long ago ideas

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago." - Friedrich Nietzsche. Long ago, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery conquered false claims that the Book of Mormon was fiction or that it came through a stone in a hat. But these old claims have resurfaced in recent years. To conquer them again, we have to return to what Joseph and Oliver taught.

Friday, April 28, 2023

Another podcast and No More Contention

Recently I did another podcast with my co-author, James Lucas, on Mormon Book Reviews. We discussed our book, By Means of the Urim and Thummim: Restoring Translation to the Restoration

I encourage everyone to watch it and give feedback, pro or con. 


As always, anyone interested can email me at lostzarahemla@gmail.com


Today I'm also announcing a new blog that will be my main focus going forward. The name is No More Contention, taken from Mosiah 1:1.

And now there was no more contention in all the land of Zarahemla, among all the people who belonged to king Benjamin, so that king Benjamin had continual peace all the remainder of his days.

(Mosiah 1:1) 

If the Book of Mormon had been published in the order of translation, this would have been the first verse.

I wish it was.

(In fact, I usually ask new readers to start with Mosiah instead of 1 Nephi.)

The link is 


For now, the link forwards to https://nomorecontention.blogspot.com/. We may expand it into a more comprehensive website eventually.

The objective of No More Contention is to promote understanding and clarity. We're not focusing on trying to persuade anyone of anything--except for encouraging people to make informed decisions. Too often, people make decisions based on ignorance, but as President Nelson has said, "good inspiration is based upon good information."

Obviously, people who consider the identical facts reach different conclusions. I've set out a spectrum of belief in three general categories, all based on the identical information. We'll discuss why the spectrum exists and how we can make better, more informed decisions that are congruent with our values and ideals. 

We will discuss multiple working hypotheses by applying the FAITH model of analysis: Facts, Assumptions, Inferences, Theories, and Hypotheses. I've explained the FAITH model in previous podcasts and in my upcoming book, The Rational Restoration

Building Zion.
In my view, despite the complaints of naysayers, the Restoration is accomplishing the critical objective of uniting people around the world through faith in Jesus Christ. As I've discussed on my Zion blog, Latter-day Saints are dedicating their time, talents and means toward educating people around the world, giving them hope and optimism, economic opportunity, stronger family and community ties, and helping them become self-reliant and confident, all the while bringing them closer to Christ. 

In other words, we are establishing Zion, and it's awesome.

This is a project I've worked on over the years. Not this new blog, per se, but the approach of considering multiple working hypotheses and the psychology of belief, contention, and working toward Zion. 

The events of the last few weeks prompted me to finally set up the website and get going with it.


Apologists. As readers here know, there has been a controversy recently about the activities of certain LDS apologists and their critics. I had hoped the controversy would lead to a positive outcome in terms of a course correction. We were, I thought, finally on the verge of an open dialog, a respectful and friendly exchange of views, and a mutually agreed-upon comparison of multiple working hypotheses.

But it didn't turn out that way, at least not yet.

Ever since I entered this arena (focusing on the keystone of our religion, the Book of Mormon), I've been surprised at the way apologists and critics approach these issues. Emotions seem to prevail, with people giving and taking offense, getting angry, mindreading, etc. Not coming from an academic background, I greatly underestimated the emotional attachment people have to their various theories and worldviews. 

The walls of intransigence and defensiveness are difficult to breach. Surely there is an element of simple self-interest; after all, for the academics, this is an occupation. They have reputations to uphold. They have thousands of students they have taught. Some have elicited donations and funding. To change course now may be unthinkable to them. Maybe even impossible. 

Grievance grifters. And then there are the grievance grifters who, like the media industry, have a business model that thrives from the misfortunes of others. With over 31,000 congregations led by Bishops and Branch Presidents, the grifters can always find a few leaders and members who have made mistakes. But fair-minded people recognize that tactic for what it is.

Flexibility. Everyone who reads my blog or books can see that I favor an open, flexible approach to these issues. After all, I was an avid follower of FARMS for decades. I bought into the whole M2C (Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs) theory promoted by John Sorenson, Jack Welch, Dan Peterson, and the other FARMS people. (In one of my books, I even incorporated SITH until I revised it based on more information.)

I deferred to their expertise because, as a student, I trusted them. Then I was too busy with life to question their assumptions or the facts they presented.

Eventually, though, I had more time to spend on these issues. With the new information I learned, and upon more reflection and thought, I realized the M2C advocates were just that: advocates for a particular point of view. 

Interpreters. Over time, FARMS morphed into the Maxwell Institute, the Interpreter Foundation, and Book of Mormon Central, with BYU Studies providing an academic journal and FAIRMormon (now FAIRLDS) providing a less academic forum for the same group to publish anonymously. These organizations include interchangeable players, which explains why they cite one another (the citation cartel). For ease of reference, I refer to this group generically as the Interpreters because they relish their role as gatekeepers and enforcers of compliance with their own interpretations of scripture and history.

[To its credit, the Maxwell Institute has detached itself from the M2C crowd.]

Despite their pretenses, the Interpreters were not (in my opinion) legitimate scholars who pursued the truth wherever it led (at least not in this arena). I assume they are fully competent, forthright scholars in their other academic pursuits. And to be sure, they followed the conventions of legitimate scholarship in this arena, using a form of peer review, complete with citations (to one another). But they often resorted to sarcasm, obfuscation, sophistry, and censorship to promote their agendas. They focused on combatting nonbelieving critics, but they also used their status as the "credentialed class" to attack fellow Latter-day Saints who disagreed with their interpretations.

As we saw just in the last few weeks through the Peter Pan fiasco, they devolved into a clown circus.

What to do. The question for me became, what to do?

Some of the apologists associated with these organizations became disenchanted with the tactics of the Interpreters and turned into critics. As I understand it, Bill Reel, Kerry Shirts, and Corbin Volluz (RFM) were all believing apologists at one time. They are "former Interpreters." Now they host critical podcasts in connection with John Dehlin (whom we'll discuss below). 

