussions of same, see http://adrr.com/ ), I would probably encourage people to rethink as to persuasiveness and inclusiveness if they are aimed at communicating a persuasive approach to outsiders.
I’m too distracted or I’d do a longer post with real suggestions.
But, the framing here overlaps past that which is persuasive and borders on pejorative (http://www.askoxford.com/asktheexperts/faq/aboutspelling/perjorative?view=uk)
No one wants to hear about Midgley or his tactics or how he treats people or what he might be like
Actually, I’ve been very interested, as I know very few of the players (I had a class from Welch, and heard him at a fireside before he was at BYU, but most of the rest are ciphers to me).
I had in mind the case of those who (1) canâ€™t accept supernatural explanations, (2) do accept naturalistic explanations, yet (3) also accept that the BoM has important spiritual messages and (in some sense) is a guide to faith. Iâ€™m NOT asking whether you think that is internally consistent. Iâ€™m wondering, however, if a person who writes a book with that as a central theme, is it â€œanti-Mormon”?
Actually, I see a lot of that (people who can’t accept supernatural explanations — heck, most of religious studies was dominated by people who couldn’t accept that others believed in supernatural explanations, a huge blind spot for a long time) and there is a certain consistency to that approach. I don’t think that such an approach is essentially anti-Mormon, though it is essentially anti-Christ (as it denies him). I also think that such books are key to understanding a critical portion of the world and the thinking of a large group of people.
Interesting points there, and I think whether or not it is culpable (so to speak) anti- literature goes to how it is presented and marketed.
John H. said:
The inability of people to step past the minutia and see the forest through the trees is remarkable. When a critical, heavily biased article on Signature Books is published, people rush to defend it, telling us it wasnâ€™t out of line and is just a â€œhistoryâ€? of the press. No one wants to hear about Midgley or his tactics or how he treats people or what he might be like. Heâ€™s done us a service, after all! But if a critic of the Church does the same thing, all we need to do is attach the necessary labels – apostate, anti-Mormon, and give a sordid history of them to discredit what theyâ€™ve written. Just ask Grant Palmer.
If I read the above correctly, you are saying that Midgley’s article on Signature’s history is “a critical, heavily biased article.” (This is consistent with your earlier statements and, I hope, a fair characterization of what you believe.)
You then say “if a critic of the Church does the same thing…”, referring to producing “a critical, heavily biased article,” and then say “Just ask Grant Palmer.”
Seems to me you are saying that Grant Palmer produced “a critical, heavily biased” book. Is this, indeed, your assessment of his book?
Also, I doubt that Midgley would have escaped scathing reviews from all sides had he titled his article “An Insider’s Guide to the Signature Saga,” and contended that George Smith founded the press based on the whisperings of an amorphous slamander living in a single-bedroom pot under a tree.
Ah sorry, John H., Allen may be proving me wrong.
But actually no. I think this groups supports fair play for Farmers, Sunstoners & Signatures.
Proving you wrong on what? That we can all agree that FARMS, Sunstone, and Signature deserve better from their critics?
Sorry if you thought I was working to disprove that; I’m not. My first post was simply addressing John H.’s mischaracterizations of Midgley; it was not directed toward FARMS, Sunstone, or Signature.
My second post seeks to have John H. clarify his feelings about a Signature book.
Have a good night.
Like if I have a problem with a Signature title that means the whole press is bad? Sorry, I’m not painting with that broad a brush.
I do think Palmer’s book is critical and biased. I like Grant and I think his book had interesting ideas, but I have plenty of problems with it too. Heavily biased is perhaps a bit strong – maybe I should’ve used a different example. Am I allowed to change my mind, or will my backtrack be another bit of ammo for you?
Allen, take a deep breath my friend. We’re not curing cancer here – we’re having a spontaneous discussion about an article in a journal probably read by less than .5% of the Church (not that Sunstone’s any different). I’ve never understood these line by line analyses of people’s online posts. I come to a webpage like Times and Seasons, read topics that interest me, and post when I feel like it. As I’ve explained to others online, I can probably reread my posts and find plenty of ways to say it better. So if this is going to turn into a back and forth game where I say something and you start making lists, then I’ll check out now, if that’s ok.
Not making lists, John. Just wanted to make sure I heard you clearly. In my book, the best way to do that is to ask questions, so I did. Thanks for answering.
(And I’ve been breathing quite deeply all evening, thank you. FARMS, Sunstone, and Signature will always have their critics and promoters. Providing a positive take on Midgley isn’t defending FARMS any more than criticizing John-Charles Duffy would be attacking Sunstone; the authors aren’t synonymous with the publications.)
Sorry if you felt I was too strong in my two posts. I have no doubt that if we were talking together in a room, my comments would be perceived in a much different manner.
I like signature books. In faraway Belgium you donâ€™t get historical facts about the Church but you get some cleaned up history like the Brigham Young book for priesthood/relief society that talks about when his wife died he married another. (where did all the others go?)
The institute book that we also use for Sunday School always gave a great story how Vilate Kimball received an answer that her poor Heber had to be a polygamist.
As I learned later it wasnâ€™t about polygamy but about Joseph Smith asking Heber for Vilate.
I like History not fary-tales although sometimes itâ€™s nice for the children.
Doesnâ€™t the book of Mormon say there has to be opposition in all things? So, itâ€™s great to have some information that can challenge your faith. So, you will have to find out if you really believe all that stuff they told you at Church.
Are they anti-mormons? I donâ€™t know and I donâ€™t care. I was a member of FARMS for several years and I thought they were pro-mormons. I guess it compensates.
The missionaries told me if I wanted to know if the Book of Mormon is true I had to pray about it. Do you think it works for Signature books also? I guess they donâ€™t have the same promise as Moroni.
