It was nice spending 3 weeks in Eastern Europe, far from the contention emanating from LDS apologists in Utah. However, when I was in Europe, someone sent me a screenshot of a post by Mike Parker.*
Because I favor recognition of multiple working hypotheses and I seek clarity and understanding, I've taken a few moments here to address the points Mike raised.
Mike's post may offer an explanation for everything he's written.
Basically, he's in awe of credentials.
Understanding this may help defuse some of the contention as we seek "no more contention."
And this episode helps us understand how and why some Church historians manipulate the historical evidence to promote their own narratives instead of helping Latter-day Saints understand the complete historical record.
(*Mike Parker is aka Peter Pan (the boy who doesn't grow up), aka Richard Nygren (the racist, fake Black apologist)
In his post, Mike promotes a podcast by Gerrit Dirkmaat called "The Standard of Truth." Mike explains that Gerrit "has a PhD in American history and worked on the Joseph Smith Papers Project as a historian and writer."
These are valid, relevant credentials. And Gerrit is undoubtedly a fine scholar, a faithful Latter-day Saint who is exemplary and articulate. But lots of people have lots of credentials, and they are just as prone to differences of opinion, confirmation bias, and cognitive dissonance as anyone else.
In my view, Mike Parker's awe of credentials has led him (and other like-minded M2C/SITH* proponents) to suspend rational thought in deference to the scholars he so admires.
*for an explanation of acronyms, see
The credentialed class (the "Interpreters") encourage this type of deference. They get paid for their expertise, after all. And no doubt, some people seem to feel "smart" by agreeing with and parroting experts.
The logical fallacy, of course, is that when we defer to credentialed experts, we're merely confirming our own biases by choosing which experts to follow. As any trial lawyer knows, there are experts on every side of most issues. That's why lawyers can hire experts to support either side of a case.
Mike Parker has chosen to follow the experts who confirm his biases. Nothing wrong with that; we all rely on experts in areas we don't have time to pursue ourselves.
And, as I've explained before, I used to do the same thing. I used to follow the FARMS publications. I thought Jack Welch and Dan Peterson were awesome. Too busy with life to do my own research, I deferred to them because I thought they were open and honest and dependable. So I'm empathetic with Mike Parker and the other Interpreters.
Mike's post helped me realize that for some people it is important to cling to their experts. This is why he gets offended on their behalf and spends so much time trying to defend them.
But at some point, people should accept responsibility by making informed decisions instead of relying on an expert who confirms their bias.
When they become disillusioned upon realizing how Jack, Dan and other apologists promote agendas, some people lose their faith and become critics.
Others (like me) take another look at the evidence and discover a different narrative that is more faith-affirming than what Jack and Dan promoted. Obviously, this is all subjective; we can all reach different conclusions based on the same evidence. But that is why, IMO, it's important to recognize multiple working hypotheses and why it is inexcusable for Jack and Dan to refuse to do so.
By now, everyone interested in these issues can see that the Interpreters are promoting an agenda that consists, apparently, of preserving their reputations and the narratives they've taught for decades to thousands of Latter-day Saints. That's why they perpetuate false stereotypes about Heartlanders, for example.
(For another fun example of the credentialed class, look at how Book of Mormon Central promotes their credentials on their M2C-promoting, Spanish-language "Book of Mormon Geography" page, here:
Back to Mike's post. After citing Gerrit's credentials, Mike says "He is, in my estimation, better acquainted with the life and teachings of Joseph Smith than just about any other living historian."
With this "estimation," it's no wonder that Mike is in awe of Gerrit's credentials.
Let's set aside the absurdity of Mike deciding which living historian is best "acquainted with the life and teachings of Joseph Smith." It's unlikely--let's say, impossible--that Gerrit Dirkmaat has access to any secret teachings of Joseph Smith that no one else has. IOW, we're all dealing with the same historical evidence.
It's not a question of being acquainted with historical evidence. It's a question of what we do with that evidence, as we'll discuss below.
For purposes of this blog, though, let's assume that Gerrit does know more about Joseph Smith than anyone else.
That makes his manipulation of the evidence all the more inexcusable.
BTW, if you find it difficult to believe that anyone would actually write such a statement, here's part of the screen shot of Mike's blog post that was sent to me (click to enlarge):
The historians and other experts at the Joseph Smith Papers have produced an outstanding reference. I encourage everyone to use it.
