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

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.

Roasted also maintains that his attack on me (and by extension on the FARMS Review) is not necessarily a defense of what Palmer has written. Whatever Roasted may believe, this claim is, for reasons that I will set forth, problematic. Why? In order to imagine that, except for one trivial instance, he has identified errors of fact in “Prying into Palmer,” as I will demonstrate at considerable length, Roasted has to take at face value whatever Palmer asserts in An Insider’s View and also what he has posted on the Signature Books webpage and recently in Dehlin’s recent interview with him. Roasted ends up defending Palmer, his book and also his probity, whether he knows it or not, when he attacks what I wrote about Palmer.

I will number my responses to the contentions offered by Roasted in his response to “Prying into Palmer.” (Incidentally, it does not bother me to have someone point out mistakes in something I have published. Instead, I am pleased to be corrected. And I am not annoyed if they take some pleasure in doing so. When one is engaged, as I am, in writing intellectual history, one should expect to be corrected by others.)

1a. Roasted has figured out that I mistakenly claimed that it was Anne Newport Royall (1769-1854) who was the editor of a Rochester, New York, newspaper entitled Paul Pry’s Weekly Bulletin. Recently I have been backing away from that opinion. I will explain why in excruciating detail. Roasted has set out some but not all of the reasons for my change of opinion on this matter.

1b. There is more that can be said about “Paul Pry” in Western New York newspapers in 1828-29. What I have discovered is that there was a gossipy newspaper in Rochester, New York, beginning in 1828, the first volume of which carried the title Paul Pry. It was published for a year as a biweekly. The second volume, published in 1829, was called Paul Pry’s Weekly Bulletin. This dreadful thing included a series entitled “From the Gold Bible.” This name is significant, since it contains the mocking name used by the very first critics of Joseph Smith to identify the Book of Mormon. This nasty little series began to appear in July 1829 under the subheading “Chronicles,” which included, as far as I have been able to determine, the following items:

“Chronicles–Chapter I,” Paul Pry’s Weekly Bulletin 2/12 (July 25, 1829);

“Chronicles–Chapter II,” Paul Pry’s Weekly Bulletin 2/13 (August 1, 1829);

“Chronicles–Chapter III,” Paul Pry’s Weekly Bulletin 2/14 (August 8, 1829);

“Chronicles–Chapter IV,” Paul Pry’s Weekly Bulletin 2/15 (August 29, 1829).

1c. Three of these contained sarcastic remarks about the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith. I have recently quoted one of these in “The First Steps,” FARMS Review 17/1 (2005):xi-lv at xxxvii n.#47. It is not known, or at least I do not know, who the editor of this paper was. But it matches somewhat the later famous series by Abner Cole (aka Dogberry) in the Palmyra Reflector. Dan Vogel, as I pointed out in “The First Steps,” thinks that Paul Pry’s Weekly Bulletin was edited by Jeremiah O. Block. But I am not as sure about this as is Vogel, who does not seem to realize that the name “Paul Pry” identifies a type and not a specific person. I have tried to back away from my earlier rash opinion about the identity of the editor of Paul Pry’s Weekly Bulletin.

1d. In addition to what I wrote in that footnote in “The First Steps,” I will now report that the following was printed in The Reflector [Palmyra, New York], 9 September 1829: “Paul Pry Esq. of the Rochester Bulletin, has suspended his editorial labors for the present, and intimates in his valedictory address, that his paper has been well supported, and that at some future day, the ‘Bulletin’ will again appear ‘on an improved and enlarged form.’” I find this puzzling. Why? Was this reference to the “Rochester Bulletin” an attempt to identify Paul Pry’s Weekly Bulletin? If so, why the garbled title? Or were there two different newspapers? I am not sure. I have tried to get this matter nailed down.

1e. Dan Vogel, in his remarkably useful, even if a tiny bit flawed, collection entitled Early Mormon Documents (see volume II), writes as follows: “In attacking Joseph Smith, Cole sometimes employed an imitation scriptural style. This style was not unique to Cole, for Paul Pry’s Weekly Bulletin of Rochester, edited by Jeremiah O. Block, used the technique a month before Cole began his paper” (p. 224). But employing a mock scriptural style (that is, crudely imitating the KJV for satirical reasons) was not, according to Matt Roper, all that unusual in newspapers at that time. Roper knows this literature far better than I do.

1f. Vogel then mentions the “Chronicles” series (see above), without noting that they all came under the heading “From the Gold Bible.” Instead, Vogel indicates that, “while the contents of Block’s satire’s have nothing directly to do with Mormonism, they allude to Joseph the prophet and the gold plates.” Please note the language I have emphasized. “Nothing directly to do” is a bit strong, since this is one of the very first printed sources mentioning Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. That series sets both the tone and direction of subsequent secular if not sectarian mockery of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. This is significant. In addition, I think that Vogel neglects to mention the curious series title “From the Gold Bible.”

1g. In a footnote, Vogel claims that “Cole names Block as the editor of the Rochester Bulletin, citing the Palmyra Freeman, 17 November 1829. The way I read this, Cole seems to say that Block was moving on and would be publishing a paper in Newark, which I believe he eventually did. Why? Vogel notes that “The Newark Republican was published by Jeremiah O. Block” (224 n#2). Unlike Vogel, I now do not now know who the editor of Paul Pry’s Weekly Bulletin was. It might have been Block or perhaps even Abner Cole or someone whose name I have never encountered.

1h. I am sure that at this point my reader, if I have still have such a thing, will be asking what any of this has to do with Roasted’s essay presumably thrashing me because he claim that “Prying into Palmer” is flawed by important errors of fact, which then somehow becomes the ground for dismissing the FARMS Review. The answer is that, as Roasted correctly points out, that “it would seem that Midgley was mistaken in connecting Royall and Paul Pry’s Weekly Bulletin.” This I grant. Then Roasted admits that “this evident mistake is not, of course, terribly significant in itself.” It was not, of course, significant either “in itself” or in any other way. Roasted seems to agree. He thinks that “it merely demonstrates the obscurity of the newspapers in question.” Perhaps he is also right on this matter. Roasted has thus managed to correct what he admits is a trivial mistake on my part. I am not quite clear on why my having made that insignificant mistake somehow discredits either my essay or the FARMS Review. Roasted must have something more in mind.

2a. Since he admits that it was a trivial mistake, why has Roasted made a fuss about my having identified the wrong person as editor of Paul Pry’s Weekly Bulletin? Roasted has an explanation, though not a very good one. He claims that this insignificant mistake is somehow “directly relevant to evaluating some of Midgley’s arguments about Palmer’s honesty.” Really? How is my trivial mistake relevant to anything?

2b. Please notice Roasted’s word “some.” He quotes an entire paragraph (from “Prying into Palmer,” 373-74) following the heading “‘Paul Pry Jr.’ and Grant Palmer,” where I report exactly what Palmer told me in a phone conversation of what he then could recall about his appropriation of the name “Paul Pry.” I indicated in “Prying into Palmer” that I have a very hard time, and I am confident others do as well, believing that he just happened somehow to stumble innocently onto the name “Paul Pry” without ever once comprehending its anti-Mormon significance. What would one think if one were to stumble onto a book manuscript in which a secretive author identified himself as “Obediah Dogberry Jr.” (aka Abner Cole) and especially if the contents turned out to be hostile to Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon? Would it not be plausible to surmise that the pseudonym signaled something? Would it not take overwhelming evidence of some sort, and not just a lame denial, to override the presumption that the author know at least something about that old “Gold Bible” series? Of course, such a one, in an effort at damage control, might claim that, since Dogberry can be found in Shakespeare, that is where the anti-Mormon author got the name. That would also be possible but not exactly believable. Given the fact that Paul Pry’s Weekly Bulletin contained scurrilous anti-Mormon nonsense, should I not have taken notice of this fact? Was it not appropriate to mention it in “Prying into Palmer”?

2c. But there is some faint evidence that Palmer knew of the place of “Paul Pry” in very early anti-Mormonism. I have been told by some of those close to Palmer that he had a habit of branding anti-Mormons as “Paul Prys.” They claim to have sensed his fondness for that label before he published An Insider’s View, but were not aware, before they read “Prying into Palmer,” that he had once used that label to identify himself. This is, of course, merely hearsay, and for this and other reasons it would not belong in a published essay. It has, of course, only the kind of force that one attributes to hearsay. Be that as it may, to have that name, with all the baggage it carries, turn out to identify almost the first flush of anti-Mormonism, if Palmer actually picked it innocently, would be a staggering coincidence. It is possible, as Palmer apparently now wants to claim, that he just picked it innocently out of the essentially limitless possible pseudonyms he might have selected to disguise his identity from his CES employers.

2d. In my phone conversation with Palmer, he volunteered that he knew exactly nothing about the various uses of the name “Paul Pry” in England and America. On that occasion, I mentioned to him quite a few of these. Later I sent Palmer a letter to which I appended a very long list of webpages with various bits of information concerning the use of “Paul Pry.” That letter also contained additional information about its use in the theatre district of London. Palmer admitted to me in that phone conversation that someone, whose name he could not then recall, had drawn his attention to the name. I believe that the one who suggested the name “Paul Pry” to Palmer had to know of Paul Pry’s Weekly Bulletin. They suggested it because it fit the contents of what Palmer had been telling them that he hoped to set out in “New York Mormonism.” But I am still open to alternative explanations, if they have a semblance of plausibility and if there is credible supporting textual evidence, and not just what seems like damage control.

2e. I spent most of my teaching career dealing with a literature that was offered to the public under an array of pseudonyms. For at least twenty years I taught at least once and often twice a year a course of what are popularly known as the Federalist Papers. Until many years after the adoption of the Constitution the public knew the author of these wonderful essays as Publius and not at Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay. The fact is that during the debate over the ratification of the Constitution there were at least a hundred other letters, essays and pamphlets published either defending or attacking the Constitution most of which carried pseudonyms. These always seem to have been selected to inform the reader up front of the point of view of the author. Certainly those who read those letters in New York newspapers by Publius knew what stance would be taken and why. Why? Publius meant something to readers when those papers first appeared. So I approach pseudonyms as both an effort to hide an author’s identity while revealing his basic position. And, when I first located a copy of “New York Mormonism,” I immediately went to work trying to figure out what someone was signaling by calling themselves “Paul Pry.” What, I wondered, in 1987, was this secretive author trying to signal? So I went to work looking for a “Paul Pry” in the Mormon past and located Paul Pry’s Weekly Bulletin. I had what I believed then and still believe is a plausible explanation for the use of that pseudonym. It was only later that I discovered that the junior “Paul Pry” was hiding his identity from CES.

2f. Roasted knows why people use pseudonyms. He has, I believe, explained that he calls himself Roasted Tomatoes so that his political science associates will not discover that he spends a lot of time posting about Mormon issues. Why? He correctly sees this as potentially harmful to his career. He is right about this. So Roasted has a reason for using a perfectly harmless handle–one that in itself does not signify a thing. What he apparently wants his readers to believe is that something like this motivated Grant Palmer. It is, of course, possible. We will see if this is plausible.

3a. Roasted should have noted the context for the paragraph he quoted. If he had begun where I begin in “Prying into Palmer”–many pages earlier than where he quotes an entire paragraph–he would have noticed that Palmer claims that from 1967 to 1985 he was “totally a true believer.” (Quoted from Palmer’s own account in my “Prying into Palmer,” 368.) Palmer grants that in 1984 something happened that finally wiped away his faith. He was then anxious to begin work on the first draft of what eventually became An Insider’s View. What happened in the fall of 1984 to strip him of the last vestiges of his faith? As I demonstrated in “Prying into Palmer,” he explains that it was the surfacing of the so-called White Salamander letter. Palmer never recovered from the jolt that letter gave him. At the same time, Palmer got to know Brent Metcalfe and Ron Walker, both of whom were then being employed by Steven Christensen to do “research” on that letter.

3b. Walker soon learned of E. T. A. Hoffmann’s bizarre fairy tale that features a salamander figure. How did this happen? Two BYU German professors–I will skip the names–who are experts on German Romantic literature, when they heard of the forged Salamander letter immediately recalled E. T. A. Hoffmann’s bizarre “The Golden Pot.” In this tale there are, among other things, spirits standing for what were believed to be the four basic elements–earth, air, water and fire. One of these, fire, is symbolized by a Salamander. This motif is common in Europe. If one visits the magnificent palace at Fountainbleu near Paris, one can hardly fail to notice that it is heavily decorated with wooden carvings of a salamander in fire. This motif is drawn from a sophisticated European literary tradition and does not, as far as I have been able to discover, form part of American folk lore. One must distinguish a folk belief from a highly sophisticated literary motif. Palmer conflates these two radically different things. Be that as it may, another BYU professor happened to hear the conversation about Hoffmann’s tale about salamanders in Romantic literature that took place between two experts on this literature. This fellow subsequently mentioned this to Robert Smith, then working at FARMS, who passed it on the Ron Walker, who introduced it to Palmer, who immediately set about trying to locate in Hoffmann’s The Golden Pot the entire story of the recovery of the Book of Mormon.

3c. Palmer has not managed to free himself from his obsession with E. T. A. Hoffmann’s tale, even when the only possible reason for giving it any attention turned out to be a forgery. I do not blame Palmer for being captivated by Hofmann’s forgery, but for being unable to surrender his obsession with Hoffmann’s bizarre fairy tale. The most significant difference between Chapter V in “New York Mormonism” and the chapter in An Insider’s View entitled “Moroni and ‘The Golden Pot’” (pp.135-174) is that Palmer has suppressed all those 200 references to the salamander motif found in his original draft. With those gone there is simply no reason to see any link between E. T. A. Hoffmann’s tale and the story of the recovery of the Book of Mormon.

3d. Please notice that none of this has anything to do with Palmer’s use of the pseudonym “Paul Pry.” How did that happen? Roasted ought to ask, did Palmer use a pseudonym to hide his identity from his CES employers? The anti-Mormon significance of “Paul Pry” is a separate issue. I will again explain the reasons. Palmer had circulated to his friends and former CES associates and fellow seminary teachers under his own name, prior to January 1985, some of his essentially anti-Mormon essays. He had argued that Joseph Smith faked the Book of Mormon. This got him into big trouble, as he admitted to me in that phone conversation and which he later spelled out in even more detail in something Tom Kimball posted for him on the Signature Books webpage. This is all explained and also properly cited in “Prying into Palmer.” Early in January 1985, Palmer was called on the carpet by his CES supervisors and placed on probation. As a condition for retaining his job as a seminary teacher, he agreed to apologize to his colleagues for what he had done and also to promise to cease going down that road.

3e. But being placed on probation did not put a stop to Palmer’s project. He could not allow his CES supervisors or immediate seminary colleagues to know what he was doing, or he would have lost his job. So he became secretive about his views, as he began what was the first draft of An Insider’s View. In this manuscript Palmer tries to demonstrate that Joseph Smith had lied about the recovery of the Book of Mormon. Being on CES probation, Palmer could not afford to circulate this manuscript under his own name. Some of his close associates knew what he was doing. And, I believe, one of them–perhaps one of those actually busy doing research on early Mormon literature looking for clues that might case some light on the forged Salamander letter–suggested that he could disguise his identity by becoming a junior “Paul Pry.”

3d. Roasted disregards all of this. Instead of confronting these facts about Palmer, he makes his case against me on the assumption that Palmer conceivably might have or could have innocently adopted the name “Paul Pry.” That is possible. Is it really likely? Or is this merely damage control? In any case, Palmer used that label to not so innocently disguise from his employers his role in authoring “New York Mormonism.” By posing the possibility that Palmer fell upon the name “Paul Pry” by accident, Roasted tries to show that I wrongly challenged Grant Palmer’s probity. Roasted ignores the fact, which can be verified on the Signature Books webpage in Palmer’s own words, that he was on CES probation when he fashioned “New York Mormonism.” And he has to ignore that fact that Palmer’s salary and pension were paid for with tithing funds. Roasted’s complaints against me are made to depend on the question of how Palmer might have come up with the name “Paul Pry.” Roasted simply ignores the fact that Palmer used a pseudonym in an effort to prevent his CES supervisors from knowing that he was, while on probation, again busy fashioning anti-Mormon literature.

3e. That Palmer could not recall who it was who mentioned the Paul Pry Weekly Bulletin to him in the Fall of 1984 or early in 1985 is understandable. When I phoned Palmer to get some help from him on sorting out some details about his CES employment, his use of the name “Paul Pry” came up. This matter was of such importance that I scribbled exactly what Palmer said to me. I asked him where he got the name and he told me that someone had mentioned it to him. I took careful notes and read back to him what I had written down. I asked Palmer if it might have been Michael Marquardt and he brushed aside that suggestion. He then told me that he simply could not now recall who it was who mentioned the name to him. It is possible that he now cannot recall who mentioned that name. The one who did it might not now recall having done it. Palmer did not, in that phone conversation, deny its anti-Mormon significance.

3f. During my phone conversation with Palmer, I mentioned Anne Royall’s use of the name and her anti-religious exploits in Washington. I also called Palmer’s attention to John Poole’s comedy that began playing in London in 1825, as well as the fact that the OED indicates that there was a song about a “Paul Pry” in American in 1820 and so forth and so on. Palmer told me that I obviously knew more about the name “Paul Pry” than he did.

3g. If one wants to invent possible innocent sources for Palmer having come up with “Paul Pry,” there are many possibilities. Palmer could have picked up the name “Paul Pry” from a host of different sources. I will mention a few. Erle Stanley Gardner, famous for having given us the character “Perry Mason” of TV fame, published a pulp magazine called The Adventures of Paul Pry. This thing has recently been reprinted. Or one could have found the name “Paul Pry” in one of at least three Pubs in England that carry that name. I believe that there was an obscure newspaper published in Baltimore in 1849 called The Viper’s Sting and Paul Pry. There are a host of other instances of the use of that name. Why claim to have noticed the name in London’s theatre district?

3h. In January 2002, when my wife and I were in London trying hard to support the theatre industry, my wife happened to notice an early instance of Paul Pry being used as the name of a risque publication. In addition to attending musicals and the theatre, we also visited Covent Garden. Then less that a block from the north side of that place (on Bishop Street) we had a look at the Theatre Museum (aka National Museum of the Performing Arts). Just inside the front door (you must turn to the left) in the upper right hand corner of the glass display case on the right my wife noticed a one page leaflet that had once sold for one penny. It carried the title Paul Pry and was published in May 1857 as #33. This is a very rare example of what archivists call an ephemeral publication. I took careful notes. When we got home, I wrote to Palmer and told him about this amusing little incident. This publication began to appear, when the censors would allow it, in 1848. So it would have been possible, though it is not likely, that Palmer could have stumbled onto that name innocently, if he just happened to notice that very rare, very obscure little item in an ever changing display in that inconspicuous portion of a large museum. This might have happened, if it was present when he was there, if he was ever there. All of this, though not likely, is possible. Now for the point of my true story: I suspect that Palmer’s current explanation of how he found the name may have originated in my account of my experience seeing a leaflet with the name Paul Pry in that museum that, upon my return from London, I sent to him. It is possible that Palmer may have unconsciously adopted my little story and made it his own. This sort of transference takes place, I believe, since we have a proclivity to incorporate the stories of other people into our own when it suits our interests.

