Episode 55: Mormon Apologists Kevin Barney and Seth Rogers

John Larsen and Bridget team up to interview internet apologists and Mormon bloggers Kevin Barney and Seth Rogers.

FAIR
Kevn Barney’s Blog
Seth Rogers’ Blog

Episode 55

89 comments on “Episode 55: Mormon Apologists Kevin Barney and Seth Rogers”

  1. Richard of Norway Reply

    My notes while listening:

    * 17 minutes in and still on the definition of Apologetics? Um, can we move on already? 🙂

    * 22 minutes: Interesting short history of FAIR and the beginnings of internet apologetics.

    * Both of these dudes are attorneys? That’s interesting.

    * Blogs vs Message Boards. Blogs seem to be preferred. I have to agree, I like them better. Perhaps because it gives the poster the floor and comments are generally more focused on the topic.

    * 38 mins: Bridget came well prepared. Great question! I wish we could have gotten to the questions like this *much* earlier on.

    * 44 mins: I agree that the primary version of Joseph Smith was not very compelling. When I read Rough Stone Rolling I was also quite pleased to find out how human Joseph was.

    * 46½ mins: Tough subjects include Abraham and polygamy.

    * A poll shows the toughest issue for people by far is polygamy.

    * Interesting to talk about getting beyond the actual events and try to lift it to a spiritual level of how it should be, not how it has actually been practiced.

    * 55 mins: Chapel Mormonism vs Internet Mormonism.

    * 61 minutes: Bridget’s final question: “Is it ok to question church leadership?” Excellent question!

    * Seth or Kevin said, “The Salamander letter lesson could have gone horribly wrong if not presented correctly.”

    — end of notes —

    I find it disturbing that these guys seem to think it’s necessary to tell the facts with a certain, apologetic spin in order to maintain the faith, rather than just telling the facts and letting people put together their own rational conclusion.

    The fact that they turned the Salamander into a positive thing – when it was a complete hoax in the first place! – proves to me that ANYTHING at all you throw at the church – true or not – these guys and others like them will find a way to spin it into a faith promoting story.

    I am confident that if some letter, conclusively proved to be written by Joseph, turned up which contained a flat-out confession that he never really saw any visions and never had any golden plates but made the whole thing up – I would bet money that these dudes would still find a way to turn that into some positive evidence that the church is still God’s Kingdom on Earth – the One and only True Church.

    I appreciated how John had a couple good questions and Bridget obviously came very well prepared and tried to steer the conversation into something interesting (rather than just babbling about what apologetics means, where, why and how they do it), but I really wish the conversation could have been controlled a bit more and taken to some depths of interest. I have no doubt both these guests could have provided great debate about some real interesting issues.

  2. Richard of Norway Reply

    My notes while listening:

    * 17 minutes in and still on the definition of Apologetics? Um, can we move on already? 🙂

    * 22 minutes: Interesting short history of FAIR and the beginnings of internet apologetics.

    * Both of these dudes are attorneys? That’s interesting.

    * Blogs vs Message Boards. Blogs seem to be preferred. I have to agree, I like them better. Perhaps because it gives the poster the floor and comments are generally more focused on the topic.

    * 38 mins: Bridget came well prepared. Great question! I wish we could have gotten to the questions like this *much* earlier on.

    * 44 mins: I agree that the primary version of Joseph Smith was not very compelling. When I read Rough Stone Rolling I was also quite pleased to find out how human Joseph was.

    * 46½ mins: Tough subjects include Abraham and polygamy.

    * A poll shows the toughest issue for people by far is polygamy.

    * Interesting to talk about getting beyond the actual events and try to lift it to a spiritual level of how it should be, not how it has actually been practiced.

    * 55 mins: Chapel Mormonism vs Internet Mormonism.

    * 61 minutes: Bridget’s final question: “Is it ok to question church leadership?” Excellent question!

    * Seth or Kevin said, “The Salamander letter lesson could have gone horribly wrong if not presented correctly.”

    — end of notes —

    I find it disturbing that these guys seem to think it’s necessary to tell the facts with a certain, apologetic spin in order to maintain the faith, rather than just telling the facts and letting people put together their own rational conclusion.

    The fact that they turned the Salamander into a positive thing – when it was a complete hoax in the first place! – proves to me that ANYTHING at all you throw at the church – true or not – these guys and others like them will find a way to spin it into a faith promoting story.

    I am confident that if some letter, conclusively proved to be written by Joseph, turned up which contained a flat-out confession that he never really saw any visions and never had any golden plates but made the whole thing up – I would bet money that these dudes would still find a way to turn that into some positive evidence that the church is still God’s Kingdom on Earth – the One and only True Church.

    I appreciated how John had a couple good questions and Bridget obviously came very well prepared and tried to steer the conversation into something interesting (rather than just babbling about what apologetics means, where, why and how they do it), but I really wish the conversation could have been controlled a bit more and taken to some depths of interest. I have no doubt both these guests could have provided great debate about some real interesting issues.

  3. Kevin Barney Reply

    Richard of Norway, thanks for the notes and your perceptions.

    A couple of clarifications on the Salamander lesson: first, it wasn’t known to be a hoax yet at the time I gave that lesson. Second, it’s not accurate to say I “turned it into a positive thing.” Rather, I sought to put it into an historical context of folk magic. This was before Quinn’s Magic World View had come out, or Ron Walker’s article on falk magic, or the other historical literature on the subject in its LDS context. Even though that specific letter turned out to be a forgery, in a way it was providential because it got people like me thinking about the actual folk magic context of Joseph’s milieu in upstate New York in the early 1820s. Mormon scholars have come to terms with this, but at the time it was a new thing and people weren’t sure what to make of it. The lesson I gave was a much more nuanced approach than your perception of it from my brief comments in this podcast.

    • Richard of Norway Reply

      Thanks for responding Kevin. I appreciate that you and Seth took time for the podcast. I wish I could say it was interesting from beginning to end. I know it could have been. Perhaps it would have helped if you both had been given a few questions to prepare for the day before recording the session? I’m not sure but it seems there wasn’t really a focus during the recording, but rather that things just popped up randomly and you and Seth drolled on for as long as you could about anything and everything that popped into your heads. It needed direction.

      As for the Salamander letter, I understood that your lesson was before it was revealed a hoax. However I didn’t realize it was before Quinn’s Magic World View book had come out. That explains things a bit, puts it into better perspective for me. In that case I am impressed that you managed to make sense of it on your own. Kudos for that! 🙂

      Yet, my point still stands that clearly you, Seth and others like you would find a way to spin ANYTHING thrown at the church into a positive, faith-promoting experience.

