Finding Parallels: Some Cautions and Criticisms, Part One

Review of Rick Grunder. Mormon Parallels: A Bibliographic Source. Layfayette, New York: Rick Grunder—Books, 2008. 2,088 pp. On CD-ROM. $200.00.

Abstract: Discovering parallels is inherently an act of comparison. Through comparison, parallels have been introduced frequently as proof (or evidence) of different issues within Mormon studies. Despite this frequency, very few investigations provide a theoretical or methodological framework by which the parallels themselves can be evaluated. This problem is not new to the field of Mormon studies but has in the past plagued literary studies more generally. In Part One, this review essay discusses present and past approaches dealing with the ways in which parallels have been used and valued in acts of literary comparison, uncovering the various difficulties associated with unsorted parallels as well as discussing the underlying motivations for these comparisons. In Part Two, a methodological framework is introduced and applied to examples from Grunder’s collection in Mormon Parallels. In using a consistent methodology to value these parallels, this essay suggests a way to address the historical concerns associated with using parallels to explain both texts and Mormonism as an historical religious movement. Continue reading

Shaken Faith Syndrome and the Case for Faith

Abstract: Michael R. Ash is a Mormon apologist who has written two thoughtful books and a number of insightful articles exploring a wide range of controversial issues within Mormonism. His recent book Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt is an outstanding apologetic resource for individuals searching for faith-promoting answers that directly confront anti-Mormon allegations and criticisms. Ash does an excellent job in both succinctly explaining many of the criticisms leveled against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and articulating compelling answers to these criticisms.

Review of Michael R. Ash. Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt. Redding, CA: Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, 2008. x + 301 pp., with index. $19.95 (paperback). Continue reading

Atheist Piety: A Religion of Dogmatic Dubiety

Abstract: The “Special Feature” of this mass-market secular humanist magazine consists of an introduction to “America’s Peculiar Piety” followed by a miscellany of brief, nonscholarly essays critical of The Church of Jesus Christ. The questions posed in the introduction to this flagship atheist magazine go unaddressed in the essays. Some of the essays are personal exit stories by former Latter-day Saints. One is an effort by Robert M. Price to explain away the Book of Mormon without confronting its contents. This is done by ignoring the details of Joseph Smith’s career in order to picture him as the equivalent of a bizarre, emotionally conflicted figure like Charles Manson or as the embodiment of one of a wide range of mythical trickster figures like Brer Rabbit, Felix the Cat, or Doctor Who. The assumed link between these mythical or legendary figures and Joseph Smith is said to be a Jungian archetype lodged in his presumably deranged psyche, leading him to fashion the Book of Mormon. Continue reading