4a. Roasted seems determined to defend Grant Palmer’s honesty by advancing his own version of how Palmer might have innocently stumbled onto the name “Paul Pry.” I am reasonably confident that Roasted’s explanations do not agree with what Palmer said in that recent interview with Dehlin when he gave an account of how he came up with the idea of hiding his identity from his CES supervisors by becoming a junior “Paul Pry.” I am not at all sure that Roasted has stated accurately Palmer’s version of how this happened. From what Dehlin later posted on the FAIR board, Palmer said something about how he loves to travel and how he once visited London’s West End (the theater district) and noticed some printed item with the name “Paul Pry” on it. Without consulting what was posted by Dehlin on the FAIR board, I am not sure if Palmer claimed that he saw a leaflet touting plays and musicals that carried the name “Paul Pry,” or that he saw an advertizement for a revival of the famous 1825 John Poole comedy called “Paul Pry,” or something else. Roasted should make a transcript of Palmer’s remarks and post them as a supplement to his attack on me and the FARMS Review. He needs to examine carefully Palmer’s own account rather than fashion his own. The relevant textual evidence needs to be in plain sight.

4b. Instead of sorting out those details, if they can be sorted out, Roasted speculates about what might have happened, without really giving us Palmer’s most recent account. Roasted thinks Palmer might have named himself, not after Paul Pry’s Weekly Bulletin, but after Anne Royall’s newspaper in Washington. If Palmer, who had never heard of Anne Royall until I mentioned her to him (and again when he saw what I wrote about her in “Prying into Palmer”) had somehow picked up that name from her Washington newspaper, then the name would not have had overt anti-Mormon significance. But Roasted has made a big fuss about the obscurity of Paul Pry’s Weekly Bulletin. Royall’s Washington gossip rag was even more obscure. Roasted’s theory is, of course possible, but not at all likely. It is a kind of guess. Is it, I wonder, what Palmer now claims happened? Or is this Roasted’s own effort at damage control on behalf of Palmer? Roasted must explain how Palmer, if he did not know of Paul Pry’s Weekly Bulletin, came to know an obscure Washington newspaper? This essay that I located, which Roasted mined, was not in existence. How would Palmer have possibly heard of Royall? This needs to be spelled out.

4c. Roasted also offers a different alternative explanation that would make Palmer’s pseudonym harmless: he might have lifted the name “Paul Pry” from “the famous London theatrical character.” The what? Oh the lead in a famous comedy. There was, as Roasted has discovered with a quick Google search (he even includes a picture of the famous comedian who played the lead role represented in his comic costume), a comedy written by John Poole called Paul Pry that started playing in the West End in 1825. But in 1985 there was no internet and hence no Google. How did Palmer learn of John Poole’s comedy? This needs to be explained. Roasted can Google “Paul Pry” and come up with all kinds of details about the name. This is what I have done. It is an easy to do, but in 1985 it was not possible. I started, as did Roasted, already knowing the name. One must know the name to be able to learn details about its use by using Google.

4d. Did Palmer, in his interview with Dehlin say exactly how and when he stumbled onto John Poole play in London, if that was what he is not claiming happened? Or did he indicate exactly what publication he saw in the West End that carried the name “Paul Pry”? What exactly was his explanation? If I remember correctly, Palmer said that he liked to travel, and on a visit to London’s West End he found a publication with the name “Paul Pry” on it. When was Palmer in London so that this might have happened? After his having become a junior “Paul Pry,” with his family, Palmer went to England to pick up a missionary son. That could not have been the occasion for his having discovered the name “Paul Pry” in London. If that is what happened, he had to have done it before 1985. When was he in England before 1985? And in the West End?

4e. Palmer may imagine that there was immediately prior to 1985 a publication circulating in London’s West End, as there once was in the 1850s, of a tiny little leaflet called Paul Pry. Or Palmer might be claiming that, at the time he was in the West End, John Poole’s comedy was being revived. That is possible, but not likely. Palmer should be able to provide textual evidence that this is the case, if he was so enamored with the name “Paul Pry.” Roasted at least needs to indicate exactly what Palmer said in that interview and then defend that account, if it can be defended, and not make his own guesses. Roasted, by trying to do damage control, is not exactly helping Palmer, if readers of his blog are paying close attention..

5a. But, since virtually anything is possible, let us assume that Grant Palmer never had even a hint that “Paul Pry” had any anti-Mormon significance, until I pointed that out to him in a phone conversation and then in print. That would not absolve him of intentionally using a pseudonym in 1985 to hide his identity; it would not overcome the fact that, while living from tithing funds (and on CES probation), he fashioned a manuscript in which he tried hard to pull the Church from its historical foundations. So whatever might be said to make his use of the “Paul Pry” pseudonym look innocent would not explain away Palmer’s having made an effort to keep his employers in the dark about his words and deeds. Nor would it have made his defection from the faith of the Saints into something that sort of just happened at the very end of his career as he reached retirement age. He was, it turns out, busy attacking the faith of the Saints at least twenty years before he retired from CES and published his book.

5b. Palmer’s current explanation of having stumbled onto “Paul Pry” would, however, further damage his reputation for being someone very familiar with the literature on Mormon origins.

5c. I wonder if Roasted wants to claim that after Palmer was put on probation by CES in January 1985 for circulating attacks on Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, it was, to use Roasted’s word, honest for him to go to work on a book manuscript doing more flagrantly what had nearly cost him his job. Put another way, was Palmer’s conscious attempt to hide his identity from his employers strictly honest? The likelihood that Palmer knew something, if not the full details, of the anti-Mormon significance of “Paul Pry” merely complicates his and his publisher’s and publicist’s efforts at damage control, does it not?

6a. Roasted does not seem to understand what I was getting at by pointing out that Palmer was once captivated by Hofmann’s forgeries, and especially that Salamander letter. Of course, that letter was thought to be authentic. Palmer took it and other tales, such as Brent Metcalfe’s tale about a friend (Mark Hofmann) having seen an Oliver Cowdrey history in the vault of the First Presidency, as proof that Joseph Smith was a liar and that the Saints have been misled. He also swallowed whole the Salamander motif in Hoffmann’s tale. When this link, tenuous as it was, between Joseph Smith and The Golden Pot disappeared, Palmer did not give up his obsession with Hoffmann’s tale, but merely downplayed the Salamander motif.

6b. Without the Salamander in Hofmann’s forgery there is nothing in Hoffmann’s tale that resembles the story of the recovery of the Book of Mormon. Oh Palmer thinks that there are all kinds of so-called parallels, but this is just plain silly. The crucial parallel, for Palmer, is that Joseph Smith in 1820-1822 got the idea of pretending to discover and translate an ancient text by reading the 1827 Carlyle translation of Hoffmann’s tale. Palmer and Tom Kimball, his publicist, insist that one must read the Carlyle translation to see the links between Hoffmann’s tale and the story of the recovery of the Book of Mormon. They claim that more recent translations obscure the crucial clues. This is nonsense. Even the Carlyle translation does not contain anything that could have led Joseph Smith to tell the story he told or dictate to scribes a 500 page book.

6c. But Palmer insists that Joseph Smith got the idea of translating an ancient history from Hoffmann’s tale. Unfortunately for Palmer there is nothing in Hoffmann’s tale that suggests that any translation took place. Roasted, in response to my having tediously worked through every instance in which Anselmus (in Hoffmann’s tale) did a thing with manuscripts or the leaves of a plant, merely repeats Palmer’s false claim that, at one point in the Hoffmann tale, there is what Palmer calls a “translation episode.” In the 8th Vigil of Hoffmann’s tale, after being informed that his employer was actually a Salamander who came from a race of such critters in Atlantis, and after again copying something, Anselmus has a feeling that what he has just copied must be the history of the marriage of a snake and a salamander. We are supposed to believe that this was what gave Joseph the idea of dictating to scribes a translation of what turned out to be a 500 page history? Roasted insists that most readers of his blog will see the link between Anselmus–a calligrapher hired to copy–sort of feeling that he had copied a history that Serpentina, the charming little green snake with big blue eyes, had just told him, and the recovery of the Book of Mormon. What happened to those elemental spirits representing earth, water, air and fire (the Salamander figure), and door handles that turn into snakes and all the rest of the bizarre imagery in Hoffmann’s tale? Prior to Palmer’s obsession with one tale by E. T. A. Hoffman, no one ever hinted that Joseph Smith was imitating Anselmus from The Golden Pot, or borrowing anything from that tale. And, as far as I have been able to discover, no one has thought they had discovered elemental spirits representing air (Sylphs), water (Undines), earth (Gnomes) and fire (Salamanders) in the Book of Mormon or in Mormon lore.

6d. If Joseph Smith grounded his account of the recovery of the Book of Mormon on Hoffmann’s tale, why did he not fill the Book of Mormon with the imagery found in that tale? If, as Palmer believes, Joseph Smith had sufficient imagination to cobble together from bits and pieces of things in the Book of Mormon, why would he have had to rely at all on Hoffmann’s truly bizarre tale?

6e. Roasted asserts that my “oft-repeated assertion that the ‘Golden Pot’ lacks any translation whatsoever is clearly false.” I demonstrated that there is nothing resembling translation taking place in Hoffmann’s tale. I quoted and examined every passage in Hoffmann’s tale in which the activities of Anselmus are described and there is no translation taking place. Roasted realizes that there is a problem in Palmer’s claim that there are subtle little hints of something a bit like translation. Roasted admits that “Midgley is correct in his claim that most English translations of the story lack the word ‘translate.’” Roasted is only partly correct. I never once mentioned “most English translations.” I was always referring to the Thomas Carlyle translation of Hoffmann’s tale. That is the translation that Palmer relies upon. In it the word translation never occurs. I know of three translations of Hoffmann’s tale. I have read and compared in detail two. And the most recent one also lacks the word. Why? There is nothing in the German original that would suggest to a translator the word translate. There simply is no translation taking place in The Golden Pot. And Palmer’s bald assertion, now repeated by Roasted, that there were “episodes of translation” does not make it so. And asserting that I was wrong about this matter also does not make it so. Hoffmann’s tale is not about someone translating something but about a copyist. It is also a tale about someone drunk, on drugs or simply mad, or some combination of these, who eventually ceases to imagine that he is doing a boring bureaucratic task like copying manuscripts and fades away into a version of nature where little green snakes with big blue eyes take the place of everyday things. To introduce the word “translation” spoils Hoffmann’s romantic tale.

6f. Roasted admits that “again, Midgley is correct that [the] English translations of the ‘Golden Pot’ lack the word ‘inspiration.’” He tries to milk something out of Hoffmann’s description of madness by introducing the expression “inner intuition.” This kind of talk in Hoffmann’s tale does not include the divine, but substitutes something within the reach of the wine or the pill bottle. Merely saying that something is “sufficiently similar” simply does not make it so.

7a. Roasted shifts to a different mode of attack on my essay. He faults me for pointing out the kinds of sources Palmer drew upon and quoted in “New York Mormonism.” What I did does not constitute a complaint. I merely indicated what kind of understanding Palmer then had of Mormon things. I did not attack anything or anyone in those descriptive passages.

7b.Nor was my description an ad hominem argument, if one has a clear idea of what
constitutes such a thing.

7c. What Roasted describes as my “apparent summary” of the force and direction of Palmer’s stance in “New York Mormonism” is accurate. Palmer does the same thing in An Insider’s View, only much more smoothly. “New York Mormonism” is a very crude manuscript.

8. Roasted complains that he “cannot locate a copy of Palmer’s early manuscript,” and hence is unable to verify the accuracy of my summary. Sure he can. I cited an archive where he could have a look at it, and there are a couple of other places where it is available to the public. If Roasted thinks that it would help Palmer to have that manuscript up on the web, I urge him to get Tom Kimball to post it unedited on the Signature Books webpage.

9a. Roasted doubts my account of Palmers assignment to the Salt Lake County Jail. He complains that I cite no sources. Palmer cites no sources either. My essay seems to have forced Signature Books to post items by Palmer in which he puts the very best spin on his rather curious career.

9b. Roasted should realize, since he can find Palmer’s sanitized version posted on the Signature Books webpage, that Palmer was put on probation by CES in January 1985. By the end of 1987 or the beginning of 1988, Palmer was again in big trouble with CES. His problem had nothing much to do with the name “Paul Pry,” but with his having written “New York Mormonism” while on probation. Palmer again fought to save his job. As he claims, he insisted that the Book of Mormon somehow is able to bring people to Christ. He does not indicate that he also believes that it is not an authentic history and is, instead, a fraud. Be that as it may, Palmer was not fired but allowed to do counseling at the Salt Lake County Jail. In that situation, CES could not observe his teaching, since he did none. He was from 1988 until his retirement free to do what he wanted, if and when he wanted to do it. CES had to rely on interviews with him to have any idea what if anything he was doing. The publication of An Insider’s View thus came as a total surprise to those in charge of CES, since they had no idea that he was working on his anti-Mormon book.

9c. How do I know these things. I happen to know the person who dealt with him and allowed him to shift to the jail?

10a. I know people in CES. And I have, unlike Grant Palmer, I have actually been involved with an Institute. Beginning in January 1999 to the end of October 2001, my wife and I directed the Lorne Street Institute in downtown Auckland, New Zealand. This is located next to Auckland University of Technology and Auckland University in a three story building with a small library, 9 or 10 classrooms, offices, two kitchens, a large lounge, even a pool table. We had a secretary. We supervised 9 teachers. Palmer, twice at the very beginning of his career, functioned as a CES Coordinator. There were two of these–both full-time CES employees–in Auckland when we were there. They supervised, as Palmer once also did early in his CES career, seminary teachers. In addition, they also taught classes at several of the institutions of higher education around Auckland and at several Stake Centers where we had Institute programs. They did not think of themselves as Institute Directors.

10b. Palmer, on the other hand, many years ago supervised 20 or 30 seminary teachers and, in addition, seems to have taught classes for college kids in the two Stakes he was assigned to cover. This he did for eight years at the very beginning of his career. He never directed an LDS Institute of Religion as I understand that term. Yet he insists that he was primarily an Institute Director. Sorry, not in my book–never, ever. And it is just plain silly to describe counseling at that jail as directing an LDS Institute of Religion. There were no class rooms and no classes. My wife and I spent one afternoon each week for two years conducting a class in a prison north of Auckland for LDS and non-LDS fellows. Should I now start claiming that I was Director of an Institute at that prison. I think not. There is much less to Grant Palmer than meets the eye.

11. What I have done during my entire academic career and what I continue to do now amounts to intellectual history. I once focused on various theologians and philosophers. I now focus my attention on critics of the Church. I inquire into the motivations of writers. I look carefully at what influenced them and at the sources they appeal to. There is nothing out of line with doing this. My comments in “Prying into Palmer” explaining what I do are not, as Roasted wrongly claims, “dubious.”

12. Roasted was apparently offended that I was not overwhelmed by Palmer’s piety. Palmer told me on the phone and then posted it on the Signature webpage that his talk about emphasizing Jesus was essentially an afterthought, which is exactly the word he used on our conversation. He explains that those at Signature Books insisted on a more affirmative ending to An Insider’s View and it was only then that he got the idea that he should argue that the Saints should now emphasize Jesus as they follow him in rejecting Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. Those at Signature Books seem to have been willing to tolerate a little of this, but not much. The seem to have declined to publish Palmer’s subsequent homily on Jesus. In addition, it appears that Palmer can blast away at what I and others consider sacred, but we cross some line if we say a word about Palmer’s muddled thinking. Is Palmer’s way of discussing my faith an acceptable way of talking about such things? Should he not be scolded for crossing this same imaginary line? Is Roasted saying that expressions of sentimentality should block intellectual inquiry?

13a. Roasted wrote the following about me: “Palmer doesn’t cite FARMS publication often enough to satisfy Midgley.” Not true. Palmer never cites a FARMS publication and he cites virtually nothing that would question his opinions. Why? It seems that he does not know the relevant literature on the subjects he takes up and, when he knows there is such a literature, he refuses to consult it.

13b. Roasted also neglects to explain that I invoked a modified version of what I called the Quinn rule. I would very much prefer being hung for a crime I actually committed, rather than a slur aimed at me that garbles my argument. Put another way, is it wrong to point out that Palmer is unfamiliar with the vast literature that challenges his opinions? Others who know this literature and who have examined Palmer’s book agree with me on this issue. Palmer’s book is smooth, but also either superficial or wrong, and, in the crucial chapter where he invokes E. T. A. Hoffmann’s tale, ridiculous. If Anselmus did not dictate ancient histories to scribes from old manuscripts he was translating, but was, instead, a calligrapher copying old texts or palm fronds, then there is no reason to take seriously all those even more curious and less robust “parallels” Palmer claims to see.

14. Palmer, at that book signing in Salt Lake City, stressed that the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith were highly controversial, and in various ways in his book, insisted that the Saints could avoid such controversy by merely stressing Jesus. This would entail, of course, that everyone who had previously grounded their faith in Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ, and hence as Savior and Lord, on the Book of Mormon and the story of its recovery, and of the restoration of priesthood authority and so forth, has been wrong. This is exactly what Palmer believes. I asked him if his notion of Jesus included the belief that he was, for example, resurrected after being killed, or that he was born of a virgin. He replied in the affirmative. But certainly those ideas are also problematic and would be just as questionable, if looked at through Palmer’s skeptical eyes, as anything associated with Joseph Smith. He agreed. One must make what Palmer called a leap of faith somewhere. He has now chosen, he said, to do this on what I see as a bland generic brand of piety. The problem is, as I see it, one of consistency and coherence. If Palmer can accept the resurrection of Jesus and everything else in the New Testament, then why not Moroni? One must remember that Palmer in 1985 was anxious to turn Moroni into a Salamander. My arguments seems to have offended Roasted. He describes them as an LDS apologetic classic. That label seemingly takes the place of an argument. Roasted, I trust, must value some measure of consistence even from those who attack the faith of the Saints. At least I hope this is the case.

15. Roasted does not understand what can and cannot be made to depend upon archaeology. Does he, I wonder, think that there is or can be or needs to be archaeological proof for the incarnation, or the lynching of Jesus or his resurrection? Or does Roasted want to argue that the virgin birth is less of a problem for believers than any item in or about the Book of Mormon?

16. I can appreciate that someone who has fled his former faith would want to have a book like Palmer’s around to sort of point to or even to hang his unfaith on. Be that as it may, Roasted objections to what I wrote about An Insider’s View appear to me to be trivial or simply wrong. I believe that my arguments have been poorly set forth–even distorted–by Roasted. For reasons I do not understand he seems to me to have far too much invested in defending the indefensible.


I will now add an explanation of how I got interested in Grant Palmer’s words and deeds. When, sometime prior to August 1987, I heard about “New York Mormonism,” I went looking for a copy. I consulted David Whittaker, who is a good bibliographic source. Somehow he had gotten a copy of this manuscript and he provided me with a copy.

I was then faced with the name “Paul Pry.” I had never seen the name before. Assuming that, whoever its author was, he must be signaling something with this pseudonym, I immediately went to work. Since “New York Mormonism” was an attack on the understanding of the crucial founding events, I looked for “Paul Pry” in anti-Mormon literature, and eventually discovered Paul Pry’s Weekly Bulletin. I also assumed that those concerned with Mormon origins would know of this publication. I do not, however, know if they did. I did not want others to know the anti-Mormon significance of “Paul Pry,” when I did not. My next task was trying to figure out who had actually written “New York Mormonism.” My notes, which I made on the folder in which I assembled my findings, do not indicate how I discovered that it was Grant Palmer. In addition, I soon discovered that Palmer craved attention and hence had given copies of his manuscript to various people. And, since people talk to other people, some ended up talking to me. And I developed an interest in what I was hearing. I keep notes and check on things. Later I was able to flesh out a kind of chronology of his CES career bit by bit.

