FARMS vs. the Signaturi

There is an interesting debate going on in an email discussion at Mormon-Library, an email discussion group for Latter-day Saints and other individuals and book collectors interested in all things related to Mormon books. The debate is between George Mitton of FARMS (the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies) at the Brigham Young University, and Tom Kimball, an editor at Signature Books, a publisher that has published some excellent material in the field of Mormon studies but has also offended many of the true believers, sometimes referred to as TBMs (True Believing Mormons or True Blue Mormons), by publishing scholarly and academic studies that have been referred to as The New Mormon History by some and as "digging for dirt history" by others such as myself.

Apparently Roasted Tomatoes, a well known writer in the Bloggernacle, and author with his wife of the Latter-day Saint Liberation Front blog featured as one of the main "Isles" at the Mormon Archipelago, an aggregator of the best in Mormon blogs, has written a post entitled Reviewing the FARMS Review: Midgley on Palmer in which he was not especially complimentary of Louis Midgley. That shouldn't bother Louis Midgley much, however. The author has clearly taken sides with Grant Palmer against the Church. And if Grant Palmer is right, then we Mormons are all being deceived by a great hoax, and our Church leaders have been lying to us about the history of the Church right from the beginning. Because the Church is true, and I happen to have an inspired testimony, I'm certain that could not possibly be so. Why would true prophets be liars? The correct answer, of course, is that they wouldn't. The liars are those who call them liars.

I hope that the Mormon-Library list learns the truth from this debate between Brothers Kimball and Mitton. Somehow I doubt they will. Usually such debate generates more heat than light, maybe that is why I enjoy it so much. I think I'll go discuss this blog post on my own email discussion list, The Friends of FARMS. The slant is a little different there, and if this debate generates enough heat, maybe my little list will enjoy some much needed traffic. I know there are many illustrious lurkers there.

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54 Responses to FARMS vs. the Signaturi

  1. Kris says:

    I love Brother Redelf’s passion in defending the Church.

  2. Joseph says:

    I think some people are discovering that the iron rod can be a good tool for beating people you do not agree with. What happened to “loving the people into living righteously” and “turning the other cheek”?

  3. truth seeker says:

    Wow, John W. Redelfs is a lot like a pharisee don’t you think?

    I am someone who loves the prophets. However I recognize that they can be human as well. Did not the Bible speak of the human flaws of Jonah, David, Peter, and those others of the Lord’s annointed. Oh maybe we should delete those. After all, they show these inspired men in a bad light. Maybe we should also take out Lehi’s murmering in the Book of Mormon. Talk about digging up dirt on prophets and apostles in holy scriptures.

  4. D-Train Says:

    Also, do you really think that these people have decided to work against Christ? Shoot, they may have. I don’t know. But it seems like you’d have to be pretty convinced of that in order to believe the stuff above.

    I believe that many of them do not realize that they are working against Christ, but that is what they are doing nevertheless. And they are motivated by the influence of an evil spirit to do it. They do not decide to work against Christ, but the do decide to do what they do. And what they do is work against Christ and his work upon the earth. I feel really bad for them because they are in the clutches of the devil and don’t even know it in most cases. He deludes them and manipulates them. And in the end he is going to enjoy tormenting them both in this life and in the life to come. He will take great sadistic pleasure in that. I would do anything that I could to free them from the awful chains with which they are bound. I feel genuine compassion for such people because I know that their future is not good. They are well on their way to a very painful place, not a tormet that will last forever, but long enough for them to do some really terrible suffering. It would be a great act of mercy and love if I could persuade some of them to repent of their sins while there is still time. Unfortunately, I have not found that speaking the truth to these people is very persuasive. Many of them seem so committed to evil that they cannot even see the danger they are in. They cannot even see that what they are doing is wrong, or that what they are committed to is evil.

    That is what happens when a person or a people turn away from great light. And the Latter-day Saints have enjoyed great light indeed, more light than any other human beings in history since the earliest years of Christianity in ancient times.

  5. D-Train wrote:
    May I humbly suggest that:

    1) Judging the hearts of others is a pointless exercise at best. Those who are trying to tear down the Church (and we DON’T know precisely who they are) will be judged. It’s not for us to be smug and start heaping the coals upon them. If there are any coals to be heaped, I’m confident that God Himself can handle it.

    I am not smug. I just know that it is wrong to fight against the Kingdom of God on earth and doing so will not produce any good fruit for those engaged in it.

    D-Train also wrote:
    2) Legitimate questions are different than trying to tear down the Church. I don’t defend any specific person as having “legitimate questions”, but wish to suggest that our history is not as unproblematic as you seem to think.

    Which history are you talking about? Who wrote it? What spirit motivated him? Which “facts” did he choose to report in his history? How certain are you that the original sources, those who actually wrote the diaries, or newspaper stories, or letters upon which the history was based actually understood what happened or reported it accurately?

    History is a very slippery thing depending on who is telling the story. And a lot of people think they know a great deal more about it than they really do. Further, much of what they think they know is wrong. Ultimately, true history can only be told by someone who is omniscient. Do you know anyone like that? I don’t. Only God is omniscient. And therefore the prophets should know history better than anyone alive since they have more information by revelation from God than anyone else.

