Dear Rev. Smith:
Both Dennis and Preston are out of the state filling engagements so I will hasten to respond to your "Enough is Enough."
Thank you for your note. I too was out of state, first at an academic conference on Islamic philosophy and then, at his request, taking a non-LDS professor-friend to Mormon historical sites in New York. And, of course, I lied to him the whole time. (I'm good at it. I'm a Mormon. It's what we do.)
My several "d d's" are only conferred so I won't call attention to my qualifications.
I don't recall ever raising the question of your supposed qualifications. But, since you raise it, I will briefly comment.
I did live in Utah for 17 years - however -
I've lived here for about twenty, altogether. Nearly half my life. If knowledge and understanding come from sheer geographical proximity, I win.
and apart from my 10 years of having a booth at the Utah State Fair,
Is handing out shallow tracts at a state fair supposed to be a path toward theological and historical expertise? Darn. And I wasted all that time in graduate school . . .
participating in the Brigham Young University LDS Study-Tour in 1957 - traveling by bus 23 days, 6,000 miles along with 34 Mormons and the BYU professor - also a Mormon,
I know the professor. Someday, if I get around to it, I'll ask him about you. But let's be serious: Although it can be useful and educational, a three-week bus tour does not make one a scholar. (I've led bus tours -- of LDS historical sites in Britain and of biblical sites in Israel, Egypt, and Jordan -- and I have some sense of their limitations.)
I have 2,500 books on Mormonism (by far the most pro-Mormon).
But have you understood -- actually mastered -- their contents? I do not wish to be uncharitable, but I've seen no sign in your writing that you have. Nor any sign in the Evangel and the Inner Circle that anybody there really has much of a clue.
Oh yes, I spent 45 minutes with Joseph Fielding Smith, Jr. and visited with LeGrand Richards for 30 minutes or so - so I am not a newcomer to the subject.
I'm not sure what this is supposed to demonstrate. In any event, I've spent much more time than that with members of the Twelve. Many times as much. So are you prepared to grant my superior authority?
I moved to Utah in 1951.
Alas, I can't compete with you there. I wasn't born yet.
My collection includes years of LDS Church News, years of the Ensign, and also quite an assortment of the Improvement Era, but it does not go back as far as June 1945 - the issue in which the "When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done, when they propose a plan it is God's plan. When they point the way, there is no other which is safe, when they give direction, it should mark the end of the controversy."
Odd, isn't it, that that statement, if it is so central to LDS belief and self-understanding, can only be found in a ward teacher's message -- a ward teacher's message! do you realize how far down the totem pole that is? -- from more than half a century ago?
By the way, though, do you think that turning your mind over to Matthew, Peter, Luke, Paul, John, and Mark makes you an independent thinker? Or do you -- as consistency might demand -- denounce the fundamentalist Protestant insistence that one has to believe what they wrote, and that their pronouncements are inerrant? Are you a slave to those old dead guys? When they speak, has the thinking been done? Is the question settled? Or do you feel free to disagree with the Bible?
However, that is not the only such statement made by LDS leaders. I could point to Joseph Smith's statement in the History of the Church. Vol. 6, pp 78, 308, 408-409. And there are many more, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 9, pp 289, etc. But surely you are aware of the many claims that Mormon leaders have made boasting of their knowledge and abilities.
I have just reviewed the passages you cite. None of them confirms or supports the 1945 ward teacher's message. None of them, with the possible exception of Brigham Young's comment in the Journal of Discourses, is even directly relevant.
Moreover, I recently sent to you a comment on one of these very statements, in which I made some observations on anti-Mormon abuse of the History of the Church. Characteristically, you did not respond. But, also characteristically, you continue to repeat the same old litany. So, on the assumption that you somehow overlooked what I sent, I'm sending it to you again:
The damning quote in which Joseph Smith seems to boast is an interesting one. Even in the History of the Church (where it occurs at 6:408-409), it is described as resting upon a "synopsis" by Thomas Bullock. Is it, therefore, a primary source? But there are further questions. The date of the sermon is 26 May 1844. A month later, the Prophet was dead. Did he supervise this entry? No. The last years -- years, mind you! -- of his entries in the History of the Church were actually made by others after his death in an attempt, consistent with historiographical practices of the day, to complete the narrative. (Amusing, isn't it?, that the very same people who vehemently reject the History of the Church as an unreliable source when it seems to support the LDS position clutch it to their bosoms as an unparalleled historical treasure when they think they can use it as a weapon against the alleged errors of Mormonism.) This point is vitally important to keep in mind when trying to assess the character of Joseph Smith, his moral and spiritual quality, through the so-called "Documentary History." Dean Jessee's "Preface" to his collection of The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith specifically addresses the issue of the seeming egotism that enters into Joseph's later statements as edited by well-meaning others, but which is apparently quite foreign to the man himself.