Ironically, they use the same tactics they learned as Interpreters to promote their new agendas: sarcasm, obfuscation, sophistry and censorship. But it's also easy to understand their motivation and bias. It's easy to see why they are persuasive to some people, just as it's easy to see why the current Interpreters are persuasive to some people.

It's difficult to fault either the current Interpreters or the former Interpreters, given their respective worldviews. And no doubt, both groups would strongly disagree with my framing here, but it seems obvious to me.

So, what to do? 

The third way. The key for me was realizing this is not a binary choice. There is a third way.

The one thing I noticed about both the current Interpreters and the former Interpreters: they all rejected what Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery claimed, just in varying degrees.

What if, I thought, someone actually accepted what Joseph and Oliver claimed?

I decided to test the hypothesis. That experiment has led to around 10 books and innumerable blog posts, articles, presentations, etc.

So far, at least for me, accepting what Joseph and Oliver claimed has become a solid working hypothesis. One of multiple hypotheses, of course, but the one that makes the most sense to me and best aligns with the evidence. 

It works so well that I feel no "threat" when discussing these issues with either current or former Interpreters. I'm fine with them believing whatever they want and I feel no urgency to have anyone agree with me. 

I don't object to having conversations with anyone. I'm happy to meet with anyone who is willing and interested to exchange views. And I encourage everyone to make their own informed decisions for themselves.

This led me to the continuum of belief. Because I can't speak for anyone else or read minds, I based this continuum on what I and the others have published. (I've modified it from the one I posted before.)


Current Interpreters

Former Interpreters

Believe what Joseph and Oliver claimed about the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon

Believe some, but not all, of what Joseph and Oliver claimed about the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon

Disbelieve what Joseph and Oliver claimed about the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon

This continuum will be the framework for understanding multiple working hypotheses with no more contention.

I'm not going to argue for or against any of these. Instead, I seek clarity and understanding in the pursuit of informed decisions.

People naturally want more specifics about who said what on these issues. I'll provide quotations, annotations, citations, etc. And I hope anyone interested will send corrections if I misstate any positions. 


Continuum example. This month (April) marks the tenth anniversary of the release of the CES Letter. Again, it's easy to understand why Jeremy Runnels was frustrated at the lack of answers to the questions he raised. 

We can see how the continuum explains the various responses to the CES Letter.

The Interpreters engaged the CES Letter, but as Runnels pointed out, they agreed on some of the key points, such as SITH (the stone-in-the-hat explanation for the Book of Mormon).

2023 also marks the tenth anniversary of John Dehlin's "Faith Crisis Report" and the first of the Gospel Topics Essays. The Faith Crisis Report proposed a way of "Breaking the cycle of disaffection."

1) Mitigating Faith Crisis for Future Generations

Mitigating Faith Crisis for future generations is possible but will require bold steps. The key is to ensure future generations no longer become shocked by gaps between our official LDS narrative and our uncorrelated history.

These so-called "gaps" included SITH vs. the Urim and Thummim explanation that Joseph and Oliver provided. 

The SITH sequence can be summarized this way.

1. In 1834, the book Mormonism Unvailed set out the SITH narrative this way:

The translation finally commenced. They were found to contain a language not now known upon the earth, which they termed "reformed Egyptian characters." The plates, therefore, which had been so much talked of, were found to be of no manner of use. After all, the Lord showed and communicated to him every word and letter of the Book. Instead of looking at the characters inscribed upon the plates, the prophet was obliged to resort to the old ''peep stone," which he formerly used in money-digging. This he placed in a hat, or box, into which he also thrust his face. Through the stone he could then discover a single word at a time, which he repeated aloud to his amanuensis, who committed it to paper, when another word would immediately appear, and thus the performance continued to the end of the book.


Notice that, apart from the term "old 'peep stone'," this description from Mormonism Unvailed is essentially what the Interpreters advocate today. Dan Peterson even made a movie teaching this to the world.

2. Starting in 1834, Oliver Cowdery wrote 8 essays about Church history to refute the claims of Mormonism Unvailed (including Letter VII about Cumorah).

In December, 1835, Joseph Smith wrote a letter to the Elders of the Church about Mormonism Unvailed, including it as part of the "black catalogue" and describing it as a "cloud of darkness." 

(I've posted excerpts of all these rebuttals here: https://www.ldshistoricalnarratives.com/2023/04/mormonism-unvailed-then-and-now.html.)

In 1836, Orson Hyde wrote to the Messenger and Advocate, observing that even opposers of Mormonism didn't quote Mormonism Unvailed because they were ashamed of it.

In 1837, one missionary wrote a letter to the Messenger and Advocate, explaining that Mormonism had little influence.  

The 1838 Elders' Journal included a discussion of Mormonism Unvailed., noting that the authors, "Hurlburt and the Howes are among the basest of mankind, and known to be such and yet the priests and their coadjutors hail them as their best friends and publish their lies, speaking of them in the highest terms." 

3. Starting in October 2011, a team organized by John Dehlin conducted a survey and prepared an analysis about the so-called "faith crisis" among Latter-day Saints, emphasizing SITH.

4. April 2013. Runnels released the CES Letter that, among other things, questions the historicity of the Book of Mormon and presents SITH as the "actual" origin of the Book of Mormon instead of the traditional narrative of the translation by means of the Urim and Thummim.

5. August 2013. Dehlin and his team presented the final "Faith Crisis Report" to Church leaders.

6. November 2013. The first Gospel Topics Essays were published on the Church's website, justifying SITH without even quoting what Joseph and Oliver said about the translation with the Urim and Thummim.

Ever since, on his Mormon Stories podcast John Dehlin has used SITH as a means to undermine faith, citing the Gospel Topics Essays themselves.

The Interpreters also embrace and promote SITH, claiming Joseph didn't use the U&T or the plates, but differing with the critics in the sense that they claim Joseph was inspired by God, while the critics claim Joseph composed the text and lied about the Urim and Thummim and the plates.

