“Is this the most peculiar court summons in recent British history?”

 

Pre-teens aren’t SUPPOSED to be particularly tolerant

 

Religious hostilities, it seems, are reaching troubling new highs.  It’s perhaps in that context that we should view the recent court summons issued in England against President Thomas S. Monson.

 

The non-Mormon Oxford-educated political commentator Charles C. W. Cooke considers that summons in a forthright article:

 

http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/370449/most-peculiar-court-summons-recent-british-history-charles-c-w-cooke

 

England may be in the process of becoming a very, very weird — and an even more insular — place.  A kind of secularists-only treehouse.  Or, perhaps more precisely, there seem to be many there who would like it to become such.  Consider, for example, the reaction to the 2010 visit to the United Kingdom by Pope Benedict XVI, when more than a few British voices (and not merely those on the street) called for him to be stripped of the legal protections normally afforded not only clergy but foreign heads of state (which the pope, as leader of Vatican City, legally is) and prosecuted for his alleged “crimes.”

 

“New atheist” guru Richard Dawkins addressing a rally protesting the visit of Pope Benedict XVI in 2010

 

Another demonstration against the visit of the pope to England

 

Joseph Ratzinger, aka Benedict XVI, is a noted Christian intellectual and author — and has been for decades

 

A relatively gentle protest sign

 

More protests

 

Get off of our island, religious people!

 

Religion, the late Anglo-American writer Christopher Hitchens repeatedly stressed, deserves no respect.

 

The militantly secular minority has decreed . . .

 

 

  • http://plonialmonimormon.blogspot.com/ Stephen Smoot

    You see, Dan, when secularists protest that their rights are being infringed by religious people, it’s because they are just reasonable folks who just want to protect themselves and society from the evils of religion.

    When religious people do it, it’s because they have a “persecution complex.”

    • Guest

      “Weird”?

      I don’t think anyone who believes that it’s okay for a
      38 year old married man to have legally adulterous sex with a fourteen
      year old girl, or that our sun gets its light from an
      as-yet-undiscovered star called “Kolob”, or that the entire human race
      came from two people who lived in Missouri 5700 years ago, should be
      telling anyone else about “weird”.

      • http://plonialmonimormon.blogspot.com/ Stephen Smoot

        Well, seeing as how I don’t believe in any of those things, there’s not much for me to worry about, is there?

      • DanielPeterson

        Three alleged Mormon beliefs that I don’t believe.

  • Lucy Mcgee

    Aren’t you forgetting that the summons was the result of the unhappiness of members of the LDS Church who have clearly stated that their grievance has nothing to do with those of their faith, but rather has to do with specific LDS Church practices which they consider deceptive? This has nothing to do with religious intolerance as you are trying to frame it. Nothing.

    According the the PEW survey you cited, in what nations have there been the most restrictions and social hostility toward religion (hint: it’s not Great Britain)? In fact, some of the least restrictive countries toward religion include the secular nations of Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, Finland and Slovenia. While the most restrictive include the highly religious nations of Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia. The UK ranks as moderate as do Austria, Germany, and the United States.

    The protests against the Pope show that some people are tired of appointed theocratic leaders who make claims of divinity while harming those they are supposed to protect. It’s good he’s gone.

    • DanielPeterson

      I couldn’t disagree with you more strongly than I do on this, LM. The suit is the result of bitter anger on the part of three specific people, and it has been widely described as very weird.

      And I reject your animosity toward Benedict XVI.

      Etc. Etc.

      • Lucy Mcgee

        I would have expected nothing less!

      • Lucy Mcgee

        I’ve actively read from various sites created by former and current LDS Church faithful over the past 20 months. What struck me initially, were the numbers of internet sites dedicated to providing discussion forums for disaffected LDS Church members. I wondered whether this was typical within Christianity. Were there sites dedicated to recovery from the belief systems of Adventists, Jehovah Witness, Catholics, etc.? There are, but nothing compared to the scope and energy people have put into describing problem areas within the Mormon faith.

        Former LDS Church faithful, have expended a great amount of effort in bringing what they perceive as failings to the public forum. The “bitter anger”, it seems to me, is the result of a religious tradition which requires one to take on teachings, some of which, in today’s world, simply don’t make sense. Technology and reason are crashing against tradition. People want truth.

  • The Oracle

    “Weird”?

    I don’t think anyone who believes that it’s okay for a
    38 year old married man to have legally adulterous sex with a fourteen
    year old girl, or that our sun gets its light from an
    as-yet-undiscovered star called “Kolob”, or that the entire human race
    came from two people who lived in Missouri 5700 years ago, should be
    telling anyone else about “weird”.

    • DanielPeterson

      Flogging a caricature must be very, very satisfying.

      I confess that I’ve never seen the point of it.

      (Hint: I don’t believe any of the three things in your list.)

      • The Oracle

        “Caricature”? Those three claims are made by canonized Mormon scripture and Mormon church sources.

        For example:

        1.) The LDS genealogy website records Helen Mar Kimball’s date of birth as August 22, 1828, and her “marriage” to Joseph Smith in May 1843 (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.2.1/M18K-6J5). She was fourteen. Did Joseph Smith have sex with Helen? I think the reaction of her mother to this “marriage”, as recorded by Helen herself, plus the fact that we know Smith consummated other of his plural marriages, should persuade us he did.

        BUT, let’s say he didn’t.

        What that still means is that you think it’s okay for an already-married 38 year old man to non-legally ALSO “marry” a fourteen year old girl. The point? You’re on here shooting your mouth off about “weird”, but most people not serving time for pedophilia would consider an already-married 38 year old’s non-legal “marriage” to a fourteen year old (consummated or not) extremely “weird”, if not sick;

        2.) The supposedly “true” Book of Abraham, canonized in LDS scriptures, discusses solar light-borrowing from Star Kolob in Point Five of Facsimile #2. Again, most people would say that’s pretty weird.

        BUT, let’s just say again, for your sake, that Point Five doesn’t really say that the sun borrows its light from Kolob at all. You are still left as a believer that God resides on, or near, an as-yet-undiscovered star called Kolob, on the basis of a “translation” (you can choose your own definition for that word; it doesn’t matter) of The Breathing Permit of Hor, in which “Kolob” is never actually mentioned. Suggestion: that’s weird;

        3.) Joseph Smith taught that Adam and Eve were real, and the progenitors of the human race, and residents of modern-day Missouri, as did later church presidents and apostles. You can read a summary of this on that evil anti-Mormon website, http://www.lds.org (see https://www.lds.org/ensign/1994/01/i-have-a-question?lang=eng).

        The First Presidency, in an official 1902 statement entitled “The Origin of Man”, re-emphasized this doctrine:

        “It is held by some that Adam was not the first man upon this earth and that the original human being was a development from lower orders of the animal creation. These, however, are the theories of men. The word of the Lord declared that Adam was “the first man of all men” (Moses 1:34), and we are therefore in duty bound to regard him as the primal parent of our race.”

        Not “*a* primal parent”; “THE primal parent”. (See: https://www.lds.org/ensign/2002/02/the-origin-of-man?lang=eng)

        ***

        Now, I can’t blame you for not believing that the entire human race descended from Adam and Eve around 6000 years ago. In fact, you should *not* believe that, because there is no way it can be true. The problem, of course, is that the LDS church, in its canonized scriptures and official First Presidency statements, has explicitly committed to a position contrary to your own. That means you don’t believe in an LDS doctrine which couldn’t be more “official” or canonical – which means, of course, that at least in that one respect, you are apostate. There’s no way around that.

        Does that matter? Actually, in the long run, no. Who cares? Believe what you want. In the end, we’ll all die, and find out what happens on the other side: maybe nothing, maybe a meeting with Jesus, maybe something we can’t conceive of now. If you get busted for apostacy, just explain to the Big Man that you did the best you could trying to understand things. My guess is, he’ll give you a break (presuming he exists).

        But in the meantime, I suggest that trying to defend a religion as true, which – at the same time – you admit you do not fully believe in, makes you look very, very foolish.

        Anyway, point is, even giving you the benefit of the doubt on sex between Joseph and his non-legal teenage brides, or whether the sun “borrows” its light from Kolob (versus merely existing), you still shouldn’t be lecturing others on what “weird” is.

        Wake up.

        • DanielPeterson

          There’s a very large literature on these and other matters — to which I myself have contributed a bit — and a wide spectrum of views among informed and faithful Latter-day Saints.

          I’m not going to repeat all of that here, but, suffice it to say, your talking points strike me as simplistic in the extreme.

          • The Oracle

            *Of course* there is a “very large literature on these and other matters” – it necessarily requires many thousands of words to try to obscure the meaning of plainly articulated LDS doctrines – like that Adam was “the primal parent of the human race”, to quote the First Presidency’s official statement – in order to make them still believable in the 21st century. After all, what’s the alternative? Outright disbelief in the whole of Mormonism?