    And D-Train wrote:
    There are many who have received no spiritual witness of the Church and wonder of these things. There are many who have received some witness of the Savior, the Church, or both, but still need answers regarding some specific things (or some general things). Let’s not get caught in the trap of assuming that all who have different views or who take an unorthodox position regarding the Church are awful. There’s no need and no point.

    I don’t think they are awful. I just think they are wrong because I have received a spiritual witness, repeatedly over so many years that I cannot deny it. And I KNOW that those who use Church history to refute Mormonism are motivated by the wrong spirit. They don’t need to get “answers regarding some specific things.” What they need is to learn from the Holy Ghost whether or not Joseph Smith was an honest man telling the truth about the First Vision and the gold plates. And that is not something they can learn from studying history. That is something they can only learn directly from God as an answer to honest prayers.

    D-Train wrote:
    3) As Latter-Day Saints, we should care more about our flaws than the flaws of our brethren.


    D-Train wrote:
    I would humbly submit that it should be a bigger deal to us if we commit a “minor sin” in lying about history (which I don’t see as a minor sin, given the terrible effects that this can have on the faith of others when discovered) than if someone else tries to destroy the Church altogether.

    I disagree. If you had a testimony, you would disagree too. Far more people are turned away from the gospel by critics who focus almost exclusively on digging for dirt in Church history than by the few who are occasionally driven to “lie” about Church history by leaving negative stuff out of the record. And those who have real testimonies received by personal revelation from the Holy Ghost are in no danger of losing their “faith” when they find out the “truth” about the history of the Church. If that were so, I would have lost my testimony long, long ago. The past 13 years online in the Mormon community has been a barrage of negative “facts” about Church history. And none of it is comes even close to altering the “fact” that Joseph Smith was an honest man telling the truth about the First Vision and the gold plates.

    If finding out about the “truth” of Church history will destroy the faith of a Latter-day Saint, he must not have much confidence in the personal revelations that he receives. Either than or he is just faking it and has not in fact received those revelations. Either way, a person who actually has a real testimony doesn’t need to worry about the “facts” of Church history overturning his faith, nor will his faith be overturned by learning that our leaders have not always told all they knew about Church history when presenting the history of the Church. I think you are worrying about nothing. It is a straw man. At least it seems to be a straw man from my perspective. Most of those who devote their lives to “educating” the faithful saints about the dirt in the history of the Church, don’t care anything about their testimonies anyway. So it is hypocritical for them to worry about what effect later revelations will have on the faithful when they make these amazing discoveries that our Church leaders have been keeping from us. Besides, all these “facts” may not actually be facts in every case. One man’s “facts” are another man’s personal opinion

    D-Train wrote:
    We can call spades spades, but in so doing, let’s be reasonable. Let’s be humble enough to admit that we don’t have all the answers and wise enough to know that answering every charge in Palmer or Quinn or whoever doesn’t have a lot to do with successful missionary work. Let’s take the best (and, above all, honest and charitable) positions that we can on difficult issues and let individuals exercise their agency to sort it all out.

    I have never claimed, nor do I suppose that I have all of the answers. But I do have some of them. Most importantly I have an answer from the Lord himself about whether or not Joseph Smith was an honest man who told the truth about the First Vision and the gold plates. I also know by the same source that Gordon B. Hinckley is actually what faithful Mormons claim he is, a spokesman for Jesus Christ chosen by Jesus Christ himself through prophecy and revelation to lead his Church today. Once I have those two answers, I don’t even need to ask a lot of the other questions because I already know the answers to them. Truth never contradicts truth. If 2+2=4, it never equals 5. If Joseph Smith was a true prophet and so is Gordon B. Hinckley, then a lot of the history that is written to challenge that must be bad history. It MUST be because truth is one great whole. It is never self-contradictory.

    D-Train wrote:
    My beef, John, is not with the orthodox position, but with the idea that any argument that supports that conclusion must be right.

    But I make no such claim. I do not believe that every claim that supports the truthfulness of the Church is right. But I do believe that every claim that seeks to overturn that proposition is irrelevant whether it is true or not.

  6. D-Train says:

    Also, do you really think that these people have decided to work against Christ? Shoot, they may have. I don’t know. But it seems like you’d have to be pretty convinced of that in order to believe the stuff above.

  7. D-Train says:

    John W. Redelfs,

    May I humbly suggest that:

    1) Judging the hearts of others is a pointless exercise at best. Those who are trying to tear down the Church (and we DON’T know precisely who they are) will be judged. It’s not for us to be smug and start heaping the coals upon them. If there are any coals to be heaped, I’m confident that God Himself can handle it.

    2) Legitimate questions are different than trying to tear down the Church. I don’t defend any specific person as having “legitimate questions”, but wish to suggest that our history is not as unproblematic as you seem to think. There are many who have received no spiritual witness of the Church and wonder of these things. There are many who have received some witness of the Savior, the Church, or both, but still need answers regarding some specific things (or some general things). Let’s not get caught in the trap of assuming that all who have different views or who take an unorthodox position regarding the Church are awful. There’s no need and no point.

    3) As Latter-Day Saints, we should care more about our flaws than the flaws of our brethren. I would humbly submit that it should be a bigger deal to us if we commit a “minor sin” in lying about history (which I don’t see as a minor sin, given the terrible effects that this can have on the faith of others when discovered) than if someone else tries to destroy the Church altogether. We can call spades spades, but in so doing, let’s be reasonable. Let’s be humble enough to admit that we don’t have all the answers and wise enough to know that answering every charge in Palmer or Quinn or whoever doesn’t have a lot to do with successful missionary work. Let’s take the best (and, above all, honest and charitable) positions that we can on difficult issues and let individuals exercise their agency to sort it all out.