Right at the beginning I made several xerox copies of “New York Mormonism.” There was back then a lot of trading of documents in what was called the “Mormon underground.” I now had a modestly valuable commodity to trade. Hence, when I mentioned this item to others who were interested, some wanted a copy. One of those to whom I provided a copy of “New York Mormonism” was a Robert Smith, a former student of mine, who was then working on his projects in Provo and around FARMS. I had scribbled Palmer’s name next to “Paul Pry Jr.” on my original copy of “New York Mormonism.” And Palmer’s name thus turned up on the xerox copies I made. Robert Smith eventually indicated in a manuscript he circulated that Grant Palmer was the one hiding behind “Paul Pry Jr.” D. Michael Quinn then picked this up from Robert Smith’s manuscript and announced it in print in the second edition of his magic book. Those interested could figure out that Palmer was the one who had authored “New York Mormonism.” In addition, according to Palmer, George Smith–the owner of Signature Books–somehow got in on the act and wrote a letter encouraging him with an offer to publish a revised version of “New York Mormonism.”

I also now entertain the possibility that a copy of “New York Mormonism” that I provided a former CES employ may have ended up early by December 1987 in the hands of those then in charge of CES. This led to Palmer being called on the carpet by his area supervisor and assigned to the Salt Lake County Jail. Or, in Palmer’s version, it led him to ask to be assigned to the jail.

How do I know these things about Palmer? What I report came from people directly and indirectly involved with Palmer from at least 1985 (or even 1967) to the present. None of them have a desire to be drawn into a public controversy. I am obligated to keep confidences. I will not reveal their names. But I will say that the one who confronted Palmer about “New York Mormonism,” and then felt sorry for him, as he begged for his job and so forth, and who then assigned him to do counseling at the Salt Lake County Jail is a friend of mine. I am confident that I have a good idea, from a CES perspective, how Palmer’s CES career unravel and how he ended up at the Salt Lake County Jail and so forth.

While, with my wife, serving at the Lorne Street Institute I got a good idea of what constitutes directing an Institute of Religion for CES. It was an Institute in the full sense. We had nothing to do with the seminary program. Two full-time CES fellows supervised the seminary program in the ten Stakes in Auckland. I am confident that they did not think of themselves, or need to represent themselves, as Institute Directors, but as CES Coordinators. They were excellent at what they did, and I am certain that I would have been a miserable failure trying to step into their shoes. My wife and I had an easier assignment. We were essentially in one place each day. We were at the Lorne Street facility from 9:00 in the morning until at least 5:00 in the evening and at times very much later. For me this was a delightfully easy assignment. My wife ran the Institute and I gabbed with the kids who showed up. We were, among other things, responsible for recruiting eight or nine teachers for that Institute program and for organizing the classes they and I taught. Palmer, for no more than eight years at the beginning of his career was a CES Coordinator who may have taught some classes to college age kids in a chapel near Whittier College and later near Butte College (or in a room provided by one of those colleges). For various reasons he and his Signature Books publicist may want others to think, and he may do so himself, that this was directing CES Institutes of Religion; I do not.

My advice to Roasted is to cease posting up a storm on the internet. He ought to contemplate what damage his urge to opine about Mormon things might end up doing to his career. I wonder just what might happen if his current and future colleagues were to discover that Roasted Tomatoes is actually a young fellow who, right now, should be busy working on his dissertation and it the future on being the best political scientists he can possibly be. Though I can understand his irritation with me and perhaps with the FARMS Review, since he may have a deep need to justify his unfaith, and he also may even hope, despite his disavowal that he is defending him, that Palmer has explained away the historical foundations of the faith of the Saints, but I am still a bit puzzled by the energy he pours into settling accounts with his former faith. Posting on the internet can, I believe, be addictive. And it might also be harmful to one’s career. Roasted should realize that there is no law requiring him to work out on the internet (and hence in public) his current relationship with his former faith and with the faithful. He could just move on and enjoy roasting some real tomatoes again.


The following item was recently posted on a list by Tom Kimball, the Signature Books publicist, in response to someone who correctly pointed out that the so-called “parallels” to the story of the recovery of the Book of Mormon that Grant Palmer, from 1985 to the present, insists he has located in Hoffmann’s tale “are simply not credible in the context that Palmer claims for them.” That remark clearly irritated Tom Kimball, Palmer’s publicist, who then opined as follows:

“This is really funny. Lou [Midgley] and his reviewers read the wrong translation of the Golden Pot, then can’t find the parallels that Grant references in his book. Then these supergeniuses write extensively about why they can’t find the parallels in the FARMS Review. Someone … humbly me … points out that they are using a modern translation that isn’t anything like the one from the 1820’s… Lou nearly has an aneurism … then desperately searches for the correct translation and tries to jam the same arguments into a new article about the Golden Pot (Tell Lou thanks. Seeing Lou and crew really screw this up made my month!!!) Lou simply lost this one. He should get over it. (but we all know he can’t, which is funnier still) We wait breathlessly for yet another round of Golden Pot, and Paul Pry nonsense and more concessions that Grant got the rest of Mormon history correct. Whoo hooo.”

Every word of this is nonsense–and also highly offensive. There have been exactly no concessions. I had exactly nothing to do with the essays published in the FARMS Review by Davis Bitton and Jim Allen. If Tom Kimball had even once glanced at the relevant literature, he would have realized that I quoted from exactly the same translation of The Golden Pot that Grant Palmer used, as did James Allen. See footnote #14 in “Prying into Palmer” and compare it with the first footnote in Palmer’s chapter (p. 135). But the fact is that the translation that one consults of Hoffmann’s tale has exactly nothing to do with the relevant issues. All the crucial language is essentially the same. Earlier Tom Kimball had posted on the Signature Books webpage an effort by Palmer to explain why people could not see the so-called parallels he claims to see between the story of the recovery of the Book of Mormon and Hoffmann’s bizarre tale. Palmer insisted that they were having trouble because they were using a different translation than the one he used. This is utter nonsense. Palmer must confuse translation with edition, just as he confused copying with translation. Different editions of Thomas Carlyle’s translation of Hoffmann’s tale will have different pagination, but the words are the same. In addition, I did not desperately search for the correct translation. Carlyle’s translation can be found in E. F. Bleiler, ed. The Best Tales of Hoffmann (New York: Dover, 1967), 1-70, which is the one that I consulted (see footnote #14) and the one Palmer quoted. This same translation is also posted on the web. I quoted from the edition of Carlyle’s translation that was drawn from the Bleiler edition by Dover, which sells for a dollar. I did this because this edition is clearly the most accessible.

Given this kind of prattle, I grant–even insist–that Roasted has done remarkably better than Tom Kimball. But it would take exceptional effort and considerable skill not to be better than what Kimball puts out for Signature Books. Does Kimball’s employer, I wonder, know or care what he posts? They should. Be that as it may, I much appreciate Roasted’s efforts, since I have already faced some exceptionally bad stuff flowing from those anxious to prop up their unfaith by defending Grant Palmer’s book.


Paul-Pry; Paul-Pry v. intr., to behave like Paul Pry; to be impertinently inquisitive or prying; also Paul-Prying

Paul Pryism, the conduct of a Paul Pry.

Paul Pry: name of a very inquisitive character in a U.S. song of

1820; often used allusively (also attributed):

* Encyclopedia Britanica XIV. 695/2 (1882): Paul Pry,..always his [Liston’s] most popular part, soon became to many a real personage.

* Sun (Baltimore) 27 Apr. 12/2 (1934): The Senate’s theory that the way to enforce the tax laws is to give the Paul Prys of every community access to the private details of every man’s gross

and net income.

* Hood, Tale of Trumpet xi (1845): She had much of the spirit that lies Perdu in a notable set of Paul Prys.

* E. Wallace, Double xiii. 208 (1928): There are lots of quiet little nooks and places where a fellow can sit without a lot of Paul Prys seeing him.

* H. Kingsley, Hillyars & Burtons xxx (1865): Who the deuce are you, cross-questioning and Paul-Prying?

* Times, 4 Mar. 13/7 (1960): The straitest champion of marital fidelity would, surely, not defend such monstrous Paul Prying.

* Macaulay Southey’s Colloq. Soc. Ess. (1887): 118 “The magistrate..ought to be a perfect jack-of-all-trades..a Paul Pry in every house, spying, eaves-dropping, relieving, admonishing [etc.].”

* Pall Mall Magazine, November 311 (1897): “Some of the Paul Prys of the parish had intercepted the flyman.”

* H. G. de Lisser, Cup &. Lip, ix/109 (1956): “It would be ruinous to a doctor to be known as a paul pry.”

* H. C. Rae, Sullivan i. ii. 24 (1978): “Twenty-five thousand dollars?.. It’s the going rate for a quiet investigation, a straight Paul Pry?’”

* Marryat Diary American,. Ser. i. I. 110 (1839): “Others mounting..and Paul Prying into the bed-room windows.”

* Daily Express 6 October 8/2 (1927): “These restrictions were imposed during the war… Their maintenance to-day is simply part of that fussy Paul Pryism which covers the State with


Paul Pry meaning “peeping”:

  • Week-End Review, 8 July, 34/2 (1933): “I can assure you that neither reporters nor sub-editors find satisfaction in playing the rôle of Paul Pry or Nosey Parker or Peeping Tom.”

Paul Pry meaning “picklock”:

  • Daily News 3 December 7/2 (1889): “She called him a ‘picklock’ and a ‘Paul Pry.’”


PAUL PRY – Family Pub

1023 Lincoln Road, Petersborough, Cambridgeshire, England


14 High Road, Rayleigh, Essex, England


6 The Butts, Worcester, Worcestershire, England.

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

  1. BHodges says:

    Wow. I can’t believe I read the whole thing.

  2. Daniel Peterson says:

    You haven’t changed your handle yet.

  3. Dr. Shades says:

    In that case just bury it beforehand.

  4. Daniel Peterson says:

    How about a synagogue membership directory that is being sought by the Gestapo?

  5. Dr. Shades says:

    Or is An Insider’s View a kind of last remaining stronghold that must be defended to the death? Perhaps the Shady One will have an answer to this question.

    Yes, I do have an answer to that question. The answer is this: There is no such thing as a book which must be defended to the death.

  6. Louis Midgley says:

    Ironic is, of course, just having some good clean fun blowing snot–that is, mocking what, in my dreary seriousness, I believe is something that involves the fate of real people in the Kingdom. As you all know, the word mock comes from mucus, hence snot and so forth. Get it? I suppose that I do not object to Ironic having some fun, but his kind of innocent, playful fun should carry a large warning label. Ironic should make it clear to the cattle exactly what he is doing. Just try imagining what would happen if, following Ironic’s lead, I tried being cute and clever? One only has to recall an unpublished acrostic to guess what would happen. So I work hard at being dull, pedantic and boring. And I have, I believe, become good at it. And, of course, I am always verbose, which is a disgusting new sin that I just heard about yesterday on another blog.

  7. Louis Midgley says:

    I am, as I previously indicated, pleased that some on the fringes of the Church seem willing to jettison Palmer’s chapter on “The Golden Pot.” I am also gratified that the one hiding behind the handle “Dr. Shades” now agrees with me about E. T. A. Hoffmann’s strange fairy tale. I presume that “Prying into Palmer” talked the Shady One into jettisoning the key chapter in Palmer’s book. Well, if I did not exactly persuade him, then he must have arrived at his opinion under his own power. Perhaps Shady carefully compared Hoffmann’s tale with what Palmer claims in An Insider’s View and reached the same conclusion as I did. If I am wrong, the Shady One can correct me on this matter, but I doubt that he made his own independent examination of the evidence and then came to the same conclusion that I did in “Prying into Palmer.” My hunch is that “Prying into Palmer” had something to do with it. Why? Allow me to explain.

    Who was it who called attention to the Hoffman/Hoffmann link in Palmer’s thinking and hence to the Salamander motif in “The Golden Pot”? Once one understands that Hoffmann’s tale is about a Salamander changling, then one can see exactly how and why Palmer got started. Who pointed out in detail that there is much in Hoffmann’s tale about a Salamander changling, but exactly nothing in in that fairy tale about a seer stone in a hat and the dictation of a very long sacred ancient history to scribes. Instead, there is much about a caligrapher carefully copying some manuscripts. That is it. In addition, if one ignores the almost but not quite disappearing Salmander in Palmer’s thinking, the fact is that in what remains, Palmer cheats. He does so by claiming that there are translation episodes in Hoffmann’s tale. There are none. There are, instead, lots of curious things including encounters with little green snakes (one of whom has big blue eyes), and door handles that turn into snakes, and much about a race of salamander changlings in Alantis, one of whom is the archivist in the imaginary library where Anselmus does his imaginary copy work.

    When Ron Walker introduced Palmer to “The Golden Pot,” Palmer seems to have believed that he had found something that would pull the Church from its historical foundations. That is what one sees in “New York Mormonism.” Who would have ever known of “New York Mormonism,” if I had not discussed it in some detail? As I demonstrated, in the initial draft of An Insider’s View the Hoffman forged Salamander letter was welded to Hoffmann’s tale of a race of salamander changlings and then made the source for the lies Joseph Smith is supposed to have told. With Hoffman down the toilet, Palmer did not give up on the Pot, he merely suppressed the Salamander motif, and pretended that nothing had happened. This is, of course, not the way Signature Books presented Palmer. They radically sanitized his story, filled their and his account with fibs, and pictured him as a loyal insider who at the end of a distinguished career primarily as an Institute Director (three times yet) just had to confess some doubts about the traditional account that had been festering as he reached retirement age. This picture of Palmer is pure bad hagiography–pure bunk–crafted to sell his book. But, even if this is the truth about Palmer, is it necessary to point these things out?

    As I have explained over and over, “Prying into Palmer” is intellectual history. I do not like sanitized history. Do you? I attempted to contextualize An Insider’s View by situating it in its polemical context. Put another way, I showed what battles Palmer was fighting as far back as 1984 and why he was so engaged. I also identified the sources for his key ideas. Doing this sort of thing is not a personal attack, though it is debunking a tall tale. There is exactly nothing out of the ordinary in situating or contextualizing a book and its author in the controversies in which they are engaged.

    Part of what I did was to reveal that Palmer had become a junior Paul Pry in an effort to hide his identity from his employer. He might have innocently picked that name out of the endless supply of possible names. I doubt that this is what happened. His most recent explanation seems to me to be damage control. The bad news for Palmer, his publicist and for Signature Books is that I demonstrated that the name Paul Pry had clear anti-Mormon meaning. For various reasons this irritated those who admire his book. The response has been curious. Why, they ask, does the conversation over Palmer always get stuck on that Paul Pry business? Can we not, they ask, move on past that Paul Pry business and deal with a substantive issue? The answer is that I did deal with several crucial isses, one of which was Palmer’s obsession with “The Golden Pot.” Now I think I see a white flag appearing on that issue as well. Palmer lovers also seem to forget that Davis Bitton, James Allen, Mark Ashurst-McGee and Steve Harper called attention to all kinds of flaws in Palmer’s book.

    Those looking for a peg to hang their unfaith on or a stick to beat the Church should be able to find something better than Palmer’s seriously flawed book. Or is An Insider’s View a kind of last remaining stronghold that must be defended to the death? Perhaps the Shady One will have an answer to this question.

  8. Br. McPrude says:

    Prudence! I’m hungry! Get off that computer and come into the kitchen and start performing your wifely duties! Don’t make me use my priesthood on you!

  9. Prudence McPrude says:

    I’ve just finished reading this whole exchange, and it is very clear to me that this has been a plot by the Adversary to distract me from my wifely duties and my scripture study. 30 minutes that I will never again regain! Obviously, the fault lies mainly with John Redelfs, whose atrocious blog has provided the setting for this vile train-wreck.

    “Doctrine in the tradition of Smith and McConkie” my *ss.

    John, the only fondue-centric fraternizing I’m willing to entertain with you at this point would involve a boiling cauldon of fromage and an enema. Don’t ask.

    Wickedness never was happiness.

  10. Daniel Peterson says:

    How about “Fundamentally Wrong”?

  11. Dr. Shades says:

    I agree with you about “The Golden Pot.”

    About the “silly handle,” to what do you suggest I change it?

  12. Louis Midgley says:

    The Shady One seems inclined to clean up his image. Good. He could start by getting rid of his silly handle. And also he could try addressing a substantive issue. See my remonstrance above for a place to begin.

  13. Louis Midgley says:

    Oh that Fondue story. See I am learning a bit about the world of the blog. The mess I got myself into with that unfortunate remark about Roasted has had, despite whatever pain it caused Roasted and his wife, which I deeply regret, one nice result. It has allowed me to move a tiny bit into the world of the blog, which I had previously only glanced at when someone called my attention to some food fight. I may even have morphed from a kind of stick figure to an almost real person. But don’t let your guard down too far–just remember that such a one as me might just burst in unannounced and break up your little fondue party.

  14. Dr. Shades says:

    “For what it’s worth, and with all due respect to Shades, his “MormonDiscussions” board is, from what I’ve seen of it, one of the least pleasant and least rational places for Mormon-related discussions IN cyber-space.”

    It may have been less than satisfactory in the past, but it’s since been changed into Celestial, Terrestrial, and Telestial forums. The Celestial Forum is for serious scholarly discussion only, no flaming or personal attacks allowed. The Telestial forum is specifically for flaming, ranting, venting, and personal attacks. As you can imagine, the Terrestrial forum is a perfect balance between the two extremes. (There’s also an Outer Darkness Forum, but we won’t go there.)

    So you can now choose your comfort level. The participants have been very cooperative with the new system. I think you (and everyone else) will be pleasantly surprised by the dramatic increase in quality at MormonDiscussions.com of late.

  15. Daniel Peterson says:

    I never MENTIONED you, DKL.

    Proverbs 28:1.

    It’s the story of Professor Midgley’s invasion of the Tanners’ establishment that has grown over the years.

    And you can’t tell ME that Elvis is dead. I’ve seen him in a recent television commercial.

  16. DKL says:

    Daniel Peterson: Professor Midgley, next time you burst in upon Shades as he’s dining with Elvis, or on Jimmy Hoffa and Amelia Earhardt and the Tanners, or on George D. Smith while he’s in the act of making a fondue offering to the Flying Spaghetti Monster — or however the ever-morphing story goes — please do invite me along.

    Earth to Daniel Petorson: Elvis and Jimmy Hoffa and Amelia Earhardt are dead. Live in the now, Dan.

    And don’t go dipping into our fondue story by trying to make it sound like we’ve been all over the map, changing it to suit our taste. It is not an “ever-morphing story.” Make no mistake, from the time that Greg Call first related it, danithew, a random john, and me have never deviated from its essential truth; specifically, that Lou Midgley showed up unannounced at Lighthouse Ministries and rudely interrupted George Smith having fondue with the Tanners. If other people have distorted it, you can’t blame us.

  17. Louis Midgley says:

    It seems that those who do not understand the reference to fondue simply are not going to do all that well on the nacle. Well, at least that is what I have discovered in my brief, ill-fated venture into the bloggernacle, which, just now on a different blog, I discovered is not “real life.” Somehow I did not quite realize this before. I am, I must admit, a bit relieved to know this.

    Oh, I must also point out that the Shady One does not seem at all inclined to defend Palmer’s notion that Joseph Smith lifted in 1820-2 all the details of his Moroni story from the very first English translation of one of E. T. A. Hoffmann’s really strange tales about elemental spirits (not at all Captain Kidd stuff) that was only available to him as early as sometime in 1827. Well, of course, one might opine, Joseph could have learned German as a kid and then he could have also gone to Dresden on holiday to satisfy his thirst for first hand knowledge of German Romantic literature. Or he could have picked up all of those so-called parallels from Walters the Magician, who we all know liked to visit Paris and was very interested German Romantic literature either in French or German, though we are not quite sure which. And, of course, from all those things that Luman Walter(s) wrote, which must be availble somewhere, we know that he was deeply in trall to German Romantic literature, and especially intereted in Hoffmann’s faily tale, do we not?

  18. Guy Murray says:

    DP: Have you seen The View From the Foyer? It’s pretty much just what you described. I for one, have not yet frequented MormonDiscussions, and from your description most likely will not. Thanks for the head’s up.