Anyway, thank God for Signature books or should I thank somebody else?
here in portugal, and i suppose in many other parts of the world, publishers like signature and sunstone are unheard of. when we think about these people, the real scope of the there power is so limited that i dont know if it even is worth talking about. for example, i wonder how many of the stake presidents here on the iberian peninsula have read anything from signature, sunstone, and FARMS? i would venture to say none. does anything that they write affect the members here in portugal, or in moÃ§ambique, or in many other places. even FARMS, how many members in south america read it? perhaps some, maybe a few that went to study at BYU, but the overall readership is quite small when compared to the size of the church. as to whether those people are anti-mormon or not, here in europe that doesnt seem to matter a whole lot. we, here, are more concerned about a growing anti-god culture that is being cultivated by modern european society.
this was just to have fun with the recent comments sidebar, as suggested by kaimi
Daniel Peterson: The total depravity of those who disagree with me is an important article of my personal faith.
Just a reminder: It’s one thing to treat strangers this way, but be careful to spare your children from this kind of attitude–especially before they reach the age of accountability. It’s much better to teach contrary little children with love and with patience and with example than it is to immediately assume their depravity.
John H. wrote: As for one example I found to be hearsay, Midgleyâ€™s account of my relationship with Signature Books definitely qualifies.
Midgley wrote: “[Hatch] was soon rewarded (1) by having his essay posted on the Signature Books Web site and (2) by then being employed by Signature Books to put together an anthology of essays on the Book of Mormon. But when that project failed, he was shifted to editing the diaries of Anthon H. Lund,129 and (3) he was hired as managing editor of Sunstone and also assigned to coordinate their symposia.130”
I checked Midgley’s footnotes in the passage above. I didn’t find any information supporting the ideas that Signature “rewarded” Hatch for his essay by hiring him to put together an anthology, or that the anthology project later failed, or that when the project failed, Hatch was “shifted” to editing Lund’s diaries. What is Midgley’s source for this information?
Perhaps since John Hatch is here and Lou Midgley isn’t, we should ask John to correct any misrepresentations of his work for Signature rather than heaping hearsay upon hearsay in an effort to deduce Lou’s sources. John H., would you like to take this opportunity to respond to Lou’s claims? It would certainly advance this discussion more to disprove (or clarify as the case may be) the claims than to simply dismiss them because we don’t know the methods used to obtain the information or because we question them.
This seems to be the offending paragraph:
Signature Books is hostile in several ways to those who are at all critical of the things they publish. This can be seen not only in some of the books they publish,126 but also in the unseemly attack posted on the Signature Books Web site entitled “Why I No Longer Trust the FARMS Review of Books.”127 This essay was originally read at a Sunstone conference in Salt Lake City. John Hatch, its author, was partway through undergraduate work in history at the University of Utah when he launched his attack on FARMS.128 He was soon rewarded (1) by having his essay posted on the Signature Books Web site and (2) by then being employed by Signature Books to put together an anthology of essays on the Book of Mormon. But when that project failed, he was shifted to editing the diaries of Anthon H. Lund,129 and (3) he was hired as managing editor of Sunstone and also assigned to coordinate their symposia.130
Are the facts in it inaccurate? Certainly the characterizations are a matter of opinion.
“I donâ€™t see a lot of the same charity extended to Signature and Sunstone on T&S that everyone seems so willing to extend to FARMS.”
I think the reason for this is fairly clear.
“It is not necessarily their ideas that make these critics seem to be enemies of the faith, but rather the fact that they seem to believe that Church leaders can be negotiated with like politicians. It makes these critics at once infuriating to Church members and ineffective with Church leaders. It is exactly that attitude on the part of some Dialogue and SUNSTONE writers that has made these magazines seem like enemies of the faith to most Mormons who are aware that they exist…
Such critics sound to many Mormons the way Rushdie sounded to many Muslims; they strike at the heart of the Saints’ identity, their community, their worldview, and, as Elder Pace said, they are the most dangerous storytellers in the Church, because many nonmembers-and some members-will believe that it is possible to be a Latter-day Saint and have no belief in revelation or respect for prophets, seers, and revelators….
[and the most important point] The Saints will not listen to an enemy. Why should they? But they will listen to people who are demonstrably loyal, believing Saints. You can have far more influence
in the Church if you never utter a word of criticism, but instead teach your values positively, in circumstances that affirm faith in the gospel and commitment to the Church. If the Saints-particularly the Church leaders-know that “your faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death,” they will learn to trust that your stories are told out of ” charity toward the household of faith.” Then their confidence in you will strengthen, and your righteous influence in the Church will increase.” From Card’s excellent article, “Walking the Tightrope,” Sunstone April 1989. Reprinted in A Storyteller in Zion.
In other words, FARMS is perceived as at least being faithful. Someone else pointed out that FAIR writes much of the same information (at least topically) and has several of the same speakers that Sunstone has had in the past. The difference is that FAIR is clearly pro-Church, while (as this thread demonstrates) it is not equally clear to everyone what the agendas of other publications are.
D&C 121:43 “Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;”
Hugh Nibley got away with all kinds of scathing criticism because everyone knew he wasn’t out to undermine faith.
Regardless of the editorial direction or true intent of the guiding hands of Signature/Sunstone, the impression has been created that they are an enemy. Even if I had something extremely pro-Church, I would never submit it for publication there now because of how it would brand me.
That that impression of S/S can be changed is doubtful, in my opinion.
So are the objective facts:
1. John’s piece was on the Signature web site?
2. The BoM anthology is unpublished?
3. John then worked on the Lund piece?
4. Later, John moved to Sunstone as managing editor?
Obviously I could be missing a lot, but describing (1) as a reward seems not too controversial. If I wrote a piece and had it published on a web site, I would consider that a reward.
Describing (2) as a failed project is mildly impolite but not exactly brutal. It may not be totally accurate if the anthology is still “in the works”, but is it somehow out of bounds to say? Maybe it was published after John left, in which case (2) is wrong.
