The Battle Of The Mormon Bookstores

July 13, 2006

Apparently some dispute has reached a head between Deseret Book and the bookstore chain primarily local to the Salt Lake City area, Seagull Book.  And Deseret Book has announced that it will no longer be selling Deseret Book publications through Seagull Book stores.  This has aroused a great deal of speculation in the Bloggernacle about what the real cause of the dispute might be, but there seems to be little hard evidence to answer the questions that are raised.

An interesting email from Keith Hunter, a Vice President of Sales and Development at Deseret Book, was written in answer to an inquiry from one of its authors.  And it is posted with permission on the blog, Six LDS Writers and A Frog.  Those of you who are interested in following this story may do so on a number of other blogs as well including the group blog, A Motley Vision: Mormon Arts and Culture, and Clevery Blogged.

I personally find it curious that in the various comment thread it is apparently assumed by many that these two giants of Mormon book sales are a closed system fighting over a market that is local to the central Mormon corridor along the Wasatch Front in Utah.  I would imagine that a lot of Deseret Books are sold by and other national and international booksellers.  Is that also true of Seagull Books?  I simply don’t know.  But it seems to me that a bookstore selling primarily Church books would have to go out of the business of selling Church books rather than discontinue selling books published by Deseret Books.  Does anyone reading this know if that is true?

This story is also being reported in the Salt Lake Tribune.

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What Are The Best Books?

July 12, 2006

At Meridian Magazine today, I read a column entitled “Reading the Prophets in Context” written by the respected Mormon historian, Davis Bitton. And in it he includes a valuable list of the standard compilations that have been made from the sermons of each of the Presidents of the Church from the time of Joseph Smith down to the present. But he does more than that, he asks us to consider what goes into such compilations and what we might be missing by failing to read the full text of the sermons from which they are compiled. He comments on our current reading in Relief Society and our Melchizedek Priesthood quorums and groups. How did the committees that compiled these works decide what to include, and what to leave out? I think this is a valuable article. The list of standard compilations alone is worth the effort to read this article. He also points the reader to The Discourses of President Gordon B. Hinckley which is the collected conference sermons of President Hinckley since he became president of the Church in 1995. There are already two volumes in print, and each sermon is included in its entirety, not merely a few snippets. Also, he points the reader to The Words of Joseph Smith published in 1980 edited by Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook. I have owned two copies in hardback of this work, and it is undoubtedly the most important book and one of the most interesting reads I have run across in the last twenty years. And while sadly it is now out of print and almost impossible to obtain, the same material is going to be published some time in the future as part of The Joseph Smith Papers which even now is being prepared for publication by the Church Historians Office. Also, it is available electronically on Deseret Book’s GospeLink website, and on the CD-ROMS that have come out in recent years. It is on my LDS Collector’s Library ’97 from the now defunct Infobases.

For those of you who might find it useful, I have a page on my Zion’s Best website that links to all of President Hinckley’s conference sermons on the official Church website. I haven’t updated it to include his sermons during 2005 and the conference we just had in 2006, but I will get to that in the next day or two. In the meanwhile, the rest of his sermons are there, and they might be useful to you until you can get a copy of the Discourses of President Gordon B. Hinckley mentioned in Brother Bitton’s article.

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When We Criticize The Brethren, Who Do We Hurt?

July 8, 2006

I just ran across the following quote from Dallin H. Oaks that I thought might be useful for some of the online saints:

Criticism is particularly objectionable when it is directed toward Church authorities, general or local. Jude condemns those who “speak evil of dignities.” (Jude 1:8.) Evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed is in a class by itself. It is one thing to depreciate a person who exercises corporate power or even government power. It is quite another thing to criticize or depreciate a person for the performance of an office to which he or she has been called of God. It does not matter that the criticism is true. As Elder George F. Richards, President of the Council of the Twelve, said in a conference address in April 1947, “When we say anything bad about the leaders of the Church, whether true or false, we tend to impair their influence and their usefulness and are thus working against the Lord and his cause.” (In Conference Report, April 1947, p. 24.)

The counsel against speaking evil of Church leaders is not so much for the benefit of the leaders as it is for the spiritual well-being of members who are prone to murmur and find fault. The Church leaders I know are durable people. They made their way successfully in a world of unrestrainedcriticism before they received their current callings. They have no personal need for protection; they seek no personal immunities from criticism-constructive or destructive. They only seek to declare what they understand to be the word of the Lord to his people. (Ensign, February 1987, p. 70.)