  19. Daniel Peterson says:

    For what it’s worth, and with all due respect to Shades, his “MormonDiscussions” board is, from what I’ve seen of it, one of the least pleasant and least rational places for Mormon-related discussions IN cyber-space.

    Just a warning for those inclined to have a look. Look away, but be prepared for snarling, mockery, obscenity, personal insults, and one of the most dogmatic and ill-informed atheist Mormon-critics that I’ve ever wasted my time on (at another board). Don’t be shocked.

  20. Dr. Shades says:


    Dr. Midgley, I “hang” in Utah Valley in real life, but I “hang” on http://www.MormonDiscussions.com in cyber-space.

    Be that as it may, I admit I have utterly no idea what you mean by all these fondue references.

  21. Daniel Peterson says:

    I served a mission in Switzerland, and am, as it were, quite fond of fondue.

    Professor Midgley, next time you burst in upon Shades as he’s dining with Elvis, or on Jimmy Hoffa and Amelia Earhardt and the Tanners, or on George D. Smith while he’s in the act of making a fondue offering to the Flying Spaghetti Monster — or however the ever-morphing story goes — please do invite me along.

  22. Louis Midgley says:

    Ok, I am all for you fellows enjoying some fondue, even at my expense. When I again burst in, of course, without a herald, will you be serving Swissrose or Emmi fondue? After my first experience with the blog, I suggest dipping potatoes rather than tomatoes. And if I could figure out who the Shady One is and where he hangs, he might be my next target, if I was confident that he was doing fondue, of course. One must never forget what must become known as the fondue factor. It should rank right up there with what I call the fun factor.

  23. DKL says:

    Yes, arj. I’m willing to step up to the plate and make the fondue pledge.

  24. a random John says:

    I for one am hoping for a real renaissance in fondue references. I admit to having dropped the ball in the last few months, but danithew and DKL haven’t been as sharp as they once were either. I pledge to find more excuses to mention it.

  25. DKL says:

    LOL. Yes, you’ve got Greg Call to thank for the fondue story. And a random john and me are principal instigators in making it a broader bloggernacle joke.

  26. Louis Midgley says:

    Oh that Fondue story. See I am learning a bit about the world of the blog. The mess I got myself into with that unfortunate remark about Roasted has had, despite whatever pain it cause Roasted and his wife, which I deeply regret, one nice result. It has allowed me to move in the world of the blog, which I had previously only glanced at when someone called my attention to some food fight, from a kind of stick figure to an almost real person. But don’t let your guard down too far–just remember that such a one as me might just burst in unannounced and break up your little fondue party.

  27. And I’m not even a fan of “in the tradition of Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie” though I’ve enjoyed a lot of it.

  28. I just thought I’d note “difficult to believe, but not impossible.” happens so often in my day to day life. I’m amazed at what happens to people’s memory.

    (I’m speaking about things that really happen rather that constructs).

    I have not encountered Midgley much before, other than passing references to the fondue story, but find that I like him more than I did from the criticisms I’d read. But then, I’m an attorney, and like Daniel Peterson too.


  29. […] For example, in the major Bloggernacle scuffle about LDS apologist Louis Midgley’s response to RT’s response to Midgley’s response to Palmer’s response to Mormonism, noone that I saw actually addressed the difficulties for Palmer’s perspective raised by Midgley in that response, which, as I noted on John Dehlin’s thread about the topic include the supposed Golden Pot similarities and White Salamander connections, the supposed use of a different Hoffmann translation and the facts surrounding the Carlyle translation, and the coincidence of the Paul Pry pseudonym. The Paul Pry psuedonym should be of the least concern for those following Palmer out of the faith based on anything written in Insider’s View. The points raised by Midgley in that response piece, which echo the points he raised in the FARMS Review piece that RT criticized, are intellectually valid points to make and are in the nature of an undertaking in text-book intellectual history. The closest anyone came to addressing the substance of these counter-arguments that Midgley raised was when John Dehlin just brushed them aside stating that “I don’t feel as though Grant Palmer’s overall mosaic/picture has been discredited at all.” But really, many details discredit it, not least of which is the Carlyle translation issue. […]

  30. Louis Midgley says:

    I believe that I noticed that Mel Tungate (somewhere above), seemingly not willing to defend the argument that E. T. A. Hoffmann’s fairy tale was the source for the Moroni story, indicated that Grant Palmer’s chapter on the Golden Pot could easily be removed. Since Tungate is tight with those at Signature Books, is this, I wonder, a hint that such a revised edition is being contemplated? If so, will the deceptive packaging and all that stuff about Palmer being primarily an Institute Director or being an Institute Director three times also be removed? Palmer might actually like having the book called New York Mormonism, which was his title, but I doubt that he would permit his only contribution to Mormon studies to be removed from his book.

    Is anyone out there willing to defend the idea that a book available to Joseph Smith only in 1827 (or thereafter), if there was any evidence that Joseph ever saw that thing, could possibly have been the source for a family project that was put into play in 1820-2 in an effort for the impoverished Smith family to make some money and secure higher social standing? If not, then the Pot as an explanation for the recovery of the Book of Mormon has to go.

    Some of Palmer’s speculation about Hoffmann–a crucial element of that tale–wasin 2002 almost but not quite removed from Palmer’s book. The changling Salamander, right up front in 1985, silently faded away by 2002. It survived only twice in the decent obscruity of footnotes. But its flaming essence still hovers over Palmer’s entire undertaking, as I believe I have demonstrated. And in doing this, I dealt with a substantive issue–Palmer’s only original contribution to Mormon studies. James Allen, Davis Bitton, Mark Ashurst-McGee and Steve Harper dealt with other portions of An Insider’s View, did they not? So the argument that the substance of Palmer’s book was neglected is simply not true. I did not cover the entire book, but filled in the gaps. And neither is it close to being true that that Palmer’s book is a kind of introduction to what historians are now saying about Mormon origins. Instead, it contains essentially the speculation of those on the fringes of the Mormon historical profession.

  31. Louis Midgley says:

    The way this discussion has gone I am now overcome by the urge to burst in on “Dr. Shades”–unannounced, of course, while he is enjoying Fondue. I just must know if he prefers Swissrose or Emmi? Or does he make his from scratch?

  32. Daniel Peterson says:

    Shades: “Sort of like how Midgley’s “Paul Pry” obsession shows his unwillingness to engage the actual topic of Palmer’s book?”

    I take it that you missed Professor Midgley’s demolition of Mr. Palmer’s nonsensical claims about E. T. A. Hoffmann’s “Der goldne Topf.” You must, then, not have actually read Professor Midgley’s essay.

    Shades: “Sort of like how Midgley’s “Paul Pry” obsession calls attention to Palmer’s distasteful personality and alleged dishonesty?”

    In an effort to do intellectual history (e.g., the background to the writing of a book), one does intellectual history. I agree with you that writing clandestine attacks on Mormonism while working for the LDS Church, and distributing them under a pseudonym while continuing to draw a Church paycheck, doesn’t immediately strike one as the most ideal conceivable example of moral heroism and integrity. But that’s scarcely Professor Midgley’s fault.

    Shades: “I see no implicit admission that it was either unbalanced or unfair. . . . ‘Unbalanced’ and ‘unfair’ are descriptors you conjured up, not descriptors Hatch himself used.”

    I was referring to Mr. Hatch’s admission that “involvement in such polarized groups” — he specifically mentions Sunstone, whose employment he was about to leave but whose employee he was at the time he wrote his article — “creates a loss of balance and perspective. I’ve always been aware that working at Sunstone makes it difficult for me to be fair to many in the Church.”

    Your interpretation seems to require that Mr. Hatch was simply implying, without actually saying so, that “involvement in such polarized groups” causes OTHERS to lose balance and perspective, and causes OTHERS difficulties with regard to fairness, but had never had that effect upon HIM. (Perhaps you can explain why he would have inserted that oddly irrelevant boast into his note.) Or, perhaps, you wish to suggest that he was really saying, without actually saying it, that, while he too had problems with balance, perspective, and fairness, those problems did not in any way affect the paper that he and Professor Midgley had been discussing — but that he was bringing them up as total irrelevancies for no apparent reason.

    Shades: “‘Embarrassed’ certainly doesn’t follow from his words ‘If Signature wants to use it, that’s just fine.'”

    Nonetheless, it would scarcely be surprising if Mr. Hatch were “embarrassed” by a piece that he himself now concedes to have been “amateurish,” and that he quite arguably regards as both unbalanced and unfair. I think it rather likely that he WOULD be embarrassed.

    Shades: “Now that Midgley has beaten his irrelevant ‘Paul Pry’ horse down to sub-atomic particles, what part of Palmer’s actual BOOK does Midgley think is untrue? ”

    You definitely must not have read Professor Midgley’s review. He plainly and expressly regards Mr. Palmer’s ridiculous “Golden Pot” scenario as untrue. He could not possibly have said so any more plainly.

    And, since Professor Midgley’s essay appeared quite deliberately as part of an ensemble that included, besides a statement from the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History, reviews by Davis Bitton, Steven Harper, Mark Ashurst-McGee, and James Allen, there is every reason to assume that he agrees with their criticisms, as well.

  33. Dr. Shades says:

    “I continue to be astonished by the unwillingness of those who are presumably sympathetic to Grant Palmer to engage the actual topic.”

    Sort of like how Midgley’s “Paul Pry” obsession shows his unwillingness to engage the actual topic of Palmer’s book?

    “Instead, what we see are rabbit trails about the distasteful personalities and alleged dishonesty of Mr. Palmer’s critics, who–nassssty little varmints!–purportedly commit (ugh) irrelevant and distracting personal attacks.”

    Sort of like how Midgley’s “Paul Pry” obsession calls attention to Palmer’s distasteful personality and alleged dishonesty?

    “Second, while the proposition that John Hatch was “embarrassed” by an “immature rant” may not be precisely deducible from his concession of its “obvious amateurishness” and his implicit admission that it was unbalanced and unfair, Professor Midgley’s paraphrase doesn’t seem to me wildly incorrect, either.”

    I see no implicit admission that it was either unbalanced or unfair. My interpretation is that he probably wishes he’d given it more scholarly window-dressing by using more value-neutral words–not that the message itself is unbalanced or unfair in the least.

    “Mr. Hatch’s comment that he was ‘young,’ and his reference to the piece as ‘amateur,’ and his allusions to being a student and wanting to go back to school certainly seem to support the description ‘immature.'”

    So far, so good.

    “The implied descriptors ‘unbalanced’ and ‘unfair’ seem to lead, without too much difficulty, to the concept of a ‘rant.'”

    “Unbalanced” and “unfair” are descriptors you conjured up, not descriptors Hatch himself used.

    “And it would scarcely be surprising if Mr. Hatch were ’embarrassed’ by a piece that he himself now concedes to have been ‘amateurish,’ unbalanced, and unfair.”

    “Embarrassed” certainly doesn’t follow from his words “If Signature wants to use it, that’s just fine.”

    “Indeed, it would be quite surprising, and very disappointing, if he were NOT.”

    Congratulations! Not even Evel Knievel could’ve made that leap!

    “Do you have any response to Professor Midgley’s remarks on the Grant Palmer case, above?”

    Yes. Now that Midgley has beaten his irrelevant “Paul Pry” horse down to sub-atomic particles, what part of Palmer’s actual BOOK does Midgley think is untrue?

  34. Mark IV says:

    OK, that makes sense. But I’m not speaking in general terms, I’m saying that on this particular thread, it did happen. That simple fact that Midgley characterized his own remarks as stupid and foolish makes it more than an irrelevant distraction for me. A good man got trashed – it’s hard for me to look beyond that to the elegance of whatever arguments were advanced, although I admit that I found them to be persuasive.

  35. Daniel Peterson says:

    I’m responding to the charge, very common in certain quarters, that apologists in general generally resort to this kind of attack.

    We could, I suppose, discuss exactly what Professor Midgley did, and precisely what he admitted to and apologized for. However, that would be yet one more irrelevant distraction of the kind that I’m supposed to passionately favor but, in fact, do not care for in the slightest degree.

  36. Mark IV says:

    …who…purportedly commit irrelevant and distracting personal attacks…

    Danile P., why do you say purportedly? Midgley has already admitted and apologized for an irrelevant and distracting, to say nothing of mistaken, personal attack.

  37. Daniel Peterson says:

    First of all, this doesn’t even rise to the level of a tertiary issue. I continue to be astonished by the unwillingness of those who are presumably sympathetic to Grant Palmer to engage the actual topic. Instead, what we see are rabbit trails about the distasteful personalities and alleged dishonesty of Mr. Palmer’s critics, who — nassssty little varmints! — purportedly commit (ugh) irrelevant and distracting personal attacks.

    Second, while the proposition that John Hatch was “embarrassed” by an “immature rant” may not be precisely deducible from his concession of its “obvious amateurishness” and his implicit admission that it was unbalanced and unfair, Professor Midgley’s paraphrase doesn’t seem to me wildly incorrect, either.

    Mr. Hatch’s comment that he was “young,” and his reference to the piece as “amateur,” and his allusions to being a student and wanting to go back to school certainly seem to support the description “immature.” The implied descriptors “unbalanced” and “unfair” seem to lead, without too much difficulty, to the concept of a “rant.” And it would scarcely be surprising if Mr. Hatch were “embarrassed” by a piece that he himself now concedes to have been “amateurish,” unbalanced, and unfair. Indeed, it would be quite surprising, and very disappointing, if he were NOT.

    Do you have any response to Professor Midgley’s remarks on the Grant Palmer case, above?

  38. Dr. Shades says:

    Did I say anything which was in any way incorrect?

  39. Daniel Peterson says:

    Shades is nothing if not persistent.

  40. Dr. Shades says:

    Thanks for posting the correspondence.

    Regarding it, you said:

    “. . . John Hatch is embarrassed by what he has admitted to me . . . was an immature rant.”

    But Hatch himself originally wrote:

    “I’m not concerned about the essay on Signature’s website, except for its obvious amateurishness. Like most, I look back on what I wrote when even just a bit younger and think it could be so much better. But it’s also not a topic I have any desire to revisit. If Signature wants to use it, that’s just fine. It may help add to the discussion.”

    You originally said he was “embarrassed” by his “immature rant.” I can certainly get “immature” out of “amateurishness,” but where did he admit it was a “rant?” Plus, it hardly seems he was “embarrassed” by something that “may help add to the discussion.”

    It’s a good thing I challenged you, otherwise folks might think you were 3 for 3 instead of the actual 1 for 3. Oh well, 1 out of 3 ain’t bad, eh?

  41. Daniel Peterson says:

    But hey, Midgley. How do we know that you didn’t just invent a bogus note from John Hatch and falsely ATTRIBUTE it to him?

    We know what you and your apologist cronies are like. There is NOTHING you wouldn’t stoop to.

    If it weren’t for horrible, despicable people like you, with all your personal attacks, we could have substantive discussions of the issues. The Millennium would dawn. The Fall would be repealed. Our stocks would go up. There would be a chicken in every pot and a Porsche in every garage. We would all join hands and sing “Kumbaya” around a campfire each evening.

  42. George says:

    Your intellectual history is off. Douglas Adair noted Madison’s debt to Hume in his 1943 dissertation.

  43. Louis Midgley says:

    I am pleased to be able to provide “Dr. Shades” with the item he requested above. On Monday, 6 December 2004, John Hatch sent an email to me. Please note the friendly tone. I had previously mentioned a sinus infection I had and then a visit to Paris and Normandy the Midgleys were about to undertake. I had advised John to move on and get back into school and forget the profoundly polarizing environment he had been operating in. There he was, day after day, less than a stones throw from the Signature Books people and in the middle of what has to be the gossip capitol on the margins of Mormondom. Not a good thing for a young fellow, or so I believe and hence advised. I got back the following friendly letter. Please note John’s comment on the “obvious amateurishness” of the things he had previously said about FARMS. And also note that John’s remarks about FARMS were then still posted on the Signature Books webpage, but that they have since been pulled. I wonder if “Dr. Shakes” will be willing to grant that my remark was not bogus or will he want to salvage something from this by trying to drife a wedge between my words “immature rant” and John’s own language, which I was paraphrasing? John’s letter email message reads as follows:


    I’m jealous! I look forward to visiting France and the rest of Europe someday (though not all during the same trip, I hope). I hope you’re feeling better and get shake the infection.

    As it is, your advice comes coincidentally during my last week at Sunstone. I let Dan Wotherspoon know back in July that the time had come for me to move on, primarily to go back to school. I’ve been calling myself a student for 10 years, it’s time to finish the job instead of taking one or two night classes every few semesters. I envisioned myself finishing school while I worked at Sunstone, but it simply wasn’t realistic – too many deadlines and other things taking my attention.

    I also think involvement in such polarized groups creates a loss of balance and perspective. I’ve always been aware that working at Sunstone makes it difficult for me to be fair to many in the Church. I look forward to being a relatively normal “citizen” again. Perhaps the same is true for the Review? I don’t know.

    I’m not concerned about the essay on Signature’s website, except for its obvious amateurishness. Like most, I look back on what I wrote when even just a bit younger and think it could be so much better. But it’s also not a topic I have any desire to revisit. If Signature wants to use it, that’s just fine. It may help add to the discussion.


    For the benefit of Dr. Shades, I would not at all mind posting more of my correspondence with John Hatch. He looks good in it–both reasonable and friendly. In it you will not find nasty name calling or personal insults. That kind of thing takes place when we are performing in a theater before an audience in which we are trying to score points. I have noticed, sad to say, a bit of this taking place on this blog.

  44. […] Well, I’ve finally waded through most of the post and comments on the RT/Midgley threads, that Clark has succinctly listed here.  Very entertaining, while enlightening as well. I confess, I have to agree with Bro’s. Midgley and Peterson over at the Iron Rod thread, that there has been precious little in terms of response from the Grant Palmer apologetic crowd in terms of substantive response to Midgley’s original response to RT.  There’s been lots of name calling, and claims of meanness and nastiness (even some whale abuse)–but not much substantive response. […]

  45. Daniel Peterson says:

    Oooh. A public insinuation of dishonesty against one of those personal-attack-prone FARMS apologists.

    They’re sooooo nasty. So lacking in character. Why, lying to them is about as natural as breathing.

    Gotta love it.

  46. Dr. Shades says:

    Louis Midgley writes:

    “That deeply flawed diatribe, entitled ‘Why I No Longer Trust FARMS,’ is no longer posted on the Signature Book [sic] 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.”

    Sounds like a bogus claim to me. Since you offered, I hereby challenge you to quote where he says that.

  47. Louis Midgley says:


    I can illustrate what I have in mind by intellectual history by pointing to the “Introduction” to Harvey Mansfield and Delbra Winthrop, trans., of Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (University of Chicago, 2000), pp. xvii-lxxxvi. This introduction, which explains, among other things, the sources of the ideas advanced by Tocqueville, is worth the price of the book. But the translation is remarkable.

    I will offer an example from my own experience. In 1950, within days of arriving on a ship in Wellington, New Zealand, I ventured into a bookstore and picked up a copy of David Hume’s Essays: Moral, Political and Literary. I glanced at the contents. What I saw stunned me. There I noticed the sources for several of James Madison’s most important ideas in his contributions to debate over the ratification of the Constitution. I purchased this volume for about 50 cents. My primitive pencil markings are still in it. So what? Well no one had previously noticed that Madison (and Hamilton) had lifted ideas from David Hume. It was only later that Douglas Adair made himself famous by calling attention to this. If one can compare very high things to very low things, what I noticed that day was like discovering that Grant Palmer’s book rested on a manuscript he wrote in 1985 under a pseudonym.