            Of course not. That would never do. No…the more a doctrine becomes unbelievable, the more it must be parsed, obscured, complicated, compartmentalized, in order to keep it somewhat believable, or at least not outrightly discountable, or maybe (last resort) categorizable as “not essential to our salvation”.

          • kiwi57

            The self-styled Oracle: “*Of course* there is a ‘very large literature on these and other matters’ – it necessarily requires many thousands of words to try to obscure the meaning of plainly articulated LDS doctrines – like that Adam was ‘the primal parent of the human race’, to quote the First Presidency’s official statement – in order to make them still believable in the 21st century. ”

            That’s the expected response.

            Because as you and other anti-Mormons know, it is trivially easy to make the religious beliefs of others look absurd simply by reducing them to bumper-sticker slogans.

            It takes no talent, no intelligence and very little knowledge to use that tactic, which is why you and your ilk are not the least bit over-qualified for it. It’s the Jack Chick technique.

            Catholic scholar Karl Keating commented on this technique thus:

            “It must be admitted they enjoy a certain tactical (if short-term) advantage in that they can get away with presenting bare-bones claims such as these; they wear out Catholicism’s defenders by inundating them with short remarks that demand long explanations.”

            The reality, as all honest commentators acknowledge, is that “long explanations” are the norm in inter-faith discourse.

            Therefore, those who accuse a religion’s defenders of dishonesty are knowingly, intentionally and consciously transferring their own deliberate dishonesty to the targets of their bigotry.

          • The Oracle

            Kiwi – You talk a big game.

            Let me ask you a simple question:

            Do you believe that “Adam was the primal parent of the human race”?

            Readers await your answer.

          • kiwi57

            The self-styled Oracle: “Kiwi – You talk a big game.

            Let me ask you a simple question:

            Do you believe that ‘Adam was the primal parent of the human race’?”

            I’ll answer that question when you answer this one:

            Are you really arrogant enough to imagine that you have the right to interrogate me about my beliefs?

            And dictate the terms of my response?

            The self-styled Oracle: “Readers await your answer.”

            What readers? Have you got a mouse in your pocket?

            I may or may not address that question at a time and manner of my choosing. I will not be dictated to by an anonymous internet anti-Mormon.

          • The Oracle

            Kiwi – I am surprised you would be evasive about whether you believe a doctrine taught by the First Presidency of the LDS Church in an official statement.

          • DanielPeterson

            So, “Oracle,” you’re unwilling to grant that those who disagree with you do so in good faith.

            That’s good to understand. Time and energy are limited, and it’s helpful to know where not to spend them.

          • The Oracle

            It is perfectly possible for people to disagree in good faith. I doubt that anyone on earth would dispute that, except for maybe Kiwi, who seems to think that anyone who disagrees with him is “lying”.

          • kiwi57

            To the contrary; I only suppose that when I see clear evidence of deliberate mendacity.

          • The Oracle

            But the point (duh) is that you see it where it does not exist.

        • http://plonialmonimormon.blogspot.com/ Stephen Smoot

          I would recommend you read Brian Hales, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, volume 2, pages 24–29. There is, in fact, no convincing evidence for conjugality in Joseph Smith’s marriage with Helen Mar Kimball, and good evidence against it.

          If you don’t believe Hales, then just ask Todd Compton (certainly no apologist for polygamy) what he thinks. “There is absolutely no evidence that there was any sexuality in the marriage [of Joseph and Helen Mar Kimball]. . . . All the evidence points to this marriage as a primarily dynastic marriage.” (Source: http://en.fairmormon.org/Joseph_Smith%27s_marriages_to_young_women)

          • The Oracle

            Stephen – Who cares? Even if there was no sex between the 38 year old married Joseph Smith and his numerous teenage non-legal “brides”, you still have to be a complete weirdo to think that’s okay. So where does Daniel Peterson, or anyone else, who thinks that, get off telling everyone else about what’s weird or not?

          • http://plonialmonimormon.blogspot.com/ Stephen Smoot

            “Who cares?”

            I’m sorry. I was under the impression that you had a genuinely sincere question when you asked “Did Joseph Smith have sex with Helen?”, and that you weren’t just trolling us.

            I now see that I was mistaken. In that case, please carry on with your trolling.

          • The Oracle

            Not trolling at all, Stephen. Since you seem unable to grasp it, the point is that *even if* we assume that the already-married, 38 year old Joseph Smith only non-legally married a fourteen year old girl *just to non-legally marry her*, and there was no sex at all, you’re STILL a total weirdo if you think that’s okay. And as such, you have no standing to lecture others on what “weird” is.

            Can you wrap your head around that?

          • http://plonialmonimormon.blogspot.com/ Stephen Smoot

            First of all, Oracle, let’s not forget what your very first accusation was. “I don’t think anyone who believes that it’s okay for a 38 year old married man to have legally adulterous sex with a fourteen year old girl . . . should be telling anyone else about ‘weird’.”

            That was your claim.

            When both Dan Peterson and I said that we also don’t believe this is okay, and when I followed up by pointing out that historians have discredited the claim that Joseph Smith’s marriage to Helen Mar Kimball included sexuality, you, having lost the argument, hastily shifted the goal posts. “Even if there was no sex between the 38 year old married Joseph Smith and his numerous teenage non-legal ‘brides’, you still have to be a complete weirdo to think that’s okay.”

            So now, according to your new ad hoc defense, it doesn’t matter that your initial argument was severely undermined, because it’s still weird according to your newly fashioned, totally arbitrary redefinition of the argument.

            Incidentally, and because you evidently haven’t bothered to notice that I’ve already said so, I will say again that I do think the age gap between Joseph Smith and Helen Mar Kimball was weird. But, and this is something you’d know if you ever bother to do any actual historical research, whatever I or you or anyone else in 2014 thinks is “weird” doesn’t matter when we’re trying to determine what past individuals (like, say, in 19th century frontier America) thought was “weird.”

            As it is, as Hales and others (including, reluctantly, Compton) have shown, 19th century attitudes towards minimal age of marriage standards do not reflect modern attitudes. Joseph’s (likely non-sexual, by the way) marriage to a younger girl was not wholly abnormal by 19th century standards. One may think that a past practice such as this was “weird” if one wishes (as I, with my modern sensibilities, happen to), but as soon as one decides to pass moral judgement upon any individual who did this or any other “weird” practice in the past, on the sole basis that one assumes this individual should have shared your modern moral sensibilities, one has committed the presentist fallacy.

            Of course, you would know this if you would have followed Dan’s sound advice to brush up on the relevant literature on this subject.

            Can you wrap your head around that, Oracle?

            Now I’ve wasted far too much time on this matter, so I will say nothing further.

          • The Oracle

            Stephen – I didn’t “shift the goalposts”. I tried to illustrate “weird” for people, like Dan Peterson, who don’t really seem to have that much of a grasp on it, by pointing out that *even if the already-married, 38 year old Joseph Smith did *not* deflower his 14 year old bride, but only non-legally “married” her in some non-sexual sense, that’s still weird behaviour, as is assenting to it after the fact, which, I think, any believing Mormon (including Peterson) must.

            Why must they? Well, maybe “must” is a strong word; but what would it mean to retroactively *dissent* from Joseph’s “marriage”? I think it could only mean that you think that Joseph Smith had, inadvertently or deliberately, misused his prophetic position, and maybe even “led members astray”.

            In any case, the point is that those supportive of Joseph Smith’s personal behaviour and religion should be cautious when they use the word “weird”.

    • JohnH2

      Kolob seems to be pretty clearly Sirius being (quite literally) the governing fixed star for Egypt. Under the ancient view of the Universe the Sun would have been considered to get its light from the sphere of Sirius, being the prime frame of motion.

      Incidentally there is a Sirius B being a white dwarf of 0.98 solar masses with a volume equal to that of earths. Probably not the Celestial sphere, but interesting still.

      • The Oracle

        So…..you believe that God lives on, or near, Sirius?

        • JohnH2

          I believe that according to what is in the Book of Abraham that the start being referred to as Kolob, the supreme governing star, is Sirius. While it could be possible that Sirius is also the place where God dwells that doesn’t seem likely to me or actually important in anything but an esoteric sense.

          • The Oracle

            John:

            Your reasoning seems to go like this:

            1.) God lives on or near Kolob;
            2.) I believe that Kolob is Sirius;
            3.) But it does not seem likely to me that God lives on or near Sirius.

            Want to explain that?

          • JohnH2

            The cosmology in the book of Abraham is such that the star described as Kolob must be Sirius. The cosmology of the universe as we understand it does not seem to imply that the throne of God is located on Sirius B, it doesn’t rule it out but other than Kolob being identified as Sirius under the prior cosmology I have no reason to think that God does dwell on Sirius B.