    My beef, John, is not with the orthodox position, but with the idea that any argument that supports that conclusion must be right.

  8. The Church is true in the sense that it was personally organized by Jesus Christ in direct person-to-person contact with the founding prophet, Joseph Smith. And in the sense that it is the only Church upon the earth that possesses the authority delegated by Jesus Christ through the priesthood to act and speak in his name. Every other person or church that speaks in the name of Jesus Christ is using His name in vain because they have no authority to speak for him as do the prophets of the Church headed by Gordon B. Hinckley. This can all be easily proven by anyone sincere person who will inquire of the Lord to see if it is the truth.

    Keeping this in mind, any person or organization that tries to use "facts" or "the truth" to tear down the Church or the faith in Jesus Christ and His church held by his followers is trying to spread a lie in the world whether he realizes it or not. And in a sense that makes him a liar. It is one thing to makes mistakes as we all do, or even to commit sins as we all do, it is another thing altogether to try to overturn the work of Jesus Christ in the earth either intentionally or unintentionally. Doing such a thing is doing the devil's work.

    Now I agree that the saints should be scrupulously honest in their efforts to defend the faith as the people at FARMS so valiantly do. We should never lie about the history of the Church or about those who are trying to overthrow it if we can successfully resist the temptation to do so. However, it should be clear to anyone that the sin of lying to protect the Church, in those cases where it has not been commanded or authorized by the Savior, is of an entirely different magnitude from the sin of trying to overthrow his work upon the earth even if the attempt is done using "facts" and accurate history to do so.

    Men are not judged by God only for their acts but also by what motivates their acts, or in other words, by the desires of their hearts. The Savior said,

    "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

    "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake."

    It is anti-Mormon and anti-Christian persecution to dig through the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in an attempt to find "facts" and "the truth" that can be used to overthrow the faith of the members of the Church. If the Savior had not set up this Church and used it to perform essential ordinances without which a person cannot be saved and to teach his gospel without the doctrinal errors that are present in every other religion, then trying to "expose" the dirt in Church history would be doing all of the saints a loving service. And I'm sure that is what many ignorant people imagine they are doing when they dig through Church history looking for dirt.

    But the fact is, the Savior did set up the Church which the Mormons belong to. And He did authorized it to teach his perfect gospel, something that is not taught anywhere else. And because of this, those who think they are doing the Mormons a big favor to spend their lives trying to "prove" the Church is false are engaging in exactly the kind of anti-Christ persecution which the Savior tells his followers they will be blessed for. It is anti-Christian persecution and nothing else.

    Even if Louis Midgley steps over the line, which I do no think he has, it is merely a case of being overly zealous in a good cause, a minor sin. Those who drive faithful saints to such excess, on the other hand, are the most wicked of the wicked. They do not content themselves with committing the sin of breaking their covenants, or refusing the call of the Savior to "come unto Him," but are actually fighting against him with those who are enlisted in the army of the Adversary.

    If excessive zeal in defending the right is a sin, then seeking to tear down the Lord's work on the earth is a much, much greater sin. I call all those to repentance who do this. And humbly suggest that they study something else like ancient Egyptian history, or languages, or space science… anything but a focused study designed to overthrow what cannot be overthrown, namely, the work of God as it is unfolding in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    If you kick against the pricks, all you will get is a broken foot and the Savior's anger. Believe me, that is something you do not want. The scriptures are clear that in the last days Jesus Christ is not going to return as the meek and lowly Lamb that he was in the meridian of time. He is coming back as a conqueror who will put all of his enemies beneath his feat. Be a friend to Him and to His servants, the Latter-day Saints.

  9. D-Train says:

    I should clarify: that argument was made on this thread. I don’t know if Midgley made it, although I sort of doubt he did.

  10. D-Train says:

    John F.,

    I buy into that. I don’t have a specific issue with Midgley’s review (which I haven’t honestly read), but with the argument that we should accept the FARMS piece in whole because it defends the Church and that we should condemn Palmer and his piece because he asks questions about it. I don’t have a problem with Midgley asking about the Paul Pry issue at all, although it doesn’t seem like a deal breaker to me.

  11. john f. says:

    D-Train, Midgley’s approach of pointing out Palmer’s earlier pen name and the existence of an anti-Mormon tabloid with the same name is valid. Where he probably went wrong was in associating Palmer’s faith in Jesus with anything pejorative.

  12. john f. says:

    RT, the coincidence is not that there is more than one Paul Pry. The coincidence is that there happens to be a Paul Pry that parodies and satirizes the Book of Mormon, contemporaneous with the book’s publication, and Palmer chose Paul Pry as a pen name under which to criticize the Book of Mormon. If Palmer really was not aware of the (convenient) anti-Mormon source which he claims he unintentionally channeled, then this is certainly a coincidence. Is it really equally plausible that “Paul Pry” stems from “PALmer” and “intellectual job to PRY”?

  13. D-Train says:

    I just want to say that I think this “any rhetoric or argument that purports to defend the Church must be right” position is just putrid. Not only does it allow us as members of the Church to say and do things that aren’t right (and that we KNOW aren’t right), it doesn’t distinguish between those who are really out to get the Church and those who have questions of whatever level of sincerity. We’re better than that.

