This morning’s session commenced with a really excellent and superbly illustrated presentation by Brian Hales, entitled “Supernatural or Supernormal? Scrutinizing Secular Sources for the Book of Mormon.” He laid out the various secular explanations that have been offered for the production of the Book of Mormon and explained their crippling problems. “I don’t find any of these theories plausible,” he said. At one point, my wife leaned over to me and said “This is the best summary I’ve heard.” As soon as it was over, Lou Midgley came to where I was sittiing and said “This is a game-changer.” I’m inclined to agree. I would love to see what Brian said made into a quality video. And widely distributed. Soon.
Continuing with the Hales theme, Scott Hales — so far as I am aware no very close relative to Brian Hales — offered an interesting presentation under the title “The Exodus and Beyond: A Preview of Saints, Volume 2: No Unhallowed Hand.” He related anecdotes — some quite amusing, some more serious — about Anna Widtsoe, about young Heber J. Grant and Brigham Young at a dance, about the earliest Mexican woman convert, and so forth. (This emphasis on the personal stories of individual Latter-day Saints and not merely on the history of the institutional Church is one of the hallmarks of the overall Saints project.) It was an excellent summary, and it made me eager to read the book when it appears. He says that they’re expecting Saints 2 to come from the press — in all of its target languages — sometime in the spring of 2020.
The concluding speaker of the morning was Elder Craig C. Christensen of the First Quorum of the Seventy, whose chosen topic, approached thoughtfully and devotionally, was “Foundations of Our Faith.” He offered very supportive comments right from the start about the private efforts of ordinary members of the Church to defend the Restoration. “You,” he said, “can do what we can’t do.” Just yesterday, he related, he was in a meeting with “senior leadership of the Church” in which they spoke appreciatively of such efforts.
Elder Christensen’s very presence here is significant. Not, of course, that it in any way represents a blanket endorsement of every specific thing that FairMormon — let alone Book of Mormon Central or Interpreter — has done, is doing, or will do. But I think it plainly indicates that, in the eyes of the leadership of the Church, the general outlines of what we’re doing are legitimate and, in fact, valued and appreciated.
Two points briefly mentioned in Elder Christensen’s remarks:
- Simply in passing, he said that, although many millennials have questions, it isn’t true that millennials are leaving the Church in large numbers. We’ve all heard anecdotes suggesting otherwise, of course, and most if not all of us know of formerly strong members who have walked away. Now, every apostasy is tragic, and I don’t want to minimize our losses or to dismiss them as unimportant. Nonetheless, I’ve heard Elder Christensen himself and others say this before, in very small meetings, not addressing the public. I have no reason to doubt them, and I assume that he and they have access to data supporting what they say.
- He laughed about standing under the FairMormon banner while speaking (see my photograph above), given President Nelson’s powerfully- and publicly-stated concerns about the term Mormon. But, he said, you’re not the Church. You’re independent. I’ve been told, incidentally, that certain Church leaders have advised that FairMormon not panic about its name. We’re still ourselves working out how to change, they’ve said. So take your time. (The question was easier for the Interpreter Foundation; our name never included the term Mormon, and we had no problem at all changing the title of our principal publication from Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture to Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship.)
In the Q&A afterwards, he said that the Church is strongly behind FairMormon, Book of Mormon Central, and Interpreter, and especially over the past couple of years. (I will testify that this is true. And I want to see a recording of this particular comment.)
Posted from Provo, Utah