          • The Oracle

            Huh?

            If “Kolob must be Sirius”, as you claim, and you (obviously) believe that the Pearl of Great Price is an actual book of scripture, how can logic not require you to conclude that God lives on or near Sirius?

          • DanielPeterson

            I can’t answer for JohnH2, but I suspect that some ancient people connected Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, with Kolob. Hence, perhaps when the significance of the name had become garbled or lost, Sirius became known as the “Dog Star.” (In Semitic languages, the common triconsonantal root associated with the meaning “dog” is KLB.) (Its heliacal rising marked the “dog days of summer.”) Whether or not Sirius actually IS Kolob, of course, is a separate matter. But it wouldn’t surprise me if Abraham THOUGHT it was.

          • The Oracle

            That does not speak at all to my question for John, which is:

            If “Kolob must be Sirius”, as John claims, and he (obviously) believes that the Pearl of Great Price is an actual book of scripture, how can logic not require him to believe that God lives on or near Sirius?

          • JohnH2

            Because I don’t hold to the evangelical view of scripture.

          • The Oracle

            Actually, I think you do. Evangelicals constantly talk about how the Bible is “inerrant and infallible”, and then blatantly pick and choose which parts to take seriously. The moment they find something they can’t quite believe, they glibly dismiss it – just like you.

          • JohnH2

            Now you are just trolling.

          • The Oracle

            If by “trolling”, you mean “pointing out that you make no sense”, sure. After all, your comments so far have gone like this:

            1.) I believe the Book of Abraham is true;
            2.) The Book of Abraham says “Kolob is set nigh unto the throne of God”;
            3.) I believe that Sirius is Kolob;
            4.) But I don’t believe that Sirius “is set nigh unto the throne of God”.

            Now, if you want to explain how that makes sense, I’m all ears. And I won’t accuse you of “trolling”, either.

          • JohnH2

            The problem is that you don’t understand assertion 1, and refuse to apparently.

          • The Oracle

            What is it you think I don’t understand?

          • JohnH2

            That the Lamanites being described as savages is Nephite propaganda and not the infallible word of God and that Abraham’s view of the universe is in the cosmology of (presumably) Abraham and not according to how we understand the universe, among other things. When Brigham Young taught the racist things that he taught it is highly likely that he believed them to be true, I believe Brigham Young was a prophet but was wrong in regards to his racism. In other words, I am not an evangelical and don’t interpret the scriptures like they do, as I already stated.

          • The Oracle

            Let me see if I understand, John.

            You believe the Book of Abraham is true, but you *also* believe that it is false (or might be false) when it states that “Kolob is set nigh unto the throne of God”.

            Is that accurate?

          • JohnH2

            I believe that Abraham believed that Kolob is Sirius and is neigh unto the throne of God, and that he could be wrong about that.

          • The Oracle

            Do you believe that John could be wrong that Jesus was the Son of God?

          • JohnH2

            I could be wrong about a lot of things, but that one doesn’t seem likely to me at all

          • The Oracle

            Right. Well, can you see where I’m going here? Why believe canonized John, but not canonized Abraham?

            The canonized Book of Abraham purports to record the testimony of Abraham, as follows:

            1 And I, Abraham, had the Urim and Thummim, which the Lord my God had given unto me, in Ur of the Chaldees;

            2 And I saw the stars, that they were very great, and that one of them was nearest unto the throne of God; and there were many great ones which were near unto it;

            3 And the Lord said unto me: These are the governing ones; and the name of the great one is Kolob,
            because it is near unto me, for I am the Lord thy God: I have set this one to govern all those which belong to the same order as that upon which thou standest.

            (…)

            9 And thus there shall be the reckoning of the time of one planet above another, until thou come nigh unto Kolob, which Kolob is after the reckoning of the Lord’s time; which Kolob is set nigh unto the throne of God, to govern all those planets which belong to the same border as that upon which thou standest.

            Contrary to what you imply, there is no way this can be spun as “possibly only Abraham’s (mistaken) view”. This purports to be a revelation directly from God to Abraham. And the Book of Abraham purports to have translated it correctly from Egyptian writings.

            In other words, if you can actually believe that maybe the throne of God isn’t nigh unto Kolob, then you don’t believe The Book of Abraham is inspired scripture. And if you don’t believe that, you’re not really a Mormon in any meaningful sense.

          • DanielPeterson

            I’ve just sent an essay by Lou Midgley in for typesetting. It will appear in “Interpreter” in a couple of weeks or so, I think.

            It’s directly germane, Coracle, to your confusion here. I hope you’ll profit from it when it appears.

          • The Oracle

            I await a summary of my “confusion” over the invalid logic employed by John.

            By the way – why aren’t you holding guys like John to the basic rules of logic? You’re supposed to be on here defending Mormonism, not running interference for high schoolers who can’t reason their way through a basic syllogism, and who make the Mormon church look like it’s full of ignoramuses.

          • DanielPeterson

            Sorry, Coracle. He gets it. You don’t.

            And it only makes you look worse when YOU mock HIM.

          • The Oracle

            I’m not sure how this has escaped you, but you need to make more than an assertion in order to convince others. You need to present an argument explaining why you think Coracle gets it (whatever that would even mean given his meandering statements), and I don’t. Otherwise, you just come off like some guy who loves to hear himself come up with soundbites and thought-terminating cliches.

          • DanielPeterson

            Be patient and seek to understand, Coracle. The Midgley article will help you, if you’ll permit it to do its work.

          • DanielPeterson

            Coracle, you seem to think that we believe in scriptural inerrancy.

            Where on earth did you come up with THAT idea?

          • The Oracle

            Nice try.

            How about you tell us all which parts of the Book of Abraham you believe are errant?

          • DanielPeterson

            Good grief, Coracle. What a bizarre approach you take to these matters.

            I’m sorry, but, frankly, you’re so wrong that it’s hard to know where to start — and so confrontational that it’s difficult to see any reason to try.

          • The Oracle

            Instead of dismissive epithets, why don’t you do your religion proud, man up, and defend your own statements?

            You above implied you don’t believe in scriptural inerrancy. The *obvious* question which that raises is:

            Which parts of, say, the Book of Abraham, do you believe to be errant? Or possibly errant?

            That questions follows from your own statement. Why don’t you answer it?

          • DanielPeterson

            It’s not a matter of lists of verses, silly fellow.

            Be patient, and make an effort to understand. Don’t show up with risible talking points barking orders.

            Your confusion isn’t a matter that a few fact-pills can cure. It’s cause by fundamental misconceptions.

            The Midgley article will help you, if you’ll let it.

          • The Oracle

            A Midgley article will help me understand that John’s violations of the basic rules of logic are valid?

            Can you understand that this isn’t about the content of the Book of Abraham, but about John’s invalid reasoning?

          • DanielPeterson

            No. If you’ll let it (and if you can overcome your manifest problems with reading comprehension, apparent yet again here), the Midgley article will help you to grasp the fundamental way in which you’ve misunderstood our approach to scripture — which is what causes you to pose the questions, level the objections, and make the demands that you do. From our standpoint, they’re totally misguided.

          • The Oracle

            So, John constructs a completely invalid syllogism; I ask him to explain; you jump in and tell me to read some Louis Midgley article which hasn’t appeared yet, refuse to answer a simple question arising from your insinuation that you don’t believe in scriptural inerrancy, and try to distract me from the only point I was concerned about here: John’s inability to reason.

            Why not, for example, do what normal humans do – actually explain what you think John was on about, or ask *him* to explain? After all, he either believes that the throne of God is nigh unto Kolob, or he doesn’t. If he does, then he believes the throne of God is nigh unto Sirius. If he doesn’t, he believes that the passage I just quoted from The Book of Abraham was grossly inaccurate.

            Which is it?

          • kiwi57

            The self-styled Oracle: “Do you believe that John could be wrong that Jesus was the Son of God?”

            Of course. Astronomy and Deity are exactly like each other, and there are no other witnesses of Jesus being designated the Son of God.

            Do you really think you’ve got something to teach us about logic?

            I mean, really?

          • The Oracle

            Kiwi:

            It is not that astronomy and deity are identical. I am surprised by how consistently poorly you reason.

            It is that the identification of Kolob as the star nearest the throne of God comes from prophetic testimony in canonized scripture, just like the identification of Jesus as the son of God does, which raises an obvious question: on what basis does JohnH2 accept one canonized prophetic testimony, but not another?

            Your comment implies that a valid basis might be which category the content falls into; yet, the implication that a content category difference in two truth propositions, coming from two equally authoritative sources, necessarily correlates to differences in the truth values of the two propositions, constitutes a non sequitur.