    Whether you agree or disagree with Palmer’s positions in the interview on Mormon Stories or in his book, you can’t claim, as John R. is doing, that the Church is just trying to keep these matters in the family. We’re not dealing with them in the family either. Even if the brethren are perfectly, one hundred percent right in how they handle our history, why must we then poorly defend the faith by coming up with half-cocked, ad hominem attacks? Why don’t we just take the high road and say “we don’t want to talk about it, but we believe that Palmer’s wrong and we have faith in that. End response.”?

    To summarize:

    If John is right and the brethren are perfect in their handling of our history, ought we not follow their example by NOT ripping Palmer in print, NOT bringing this crap up at every chance, and NOT getting into the mud with the “Signaturi”?

    If John is wrong, let’s have the debate.

  14. KLC says:


    I interpret Midgeley’s reference to Palmer’s “sentimentality about Jesus” differently. I understood him to be saying that Palmer had sentimentalized his faith in Jesus in compensation for losing faith in the church, not that his faith in Christ was merely sentimental. In other words, he was not attacking Palmer’s faith in Christ, he was commenting on the Anglicanized overemphasis on a victorian Christ that Palmer seems to have created to fill the void once occupied by the restoration. And after listening to all three hours of John Dehlin’s interview with Palmer I have to say that I tend to agree with Midgeley.

  15. […] Midgley’s Preliminary Response to Roasted Tomatoes Note from John W. Redelfs: Louis Midgley has offered to write a guest post on The Iron Rod early next week relative to the current discussion taking place in the comments to my "FARMS vs. the Signaturi" which I posted on Tuesday. Here are some preliminary remarks which he has asked me to post for him this morning. He promises us more after the weekend. […]

  16. Kimball L. Hunt says:

    John, I owe you a SUPER duper-ly sincere apology re a few of my statements above! As for some reason my statements BOTH to Times & Seasons AND to By Common Consent have ALSO all been put in arbitration! (Wow! Which only proves how quickly folks like me — or maybe anyone? — start to formulate conspiracy theories!)

    Anyway, thanks again for your blog! & I think you’re a really GREAT guy!

    Sincerely — Kimball Hunt (a bloggernacle “obsessive.” Smiles.)

  17. Note: a typo in my last comment “say anything” should read “say much of anything.”

  18. John F., I see no reason to regard it as very lucky at all. The Paul Pry name was quite common in the 19th century. And the Paul Pry newspaper had almost nothing to do with Mormonism. Midgley–in my view–overstates the Mormon relevance of the Paul Pry newspaper, which tends to increase the sense of coincidence. But when we accept that there is a large number of possible sources for the Paul Pry name, that the one Midgley is interested in is obscure enough that he made significant errors of fact in discussing it, and that it didn’t even say anything about Mormonism, well, I have to say that there isn’t a coincidence to speak of.

  19. john f. says:

    What is curious to me is that you tend to see it as a meaningless coincidence. If it is a coincidence, then it was truly a very lucky and random coincidence for Midgley. From my experience with reception history of documents and literature, that kind of coincidence just doesn’t happen; if it does happen, it is very very rare, which stretches my faith in the possibility of it happening in this situation where we are supposed to believe that Palmer is just an innocent victim of circumstances that allowed a hostile reviewer to connect his penname to an anti-Mormon publication.

  20. John F., I don’t dispute Midgley’s motives; however, I’m suggesting that Midgley’s desire to express his negative reactions caused him to overreach. The language I quoted above in my view violates social norms about how to discuss other people’s religious faith; I can see no justification for such language, regardless of our motives. In light of Midgley’s evident willingness to overstep bounds in his review, it doesn’t at all surprise me that he saw extensive significance in what may well have been a meaningless coincidence.

    If Palmer had chosen Obadiah Dogberry, Jr., as his alias, I would agree that Midgley had a point. I can’t find record of any meaningful Obadiah Dogberry reference other than the anti-Mormon one. Furthermore, Dogberry’s newspaper was unambiguously anti-Mormon and of major historical importance. But for the Paul Pry alias, there are multiple viable sources. Furthermore, the articles in question have minimal anti-Mormon content and are a historical footnote at best. It is of course possible that Palmer nevertheless chose the alias for anti-Mormon reasons. However, there’s no evidence that he did so; given that he denies it and there are plausible alternative explanations, this point should rationally be disregarded altogether.

    Let me note that I find Palmer’s explanation that he chose the alias because it fit his last name entirely plausible. One possibility, which also seems reasonable to me, is that Palmer heard the name with reference to Paul Pry’s Weekly Bulletin but didn’t remember the source. That possibility (along with the London, Washington, D.C., and other possible sources) would make Palmer entirely innocent of anti-Mormon intentions with the alias.

  21. john f. says:

    What it reveals is that Midgley doubts Palmer’s professed faith in Jesus based on Palmer’s actions in writing Insider’s View. I would guess that is the reason for the condescending rhetoric.

  22. Kimball Hunt says:


    I used an endearment for professor Midgley (who, incidentally, endears me through his — as does Redelfs –actually engaging in debate instead of merely ignoring it, as most would be defenders do?) — and thereafter my posts (e.g., one referencing brother Bushman’s occasionally referencing Quinn) WON’T SUBMIT? Which sorta has me questioning the commitment to discussion on this board.