The impression I myself get of Joseph Smith from reading his authenticated statements is of a humble and sincere man, struggling to do the will of God as he understood it. However, even if a note of proud defiance had crept into Joseph's tone during a speech in Nauvoo when both city and Church were under pressure from gangs of unprincipled bigots, I for one would not have blamed him. On the general reliability of the History of the Church, by the way, I think it worth saying that, in view of the way the thing was put together, it is not the overall thrust or narrative which is likely to be inaccurate, but the nuances, the tone, the details. This is precisely the opposite problem from that which anti-Mormons would have us see in it: They think the overall story of the History incorrect (e.g. divine intervention, revelation, Joseph Smith's prophetic calling, etc.), but want us to accept the details of tone and mood -- at least when those details seem to put the Prophet in a bad light.
Please do not again repeat your nonsense about the alleged boastfulness of Joseph Smith until you have at least responded to -- if not successfully dealt with -- my comments above.
I do not know of a Mormon that I would not befriend. I am not mad at Mormons. It is Mormonism with which I disagree.
I have no doubt that you are sincere. It would be nice if you would grant the same to us.
I am convinced that few of the 300,000 converts a year to Mormonism have the slightest idea, really, what Mormonism teaches.
That they don't fully understand the doctrine, I do not doubt. Does the average Nigerian or Guatemalan Christian understand the doctrine of the trinity? Does the average modern Southern Baptist? Not in my experience. Did Peter and the other Galilean fisherman fully understand what Christ would teach and what he would demand of them when they instantly dropped their nets and answered his summons? But I very much dispute the notion that our converts don't "have the slightest idea . . . what Mormonism teaches." I've been a missionary. I know better.
But I don't know what your comment has to do with my post. Why do you keep changing the subject?
We both use the same words, but we mean different things when we say them. I suggest that you try to find a single verse in the Book of Mormon that plainly teaches the Mormon concept of God.
I've already told you. Every verse on the subject in the Book of Mormon teaches the Mormon concept of God.
Why have you suddenly reverted to this issue? You brought it up in a previous letter (where it also came irrelevantly out of the blue), and I responded to it. Now you bring it up again. Again out of the blue. Again irrelevantly.
The title page (second paragraph), last sentence of the Testimony of the Three Witnesses, Mosiah 15:2-5, Alma 11:22, 27-29, 38-39, 44 (and many more), plainly teach that God and Christ are One.
Which we also believe. If you really understood our teachings, you would know that.
If the Book of Mormon does not teach what you believe about God, then either what you teach is wrong or the book is wrong (or they are both wrong). You cannot have your cake and eat it too!
Since the Book of Mormon does teach what I believe about God, what I teach can be right while, at the same time, the book is right, too. And that, in fact, is the case. (I'll bet you're relieved.)
Christians go to those that are lost and try to win them to the Lord. My object is not just to make Baptists, but to win the lost. Proselyting is suspect! (Matt. 23:23). Your 60,000 or so missionaries are not out to win the lost but to convince members of other churches to leave their churches and become Mormon. You used to list "Proselyte baptisms," now you call them "converts."
What has this got to do with anything that I wrote? (Even if it were true.)
I do not recall a repudiation of that statement (that you mention). Where is it? Too, did you intend to say "President Smith was the leader of the brain-dead Mormon slaves at the time." Surely not!
It's something called "irony." I use it frequently, and, when reading what I write, you may want to keep your eyes peeled for it.
Finally, though, we get back to one of the issues I actually raised.
A convenient place in which, at long last, to learn the truth about this matter is the article "A 1945 Perspective," which appeared in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 19 (Spring 1986): 35-39.
I am not as much an "Anti-Mormon" as you are an "Anti-Christian!"
Utter and absolute nonsense. I have nothing against Christians. (I am a Christian, for one thing. See Offenders for a Word, and, this time, pay attention to the argument rather than counting how many times your name appears.) All of my family, on my father's side, are Lutherans. I have nothing whatever against them. We get along just fine. I've attended their weddings and christenings and funerals, and I have no problem with them at all. I do not write pamphlets or sermonize or campaign or broadcast against their faith. For that matter, I don't campaign against anybody's faith. When a new Baptist church goes up, I don't organize seminars revealing the sordid truth about the Southern Baptist Convention. When I have written on the SBC -- as Rev. Wright knows -- I do not try to tear it down. Surely you can grasp the difference between what I do and what you do.
I try to reach Mormons and you try to convince Christians to leave their churches and become Mormon.
You left out Buddhists and agnostics and Confucians and many others. You also left out the fact that we don't attack other faiths; we preach ours. When you can find an "Oklahoma Missions, Inc.," based in Utah, let me know. And please send me a copy of any Mormon-produced book that you run across bearing a title like The Baptist Mirage or Behind the Mask of the SBC or Deception by Design: The Baptist Story or The SBC is a Cult: Find Out Why!
I will trade my income from UMI for half your salary! Are you game?
Sudden unannounced change in topic.