            Moreover, the eighth Article of Faith stipulates that the Bible is “the word of God as far as it is translated correctly”. Joseph Smith added that “many important points touching the salvation of men had been taken from the Bible, or lost before it was compiled” (OHC, Vol. 1, p. 245). By contrast, the Book of Abraham purports to be the writings of Abraham translated by Joseph Smith. The point? The Book of Abraham has, relatively, a very fine claim to being accurate and credible.

            And what does it say about Kolob, and its proximity to the throne of God? This:

            “And I, Abraham, had the Urim and Thummim, which the Lord my God had given unto me, in Ur of the Chaldees; And I saw the stars, that they were very great, and that one of them was nearest unto the throne of God; and there were many great ones which were near unto it;

            “And the Lord said unto me: These are the governing ones; and the name of the great one is Kolob, because it is near unto me, for I am the Lord thy God: I have set this one to govern all those which belong to the same order as that upon which thou standest.”

            (…)

            “And thus there shall be the reckoning of the time of one planet above another, until thou come nigh unto Kolob, which Kolob is after the reckoning of the Lord’s time; which Kolob is set nigh unto the throne of God, to govern all those planets which belong to the same border as that upon which thou standest.”

            That passage purports to be a direct quotation of God from Abraham. If you disbelieve that, you disbelieve in the Book of Abraham; and if you disbelieve in the Book of Abraham, you disbelieve in Mormonism.

          • kiwi57

            The self-styled Oracle: “I am surprised by how consistently poorly you reason.”

            And this from the fellow who responded to the rather ordinary observation that we reject superstitions about “scriptural inerrancy” by demanding that Dan identify which verses are “errant.”

            That glib, slipshod word game passes for “reasoning,” does it?

            The self-styled Oracle: “That passage purports to be a direct quotation of God from Abraham. If you disbelieve that, you disbelieve in the Book of Abraham; and if you disbelieve in the Book of Abraham, you disbelieve in Mormonism.”

            That chain of non sequiturs looks more like an anti-Mormon daydream than any serious attempt to engage LDS thought.

            Gawrsh, I wonder why?

          • The Oracle

            Kiwi:

            1.) I await your explanation of why it is unreasonable to inquire of someone who “rejects the superstition of scriptural inerrancy” (a perfectly respectable position, by the way) which parts of scripture he thinks might be errant;

            2.) I also await your explanation of why the following formulation is a chain of non sequiturs:

            “”That passage purports to be a direct quotation of God from Abraham. If you disbelieve that, you disbelieve in the Book of Abraham; and if you disbelieve in the Book of Abraham, you disbelieve in Mormonism.”

            ****
            After all, the truth of an assertion is not conveyed through the vehemence or glibness with which it is expressed. It is conveyed through argument. I therefore await your arguments to support the assertions you’ve just made.

            If you can’t or won’t, I suggest you cannot be taken seriously as an interlocutor in a reasoned discussion.

  • Don Bagley

    A peculiar summons for a peculiar fraud. When I was a child my father was encouraged to give more and more money to the Mormon church for his salvation. He gave until I hurt. I lived in basements and garages and had no lunch money for school, because Salt Lake captured that money. Yes, I blame my father. But why’d they take it away from me? Why did they facilitate child neglect? I want answers, and I want them now!

    • DanielPeterson

      I presume that, for some reason, the Church took more than 10% tithes from him and refused to give him any assistance?

      Do you know why that was?

      • Don Bagley

        He did give more than ten percent. He did cause his family to sacrifice for the church. I thank you for responding to my complaint, Dr. Peterson. I believe that we have communicated before. The reality is that my father did not have his priorities straight. He preferred a religious organization over his own flesh and blood. He did not ask the church for assistance. There was no assistance. But there was hunger, and there was violence, and it was peppered with justification from Mormonism. Did my father pervert your religion? Only you can say. Or did your religion pervert my father? Even I can’t answer that.

        • DanielPeterson

          I’m in no position to judge your father or to evaluate your story.

          However, it doesn’t seem representative or normal to me.

          • Don Bagley

            Thank you for your measured response, Dr. Peterson. I suppose it’s a lot to take in. I should mention that my family goes back five generations in the church, and my great-grandfather was a polygamist. I consider my father a product of Mormonism (as am I), and I question the value of membership when an abusive man is able to use it to justify his outrageous behavior. That’s right, priesthood and punishment rolled up like a couple of newspapers to swat a fly. Please excuse the fly for not appreciating the news.

          • DanielPeterson

            I’m sorry about your experience.

            But deranged or evil people can press almost ANYTHING into service as a vehicle or justification for their abuse.

            I’ve seen it in Little League, competitive swimming, the Boy Scouts, scholarly organizations, campus units, businesses, and innumerable other places — none of which seem to me unworthy simply because somebody saw fit to exploit or misapply them.

          • Don Bagley

            Thank you. Your points are well taken. When a mouse gets kicked it only sees the sneaker that kicked it. It doesn’t know why the shoe is being wielded against it, nor by whom. Please remind members that they represent the LDS church in their homes. There are tragedies being played out. I hope you’re right when you say those are rare. I must remain atheist though, because I don’t believe in a God who gave me my father. I’m not Job.

          • DanielPeterson

            I understand where you’re coming from, and hope that, someday, you can see things differently.

    • kiwi57

      Don Bagley: “I want answers, and I want them now!”
      Funny. You don’t sound like a neglected child; you sound more like a spoilt one.
      So, given that it’s your father’s decisions that you want answers about, how about you ask him?
      And if he’s no longer available, then you’ll have to accept that no answers are forthcoming. Nobody else can definitively say what was in his mind at any time.

      • Don Bagley

        How dare you call me spoilt, you swishy pew-buffer. Go sit your butt down and listen to the testimonies of the incoherent. The bishop will release you when your slave ass is free to go.

        • kiwi57

          Don Bagley: “How dare you call me spoilt, you swishy pew-buffer.”

          O, I’m so terribly sorry. I didn’t realise you were so galactically important that nobody should “dare” to draw the conclusion that screams from your own words.

  • Ray Agostini

    What’s really amazing to me, is how much time and effort put in by people, largely angry and bitter ex-Mormons, who think that Mormonism is basically a “Santa Claus” belief. Speaking of which, is there some brave and disgruntled soul out there willing to prosecute Santa Claus and call it “child abuse”? When you think about it, this can of worms could go on forever. Next up: Tom Phillips issues a summons to all Christian leaders around the world for “fraud”, including Queen Elizabeth II. That has to be the logical conclusion of Phillips’ aim. Then we can have a world where everything is decided by courts. Just like in the time of Jesus.

    • bentleye

      I think that they think it is more of a Scientology like belief than a Santa Claus belief. They think it suppresses facts and makes misrepresentation to keep the tithes flowing. The Queen is safe. Christianity is safe. Can you imagine proving to any certainty that Jesus never existed? Proving that there is no God or Heaven? These are purely religious beliefs, matters of faith. Mormonism has some unique beliefs too that are beyond challenge, proof or disproof. They are not being challenged. The challenge is directed at facts about history and scriptures that can influence whether one believes or disbelieves in the Mormon faith.

      • DanielPeterson

        But those facts are disputed.

        They aren’t even remotely within the competence of a court to adjudicate, and shouldn’t be within its authority.

        Unless she had no choice otherwise, this judge was foolish to accept the suit.

        • bentleye

          I’m surprised to see you state that the facts aren’t within the competence of a court to adjudicate. They are simple historical facts from relatively modern times. Remember, they are not adjudicating whether God exists. That would be a matter of faith that I would agree is not a subject for a court of law. The facts at issue are facts that a person would want to know to decide whether the Books of Mormon and Abraham are true or are 19th century fictions. They are facts that are relevant to whether Joseph Smith was a prophet. They may be disputed by apologists, but the controversies are real and a person should be able to make up his or her own mind about them. They are a matter of history, not faith.

          • DanielPeterson

            They are disputed, and there are arguments on both sides. They are beyond definitive disproof, just as they are beyond definitive secular proof.

            They are also beyond the competence of a British or American court, and beyond the sphere in which such courts have any real standing.

          • bentleye

            I understand that apologists dispute the facts. I also understand and respect which side of the dispute that you are on. However, even from where you sit, I’d think that you would admit that the arguments against the BOM and B of A are legitimate and substantial enough to shake someones faith or at least raise questions with them. That means they are relevant to a person developing or keeping the testimony that leads them to tithe. Therefore, withholding or obscuring those facts could be interpreted as fraudulent. You had a chance to consider those facts. Other people should be able to consider them too.

          • DanielPeterson

            It’s not only “apologists” who dispute your claims — which, by the way, aren’t “facts.” (See any good book on practical logical fallacies, under “begging the question.”)

            And yes, there are arguments against Mormon claims. And people are free to consider them.