    Hmm —

  23. John F., my point is that Midgley doesn’t seem to have any limits, in the Palmer piece, as to what he’s willing to attack. He doesn’t just question the link between Palmer’s historical writing and his alleged faith in Christ; he actually characterizes Palmer’s expression of (in Palmer’s words) “faith” in Christ on the basis of internal experience as “an emotional attachment,” “some emotions about Jesus,” “a fondness for Jesus,” and “sentimentality about Jesus.” Is this not derogatory language? In my view, such language–whatever else its function in an argument–certainly does denigrate Palmer’s faith in Christ.

  24. Kimball L. Hunt says:

    Well, Gunnison:

    Midgely endears me ‘caus he forthrightly engages in debate — rather than just ignoring it, as most would be defenders do?

  25. Pete says:

    I am disturbed that RT has closed the public comments on his Midgley post. My gut reaction is that he is concerned his argument is exposed to the type of common sense-Occam’s razor-analysis posited by John F. above and that he didn’t want to take any personal guff over his defense of Palmer/criticism of Midgley. RT told me, however, that the reason he closed the comments was essentially to protect the church from the personal attacks that would surely follow in the debate between FARMS criticizers and defenders.


    On a more substantive note, RT defends Palmer (and criticizes Midgley) primarily by defending Palmer’s claim that the “Paul Pry” pen name he once used to publish Book of Mormon criticisms “was not selected for anti-Mormon reasons.” Midgley is incredulous of Palmer’s claim based on the existence of this 1829 “Paul Pry” publication from Rochester, New York, which satirized, if not outrightly mocked, Joseph Smith and the “Golden Bible” . RT, on the other hand, has no problem believing Palmer’s claim that the “Paul Pry” name he used was inspired only by a London theatrical character, his last name “PALmer”, and his “intellectual job to PRY”.

    Midgley, according to RT, made an error in associating the Rochester Paul Pry publication with 19th century religious critic Anne Royall. RT points to this
    Library of Congress Information Bulletin as evidence that Royall had nothing to do with the Paul Pry publication referred to by Midgley. According to the bulletin, Royall, lived on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. and was found guilty of a court charge there in June of 1829. Therefore, RT concludes that Royall 1) “was living in Washington, D.C., at the end of June, 1829”; and 2) was likely not “simultaneously publishing a small, rural newspaper in upstate New York.”

    RT’s analysis conveniently ignores evidence in the LOC bulletin that suggests the plausibility of a connection between Anne Royall’s Paul Pry newspaper, which “dedicated itself to exposing political corruption and religious fraud” and the Paul Pry of upstate New York. The LOC biography describes Royall as an avid traveler of the Eastern United States. Beginning in 1824 she traveled to numerous Eastern cities, including New York and Albany, soliciting subscriptions and taking notes before returning to Washington in 1829.

    Without conducting in-depth historical research, it is incredibly presumptuous to conclude that there was no connection between the two publications but that, instead, it is purely coincidental that they both use the “Paul Pry” name.

    Of course, whether or not Midgley erred in associating the Rochester Paul Pry publication with Royall, that leaves the additional amazing coincidence that Palmer criticized the Book of Mormon under the pen name “Paul Pry” while having no knowledge of the 1829 Paul Pry publication maligning Joseph Smith’s “Golden Bible”.

  26. Kimball L. Hunt says:

    Bravo, John!

    . . . Yet what’s amazing about brother Bushman ((who’s said to reference Quinn in places!)) is his doin’ NOT NECESSARILY faith-promoting history — almost with the Brethrens’ primateur?

  27. “FARMS isn’t a monolith” — well worth remembering.

  28. john f. says:

    RT, is Midgley really attacking Palmer’s faith in Christ? I don’t see it. He seems to be pointing out, perhaps clumsily, that Palmer is taking the interesting route of claiming to be seeking a relationship with Christ by “disproving” official LDS history etc.

    Be careful not to play Midgley’s game by casting aspersions on Midgley if that is what you are criticizing him for doing.

    My reading of it is that Midgley is not denigrating Palmer’s faith in Christ but perhaps questioning the sincerity of it. That is a different matter. I also suspect that what Midgley is doing with this is pointing out that Palmer can’t hide behind a professed faith in Christ to escape (valid) criticisms of what appear to be his motivations in his writing (i.e. to use his “insider” status to convince people that he somehow has a view that should be listened to as inherently authoritative when, at best, his anti-Mormon material is unoriginal).

  29. Doc says:

    Hey guys, give RT a break. I really, really don’t agree with any of Palmer’s conclusions but I think there are much more civil, christlike ways to express that than attacking and impuging his integrity. Personal attacks and distortion of another’s point of view, aren’t those the tactics of the most dishonest and obnoxious anti-mormon rhetoric. We don’t need counter rhetoric. We need reason, faith, testimony, and the spirit. Too much apologetics stoops to the level of its competition. But not the truth of God, It goes forth boldly, nobly and independant.