    Now if you would like to have a look at a larger and, I believe, much more significant example of my own efforts at intellectual history, have a look an my essay entitled “The Utility of Faith Reconsidered,” in the festschrift for Truman Madsen entitled Revelation, Reason, and Faith (FARMS, 2002), 139-186. Jim Faulconer, Richard Bushman, David Paulsen and Blake Ostler and many other have essays in that book, much of which is inellectual history. Even my tribute to Hugh Nibley, entitled “A Mighty Kauri Has Fallen,” FARMS Review17/1 (2005): 337-354 is my own effort at doing something of an intellectual history about me and how I got to be who and what I am. I do not deny some of Nibley’s quirks, though I probably am guilty of not rushing to reveal all of mine.

    We are just surrounded by efforts at intellectual history, good, bad and indifferent.Does this help?

  48. The reason there is so little substance in my contributions to this thread, is that as long as I’ve known Brother Midgley I’ve liked and agreed with nearly all of what he writes. I particularly like how mean and nasty he is with the the enemies of the Brethren and those who try tirelessly to undermine the confidence that the saints have in the historicity of the Book of Mormon, not to mention the honesty and integrity of one of the greatest men who ever lived, Joseph Smith. But probably the biggest reason I haven’t added anything substantive to this thread is because I am not acadmically qualified to judge his work, nor do I have the education and background to add anything important to what he has written.

    As to why Roasted Tomatoes and his band of merry critics have failed to respond with anything substantive, I can only guess. And my guess is that Lou has made such a strong case that they despair of successfully attacking it. And would rather avoid the discussion than mount a weak attack that just makes them look foolish. After all if you can’t win then why play? And if you are already playing when you realize that you are outmatched, then take your ball and go home rather than stick around for the ignominy of the inevitable defeat.

    And once the scholars who are actually qualified to make substantive comments have left rather than lose the argument, there is no one left but those who are qualified only to make idle chit-chat and engage in such gossip as usually turns up when a thread starts to get stale.

    Tell me Lou, where can I learn more about this intellectual history that you said you were interested in. Is that actually a subcategory of Church history, or American history or what? And what are a couple of standard works in the field, authors that you like on the subject? I noticed on the FAIR message board that Dan links to some philosophy organization. Is that the one that Dennis Potter and Clark Goble are involved in? Is intellectual history anything like the history of philosophy? I am such a dilettant. It is so frustrating. I can’t seem to stay focused on anything long enough to more than scratch the surface of it.

  49. Daniel Peterson says:

    I second Professor Midgley’s invitation to serious discussion of the actual issues raised. It would be interesting to see what folks have to say.

    (What I have to say is quite simple: I find Professor Midgley’s response convincing. But then, I never had a problem in the first place with his original essay on Mr. Palmer’s book and its genesis. After all, I published the essay.)

  50. DKL says:

    Don’t be so hard on yourself, Daniel. Your comments were just great.

  51. Daniel Peterson says:

    Nothing of substance here, I see.

    A pity.

  52. DKL says:

    Actually, (at the risk of tarnishing my reputation) I’d like to retract that last statement about impishness and stature. It’s not fair, so I apologize for having said it.

  53. DKL says:

    Louis Midgely: if.. the two of us are somehow engaged in a contest in which points are being awarded or scored, why did you only give yourself a One and me a Zero.

    Maybe you’re on to something, Lou. Let’s give it a try:

    DKL: 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000
    Midgley: -1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

    Hmmm. Actually, it feels about the same. No, it feels worse–like an election in a banana republic. But I can understand why it suits your taste better.

    Indulge me while I try the old formula again:

    DKL: 1
    Midgley: 0

    Yeah. That’s more like it. In it’s own humble way, it say “Louis Midgley lost the argument.” Succinct and to the point.

    Louis Midgley: A full fledged Blog Bully should be able to do such things, should they not?

    Well, sure. Only I’ve hitherto only been a minor league blog bully, Lou. But perhaps I just haven’t been aiming high enough.

    Louis Midgley: You obviously do not like that label…

    Ah, chucks, Lou. Don’t be so hard on yourself. I like your label. “minor league blog bully” has much more of a “man of the people” sound than the description I proffered (viz., a low-life and a rabble rouser).

    Louis Midgley: …but I do not appreciate one word you have posted.

    You may want to reconsider this, Lou. One word I posted here is the word, “integrity.” Do you really want to go on record for hating that one?

    Louis Midgley: Now I trust that by being just a bit impish with you, I will have proven to all those desperately looking for such evidence that I am a Moral Monster, and an utter fool or anything else one needs to believe in order to hang onto their unfaith or whatever it is that they are anxiously defending.

    It’s actually great to see you being impish, Lou. At last, your rhetoric matches your stature.

  54. DKL says:

    Daniel Peterson: [I’ve] been off on the western coast of Vancouver Island with my wife and two of my sons, subjecting a variety of whales and native Americans to my ceaseless vitriol

    Pick on the native Americans if you must. But why the whales? Please, Daniel, save the whales. The whales are important enough that there’s an entire Star Trek movie devoted to them.

    Daniel Peterson: I’m a moral leper, a psychologically and ethically deformed individual…

    Admission is the first step to recovery. Now that you’ve finally seemed to realize that some members of your audience actually have opinions of value, I think that the door is now open for you to have further insights.

    Hang in there, Daniel! You’re a diamond in the rough, and we all want to see you reach your potential!

  55. Louis Midgley says:

    I have been sort of lurking. Some of what has been posted has been interesting. Some of the comments have floated away from my stupid, foolish remark about Roasted. For that remark Roasted I fully deserved being toasted. But virtually nothing has been said about what I wrote above. I tried hard to respond in detail to a serious criticism. I had hoped that the substance of what I had posted would be thrashed out. I has not been. Instead, much like almost every exchange I have witnessed on the web, people just opine about whatever floats into their heads. On lists I have noticed that if the header says “dogs,” someone will immediately say that their dog is brown, and people will start talking about a book they read about colors, or about a shirt they owned that was brown, and then someone, out of the blue will announce, that their do was named Joe, and someone will mention that they knew a Joe who liked to observe the moom and then their will be a full debate over whether NASA faked the moon landings.

    So I am back begging for some analysis of what I posted above or some commentary on “Prying into Palmer” other than moaning about tone, or statements that I should have written a different essay on a different topic.

    Now a note for DKL (aka David King Landrith). David, if you are right that the two of us are somehow engaged in a contest in which points are being awarded or scored, why did you only give yourself a One and me a Zero. After all, it appears that you are not only a contestant in this imaginary contest, but also the judge. I recommend that you give yourself a Ten and me a Zero or even a minus 10. Or award yourself, for your outstanding performance, One Hundred Points, and me a puny Zero. A full fledged Blog Bully should be able to do such things, should they not? You obviously do not like that label, but I do not appreciate one word you have posted. Now I trust that by being just a bit impish with you, I will have proven to all those desperately looking for such evidence that I am a Moral Monster, and an utter fool or anything else one needs to believe in order to hang onto their unfaith or whatever it is that they are anxiously defending.

  56. Daniel Peterson says:

    I haven’t yet read through this thread — having been off on the western coast of Vancouver Island with my wife and two of my sons, subjecting a variety of whales and native Americans to my ceaseless vitriol — and I may never get around to it, so I can’t comment on the charity or lack thereof that has been manifest here.

    However, on the whole, I have not been convinced by those who wish to characterize all or most or even a substantial portion of Mormon apologetics as mean-spirited.

    But that may, of course, simply be because I’m a moral leper, a psychologically and ethically deformed individual who can no more recognize unchristian nastiness than a fish notices the water in which it swims. If the testimony of some elements of the Bloggernacle is to be believed, the latter is the most likely explanation.

  57. DKL says:

    Daniel Peterson, you’re attempt to elevate this dialogue by injecting an element of candor and honesty is, frankly, too little too late.

  58. Astonished says:

    Brother Peterson:

    I have no doubt that if you were on the faculty of Johns Hopkins or Stanford or Harvard or Michigan (etc. etc. etc.) and engaged in spirited discussion with your non-LDS peers about religious issues, you would make every attempt to treat your protestant/catholic/jewish/agnostic/backsliding Mormon/atheistic peers with loving respect, even when they disagreed strongly with positions that are of the highest importance to you. It perplexes me that these norms of civility that govern our face-to-face contacts with others is somehow abandoned when we get behind a computer screen. Love is one powerful, powerful force — so significant that Paul went so far as to say that God ~is~ love — and we should do our utmost to ensure that charity governs all of our interactions, even those over the internet. I see no need to return, tit-for-tat, each mean-spirited attack by critics of the Church. I believe that we have been commanded by the Savior Himself to love our enemies, and do good to those who spitefully use us.

    (P.S. I know, of course, that your post of earlier today was tongue-in-cheek. Still, the mean-spirited responses of my beloved fellow latter-day saints on these blogs has me shaking my head . . . We can do so much better.)

  59. Daniel Peterson says:

    I would like to clear up a misunderstanding apparent in at least one of the posts above:

    I AM mean and nasty.

    For that matter, so is everybody else associated in any way with FARMS.

    Anyone who attempts to deny our meanness and nastiness is clearly either uninformed or deceptive.

    We are all guilty — and constantly so — of the ad hominem logical fallacy. Consequently, our arguments and positions can safely be dismissed.

  60. Astonished says:

    Thank you for your detailed response. While your explanation certainly helps me to understand your perspective, and while we both undoubtedly wish to achieve the identical end result, i.e., the building of the Kingdom of God on earth, we have a very different vision of the appropriate means to attain that end. In my mind, love is the higher law, and only the rarest of circumstances should provoke a contrary response. My brief review of this blog seems to indicate that wrath and scorn are the rule, and not the exception, which makes me cringe. God bless us all with wisdom.

  61. On July 10th, 2006 at 12:05 pm, Brother Astonished wrote:

    Dear John Redelfs:

    What possible spirit could have prompted you to post such a sarcastic, unfounded post? I am a convert to the Church, and have the deepest possible feelings about the Book of Mormon. And what on earth would prompt you to suggest that I use Grant Palmer’s book instead of modern day scripture as a missionary tool? As for “defending an author of anti-Mormon books”, I did no such thing in my post.

    Dear Brother Astonished:
    I confess that my post was sarcastic, and for that I apologize. I deny that it was unfounded. I too am a convert to the Church, and owe my very life to the Book of Mormon without which I would have become an atheist and agnostic for the remainder of a certainly very short life. The Book of Mormon restored to me something that my previous, Protestant church had stripped away from me, all confidence that Jesus Christ was indeed the Son of God and Redeemer of the world. But when you say that you were not defending the author of an anti-Mormon book, you reveal a fundamental misunderstanding of the ideological war that is taking place on the Internet ever since it became part of the public awareness, since long before the World Wide Web when discussion forums for Latter-day Saints were restricted to Bitnet on the academic mainframes at BYU, and Usenet newsgroups available primarily to computer professionals working with Unix systems.

    The nature of this communications medium forces everyone who uses it to takes sides in verbal combat on virtually every issue that gets discussed whether it be Mormonism, bluegrass music, or how to keep your tropical fish aquarium beautiful and healthy.

    And because of this virtually universal characteristic of online computer mediated communications, because everyone is forced to take sides in every discussion, criticizing those who defend the Book of Mormon and the Brethren is indeed defending those who attack the Book of Mormon and the Brethren. Even if you have no such desire, you will inevitably be assigned to one side of the controversy or the other in the eyes of all those who read and contribute to these discussions. And by attacking Stan Barker, which is exactly what you did regardless of what you may have intended to do, you put yourself squarely in the camp of the dissidents, apostates, Evangelical Mormon bashers, and other anti-Mormons who flock to the banner of Grant Palmer and his disgusting book. I am sure that you did not intend to do this, but that is what you have done nevertheless.

    Online computer mediated communications such as blogs with comment threads, Usenet newsgroups, unmoderated email discussion lists, and web based message boards are not like traditional publishing, Church sponsored meetings, or General Conference. And those who participate in these discussions do not have the same responsibilities or restraints that are necessarily part of the stewardship of one of the Brethren speaking in General Conference, our Ward Mission Leaders, or our full-time missionaries. Our responsibility, as I see it, is to make sure that the lies and false propaganda of the Adversary do not go unanswered in this exciting, new communications medium made possible by the latest software technology. FARMS and FAIR do a marvelous job of exercising Christian restraint in their response to these mortal devils who are using this new medium to spread satanic lies about the Savior’s official church and his living prophets, but they do it by shutting down all online discussion of their loving and moderate claims and statements in a way that blogs were never designed to do, and cannot do unless all commenting is turned off or heavily moderated, both of which virtually eliminate any circulation and readership thus defeating the whole purpose of having an online presence.

    For an example, I own and manage an email discussion list “for those who find joy in the following the prophets” called Zion. By list charter we have all agreed to avoid discussing certain inflammatory topics such as abortion, homosexuals, and feminism. In each of these three areas the Internet is rife with people claiming to be Latter-day Saints who want to Corrupt The Righteous instead of Choosing The Right. So it is impossible to have an even reasonably enlightening discussion on these issues without attracting the cyberspace equivalent of pornographers, drug pushers, and Mafia hit men who are usually claiming to be faithful saints even though their opinions are so divergent from those taught by our prophets as to utterly contradict that claim. These same people attend our Church meetings but virtually never tell anyone at Church “what they really think” or they would be up before a disciplinary counsel in a flash, and they know it.

    On my highly controlled list, Zion, we love each other and I have had my own stake president participating there since long before he became my stake president. I have many others on the list who are stake presidents, Bishops, temple workers, who are either serving in these callings presently or have done so in the past. But this is only possible because I maintain such tight security against our enemies and those who despise the Brethren and hate the Church. I could do that on this blog. But if I did, I would have to require that every members who comments on the posts be a subscribed member of the blog, and I would have to scrupulously “excommunicate” from the membership anyone who is seeking the overthrow of the Restored gospel while masquerading as a faithful saint. The reason this blog is so “mean-spirited” is because I have chosen not to do that in the hopes that someone will read the blog. You see here the natural results of that decision. Faithful saints are human beings just like anyone else, and when others savagely defame and ridicule their religious icons, many of them cannot resist speaking an unpopular truth that there are active members in the Church who are wolves in sheep’s clothing and they use the Internet to prey upon the unwary. Dealing with such wolves is necessarily nasty business because it involves identifying wolves and liars as what they really are.

    Brother Astonished also wrote:
    I am genuinely astonished at the sarcastic and mean-spirited tone of this blog. Do you really think that such harsh polemics are advancing the work of the Kingdom? Do you really think that snide remarks are going to win converts to the Church? Have you ever stopped to ask yourselves why the Brethren don’t resort to sarcasm and name-calling?

    Dear Brother Astonished:
    If you are astonished, you must not get out much. Read some of the other blogs. Participate on the various Internet forums where the faithful lock horns with the Signaturi and other dissidents who work tirelessly in the employ of the Adversary in their efforts to undermine the confidence that the saints have in their prophet-leaders and in our Church history as it is told by those Church leaders. And yes, I think that this “harsh polemic” advances the work of the kingdom just as much as similar harsh polemic did when the Savior engaged in it as recorded in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and when the Book of Mormon prophets engaged in it when dealing with the Sherems, Korihors, Nehors, and Caiaphas’s of their day. It does not bring others to Christ, but it keeps the devils from driving them away as the wicked would do if their dishonest propaganda and lies about the Church and the Brethren were left unchallenged. It is the nature of propaganda that lies repeated loud enough and often enough over a long enough period will come to be accepted as facts. And unfortunately, those who attack the Brethren using this exciting new medium are far more willing to bear their “testimonies” than those who love the Church and the Savior. As a result, the false is established as true, and the truth is established as false. Good is called evil, and evil is called goood, by and by. Someone has to stand up for the right, and there is no pleasant and “nice” way to do it. Even President Hinckley uses strong language on these people as have all the Presidents of the Church before him.

    Brother Astonished also wrote:
    President Hinckley has done much to advance the work of the Church by making himself accessible to the public and speaking with gracious and loving wisdom. Yet those on this blog seem intent on undermining the prophetic accomplishments of the current Prophet, Seer and Revelator by the routine use of caustic personal attacks. Do you honestly believe that this is the way a Latter-Day Saint is supposed to act?

    Yes, President Hinckley has done a lot, but you apparently have missed a few things he has said about these devil’s, in General Conference no less as recently as April 2000:

    On the other hand, during these years I have come to know of the mean and contemptuous ways of our critics. I think the Lord had them in mind when he declared:

    “Cursed are all those that shall lift up the heel against mine anointed, saith the Lord, and cry they have sinned when they have not sinned before me, . . . but have done that which was meet in mine eyes, and which I commanded them.

    “. . . Those who cry transgression do it because they are the servants of sin, and are the children of disobedience themselves. . .

    “Wo unto them. . . .

    “Their basket shall not be full, their houses and their barns shall perish, and they themselves shall be despised by those that flattered them” (D&C 121:16­17, 19­20).

    We leave to Him, whose right it is, judgments that may come to those who oppose His work.”

    President Benson said virtually the same thing in General Conferece:

    Yes, within the Church today there are tares among the wheat and wolves within the flock. As President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., stated: “The ravening wolves are amongst us, from our own membership, and they, more than any others, are clothed in sheep’s clothing because they wear the habiliments of the priesthood. We should be careful of them.” (CR April 1949, p. 163.) The wolves amongst our flock are more numerous and devious today than when President Clark made this statement. (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p.89)

    Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and virtually every other prophet in this dispensation have made similar statements. If lies go unanswered they become established as truth in the hearts and minds of the people. Allowing this to happen does not further the work of the Church. The First Presidency and the Twelve are not the only priesthood holders in the Church. The rest of us have a responsibility to do as the Book of Mormon does, to 1) testify of Christ, and 2) to warn the people against the Savior’s enemies. Those people who work to overthrow the Restored gospel in the Bloggernacle and in other Internet forums are trying to overthrow the Restored gospel whether they realize what they are doing or not.

    Brother Astonished also wrote:
    Since I don’t know John or Stan, I do not in any way intend to pass judgment on you as individuals. I have no doubt that you work diligently to fulfill your Church callings, and are probably kind and patient husbands and fathers. But speaking from the perspective of someone who lives in the mission field and who interacts daily with members of other faiths, your tone on this board is entirely inconsistent with the modern message of the Church, and, respectfully, should be reconsidered.

    Dear Brother Astonished:
    You may not intend to pass judgement on us, but that seems to be what you have done nevertheless. I too live in the mission field, but I also spend a great deal of time testifying of Jesus Christ and his living prophets alive upon the earth today. And I know a great deal about how the computer networks are used by the wicked to spread their filth and lies. I also am aware that there are very few faithful saints who stand up to them because they foolishly suppose that lies unanswered do no harm. But in the case of the computer networks, nothing could be further from the truth. I repeat, lies repeated loud enough, often enough, and long enough become accepted as facts by the uneducated and those with weak testimonies. And unless such lies are effectively refuted, the wicked will always win in a war of ideas which is necessarily a war of words. This is why the work of such organizations as FAIR and FARMS is so extremely important. And it is my chosen “mission” on the Internet. The Brethren and our other leaders, both local, regional and general cannot do this work because they are official Church spokesmen. But the rest of us most certainly can. We not only can, but in my opinion we have a moral obligation to do so. We cannot abandon the Internet to the wicked. The Savior has commanded us to “preach, teach, expound and exhort” (D&C 20:46, 50) And we not only can, but we must do so on the Internet and in the Bloggernacle. Failing to do so, abandons the whole medium to the wicked.