In my view, pursuant to the "third way" on the faith spectrum, what Joseph and Oliver said about the translation makes more sense and is better supported by the evidence than what the SITH sayers claim. 


The Ringleader. Recently I suggested I would discuss the ringleader of the clown circus. It's possible, even likely, that the participants in the Peter Pan fiasco did what they did without the explicit approbation of someone they respect. But they obviously thought their activities were appropriate, and the Interpreters have circled their wagons to support them. We have to wonder, why?

Some may think Dan Peterson is the ringleader, but I don't see it that way. He's a great guy, sincere, devoted, smart, working hard, etc. While he's the founder and face of the Interpreter, and thus definitely one of the leading Interpreters, from my perspective he has always served in the role of the class clown, making wisecracks at FAIRMormon events, writing his blog as sort of a lovable, pompous buffoon who enjoys giving and taking offense. And I assume this is all role-playing on Dan's part, his effort to promote a brand of apologetics that he somehow things serves a good purpose. The "real Dan," when not playing a role as an apologist, is undoubtedly thoughtful, considerate, temperate, and generous. That's why I don't mind his criticisms. It's merely theater, a dog and pony show to keep his followers entertained.

I can't imagine that any serious young scholar would see Dan's act as an example to emulate. (Although, apparently some do, as we've seen in the Peter Pan fiasco.)

I don't see John Sorenson as a ringleader at all. He was a nice guy, a careful scholar, but didn't seem to me to be manipulative or vindictive. He just said what he thought and was happy for others to disagree, although he did get a little snippy at times. For example, in his book Mormon's Codex, he famously wrote, 

There remain Latter-day Saints who insist that the final destruction of the Nephites took place in New York, but any such idea is manifestly absurd. Hundreds of thousands of Nephites traipsing across the Mississippi Valley to New York, pursued (why?) by hundred of thousands of Lamanites, is a scenario worthy only of a witless sci-fi movie, not of history. 

Mormon's Codex, p. 688.  

We can all see that John was operating under the assumption that the events of the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica. Given that assumption and worldview, it easy to understand why John thought it was absurd to believe that Cumorah is in New York.

But of course we can all see that John failed to challenge his basic assumption. He was blind to his blind spot. 

As are the rest of the M2C advocates.

Which leads us to John W. (Jack) Welch.


Jack Welch is an enigma to me. 

On one hand, he is an exceptionally meticulous scholar. He writes clearly and precisely. He has published probably more useful books and articles than any other living Latter-day Saint scholar. 

I dedicated my book Moroni's America to Jack and John Sorenson out of respect for their contributions in the field of Book of Mormon studies. Notwithstanding their focus on M2C, they have helped make the Book of Mormon more meaningful and useful.

Jack once published an outstanding analysis of the use of evidence in religious contexts. 


As I read it, the article supports the concept of multiple working hypotheses.

In a religious setting, no arbiter prescribes or defines the level of evidence that will sustain a healthy faith. All individuals must set for themselves the levels of proof that they will require. [66] Yet how does one privately determine what burden of proof the Book of Mormon should bear? Should investigators require that it be proved beyond a reasonable doubt before experimenting with its words to learn of its truth or goodness? Should believers expect to have at least a preponderance of the evidence on their side in order to maintain their faith? Or is faith borne out sufficiently by a merely reasonable or plausible position, perhaps even in spite of all evidence? Few people realize how much rides on their personal choice in these matters, and that their answer necessarily originates in the domain of faith.


It seems clear enough that the Lord does not intend for the Book of Mormon, the Bible, or any other sacred matters to be open-and-shut cases intellectually, either pro or con. If God had intended this, he could have left more concrete evidences one way or the other. Instead, it seems that the Lord has maintained a careful balance between requiring people to exercise faith and allowing them to find reasons that affirm the stated origins of his revealed word. Instead, the choice is, then, entirely ours. Ultimately, evidences may not be that important; but then again, it is always easy to say that a parachute is irrelevant after you are safely on the ground.

On the other hand, Jack seems to have an obsession with Mesoamerica that defies explanation or credulity, apart from his long-time friendship and collaboration with John Sorenson.

He created Book of Mormon Central as a center for faithful resources, but he steadfastly refuses to accommodate interpretations of Church history, the text, and extrinsic evidence that support alternative faithful views.

To the contrary: Book of Mormon Central professes neutrality to its English readers and donors while aggressively indoctrinating Spanish-language users in M2C.

Jack has modified Church history to accommodate M2C.

I used to think Jack was operating out of loyalty to John Sorenson, but John has passed away. There's no excuse, really, for continuing to impose M2C as a litmus test.

Setting M2C aside, Jack's influence on current LDS scholars is enormous. Through Book of Mormon Central, he controls millions of dollars of funding. 

It's the golden rule: he who has the gold, rules. 

His organization includes many of the most prominent current LDS scholars.


Few if any LDS scholars--certainly none on the BMC team--would dare publish anything that Jack Welch disagrees with in any fundamental way. 

People on the BMC team continue to publicly promote the narrative that Heartlanders are racist nationalists. The anonymous "Kno-Why" articles advocate M2C and unfairly characterize alternative faithful interpretations of the text and Church history. Collaborators at the Interpreter and FAIRLDS continue to use social media to ostracize and belittle fellow Latter-day Saints.

With the snap of a finger, Jack Welch could completely change the course of LDS apologetics. He could recognize multiple working hypotheses, welcome all faithful interpretations, and bring about greater unity and charity for all Latter-day Saints.

He could even tell his foreign language audience the same thing he tells his English audience.

Yet he refuses.

That's why, in my view, he is the ringleader of the clown circus.

And I'm ever hopeful that will change.


Predictably, my critics (the NPC critics at least) will say that this blog post contradicts the notion of no more contention.

I disagree. I don't feel or express any anger in any of this. I'm not arguing with anyone about any of this. I'm just saying that people should be open and clear and not resort to surrogates and anonymity to preserve plausible deniability.