      This, to me, is one of the main reasons I can step away from the church and realize it can’t be what it claims. If truth can’t stand on its own, under scrutiny and reason without an apologist’s spin, then how can it be true? Why would the truth be so complicated? And why not “own up to it” as others here have suggested?

      I have to agree with Carson N (further down): It makes much more sense that the church’s historical claims may be based on 19th century folk magic.

  4. Kevin Barney Reply

    Richard of Norway, thanks for the notes and your perceptions.

    A couple of clarifications on the Salamander lesson: first, it wasn’t known to be a hoax yet at the time I gave that lesson. Second, it’s not accurate to say I “turned it into a positive thing.” Rather, I sought to put it into an historical context of folk magic. This was before Quinn’s Magic World View had come out, or Ron Walker’s article on falk magic, or the other historical literature on the subject in its LDS context. Even though that specific letter turned out to be a forgery, in a way it was providential because it got people like me thinking about the actual folk magic context of Joseph’s milieu in upstate New York in the early 1820s. Mormon scholars have come to terms with this, but at the time it was a new thing and people weren’t sure what to make of it. The lesson I gave was a much more nuanced approach than your perception of it from my brief comments in this podcast.

    • Richard of Norway Reply

      Thanks for responding Kevin. I appreciate that you and Seth took time for the podcast. I wish I could say it was interesting from beginning to end. I know it could have been. Perhaps it would have helped if you both had been given a few questions to prepare for the day before recording the session? I’m not sure but it seems there wasn’t really a focus during the recording, but rather that things just popped up randomly and you and Seth drolled on for as long as you could about anything and everything that popped into your heads. It needed direction.

      As for the Salamander letter, I understood that your lesson was before it was revealed a hoax. However I didn’t realize it was before Quinn’s Magic World View book had come out. That explains things a bit, puts it into better perspective for me. In that case I am impressed that you managed to make sense of it on your own. Kudos for that! 🙂

      Yet, my point still stands that clearly you, Seth and others like you would find a way to spin ANYTHING thrown at the church into a positive, faith-promoting experience.

      This, to me, is one of the main reasons I can step away from the church and realize it can’t be what it claims. If truth can’t stand on its own, under scrutiny and reason without an apologist’s spin, then how can it be true? Why would the truth be so complicated? And why not “own up to it” as others here have suggested?

      I have to agree with Carson N (further down): It makes much more sense that the church’s historical claims may be based on 19th century folk magic.

  5. DuzTruthMatter Reply

    John,

    You said at the end that the hour flew by and that this discussion by these two guys was fascinating. You sounded like an NFL player discribing a knitting class as fascinating. Nice try but I do agree with your unspoken sentiment that this was boring as heck.

    I just have a question. Did Jesus need apologists to go through the crowd after the sermon on the mount? (They could have explained why the meek really should inherit the earth and who these meeks really are anyway.)

    It’s nice to know that they are still working on good answers for polygamy and the BofA. Maybe they should watch Doris Hanson’s show on TV20 on how great polygamy is for those who have been brainwashed to live it.

    But, these two guys are attorneys, what do the rest of us know?

  6. DuzTruthMatter Reply

    John,

    You said at the end that the hour flew by and that this discussion by these two guys was fascinating. You sounded like an NFL player discribing a knitting class as fascinating. Nice try but I do agree with your unspoken sentiment that this was boring as heck.

    I just have a question. Did Jesus need apologists to go through the crowd after the sermon on the mount? (They could have explained why the meek really should inherit the earth and who these meeks really are anyway.)

    It’s nice to know that they are still working on good answers for polygamy and the BofA. Maybe they should watch Doris Hanson’s show on TV20 on how great polygamy is for those who have been brainwashed to live it.

    But, these two guys are attorneys, what do the rest of us know?

  7. Scottie Reply

    The podcast was good, but the volume levels between John/Bridget and the 2 guests were so far apart! I had to turn the volume up pretty loud to hear the guests, then when Bridget would speak, it kind of knocked me back!

  8. Scottie Reply

    The podcast was good, but the volume levels between John/Bridget and the 2 guests were so far apart! I had to turn the volume up pretty loud to hear the guests, then when Bridget would speak, it kind of knocked me back!

  9. Swearing Elder Reply

    The idea that someone needs to explain the “obscure doctrines.” I think an important question to ask is why any doctrine is “obscure.” Either church leaders taught/practiced a doctrine or they didn’t. There is no reason that finding out that Joseph Smith was married to 30+ women should be such a “WTF” moment for members. He did it. This is not in dispute. Own it. Live up to it. Just put it in the manuals.

    One of the two guests said that the fact that Joseph used a stone in a hat to translate the Book of Mormon doesn’t make Mormonism not true. Fine. But waiting until 2005 to hear about this in Rough Stone Rolling does make one wonder why it’s not readily available information. Again: Own it. Just put it in the manuals.

    • George Reply

      I think one of the main reasons they can’t put the hat/rock story in the manuals is that it then removes the need for the plates. The existence of the plates is vital to the overall story. They were passed from Moroni to JS and provide the link to the past record that is critical to the BOM. Once it becomes apparent that JS not only used a rock/hat, but that the plates were not even needed in the “translation” process, I think many people would start to doubt. So much of the narrative depends on the plates and the fact that the BOM is directly from them. Rock, Hat, no plates nearby is just to much for the brain to overcome. It takes the next level of cog-dis to overcome that challenge.

  10. Swearing Elder Reply

    The idea that someone needs to explain the “obscure doctrines.” I think an important question to ask is why any doctrine is “obscure.” Either church leaders taught/practiced a doctrine or they didn’t. There is no reason that finding out that Joseph Smith was married to 30+ women should be such a “WTF” moment for members. He did it. This is not in dispute. Own it. Live up to it. Just put it in the manuals.

    One of the two guests said that the fact that Joseph used a stone in a hat to translate the Book of Mormon doesn’t make Mormonism not true. Fine. But waiting until 2005 to hear about this in Rough Stone Rolling does make one wonder why it’s not readily available information. Again: Own it. Just put it in the manuals.

    • George Reply

      I think one of the main reasons they can’t put the hat/rock story in the manuals is that it then removes the need for the plates. The existence of the plates is vital to the overall story. They were passed from Moroni to JS and provide the link to the past record that is critical to the BOM. Once it becomes apparent that JS not only used a rock/hat, but that the plates were not even needed in the “translation” process, I think many people would start to doubt. So much of the narrative depends on the plates and the fact that the BOM is directly from them. Rock, Hat, no plates nearby is just to much for the brain to overcome. It takes the next level of cog-dis to overcome that challenge.

