I gave a short talk recently, and it was suggested that I post it up here for others to read. I borrowed some of the information in the talk from a past president’s message I gave in the FAIR Journal. But, I still hope you find it valuable. Here it is:
In what some undoubtedly view as a hard-hitting video on YouTube—complete with sinister music—a critic of the Church asserts that Mormons belong to a cult because we teach that “DEATH is better than any form of immorality.” (Yes, the capital letters are in the video. Perhaps the video’s producer is doing his best to channel Jerald Tanner.)
Heretic that I am, I regularly read the Skeptic and the Skeptical Inquirer (2 magazines that regularly attempt to debunk anything that seems to be unscientific). Although I don’t agree with everything in their magazines (much of it is atheistic), I do like a lot of what they print.
The other day I picked up the latest copy of the Skeptical Inquirer and found that the first article I read tied neatly into LDS apologetic efforts. The article is entitled “Difficulty in Debunking Myths Rooted in the Way the Mind Works,” by Shankar Vedantam. Here are some quotes, paraphrases, and summaries of the article.
It never ceases to amaze me that critics insist that the Book of Mormon read like a doctoral dissertation with an extensive introduction and massive references explaining all of the details relative to the culture and environment in which the history takes place.
Brant Gardner explains something about this in his introductory chapter to volume one of “Second Witness” He references Bible scholars who point out that our modern culture is what is called a “low context environment” culture. This means that we expect the writer to explain every detail of the environment in which the story takes place. An example is the need for an extensive introduction to a doctoral dissertation with massive amounts of references and extensive explanations of what has already been done in the field. The Bible and other ancient writings, however, are written in what is classified as a “High context” environment. In this environment the reader is expected to have a broad and concrete knowledge of the common cultural context of the culture that the writer is talking about.
If, indeed, the Book of Mormon is an ancient document then one should not expect it to explain every detail of the culture and environment related to the recorded history. In fact, the lack of detail is a hallmark of an ancient document and gives further support to the historicity of the book.
Since Mike Parker’s blog post on plural marriage has garnered more comments than all our other threads combined, my keen market research skills have told me that polygamy posts are traffic gold.
One of my research interests at FAIR is plural marriage, and I’ve been reading as much of the primary and secondary literature as I can get my hands on.
I thought our readers might be interested in a periodic look at a few of the things that I’ve found interesting, weird, or different from the common portrayals of plural marriage. In particular, primary sources that may have been misread or misrepresented, are also worth looking at. I hope that readers will spot things that I haven’t, or correct some of my own blind spots.
I’ll try to post at least once or twice a week, until people get bored, I run out of material, or FAIR tells me to stop so this doesn’t become the All Plural Marriage, All the Time blog.
Usually FAIR refrains from giving anti-Mormon critics free publicity, but Florida televangelist Bill Keller is so over-the-top that I can’t resist sharing his latest web site:
Last May Keller made headlines claiming, “If you vote for Mitt Romney, you are voting for Satan!” The web site is his follow-up to that statement. (It even lists a “Judas Gallery” of Christians who have sold out to endorse Romney.)
In the various articles, blogs, and comments related to Mitt Romney’s Mormonism, the Mormon honesty problem has come up. “Why didn’t Mitt Romney talk about what Mormons really believe?” asked one writer. “Mormons feel it is okay to lie about their beliefs,” stated a radio caller.
So do Mormons lie about their beliefs?
Over on Times and Seasons, Kaimi Wenger blogs about the inimitable Pastor Fred Phelps and his congregants who believe “God hates fags” (their phrase), and who plan to add to their list of funeral protests that of Gordon B. Hinckley.
(Warning: Some of links above may contain offensive content. Which is sort of the point.)