I hope to see a change among not only the current Interpreters, but also among the former Interpreters.

The element of entertainment in the various claims and counterclaims generates views. When understood as playful and perhaps tongue-in-cheek, these debates are akin to playing video games; i.e., vicarious violence.

But these debates can also have real-world consequences. 

Hopefully the "no more contention" approach will mitigate the negative consequences and enhance the positive consequences of these discussions.

As we focus on understanding and clarity, we can find unity in diversity and all work together to make the world a better place for everyone.

Thursday, April 27, 2023

The Interpreters and the Pharisees

I realize most of us don't want to think about, let alone deal with, the internecine debates about Book of Mormon origins and setting. We prefer to focus on positive topics, such as living the Gospel and sharing the joy, building Zion, etc.

Nevertheless, the Internet is full of these claims going back and forth and it's important to at least try to clarify the issues to help people make informed decisions.

This table summarizes the spectrum of belief among the three groups who discuss issues regarding the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon.




Believe what Joseph and Oliver claimed about the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon

Believe some, but not all, of what Joseph and Oliver claimed about the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon

Disbelieve what Joseph and Oliver claimed about the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon

When we understand this, it's easy to see why the Interpreters try to deflect attention from their core teachings by continuing to misrepresent the Heartlanders with false charges of racism, nationalism, using fake artifacts, and all the rest. 

Tomorrow I'll announce a new approach to clarifying these issues for everyone to see.

In the meantime, here's a brief observation about the Interpreters.

This year as we study the New Testament, we encounter the Pharisees and Sadducees.** The New Testament mentions the Pharisees 86 times, sometimes with the scribes and sometimes with the Sadducees. Individual Pharisees are mentioned 11 times.

As we read the Bible, we wonder how any group could have been so hard-headed and hard-hearted as the Pharisees. They constructed strict social boundaries, they were easily offended, and they insisted on compliance with their own rules and interpretations. They considered their oral traditions equal in authority with (if not superior to) the scriptures.

They were the Interpreters of their day.

At one point, the Pharisees asked the disciples, "How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?" 

Episode 8 of Season 3 of The Chosen illustrated this mentality when the Jewish leaders asked in amazement, "He breaks bread with Gentiles?"

As I've mentioned here before, I had a similar experience with a well-known Interpreter, Mike Parker (aka Peter Pan), who refused to have lunch with me because he was vicariously offended on behalf of Dan Peterson.


The fallout from the "Peter Pan" fiasco continues. It has exposed the core problem with LDS apologetics: arrogance. As self-designated "Interpreters," Dan Peterson and his followers think they are working for the restoration by gatekeeping, demonizing "the other" (including faithful Latter-day Saints who disagree with them on some issues) and circling their wagons to defend and protect bad behavior.

Most Latter-day Saints have not watched the Bill Reel video about Peter Pan and the other Interpreters, titled "LDS Apologists & The Invention And Coverup Of Richard Nygren," but they should if they want to see how the Interpreters are polluting the message of the Restoration. 

Naturally, Dan and the rest of the Interpreters don't want you to watch it. 

They scream "anti-Mormon video" to deter Latter-day Saints from learning about how the Interpreters operate. 

When I first heard about the video, I assumed there would be another side of the story. Even after I watched the video, I assumed there must be another side. I would have welcomed a good explanation that mitigated the problems Bill Reel brought out in the video. But as we've seen, the "defense" offered by Mike Parker skirted the issues, disclaimed any responsibility, and boiled down to the old defense no one buys any longer: "it's anti-Mormon." 

And, to be sure, I wouldn't recommend most videos from the Mormon Discussions channel because I find them just as misleading and agenda-driven as the material put out by the Interpreter Foundation. But this video is an exception because it lays out clearly, for everyone to see, the type of shameful apologetics the Interpreters have been engaged in for many years.

The video is long. I'd like to see a 15-minute highlight version that would be easier for people to watch. Here are some still images that summarize some of the points and the people involved.

Some of the Interpreters and their racist "joke" (click to enlarge)

Some of the Interpreters' "jokes" (click to enlarge)

Mike Parker is amused by the racist Nygren persona (click to enlarge)

Dan Peterson and Stephen Smoot play along (click to enlarge)

I had hoped that the Peter Pan disaster would have led to a course correction by the Interpreters, but instead they are doubling down on their demonizing rhetoric as they seek to justify their tactics.

The rest of us can move on to better things as we rejoice in and share the message of the Restoration.

* By Interpreters I refer to the principals at the Interpreter Foundation and Book of Mormon Central who pursue a dogmatic, exclusionary editorial agenda to promote M2C and SITH. They are all undoubtedly fine Latter-day Saints who think they are doing good in the world because they have convinced themselves that their interpretations are correct. 

We discuss the Interpreters on this blog: https://interpreterpeerreviews.blogspot.com/

**There's a good explanation here:

The Pharisees and the Sadducees were both religious sects within Judaism during the time of Christ. Both groups honored Moses and the Law, and they both had a measure of political power. The Sanhedrin, the 70-member supreme court of ancient Israel, had members from both the Sadducees and the Pharisees.

The differences between the Pharisees and the Sadducees are known to us through a couple of passages of Scripture and through the extant writings of the Pharisees. Religiously, the Sadducees were more conservative in one doctrinal area: they insisted on a literal interpretation of the text of Scripture; the Pharisees, on the other hand, gave oral tradition equal authority to the written Word of God. If the Sadducees couldn’t find a command in the Tanakh, they dismissed it as manmade.

Given the Pharisees’ and the Sadducees’ differing view of Scripture, it’s no surprise that they argued over certain doctrines. The Sadducees rejected a belief in the resurrection of the dead (Matthew 22:23Mark 12:18–27Acts 23:8), but the Pharisees did believe in the resurrection. The Sadducees denied the afterlife, holding that the soul perished at death, but the Pharisees believed in an afterlife and in an appropriate reward and punishment for individuals. The Sadducees rejected the idea of an unseen, spiritual world, but the Pharisees taught the existence of angels and demons in a spiritual realm.

