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.

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.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent points, all. And I agree the Mormon Discussions Inc is agenda driven, but everyone is. The agenda is the truth, not the censored truth because the Church does not want to see or acknowledge the consequences of their own teachings and actions in relation to both history and doctrine. There are problems, and ignoring them or deflecting away from the analysis of said problems by calling it anti-Mormon is playing word games, even when the leaders do so, and have their own paid scholars do so for them in firesides we see being put up all over the internet.

    I am a part of the group Mormon Discussion Inc., and find that yes the issues are HARD, but not because of our agenda, but because of how the church has chosen to handle things and hide information. When the church itself comes clean, we will simply have no reason to continue existing as a group. It is quite that simple.

    We are the gadflies because there is no reason for anyone to become complicit with the deceptions, as we see them. We are open to being corrected, but it has to be with actual and credible evidence, not prophetic authority thundering down on our heads, or mere strawman name calling to poison the well of discourse and understanding of all of the evidence and its consequences.

    We don't recognize their authority, they have abused it to where they no longer have it. That is the stance and understanding, using Joseph Smith's own revelations about the church that both the "Interpreters" and the church ignores. We aim on bringing it to light.

    True, we can always try to do so nicer, and shall do so, but we have an interesting in truth, not faith-promoting agendas... thanks for listening and looking forward to some great and useful discussions.