As we ponder these thoughts, we need to ask ourselves not whether we agree with them, or even if we like them. Rather, we need to ask whether there is a true principle being expressed. And if we have not already made up our minds, we might even ask Heavenly Father himself if there is truth here. He is not stingy with information that we actually need.

I testify that those who make the Lord’s work more difficult as he prepares mankind for the Second Coming will not be happy with the consequences. As much as the Lord loves every one of us without qualification, those who make the work more difficult for Him and his Church will fail whether they realize what they are doing or not. And it will be a painful failure as failure generally is.

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Midgley’s Response To An Attack On “Prying Into Palmer”

July 3, 2006

by Louis Midgley, guest contributor

When it was called to my attention that Roasted Tomatoes had posted on a blog an item entitled “Reviewing the FARMS Review: Midgley on Palmer,” I decided that I would respond. My first stab at doing this was reads as follows:

I rather like what has fashioned. He has spunk and has done some research and discovered a few things. I would enjoy having a conversation with him and others on my “Prying into Palmer” [FARMS Review 15/2 (2003): 365-410]. I will, if you will permit, fashion something responding to “Reviewing the FARMS Review: Midgley on Palmer” by Roasted Tomatoes (aka JNS). But I have to finish some editorial details on the editor’s introduction to the FARMS Review 18/1 (2006). This must be done this morning, and then I must attend a meeting of the Maxwell Institute people with Richard Bushman. Immediately after this meeting, my wife and I are leaving town for a couple of days–I am going fishing. When we return, I will draft something for you. I will have it to you on Monday. [This was obviously not possible.]

But I can say now that I agree with Roasted’s comments about Anne [Newport] Royall’s probably not being the editor of Paul Pry’s Weekly Bulletin. I was too confident that she had been the editor of that thing. I have been unable to figure out who it was. But, as Roasted indicates, it really does not matter. Probably Roasted does not know this, but I have already tried to address the problem of determining who the editor of that tabloid was. Who the editor was, as Roasted grants, is really not an important issue. And neither is the question of whether Grant Palmer knew that “Paul Pry” had anti-Mormon connections. He may or may not have known. However, his current effort to explain how he came up with that name is not all that plausible. And Roasted needs to ask himself if he has accurately represented the explanation that Palmer recently provided on that [Dehlin] Podcast. He needs to make and then post a transcript of the relevant portions of that interview. Why? My understanding is that Palmer indicated that on a holiday in London he visited the West End (the theatre district) and noticed the name Paul Pry on a leaflet giving tips on plays and musicals. I am confident that Palmer mentioned that he loves to travel and on one of his trips to London, which had to be prior to 1985, he found that name in the theatre district. Palmer will have to demonstrate that he was in London prior to his having adopted the name “Paul Pry” to hide his identify from CES.

His current explanation is not what he told me when I had a long phone conversation with him. Back then, what he said is that someone had suggested the name to him. He could not recall who it was. At that time he was very close to Brent Metcalfe and Ron Walker, who were then busy looking for anything they could find that would cast light on what turned out to be Mark Hoffman’s forged Salamander Letter. For example, it was Ron Walker who introduced Palmer to E. T. A. Hoffmann’s The Golden Pot. And it was that tale that got Palmer partly fueled his writing “New York Mormonism” under the name “Paul Pry Jr.” So who might have mentioned Paul Pry to Palmer? I do not know and he probably cannot recall. But it is likely that it was someone who was right then working on the very earliest published literature on Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. Paul Pry’s Weekly Bulletin was one of the very first such publications. Palmer’s most recent account of how he just happened to come up with Paul Pry as a handle, however, is much more plausible than his efforts to see the Moroni story in The Golden Pot.

[Note: I have silently corrected a few infelicities and added a few things in brackets.]


I very much appreciate the opportunity to respond to Roasted Tomatoes (hereafter Roasted) who insists that he has identified “important errors” in my essay entitled “Prying into Palmer,” FARMS Review 15/2 (2003): 365-410, and hence that my essay is flawed by important errors of fact. He insists that these errors demonstrate that my essay is unreliable, and then he suggests that he has thereby demonstrated a weakness in what is published in the FARMS Review. In making this leap, and it is a huge leap, he seems to have followed a talk given by John Hatch at a Sunstone conference, a version of which was immediately posted on the Signature Books webpage. That deeply flawed diatribe, entitled “Why I No Longer Trust FARMS,” is no longer posted on the Signature Book webpage. (No reason has been given for its removal.) Roasted does not seem to know that John Hatch is embarrassed by what he has admitted to me (in an email message that I am prepared, if challenged, to quote) was an immature rant. Read the rest of this entry »