The apostle Paul shrewdly used the theological differences between the Pharisees and the Sadducees to escape their clutches. Paul had been arrested in Jerusalem and was making his defense before the Sanhedrin. Knowing that some of the court were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, Paul called out, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, descended from Pharisees. I stand on trial because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead” (Acts 23:6). Paul’s mention of the resurrection precipitated a dispute between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, dividing the assembly, and causing “a great uproar” (verse 9). The Roman commander who watched the proceedings sent troops into the melee to rescue Paul from their violence (verse 10).

Socially, the Sadducees were more elitist and aristocratic than the Pharisees. Sadducees tended to be wealthy and to hold more powerful positions. The chief priests and high priest were Sadducees, and they held the majority of seats in the Sanhedrin. The Pharisees were more representative of the common working people and had the respect of the masses. The Sadducees’ locus of power was the temple in Jerusalem; the Pharisees controlled the synagogues. The Sadducees were friendlier with Rome and more accommodating to the Roman laws than the Pharisees were. The Pharisees often resisted Hellenization, but the Sadducees welcomed it.

Jesus had more run-ins with the Pharisees than with the Sadducees, probably because of the former’s giving preeminence to oral tradition. “You ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition,” Jesus told them (Mark 7:8, NLT; see also Matthew 9:1415:1–923:51623Mark 7:1–23; and Luke 11:42). Because the Sadducees were often more concerned with politics than religion, they ignored Jesus until they began to fear He might bring unwanted Roman attention and upset the status quo. It was at that point that the Sadducees and Pharisees set aside their differences, united, and conspired to put Christ to death (John 11:48–50Mark 14:5315:1).

The Sadducees as a group ceased to exist after the destruction of Jerusalem, but the Pharisees’ legacy lived on. In fact, the Pharisees were responsible for the compilation of the Mishnah, an important document with reference to the continuation of Judaism beyond the destruction of the temple. In this way the Pharisees laid the groundwork for modern-day Rabbinic Judaism.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Mike Parker at least opened the door a crack

As I discussed last week on this blog, I appreciate Mike Parker's feedback on my comparison chart. I credit Mike Parker with opening the door, however briefly, to a more productive dialog. I'm adapting my various comparison tables accordingly in the next iteration, which I'll announce later this week. 

Obviously I'd prefer having full participation from the M2C/SITH proponents. With Mike's input, I can see why they don't like the term "citation cartel," so instead I will refer to the M2C/SITH proponents from now on as the Interpreters, which I hope they will find less objectionable. 

I include those affiliated with Book of Mormon Central as Interpreters because of their interlocking participation and because BMC, like the Interpreter Foundation, is an advocacy group instead of a legitimate scholarly organization. 

Related to that, I hope the day will come when those who participate with the Interpreter and BMC will reform their approach. Instead of claiming the role of "interpreters" who enforce and advocate their personal opinions and exclude everyone else, they could and should pursue a humble, curious, and optimistic approach that accommodates multiple faithful perspectives.

My objective all along has been to develop a forum in which everyone interested in the Restoration can participate, regardless of background or belief, so long as they seek mutual understanding. 

Contention arises from seeking a "win." For too long, apologists and critics have been bashing one another. 

For that reason, I also give credit to Bill Reel for exposing the "Peter Pan" hoax that, hopefully, will lead to a more legitimate, less childish and rancorous form of LDS apologetics. 

In other words, everything is awesome and getting better all the time.

Saturday, April 22, 2023

"Mike Parker" responds to Bill Reel

"Mike Parker" has asked me to remove, or at least modify, the observations I made last week after watching a youtube video produced by Bill Reel about his "Peter Pan" pseudonym. It's a reasonable request that I'm honoring here, complete with his input that he asked me to address.

In one sense, I agree with Mike's claim that Bill's video is opportunistic and makes a mountain out of a molehill. Had Mike and his friends simply made one small (albeit childish) mistake within a larger context of honorable, above-board, cordial and scholarly discussion of issues, I would have ignored Bill's video. Bill himself probably wouldn't have bothered making the video in the first place.

But that is not the context in which Mike and his friends acted. 

Instead, the activities Bill displays in his video are part of a long pattern of this brand of apologetics, egged on and promoted by Dan Peterson and others who should (and at some level surely do) know better. I assume Bill, as a former participant in these apologetic games, knows this all too well and thus made the decision to call out the behavior. 

Because I hope Latter-day Saints generally, and those associated with the Interpreter specifically, will spurn the tactics and antics of the apologists documented in Bill's video, I found it important to call attention to this persisting problem. Nothing in Mike's response alters that decision. To the contrary, as you'll see, Mike's response demonstrates more of the same counterproductive brand of argument and accusation that is the rotten core of current LDS apologetics.

But fairness requires that his voice be heard, so here it is.

Background. The video explained the saga of "Peter Pan," including the fraudulent, racist persona that a group of "Interpreters" (shorthand for people affiliated with the Interpreter) created as a subterfuge to hide the actual identity of the infamous "Peter Pan." 

Here's the link: https://www.bookofmormoncentralamerica.com/2023/04/clown-world-m2c-citation-cartel-and.html

I had been aware of this "Peter Pan" but I didn't know the full extent of the chicanery these clowns fine young scholars had concocted. And no less than Dan Peterson not only promoted the Peter Pan persona, but he perpetrated the fraud right in the pages of the Interpreter.

I still find it incredible, even for the Interpreter.

Before the video was released, I had received emails and text messages claiming that the identity of "Peter Pan" had been exposed, and it was Mike Parker. Over the years, several people have emailed me about their suspicions of the "real" identity of Peter Pan. I usually reply that I don't care because (i) the pseudonym is apt since, like the blogger(s), Peter Pan is a boy who never grows up and (ii) I don't read the blog anyway because the one time I did, it was so ridiculous I didn't think any sentient reader would take it seriously. 