The leap would be in describing John’s whole career as a “reward” for attacking FARMS. John’s listed rewards are probably the result of many things he did that the people at Sunstone and Signature liked. But clearly Signature liked his essay, since it was posted on the web site.
If one were to be charitable to LM, and everyone seems to be saying that we should be more charitable in our interpretations, perhaps Midgley is asserting that the essay John wrote got him noticed at Signature, and from there at Sunstone. Thus it “got him in the door” as a first step. That may be right or wrong, but is it a nasty thing to say? Only if John didn’t believe the essay and was using it as a career move; but Midgely doesn’t even suggest that.
So I guess I’m not clear on how Midgely has been nasty towards John in this essay. Obviously, I don’t know the back-story, so maybe there is some super-secret text hidden here. Or maybe Midgely got the facts wrong. But as an outsider, I don’t see it.
Frank, you’re missing my point.
You wrote: “Describing (2) as a failed project is mildly impolite but not exactly brutal. It may not be totally accurate if the anthology is still â€œin the works”, but is it somehow out of bounds to say? Maybe it was published after John left, in which case (2) is wrong.”
This is not a matter of whether the descriptions are impolite or not. This is a matter of Midgley talking about a failed anthology without providing any evidence that such an anthology project ever existed, or if it did, that it failed, or that when it failed, Hatch was “shifted” to a new project. Everything Midgley said may be accurate, but where is he getting his information? How can we check these “facts” if he provides no sources?
Prior Daniel Peterson: The total depravity of those who disagree with me is an important article of my personal faith.
David King Landrith: Just a reminder: Itâ€™s one thing to treat strangers this way, but be careful to spare your children from this kind of attitudeâ€“especially before they reach the age of accountability. Itâ€™s much better to teach contrary little children with love and with patience and with example than it is to immediately assume their depravity.
Memo from DCP to DCP Hisself: Idiot! Didn’t you realize that somebody was bound to take what you said seriously, as a damning confession and self-revelation? Aren’t you aware that at least some folks are positively EAGER to do so? (See “Quinn, D. Michael.”) Haven’t you learned to use smiley faces yet? Sheesh.
You are saying, then, that you want a footnote for every claim? Well, that is one approach to take, but the thing already has 140 some footnotes. That style of writing gets a little old. If the fact is not controversial then a footnote may be pedantic (like many of the current fottnotes probably are). Is (2) controversial?
Incidentally, it is almost certainly true that FARMS (and Sunstone and Signature and etc.) are little known in Belgium and Portugal. I can say, though, that, on two different occasions when I was speaking to gatherings of university-age Latter-day Saints in German-speaking Europe (once to a group of Swiss in Aarau, Switzerland, and, on another occasion, to a gathering of German, Austrian, and Swiss youth in Salzburg, Austria), I was astonished at how many there WERE familiar with FARMS (and even grateful for it).
I just wanted to say that I love the FARMS Review. To me, it never fails to be interesting and engaging, even when I disagree with an author, which I sometimes do. I find it to be a breath of fresh air. (I’m old enough to remember back before FARMS existed; I think FARMS has definitely filled a need.) To me, the Review almost never commits the too-common sin of an academic journal, of being *boring*. It’s fresh and sometimes raw and clever and witty and sometimes in your face and usually very thoughtful. I think it’s great fun.
I subscribe to BYU Studies, but I might actually read maybe two articles per issue, whereas I read the whole of the FR.
If you don’t believe me, for Exhibit A I suggest you go all the way back to the first number of the Review, back when it bore the unwieldy title “Review of Books on the Book of Mormon,” and read the review by one Louis Midgley–the object of a great deal of discussion in this thread–of a commentary on the BoM put out by two BYU religion professors. That is a *great* review essay, and says exactly what needed to be said about that commentary. And I don’t know in what other venue such an essay could have been published.
Then peruse the copies (back issues are all available at the FARMS website) thereafter to the present. There’s lots of great stuff there.
I suppose whether people like FARMS materials is a matter of taste. I cut my baby scholarly teeth on Nibley as a missionary in the late 70s, and for those of us who like the Nibleyesque approach to the Church (including even his take on social issues), FARMS is a home.
(But I also have plenty of Signature titles, and I subscribe to, read and generally enjoy Dialogue and Sunstone, too, so I suppose I’m on the theologically liberal fringe among fans of FARMS.)
By the way, here is LM’s defintion of anti-mormon, to be added to the stack of other people’s definitions:
“When an individual or agency either self-identifies or is identified by the Saints as anti-Mormon, what is meant is merely that they oppose, dispute, or are against the well-established beliefs of the Saints.”
Contra Kaimi’s syllogism, he also says:
“Nothing in the prefix anti- implies that those individuals or agencies linked to this compound word advocate or participate in violence or are mean-spirited, unsophisticated, evil, irrational, and so forth.”
So according to LM, “anti” does not imply equality with Protocols. Many nice things can be anti. He also goes on to (grudgingly?) note that not all Signature books can be considered anti.
I second Kevin’s recommendation of Midgley’s review essay of Millet & McConkie’s Doctrinal Commentary in vol. 1 of the FARMS Review. It’s one of my favorite pieces, and one of the essays that first turned me on to FARMS.
The first volume, interestingly, also contained an article by Lavina Fielding Andersen of September 6 fame.
Re: Midgleyâ€™s Account of Me
Itâ€™s classic polemical writing. Get the basic facts right, but use just the right language and talk about things in just the right way as to leave your readers with no doubt of whatâ€™s going on.
It comes as a great surprise to me that I was â€œrewardedâ€? by having my essay put up on the Signature website. I never thought of it as a reward (which is usually defined as compensation for a service or as a stimulus to produce similar behavior). Signature asked me if they could put it on their website. I said yes. It still amuses me a great deal that both FARMS and their critics seem to have taken a rather sloppy personal essay by a 23 year-old so seriously. I still occasionally get emails from angry FARMers who take exception to what I had to say.
