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

July 3, 2006

by Louis Midgley, guest contributor

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

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

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

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

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


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