            But the Church is under no obligation to make those arguments itself — any more than Christian clergy are required to make a good faith effort to disprove the resurrection of Christ to their parishioners, or than liberals are morally obliged to make the strongest case possible for conservatism when they campaign for office, or than a suitor should, to behave morally, make a serious effort to convince the object of his pursuit that his rival would actually make a better husband.

            We believe our faith to be true, which is one of the many reasons why this accusation of “fraud” is no noxiously ridiculous.

          • bentleye

            Let’s call them arguments then. They are arguments based on facts. You also advance arguments based on other facts and based on alternate interpretations of mutually accepted facts.

            When you say that a suitor need not reveal favorable facts about a rival, you are getting off track. You are right but the comparison is not valid. The suitor should reveal that he has hemophilia in his family and two felony convictions. It would be dishonest of him to withhold those facts.

            A Christian clergy person need not argue against the resurrection. That is an article of faith. It happened or did not happen two thousand years ago and you will never prove it or disprove it. The analogous things in Mormonism would include belief in the pre-existence, eternal progression, family relationship of Jesus and Satan etc. Simply articles of faith. A court should not consider them.

            However, if you are telling a mythological tale of Joseph Smith’s martyrdom, when other recent historical facts contradict it , that is very different. That can be proven or disproven such that a court can make a finding. The same with the scriptures.

            I respect that you believe your faith to be true. I understand that the accusation of fraud is noxious to you. But it isn’t ridiculous. If it were, the judge would not have taken it.

            Let’s see how it comes out. I’m sure that we are all genuinely curious.

            Oh and by the way, politicians omit and distort facts all the time. It is a problem for democracy.

          • DanielPeterson

            bentleye: “Let’s call them arguments then. They are arguments based on facts. You also advance arguments based on other facts and based on alternate interpretations of mutually accepted facts.”

            That’s correct. And life is full of such disputes, in economics, archaeology, history, religion, politics, ethics, philosophy, pharmacology, and so forth.

            We don’t typically turn such disputes over to courts for resolution. Courts — and the coercive power of the state generally — operate (and should operate) only in quite narrow and plainly delimited areas of life in a free republic.

            bentleye: “When you say that a suitor need not reveal favorable facts about a rival, you are getting off track. You are right but the comparison is not valid. The suitor should reveal that he has hemophilia in his family and two felony convictions. It would be dishonest of him to withhold those facts.”

            There are no such devastating facts in Mormon history. You presume the validity of your complaint. But I deny it. You’re begging the question.

            bentleye: “A Christian clergy person need not argue against the resurrection. That is an article of faith. It happened or did not happen two thousand years ago and you will never prove it or disprove it. The analogous things in Mormonism would include belief in the pre-existence, eternal progression, family relationship of Jesus and Satan etc. Simply articles of faith. A court should not consider them.”

            Again, you presume the validity of your “facts.” But I deny it. You’re begging the question.

            bentleye: “However, if you are telling a mythological tale of Joseph Smith’s martyrdom, when other recent historical facts contradict it , that is very different.”

            That would indeed be very different. But we tell no mythological tale about Joseph Smith’s martyrdom.

            That’s your reading of it. It’s not mine. You’re begging the question.

            bentleye: “That can be proven or disproven such that a court can make a finding.”

            Nonsense.

            bentleye: “The same with the scriptures.”

            Risible nonsense.

            bentleye: “I respect that you believe your faith to be true. I understand that the accusation of fraud is noxious to you. But it isn’t ridiculous. If it were, the judge would not have taken it.”

            Your faith in judicial infallibility is touching, but I don’t share it.

            Perhaps unlike you, I’ll be attending church services today. (And, in fact, teaching a class — something that, in the Brave New World that you advocate, may eventually expose me to criminal penalties.) Then I’m packing for a lengthy trip out of state and heading up to stay near the airport for an early-morning flight. I’ve pretty much run out of time for this exchange.

          • bentleye

            Dan. Facts, and the reasonable inference to be drawn from them, become a matter for the law to settle when somebody believes they have been injured by somebody else’s lies of commission and omission. In this case, the complainants believe that the Church lied and hid facts that if known would have prevented them from entering into a tithe paying relationship with the Church. These facts could lead a reasonable person to conclude that the Church is false. You have made it clear that you believe that the damning facts are either untrue or the wrong inferences are being drawn from the true ones. That is a perfect dispute for a court.

            The damning facts are to a reasonable neutral person very likely to be deemed true, and the reasonable inferences to be drawn from them are damning too.

            I am pleased at least that you were touched by my faith in infallibility of the judiciary. Of course we both know that they are not infallible. But most of them are competent. And if this matter were “nonsense” and “risible nonsense” all it would take is competence to detect it. By the way, great word: “risible”. The word itself is chuckle worthy.

            We’;ll see what happens as this thing unwinds. It should be interesting. One way or another it will be interesting.

      • brotheroflogan

        But mainstream christianity shares the belief about the age of the earth. (although, it is not the official church position that the earth is 6,000 years old). Surely science has something to say on that subject? The plaintiff certainly has the same qualms about mainstream christianity as he has made clear in his statements.

        • bentleye

          That is a good point. Arguably it is more than just other Christian groups that believe that. Jews and Muslims at least nominally subscribe to the same old testament creation story that the six thousand number is calculated from. It is demonstrably false. But I don’t think a court would want to touch it. It is a slippery slope as they say. I bet creationism isn’t the basis of too many people’s testimony anyway. But I guess it was relevant to the complainants testimony of Mormonism, or he wouldn’t have listed the points related to it.

          • kiwi57

            Bentleye: “But I guess it was relevant to the complainants testimony of Mormonism, or he wouldn’t have listed the points related to it.”

            I disagree. The libel (and make no mistake, that’s what it is) consists of a bunch of standard anti-Mormon talking points. Phillips clearly cares nothing at all about the veracity of his claims, since he has at least twisted the teachings he takes issue with. Several of them are arguably “fraudulent misrepresentations” themselves. I will name just one: he alleges that the Church claims that the Book of Abraham is a literal translation of some papyri which has subsequently been proven false.

            This allegation is a barefaced lie.

            The Church has never, for one second, claimed that the BofA was a “literal translation” of Joseph Smith Papyri I, XI and X. From the moment these papyri were returned to the Church nearly half a century ago, the Church has consistently maintained the position that the relationship between those papyri and the Book of Abraham is unknown.

            Phillips lied.

            Presumably under oath, too.

          • bentleye

            The defense against libel is truth. The allegations are true. Or, if you prefer, they are legitimate fact based controversies. It is not libel. Phillips has not “lied”.

            The Book of Abraham itself says that it is:
            “A Translation of some ancient Records that have fallen into our hands from the catacombs of Egypt. The writings of Abraham while he was in Egypt, called the Book of Abraham, written by his own hand, upon papyrus.”
            http://www.lds.org/scriptures/pgp/abr?lang=eng

            I’ve seen no statement from the Church contradicting that. Rather, I think that they avoid mentioning B of A to investigators even though a lot of doctrine is found there.

            And let’s talk about this Anti-Mormon thing. It is not against faithful Mormons to question the Mormon Church. The prosecution here is directed at the institution of the Church, not the members. In the same way, it is not Anti-Catholic for Mormon missionaries to go out and proselytize to Catholics at the expense of Catholicism or any other religion.

            Members should be free to believe what they want. That freedom won’t be and should not be compromised even if the Church fares badly in this litigation.

          • DanielPeterson

            The allegations are not true.

          • kiwi57

            Alas, the allegations are false.

            Bentleye: “The Book of Abraham itself says that it is:
            ‘A Translation of some ancient Records that have fallen into our hands from the catacombs of Egypt. The writings of Abraham while he was in Egypt, called the Book of Abraham, written by his own hand, upon papyrus.’”

            Which says that Abraham wrote (or caused to be written) an account upon papyrus. It does not say that Joseph Smith Papyri I, XI and X constitute that account.

            Phillips lied.

            Bentleye: “And let’s talk about this Anti-Mormon thing. It is not against faithful Mormons to question the Mormon Church. The prosecution here is directed at the institution of the Church, not the members.”

            It’s an attack upon the truth claims of the Church. If that’s not anti-Mormon, nothing is.

            And it’s not a “prosecution” and never will be.

            It is nothing but a publicity stunt, aided by a very gullible magistrate.

          • bentleye

            Ah. I see. The allegations are false. But other people say they are true. And they say that they suffered injury due to the true allegations. Hmm. Sounds like a matter for a court.

            Let’s not argue about the Book of Abraham. We can if you want. Its a transparent 19th century fraud. That is obvious just from the text, regardless of what papyrus it allegedly came from.

            An attack on the truth claims of the church is not an attack on the members. I’m a Jew, so I can tell you what is anti-jewish. Anti-jewish is discriminating against Jews in hiring practices, refusing to admit them to a country club, or in extreme old world circumstance burning them alive. I think early Mormons may kind of understand where I’m coming from.