I was asked to edit an anthology on the Book of Mormon and said yes. But I quickly realized scripture studies is not my thing and suggested Signature find another editor. Not a single essay had been written (only one author had tentatively agreed to participate) and no work had been done. The term â€œfailureâ€? leaves the impression that the editor â€œfailedâ€? in his responsibilities.
Apparently after this failure, I was shifted to work on the Anthon Lund diaries (because Iâ€™m a servant of Signature now – they canâ€™t just turn me loose!) I love the image this evokes – perhaps Iâ€™m the spoiled heir who is always screwing up the family business, and when I ruin one project, Iâ€™m quietly shifted to another to avoid a scandal. Of course, if the Lund diaries are a reward, then weâ€™ll have to find out what Jed Rogers, Leo Lyman, John Dinger, Mike Paulos, and others (many of these people are students) did to earn their reward.
The most ridiculous insinuation in Midgleyâ€™s notes on me comes next. I was then hired at Sunstone. Note that this information appears immediately following my involvement and â€œrewardsâ€? at Signature for my essay on FARMS. Why would Midgley include this information – it has nothing to do with my essay or my relationship with Signature. But Midgley wants readers to think it does, so he includes it alongside everything else.
I was hired by Dan Wotherspoon at Sunstone. Period. I know people like Midgley love to trot out the name George Smith in connection with Sunstone when we do something they donâ€™t like. This is so ludicrous it would be laughable if it wasnâ€™t also insanely frustrating that people actually buy into this crap. If someone charged that President Hinckley was constantly haunting the halls at FARMS, telling them who and what to publish on which topics, itâ€™d be just about as accurate as the charges of George Smith controlling Sunstone. Sorry, conspiracy theorists, George Smith hasnâ€™t made a single decision as to what we publish, who we publish, who we hire, what we have at the symposium, etc.
If you look at Midgleyâ€™s paragraph, it has exactly what it needs to be effective (and I wonâ€™t deny that itâ€™s extremely effective, given what itâ€™s trying to do). It uses the right kind of loaded language and structure to create an image, but does so in a way that allows for plausible deniability. Frank McIntyre will no doubt be able to mount a spirited defense for Midgley, insisting heâ€™s just misunderstood and that Iâ€™m reading too much into what heâ€™s written.
And thatâ€™s my problem with the whole essay. Itâ€™s designed to evoke a certain suspicion or dislike for Signature Books while masquerading as a â€œhistory of the pressâ€? as Allen so benignly puts it. He uses the right language and makes just enough connections for us (whether theyâ€™re true or not) to make us raise an eyebrow. But Iâ€™ll grant Midgley, heâ€™s pretty skillful at it. So when someone like me objects, there will always be those that can say, â€œHey, is it inaccurate?â€?
Let me ask, is the following statement, inaccurate:
â€œMormons believe in marrying multiple wives and that theyâ€™ll reign forever as gods on their own planet and have innumerable spirit children that their wives will produce. God today lives near the planet Kolob and rules over countless other gods who have their own planets to rule over. Mormons believe that Jesusâ€™ blood isnâ€™t good enough to wash away all sins and that some must shed their own blood to be forgiven. Mormons also believe that blacks were. . . .â€?
You get the idea. We harp on anti-Mormon literature when it uses the very basic facts or one perspective of the facts to present a warped view of our beliefs. But we defend Midgley when he does essentially the same thing.
Thanks for responding so fully. I think that does more to set the record straight than making a list of questionable things that you have heard that Lou has done. Clears the air rather than muddies the waters.
“It still amuses me a great deal that both FARMS and their critics seem to have taken a rather sloppy personal essay by a 23 year-old so seriously. ”
John H.: You will be happy to know that I am a sometimes FARMS contributer, and I take nothing you say seriously ;->
(Just kidding. Sorry. I couldn’t help myself.)
John H.: â€œIt still amuses me a great deal that both FARMS and their critics seem to have taken a rather sloppy personal essay by a 23 year-old so seriously. â€?
FARMS is not a monolith.
The FARMS Review is not a monolith.
I doubt very much that most members of the FARMS board, for example, have ever heard of your essay. I don’t know that such FARMS writers as Jan Shipps, Klaus Hansen, Wouter Van Beek, John Sorenson, or Richard Bushman have ever given it much thought, either.
This is the first time I have posted a word on a blog or board. Since I am being discussed, I assume that I will not be seen as forcing myself uninvited into a venue where I am not welcome. Yesterday several people called my attention to this thread. I have followed it with interest. I am now making myself available to answer questions any of you may have concerning (1) my moral depravity, and (2) any of my essays, including “The Signature Books Saga.”
So your major complaint is with Midgley’s style, rather than the substance of what he wrote? (Is that a fair condensation of your disagreement?)
I’m curious as to whether your personal dislike for Midgley (expressed by you earlier in this thread) colors the way in which you perceive his style, particularly in this instance. Would you express the same distaste for Midgley’s article if (a) you weren’t the focus of this particular paragraph or (b) you didn’t have a previous history with him?
For instance, do you consider Midgley’s choice of words–in this one instance–any more biased (or pejorative or polemic or whatever word you want to use) than, say, Duffy’s Sunstone article about individual apologists?
Authors use words to naturally lead the reader to a certain conclusion–it’s commonly called “laying out your case.” Some of this is done subconsciously, as a reflection of the author’s mindset. Other times it is purposeful, with the author skillfully plying his or her craft. Duffy’s article presented information in such a way that would lead unaware readers to a largely negative conclusion about some individuals–the same thing that is at the basis of your complaint about Midgley.
Perhaps it is inaccurate that I perceive a double standard at work here. With your position at Sunstone, your comments on why the Duffy article shouldn’t fall to the same criticisms you level against Midgley could help to correct any inaccuracy on my part.