As I've discussed before, The Joseph Smith Papers project is exemplary in the way it has compiled, organized, and presented historical documents. We are all grateful to everyone who participated in that project.
However, the editorial commentary is not so exemplary. While mostly factual, the editors slipped in numerous examples of editorial bias to promote their interpretive agenda. I discussed some of these before.
Part of that agenda is M2C, but another part is SITH.
I think it is inexcusable for these experts to use their editorial commentary to manipulate the historical evidence the way they have. I'd like to see revisions that are more factually correct. (I'd like to see similar improvements to accuracy in the Saints books and the Gospel Topics Essays, too.)
This leads directly to Mike's blog post. Here's another part of the screen shot (click to enlarge):
Mike says Dirkmaat discussed "a rising trend/movement among Church members [who] adamantly reject that Joseph Smith used seer stones placed into a hat (in order to block out the light) to translate the Book of Mormon."
[The subtext is whether Joseph translated the plates with the Urim and Thummim, as he claimed, or whether he actually used the stone-in-the-hat (SITH) instead of the plates and the U&T.]
According to Mike, Dirkmaat was referring to the book by the Stoddards as well as my books.
For purposes of this post, let's assume Mike correctly represented what Gerrit said.
I won't comment on the Stoddards' book. I don't agree with some of their conclusions, but that's the nature of historical analysis. There is a large element of subjectivity in reading historical documents.
If someone polled all the historians/experts who have assessed the life of Joseph Smith, we'd find a full spectrum of conclusions, driven largely by their respective biases. Using exactly the same evidence,, nonbelieving scholars would reach different conclusions than believing scholars would. Among believing scholars there would be a range of views.
All of that is normal.
But for Gerrit Dirkmaat to claim there is a "rising trend/movement" in favor of U&T over SITH is a misleading and contradicts the historical record.
Until a few years ago, there was nearly universal acceptance among Latter-day Saints of U&T over SITH.
Thanks to the efforts of scholars such as Gerrit Dirkmaat and the Interpreters who follow them, there is a "rising trend," but that trend is the promotion of SITH among young Latter-day Saints and the rejection of the traditional U&T narrative in favor of SITH.
Still, if Gerrit perceives there is a "rising trend" in favor of U&T, then that's great news. It means more people are learning what Joseph and Oliver actually said. It means more people are seeing through the spin provided by the SITH sayers who prefer David Whitmer's "An Address to All Believers in Christ" over the Wentworth letter.
To be clear, I'm fine with the Interpreters disagreeing with my conclusions.*
I'm also fine with them promoting SITH (as well as M2C).
I just ask that they provide clarity instead of obfuscation, understanding instead of acrimony, and openness instead of censorship.
Last year I discussed the book Gerrit co-authored that's at the core of the SITH promotion. In that book, the authors simply omitted the historical evidence that contradict their thesis. Last I checked, they haven't revised the book.
It's easy to promote a historical narrative when you simply omit contrary historical information. That's why in my books, I try to include all the evidence. I cite people who disagree with me because I favor clarity and understanding. I encourage people to make informed decisions.
That's why I keep talking about multiple working hypotheses.
Let's hope that Mike Parker's post leads to greater clarity and understanding, which will in turn lead to no more contention.
*It is funny, though, that the Interpreters are so insecure about their own positions that they resort to manipulative tactics. For example, when Mike Parker and his fellow Interpreters wrote two long critiques of my books last summer, they didn't give me any notice or a chance to respond. When I contacted an editor at the Interpreter, he agreed to let me respond within a word count restraint that was far shorter than the original articles. And then they delayed publication of my response until Mike and his fellow Interpreters could prepare a rejoinder to publish alongside my response, in which they raised issues I hadn't addressed. When I asked to respond to the rejoinder, the editors refused, saying I could make comments if I wanted. Online comments are not part of the journal, leaving readers of the Interpreter with a series of misleading and unanswered criticisms.
Which readers of the Interpreter are used to, actually, given the pattern established by Dan Peterson (Slander Dan) over many years.
All of this is the opposite of seeking clarity and understanding, which is (or should be) the point of authentic academic exchanges.
But this all passes as "scholarship" among LDS apologists.