  11. Christopher Smith Reply

    Scottie, I’ve noticed a similar problem on other episodes. When I try to listen to these on my MP3 player where there is any kind of significant ambient noise, I can usually make out John and some of the other panelists, but I can almost never hear the guests. Hopefully in the future we can get slightly higher volume levels for the guests.

  12. Christopher Smith Reply

    Scottie, I’ve noticed a similar problem on other episodes. When I try to listen to these on my MP3 player where there is any kind of significant ambient noise, I can usually make out John and some of the other panelists, but I can almost never hear the guests. Hopefully in the future we can get slightly higher volume levels for the guests.

  13. Tim Reply

    John, if you’re using Audacity, there is a “Noise removal” filter that will clear the ambient noise. You can also control the individual volumes of each track (given all your contributors are on individual tracks).

    • John Larsen Reply

      Tim:

      I passed it through the noise removal, but both Seth and Kevin were on independent cell phones. I can clean up some of the ambient noise on the line, but I can’t clean up the overall quality of a cell phone call. When you run calls through skype, there is no way to put them on individual tracks so I have to manipulate the sound levels of all 4 participants on one track. I would give my left nut to have a good way to have each participant on their own track. It would save me hours each week.

      • Tim Reply

        My wife uses Powergramo to record the Skype portions for her podcast http://www.povertyunlocked.com and at the same time records herself on Audacity. This gives her two tracks to work with. Clearly having multiple callers complicates things a lot.

        You could have your contributors download Audacity and self record their part of the conversation on their own computers. You can start the conversation with everyone saying “1, 2, 3” in unison and then sync it all together.

  14. Tim Reply

    John, if you’re using Audacity, there is a “Noise removal” filter that will clear the ambient noise. You can also control the individual volumes of each track (given all your contributors are on individual tracks).

    • John Larsen Reply

      Tim:

      I passed it through the noise removal, but both Seth and Kevin were on independent cell phones. I can clean up some of the ambient noise on the line, but I can’t clean up the overall quality of a cell phone call. When you run calls through skype, there is no way to put them on individual tracks so I have to manipulate the sound levels of all 4 participants on one track. I would give my left nut to have a good way to have each participant on their own track. It would save me hours each week.

      • Tim Reply

        My wife uses Powergramo to record the Skype portions for her podcast http://www.povertyunlocked.com and at the same time records herself on Audacity. This gives her two tracks to work with. Clearly having multiple callers complicates things a lot.

        You could have your contributors download Audacity and self record their part of the conversation on their own computers. You can start the conversation with everyone saying “1, 2, 3” in unison and then sync it all together.

  15. Carson N Reply

    Swearing Elder, the standard apologetic response to that would be to trivialize the issues that anyone may have with historical tidbits such as the stone in the hat. It’s not pertinent to your salvation! It’s not pertinent to the material in the manuals! Also, how could you expect us to fill the manuals with every single bit of uncomfortable factoids that you antis want out in the open? There’d be no room for the actual point of the lesson!

    No, the current approach is to pretend that this stuff doesn’t matter at all, and if people come across it and are disturbed by it, it’s because they’re stupid, lazy, or otherwise severely uninformed. “I’ve been exposed to all of these things and I’m not even a bit disturbed by them,” is a smug declaration, implying that those who come upon the actual history of church and conclude otherwise do so out of ignorance.

    No, Seth, the stone in the hat doesn’t prove that the church is false, but to those who are trying to take an objective look at the church’s historical foundation in light of its truth claims, even those who want to believe but can’t allow themselves to fall into confirmation bias, and those who believe that the truth can speak for itself and that surely the church can survive unbiased scrutiny, the peep stone in a hat factoid is one of many many indicators that the church’s historical claims may be based on 19th century folk magic.

  16. Carson N Reply

    Swearing Elder, the standard apologetic response to that would be to trivialize the issues that anyone may have with historical tidbits such as the stone in the hat. It’s not pertinent to your salvation! It’s not pertinent to the material in the manuals! Also, how could you expect us to fill the manuals with every single bit of uncomfortable factoids that you antis want out in the open? There’d be no room for the actual point of the lesson!

    No, the current approach is to pretend that this stuff doesn’t matter at all, and if people come across it and are disturbed by it, it’s because they’re stupid, lazy, or otherwise severely uninformed. “I’ve been exposed to all of these things and I’m not even a bit disturbed by them,” is a smug declaration, implying that those who come upon the actual history of church and conclude otherwise do so out of ignorance.

    No, Seth, the stone in the hat doesn’t prove that the church is false, but to those who are trying to take an objective look at the church’s historical foundation in light of its truth claims, even those who want to believe but can’t allow themselves to fall into confirmation bias, and those who believe that the truth can speak for itself and that surely the church can survive unbiased scrutiny, the peep stone in a hat factoid is one of many many indicators that the church’s historical claims may be based on 19th century folk magic.

  17. Sam Andy Reply

    Amen, Carson. That’s how they play it. And if I say it doesn’t make sense to me, then something is wrong with me, not the story.

    One apologetic tactic I’ve noticed recently is to say that there is a “possibility” that it could have happened, so it is open for belief and faith. Take the Book of Abraham, for example. Sure, it’s possible that Abraham’s writings were included with the burial of an egyptian mummy. But is it likely, when every other bit of evidence points away from that conclusion? Are we supposed to throw out any and all contradictory evidence in order to maintain faith in a very unlikely conclusion? Again, it doesn’t make sense to me.

  18. Sam Andy Reply

    Amen, Carson. That’s how they play it. And if I say it doesn’t make sense to me, then something is wrong with me, not the story.

    One apologetic tactic I’ve noticed recently is to say that there is a “possibility” that it could have happened, so it is open for belief and faith. Take the Book of Abraham, for example. Sure, it’s possible that Abraham’s writings were included with the burial of an egyptian mummy. But is it likely, when every other bit of evidence points away from that conclusion? Are we supposed to throw out any and all contradictory evidence in order to maintain faith in a very unlikely conclusion? Again, it doesn’t make sense to me.

  19. badseed Reply

    Thanks all. Interesting observations.

    The podcast reminded me of reasons that an apologetic approach doesn’t work for me. As stated apologetics is to create room for belief. Belief is the goal from the start so a presumption of the Church “being true” is square one.

    After learning that there was more to LDS foundations than I had been taught my goal was to test the truth of LDS claims regardless of the outcome— no presuppositions if possible. IMO starting with the assumption that the Church is true invalidates the experiment before it starts…but then that’s me.

