About John L. Sorenson

John L. Sorenson, professor emeritus of anthropology at Brigham Young University, holds a PhD in anthropology from the University of California, Los Angeles. He originated the program in anthropology at BYU and headed it for fourteen years. His academic and professional emphasis was in sociocultural anthropology, although since his retirement he has concentrated his research and writing on Mesoamerican archaeology. He was editor of the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies for five years and is the author of more than two hundred books and articles. His book An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon sets forth criteria that cannot be ignored when searching for the geographic setting of the Book of Mormon.

The Passing Parade: Observations on People and Culture

(These sketches, written in my tenth decade, portray aspects of people and culture I have encountered in my life that may be instructive, or at least diverting, to my extensive clan and friends.)

Not long ago (2014) I happened to read an article by Michael A. Goodman, an associate professor of Church history and doctrine at BYU, entitled “Correlation: The Turning Point (1960s)” (pp. 258-284 in Scott C. Esplin and Kenneth L. Alford, eds., Salt Lake City: The Place Which God Prepared {Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center, and Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2011}). It is an interesting history of repeated efforts at “correlation” of LDS Church activities and concerns by authorities of the Church throughout most of the 20th century. It’s based on minutes of meetings of various concerned committees and some correspondence of relevant Church officers and employees. What struck me about this history was its failure to identify clearly, let alone to document, the activities of the bureaucratic entity that the Church public knows as “Correlation.” That unit is the apparatus of actual control through which most correlation efforts have been carried out. My own experience with that apparatus may provide supplementary insight into the practice of “Correlation” in the 1970s and 1980s. Continue reading

A Perspective on the Church and the Gospel

An often misunderstood idea among some Latter-day Saints is that the Church has made changes for the worse in its positions since some time in the “good old days” –the early years, or the pioneer period, or any other time one chooses as a reference point. It may be worthwhile taking a short historical excursion in order to gain a more rational and enlightened perspective.

The Gospel

We may be sure that the universe operates strictly according to principles of truth—“the way things (really) are.” There is no other way it could operate. Our problem as less-than-perfect instruments for grasping truth is to align ourselves as far as possible with those truths in the conduct of our lives. God lives exclusively by truth, and he is anxiously concerned to facilitate our attempts at reaching that hoped for alignment. Left largely to ourselves in thinking about important matters, every person fumbles
around a good deal and makes many errors in interpreting how God operates His universe. He knows this is inevitable in us, given our mortal limitations in thinking/grasping. He told the prophet Joseph Smith that “every man [and woman] walketh in his[/her] own way, and after the image of his[/her] own god” (D. & C 1:16). Unaided by a universe-wide perspective, we cannot escape our own random subjectivities. Continue reading

An Open Letter to Dr. Michael Coe

Abstract: In August 2011 John Dehlin conducted a three-part interview with famed Mesoamericanist Michael Coe.1 Dehlin operates the podcast series Mormon Stories, which features interviews discussing the faith and culture of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This article examines a large number of dubious claims made in those interviews, providing clarifications, responses, and references to numerous sources dealing with those issues. Much more detail will be forthcoming in Dr. Sorenson’s new book, Mormon’s Codex. Continue reading

  1. Michael Coe, “Dr. Michael Coe—An Outsider’s View of Book of Mormon Archaeology,” podcast interview by John Dehlin, parts 1–3, at; hereafter cited as “Coe interview.” Approximate time stamps are included in individual citations. A version of this open letter is also available on Sorenson’s own website and the FAIR website:; the editors are grateful to Dr. Sorenson and FAIR for permission to reprint it here.