    Unfortunately, there is no way to do this without making a lot of people angry. Nephi has explained this in his closing remarks in 2 Nephi where he says that the wicked take the truth to be hard because it is harsh against sin. Here on the Internet, the sins are all ideological ones, thought sins and word sins. If we do not call the wicked to repentance here, we are failing in the responsibility of every prophet throughout history, to cry repentance unto the people. And all of God’s covenant people are called to be prophets and prophetesses. Any man or woman who speaks or writes under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost is a such a prophet.

    If I have gone beyond what is appropriate in my defense of the Brethren, the Book of Mormon, the history of the Church as the prophets tell it, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I apologize to you. I hope the Lord will forgive my occasionally excessive zeal. I will try hard to do better. But I would far rather err on the side of defending the right, than to do the opposite by remaining silent. Remaining silent forfeits the contest and the wicked win by default.

    Remember, sometimes silence is golden, and sometimes it is just plain yellow.

  62. DKL says:

    Louis Midgley: I urge everyone to have a close look at what DKL (aka David King Landrith), who appears to me to be at least a sort of minor league blog bully, has to say about Dan Peterson and me on John Dehlin’s site (see http://mormonstories.org/ and work your way down to what he has posted). There you will, if you can take still more nonsense, see more of Landrith’s crude personal insults, name-calling, and personal attacks on Dan and me. It is, however, still possible that Landrith, who I had never heard of until an hour ago, really believes he is doing God and humankind a favor with his rhetorical overkill. I trust that everyone will see that he has done Dan Peterson and me a kind of favor, though not exactly the way he imagined, by becoming something like what he wrongly imagines that we are.

    I think it’s great that you’re setting everyone here straight about what kind of person that I am. You’ve obviously done your homework, and it’s great that you’re allowing other people to benefit from your insights. I thank you, Lou–and what’s more, the bloggernacle thanks you.

    What pleases me most about your reaction here is that it means that I’ve won the argument–by default! DKL 1; Midgley 0. How sweet it is…

  63. Astonished says:

    Dear John Redelfs:

    What possible spirit could have prompted you to post such a sarcastic, unfounded post? I am a convert to the Church, and have the deepest possible feelings about the Book of Mormon. And what on earth would prompt you to suggest that I use Grant Palmer’s book instead of modern day scripture as a missionary tool? As for “defending an author of anti-Mormon books”, I did no such thing in my post.

    I am genuinely astonished at the sarcastic and mean-spirited tone of this blog. Do you really think that such harsh polemics are advancing the work of the Kingdom? Do you really think that snide remarks are going to win converts to the Church? Have you ever stopped to ask yourselves why the Brethren don’t resort to sarcasm and name-calling? President Hinckley has done much to advance the work of the Church by making himself accessible to the public and speaking with gracious and loving wisdom. Yet those on this blog seem intent on undermining the prophetic accomplishments of the current Prophet, Seer and Revelator by the routine use of caustic personal attacks. Do you honestly believe that this is the way a Latter-Day Saint is supposed to act?

    Since I don’t know John or Stan, I do not in any way intend to pass judgment on you as individuals. I have no doubt that you work diligently to fulfill your Church callings, and are probably kind and patient husbands and fathers. But speaking from the perspective of someone who lives in the mission field and who interacts daily with members of other faiths, your tone on this board is entirely inconsistent with the modern message of the Church, and, respectfully, should be reconsidered.

  64. a random John says:

    Louis and all other interested parties,

    I just read the discussion about this discussion over at DMI. I recommend it to anyone here that is interested. Lous has posted the following:

    The mistake I made about Roasted did not flow from not understanding his webpage. I just mixed him up, very unfortunately, with someone else. I cannot figure out how this happened. I certainly regret it….

    To this I (a random John, aka John Harrison) would like to add my own apology to Louis for my part in fanning the flames in this discussion. I wish I had come across the DMI discussion earlier.

    If there was a similar retraction on this discussion, I have missed it, but allow me to retract my suggestion that Louis is attacking people rather than ideas. I haven’t read much of what he has written, but of what I have read my only real issue with him was what I percieved as an attack on RT’s faith and what I thought was a threat to contact his department about how he spends his time. I’m a little sad that they are uncorrected in the original post above, but I have no issues with anything else that is up there.

    It looks like much of this was a false alarm, and it will serve as a reminder to me at least to restrain from being judgemental.

  65. Dear Astonished, try to be as loving, patient and merciful with Stan as you are asking him to be with Grant Palmer, the apostate. Stan may have become confused when a faithful saint like Grant published an anti-Mormon book and implied that our prophet-leaders were liars because they don’t publish Church history the way Grant wants them to. Most faithful saints don’t do that, so it was easy for Stan to mistake him for one of those cultural Mormons. You are right. It would be best if you don’t show these blog comments to investigators. They might wonder why a good Mormon such as yourself would be defending an author of anti-Mormon books. Perhaps it would be best if instead of showing them these blog comments, you just give them a copy of Grant’s book instead of the Book of Mormon. That way they will learn the true history of the Church and run the other way.

  66. Astonished says:


    I just discovered this blog, and note that in the past week you have characterized others (who you may or may not know personally) in the most condescending and critical language possible, labeling them pejoratively as “cultural Mormons”, liars, deceivers and not worthy of respect.

    Respectfully, as someone who lives out in the mission field and works shoulder-to-shoulder each day with members of other faiths, I would not in a million years consider showing your posts to a single potential investigator of the Church, out of fear that they would conclude (incorrectly, of course) that the spirit of Mormonism is one of ridicule, spite and hatred.

    If ad hominem attacks are the best that our self-proclaimed apologists have to offer, it is no wonder that the Church’s growth has reached a plateau. I am grateful that the Bretheren have given us a better example, as they always seem to approach such discussions with diplomacy and love unfeigned.

    In the event that you are simply unable to control your personal attacks, then I implore you to please limit your communications to private banter, thus sparing the rest of us who are trying to help the Church grow from having to expend energy explaining that your approach is not reflective of the best that Mormonism has to offer to a world thirsty for living water.

  67. a random John says:


    That thread actually got shut down right after you appeared on it if I remeber correctly. I believe my comment came before your appearance. As Justin points out I never claimed that I haven’t claimed to be related to you before, I simply said that we’ve never had any direct online interaction, so if the “trick” I was playing was to mention that we are related in order to gain some odd advantage over you then obivously the passage you quote doesn’t apply as I was addressing John Hatch, and was mentioning my relation as a disclaimer.

    It seems that we can all be accused of having a faulty memory, or at least of having used our own memory of events for our own purposes.

    I look forward to meeting you!

  68. Justin H says:

    To be fair, Louis Midgley, what a random John said was:

    It is not a “trick”, nor have I ever addressed you before online.

    The comment you cite only mentions (but does not address) you.

  69. Louis Midgley says:

    I urge everyone to have a close look at what DKL (aka David King Landrith), who appears to me to be at least a sort of minor league blog bully, has to say about Dan Peterson and me on John Dehlin’s site (see http://mormonstories.org/ and work your way down to what he has posted). There you will, if you can take still more nonsense, see more of Landrith’s crude personal insults, name-calling, and personal attacks on Dan and me. It is, however, still possible that Landrith, who I had never heard of until an hour ago, really believes he is doing God and humankind a favor with his rhetorical overkill. I trust that everyone will see that he has done Dan Peterson and me a kind of favor, though not exactly the way he imagined, by becoming something like what he wrongly imagines that we are.

    Now for the record, if any of you have visited that other blog, I never phoned Tom Kimball’s mother. Not once, never, ever. Until I noticed John Hatch repeating this slander on that T&S blog that seems to have troubled Landrith, I had no idea that Kimball’s mother was still alive. Why does Landrith feel the urge to repeat malicious gossip? Where does all that energy come from? Why the hatred? And, I wonder, was he there in that anti-Mormon bookstore when Gary Novak and I were having a calm conversation with Sandra Tanner. The fact is that when her husband turned up, Sandra Tanner tried to calm him down, since he seemed a bit aggitated. She explained that we were merely having an interesting conversation. But Jerald, for reasons that I do not entirely understand, was unable to understand what his wife was trying to say. That is all there was to that incident.

  70. […] For reasons that I can’t quite get my mind around, my personal faith status has, in recent weeks, become one of the hot topics of discussion in the LDS blog community. I wouldn’t generally choose to respond to such remarks, but the widespread discussion about my beliefs provides a good opportunity for posting some comments that I’ve wanted to present for quite some time: my personal confession of faith. […]

  71. DKL says:

    Louis Midgely: I have nothing to say to DKL.

    ROTFLMAO. That’s awesome!

  72. Louis Midgley says:

    I have nothing to say to DKL. Randy B. really has it in for me. I wonder why. On another blog–this is spreading–I responded to him and some others.

    I have not heard a word from John H. (aka “a random John”). If I remember correctly, and in this case I do remember correctly, I indicated to John H. that I was a bit annoyed that he would take a bite out of my bum and then add a cute remark about being related. I think that I said that this was a dirty trick that he had played before. He denied this. But please read the following from T&S. See http://www.timesandseasons.org/?p=1605#more-1605
    This was posted during a donnybrook over my essay entitled “The Signature Books Saga.” “Let me state for the record that Lou is my great uncle. That said, I don’t know him well. It is pretty clear from this and previous blog entries that John H[atch]. does not like the man, and in fact uses him as an example to fend off attacks on Sunstone. I am somewhat shocked to see John H[atch]’s usual calm, rational manner of explaining what might be considered controversial opinions fly out the window when Midgley comes up. C’mon guys, hold yourselves to a higher standard rather than sinking to the one that you claim Midgley holds himself to.”
    Comment by a random John — 11/16/2004 @ 5:22 pm

    The fact is that “a random John” did not recall this incident. He denied that it had happened. It took place less than a year ago.

    Now to the point. A randomJohn is a bright fellow; he has a fine education. He posted this item less than two years ago. I remembered it, but he didn’t. Is it possible that Grant Palmer simply cannot recall things that happened late in 1984 or 1985? Of course. So what? When he told me in my phone conversation with him that he did not recall who mentioned the name “Paul Pry” to him and was not aware of its powerful anti-Mormon link, I found that difficult to believe, but not impossible. What I believe is that the one whose name Palmer could not then recall was aware of Paul Pry’s Weekly Bulletin. I do not believe he picked up that name in London’s West End. Why has not someone made a transcription or found the language used by John Dehlin on the FAIR board and quoted it so that we can all see what Palmer said to Dehlin about this matter? Then we can see whether Palmer’s recent account of how he just innocently came up with that name is at all plausible.

    I realize that some will once again start claiming that I am again attacking the person and not the argument. But this is the argument. Please recall that Roasted just assumed that Palmer’s story held water and that I had made some rash judgment. And please recall that I was responding to Roasted’s interesting complaints about “Prying into Palmer.”

    If the issue at stake is the soundness of “Prying into Palmer,” and I believe that is exactly the issue that Roasted raised, then should I not be allowed to explain and defend that essay? Now I realize that this may not seem like a big issue to some of you. But it is an issue for me. My credibility is at stake. Or is it just going to be assumed that I am a moral monster?

    And for those who think that it is not proper to look into the sources of someone’s ideas and their motivations, that to do so is to attack the person and neglect her arguments, would they like to explain how anyone could write a biography or engage in intellectual history? Put another way, is all intellectual history somehow evil? Or is it that intellectual history is only wrong when it involves cultural Mormons, dissidents, former Saints, and so forth?

    One final point. Has anyone pointed out to Tom Kimball, who posted on the Signature Books webpage Roasted’s roasting of “Prying into Palmer,” that he now has also posted my response. I am not sure if I should be pleased or unhappy to have my words posted on the Signature webpage. I sort of expect that once Tom Kimball gets the news that I am right there defending myself, that he will pull the plug on that link. Yes, I find this a bit amusing. Please, will someone point this out to Tom. Oh better still, point it out to Ron Priddis and Gary Bergera.

    Please forgive the typos. It is very late or very early depending on one’s point of view.

  73. Randy B. says:


    I’ve already left a long comment over at your site on the reasonableness of Lou’s misplaced assumption as to RT, so I won’t repeat that here. I will point out, however, that there is a difference between coming to a privately-held mistaken assumption, and publicly pronouncing that mistaken assumption as fact to all the world. This is particularly true, it seems to me, when it comes to charges of apostacy. It is also worth pointing out that Lou could have avoided this entirely had he either taken a few moments to look into the matter (see, e.g., the inaugural post at RT’s site), or simply followed RT’s lead and limited his comments to the historical facts. He has no one to blame for his failure to do so but himself.

  74. DKL says:

    One more word here (I glossed over this sentence in my first reading of your response):

    John W. Redelfs: So either a person never had a testimony in the first place but was only faking it, or he had one and lost it through transgression. Duh.

    This is the heart of the matter. It isn’t that you don’t know what is intended by “honestly losing one’s faith.” Your rebuttal here shows that you know exactly what is intended, just disagree that it’s possible. Lou’s no idiot (probably). He knows perfectly well what is intended by the phrase, too. But rather than forthrightly saying, “I disagree that it’s possible to lose your testimony honestly,” Lou ridicules the phrase for rhetorical hay in order to stall the argument and sneer at his opponent. This is not the behavior of someone who’s words are reflective of the Holy Ghost. Quite the contrary…

    It’s no use to deny it. Lou’s been caught red-handed. I’m willing to forgive him. All that’s left for him to do is apologize. Unless he does that, he’ll never be right with the Lord.

  75. DKL says:

    And people who speak the truth as moved upon by the Holy Ghost do not have to establish their credibility. They already have all the credibility they need with the only Person whose opinion matters.

    This is beside the point, John. I see no evidence of the Holy Ghost in Lou’s response.

    In fact the whole controversy in this thread might be reasonably defined as a difference in who we are trying to impress. Some are trying to impress the Lord, and others are trying to impress their worldly friends.

    Your willingness to invoke the Lord’s name here is inappropriate and it smacks of Satan’s influence.

    John W. Redelfs: Further, if the living prophets teach the truth, which they do, then it is impossible for a person to honestly lose his testimony. A testimony by definition comes by the witness of the Holy Ghost, and anyone who disbelieves the Holy Ghost is not being honest.

    First, this begs the question. Second, all of the failed policies of the living prophets get repealed (like the 18 month mission, scanned cards in temple, penalties in temple oaths, the priestcraft that used to result from the old ward-budget donation program, any number of changes to the auxiliary organizations that have been reversed), what is naturally left is much more amenable to us.

    John W. Redelfs: I mean, disagreeing with God is definitely dishonest.

    Well, tell that to Abraham.

    John W. Redelfs: My years online have convinced me beyond all doubt that a great many Mormons must be faking it.

    You should think twice before you begin to entertain such self-serving beliefs. Many of those who knew Joseph personally became convinced that he wasn’t a prophet. You can hardly blame people 100 years distant for being troubled by many of the same things that made his contemporaries doubt his prophetic mission.

  76. Dave says:

    I think it’s great Lou Midgley took the time (and we’re not talking just ten minutes) to write a response to RT’s critique and have it posted at a Bloggernacle site.

    The question of whether one can honestly lose one’s Mormon faith or testimony is more interesting than the Paul Pry issue. If you’re willing to grant that a Catholic or Evangelical can hold their faith and beliefs sincerely, it seems like you have to grant former Mormons who adopt new religious beliefs the same privilege. It is a convenient but juvenile position to hold that everyone else can hold or change their religious beliefs sincerely, but that any Mormon who changes their beliefs is a liar or deceiver.

    Nor can simple appeals to the Holy Ghost justify that sort of thinking. General Authorities have always had differences of opinion about LDS doctrinal and historical issues (although they do a better job of hiding their disagreements now than they used to). So obviously having differences of opinion on LDS religious issues does not mean one of the parties wears the white hat of the Holy Ghost and the other the black hat of the devil, unless you want to start speculating on which GAs, present or past, were liars and deceivers serving the adversary rather than God. It seems like the better course is to admit one can honestly have differences of opinion on LDS religious issues, even to the point of honestly leaving the Church and/or joining another denomination or religious tradition.

  77. Doc says:

    Some context. I am going to be using your tactics here, not mine.
    When a person learns something by the Holy Ghost it lifts their spirit, they are filled with love and a desire to share this wonderful experience with their fellowman. They pray first for themselves, then for friends, acquaintances, and finally even enemies (read the book of Enos.) I have felt this spirit. It has burned many eternal truths into my soul. It never respods with “duh”.

    Ergo, you have never felt the spirit. You are faking it. The fact that you show so little respect in your heart tells me it is simply too small for the spirit to find any room in. Since I have experienced doubt and been afraid of it I absolutely know that you feel doubt and are fearful of it and put on your cartoon persona to hide it, from yourself, your friends and the Lord. You are not an honest person.

    I hope and pray that none of the assertions I made above are true. They are rooted in the same self righteousness you seem to exhibit in your words. There is no persuasion , long suffering, or showing afterwards an increase of love within them. They are presumptuous. I hope and pray that they give you an inkling, a tiny smidgeon of how they make others feel. You see empathy a necessary characteristic of the atonement and one we all need to work on. As your friend and brother, please find a place in your heart to try and reserve judgement on others until you have walked a mile in their moccasins.

    God bless.

  78. Dear DKL, to suggest that you speak for the entire Bloggernacle in one breath and then to accuse Lou of being presumptuous in talking down to someone is a remarkable contradiction. I’m surprised that an intelligent fellow such as yourself did not pick up on it even as you were writing it. If we define the Bloggernacle as all of the Mormons online who blog, then your little clique within the Bloggernacle can hardly be the whole thing, or even a very big part of it.

    And people who speak the truth as moved upon by the Holy Ghost do not have to establish their credibility. They already have all the credibility they need with the only Person whose opinion matters.

    In fact the whole controversy in this thread might be reasonably defined as a difference in who we are trying to impress. Some are trying to impress the Lord, and others are trying to impress their worldly friends.

    Further, if the living prophets teach the truth, which they do, then it is impossible for a person to honestly lose his testimony. A testimony by definition comes by the witness of the Holy Ghost, and anyone who disbelieves the Holy Ghost is not being honest. I mean, disagreeing with God is definitely dishonest. So either a person never had a testimony in the first place but was only faking it, or he had one and lost it through transgression. Duh.

    My years online have convinced me beyond all doubt that a great many Mormons must be faking it. Otherwise there could not be so many who fall away. When a person learns something by the power of the Holy Ghost, he knows it more certainly than something that he has seen with his own eyes and heard with his own ears. Such a person can still lose his testimony but not without a lot of motivation to do so.

  79. Kimball L. Hunt says:

    I decided, when I’d read it, that LCM’s having said something like “Well, noone would claim to have DISHONESTLY lost faith!! . . . ” might be his way to simultaneously say, “Sure, people ONLY HONESTLY lose faith,” while he’s ALSO slyly implying — however this only to folks who’d feel the “spiritual inking” to interpret his subtle words that way — such to be the case within their self-admissions but not, somehow perhaps, within the ultimate scheme of things? (Anyways, I feel I’ve honestly lost faith! However, I fully understand those who HAVE faith would necessarily believe that my loss of it must in some way reflect error of some kind. So I personally don’t sweat folks’ subtly communicating this.)

  80. DKL says:

    Lou: I am a bit puzzled by several of Doc’s remarks. I have no idea what it would mean to say that someone “honestly lost his faith.” Could one, I wonder, have dishonestly lost one’s faith? Perhaps Doc can explain exactly what he had in mind.

    If you’re wondering what I mean in my preceding comment when I say that you need to demonstrate your integrity, this is a good place to start. When you say stuff like this, it shows people that you lack intellectual integrity, because you’re using an old parlor-trick to advance your argument; viz., you’re playing dumb.

    Here’s the deal: when someone stops keeping their covenants and loses their faith, or becomes a critic of the church and loses their faith, most Mormons immediately posit a cause-and-effect relationship. They lost their faith because they stopped paying tithing or because they were critical of such-and-such a leader or policy.