    And I agree Carson N…the stone in the hat by itself does not prove LDS claims false. However the stone in the hat, the Smith’s involvement in treasure digging culture, the tendency towards visions/ seeing w/ ‘the eyes of our understanding’ etc all help show the magical thinking environment that Mormonism and the BoM were born out of. Critics are often accused of presentism and not considering the larger context of certain events. I think here they understand pretty well.

  20. badseed Reply

    Thanks all. Interesting observations.

    The podcast reminded me of reasons that an apologetic approach doesn’t work for me. As stated apologetics is to create room for belief. Belief is the goal from the start so a presumption of the Church “being true” is square one.

    After learning that there was more to LDS foundations than I had been taught my goal was to test the truth of LDS claims regardless of the outcome— no presuppositions if possible. IMO starting with the assumption that the Church is true invalidates the experiment before it starts…but then that’s me.

    And I agree Carson N…the stone in the hat by itself does not prove LDS claims false. However the stone in the hat, the Smith’s involvement in treasure digging culture, the tendency towards visions/ seeing w/ ‘the eyes of our understanding’ etc all help show the magical thinking environment that Mormonism and the BoM were born out of. Critics are often accused of presentism and not considering the larger context of certain events. I think here they understand pretty well.

  21. George Reply

    Can anyone help me understand apologetics in a broader zone? I know there are apologetics for Christianity, but what about for governments, corporations, etc..
    Does Ford have a group of apologists who believe that the Mustang is the one true car and all others are cheap knock-offs. Their perspective is to help expand belief to show that Chevy is just a Ford spelled differently?

    I’m really not trying to sound flippant. Just trying to understand the space. Is the group of people known as apologists, only in the religion area.

  22. George Reply

    Can anyone help me understand apologetics in a broader zone? I know there are apologetics for Christianity, but what about for governments, corporations, etc..
    Does Ford have a group of apologists who believe that the Mustang is the one true car and all others are cheap knock-offs. Their perspective is to help expand belief to show that Chevy is just a Ford spelled differently?

    I’m really not trying to sound flippant. Just trying to understand the space. Is the group of people known as apologists, only in the religion area.

  23. Andrew S. Reply

    One of the things I thought was interesting about this podcast was what was said at the very end…about the leverage that individuals get when they’ve proven their loyalty to the group (and then Seth’s comments about how currently, society emphasizes individualism so much that people don’t know how to properly engage with a community).

    Of course, loyalty doesn’t come from nowhere. I wonder what encourages people to consider the church worthy of such unending loyalty?

    I know Seth has said in the past that he believes Mormonism is simply the best or most nuanced understanding of reality (heavily paraphrased…but clearly, it’s pretty deep in his understanding of reality itself)…what does that even mean? How do you get to such a point?

    • Seth R. Reply

      Andrew, I’d say the loyalty comes from repeated matching of a religious paradigm and narrative to the great and inspiring ideas a person encounters throughout life. As I have found Mormon theology and narrative to be a good and inspiring fit for just about every major piece of secular knowledge I have encountered, I can feel quite confident in my affiliation as a Mormon at this point. It just has good ideas. That’s why I’m still on board.

      • Jeff Ricks Reply

        Seth, has it occurred to you that good ideas are abundant in the world? Has it occurred to you that you don’t have to put up with inaccurate information and deceptive practices in order to enjoy good ideas?

  24. Andrew S. Reply

    One of the things I thought was interesting about this podcast was what was said at the very end…about the leverage that individuals get when they’ve proven their loyalty to the group (and then Seth’s comments about how currently, society emphasizes individualism so much that people don’t know how to properly engage with a community).

    Of course, loyalty doesn’t come from nowhere. I wonder what encourages people to consider the church worthy of such unending loyalty?

    I know Seth has said in the past that he believes Mormonism is simply the best or most nuanced understanding of reality (heavily paraphrased…but clearly, it’s pretty deep in his understanding of reality itself)…what does that even mean? How do you get to such a point?

    • Seth R. Reply

      Andrew, I’d say the loyalty comes from repeated matching of a religious paradigm and narrative to the great and inspiring ideas a person encounters throughout life. As I have found Mormon theology and narrative to be a good and inspiring fit for just about every major piece of secular knowledge I have encountered, I can feel quite confident in my affiliation as a Mormon at this point. It just has good ideas. That’s why I’m still on board.

      • Jeff Ricks Reply

        Seth, has it occurred to you that good ideas are abundant in the world? Has it occurred to you that you don’t have to put up with inaccurate information and deceptive practices in order to enjoy good ideas?

  25. Jon Reply

    I thought the podcast was really interesting, and thanks to Kevin and Seth for contributing.

    badseed said: “…a presumption of the Church “being true” is square one.”

    I think this is at the core of why most apologetics (Christian, LDS, whatever) fail from a logical standpoint. They are framing the debate as “It’s true unless you can prove otherwise.” It throws the burden of proof onto the wrong side of the court: religious claims can’t be falsified, so *of course* we can’t prove otherwise. The same is true of ALL supernatural claims. Apologists seem to think this is a strength in their position, but it’s a glaring weakness.

    This is why so many debates end up just talking past each other. The critic points out issues like the stone in a hat, or the Book of Abraham, not because these issues *debunk* Mormonism, but because they make the entire story that much more difficult to accept in the first place. The apologist will respond “That doesn’t mean it isn’t true.” This is true, but largely irrelevant. The critic is just as persuaded as if the apologist had said, “Yes, parents do leave presents under the tree, but that doesn’t prove Santa doesn’t exist,” or, “Yes, lightning can be caused through natural physical laws, but that doesn’t prove Zeus doesn’t exist.”

    The critic isn’t interested in how you can carve out a hole where you can maintain your faith. He’s just trying to figure out why you bother.

  26. Jon Reply

    I thought the podcast was really interesting, and thanks to Kevin and Seth for contributing.

    badseed said: “…a presumption of the Church “being true” is square one.”

    I think this is at the core of why most apologetics (Christian, LDS, whatever) fail from a logical standpoint. They are framing the debate as “It’s true unless you can prove otherwise.” It throws the burden of proof onto the wrong side of the court: religious claims can’t be falsified, so *of course* we can’t prove otherwise. The same is true of ALL supernatural claims. Apologists seem to think this is a strength in their position, but it’s a glaring weakness.