It is the legitimacy of what you do that I question, not whether you are a financial success at it. It would be at best a weak defense of a prostitute to point out that she never really made much money in the profession.
Besides, this is apples and oranges. I earn absolutely none of my salary for writing on Mormon topics. Zilch. Zero. I make my living teaching academic subjects like Arabic and Near Eastern studies, and for directing international research projects. So I would gladly trade my income from Mormon subjects for yours. Are you game? Can you live on nothing?
Many a Mormon stays in the church because he is afraid to leave it. Family problems, employment, political, neighbor relations, etc. keep many Mormons in the church. They are no longer active.
Sudden unannounced subject shift. (And what has this got to do with anything I wrote?)
Surely, though, the same thing can be said about Baptists and other conservative Protestants. So what?
I dare say that not one in a dozen Christian leaders who compliment Hatch have the slightest idea what Mormonism really teaches.
Sudden shift in topic.
After he spoke to them, they knew some very crucial things about what Mormonism teaches. Things that you and your co-conspirators are attempting to obscure. We believe in Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the unique Son of God and Redeemer of humankind. They ought to know that. They will scarcely hear it from such operations as yours. Like the old Soviet Union, you would prefer to jam the message, to cover it up with static.
Any way they will not hear it from the missionaries. I had lived in Utah 15 years when I talked to a Mormon bishop for five hours. He agreed with everything that I said. We weren't communicating! Communciation is not what I mean when I speak - it is what you thought I meant. Consequently, Mormons and Christians seldom really understand each other.
And you, Rev. Smith -- and your operation -- are attempting to make the communication even worse. That is why you objected to the Robinson/Blomberg book. Your side must not be allowed to hear from us what we really believe. They must hear your version of it, no matter how much we protest that you are distorting our faith.
The missionaries probably do not realize that - but you BYU professor's do! When I witness to a person, I want him to understand exactly what I mean. That is not the intent of the Mormon missionary program!
I realize that you and Rev. Wright are singing from the same hymnal about how deceptive we are.
I wonder. Should I should be honored or should I be insulted when you promote "BYU professor's [sic]" from the status of "ignorant dupes" to that of "conscious deceivers"? (Those appear to be the only categories of Latter-day Saints that some of you in the professional bigotry business want to recognize.)
After I wrote to Rev. Wright, I skimmed the September/October issue and found a few more instances of the UMI charm.
At p. 1, col. 1, for example, there is yet another instance of the Marlowe mantra, "Mormonism is truly deception by design!"
But it's not enough, apparently, to smear us as liars. At p. 8, col. 2, Rev. Wright tentatively re-opens his ongoing crusade to legitimize the murder of Joseph Smith, writing blandly that "Smith was killed during a gunfight in 1844." This I find perhaps as offensive as anything that your frequently offensive tabloids publish. (It's rather like saying, of a rape victim, that she engaged in extramarital sex. Technically true, I suppose, but grotesquely, uncharitably, and irresponsibly misleading.) Rev. Wright and I have already had some exchanges on this matter -- as well as regarding Colleen Ralson's defense of the Missouri "Extermination Order" against my people. Such demagoguery represents anti-Mormonism at its loathsome worst. (It astonishes me that such things occur in a special issue that you plan to distribute at our temple open houses. The contrast couldn't be clearer, to me: the peace, selfless service, and love of temple worship, versus the bigotry of professional hate-mongers outside.) I've criticized Rev. Wright for it in print before, and it seems that I will have to do so again.
Mormon deviously befriends Baptist churches in Utah in order to obligate them.
That's right. We never do anything that isn't evil. Even when engaged in what most people would recognize as obviously charitable activity, we are actually unspeakably rotten and nasty. But we must also be stupid. How is our cause going to be advanced by building a real Christian church [note: "Christian" is a registered trademark belonging solely to conservative Protestants, and cannot be used without permission] in our very heartland? Wouldn't we be more effective if we picketed it, tried to block its construction, held seminars against Baptist doctrine, and passed out leaflets revealing the horrible truth about Baptist history? In other words, if we took a leaf from your book?
The missionaries do the same thing.
Quite true. And we also worship Satan.
We have a little booklet called "Friendshipping," which reveals the methods used by Mormons. It was used to persuade an acquaintance who succumbed to their program. When he later found the step by step approach in print - he left in anger.
I read his account when you published it. It was a preposterous tissue of nonsense.
Any day you want to trade salaries, send me your check for one-half your monthly check. After 61 years in the ministry, my salary is $1,000 a month (the highest amount that I have received in my 61 years).
And mine, for Mormon topics, is zero. I'll trade you immediately. Please respond at once, and I'll send you the address to which you should mail the check. This must, you see, be a trade of equivalent things. I won't give up the salary that I earn from a real job for the one you earn from a job that, in a truly good world, wouldn't exist.
Sincerely for Truth,
Insincerely for Falsehood,
Daniel C. Peterson
("The 'C' is for 'Con-Artist'")