I am well aware that seeing one’s name in print by an author that one does not trust is an unpleasant experience on its face. I am not going to perform an extensive exegesis of LM. It sounds like we agree with the accuracy of the facts LM lists, but you find the tone and insinuation offensive. For what it is worth, when I first skimmed the paragraph, I didn’t even notice any innuendo, though I can see why you did. It just seemed like a rather dull litany of your employment history. Not that I’m not fascinated by your employment history…
I nominate Lou Midgley to be the next guest blogger!
It’s good to see you here, Lou. Since you’ve invited us to ask you questions about your moral depravity, I would simply like to know why you’re so evil. Could you possibly explain that?
I notice that you’ve taken to harassing seventy-year-old women and to acting like a madman in public places. (Them’s the facts. They were related to us by an objective source and cannot be questioned. ) Would you care to justify your behavior, or do you simply enjoy wickedness for its own sake?
One last question: There’s a book entitled “Wickedness,” written by a philosopher named Midgley. Is that mere coincidence?
“I doubt very much that most members of the FARMS board, for example, have ever heard of your essay. I donâ€™t know that such FARMS writers as Jan Shipps, Klaus Hansen, Wouter Van Beek, John Sorenson, or Richard Bushman have ever given it much thought, either.”
Y’know, Dan, since some of this thread is about style, I’d point out that there are ways to express that thought that wouldn’t seem so gratuitously mean, and like so much conspicuous name-dropping. John already acknowledged that he’s just a kid, and said that he’s suprised at the attention his essay received–there’s really no need for you, an established scholar whose work is taken very seriously, to rub John’s face in his lack of importance.
I have written a few pieces for the FARMS Review, and in one, I even stated my own, personal opinion about who should be called an “anti-Mormon.” Guess what–it wasn’t exactly the same as Lou Midgely’s or Davis Bitton’s. As long as one clearly states how they are using a controversial term, then I do not see what the problem is.
Similarly, I do not mind if an Evangelical Christian says that “Mormons are not Christian,” if they clearly state what they mean by “Christian.” It often happens, however, that they do not state a definition, and people assume that means we do not believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, etc.
Meanwhile, I think it is funny that Justin is hand-wringing over whether Lou Midgley adequately documented certain claims about John Hatch, when in fact, John Hatch is participating in this thread, and we can just ask him. Well, John, are Lou’s facts inaccurate?
If they are accurate, what is wrong with Lou surmising that John was “rewarded” with his job in large part because of his essay? Did some of John’s OTHER work (maybe one of his term papers from a history class) come to the attention of the Signature staff, and they had already hinted at a job offer before he published his essay about FARMS? Does John think that he would have gotten a job at Signature if he hadn’t published said essay? Does he think he would have gotten it if he had published something critical of Signature, or praising the work of FARMS authors?
I am not questioning John’s talent as an editor, here. I just have enough experience with these sorts of things to know that there are a lot of talented history majors out there, and it takes something extra for a particular talented history major to show up on the company radar screen.
Dan’s here, LM’s here, John H is here… this is getting really uncomfortable. Where’s the joy of the internet if there’s no room for snarking without fear of reprisal?
All these published authors… it’s like some kind of nerdy Adam-Ondi-Ahman.
I confess that, like Kaimi, I notice “the FARMS tone” in some (not all) of the book reviews and I don’t like it. It certainly works against the position that FARMS is trying to defend. It wouldn’t take much editorial effort to keep book reviews focused on the books reviewed rather than the authors or to edit out some of the unnecessarily derogatory terms that cause most of the trouble. Isn’t that what editors are supposed to do, edit? What am I missing?
John H, I think you are reading Prof. Midgley’s remarks too harshly. Granted, Prof. Midgley might view being a history major or being an undergraduate student or attending the U or getting a regular job (as opposed to having an Ivy League doctorate and a faculty position at a large, well-respected university) as justifiable reasons to criticize someone or discount their comments. But I think most people read that paragraph and just shrug their shoulders, or even think something like “hmmm, managing editor, pretty good job for a history major.”
John H has answered your question about the facts in post #89.
Kristine: “Yâ€™know, Dan, since some of this thread is about style, Iâ€™d point out that there are ways to express that thought that wouldnâ€™t seem so gratuitously mean, and like so much conspicuous name-dropping.”
As happens rather often, I’m surprised at being thought “gratuitously mean.” Perhaps I really AM a brutish lout. Several people tell me that I am whenever they can, and it’s probably true. By listing names of a few scholars who have contributed not only to FARMS but specifically to the FARMS Review, and yet who are very unlikely to be aware of John H.’s essay — your “conspicuous name-dropping” — I was simply attempting, in my own very nasty way, to illustrate and to flesh out my rather abstract repeated disclosure that “FARMS is not a monolith.” My apologies. The fact remains, however, that FARMS as such has not, and cannot have, paid any attention to the essay. A few people connected with FARMS have; the overwhelming majority have not.
Your comment about John H.’s “lack of importance,” as you perceive it, goes considerably beyond anything I thought or said. I don’t regard “prominence” and “importance” as synonyms. I consider the work of FARMS very important, for example. I wouldn’t have devoted so very much of my time to it, at substantial cost to my career as an Islamicist, if I did not. Yet, in a post just above, I freely acknowledged that Latter-day Saints in Belgium and Portugal — and, I would add, in Mexico and Brazil and Korea, and in California, Idaho, Arizona, and Utah — are largely unaware of FARMS. Mormonism, to me, is ALL-important. Yet, globally, it’s scarcely a blip on the radar screen.
“What am I missing?”
Dave, I don’t know what you’re missing, but I’ll tell you what this thread is missing: El Chupacabra. Until LM showed up I thought we could label him as such, but now that plan is foiled.
Forgive the silliness, y’all. The tension is getting to me.
” I just have enough experience with these sorts of things to know that there are a lot of talented history majors out there, and it takes something extra for a particular talented history major to show up on the company radar screen.”