    And then when someone adopts a turn-of-phrase to indicate that no covenant-breaking or criticizing-of-policy went on (in this case, saying that they someone “honestly lost his faith”), you make fun of it and pretend not to know what it means (If you really don’t know what it means, you might just politely say so). But you do know what it means, and you chose to carry on a rhetorical charade in order to stall the argument and sneer at your opponent. That’s arguing in bad faith, and it’s as transparent as the day is long. What you’ll soon find out is that people here don’t fall for it like they do at FARMS.

  81. DKL says:

    Here’s the problem, Lou. You’re approach to this response may have worked with someone like me, because I’m the most reviled participant in the bloggernacle, and people basically think that I’m a low-life and a rabble rouser. But RT is a well respected participant in the Bloggernacle, and he’s earned this respect by showing that he’s intelligent and that he has integrity–he’s the one who’s got credibility here, and you’re the neophyte who has to prove himself. When you come ripping into this forum and start talking down to him about his career and making disparaging comments about him (including his alleged “unfaith,” as you put it), most people will turn you off immediately.

    To FARMS readers, you may be just one more basically anonymous author writing about other basically anonymous authors (anonymous to the extant that there’s no sense of direct acquaintance) and relying on names (viz., FARMS and BYU) with a certain amount of cache among a segment of Mormons. Here in the bloggernacle, you’re a nobody attacking someone for whom a lot of us have respect. So given the tone of your essay, you’ve lost this argument right out of the shoot.

    If you hope to have a chance to win this argument, then you need to either (a) go back and rewrite your response so that it’s respectful and deferential to RT, or (b) labor in the ‘nacle for several years contributing content and ideas so that you can earn peoples respect and demonstrate your integrity. In any case, it’s an insult for you to pretend that you and RT are on equal footing.

  82. Louis Midgley says:

    John, please give me a call. I am in the Provo telephone directory. Or send me a note at l.midgley@comcast.net and we can exchange telephone numbers. I would very much enjoy having a conversation with you. You can explain why you insist that I attack people rather than ideas. If you have examples, we can discuss them. I have to admit that I would not recognize you if you showed up at my door. I know where you went to university, and who your wife is. Well, I should, since my daughter was her baby sitter. But that is about it. I have exactly no idea what you studied at Stanford or what you do for a living. And I suspect that you know about as much about me, except what you have picked up on some list, blog or board. My hunch is that those who know me would be prepared to beg not to get another lecture on ficus carica, Aotearoa, or Publius. If each of these does not immediately bring something to mind, you do not know me at all. Now I am sure that there are those who do not think that I am worth knowing, though I am a convenient symbol of what is currently being pictured as dreadful apologetic evil. Since I assume that you are not in that camp, they we can have a nice conversation. I will be expecting a call or an email message.

  83. a random John says:


    I wrote exactly what I intended to. “Attack people not ideas” is intended to be funny, and I find it especially appropriate in this case since it seems that people are being attacked (without any basis as far as I can tell) and ideas are frequently being left by the wayside. The idea being that it is more productive to address the ideas and arugements that a person presents than it is to question their faith or how they spend their time. I think that there is quite a bit of attacking people on all sides here, but I didn’t notice RT attacking you personally and I still don’t understand why your response would need to question his testimony.

    I don’t seek any rhetorical advantage by mentioning that we are related. It is not a “trick”, nor have I ever addressed you before online. I admit that we’ve rarely spoken in person, though I would love to speak with you on any number of topics. I’m sorry that we’ve never had the chance to do so. I’m simply providing a reminder that when you attack people rather than ideas it has repercussions that affect others. These are mostly negligible to me being merely a grand-nephew, but might have a greater impact on others.

    I am sorry if this or my previous response came across as a “confident scolding”. Perhaps taking the time to respond was a mistake.

  84. Thanks Prudence, I hadn’t realized my essay, first put on the web in early 1994 could still touch such a raw nerve in some circles. I guess it would be more diplomatic to think in terms of believers and doubters, but I always liked the term Signaturi for some reason. I remember back in the early 90s, about the time that the September Six were being “cut off,” the discussion was about whether one was a Liahona or an Iron Rod because of Richard Poll’s essay. I like the term Iron Rod too. It reminds me of Elder McConkie.

    As for Aaron B, there is no way to tell whether or not he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He might just be someone who doesn’t have a testimony. If that is the case, he needs our love, not our condemnation.

  85. Prudence McPrude says:

    Speaking of the Signaturi, John, did you ever get a chance to read that hateful parody of your essay “Who are the Signaturi?,” over at Apostate Central, BCC? Here is the link:


    You should really check it out.

    By the way, I hear that Aaron B fellow is a real crafty wolf-in-sheeps-clothing, who uses his platform as Sunday School teacher in his ward to spread his apostate bile and filth amongst innocent Church-goers. He must be stopped, I tell you. Stopped!

    Personally, I am praying for his untimely demise.

  86. Mel Tungate says:

    Rather than calling names, can one of you on the anti-Palmer side actually point out problems in the history as presented by Palmer?

    Is he wrong about what he said about the translation process? About the witnesses? About the parallels between the Bible and the BoM? About the priesthood restoration? About the first vision? About his call for concentrating more on Christ?

    The weakness of the book is not the Golden Pot – the chapter could be easily removed. The weakness is that he broke little new ground ( nor did he intend to ). Historians have known this stuff for years. Palmer made a nice summary of the known history, but his book was boring because little was presented that was not well known.

    So, the critics of Palmer can go back to concentrating on that which is irrelevant, and questioning testimonies. If any of them want to comment on the history, I am all ears. This thread is just like the anti-Palmer ripple that came when the book was published, and the tidle wave that came when Palmer’s SP sold a ton of books ( what a PR novice !! ) – totally irrelevant and mean spirited.

  87. Louis Midgley says:

    Well, it seems that Midgley cannot type. But some of us already knew this. What Midgley wanted to type, in reply to a random John’s confident scolding, was as follows:

    “The only point of conflict is that, in Palmer’s version, late in 1987 or early in 1988 he went to his CES supervisor, who he describes as knowing that he was struggling with his faith….”

  88. Louis Midgley says:

    I don’t see a problem with the format of what I posted. So I have exactly no idea what the problem is that others seem to be having. John Redelfs will have to solve whatever this problem is for some of you.

    I will not get into the rhetorical gutter with Matt Thurston.

    I will respond to “a random John” (hereafter Random). This is the first and only comment that addresses what I posted. Amazing. Random jh thinks that Roasted raised some valid points and I should be thanking him for doing so. And Random list these so-called “valid points.”

    1. I was, according to Random, “wrong about some details about Paul Pry.” Random thinks that I seem to have acknowled these mistakes. Well, I was wrong about who edited the Paul Pry Weekly Bulletin. I bluntly acknowled that apparent mistake. Roasted admits that this is a trivial mistake, but Random turns it into “some details.” Note the convenient plural. I set out a host of details (see above) and no one has said a word about any of that information.

    2. Random correctly notes that Palmer’s falling for Mark Hoffman’s forgeries does not, in itself, invalidate Palmer’s arguments in An Insider’s View. I have never argued that it did. Instead, I demonstrated that Palmer’s obsession with the forged Salamander letter led him to wrongly argue that Joseph Smith fashioned what he holds are lies about Moroni on E. T. A. Hoffmann’s “The Golden Pot.” What led Palmer to make this claim in 1985, was the fact that Hoffmann’s really strange tale included a Salamander figure. The difference between Palmer’s argument in 1985 and in 2002 is that he suppressed (almost) his earlier idea that “The Golden Pot” was the source for the Moroni story because of Mark Hoffman’s forgery and also the lies the Hoffman talked Brent Metcalfe into telling about a non-existent Oliver Cowdrey history. Mark Hoffman told Metcalfe he had seen in the vault of the First Presidency this history. It never happened. Palmer suppressed almost all of his intensive early stress on the Salamander in An Insider’s View. But he did not jettison Hoffmann’s tale. My argument was that, without the Salamander, nothing at all in Hoffmann’s tale could possibly have influenced Joseph Smith. Should I be be thanking Roasted for his apology for Palmer’s flatly false claim that Joseph Smith got the idea of translating a 500 page ancient history to scribes from Hoffmann’s really strange tale about someone who only copies ancient texts. The fact is that Anselmus is always described by Hoffmann (but not by Palmer) as a gifted caligraphy and never as a translator. I rather think that Roasted should be thanking me for getting these things sorted out for him.

    3. Random claims that I admitted that I have no source for what I said “about changes to Palmer’s employment situation.” Not true. Palmer told me about being put on probation by CES in 1985. He also now admits, because of “Prying into Palmer,” that he wrote “New York Mormonism” while on CES probation. The only point of conflict is that in Palmer’s version, late in 1987 or early in 1988 he went to his CES supervisor, who he describes as knowing that he had essentially his faith, and requestion assigned to the Salt Lake County Jail. Palmer neglects to mention that he was called in by his supervisor and confronted with having written and circulated “New York Mormonism” while on probation and in direct violation of promises he had made to save his job back in January of 1985 . This time, according to his supervisor, he broke down in tears and begged to keep his job. It pleases me that his supervisor felt deeply sorry for him and allowed him to continue getting paid with tithing money. In addition, the fellow who interviewed Palmer for CES while he was at the jail was always assured that he had overcome his doubts and was no longer writing clearly secular explanations of the crucial founding events. If there had been a doubt about this, he would not have been given a contract. I have already explained that I cannot, because of promises I have made, reveal the names of those who have told me these things. I believe these fellows. Given Palmer’s rather jaded CES career, I doubt Palmer’s version of what happened to him late in 1987 or early in 1988. He leaves out far too much and tailors things to save face. But I believed him when he told me that he had been encouraged to continue working on “New York Mormonism” by a letter he got in 1988 from George Smith, the owner of Signature Books. Palmer wanted to read that letter to me, when I talked with him on the phone, but he could not right then locate it. Nuch of this supporting evidence was posted on the Signature Books webpage by Tom Kimball. But recently it has now been taken down.

    Random apparently thinks that he has a kind of authority or rhetorical advantage because he is a very distant relative. (If I remember correctly, he has pulled this trick before on a list.) However, he neglects to mention that he has never had a conversation with me about anything. But at least one comment has now dealt with what I posted above.

    Random jh needs to explain the following remark near the end of his comment: “Attack people, not ideas.” I think he got this backwards. Or perhaps he is describing some of those who have commented on what I posted above. More likely, in his urge to punish me, he garbled what he intended to write. I hope this is the case.

  89. You mean I sound like one of those D. Michael Quinn sycophants as the dim-brained Signaturi do? I will immediately repent.

    And William Hamblin of FARMS coined the term Signaturi years ago on the now defunct Morm-Ant Listserv that used to run on the BYU mainframes. I just like the term, and use it whenever I get the opportunity. It helps the true believers identify the dissidents among us who are masquerading as faithful saints. Once the cat has a bell around his neck, he isn’t nearly as threatening to the mice.  –Beavis

  90. Matt Thurston says:

    John, I’m sorry but your sound like “Beavis” to Midgely’s “Butthead” when you say things like, “Lou, I had to laugh out loud when you asked Doc if he would have preferred that you “santitize” the history of that notorious anti-Mormon book, AIVOMO by Grant Palmer… What a roar!”

    You’ve got Beavis’s sycophantic fawning routine down pat; now all you need is a few of Beavis’s trademark “heh heh heh” gutteral, nervous laughs and the transformation will be complete. Even your lame attempt to coin a phrase — Signaturi — is down right Beavis-esque.

    Also, for readability sake, can you re-edit this post and add some paragraph breaks? The dim-brained Signaturi need all the help they can get.

  91. Prudence, if you are as tolerant of spiritual retards as I am, I’m sure we would become great friends. I’ll pay, if you pick up the tab next time. And could we go for burgers or Mexican food instead of fondue. I’m not really part of the fondue crowd, or any other crowd for that matter.

  92. Prudence McPrude says:

    John Redelfs, you seem like my kind of fellow. As righteous as a man can be, and keenly aware of all the heathens that surround him. If you’re available, let’s go out for fondue this weekend! You’re paying.

  93. a random John says:

    Thank goodness for the snarkernacle, otherwise I never would have come across this!


    I fail to see how RT’s criticisms of your review merit a response with a tone such as this. RT’s three main points seem to be:

    1. You were wrong on some details about Paul Pry (you seem to admit this)
    2. That the fact that the forgeries were the genesis of Palmer’s research does not in itself invalidate the research
    3. That there was no source for your assertions about changes to Palmer’s employment situation (you admit this as well)

    These seem to be valid points and he should be thanked for raising them and giving you the chance to address them. Instead his faith has been questioned. As has been pointed out, he isn’t siding with Palmer, yet you attack him as if he is. A friend uses the following as his email signature and I think it is appropriate here:

    A young idea is a beautiful and a fragile thing. Attack people, not ideas.

    I say all this not only as a concerned member of the bloggernacle but as a member of your family.

  94. This principle can be demonstrated easily by a hypothetical.

    Only to law professors 😉

  95. Lou, I had to laugh out loud when you asked Doc if he would have preferred that you “sanitize” the history of that notorious anti-Mormon book, An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins by Grant H. Palmer. Don’t you know how sanitizing Church history offends the Signaturi? They would never dream of sanitizing Church history.  What a roar!  Imagine that, the Signaturi sanitizing Church history.

  96. Stan Barker says:

    Dear Mr. Dehlin,

    We each have our own take on things. You have yours, I have mine. Historically when a man has to lie about his past and allows his handlers to do the same, there is always far more behind the story. It stikes me as odd that you seem to be willing to allow Palmer, et. al. room for “it’s okay to attack Joseph Smith, but you’d better not attack me because I’m sincere and to do so is unChristlike.” Their actions are simply not Christ like and to defend it is not Christ like. Truth is what is important here.

    You ask for an alternative mosiac. Palmer certainly did not present a plausible mosiac. He made up a bunch of stuff and then attributed it to Joseph Smith (see especially the “Golden Pot” story). But we have seen that sort of thing going on since the beginning of this dispensation of the restored Gospel. On the other hand, the only real plausible explanation is the simplest, i.e., the Joseph Smith history of the restoration. Occam’s Razor rules here. Contrived explanations just don’t cut it.

    Again, it seems to me that if one wants to flaunt “authority” (as does Palmer and his handlers) then they better be prepared to have their case examined when they are doing everything they can to oppose truth. Christ talked very expressly about the Scribes and Pharisees in terms that were certainly not flattering. Was he unChristlike? Frankly, I get a little tired of that faulty caricature being thrown in every one’s face who wishes to defend the Church. Granted, there are those who do become “heated” and very defensive. I still do from time to time. Perhaps it is because we get so tired of the nonsense that is attempted to be perpetrated upon us.

    The reality is that it is unChristlike to lie and defend a liar, sincere or not. In my experience, that happens again and again. I do not see Nibley’s “No Ma’aM” nor what Midley has written as unChristlike. It comes down to those who do the attacking not liking to be attacked.

    One more note. You (and others) have insinuated that it is apologetics that is driving people away from the Church. To which I respond that the scenario you paint may occur, but then I ask where was their testimony in the first place. Mine is not dependent upon what you or anyone else thinks or says to me. Furthermore, I have seen many, many people come back into the Church and/ or not leave the Church because of apologetics. I frequently receive e-mail to that effect. So, I’m not buying into the guilt trip. Mind you, I don’t participate on the FAIR board. I haven’t the stomach or time for it. I find myself to easily perturbed by the nonsense that I see posted by many people. Hence it is just better for me to not participate.

  97. John Dehlin says:

    Grant Palmer struck me as very sincere when I met him. And while one can debate the details of the imperfect (by definition) history he provides, I believe that the mosaic he paints is a compelling one (imperfect in its details, compelling in its overall representation). To me it’s telling that FAIR hasn’t been able to provide someone credible (to me, anyway) to offer an alternative mosaic (in any forum). Still waiting on that one…..but not holding my breath any more.

    To me, Palmer’s mosaic is much more compelling than the those that apologists offer (overall) about Mormon origins.

    RT and SV….well…they are some of the kindest, most thoughtful, sincere, and faithful people I’ve ever met. Doesn’t suprise me a bit that Midgley would stoop to attack them as well.

    When I engaged FAIR after my podcast w/ Palmer, I felt sick and dirty for the next 2 weeks with the hatred and mean-spiritedness I felt there. Took me a while to cleanse from that experience….and I still haven’t fully recovered, frankly.

    And I think apologists often do much more damage to the cause they love by attacking those who sincerely question. The legacy came to my attention with “No Ma’m…that’s not history” and it continues to this day (as seen above). I get 2-3 emails a week from people who started out as followers of FAIR, and are now complete apostates. I sinerely believe that apologetics is a viable gateway to apostacy…if not only because of the mean-spiritedness that is so often displayed there (along w/ the disingenous back flips of logic).

    In my experience, apologist often defend Mormon doctrine heatedly and spiritedly, but they often very poorly represent Christ (in the engagements I’ve had, any way). I have had exceptions to this (John Lynch and Greg Kearny, for example), but they seem to be in the rare minority.

    I’m sure that Dr. Midgley is sincere, and a good man…but I wish he could learn more kindness/charity in his discussion of tough LDS issues.

  98. Doc says:

    Mr. Midgely,
    I Happen to agree with you on Palmer. Yet, here you go again impugning motive and resorting to personal attack. I heard the podcast, and he really did not strike me as sincere. There was much inconsistency with the personal part of his story that just left me feeling he was insincere and less than forthcoming. It was more of a gut feeling and I was amazed how immediately after the podcast, those in agreement with him were hailing him a “Mormon Galileo” and seemed to feel he was dripping with sincerity. And yes, I found his arguments largely assertions lacking evidence. I actually quite enjoy FARMS and find it intellectually stimulating and well researched. Yet because I gave you some honest advice, I am suddenly “one of them.” Do you realize how bad this can look?

    My point was not that I know your motivations nor that I am “troubled” that you looked into the motivations of Palmer. It is just that I think when that becomes your hammer, your thrust, or your theme, rather than simply presenting the evidence that his logic is faulty and evidence lacking First, it becomes to easy for your point of view to be disregarded by a neutral party, like a nonmember trying to weigh which side is right to decide whether or not to join the Church. THIS is what troubles me. To me, THIS is a very substantive issue. Please, just tone it down. If you really feel their is a case to be made for the motivations of someone certainly it is fair game. But when that is the loudest and angriest part of every review you do, I think something is lost.

    It is precisely because his arguments don’t hold up that I suggested you lead with that. Does Palmer deserve respect, well maybe I’m a hopeless optimist, but I do think he is still a child of God and I am encouraged to see that you referred to him as a tragic figure. Someone who was lost from the fold, and yet once presumably had the spirit burning bright in his heart. Institute director or no, he was entrusted to teach the gospel to the youth of the church. Does anyone dishonestly lose faith? Well I suppose their are those sons of perdition, but I would not dare assume that Palmer was one of those, Leave that judgement to him who knows the hearts of men.

  99. Louis Midgley says:

    Now the problem is that when I pointed out that the first draft of An Insider’s View had been fashioned when Grant Palmer was on CES probation and that he had used the name “Paul Pry” to hide his identity, it obviously troubled people. Who? His publisher and publicist for certain. They started some damage control. But other were outraged. Pdoe expresses some of this outrage. But others posting responses alsoillustrate this outrage. I would like to suggest that the language used to do this should be moderated somewhat. But something like it was entertained by those in charge of CES. Those who, until they encountered “Prying into Palmer,” who had never once ever heard of “Paul Pry” or “New York Mormonism,” were either shocked at Palmer’s behavior, and I think that this included his extended family, or they became very defensive and insisted that his arguments should be the only issue. But his arguments do not hold up, if Allen, Bitton, Ashurst-McGee, Harper and Midgley are even close to being right. And yet the book is being used by dissidents and enemies of the Church to try to pull the Church from its foundations. And these folks just love to point to his CES credentials, including the nonsense about his having been primarily an Institute Director (at three different Institutes) and so forth. This was rather clever packaging and marketing hype, but it was at least highly questionable at best.