Plus, I didn't think then, and still don't think now, that "Peter Pan" was only one person, although Mike Parker is now taking the fall for the charade. 

During my podcast with Kerry Shirts, by which time the Mike Parker connection was widely known, someone asked if I would have lunch with Mike Parker and be friends. I said I would. I remembered that "Peter Pan" had once emailed me years earlier, so I emailed "Peter Pan" and suggested we have lunch when I was in Utah. "Peter Pan" declined.

After I posted my observations about the Bill Reel video, an individual emailed me from the "Peter Pan" account, claimed he was "Mike Parker," and asked that I remove my blog post about Bill's video. A series of emails ensued.

At this point, I don't know who is emailing me as "Mike Parker." As I mentioned, when I suggested we have lunch when I was in Utah, he refused. I suggested a phone call or zoom conference, but he refused. All I have to go by is an email address for "Peter Pan" and a series of emails by someone claiming to be "Mike Parker."

I have good reason to question the identity of this individual(s). A couple of years ago, I received similarly aggressive and antagonistic emails from an individual who was using an obvious pseudonym (but not "Peter Pan"). We exchanged several messages as I explained my positions on various issues. I also explained that my responses would be the same regardless of who the person was. Eventually the individual identified himself as a well-known General Authority who has spoken in General Conference. He even gave me a link to his talk. I verified his identity through a mutual acquaintance. Fortunately, he is now emeritus so no one sustains him, but this is some of the history I've had with LDS pseudonyms.

At any rate, the "Mike Parker" who has been emailing me wants me to remove my blog post. I told him I'd be happy to correct any errors I made. Instead of working together on this, he posted another aggressively antagonistic criticism on his blog and expected me to read it. When I explained I don't read his blog, he emailed me his post directly.

Because I agree that the real Mike Parker in Bill Reel's video deserves to have his side considered, I'll assume for purposes of this discussion that the "Mike Parker" who has been emailing me is the same Mike Parker featured in the video. But if the real Mike Parker someday surfaces and claims he had been impersonated by whomever wrote the "Peter Pan" emails, I won't be surprised. 

I'm posting the "Mike Parker" material here with a few comments for context. Readers can judge for themselves. 

It's long and tedious, but if I don't address every point, my critics accuse me of "ignoring" their criticisms, so here goes.



Comments from "Mike Parker," aka "Peter Pan."

Bill Reel’s podcast

On , ex-Mormon podcaster Bill Reel hosted a 2 hour and 46 minute (!) YouTube livestream with the intent to (from the video’s description) “expose the shocking story of how a group of 5 white LDS apologists fabricated and perpetuated a fictional black apologist, Richard Nygren, to provide cover for one of their own. Through detailed investigation and interviews with key players, we reveal the disturbing truth behind this deceitful act and its coverup as well as the impact it has on those involved and on the Mormon apologetic community.”

The truth behind Reel’s breathless hyperbole is not nearly as interesting or dramatic as he tried to make it, and none of the supposed “key players” responded to his requests for information (unless Reel was referring to Jonathan Neville, in which case I’m not surprised). 

[My context: despite this innuendo, I don't know Bill Reel and I've never communicated with him nor have I given him any information. After the video was produced, but before it was released and before I saw it, I did an interview with Mormon Book Reviews about what little I knew and how I hoped that, whatever came out from the video, I hoped it would lead to more legitimate LDS scholarship and fewer childish games such as the Peter Pan saga. After watching Bill's video, and despite being appalled at what these Interpreters were doing, I still hope for such an outcome.]

In addition to denying Reel’s spin that I or anyone else “perpetuated a fictional black apologist,” I also categorically state that neither I nor anyone else mentioned in Reel’s video made any fake Richard Nygren profiles on YouTube or any other social media platform, website, or online chat.

[Anyone can watch the video and see Mike Parker and his friend discussing the fictional black apologist they named Richard Nygren. Apparently Mike is focusing on the word "perpetuated," but again, anyone can watch the video and see that Mike not only did not renounce or even object to the creation of Richard Nygren, but he responded as Peter Pan to comments directed at Nygren without clarifying that Nygren was fictional and was not the true person behind Peter Pan. Readers can decide whether that constitutes perpetuating. 

It's not clear how Mike can speak categorically on behalf of the other Interpreters mentioned in the video. Their participation in this fraud gives them plenty of incentive to hide their behavior, even from Mike, and Mike's participation gives him plenty of reason to protect his friends. Regardless, it was their invention of Richard Nygren that gave an opportunity for anyone to create a fake profile in that name.]

That didn’t stop Reel from “grinning ear to ear” when he found a story he could spin to attack and defame a few Latter-day Saints. And his lackeys naturally ate up everything he said, making equally reprehensible comments in the live chat, including some loathsome attempts to dox me by posting my home address.

[This reads as if written (or edited) by an Interpreter committee, complete with their typical sarcasm, pejorative adjectives and nouns, and the tactic of blaming Bill for the story they themselves concocted. That said, I agree with Mike that doxing is inexcusable.]  

Because of Bill Reel’s video, I’ve received harassing messages from disturbed individuals accusing me of being a racist. Some of these messages have contained what could be considered threats. I won’t post those messages here, as they may be evidence if one of these people decides to follow through on their statements.

[I agree with Mike that such messages are inexcusable, but it wasn't Bill who created or perpetuated the racist persona of Nygren. It was Mike and his fellow Interpreters who did that, and now they seek to shift the blame to Bill for what they did. Still, Mike has a valid point that it was Bill who produced and released the video, and in that sense he may have instigated some of the harassment. Ironically, he is following Dan Peterson's example by promoting Peter Pan in the public arena. Bill should and could have made the point that such harassment is wrong. I have no reason to think he would encourage or condone such harassment.]