  30. How can a person profess to have faith in Christ if he rejects those whom Christ has chosen and sent into the world as his authorized spokesmen, his true prophets? Logically, if Christ has done as the Latter-day Saints claim and restored his priesthood and chosen true prophets to lead that priesthood by prophecy and revelation as we claim in the Articles of Faith, then anyone who is against those prophets is also against Christ. Is it not so? Did not Palmer teach this fundamental principle clearly laid out in the Doctrine and Covenants and in the Book of Mormon for many years as a CES professional? If he did not believe what he was teaching, we already know how honest he is. And if he did believe what he was teaching, then his opposition to the way that the Church tells its own history is also opposition to Christ. Is it not so?

    It is perfectly reasonable for Louis Midgley to doubt the sincerity of such a man when he starts gushing about how much he loves Jesus. If he did, then he would honor, follow and be loyal to those whom Jesus has chosen and sent. Is that not clear?

    A person cannot follow Jesus by rejecting His prophets. Duh.

  31. Gunnison says:

    “The Midge”? Pretty childish, Kimball Hunt. Doncha think?

    I’m sure that it was just sheer good luck on Midgley’s part that “Paul Pry” turned out to be the name of somebody who mocked the Book of Mormon AND the pseudonym chosen by Grant Palmer. Pure coincidence.

    I believe, Roasted Tomatoes. Help thou mine unbelief.

  32. John F., yes, in my opinion, it’s a scrupulously accurate representation. In a line I quoted in my review, Midgley says:

    “I suspect that Palmer might have experienced a sense of loss as he has abandoned the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith’s prophetic truth claims. He appears to have filled the empty space generated by his cynicism with sentimentality about Jesus.”

    This is part of a 5-paragraph section in which Midgley inveighs against Palmer’s “faith” in Jesus Christ–which Midgley, but evidently not Palmer, finds to be incompatible with a revisionist perspective on Mormon history. Why would Midgley want to attack Palmer’s faith in Christ or belittle it as “sentimentality”? Would a person who adopts such rhetorical tactics fail to take maximum tactical advantage of even a trivial coincidence? It seems to me that the answer must be no.

  33. Dave you say that Palmer did not call the leaders of the Church liars. You quibble. The whole Signaturi crowd imply the dishonesty of our Church leaders with every breath they take. I’ve watched it online for over 13 years. Adoring D. Michael Quinn and the so-called New Mormon Historians, they consider it dishonest to leave out anything that might be considered airing the Church’s dirty laundry. And don’t tell me that Palmer doesn’t do this himself. If he didn’t, he would not be so jealously defended in Signaturi circles. He along with many others among the unfaithful feel they have a better right to tell the history of the Church than the men who make that history. They consider our Church leaders to be dishonest because of what they choose to leave out. They feel they should be in charge of telling the history of the Church instead of the prophets themselves. I imagine that Laman and Lemuel and their descendants felt the same way about the way that Nephi and his descendants told the story of the Church in their day.

    All history has to be told from some point of view. Why should the Brethren tell it from any other point of view but their own? It is far more likely to be accurate than the history of the Church told by its critics and dissidents. They are far more honest. Besides, God approves of the way they tell the history of the Church, otherwise they would tell it in some other way. Why would the Savior choose these men to lead His restored Church unless he approved of their slant on things? That doesn’t make any sense at all. And saying that God does not approve, is just another way of saying they are false prophets who were not chosen by the Savior for the callings they have. You can’t have it both ways. Either these men are true prophets and they are telling the history of the Church just as they should be telling it, or they are false prophets and the whole Church and all of its leaders are just a pack of lies told by liars. And I have a certain witness of the Holy Ghost that these men are true prophets. So I cannot logically join with Grant Palmer and his many friends in faulting the Brethren in how they tell the story of Church history.

    Attacks upon the way the Church tells its own history are just attacks upon the validity of its message, and attacks upon He who chose these men as His spokesmen to mankind. Sometimes it is called religious persecution. Well, calling it by some other name doesn’t alter what it really is.

  34. john f. says:

    RT, is that an accurate representation? Be honest.

  35. Given the tone of Midgley’s review as a whole, I think that it is highly probable that Midgley would have used any coincidence–no matter how trivial–to excoriate Palmer. I mean, Midgley even reprimanded Palmer for professing faith in Jesus Christ!

  36. john f. says:

    Did Midgley imply that plausible alternative explanations did not exist?

    What do you believe is the probability that, given the content of Palmer’s pen-name material, Palmer just happened to choose a pen name that was also the title of an 1829 rag that scorned the “Golden Bible”?

    Is it your view that Midgley simply got lucky by stumbling on this little tidbit of history, thus allowing him to excoriate Palmer? Is that more likely than that Palmer is being disingenuous in identifying his inspiration for Paul Pry?

  37. John F., I think there are a few points in response to your question. First, the “Paul Pry” name was pretty widespread and popular in the 19th century. The London theatrical character (original source of the name), the D.C. paper, and the upstate New York paper are merely three of many, many examples. So it isn’t that much of a coincidence that one Paul Pry wrote something connected with Mormonism; there were just tons of Paul Prys.

    Second, since publishing my review, I’ve discovered that Dan Vogel has identified the publisher of the New York “Paul Pry’s Weekly Bulletin.” The publisher was Jeremiah O. Bloch (See Early Mormon Documents, Vol. 2, page 224).

    Third, even if Palmer did name himself after Paul Pry’s Weekly Bulletin, there’s still a problem of argumentation. The Paul Pry articles connected with early Mormonism aren’t substantive at all. They don’t discuss Mormon events or argue against Mormonism. In fact, they rarely mention Mormonism. They adopt a pseudo-Book of Mormon language style as a humorous element, but theyare almost entirely about local gossip. As examples of anti-Mormonism, they are marginal to say the least.

