Playing to an Audience: A Review of Revelatory Events

Review of Ann Taves, Revelatory Events: Three Case Studies in the Emergence of New Spiritual Paths Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2016, 366 pages with notes and index $29.93 (paperback).

Abstract: Ann Taves’s book offers a comparative look at the origins of three groups, among them Mormonism. While she does not address the issue of competing explanations by each group about their origins or how to best navigate among them in terms that are not self-referential, that crucial circumstance is modeled by Thomas Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. So I, too, have a pattern that applies to my arguments just as much it does to those offered by Professor Taves. Where her book attempts to solve the puzzle of Joseph Smith, my review offers a test of her rules for puzzle solving. This includes comparisons with the standard approach to document testing cited by Hugh Nibley, looking at key aspects of her argument and treatment of sources, and by considering Richard L. Anderson’s crucially relevant study of imitation gospels compared to the Book of Mormon. My own response should be tested not just as secular or religious, but against standards that are dependent on neither secular nor religious grounds. That is, to be valid, my response should argue “Why us?” in comparison to her case, rather than just declare that what she offers is “Not us.”

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Image is Everything: Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain

Abstract: Soon after the appearance of my Interpreter review of Jeremy Runnells’ Letter to a CES Director, he promised to provide his personal response. Although this response has not yet appeared, he did post an essay called “The Sky is Falling” by his friend Johnny Stephenson. After I read the essay closely in May, I realized that it provides, however unintentionally, a valuable set of discussion points with illustrative examples. My response begins with some preliminaries, surveys essential background issues concerning facts, ideology, and cognitive dissonance, and then addresses his historical arguments regarding the First Vision and priesthood restoration accounts. Continue reading

A Response to Denver Snuffer’s Essay on Plural Marriage, Adoption, and the Supposed Falling Away of the Church – Part 2: Façade or Reality?

Abstract: Part 2 of this response to Denver Snuffer’s essay entitled “Plural Marriage” posted on March 22, 2015, will primarily address non-plural marriage issues as discussed in the last twenty pages.1 Snuffer’s portrayal of adoption teachings and practices is analyzed and shown to be in error, along with his interpretation of presiding priesthood quorums as described in the Doctrine and Covenants. His primary thesis, that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is in apostasy, is also examined including Snuffer’s personal need for the Church to have fallen away in order to create an opening for his new visionary voice. The lack of evidence supporting such an apostasy is also reviewed including the obvious absence of any prophesied latter-day “dwindling in unbelief.” Snuffer is compared to other dissidents who have come and gone over the past century showing his claims are not unexpected or original. While the Latter-day Saints could be more obedient, a core group of righteous members and leaders has always existed in the Church through which the Lord could perform His restorative works. Continue reading

A Response to Denver Snuffer’s Essay on Plural Marriage, Adoption, and the Supposed Falling Away of the Church – Part 1: Ignoring Inconvenient Evidence

Abstract: Denver Snuffer posted an essay entitled “Plural Marriage” on March 22, 2015. 1 It is apparently a transcription of a recent talk he had given and provides his followers with his views on Joseph Smith and plural marriage. Snuffer’s basic conclusion is that the Prophet did not practice polygamy. He alleges that the historical evidences that support Joseph’s participation should instead be attributed to John C. Bennett’s activities in Nauvoo in 1840–1842 or blamed on Brigham Young’s behaviors and teachings after the martyrdom. This article provides references to dozens of documents that counter this conclusion and shows plainly that Snuffer is in error. On page 28 of the transcript, Snuffer shifts away from the subject of plural marriage, touching on several themes he has written on before. Part 2 of this response will specifically address those twenty pages of Denver Snuffer’s claims. Continue reading

“Endless Forms Most Beautiful”: The uses and abuses of evolutionary biology in six works

Review of:

  • Michael Dowd. Thank God for Evolution. New York: W. W. Norton, 2004. 336 pp., with index. $13.95.
  • Karl W. Giberson. Saving Darwin: How to be a Christian and Believe in Evolution. New York: HarperCollins, 2008. 239 pp., with index. $9.98.
  • Daniel J. Fairbanks. Relics of Eden: The Powerful Evidence of Evolution in Human DNA. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2007. 281 pp., with index. $15.86.
  • Howard C. Stutz. “Let the Earth Bring Forth”, Evolution and Scripture. Draper, UT: Greg Kofford Books, 2010. 130 pp., with index. $15.95
  • David C. Stove. Darwinian Fairytales: Selfish Genes, Errors of Heredity, and Other Fables of Evolution. New York: Encounter Books, 1995. 345 pp., with index. $18.95
  • William A. Dembski. The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2009. 229 pp., with index. $22.99 Continue reading