            Now, if a missionary tells me my religion is wrong because I haven’;t accepted Jesus, and Jesus is true, and my rituals are not necessary. That is not anti-Jewish. It is annoying.

            See the difference? One is attacking the religion The other is attacking the adherents.

            And this is a criminal prosecution against the Church, not the members. It is just the very beginning of one. Maybe we could say it is more like a criminal investigation where the judge is kind of acting like an American Grand Jury would. It is a weird thing in English law where a private person can petition a magistrate to bring a criminal action. In this case the allegation is Criminal Fraud. The Judge simply want to get to the bottom of some allegations that have set up something like probable cause. It may go nowhere. It may go somewhere

            As such, it is not a publicity stunt, though it is generating publicity. At least that is how it looks right now. We’ll see how it unwinds.

          • kiwi57

            Bent-1-eye: “Ah. I see. The allegations are false. But other people say they are true. And they say that they suffered injury due to the true allegations. Hmm. Sounds like a matter for a court.”

            Only to those anti-religious fanatics who think secular courts should be adjudicating what is true, or what is believable, about religious faith claims.

            Bent-1-eye: “Let’s not argue about the Book of Abraham. We can if you want. Its a transparent 19th century fraud. That is obvious just from the text, regardless of what papyrus it allegedly came from.”

            Except to those who have actually read it.

            Bent-1-eye: “An attack on the truth claims of the church is not an attack on the members.”
            Who says the expression “anti-Mormon” doesn’t apply only to attacks on the Church?

            Bent-1-eye: “In this case the allegation is Criminal Fraud.”

            The so-called “criminal fraud” consisting entirely and only in maintaining certain truth claims of the Church.

            How little you Americans value your vaunted constitutional protections. If the Church was advocating for a public policy position, you’d be frothing at the mouth about “Separation of Church and State,” but when the state entangles itself in strictly ecclesiastical matters, you are entirely complacent about it.

            Bent-1-eye: “The Judge simply want to get to the bottom of some allegations that have set up something like probable cause. It may go nowhere. It may go somewhere”

            It’ll go nowhere. Much to your bitter disappointment.

      • Jonathan

        bentleye: “Can you imagine proving to any certainty that Jesus never existed? Proving that there is no God or Heaven? These are purely religious beliefs, matters of faith.”

        Logically, it is impossible to prove a negative, so no one could prove that God, Heaven, and Jesus don’t exist. I guess someone could *imagine* proving a negative, though. You really would present your case better with even cursory training in logic.

        The existence of Jesus is a historical fact, but it has been disputed. The official position of the Soviet Union was that Jesus never existed, and the Soviet government, universities and academic journals enforced this. This idea plays a central role in Mikhail Bulgakov’s “The Master and Margarita,” if you’re curious. Also, some modern atheists continue to argue that Jesus did not exist.

        Each of the religions I’m familiar with has “facts about history and scriptures that can influence whether one believes or disbelieves”. The Ramayana, a Hindu sacred text, states that Adam’s Bridge (a series of limestone shoals between the southern tip of India and the northern tip of Sri Lanka) was constructed by ape-men from the army of Lord Rama, the seventh avatar of the god Vishnu. Competent geologists assure me this is not the case. Who do I prosecute for fraud here?

        Shinto teaches that the Emperor of Japan is a direct descendant of the sun goddess Amaterasu, but DNA test have failed to confirm this. Can donors to Shinto temples get their money back? Should the International Criminal Court at The Hague prosecute the Chrysanthemum Throne for fraud? I could go on and on.

        If this kind of thing is fraud, even secular charities are guilty. “I would never have given to the Tri-State Homeless Shelter if I’d known their CFO is a Libra; that’s fraud!” Our information is never complete, and anyone can find some reason after the fact that would have convinced them to withhold a donation.

        Legal professionals quoted in the relevant news articles seem somewhat skeptical of the fraud charge, to put it mildly. Not having studied English law, I’ll defer to the professionals on this one.

        • bentleye

          Hi, Jonathan. Thanks for well thought out response here. You raise interesting points. I tend to think in legal standards of proof because that is what I do for a living. These standards have names like “beyond a reasonable doubt”, “preponderance of evidence”, “clear and convincing evidence” etc. In these terms, a negative can be proved to the satisfaction of a judge or a jury.

          In terms of Jesus, the fact that Soviet Union had a position on it his existence is hilarious. I would not want to try to prove that he did or didn’t exist, much less that he was or wasn’t a supernatural being.

          Your examples from other mythologies are interesting. They get at the difficulty here. Drawing the line between mythologies beyond the reach of fact disputes and historical facts.

          I think you and I would both agree that Scientology’s founding myth about Xenu etc is a transparent fiction. I think we would also agree that a belief in God is untouchable mythology. Somewhere in the middle is Mormonism. You and I disagree on how close to which side its on, but there it is.

          Lets look at your examples:
          Vishnu, that dog. This is not legal advice, but I’d say that you are not out anything so you can’t sue anyone. But let’s say that you made a donation to Hindu temple and your belief would reasonably have been imperiled by the geologic reality? Could you sue the temple? Maybe if they intentionally lied to you or covered it up or misdirected you and it actually mattered to your belief., maybe.

          Shinto guilt. Well at the time the myth was invented, it was believed. But, notwithstanding the political and jurisdictional questions, if the priests became aware of it, they don’t have to disclose it. But if they lie about it, or try to cover it up, maybe there is a problem.

          Tri State Homeless shelter. The guy is a Libra. Well, I would say that this is a trivial fact that is not in anyway relevant in the mind of a Reasonable Person to the legitimacy of his charity. On the other hand if he is unlicensed, or he is not acutally sheltering any homeless persons, and he lies to you about that or covers it up, I’d say its fraud. Those factors relate to the existence and legitimacy of a basis to give.

          Mormonisms problem is this. (And I’m not saying I have the faintest idea how this legal action is going to be resolved.) There are facts galore in existence relating to the founding of the Faith. Some of these, if true go right to the basis of the faith. If the scriptures are false and the prophet was a lecherous con man, many reasonable people would have their faith damaged. Those allegations are immediately relevant to whether Joseph Smith was a prophet.

          The other problem is that tithing is mandatory, so it can suggest (perhaps wrongly) a financial motive for withholding facts. Its knotty.

          We’ll all have to just see how it comes out.

          Best wishes.

  • brotheroflogan

    The strange thing about this is that fraud is usually about purchasing something. Not about giving a donation to a church. I guess I’d have bad feelings if I felt that church leaders had consciously deceived me. But I have never seen anything that makes me believe that the brethren don’t believe 100%.

    I would like to see president Monson go and say that in order to evaluate the claim about the book of Mormon he needs to read John Sorensens “Mormon’s Codex” all 850 pages in open court. And review most of the sources. Or maybe just read the book of Mormon itself in open court.

    And then he’ll need to read Michael Ash’s “Of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith.” And on and on.

    • bentleye

      Even if the governing executives of the church including Mr. Monson believe completely, they still choose to distort, suppress and make misrepresentations about the history and the scriptures of the church. They do this because on some level they know that these facts discourage faith and would be detrimental to the activity level of Mormons and the willingness of investigators to convert. It is also, a fact that this would result in a reduction in tithes. Whether the brethren are motivated by the tithes or not, the relationship between suppression of faith damaging facts and the revenue stream is something that would be good to clarify.

      I also take note of the books you cite. While these books may be helfpul in coming to terms with faith damaging facts, they are not a substitute for simply being told all the facts, faith promoting and faith damaging.

      • DanielPeterson

        You don’t know ALL the facts about ANYTHING, bentleye.

        Your view is embarrassingly simplistic.

        And I deny your claim — which you apparently imagine to be self-evident and beyond dispute — that the leaders of my church choose to distort, suppress, and misrepresent the facts about it.

        Life is complex, bentlye. Conspiracy theories rarely do it justice, and they don’t do it justice here.

        • Jeremy Alleman

          Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t most anti-mormon sources use readily available church material, and then claim there is a cover-up?

          That’s been my experience anyway. Always makes me laugh. :-)

          • Anyotheruser

            Likewise when the standard claims are circulated as “new research” or former members in leadership callings claim certain things were so supressed that they never knew them. Yet I distinctly remember coming across and having to deal with most of this stuff as a 15 year old by simply reading in our ward library. Were they just *lazy*?

            I thoroughly approve of the updates to the Church History seminary manual, but to pretend this stuff wasn’t out there is silly.

  • Jon

    “Religious hostilities, it seems, are reaching troubling new highs.  It’s perhaps in that context that we should view the recent court summons issued in England against President Thomas S. Monson.”

    No, I don’t think that we should. You haven’t identified any reason to do so.

    “England may be in the process of becoming a very, very weird — and an even more insular — place.  A kind of secularists-only treehouse.  Or, perhaps more precisely, there seem to be many there who would like it to become such.”