    This is why so many debates end up just talking past each other. The critic points out issues like the stone in a hat, or the Book of Abraham, not because these issues *debunk* Mormonism, but because they make the entire story that much more difficult to accept in the first place. The apologist will respond “That doesn’t mean it isn’t true.” This is true, but largely irrelevant. The critic is just as persuaded as if the apologist had said, “Yes, parents do leave presents under the tree, but that doesn’t prove Santa doesn’t exist,” or, “Yes, lightning can be caused through natural physical laws, but that doesn’t prove Zeus doesn’t exist.”

    The critic isn’t interested in how you can carve out a hole where you can maintain your faith. He’s just trying to figure out why you bother.

  27. Zilpha Reply

    I also found this discussion to be a bit dull. But I’m thinking that my ho-hum response to it is as much due to my lack of interest in Apologetics as anything else. I just find trying to making sense out of nonsensical things an horrific waste of brain energy.

  28. Zilpha Reply

    I also found this discussion to be a bit dull. But I’m thinking that my ho-hum response to it is as much due to my lack of interest in Apologetics as anything else. I just find trying to making sense out of nonsensical things an horrific waste of brain energy.

  29. Thomas J Reply

    “I just find trying to making sense out of nonsensical things an horrific waste of brain energy.”

    Zilpha – Welcome to planet earth. I know very little in life that is neat and tidy…

    • Randy S Reply

      Thomas J,

      Although I agree the world is not black and white, there is plenty of stuff out there that is a helluva lot more logical and grounded in reality than the nonsensical details of the Mormon narrative and that is what I think Zilpha was getting at.

      For example, the realm of medicine, physics, evolution, ethics, etc. All those have plenty of room for all kinds of debates that don’t need to resort to logical fallacies and “nonsensical” debates.

  30. Thomas J Reply

    “I just find trying to making sense out of nonsensical things an horrific waste of brain energy.”

    Zilpha – Welcome to planet earth. I know very little in life that is neat and tidy…

    • Randy S Reply

      Thomas J,

      Although I agree the world is not black and white, there is plenty of stuff out there that is a helluva lot more logical and grounded in reality than the nonsensical details of the Mormon narrative and that is what I think Zilpha was getting at.

      For example, the realm of medicine, physics, evolution, ethics, etc. All those have plenty of room for all kinds of debates that don’t need to resort to logical fallacies and “nonsensical” debates.

  31. David Clark Reply

    I agree with Andrew that the most interesting part was the discussion about loyalty at the end of the podcast. In fact I found one remark so true from my experience that I made a note of it. In speaking about Hugh Nibley’s ability to “criticize the church” Seth says at around 1:04:54: “But he was loyal, and I think loyalty is very highly prized in the LDS church.”

    The first thing that I find funny is that Nibley really doesn’t criticize the church, at least not in any direct sense. He doesn’t name names or go after specific practices. At times he might directly criticize the church members for lack for being greedy or not environmentally friendly, but who cares. It’s nothing more than what the GA’s do in every conference. The only reason people took note of it when Nibley did it was because he voted Democrat while most GA’s vote Republican, and the criticisms reflected that political viewpoint. Who cares?

    The other point is that Seth’s point shows the real problem with making criticism in the church. You can do it as long as you are perceived as loyal. That guarantees that all criticism made towards the church will be generic, subtle, milquetoast, and generally ineffective. The minute your criticisms become specific, loud, biting, or effective your loyalty is compromised and you are no longer allowed to criticize. The quickest way to get your permission to criticize revoked is to criticize effectively.

    But the real problem with this kind of loyalty is that truth is often the first casualty. Both Seth and Kevin admit that teaching people the bare facts is simply not allowed, they must first be made palatable to chapel Mormons. What then do you do with facts that simply cannot be made palatable? They don’t get mentioned and people are left ignorant. And truth is the casualty.

    • Seth R. Reply

      David, the specific incident I had in mind was Nibley’s “Leaders vs. Managers” essay – which was apparently directed at the brethren.

      • David Clark Reply

        Go read it again, CWHN Vol 13.

        There is no way this could be considered a criticism of the brethren, except in the most roundabout and indistinct way, which was my point.

        He critiques business majors, students, academia, and managers in general. He gave it at a BYU commencement, so it was not directed to the brethren, but to students.

        The only way it could be seen as a critique of the brethren would be if they made the assumption that they were managers and not leaders. But, since he goes out of his way to praise Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and Spencer W. Kimball I don’t see why they would make that assumption.

  32. David Clark Reply

    I agree with Andrew that the most interesting part was the discussion about loyalty at the end of the podcast. In fact I found one remark so true from my experience that I made a note of it. In speaking about Hugh Nibley’s ability to “criticize the church” Seth says at around 1:04:54: “But he was loyal, and I think loyalty is very highly prized in the LDS church.”

    The first thing that I find funny is that Nibley really doesn’t criticize the church, at least not in any direct sense. He doesn’t name names or go after specific practices. At times he might directly criticize the church members for lack for being greedy or not environmentally friendly, but who cares. It’s nothing more than what the GA’s do in every conference. The only reason people took note of it when Nibley did it was because he voted Democrat while most GA’s vote Republican, and the criticisms reflected that political viewpoint. Who cares?

    The other point is that Seth’s point shows the real problem with making criticism in the church. You can do it as long as you are perceived as loyal. That guarantees that all criticism made towards the church will be generic, subtle, milquetoast, and generally ineffective. The minute your criticisms become specific, loud, biting, or effective your loyalty is compromised and you are no longer allowed to criticize. The quickest way to get your permission to criticize revoked is to criticize effectively.

    But the real problem with this kind of loyalty is that truth is often the first casualty. Both Seth and Kevin admit that teaching people the bare facts is simply not allowed, they must first be made palatable to chapel Mormons. What then do you do with facts that simply cannot be made palatable? They don’t get mentioned and people are left ignorant. And truth is the casualty.

    • Seth R. Reply

      David, the specific incident I had in mind was Nibley’s “Leaders vs. Managers” essay – which was apparently directed at the brethren.

      • David Clark Reply

        Go read it again, CWHN Vol 13.

        There is no way this could be considered a criticism of the brethren, except in the most roundabout and indistinct way, which was my point.

        He critiques business majors, students, academia, and managers in general. He gave it at a BYU commencement, so it was not directed to the brethren, but to students.

        The only way it could be seen as a critique of the brethren would be if they made the assumption that they were managers and not leaders. But, since he goes out of his way to praise Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and Spencer W. Kimball I don’t see why they would make that assumption.

  33. Andrew S. Reply

    One thing that I think a lot of the listeners here aren’t getting is this:

    Apologetics (as was eventually stated by at least one of the two guys…I think Seth) is about letting people not feel stupid for stuff that they came to believe in for completely different reasons.