    Of course, it remains possible that Grant Palmer chose the “Paul Pry” name to convey anti-Mormonism. Nonetheless, it’s simply true that plausible alternative explanations exist.

  38. john f. says:

    (I’m leaving this comment/question here since RT has closed his review to comments.)

  39. Kimball L. Hunt says:

    The Midge actually sent in a quickie heya post over at Times & Season’s once (in a thread where “he” was being ardently debated) — cool, huh!

  40. john f. says:

    Well, given that Palmer chose the psuedonym Paul Pry under which to publish his material, Midgley sure got lucky in his FARMS review that there happened to be an anti-Mormon publication with the name of Paul Pry offering contemporary criticism and contempt for the “Golden Bible”. What a lucky coincidence for Midgley! Here, Midgely is, writing a review of Palmer — who also wrote under the name Paul Pry criticizing the truth claims of the Book of Mormon and the religious tradition that espouses that book — and what does he discover (out of the billions and billions of things in this world) but that there happens to be this 1829 Paul Pry criticizing the Golden Bible of Joseph Smith.

    RT, I was surprised you thought in your review of Midgley that it was more likely that this turn of events was a lucky coincidence for Midgley than that Palmer was channeling the 1829 Paul Pry intentionally. Your evidence for this seemed to be Palmer’s word on who he was emulating and the fact that she was in Washington D.C. during some of the time that the New York Paul Pry was being published. But if we are to believe Palmer, then don’t we have to believe that Midgley got really, really lucky that there was this coincidence that would allow him to cast such aspersions? What is the probability that there would just happen to be an anti-Mormon publication, contemporaneous with the publication of the Book of Mormon itself, that had the same name as Palmer’s pseudonym?

    Is it just a matter of faith, then, that Palmer was not channeling the 1829 Paul Pry as Midgley points out is likely?

  41. Dave says:

    John, Palmer did not call leaders of the Church liars. What he did was disagree with how they recount the history of the Church (or set the parameters by which “approved” LDS books can tell the history). I think you put things he didn’t say in his mouth because it’s easier for you to demonize him that way. But you don’t have to demonize him to disagree with him.

    Ironically, by the end of your response it is *you* who is practically accusing LDS leaders of lying: “If they ever lie, it is to protect the Church.” The Church really doesn’t need that sort of protection. Paul Dunn, as you recall, felt he was serving the Church by his “exaggerated” storytelling — how much good did that do the Church? Good intentions will get you somewhere, but not always where you expect.

  42. Gunnison says:

    I’ve been following what some critics of the Church have been saying about this, and they seem to believe that if Midgley’s review can be shown to be flawed (which may or not have actually happened), ALL of the FARMS reviews of Palmer (by James Allen, Mark Ashurst-McGee, Davis Bitton, and Steven Harper) can be dismissed.

    But that doesn’t make much sense — especially because the other reviewers are very different in their approaches.

  43. Geoff J says:

    I hope you had a good puke-fest John. Wretching can occasionally make a man feel better.

    I also think Palmer is full of crap. But I don’t think RT is in the wrong or wicked to point out untruths or factual errors in Midgley’s review. Brother Brigham was right when he said we embrace all truth in Mormonism. If Midgley made a mistake in the review how does ackowledging that fact hurt the church? Why not let truth speak for itself? It seems to me that doing anything else (like lying to “protect the church”) does the church much more damage in the long run.

  44. Kimball L. Hunt says:

    I’m glad you’re on the bloggernacle, John. Yours is a much needed voice! It’s important to have all important views aired and you’re doing a pretty good job of advocating yours, I think — Thanks!

  45. I also have been involved in disciplinary councils, and I have seen a high council unanimously sustain the decision of the stake president to give a fellow the benefit of the doubt even though he was clearly not repentant because of all the self-justification that he was indulging in during his council. It just means that he will go on doing what he is not supposed to be doing, and his priesthood leaders will have to deal with it later. It is sometimes called persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness and meekness, and love unfeigned. Or in other words, patience. It is required by the Lord as explained in the 121st Section of the Doctrine and Covenants.

    Also, a judge in Israel has to take into consideration how big a threat the man’s apostasy is to the other members of the stake. An excommunication for apostasy is not only for the benefit of the offender, it is also for protecting the flock. It may be that Grant Palmer was not considered much of a threat to the saints who knew him, and the other members of his stake. That doesn’t mean it is OK to write a book that implies that the true “prophets, seers, and revelators,” who have been chosen by the Savior to lead his Church, are liars and dishonest about Church history. It just means that if Grant Palmer wants to get kicked out of the Church he is going to have to try harder. Apparently he hasn’t been sufficiently egregious to meet the high standards set by the Lord. He needs to sink lower, be more blatant, attack the Brethren more overtly. He is probably just not fully ripe in wickedness yet.

    I am extremely offended by those saints who continually imply that our Church leaders are liars just because they do not tell the history of the Church the way D. Michael Quinn wants them to, or the way that Grant Palmer wants them to. I know that the tares must be left to grow with the wheat because some of them might yet repent. But that doesn’t mean it is pleasant hearing and reading all the time about what liars our spiritual leaders are. Obviously, if the Holy Ghost wasn’t assuring us otherwise, most of the active membership of the Church would have fallen away by now. I know that my priesthood leaders are not liars. If they ever lie, it is to protect the Church. And that kind of lying isn’t any more dishonest than a military commander using deception in a battle.