    Probably the latter. I assume that you’re using the description “very, very weird…place” as a technical term. I’m tempted to think that your post is satire, but I fear that you might actually believe the things you write here. Very, very weird.

    • DanielPeterson

      I do believe the things that I write here.

      However, whether you understand them is, perhaps, another matter.

      • bentleye

        Hi, Dan. I don’t doubt that you believe what you write here. I don’t question your integrity. But like some others here I disagree with you. A lot of people around the world were angry at Pope Benedict because of actions he took and did not take in his long career in catholic leadership. That anger produced a lot of protests, a few of them a bit extreme and silly when taken out of context. But for the most part, people were not attacking religion, and they certainly were not attacking people who are religious. England is still a safe place to practice any faith, as it is a safe place to speak out on social issue.

        The criminal enforcement suit is not directed at Mormons. It is directed at the institution of the church for lying about and failing to disclose material facts about Mormon history and its major scriptures that could lead a reasonable person to reject the church and stop tithing. These facts have indeed lead some reasonable people out of the church, and lead them to feel as if they have been defrauded. I understand that you come to a different conclusion regarding these facts. But that does not devalue the experience of the victims.

        • DanielPeterson

          You’re right. I disagree.

          Moreover, I’ve said nothing to “devalue the experience of the victims [sic].”

          I’ve said that it’s absurd to bring such matters to court, and that it was foolish of the judge to accept the case.

          • The Oracle

            “Such matters”? This “matter” is about FRAUD. You don’t believe that fraud should be prosecuted?

          • DanielPeterson

            Yeah. That’s it. I don’t believe fraud should be prosecuted.

            Right. And you’re an intellectually serious interlocutor.

          • The Oracle

            You wrote: “it’s absurd to bring such matters to court”.

            The point? This “matter” is an allegation of violation of the 2006 Fraud Act.

            Hence, my question. And if you don’t see the summons to answer allegations of fraud issued by district judge Roscoe as a summons to answer allegations of fraud, what is it that you think, legally, it is?

          • The Oracle

            Let’s put it another way:

            Who’s more “intellectually serious”:

            A.) Someone who, in referencing a legal summons to answer allegation of criminal fraud, writes: “it’s absurd to bring such matters to court”, and (bizarrely) then *denies* that he’s against bringing “such matters” (allegations of fraud) to court;

            or

            B.) Someone who happens to simply hold (A) to what he’s actually saying?

          • DanielPeterson

            Ever heard of the fallacy of equivocation, Coracle?

            You’re good at it.

          • kiwi57

            The self-styled Oracle: “The point? This ‘matter’ is an allegation of violation of the 2006 Fraud Act.”

            Nearly.

            This “matter” is actually an attempt to exploit the Fraud Act of 2006 in order to punish religious beliefs that certain bigots can’t stand.

            That’s the truth.

            And absolutely everyone, without exception, who sides with the libel does so because they approve of finding legal pretexts on which to punish religious beliefs that they, being bigots, can’t stand.

            Without exception.

          • The Oracle

            Kiwi:

            The force with which an assertion is made has no relationship to that assertion’s veracity. Judicious thinkers require more than enthusiasm to be convinced of a proposition. They need facts – evidence. I therefore encourage you to begin citing facts in support of your assertions.

            Are you getting this? You assert that this summons is only an attempt to “exploit the Fraud Act in order to punish religious beliefs”. Maybe it is. If it is, what is the evidence for that, versus the competing theory that this summons is an attempt to punish fraud, as it might have been committed by the Mormon church in Great Britain?

            The only thing you seem able to come up with is that Mormon church presidentThomas Monson lives in Utah, not Great Britain. Yet that is not evidence for your assertion, for (obvious) reasons which I’ve already mentioned.

            What would evidence look like for your proposition? Well, a few ideas off the top of my head:

            1.) Emails, recorded conversations, public comments, anything from Bloor, Phillips, or Ralph, which support your assertions;

            2.) Some evidence that the judge is an anti-Mormon bigot;

            3.) A history of discrimination against Mormons (as opposed to conscientious attempts to hold the Mormon church accountable for obeying the laws of the land);

            Stuff like that would work. Not angry assertions. Those just make you look foolish.

          • kiwi57

            4.) The fact that every single one of the allegedly “fraudulent” claims is exactly and only a religious faith proposition.

            Every. Single. One.

            And that is sufficient. Denials, obfuscations and smokescreens just make you look like a bigot luxuriating in your schadenfreude.

          • The Oracle

            Kiwi:

            Hear me out for a second.

            Yes, the allegedly fraudulent claims cited are “religious faith propositions”. Yes, I can understand how that fact alone has left you – a believer of a unique type – convinced that this action is an exploitation of the Fraud Law for purposes of bigotry and persecution.

            But now see if you can understand what I, and others, are trying to get across to you:

            1.) There is a large difference between “I hate Mormons” and “I have come to believe the Mormon Church is committing fraud in the UK”.

            Can you see that difference? The first is bigotry; the second has nothing to do with bigotry. And if any organization, Mormon or not, is guilty of fraud, they should be held accountable. I trust you agree with that. All decent people must.

            2.) The fact that the allegedly fraudulent claims cited in this case are propositions of “religious faith” is *not material* legally, nor does it necessarily indicate “bigotry”.

            Claims cited in a fraud case could be Mormon or non-Mormon, religious or secular. *The only thing of relevance legally in this case is whether the Mormon Church has deliberately misrepresented its history or doctrines, and if so, whether that misrepresentation can be tied to a motive of financial gain. Those are questions about facts – about reality – NOT about whether someone thinks the Book of Mormon is fictional or not.

            From what I can gather, you and the author of this blog are certain that the Mormon Church has never misrepresented any aspect of its history or doctrine in any official way. If it has not, I doubt you will have anything to worry about. And maybe you should consider whether you protest too much, to the point where others reading our exchanges might wonder if you don’t feel the church might be vulnerable on this charge.

            Lastly, I am not sure why you continue to ascribe bigotry to me. I couldn’t care less if anyone is a Mormon, if that’s what they want. What I care about is the same thing you should care about: that organizations, religious or secular, Mormon or non-Mormon, deal openly and honestly with their members, and never commit fraud. That’s it.

          • kiwi57

            The self-styled Oracle: “Yes, the allegedly fraudulent claims cited are ‘religious faith propositions’.”

            Thank you. See, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

            And since that is what they are, it follows that their veracity and/or believeability are entirely beyond the competence of a secular court.

            Game, set and match. Thank you linemen, thank you ball-boys.

          • The Oracle

            Kiwi – You sound like a hard man to get through to.

            The only thing that matters in a fraud case is whether the claims are fraudulent – not whether they are made by a religious or secular organization, or whether they might be “religious”.

            Imagine, for example, that I start a religion, and I tell people that God has shown me how to heal cancer, and that if cancer victims pay me, I will heal them. Ten million pounds later, I’m rich, and others are poor – and still dying, or dead, of cancer.

            Following your logic, I should be immune to prosecution for fraud simply because my claims were “religious” in nature. That is a very strange, and I would say, bad position to hold. I would also say that very few people would regard my prosecution as evidence of religious bigotry. I doubt even you would say that. Yet, in what appears to be a case of special pleading, you wish to exempt the Mormon Church from being held legally accountable for allegedly fraudulent practices. That does not make sense, unless you are a kind of pro-Mormon bigot.

            Put another way, that a claim about the real world might also double as a “religious faith proposition” does not exempt it in law from being possibly criminally fraudulent. There is no reason why that concept should be difficult for you to understand.

            As it happens, the claims in the summons at issue here are both “religious faith propositions” *and* claims about the real world, rather like the example I gave above about healing powers. And contrary to your assertion, the veracity of claims about the real world (whether made by a religion or not) *are* within the jurisdiction of law and the courts. Indeed, they are the only things that are.

          • kiwi57

            You know what the biggest problem with an analogy is?

            It’s not that it’s imperfect — all analogies are — but that we forget that it’s imperfect, and assume that it resembles its primary in all material respects. At that point, the analogy starts to run away with us.

            Here are three scenarios. Under a genuine freedom of religion/wall of separation regime, which of them are potentially prosecutable as fraud?

            1) “When I was washing the dishes today, I saw a vision of the Virgin in the suds. Come and pray with me.”

            2) “When I was washing the dishes today, I saw a vision of the Virgin in the suds. Give me fifty quid.”

            3) “When I was washing the dishes today, I saw a vision of the Virgin in the suds. Give me fifty quid and I’ll make your warts clear up.”

            The answer, of course, is number 3 — and then only potentially.

            Your analogy did include an instance similar to number 3. And do the extent that it is similar to number 3, it is entirely unlike anything the Church of Jesus Christ does, in the UK or elsewhere.