    I see Palmer as a tragic figure. And so did his CES supervisors. They felt deeply sorry for him. They were, I am certain, profoundly shocked to find out that he had misled them. They had hoped for something else. Why is it wrong to have this information available to interested parties? Must we just swallow his publisher’s and his publicist’s hype? Are those that do not do this somehow bad people?

  100. pdoe says:

    Why does it matter where Palmer got his pseudonym? The fact remains that he worked for CES while also writing Anti-Mormon material: an act of selfishness and hypocrisy almost beyond belief. If he was so “dissolusioned” about the Church’s history, how did he justify to himself continuing to work for the Church EDUCATION System? If he has not already been excommincated he should be and he should reimburse CES his salary. If he has any integrity at all, he should have already offered to do so. However, I suspect that as questionable as he may feel our theology is, he likes our money just fine.

  101. Stan Barker says:

    Kaimi makes some good points, but I’m not sure all are valid. I am not convinced that it took gall for me to refer to RT as a “cultural Mormon.” I understand that his wife has defended him (of course I read that prior to making my comments). I am not convinced, even after reviewing Kaimi’s arguments that I am wrong. Even RT’s wife admits she may be biased. It is, of course, understood that the phrase “faithful Mormon” is very subjective. I’ve been around long enough to see the phrase applied inappropriately because of bias and emotional attachment. This could be such a case. I don’t know. If I am wrong, I will certainly apologize to RT and be happy doing so, for using such a derogatory term to refer to him.

    That said, there is no question in my mind about Palmer. Lou Midgley has adequately and appropriately dealt with the issues surrounding both Palmer and the contents of his book, and even though I (and others) have called for those speaking on behalf of RT and Palmer to deal with the issues that Lou has exposed, rather what we continue to see is exactly not that. All that seems to be coming forth is chastisement for misjudging and meanness. Lou has once again called for explanations. I hope Doc and others will step forward and explain themselves and show where Lou’s assessments are wrong. I hope RT does as well. I would like nothing more than to be wrong about him.

  102. Louis Midgley says:

    I happen to agree with everything Kaimi just posted. But I also must point out that there is no question of where Grant Palmer stands on the crucial historical foundations of the faith of the Saints, and also little question about the soundness of his arguments. I wonder if Kaimi agrees with me on this issue, or if he wants to defend the substance and hence the soundness of Palmer’s book.

  103. Louis Midgley says:

    I am a bit puzzled by several of Doc’s remarks. I have no idea what it would mean to say that someone “honestly lost his faith.” Could one, I wonder, have dishonestly lost one’s faith? Perhpas Doc can explain exactly what he had in mind. But I am confident that Grant Palmer honestly did cease to believe in 1984, which got him into big trouble with CES.

    Doc seems to know quite a bit about my motivations, and yet he seems troubled when I look into the motivations of someone, employed by the Church and paid with tithing money, who begins to fashion an anti-Mormon book back in 1985, and then stuns those in CES by publishing many years later a much more polished version of this book after taking his pension and walking away. If, while doing some intellectual history, which always necessarily involves looking at motivations, since essays and books do not just write themselves but are conscious, deliberate, intentional acts, am I not obligated to report the facts as I see them? Should Palmer’s story be sanitized? If getting clear on when and why Palmer started work on his book makes those who encounterit raise questions of honesty and integrity, then that just has to be part of the mix, does it not?

    Doc seems to object to my having looked into Palmer’s intentions and motivations. But please notice that Doc is confident that what he attributes to me and FARMS: “those who know what your or FARMS motives are will often chafe at the aspersions on the motives of others.” Well, of course they will. And they should. The problem seems to be that I defend the faith, and it is also clearly that this is what one will often find in one way or another in the FARMS Review. This irritates some people. And when angered, instead of dealing with substantive arguments, they tend to start talking about how they are troubled by what they see as the tone of what we publish. I do not recall saying much of anything about Palmer’s honesty or integrity. What irritates Dos is that by mentioning Palmer’s troubles with CES and the puffing of his credentials and so forth, he does not seem quite like the heroic figure that his publisher and publicist made him out to be. And looking at what seems to have led to his loss of faith does not not make him appear all that competent.

    But it seems that wants me and those who publish in the FARMS Review to avoid these kinds of sticky issues. He suggests that, instead of attacking Palmer’s honesty and integrity, I should have examined the content of Palmer’s book. But this is exactly what I did. In addition to having a look at Palmer’s sources and motivations, I also, I believe, demonstrated that Palmer had to cheat to even begin to make a case that Joseph Smith read E. T. A. Hoffmann’s The Golden Pot and came up with the Moroni story and then the Book of Mormon. The crucial issue is whether Joseph Smith could have started telling a story in 1820 or at the latest by 1822 that he got the idea for by reading a book that was only available in English in 1827. And then whether anything like translation takes place in Hoffmann’s tale. At one point Palmer actually claimed that the problem was that Hoffmann was unclear on this matter. Signature Books once had that explanation up on their webpage but, for very good reason, took it down.

    I urge Doc to stop complaining about the tone of what I write and start dealing, instead, with substantive issues. Put another way, did Palmer turn against his faith because he made a very large mistake when someone showed him The Golden Pot? Or exactly in what way did the two former Assistant LDS Church Historians go wrong in assessing Palmer’s book. Or how exactly did Steve Harper and Mark Ashurst-McGee stumble? Of course, their motivations are obvious. They are not the issue–it is their arguments, evidence and reasoning that is the issue. Just moaning about the tone of essays that raise issues that cannot be dealt with is sort of silly, is it not?

    Since I dealt with Palmer’s love affair with Hoffman/Hoffmann, and hence with The Golden Pot, would Doc like to show how I was wrong about whether or not Anselmus was in any really meaningful sense ever translating anything. Can he find the word translate in any translation of Hoffmann’s tale? Did not Hoffmann always describe Anselmus as a caligrapher, copyist or painter? Did not Hoffmann make Anselmust increasingly either or both drunk or mad as he had him imagine all that stuff about little green snakes and the archivist who was actually a Salamander who come from Atlantis? My feeling is that one would have to be smoking some Golden Pot to believe that Hoffmann’s tale explains the Moroni story. Perhaps Doc can explain why this is not so. If he thinks he can, then I want to see him actually do it and not complain about my motives, which are obvious or my tone, which only offends those who want to imagine that Palmer has pulled the Church from its histoical foundations.

  104. Kimball L. Hunt says:

    L-l-ladies a-n-nd G-gen-ntlemen!

    APPARENTLY the Wasatch Hammer — tonight in the neon green trunks — kin only SAFELY ASSUME he iz bein’ TAGTEAMED!, when, Lo and behold! he sees the Frisco Kid — tonight in the vibrant purple — suddenly jump into the ring!

    However, ladies and gentleman, ringside rumor has it that Frisco’s made no permanent allegiances for or against any particular fighters but fights against injustice wherever he finds it, and any moment now Frisco could next just ‘uz readily join the Apologia Green Team gainst those pugnacious Paul Pryists who are currently nowhere in the palace.

    . . . NO! WAIT A MINUTE, folks! Who is it who’s now coming down the isle towards the ring? It’s one of the pugnacious Paul Pryists — tonight dressed in vibrant saffron! — and, of course, as always, followed by his trainer, Steven “the book publisher” Signori . . . (!)

  105. Kaimi Wenger says:

    Okay, now multiple people — Lou Midgley, John Redelfs, Stan Barker — have made the assertion that since RT is attacking Lou’s criticism of Palmer, RT is committing an error. (Barker has the gall to call RT a “cultural Mormon” in the face of RT’s wife’s statement to the contrary.)

    The reasoning seems to be:

    Palmer is apostate.
    Midgley criticizes Palmer.
    Therefore, Midgley is a defender of the faith.
    Therefore, anyone who takes issue with Midgley’s remarks is themself apostate.

    This reasoning is falacious. It is falacious reasoning even assuming that Palmer is apostate (which we’ll assume for purposes of this comment). This is for a simple reason: Just because Palmer is apostate (which we’re assuming for purposes of this comment) does not necessarily mean that all criticism of Palmer (or his book) is necessarily correct or truthful. It is quite possible to make a dishonest criticism of a dishonest book, or an erroeneous criticism of an erroneous book.

    This principle can be demonstrated easily by a hypothetical. Suppose that I wrote an article about Palmer’s book, falsely making some claim of fact. Let’s make the hypothetical easy — let’s say that I falsely allege that Palmer was seen having fondue with the Tanners last week. I print this statement in a review of Palmer’s book — “I didn’t like Palmer’s book. Also, he was seen last Thursday having fondue with the Tanners.” However, it is absolutely clear from the facts available that Palmer was _not_ having fondue; he was in another state at a conference.

    At that point, I’ve made a statement critical of Palmer. That puts me in the “good guy” camp — I’m criticizing Palmer. I’m defending the faith; according to the logic set out in comments abouve, anyone who criticizes me becomes suspect. However, my own statement is also false as a factual matter.

    Given that set of facts, suppose that RT writes a blog post saying “Kaimi Wenger has no proof that Palmer ever had fondue with the Tanners.” How do you treat this post? Is it wrong for RT to call me out on my dishonest claim? Is _any_ kind of claim fair, honest or not, as long as it’s critical of Palmer?

    RT hasn’t said that he approves of Palmer or his methodlogy. He has criticized Lou Midgley’s critique. That is absolutely fair game. To repeat what I said earlier: It is possible to write a dishonest criticism of a dishonest book, or an erroneous criticism of an erroneous book. Even if one believes that Palmer’s book is false, one does not need to agree with all of Palmer’s critics. Those criticisms themselves may also be false.

    Thus, the idea that “Palmer is bad, Midgley attacks Palmer, and RT attacks Midgley — therefore RT is bad” is fallacious.

  106. Louis Midgley says:


    I hope you are enjoying your new job. Now to some business: I agree with your remarks and I deserve the scolding about that one remark. Hopefully with that out of the way, perhaps we can focus on whether RT’s remarks about “Prying into Palmer” are sound. Or, since you know RT, perhaps you can explain why he went after “Prying into Palmer” and the FARMS Review. Since it appears that RT and SV are loyal Latter-day Saints, why are they not also troubled by Palmer’s book? Perhaps RT or SV can explain. Or, since you know them, then yYou need to help me and other understand why RT posted that item.

  107. Nate, I’m sure you are right about Brother Nelson-Seawright being a true and faithful member of the Church with a testimony of the restored gospel burning brightly in his heart. But one does have to question the wisdom of such a man when he undertakes to champion in a controversy a man who has obviously made strenuous efforts to search out historical “evidence” that if true, would invalidate the Book of Mormon as the Word of God simultaneously exposing the Prophet Joseph as a great fraud and liar.

    I do not doubt Brother Nelson-Seawright’s testimony, but something must account for this astounding inconsistency. Do you suppose he is suffering from multiple personality disorder, or something like that? Why would a man with a testimony choose this particular battle? Why would such a man side with the devil in seeking to preserve the academic reputation of someone who is obviously intent on tearing down the Kingdom of God on earth? How does good fruit come from a bad tree?

    It is really very mysterious. Something just does not add up. Perhaps there is more going on here than meets the eye.

  108. Stan Barker says:

    Dear Doc,

    Palmer deserves no respect. He is a liar and a deceiver. It is that simple. I just can’t understand why you folks can’t actually read what Lou has said in his review and above and understand it. Lou addressed the issues (i.e., Palmer’s explanation for the coming forth of the Book of Mormon is just so much nonsense), but it is Palmer and his handlers who have attempted to deceive the public about his credentials. If they want to throw that into the marketplace then they deserve what they get. Lou is reaching a broad audience and such comments as yours are disengenuous.

    Now, instead of you attacking Lou’s personality, why don’t you show where Lou is wrong about his assessment of Palmer? If can’t do that, then your words seem worthless to me.

    Stan Barker

  109. Stan Barker says:

    Nate, I don’t know RT. I have read both his comments and those of his wife (above). While RT may be active in the Church, since he sides with Palmer, who clearly does not believe one of the most basic foundings documents of the Church (the Book of Mormon), then one is left with the conclusion that he has clearly moved to the camp of “cultural Mormons.” Therefore, while Lou may have been technically wrong he was not actually wrong; in the sense of RT’s belief’s about the Church. If his wife and he wishes to renounce his endorsement of a clear apostate (Palmer) and get back in line with the belief’s of the Church, then one may call him a real member of the LDS Church. Until then, Lou’s assessment is still very accurate.

    Now, as has been pointed out, why don’t the critics of Midley, et. al. deal with the issues that they bring forth instead of just nit-picking? “Mean and nasty, mean and nasty.” That drivel deafens the ears of those who can think and see through such nonsense. Midgley is not mean and nasty, Peterson is not mean and nasty and Hamblin is not mean and nasty. That is just a phrase used to diffuse having to deal with the issues Midgley & camp address. If the critics don’t like being called what they are (including cultural Mormons), then let them stop being what they are! Otherwise they have no room to complain.

    Stan Barker

  110. Doc says:

    It seems to me that the conflict here is over the question of whether Palmer honestly lost faith or behaved subversively. Those who know what your or FARMS motives are will often chafe at the aspersions on the motives of others. But they are really just adopting your tactics. As you point out, these people discredit your words because of what they assume your motives are. Is that really any different than what you have done?

    Regardless of motives, a more productive approach might be a dialogue that really gets at the arguments reasoning, logic and support firstbrought up first, with much less emphasis on motives. Perhaps if you did this rather than attacking anyone’s honesty or integrity, even if you strongly feel it is deserved, your arguments may just reach a broader audience.
    I learned early in debate that when one is losing, then is often the time one mpugns anothers character. It is generally viewed as evidence of a weak argument. I am not necessarily disagreeing with you in relation to Grant Palmer. I just think you lose your ability to convince a good many of your audience with the tone of these reviews. Is this hipocritical, perhaps, but also foreseeable.
    My advice;
    Start treating others with respect and you might just be surprised and the respect you receive in return.

    Just a thought.
    some guy with a pseudonym

  111. Nate Oman says:

    Lou: I have not been following your exchange with RT, and frankly I am not interested enough in Palmer to bother trying. Suffice it to say, I have published two articles in the FARMS Review, and I think that it is routinely demonized and unfairly attacked by many “liberal” Mormons. (See, e.g., Kevin Barney’s letter in the most recent issue of Dialogue pointing out a particularlly egregious example.)

    That said, RT in no sense is an apostate obsessed with his former faith. He is a believing and practicing Latter-day Saint, and any suggestion to the contrary is unfair and uncalled for.


    Nate Oman

  112. Malin Jacobs says:

    I have been reading Midgely for about 30 years. I have been reading bot anti-Mormon and pro-Mormon literature for about 40 years. Concerning antis in general, and more specifically the blogs, it is amazing to me that so many critics never engage the arguments of the Midgelys or Petersons and their supposedly unscholarly colleagues. Rather, as the responses critical to Dr. Midgely above show, all they can do is accuse him of being mean and nasty.

    IMO, Midgely has nailed Palmer, and on the subjet of “An Insider’s View. . .” may very well know Palmer beter than Palmer knows himself.

  113. Louis Midgley says:

    I am, I admit, just a tad bit disappointed with the comments. Not one comment to this point has confronted a substantive issue. Yes, Randy, I am inclined to give advice to young fellows starting out. I have played the academic game and know where some of the land mines are that one is likely to step on. In the politics of political science departments almost any little thing is likely to sink a career. My remarks were not disingenuous.

    And what I wrote was, of course, intended to defend myself from an attack, and only in that sense can my remarks be considered self-serving. Well, unless one is searching for something to get steamed up over.

    And to Anon all I can say is that nothing I wrote constituted a “thinly veiled threat,” nor was what I wrote done in a “condescending manner.” Are there not informal rules in the blog world to control the lack of civility?

    Now I admit that I am dreadfully sorry if I have misjudged how SV’s husband stands in the church. From my perspective, those who defend Palmerand his book have at least made a serious mistake and also helped sell his nonsense. Be that as it may, I trust that SV will accept my apology.

    In some future comment, I hope that someone can explain why exactly SV’s husband went on record defending the nonsnese in Grant Palmer’s book by attacking both me and the FARMS Review. If the Seawrights are loyal, faithful Latter-day Saints, and I really do hope this is the case, and I am very much inclined to believe what SV says on this matter, then I wonder what was the point of defending Palmer’s appeal to E. T. A. Hoffmann’s fairy tale? Why did SV’s husband accept Palmer’s effort at damage control over his having called himself a junior “Paul Pry? Did her husband, I wonder, not notice that “New York Mormonism” was drafted while Palmer was on probation after having gotten himself into deep trouble with his CES employers? In addition, is it not the case that, when the fibs in the hype for Palmer and his book were exposed, Palmer and his book that Signature Books made an rather lame effort to explain these problems away, while still insisting that The Golden Pot, was the primary source of the Moroni story. Has no one noticed that the Carlyle translation of E. T. A. Hoffmann’s tale was only available to Joseph Smith, if he ever saw that thing, for which there is exactly no evidence, 1n 1827, while Palmer also insists that it was the source of the the lies he thinks Joseph Smith began telling people in 1820 or at least by 1822 as he and his family began enacting the Hoffmann inspired drama that got us the Book of Mormon? Or have I missed something about Palmer’s reliance on E. T. A. Hoffmann’s fairy tale? Is it not the case that in 2002 Palmer did his best with The Golden Pot (with the Salamander motif almost removed) to provide proof that the Saints have been tricked from the very beginning about the recovery of the Book of Mormon? If so, what exactly have I missed?

  114. Lou is honest. Grant Palmer is dishonest. Why a good man like RT would side with Grant in a controversy with someone who actually has a testimony, is a great mystery. Randy B. suggests that Lou’s comments make it hard to take him seriously? So what? When have the wicked ever taken the truth seriously? On the contrary, the wicked take the truth to be hard because it is harsh against sin. And what sin could be any greater than working to overthrow the Savior’s work in the earth?

    I just love listening to the yowls and howls of the wicked. They are like a legion of cockroaches running for the dark corners whenever someone like Lou shines a light on them.

  115. One note–RT is an active, faithful member of the church. In fact, the example he sets me played a large part in my own conversion several years ago. Of course, I’m his wife, so I may be biased :).

  116. Anonymous says:

    Shame on Lou Midgely for writing a thinly veiled threat in a condescending manner. A pity that this blog for published it. Being open and honest are good things: giving voice to petty tyrants who threaten those who disagree, and who label such as apostate, is not such a good thing.

  117. Randy B. says:

    “My advice to Roasted is to cease posting up a storm on the internet. He ought to contemplate what damage his urge to opine about Mormon things might end up doing to his career. I wonder just what might happen if his current and future colleagues were to discover that Roasted Tomatoes is actually a young fellow who, right now, should be busy working on his dissertation and it [sic] the future on being the best political scientists [sic] he can possibly be.”

    Good grief. Do you always take such special care to give such timely and public “advice” to those who aspire to the academy, or only those who take issue with what you write? Your self-serving concern for “young” Roasted and his “urge[s]” stikes me more than a little disingenuous.

    “Roasted should realize that there is no law requiring him to work out on the internet (and hence in public) his current relationship with his former faith and with the faithful.”

    What? His “former faith”? Are you really in a position to be lofting such charges? Perhaps you are saying more than you mean, but it is comments like this that make it considerably more difficult to take what you say seriously.

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