    It doesn’t make sense to us because we don’t already believe, and people are not supposed to believe because of apologetic arguments. Rather. when people already believe (for wholly different reasons than what apologetics even concerns) and people try to make them feel silly or stupid for believing because of peripheral issues, apologetics is there to point out how one shouldn’t feel silly or stupid at all…and the issues brought up are peripheral anyway.

    So, that’s why I asked my bit about loyalty in the first place. I am kinda with people like Jon who say, “The critic points out issues like the stone in a hat, or the Book of Abraham, not because these issues *debunk* Mormonism, but because they make the entire story that much more difficult to accept in the first place.” and Zilpha (“making sense out of nonsensical things an horrific waste of brain energy.”), but I have to recognize that is because of my position. Clearly, for believers, they have “accepted” in the first place. There are critical aspects of the testimony that are sensical. What is unknown or sketchy or “nonsensical” is peripheral.

  34. Andrew S. Reply

    One thing that I think a lot of the listeners here aren’t getting is this:

    Apologetics (as was eventually stated by at least one of the two guys…I think Seth) is about letting people not feel stupid for stuff that they came to believe in for completely different reasons.

    It doesn’t make sense to us because we don’t already believe, and people are not supposed to believe because of apologetic arguments. Rather. when people already believe (for wholly different reasons than what apologetics even concerns) and people try to make them feel silly or stupid for believing because of peripheral issues, apologetics is there to point out how one shouldn’t feel silly or stupid at all…and the issues brought up are peripheral anyway.

    So, that’s why I asked my bit about loyalty in the first place. I am kinda with people like Jon who say, “The critic points out issues like the stone in a hat, or the Book of Abraham, not because these issues *debunk* Mormonism, but because they make the entire story that much more difficult to accept in the first place.” and Zilpha (“making sense out of nonsensical things an horrific waste of brain energy.”), but I have to recognize that is because of my position. Clearly, for believers, they have “accepted” in the first place. There are critical aspects of the testimony that are sensical. What is unknown or sketchy or “nonsensical” is peripheral.

  35. jake Reply

    this one was hard to sit through. love all you guys do, but for some reason, this one was difficult.

  36. jake Reply

    this one was hard to sit through. love all you guys do, but for some reason, this one was difficult.

  37. Eric Comstock Reply

    First I think you guys are doing a great job with the podcast, John. I think I get why there are apologists but it still is hard to listen to them.

  38. Eric Comstock Reply

    First I think you guys are doing a great job with the podcast, John. I think I get why there are apologists but it still is hard to listen to them.

  39. Jon Reply

    It was a little hard to listen to, but that’s why I enjoy these kinds of episodes the most. I really appreciate getting the perspective of the other side.

  40. Jon Reply

    It was a little hard to listen to, but that’s why I enjoy these kinds of episodes the most. I really appreciate getting the perspective of the other side.

  41. Bridget Jack Jeffries Reply

    Hi everyone,

    I’m sorry to hear that some of you found the Podcast boring. I’ve known Kevin for years now (began talking to him on ZLMB 7-9 years ago) and I first made online contact with Seth about a year and a half ago, and I’ve met them both in person. They’re honestly some of my favorite faithful, believing Mormons, great discussion partners and great friends, and I’ve rarely found them boring. But I am something of a geek. I think they’re both a little like me in that they’re much more capable and eloquent in written mediums than in spoken.

    I agree with Richard that we probably spent too much time talking about what apologetics is at the beginning. If we’d had more time at the end, I probably would have probed Kevin and Seth into discussing some of their more unconventional views on things, which they have plenty of. It’s part of the reason they’re some of my favorite people. I’ve had quite a few conversations with each of them that left me thinking for hours afterward.

    I think that you also have to keep in mind that this Podcast is meant to cater to all things LDS (TBMs included), but our panelists and listeners seem to be tilted towards the NOM and ex-Mormon end of the spectrum. I’ve had plenty of TBM friends tell me that they were not so fond of Podcasts that the ex-Mormon and NOM commentators seemed to love. I sort of envisioned this as a Podcast that our TBM audience might appreciate, and I can understand why NOMs and ex-Mormons would be less interested. As we said in the Podcast, apologetics is for believers.

    Thanks again to Kevin and Seth for allowing us to torture them for an hour.

    Oh, and I’ll see what I can do about lowering my mic volume.

  42. Bridget Jack Jeffries Reply

    Hi everyone,

    I’m sorry to hear that some of you found the Podcast boring. I’ve known Kevin for years now (began talking to him on ZLMB 7-9 years ago) and I first made online contact with Seth about a year and a half ago, and I’ve met them both in person. They’re honestly some of my favorite faithful, believing Mormons, great discussion partners and great friends, and I’ve rarely found them boring. But I am something of a geek. I think they’re both a little like me in that they’re much more capable and eloquent in written mediums than in spoken.

    I agree with Richard that we probably spent too much time talking about what apologetics is at the beginning. If we’d had more time at the end, I probably would have probed Kevin and Seth into discussing some of their more unconventional views on things, which they have plenty of. It’s part of the reason they’re some of my favorite people. I’ve had quite a few conversations with each of them that left me thinking for hours afterward.

    I think that you also have to keep in mind that this Podcast is meant to cater to all things LDS (TBMs included), but our panelists and listeners seem to be tilted towards the NOM and ex-Mormon end of the spectrum. I’ve had plenty of TBM friends tell me that they were not so fond of Podcasts that the ex-Mormon and NOM commentators seemed to love. I sort of envisioned this as a Podcast that our TBM audience might appreciate, and I can understand why NOMs and ex-Mormons would be less interested. As we said in the Podcast, apologetics is for believers.

    Thanks again to Kevin and Seth for allowing us to torture them for an hour.

    Oh, and I’ll see what I can do about lowering my mic volume.

  43. NM Tony Reply

    I actually didn’t have a problem with the podcast, but then again I have my iPod set so I can listen to podcasts at twice the speed. Anyway, I agree that I would like to have heard Kevin’s and Seth’s unconventional views as opposed to the “what is apologetic”s and “why we have apologetics.” All in all, it was a decent episode. I did learn that Occam’s Razor doesn’t seem to be applied to heavily in apologetics and it thrives on confirmation bias. It is to be expected, however, in such a field of study. The loyalty issue was also enlightening.