Normally, I would just ignore Reel’s video—“don’t feed the trolls,” and so forth. These deranged lunatics are obsessed with destroying people who believe in the restored gospel, and they experience no twinge of conscience when they distort the truth.

[More Interpreter committee rhetoric doesn't clarify the issues. I don't know Bill Reel and even if I did, I couldn't read his mind the way Mike does. But I agree with Mike on this: if Bill does seek to "destroy people who believe in the restored gospel" then I deplore that agenda and any related conduct. But I don't see that in his video. Instead, I see Mike Parker and his friends creating and promoting a fraudulent, racist persona to protect the true identity of "Peter Pan," whether that identity is Mike individually or his Interpreter friends as a group.

Of course, the obvious irony here is that "Peter Pan" has for years published a blog that seeks to "destroy" me as a person who believes in the restored gospel but not in the narratives promoted by Mike and his Interpreter friends. It reveals more about Mike and his friends than about Bill Reel when he writes "they experience no twinge of conscience when they distort the truth."]  

But then Jonathan Neville jumped on Bill Reel’s bandwagon.

[See what I mean about Mike's obsession with trying to destroy me?]

Jonathan Neville promotes Bill Reel’s video

Jonathan Neville—who refuses to read anything I’ve written or to watch my interview with Robert Boylan—was apparently more than happy to watch Bill Reel’s podcast, because he posted about it on his blog.

[Mike knows that I refuse to read his stupid blog, but contrary to his assertion here, he also knows I'm happy to read anything he wants to send me directly or in an appropriate forum. He also knows I've posted a series of separate articles on this very blog responding in detail to what he has written, but he doesn't tell his readers that.

I saw Mike's interview with Boylan on Bill's video. Life is short and I don't have time or interest to watching the same video more than once.]

In his blog post, Neville asserted:
Prominent members of the citation cartel concocted, promoted and perpetuated a fake blogger persona named ‘Peter Pan’ to attack me on an ad hominem blog that ridicules my family name.
Just about every word of that sentence is false.

  • There were no “prominent members” of anything involved with the creation and maintaining of this blog; it was solely my idea, and I alone am responsible for it.

[Here, Mike expects people to take his word for it, despite using a pseudonym for years and despite the active participation of his Interpreter friends in perpetuating his deceit right in the pages of the Interpreter. The participants Bill identified include both the founder of, and one of the most prolific contributors to, the Interpreter.]

  • By “promoted,” Neville is referring to Daniel Peterson sharing links to this blog on his own site from time to time. He did this not because he’s been involved in the creation or operation of this blog, but because Jonathan Neville has attacked him and other scholars with weird claims that they’re part of some conspiracy to promulgate “M2C” within the Church.

[Mike's scare quotes seek to minimize the reality that Dan has repeatedly praised and posted links to the Peter Pan blog, thereby actively participating in its dissemination. Without Dan's promotion, no one outside Mike's friends would know or care about his blog. We have only Mike's word that he is the sole author. Mike and other members of the M2C citation cartel speak in terms of "conspiracy." I have described it as groupthink, silos, peer-approval, etc. I didn't invent the term "citation cartel," which has been used to describe the incestuous nature of academic journals. The record speaks for itself, as I have documented many times. Dan's promotion of Peter Pan is more evidence of the M2C-promoting activities of the citation cartel.]

  • If Neville wants to call writing a blog under a pseudonym using “a fake blogger persona,” then I’m afraid to tell him that many blogs are pseudonymous, many famous authors have written under pseudonyms, and even many early American Founders wrote pseudonymously. (I certainly don’t consider this blog to be on the level of Thomas Paine’s anonymously published Common Sense, of course.) As I’ve stated before, I used a pseudonym to protect myself from unstable people—a decision that has now proven itself to be prophetic, as I’ll explain in a moment.

[As I've said, I preferred the "Peter Pan" persona because it was the perfect choice for a juvenile blog that never grows up. I've pointed out on my own blogs that I'd prefer discussions on the merits instead of focused on personalities because so many people (as we're seeing with Mike) take personal offense when their ideas and actions are challenged. I just find it ironic (and amusing) that for years, Mike has focused on me by name while hiding behind his pseudonym. I just ignore ad hominem arguments and blogs. I figure if Mike had something worthwhile to say, he'd contact me directly and we'd have a dialog (as I did recently on this very blog).

  • To the best of my knowledge, I’ve never “attacked” Jonathan Neville on this blog. I’ve at times been sarcastic or snarky, but I’ve always tried to focus on his claims and assertions, not on his person. If anyone can give me examples of where I’ve “attacked” him, please let me know in the comments below; if there are legitimate examples, I’ll gladly remove them and apologize.

[Mike's word thinking leaves us wondering what he considers an "attack," but just a few paragraphs above he falsely alleged that I was a source for Bill Reel and that I've jumped on Bill's "bandwagon." I don't know how many other things he has said because I don't read his blog, but others have sent me excerpts that most people would consider attacks.]

[More of Mike's word thinking.]

  • This is the first time that Neville has alleged that the name Neville-Neville Land “ridicules [his] family name.” It’s strange that he’s waited this long to make an issue about it; this blog has existed for over four years, and only now he’s bringing this up? It seems to me that he’s desperately seeking some opportunity to criticize me.

[More of Mike's mind-reading. I've told him I ignore his blog. I think most rational people reading the excerpts I've seen would ignore it as well. It was primarily Dan Peterson's promotion that made Mike's blog an issue. And, frankly, I still don't care. That Mike thinks the name of his blog is appropriate, reasonable, and productive tells me he's not a serious contributor. Another reason why Peter Pan is an apt pseudonym.]

Amid his many other claims, Neville also asserted in his blog post:
For years, these guys have been falsely accusing Heartlanders of racist motives when it is they themselves who used a phony and racist persona to mislead their own readers and followers (and donors, in the case of Dan Peterson).
This is a rather audacious claim, considering that Rian Nelson on the FIRM Foundation’s blog has made repeated antisemitic statements, statements that Neville himself has shrugged off by writing, “Lots of people think crazy things, and normally that doesn’t matter because we recognize that none of us is perfect.”