Barry: I suspect that you are vastly over-estimating the size of the universe of people who are (1) interested in working for a liberal mormon publishing house as an editor; and, (2) have the skills to do so.
If you haven’t already picked up from this thread, I’m just a lowly undergraduate student, barely able to use the restroom without severe difficulty (actually, Signature staffers are on hand to assist me at all times). I hadn’t therefore heard of El Chupacabra and at first I thought it was El NiÃ±o’s cousin. But fortunately for Google, I looked it up. Now I’m scared.
FWIW, I have written some rather nasty things in essays I submitted to the FARMS Review, and all the best stuff was edited out by Shirley Ricks.
Here’s another thought that popped into my head. John H. says, “It still amuses me a great deal that both FARMS and their critics seem to have taken a rather sloppy personal essay by a 23 year-old so seriously.” Hmmm. Is it really that hard to believe that someone at FARMS would take exception to an article that attacks the credibility of all FARMS authors by gratuitously lumping them all together, which is published on the Signature (or Sunstone–I can’t remember which) web site? Maybe it really should have been ignored. However, this brings up the question of why the powers that be at Signature decided to publish the thing in the first place, and then hire the author. Hmmm, again.
Dan, thanks for clarifying your comment. It is too easy for people to misinterpret other people in these online discussions, so extra effort to clarify is always appreciated.
Barry: “FWIW, I have written some rather nasty things in essays I submitted to the FARMS Review, and all the best stuff was edited out by Shirley Ricks.”
Thanks for not mentioning MY role in that. I cherish my image as a thug. (Perhaps, of course, you didn’t even know. That would be best, by far.)
Barry, its been some time since I’ve read John’s essay, but if I recall correctly, he discusses a number of FARMS authors and their reviews specifically. Based on his evaluation of those reviews, he then explains that he has some distrust of FARMS generally. Are you faulting him for that? Isn’t that the approach many take towards Signature?
John, I’m surprised at your Chupacabra naivete. It’s been well documented here at T&S by yours truly and by Danithew.
“Barry: I suspect that you are vastly over-estimating the size of the universe of people who are (1) interested in working for a liberal mormon publishing house as an editor; and, (2) have the skills to do so.”
I was addressing the issue of whether John’s job offer could be construed as a “reward” for writing his essay. I suspect that the people at Signature would not have known he existed, let alone that he might be “interested in working for a liberal mormon publishing house as an editor,” had he not published the essay. Maybe John read Midgley’s comment to mean that his job was some kind of quid pro quo for writing the essay, but I read it to simply mean that the folks at Signature thought his ramblings about the big, bad FARMS monolith were so insightful that he should be editing books on Mormonism. Really, isn’t it obvious that John’s essay resulted in a job offer because the folks at Signature have a particular point of view (or set of related points of view) to promote, in more or less subtle ways? This was Midgley’s point, and I think John’s boring employment history tends to support it.
But John wants us to believe that George Smith has nothing to do with any day-to-day decisions made at Signature, and therefore there is no particular type of anti-Church ideology at work. Smith did have some input about hiring the people who do make the day-to-day decisions, didn’t he?
My mistake. Pardon me for being a humorless fool.
Is this kind of tone really necessary? Why do you seem to feel the need to state things in these terms?
Frank, I don’t think Dan’s first comment was unclear, and I don’t believe I misinterpreted him. He meant to say “FARMS is not a monolith. Many of the people who write for the FARMS review probably have differing opinons, or no opinion at all about John’s essay.” Everybody reading this thread is capable of dealing with that level of abstraction. But he added the names of important figures in Mormon Studies, by way of aggrandizing FARMS (fair enough, it’s his job), and by way of pointing out to a fledgling scholar in Mormon Studies that the bigwigs, like himself, Lou Midgley, and the others he named, either hate his work, or don’t care about it.
I haven’t read John’s essay; I don’t have an opinion about it. I haven’t read Lou Midgley’s piece either, or all of John Charles Duffy’s essay about how mean Dan and others are. I confess to finding the internecine squabbling less than entirely absorbing as a spectator sport. But as someone who is partly responsible for monitoring the comments and who cares about having a civil tone on this blog, I find the extra dig Dan put in his first comment obnoxious. It just wasn’t necessary to make his point, as his subsequent “clarification” demonstrates. The “extra effort” for which you congratulate him, Frank, could have gone into a little more restraint the first time around.
David King Landrith: “Is this kind of tone really necessary? Why do you seem to feel the need to state things in these terms?”
I’m enjoying myself. So sorry. I don’t take the nasty gossip against Lou Midgley very seriously. However, I shall attempt to be more bland and solemn in the future. But I’m a bit lost. What element of my “tone” bothered you in THIS post? I didn’t dismiss John H. as unimportant this time. I didn’t, this time around, announce that I regard my children as essentially evil. I didn’t even “conspicuously drop names.” Please let me know how my most recent post has fallen short of civilized standards.
Why on earth do some outsiders regard Mormon culture as dull?
Kristine: That’s not how I read his original comment. But I am not interested in exegesis of Daniel Peterson any more than exegesis of LM.
Oh, you economists just don’t care enough about exegesis :)
My dog was killed by a crazed exegete. It made me bitter.
With the winter season coming on, severe cases of exegesis may set in. May I recommend, Kristine, an oatmeal bath and some moisturizing lotion?
Dan: outsiders don’t necessarily view Mormon culture as dull; however, both outsiders and insiders regard snarky ad hominem gossipy in-fighting (and in-fighters) as dull, eventually.
By the way, here is LMâ€™s defintion of anti-mormon, to be added to the stack of other peopleâ€™s definitions:
â€œWhen an individual or agency either self-identifies or is identified by the Saints as anti-Mormon, what is meant is merely that they oppose, dispute, or are against the well-established beliefs of the Saints.â€?