  44. NM Tony Reply

    I actually didn’t have a problem with the podcast, but then again I have my iPod set so I can listen to podcasts at twice the speed. Anyway, I agree that I would like to have heard Kevin’s and Seth’s unconventional views as opposed to the “what is apologetic”s and “why we have apologetics.” All in all, it was a decent episode. I did learn that Occam’s Razor doesn’t seem to be applied to heavily in apologetics and it thrives on confirmation bias. It is to be expected, however, in such a field of study. The loyalty issue was also enlightening.

  45. Erin O. Reply

    First of all, I love this podcast project. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    One of the things I find so fascinating about religion is that it seems to mirror the functioning of businesses and even governments.

    For example, I wasn’t surprised to hear one of the apologetics (sorry, I am terrible with picking out voices so I can’t name names) express relief in his discovery that Joseph Smith was an individual with faults. This individual’s faith was bolstered by the very existence of Joseph Smith’s peculiarities. Here’s where one might draw a parallel or at least a similarity with politics.

    It has been my observation that leaders often walk a tricky line between authority over and collaboration with their followers. (“Collaboration” doesn’t seem like the most accurate word, but it’ll do for now.) Some believe that one should be able to “share a beer” with a leader, and that relaxed, colloquial speech makes a leader seem more accessible, more “one of us” to followers. Others prefer leaders with a more formal style. And certainly there are those who do not want to feel like a leader is being condescending, either. Like I said, it’s a tricky line!

    Back to the podcast. Again, one individual appreciates that his spiritual leader could and did “speak like a man.” In my interpretation (and correct me if I’m wrong) this perhaps allows a follower to feel closer to his or her spiritual leader. Others, of course, simply cannot marry the quirks of men like Joseph Smith with the spiritual mantle of leadership. I make no judgment; for me, it’s just an interesting point.

    Now, who’s up for conducting a study on the relationship between one’s preference of spiritual and political leadership characteristics? 🙂

  46. Erin O. Reply

    First of all, I love this podcast project. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    One of the things I find so fascinating about religion is that it seems to mirror the functioning of businesses and even governments.

    For example, I wasn’t surprised to hear one of the apologetics (sorry, I am terrible with picking out voices so I can’t name names) express relief in his discovery that Joseph Smith was an individual with faults. This individual’s faith was bolstered by the very existence of Joseph Smith’s peculiarities. Here’s where one might draw a parallel or at least a similarity with politics.

    It has been my observation that leaders often walk a tricky line between authority over and collaboration with their followers. (“Collaboration” doesn’t seem like the most accurate word, but it’ll do for now.) Some believe that one should be able to “share a beer” with a leader, and that relaxed, colloquial speech makes a leader seem more accessible, more “one of us” to followers. Others prefer leaders with a more formal style. And certainly there are those who do not want to feel like a leader is being condescending, either. Like I said, it’s a tricky line!

    Back to the podcast. Again, one individual appreciates that his spiritual leader could and did “speak like a man.” In my interpretation (and correct me if I’m wrong) this perhaps allows a follower to feel closer to his or her spiritual leader. Others, of course, simply cannot marry the quirks of men like Joseph Smith with the spiritual mantle of leadership. I make no judgment; for me, it’s just an interesting point.

    Now, who’s up for conducting a study on the relationship between one’s preference of spiritual and political leadership characteristics? 🙂

  47. Glenn Reply

    How many times do I have to hear the word “context” as if that is the great fix-all? Everything is OK when it is understood in the proper context, and the proper context is that since the gospel is true than everything is OK. Or something.

    John, I wish you would have engaged these guys more. I know you’ve got it in you. Let it out. Next time I want to see some apologetic pretzels.

    • NightAvatar Reply

      Nice.

      I have long wondered the same thing. I am very interested to hear some kind of response to this.

      But I guess it was kind of made clear in this is that apologetics are meant for members who already have decided the church is true. So they are intended for people who want to maintain the faith, rather than for people seeking to learn the truth.

  48. Glenn Reply

    How many times do I have to hear the word “context” as if that is the great fix-all? Everything is OK when it is understood in the proper context, and the proper context is that since the gospel is true than everything is OK. Or something.

    John, I wish you would have engaged these guys more. I know you’ve got it in you. Let it out. Next time I want to see some apologetic pretzels.

    • NightAvatar Reply

      Nice.

      I have long wondered the same thing. I am very interested to hear some kind of response to this.

      But I guess it was kind of made clear in this is that apologetics are meant for members who already have decided the church is true. So they are intended for people who want to maintain the faith, rather than for people seeking to learn the truth.

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  50. OzPoof Reply

    It seemed to me that John and Zilpha were holding back so as not to crucify these two. I suppose that’s the only way you can get rusted-on TBMs to appear as guests – don’t hit them with the truth and let them babble.

    It’s far more interesting when the podcast isn’t like Elder’s Quorum – where the elephant in the room has to be ignored.

    These apologists knew a lot about the problems with the church, yet had moved past them. I don’t understand how anyone who knows the flaws can ignore them unless you; 1. compartmentalize to the point of dual personality; 2. become a cultural Mormon rather than a doctrinal believer; 3. believe that God is willing to allow his church to be led by liars and hypocrites who can’t get anything right, yet the underlying message of the church (whatever it is at the moment) is correct and can’t be found anywhere else.

    In my opinion, for anyone who knows the truth to sit in Elder’s or High Priests and say nothing when falsehoods are taught as fact, that person has to have questionable ethics. These two are lawyers right?

    • NightAvatar Reply

      It was John and Bridget, but I see what you mean.

      I totally agree with your last paragraph. That’s why I had to stop attending Elders Q. It was just to painful to sit and hear them ramble on about stuff I know is complete BS.

  51. OzPoof Reply

    It seemed to me that John and Zilpha were holding back so as not to crucify these two. I suppose that’s the only way you can get rusted-on TBMs to appear as guests – don’t hit them with the truth and let them babble.

    It’s far more interesting when the podcast isn’t like Elder’s Quorum – where the elephant in the room has to be ignored.

    These apologists knew a lot about the problems with the church, yet had moved past them. I don’t understand how anyone who knows the flaws can ignore them unless you; 1. compartmentalize to the point of dual personality; 2. become a cultural Mormon rather than a doctrinal believer; 3. believe that God is willing to allow his church to be led by liars and hypocrites who can’t get anything right, yet the underlying message of the church (whatever it is at the moment) is correct and can’t be found anywhere else.

    In my opinion, for anyone who knows the truth to sit in Elder’s or High Priests and say nothing when falsehoods are taught as fact, that person has to have questionable ethics. These two are lawyers right?

    • NightAvatar Reply

      It was John and Bridget, but I see what you mean.