            The anti-Mormon maniac behind this vindictive publicity stunt has not a leg to stand on, and he knows it.

            And there are still no good people anywhere who are defending him.

            None.

            Not even any.

            Moving on: Like all anti-Mormons everywhere, you disdain actual LDS sources. You imagine to yourself that the story of Joseph translating the Book of Mormon with the Urim and Thummim attached to the breastplate is a late “correlated” or “whitewashed” version while the Seer-stone-and-hat scenario is the pure earliest version.

            And while such neat dichotomies are ideologically satisfying (and polemically useful) reality is never quite so tidy. In fact, the U&T + breastplate is the very earliest version. The actual historical record shows that Joseph used both methods.

            There is no “FRAUD,” nor even anything that plausibly rises to the level of reasonable suspicion of the possibility of fraud.

            That’s why no reasonable people are supporting this vindictive publicity stunt.

            Now Mr Self-styled Oracle, I will venture to make a prediction about the ultimate outcome of this case.

            And having made my prediction, I’m willing to wait and see how it pans out.

            Are you willing to do the same?

            Here it is: “No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing.”

          • The Oracle

            Kiwi – About the “unhallowed hand” business, certainly “unhallowed hands” have “stopped the work” partially, in forcing changes to certain LDS practices and teachings. Wilford Woodruff said as much in the Manifesto:

            “Inasmuch as laws have been enacted by Congress forbidding plural marriages, which laws have been pronounced constitutional by the court of last resort, I hereby declare my intention to submit to those laws, to use my influence with the members of the Church over which I preside to have them do likewise.”

            And I think it’s fair to say that the Reed Smoot hearings, and the grilling Joseph F. Smith got, provoked Smith’s subsequent decision to terminate plural marriages once and for all.

            In any case, regarding Joseph Smith’s method of producing the Book of Mormon, it would be very difficult to find acknowledgments in any official Mormon organ, painting, conference talk, etc. over the past 180 years, that Joseph Smith dictated much of the Book of Mormon whilst staring at a rock in a hat, without the use of plates. In fact, the first and only *official* acknowledgment that I know of appeared only a few weeks ago on http://www.lds.org:

            “The other instrument, which Joseph Smith discovered in the ground years before he retrieved the gold plates, was a small oval stone, or ‘seer stone’. As a young man during the 1820s, Joseph Smith, like others in his day, used a seer stone to look for lost objects and buried treasure. As Joseph grew to understand his prophetic calling, he learned that he could use this stone for the higher purpose of translating scripture. Apparently for convenience, Joseph often translated with the single seer stone rather than the two stones bound together to form the interpreters.”

            Kiwi, I’m sure you’ve done lots of reading about Mormon history, and I’m sure you would never consider this a threat to your faith. I also would guess that you don’t think it should present a threat to anyone else’s Mormon faith, either.

            In a way, I agree with you – it’s not like Joseph Smith seeing “reformed Egyptian” translated into English in a stone in a hat is less plausible than him seeing “reformed Egyptian” translated into English staring at or through stones attached to an armour breastplate at plates. That is, if you can believe one, you really should be able to believe the other, and thus it is hard to see how a stone in a hat story should rattle faith, but a stone in a spectacle story shouldn’t.

            But some people are, for whatever reason, disturbed by this difference in the story. Maybe it’s because Joseph Smith doesn’t mention it in his 1838 history. I’m not sure. Maybe more to the point is whether the Mormon church, in not mentioning the stone in a hat story until a few weeks ago, has made itself vulnerable to a charge of criminal fraud.

            My view, for what it’s worth, is no way. Criminal fraud would need far more. Is there far more? We will see, I guess.

            P.S. Because this is the first case of its kind, and because I don’t know what evidence and arguments will be presented by either side at the March hearing, I honestly can’t make a prediction. I have no idea.

            P.P.S. Your prediction doesn’t count as a prediction, because regardless of what happens on March 14, you’d still be able to declare it true. Valid predictions need to be falsifiable – as in, “the case will be dismissed on March 14″, or “the case will be remanded to X or Y”, etc.

          • kiwi57

            If there is a hearing on March 14, it will have to go forward ex parte, since (1) the one and only person named in the summons is not subject in any degree to British law, and (2) the malicious complaint deliberately did not name anyone who is so subject.

            Such as the members of the Europe Area Presidency, for example.

            Because, as already abundantly demonstrated, the malicious complaint is nothing more than a vindictive publicity stunt.

            And that’s all it will ever be.

          • Jonathan

            The Oracle -

            By your standard, what religion is not guilty of fraud? There is no geological evidence of the Biblical flood; do we arrest every Christian, Muslim, and Jew? Zoroastrianism teaches that the sky is made of stone or metal; shall we imprison the Parsis of Mumbai? Geologists do study ancient floods, after all, and the composition of the sky is “a claim about the real world.”

            What secular organizations would be safe? “I wouldn’t have bought Photoshop if I’d known Adobe has an office in Utah County; they didn’t tell me, so it’s fraud.” “I donated to the food bank, then I found out they serve meat. Meat is murder, they didn’t warn me, so arrest them for fraud!”

            After the fact, anyone can find a reason that would have prevented a donation or purchase. The LDS Church does not promise to provide each new convert an authenticated set of prophetic Egyptian papyri, a leaf from the gold plates, or a personal family tree leading back to Adam and Eve. Tithing is not a quid pro quo. They don’t even check your income, it’s all on the honor system.

            It is a fact that the LDS Church has been singled out here. I don’t see Roman Catholic priests on trial because a saint’s shrine failed to perform a healing on command, nor any Brahman in jail for teaching from the Ramayana that certain geological features of the Indian subcontinent were created by the ape-men of Lord Rama. If the Mormons are guilty of fraud, who isn’t?

          • The Oracle

            Jonathan:

            You ask, “what secular organization would be safe from fraud?” The answer is, none is safe from prosecution for fraud. That is why Enron executives, Barings Bank executives, Qintex executives, Polly Peck executives, HIH executives, and many others, have been fined or imprisoned for fraud. Deliberate misrepresentation for financial gain is against the law.

            You also ask, “by your standard, what religion would not be guilty of fraud”? A few responses to this:

            First, my “standard” is the law as it exists in Great Britain. Presuming you are a member of the Mormon church, that should be your standard as well, as per the LDS Church’s Twelfth Article of Faith.

            Second, if that is your standard, as I think it should be, your question implies intrinsic synonymity between “religious practice” and “fraud”. That is a very cynical thing to suggest, even though you’ve done so inadvertently. It sounds like the sort of thing an anti-religion bigot like Richard Dawkins might say, and I do not at all agree with it.

            Third, a demonstrably false teaching is not itself constitutive of fraud – so your example of there being no evidence of a Biblical flood in itself is inadequate. Fraud is when deliberate misrepresentation is made to secure financial gain. So, back to your question about religious organizations, let’s start from the beginning with a question:

            What, if any, principle would justify the exemption of religious organizations and their leaders from fraud laws purely on the basis of their religious nature?

            Some might say, the principle of freedom of religion. I don’t think so. Many forms of religious practice are perfectly legitimate legally, and do not even come close to fraud.

            But what if Church A devises an online quiz to “test” the spiritual states of prospective adherents – but the quiz is rigged, so that no matter what answers are given, it reports to the respondent that he is spiritually “defective”, and as a result, needs to pay a fee to Church A for some other good or service?

            That might qualify as fraud – low level, for sure, but still, possibly, fraud. And what if Church A told members it was on the verge of insolvency, demanded an increase in donations from members, told members if they didn’t increase donations they would go to hell – and then it was revealed that Church A was never near insolvency at all, but rather, had two billion pounds in the bank at the time they made their deliberately false claim, and church leaders pocketed the extra money. That too might constitute fraud. So might a church-run Ponzi scheme.

            I mention these examples only to give you an idea of what fraud might look like as practiced by a religion.

            Now, is the Mormon Church guilty of this type of behaviour? Nothing that egregious, that I know of. I do know that Mormon leaders, from Joseph Smith onwards, have sometimes been deceptive – sometimes outrageously so – about what they teach and practice, but deception alone is not legal fraud.

          • http://kgbudge.com kgbudge

            “What secular organizations would be safe?”

            Just so. If this summons is not quashed, what prevents the next summons from being to the leader of an unpopular political party, for soliciting donations to promote economic or social philosophies that the judge believes are “demonstrably untrue”? And then what becomes of open debate and political freedoms?

            “First they came for the Mormons …”

          • kiwi57

            The self-styled Oracle: “This ‘matter’ is about FRAUD.”

            Correction: this LIBEL is a false accusation of fraud.

            Get it right. For a change.

        • ClintonKing

          I would prefer the suit be directed at all Mormons. As far as I am concerned, I consider myself a full participant in the so-called ‘fraud’.


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