It seems to be a well-established belief of the Saints that the Lamanites (by which I mean a subset of the descendants of Lehi and Ishmael) are the principal ancestors of the American Indian. When FARMS publishes papers effectively disputing that belief, are they joining the anti-Mormon ranks?
OK. Back to your regularly scheduled pissing match.
Kristine: “But he added the names of important figures in Mormon Studies, by way of aggrandizing FARMS (fair enough, itâ€™s his job), and by way of pointing out to a fledgling scholar in Mormon Studies that the bigwigs, like himself, Lou Midgley, and the others he named, either hate his work, or donâ€™t care about it.”
I’ve explained why I mentioned the names. I thought my explanation was entirely clear, but I’ll expand upon it: I chose Richard Bushman because he’s in New York City, and obviously concerned with Big Things (like his forthcoming Joseph Smith biography), and, so, probably not focused on John H.’s essay. I chose Wouter Van Beek for a similar reason. (He’s in Utrecht, The Netherlands. Incidentally, I’m not really sure that he counts as an “important figure” or a “bigwig” in “Mormon Studies.”) I chose Klaus Hansen because he’s in Ontario, Canada, and because I KNOW he doesn’t follow the FARMS/Signature saga closely. I chose Jan Shipps because she’s in Indiana, and, again, is unlikely to being paying attention to this epic struggle. I chose the FARMS board because, If THEY aren’t paying attention, it makes very little sense to say that FARMS is.
There is nothing in either my first explanation or my expansion upon that explanation about “aggrandizing FARMS.” There is nothing in it about citing “bigwigs” in order to put John H. in his presumably pathetic little place. And I flatly deny that anything like thereunto was ever in my mind. I’ve flatly denied it BEFORE.
It isn’t a matter of exegesis. It’s a question of eisegesis. If it is your job to monitor this place, I hope you usually try not to base your monitoring on mind-reading, and on insinuations that posters are disingenuous and writing in bad faith. The obnoxiousness is of your manufacture, not mine. The bad tone is your invention, not mine.
But then, this place, clearly, is yours, not mine. I leave it to you.
(Long time reader; first time poster.)
In all of this highly interesting discussion, no one has yet seen fit to list the titles published by Signature Books. If Signature is “anti-Mormon,” certainly this would be borne out by the types of works it chooses to publish.
A complete list is on Signature’s web site: http://www.signaturebooks.com/alpha.htm
Perhaps someone would care to look at the list and identify which books are opposed to the truth claims of the Church. Are there any books that support its claims? What is the ratio of support/oppose?
Postscript — Oh yes: I failed to explain why I chose to mention John Sorenson. It was not because he’s a “bigwig” in “Mormon Studies,” nor because his name somehow “aggrandizes” FARMS. (Nor on account of his horoscope nor because of his Scandinavian descent, in case anybody is inclined to speculate along THOSE lines.) It was simply because he’s a very good friend of mine who, I know, pays no attention whatever to ANY of this sort of stuff, but regards it with gruff indifference.
Now back to torturing kittens.
“It seems to be a well-established belief of the Saints that the Lamanites (by which I mean a subset of the descendants of Lehi and Ishmael) are the principal ancestors of the American Indian. When FARMS publishes papers effectively disputing that belief, are they joining the anti-Mormon ranks?”
Uh-oh. Let’s now go down this path again. Last_lemming: Check out an earlier thread by Kaimi that contains a discussion of this question. And it has some of the same cast of characters that this thread does!
(I canâ€™t find the thread to link to it. Somebody help me out!)
How does your wife survive? The dry humour you exhibit must have her in stitches.I was going to respond to your earlier comment:
” I could never agree to that. The total depravity of those who disagree with me is an important article of my personal faith.”
“Now back to torturing kittens”
but you had me laughing so hard I had to stop beating my kids and telling them how much I loved them, and how it was for their own good, while I recovered.
Please stop so I can get back to good parenting.
And Jack, not hearing from you in a while, if you need help also, we can call an ambulance.
The (partial) thread is at
For some reason, the last 100+ comments are not included.
“Barry, its been some time since Iâ€™ve read Johnâ€™s essay, but if I recall correctly, he discusses a number of FARMS authors and their reviews specifically. Based on his evaluation of those reviews, he then explains that he has some distrust of FARMS generally. Are you faulting him for that? Isnâ€™t that the approach many take towards Signature?”
I have no problem whatsoever with the concept of John’s essay. When I read it (it’s been a while for me, too, so I’m going on memory), I thought some of his criticisms were naive, but that is a different issue. In addition, I gathered that sometimes people who write for FARMS make mistakes and put forth bad arguments, which tend to err in favor of the Church, since FARMS has a pro-Church agenda to promote. But this is a rather obvious point to make, don’t you think, since FARMS rather clearly states its agenda? One would not expect, for example, to find anti-Evangelical articles published in Christianity Today, or anti-Trinitarian articles published in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. On the other hand, when Lou Midgley marshals a large amount of evidence to show that Signature has an UNSTATED anti-Church agenda, and when they err, the tend to err in directions that tear down the Church, certain people feel compelled to characterize Lou as a Nasty, Awful Person.
So the question, for me, seems to be whether Signature, as an organization, promotes an anti-Church agenda. And if so, why don’t they state it up front? And further, why does it infuriate them when someone else points it out? No, many of these people want to go on claiming that they are “objective scholars,” merely poking holes in the works of “apologists.”
To me, the anti-Church bias is blatantly obvious. For instance, the candlelight vigil held by some Signature folks when Tom Murphy was set to meet with his stake president, was a big clue. Doesn’t the Church have a right to excommunicate someone who publishes articles that say the Book of Mormon is not only false, but promotes racism? And why would someone who hasn’t even been to church in a number of years even care? Is holding such a disciplinary court some kind of “ecclesiastical abuse”? If not, why the candlelight vigil? I suspect it was meant to embarrass the Church.