      I totally agree with your last paragraph. That’s why I had to stop attending Elders Q. It was just to painful to sit and hear them ramble on about stuff I know is complete BS.

  52. Mister IT Reply

    >John, I wish you would have engaged these guys more. I know you’ve got it in you. Let it out. Next time I want to see some apologetic pretzels<

    Ditto! And ditto for Bridget too.

    I think that's why I found this podcast so darn boring – listening to LdS Apologists spin their craft is about as interesting as listening to a Dentist wax poetic on root canals – and just as psychologically painful too!

    Come on Mormon Expression Team, I can't believe the latitude that these guys were given: They spun fallacy after fallacy after fallacy without being challenged once. Like I said – just as psychologically painful as . . . well you get the idea.

    However I will say this for these guys – they're polite, respectful, articulate, and at least give the appearance of being reasonable, well-versed and thoughtful rather than just another fountain of "bend the facts to the conclusion" dogmatism. Frankly, I'm hoping that they can mentor Mike (Tannehill) a bit on how to up his game in all these areas.

    Then maybe they can move onto Daniel C. Peterson, Mike Ash, and Kerry Shirts, among others.

  53. Mister IT Reply

    >John, I wish you would have engaged these guys more. I know you’ve got it in you. Let it out. Next time I want to see some apologetic pretzels<

    Ditto! And ditto for Bridget too.

    I think that's why I found this podcast so darn boring – listening to LdS Apologists spin their craft is about as interesting as listening to a Dentist wax poetic on root canals – and just as psychologically painful too!

    Come on Mormon Expression Team, I can't believe the latitude that these guys were given: They spun fallacy after fallacy after fallacy without being challenged once. Like I said – just as psychologically painful as . . . well you get the idea.

    However I will say this for these guys – they're polite, respectful, articulate, and at least give the appearance of being reasonable, well-versed and thoughtful rather than just another fountain of "bend the facts to the conclusion" dogmatism. Frankly, I'm hoping that they can mentor Mike (Tannehill) a bit on how to up his game in all these areas.

    Then maybe they can move onto Daniel C. Peterson, Mike Ash, and Kerry Shirts, among others.

  54. Mister IT Reply

    OK, now that I’ve spit out that hairball I have a question on the whole White Salamander issue:

    Q: Why has LdS Apostle Dallin Oaks’ 8/16/85 address “Reading Church History” been removed from both the LdS Church and BYU web sites?

    The link on the LdS Church web site was http://ldsces.org/general%20authority%20talks/dho.reading%20church%20history.1985.pdf and I didn’t capture the URL to this address from the BYU web site before this address was removed (this address was given at BYU which is why it was posted on both web sites)

    This is the address in which the LdS Church General Authorities were just beginning their rewrite and revisioning of LdS Thelogy and Doctrine based on the White Salamander letter (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salamander_letter)

    The fact the GA was doing “damage control” by integrating the White Salamander into the Joseph Smith story and Early Mormon History was evident by comments like these in Oaks address:

    “Another source of differences in the accounts of different witnesses is the different meanings that different persons attach to words. We have a vivid illustration of this in the recent media excitement about the word ‘salamander’ in a letter Martin Harris is supposed to have sent to W.W. Phelps over 150 years ago. All of the scores of media stories on that subject apparently assume that the author of that letter used the word ‘salamander’ in the modern sense of a ‘tailed amphibian.’

    One wonders why so many writers neglected to reveal to their readers that there is another meaning of ‘salamander,’ which may even have been the primary meaning in this context in the 1820s…. That meaning… is ‘a mythical being thought to be able to live in fire.’…A being that is able to live in fire is a good approximation of the description Joseph Smith gave of the Angel Moroni:.. the use of the words white salamander and old spirit seem understandable.

    In view of all this, and as a matter of intellectual evaluation, why all the excitement in the media, and why the apparent hand-wringing among those who profess friendship or membership in the Church?”
    (Apostle Dallin H. Oaks, 1985 CES Doctrine and Covenants Symposium,” pages 22-23, Aug. 16, 1985)

    So why now is this historic address now suddenly “Missing In Action” from the set of Official Church records available to the public? After all, objectively and dispassionately speaking, it is a watershed and historically important speech on a number of different levels that should be preserved for both scholarly and public posterity.

  55. Mister IT Reply

    OK, now that I’ve spit out that hairball I have a question on the whole White Salamander issue:

    Q: Why has LdS Apostle Dallin Oaks’ 8/16/85 address “Reading Church History” been removed from both the LdS Church and BYU web sites?

    The link on the LdS Church web site was http://ldsces.org/general%20authority%20talks/dho.reading%20church%20history.1985.pdf and I didn’t capture the URL to this address from the BYU web site before this address was removed (this address was given at BYU which is why it was posted on both web sites)

    This is the address in which the LdS Church General Authorities were just beginning their rewrite and revisioning of LdS Thelogy and Doctrine based on the White Salamander letter (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salamander_letter)

    The fact the GA was doing “damage control” by integrating the White Salamander into the Joseph Smith story and Early Mormon History was evident by comments like these in Oaks address:

    “Another source of differences in the accounts of different witnesses is the different meanings that different persons attach to words. We have a vivid illustration of this in the recent media excitement about the word ‘salamander’ in a letter Martin Harris is supposed to have sent to W.W. Phelps over 150 years ago. All of the scores of media stories on that subject apparently assume that the author of that letter used the word ‘salamander’ in the modern sense of a ‘tailed amphibian.’

    One wonders why so many writers neglected to reveal to their readers that there is another meaning of ‘salamander,’ which may even have been the primary meaning in this context in the 1820s…. That meaning… is ‘a mythical being thought to be able to live in fire.’…A being that is able to live in fire is a good approximation of the description Joseph Smith gave of the Angel Moroni:.. the use of the words white salamander and old spirit seem understandable.

    In view of all this, and as a matter of intellectual evaluation, why all the excitement in the media, and why the apparent hand-wringing among those who profess friendship or membership in the Church?”
    (Apostle Dallin H. Oaks, 1985 CES Doctrine and Covenants Symposium,” pages 22-23, Aug. 16, 1985)

    So why now is this historic address now suddenly “Missing In Action” from the set of Official Church records available to the public? After all, objectively and dispassionately speaking, it is a watershed and historically important speech on a number of different levels that should be preserved for both scholarly and public posterity.

  56. Richard Morgan Reply

    Well, what can I say?
    This pod-cast adds a whole new dimension to “boring”.
    Seth has assured me that he and Kevin take “boring” as a compliment, so – my compliments, guys!
    (And I actually LIKE Seth!)

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