[First, I don't agree that Rian's posts, at least the few I've seen, are racist in any sense of the term. But let's say, arguendo, that his posts can be interpreted as antisemitic. After all, Mike and his friends participate under the rubric of The Interpreter, so I suppose we're supposed to defer to their superior wisdom. 

As we see in Bill Reel's video and in their other writings, Mike's friends have long labeled Heartlanders as racists, not because of antisemitism, but because they claim Heartlanders are right-wing nationalists. Not that long ago, another Interpreter went on a podcast to make that claim after doing a newspaper interview making the same claim. So yes, the Interpreters have accused Heartlanders of racism. In fact, as we see on the video, the very reason why they created the false, racist Nygren was because they accuse Heartlanders of racism.]

Neither Jonathan Neville nor Bill Reel cared when the FIRM Foundation was posting vile, racist antisemitism on a regular basis. 

[More mind reading from Mike. I can't figure out why Mike thinks I read all this stuff. I'm busy with other things. I don't have time to read the FIRM Foundation site or much of anything else. I mainly read things people send to me. I only learned about Rian's post after someone sent it to me when Dan publicized it. And I'm not aware of any such things being posted "on a regular basis." The one post Dan publicized, I'm told, was a response on Facebook that Rian removed shortly after posting it. I've talked with Rian about this and I'm satisfied he had no racist intent, as anyone who reads his explanation can see.]

Only after Daniel Peterson blogged about it did Neville address it, with a response that equates to, "Yeah, that’s not great, but it’s just Rian being Rian.” But now that they think they’ve got me dead to rights, suddenly the mere mention of a fictitious Black man has them screaming “EMERGENCY! RACISM! DANGER! Actual incendiary antisemitism is something they’re happy to overlook and excuse, but merely mentioning a nonexistent Black man as part of a joke is apparently beyond the pale. Hypocrisy much?

[More of Mike's false equivalency. He compares a brief Facebook response by Rian (which hardly qualifies as racist anyway), with the invention, promotion and perpetuation of an unambiguously racist false identity for Mike's own pseudonym! And Mike's friend created it specifically as part of his false allegation that Heartlanders are racist, as I discussed in my blog post.]

One could reasonably accuse Reel and Neville of being nothing more than deplorable opportunists.

[Another example of Mike not attacking me, apparently ... To reiterate: for years, people have speculated about the identity of Peter Pan. Once Mike Parker's digital fingerprints surfaced, that would and should have been the end of the speculation. Case closed. But in the interim, even according to Mike, Mike's friend created a false, racist "true" identity of Nygren for Mike's pseudonym and Mike not only did not object, Mike not only did not promptly disclose his true identity, but he went along with the Nygren fraud until someone found his digital fingerprints. I had nothing to do with any of this, but once I saw the video, I owed it to my own readers and everyone who has asked me about "Peter Pan" to share the information. Do I wish Mike had not participated in the Nygren fiasco? Definitely. But that was his choice.] 

And, as I’ve already stated, I’ve never used a “racist persona” in any way on any platform. Claims that I or anyone I know has done so are absolutely false.

[This is misdirection and wordplay. I don't remember Bill's video claiming that Mike "used" a racist persona. The video shows Mike knowing about the persona, not objecting to it, not unwinding it, and actually responding on behalf of it. So far, in this explanation, Mike hasn't refuted those charges from the video.]

My personal request to Jonathan Neville

After I saw Neville’s blog post, I sent him the following email on . I asked him to not share this message online out of respect for my family’s privacy, but unfortunately I’m now forced to post it publicly to provide context for Neville’s response. (I’ve made a few slight changes to my email to remove some sensitive, personal information about my family. The message and intent of the email has not been altered. You can read a screenshot of my email, with redactions.)

[To be clear, I did not share his email, but I did have an expectation of privacy going both ways, given his request to me not to share his.]
Brother Neville,

I notice that you have blogged approvingly about Bill Reel’s video about me.

Setting Reel’s egregiously false spin on these events aside for the moment, his video invades my privacy by discussing in general terms where I live and work. (He lives in the same part of Southern Utah that I do.) Several comments in his YouTube video have tried to dox me by providing my home address and links to information about me on my employer’s website.

I have already received several harassing messages from people who have seen the video. These I can deal with, but they have troubled my family members. They have been terrified by what sound like threats and worried about disturbed individuals showing up at our home uninvited.

I’ve already reported Reel’s YouTube video as harassing me, but it seems unlikely that they’ll do anything about it.

I’m asking you, as a fellow Latter-day Saint and on behalf of my family, to please remove your blog posts linking to Reel’s video. The less advertisement his salacious trash can get, the better.

Kind regards,

Mike Parker

Jonathan Neville’s response and attempt to blackmail me

Neville so far responded to my email three times. The first reply came on the afternoon of 
Mike said one reason why he used the Peter Pan pseudonym was to protect his family, but that sounds like paranoia. Furthermore, according to excerpts people have sent me, while employing his "pun" Mike has accused me publicly of all kinds of things that could also expose me and my family to "unbalanced individuals." That's the nature of social media, unfortunately, and everyone who enters the arena knows it. I'm not saying this is a quid pro quo situation. I am saying that I'm confident no one who reads my blog would think of harassing Mike in any way, and I deplore and repudiate anyone who would do so.] 
Mike chose his words carefully because the video never says Mike personally made the joke or disseminated it. By not disputing the video (which he couldn't, given the evidence) Mike concedes that he did not object to the creation of Richard Nygren, he didn't defuse the situation by coming clean with his true identity, and he perpetuated the false racial persona by responding on behalf of Nygren and allowing Dan Peterson's Interpreter to publish the fraud by listing Mike Parker and Peter Pan as separate contributors to Interpreter articles (which Book of Mormon Central dutifully republished).]