Review of Lofte Payne. Joseph Smith the Make-Believe Martyr: Why the Book of Mormon Is America’s Best Fiction. Victoria, BC, Canada: Trafford Publishing, 2006. xxi + 331 pp., with appendix and index. $23.10 (paperback).
Abstract: The faith of Latter-day Saints is rooted in Joseph Smith’s recovery of the Book of Mormon, which presents itself as an authentic ancient text and divine special revelation. Book-length efforts to explain away these two grounding historical claims began in 1834, and have never ceased. They are often the works of disgruntled former Saints. In 1988 Loftes Tryk self-published an amusing, truly bizarre, seemingly countercult sectarian account of the Book of Mormon. In 2006, now under the name Lofte Payne, he again opined on Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. He discarded the notion that Joseph Smith was a demon. He now claims that the Book of Mormon was Joseph’s sly, previously entirely unrecognized covert effort to trash all faith in divine things. In this review, Payne’s explanation is compared and contrasted with books by Alan D. Tyree, a former member of the RLDS First Presidency, and Dale E. Luffman, a recent Community of Christ Apostle, as well as that of Robert M. Price, a militant atheist, and Grant Palmer, and also the Podcraft of John Dehlin, all of whom have in similar ways opined that the Book of Mormon is frontier fiction fashioned by Joseph Smith from ideas floating around his immediate environment. Continue reading
A review of Jason Hartley. Ngā Mahi: The Things We Need to Do; The Pathway of the Stars. n.p.: Xlibris, 2013. 264 pp., no index. $23.00AUD (softcover).1
Jason Hartley’s book manifests a passion for alleviating the problem of Māori surging into the prisons of Aotearoa/New Zealand2 by restoring their old, traditional religious ethos and the social control that hinges on the recovery of the old belief that they are potentially noble children of God. In setting out his own disappointing discovery of the roots of both a growing problem and what he believes is the solution, he describes how he came to learn the arcane moral teachings, or old stories, that once buttressed Māori social order. For Latter-day Saints, he also demonstrates that for some Māori, despite much degradation, the Heavens are still open, just as they were when Latter-day Saint missionaries first encountered a people prepared for them and their message by their own seers, thus also implicitly challenging recent efforts to downplay or explain away the old stories as mere embellishments, wishful thinking, or an implausible founding mythology. Continue reading
Abstract: The following are reflections on some of the complicated history, including the abuses, of what is commonly known as theology. The Saints do not “do theology.” Even when we are tempted, we do not reduce the contents or grounds of faith to something conforming to traditional theology. Instead, we tell stories of how and why we came to faith, which are then linked to a network of other stories found in our scriptures, and to a master narrative. We live in and by stories and not by either dogmatic or philosophically grounded systematic theology. Instead, we tend to engage in several strikingly different kinds of endeavors, especially including historical studies, which take the place of (and also clash with) what has traditionally been done under the name theology in its various varieties, confessional or otherwise. Continue reading
Review of Marjorie Newton, Tiki and Temple: The Mormon Mission in New Zealand, 1854–1958 (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2012), xv + 328 pp. (including a glossary of Māori words, three appendices, bibliography, two maps, twenty-nine illustrations and a photography register, and index). $29.95 (paperback).
Abstract: Marjorie Newton’s widely acclaimed Tiki and Temple1 is a history of the first century of Latter-day Saint missionary endeavors in Aotearoa/New Zealand. She tells the remarkable story of what, beginning in 1881, rapidly became essentially a Māori version of the faith of Latter-day Saints. Her fine work sets the stage for a much closer look at the deeper reasons some Māori became faithful Latter-day Saints. It turns out that Māori seers (and hence their own prophetic tradition) was, for them, commensurate with the divine special revelations brought to them by LDS missionaries. Among other things, the arcane lore taught in special schools to an elite group among the Māori is now receiving close attention by Latter-day Saint scholars. Continue reading
Review of Mark A. Noll. Protestantism: A Very Short Introduction, New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. xvi + 161 pp., with bibliography of further reading, glossary, index. $11.95 (paperback).
Mark Noll’s Protestantism is a brief, interesting, and useful account of a religious movement that began with the remonstrance of a contentious German monk who, much like others in the Latin Catholic Church before and after him, called for reform. On 31 October 1517 in the small town of Wittenberg in Saxony, Martin Luther (1483–1546) certainly did not plan on founding a new church. His was merely a “local protest” (p. 10). Among other things, Luther complained about the sale of indulgences, which were believed to ease the pain of those presumably undergoing a necessary postmortem purging. This tiny event eventually led to a radical division of Western (Latin) Christianity into Protestantism and the Roman Catholic Church. Continue reading