“Meanwhile, I think it is funny that Justin is hand-wringing over whether Lou Midgley adequately documented certain claims about John Hatch, when in fact, John Hatch is participating in this thread, and we can just ask him. Well, John, are Louâ€™s facts inaccurate?”
Why is that funny, Barry? I’ve done no “hand-wringing.” I simply asked some questions because John said Midgley’s comments about his relationship to Signature were hearsay, and I noticed that Midgley didn’t document his comments.
“For instance, the candlelight vigil held by some Signature folks when Tom Murphy was set to meet with his stake president, was a big clue.”
Except it wasn’t “held” by Signature at all. Some attended, but they didn’t organize it or sponsor it.
I only hope someday Robert Langdon is caught up in the web of Signature Books, it might just make the compelling tale everyone thinks exists.
Dan, I’m sorry for misreading you. I still think that such a reading is entirely plausible, given just the words on the page. But you are (obviously!) the one most in a position to know your intent; I apologize for misjudging your motives and for teasing too much out of nebulous “tone.”
“Why is that funny, Barry? Iâ€™ve done no â€œhand-wringing.â€? I simply asked some questions because John said Midgleyâ€™s comments about his relationship to Signature were hearsay, and I noticed that Midgley didnâ€™t document his comments.”
I think the comment was valid that nobody documents every fact in their writing, and so we tend not to document facts we perceive as non-controversial. As it happens, we were able to consult the object of Lou’s accusations (John), and we found out that Lou’s undocumented claims were completely non-controversial. Don’t you agree? It also happens that the object of John’s criticism (Lou) has also dropped by this blog, and has made himself available for questions. And yet, nobody has bothered to ask Lou whether John’s undocumented claims are controversial. I rather suspect that the charge that Lou abuses little old ladies is controversial. Shall we test the waters?
Lou, do you abuse little old ladies in your quest to dig up dirt on Signature authors?
“â€œFor instance, the candlelight vigil held by some Signature folks when Tom Murphy was set to meet with his stake president, was a big clue.â€?”
“Except it wasnâ€™t â€œheldâ€? by Signature at all. Some attended, but they didnâ€™t organize it or sponsor it.”
“I only hope someday Robert Langdon is caught up in the web of Signature Books, it might just make the compelling tale everyone thinks exists.”
I didn’t say Signature held it. I said, “some folks” at Signature held it. Be that as it may, perhaps I should have just said that they “participated in” the vigil. This still supports my point, don’t you think? I mean, the whole idea of the vigil was ludicrous, and clearly reveals an anti-Church bias on the part of the participants. And if Signature is populated with people who would support such a thing, isn’t it obvious that George Smith doesn’t HAVE TO stick his nose into the day-to-day affairs of Signature to promote his anti-Church agenda? All he has to do is hire the right managers.
I simply wasn’t aware that Hatch’s work (or non-work) on a Book of Mormon anthology was common knowledge. Midgley’s article represented the first time I’ve heard about it. Hence my questions.
John H. is techically correct; Signature didn’t organize or sponsor any candlelight vigils on Murphy’s behalf. They did, however, promote it. In Murphy’s own words:
“After I had expressed my intention to go public, Ron Priddis of Signature Books forwarded my letter to Richard Ostling of the Associated Press who forwarded it to Patty Henetz. Ultimately, I must take full responsibility for my desire to go public and for agreeing to the interview. I did so because I believe that the best way to deal with ecclesiastical abuse is to expose it.”
Priddis not only promoted the reaction to Murphy’s impending disciplinary council, but also showed up at the candlelight vigil and participated in it.
Still, overall, a big clue concerning the mindset of at least some of the folks at Signature.
I should add that I would like to find out more about Midgley’s alleged behavior. I welcome his response.
I wasn’t trying to divert the discussion to the status of the Lamanites. I was just exploring a proposed definition of “anti-Mormon” (which was the original purpose of the thread).
Rather than call them anti-Mormon I generally refer to them as naturalistic critics. I think it fairly accurate but avoids some of the debates like the above.
Thanks for your thoughts (#127). My comment was written in response to your statement: “Is it really that hard to believe that someone at FARMS would take exception to an article that attacks the credibility of all FARMS authors by gratuitously lumping them all together . . . ?” My only point is that John in his essay did not simply “gratuitously lump” all of FARMS together. To the contrary, he specifically addressed (if memory serves) the reviews of several authors and then explained why the problems with those reviews caused him to question the value of FARMS more generally. Nothing out of the ordinary there. I suspect we’ve all had the same experience in different contexts. For example, the more one happens to know about a particular event, the more apparent it is that newspaper reporters are often clueless. That ought to give us some pause when we read other newspaper articles concerning issues we know very little about. That said, I still read the newspaper.
But on to more interesting questions. When you say Signature is “anti-Church,” you don’t mean that their works are the equivalent of the Protocols do you? Also, it sounds like you don’t think that merely pointing out flaws in apologetic thinking is anti-Church (right?). So what do you think Signature’s objective is (assuming, for a moment, that Signature is a monolith)? Do you think its unstated goal is to prove the Church false, incomplete, dangerous, occasionally mistaken, horribly and irretrievably flawed? What does it take to be considered anti-Church? Is merely uncovering unflattering bits of history enough? Is it enough to disagree with a particular decision of a church leader?
I don’t know a single person who attended the candle-light vigil you mention, but I suspect that there were at least some there who believe Joseph Smith was a prophet, that Christ is our Savior, etc., etc. I don’t agree that holding or attending such a vigil is appropriate, but I don’t know that I would go so far as to brand everyone who went “anti-Church”?
I don’t know enough about Signature to state whether they are anti-Church (whatever that means) or not. But it seems to me, as a general rule, that we ought to be pretty cautious in using that label.
To put this another way, I think it would be a mistake to label those who are unorthodox as anti-Church. As last_lemming points out, even FARMS takes unorthodox positions.
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