    If I’m having some relationship problems with my wife or one of my children, and the local gossip asks me how things are going at home, am I a liar for saying, “Just fine?” Am I dishonest just because I want to keep family matters in the family instead of airing the dirty laundry in public? A person who wants to can dig up dirt on almost anyone who is mortal and above the age of eight. But why would he want to? What spirit motivates him? That is a rhetorical question for those too dense to realize it.

    The tares sicken me. They make me want to vomit.

  46. Reach Upward says:

    As one that has been involved with disciplinary councils, I cannot agree with Dave that simply because Palmer was not X’ed means that he’s one of the good guys. There’s a lot of ground between being a faithful member in good standing and being excommunicated. It does not logically follow that if you are not one, you must be the other. Priesthood leaders can (and often do) take action to address members on the road to apostasy without kicking them out of the church. That still doesn’t mean that the member is facing the right way on the road, only that their travel down the road hasn’t brought them to a dire destination–yet.

    If you read Palmer’s stuff, it’s little more than the same old tripe that has been hashed and addressed over and over again. When it comes right down to it, Palmer’s claims boil down to his faith that it happened the way he thinks it did. I frankly don’t understand folks like Palmer that think the church is wrong about certain extremely basic things upon which the church is built, and yet want to remain members. It seems to defy sanity.

  47. Johnna–there is a reason I looked at the Midgley review in particular; that “sentimentality about Jesus” line sticks with me. But the material that I discuss in the post is mostly stuff that I only discovered after I started doing a bit of research on what Midgley said. I haven’t done the equivalent research for any other FARMS essays, so I can’t say which are credible and which aren’t.

  48. Johnna says:

    Hi John,

    I remember there being something like four or five reviews of Grant Palmer’s book in that issue of FARMS and the one following. Perhaps there’s a reason RT is looking at Midgley’s review in particular.

    Perhaps later I’ll follow up your links on these latest hijinks and interesting gossip. It’s not a priority since I’ve made up my mind on Palmer and Midgley more than a year ago–neither have much credibility with me.

  49. Clark says:

    But John, wouldn’t you agree that even those arguing for the right side and having good intentions can still make poor arguments? It seems that this is a very different issue from whether the aims of FARMS are perhaps better than the aims of Palmer.

  50. Dave says:

    Midgley didn’t discuss things with Palmer privately, he published his analysis in the FARMS Review. So there’s nothing wrong with RT posting his own analysis of Midgley’s work. I happen to like Midgley. It’s possible to disagree with someone’s argument or perspective, yet still like them as a person, you know.

    And which side is Palmer on? He’s a member of the Church and fought to retain his membership when his local leaders held a disciplinary council. After six hours (what did they do, read the whole book?) Palmer was allowed to retain his membership. So obviously he’s not on Satan’s side, or fighting against the Church, or whatever terms you choose to apply to those you don’t agree with … he’s on our side! If you disagree, maybe you should address your complaints to Palmer’s priesthood leaders. Of course, then you’d be criticizing priesthood leaders yourself, wouldn’t you?

    John, I don’t have anything against your conservative approach to LDS doctrine and practice (it is certainly not out of step with the approach taken by many active LDS) — but you have to mellow out and agree that those who have a different perspective on LDS doctrine and practice than you do can nevertheless be Mormons in good standing.

  51. Kimball L. Hunt says:

    Lots of heat here! lol. (Still, I think your defense of the Church is at least logically consistent, John — since I’m an apostate wondering if there can really be much viability to some middle path between your stance & mine?)

    “Love” & good luck to ya! – KLH

  52. John, FARMS isn’t a monolith. It’s sometimes on the right side and sometimes not. When somebody distorts the truth–whether in service of the Mormon faith or against it–that person is not on the right side.

  53. I understand that. I’m just not sophisticated and “intellectual” enough to care. All I care about is who is on what side. And FARMS is on the right side. Palmer is not. Therefore, loyal priesthood holders will choose the side of those who are trying to defend the faith to the best of their ability. The Lord has enough trouble spreading his gospel in the world without people shining a light on all of the errors made by those whom the Lord has chosen to direct his work in the gathering of Israel in these last days. It is a matter of loyalty.

    If you had a problem with something that Midgley wrote, you should have discussed it with him privately, not added weight to Grant Palmer’s attacks upon the Brethren by finding fault with Midgley’s defense. This is a war that we are engaged in, and everybody has to take sides. The great War in Heaven is still going on here below. And we all have to take sides. Nobody gets to sit in the middle and score points for the enemy while pretending to some highfalutin academic objectivity.

    Tell me, why would you choose Midgley’s errors as a topic for a blog post in the first place? Do you think that is going to make a better friend out of Lou? Just your choice of topic betrays your prejudice.

  54. John, thanks for your comments on my post. I want to point out that, in my opinion, you've made an error of some importance. I haven't "taken sides with Grant Palmer against the Church." My post isn't directly about Grant Palmer, it's about Louis Midgley. Midgley's review is, I argue, flawed by some important errors of fact. It doesn't follow that Palmer's argument is right, only that Midgley's response is unreliable.

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