John W. Welch Responds to the New York Times Article

John W. Welch at BYU Studies has posted a short article in which he provides links to articles in the BYU Studies journal that can assist in answering the questions that the New York Times article suggested may be of concerns to Latter-day Saints.

6 thoughts on “John W. Welch Responds to the New York Times Article

  1. I have spent several hours thinking, studying, and praying about the New York Times article. Two FAIR Wiki sites have aided me:
    (1) Smith Jr., and (2)

    I continue to believe that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God and that he was a moral, responsible and righteous man. The revelations he received, his life-long good works, his traumatic death and the quiet whisperings of the spirit to me, all confirm that he was what he said he was, a prophet of God.

    From his love, Abrahamic sacrifices and his faithfulness to his end, I believe that Joseph laid the foundation for the actual restoration of Jesus Christ’s church. Like the Savior and like faithful others, Joseph Smith gave his all–his life and blood to the end. No one can give more than that.

    Each can ask this question: “Am I giving my all to the betterment of mankind in such a complete, staggering, supreme manner as Joseph Smith did?”

    Severe criticism of the Prophet does not edify or uplift. I measure someone’s worth by how much light he or she shines upon my inner soul. Lesser criticism does not compare even in the slightest degree to the brilliant fire, light and joy of Joseph’s contributions.

    I believe that the foundations of the Restoration are firm. I know its beauty and truth after spending six decades working to live its principles. I know its value in the deepest, most personal way.

    Sincere thanks to all who defend the wonder and inspiration of Joseph’s life and work.

  2. Nice articles favorable to the Church have been written about the NY Times piece. The critical comments demonstrate the gall of bitterness that seethes in many who have turned away.

    Bro. Welch’s article shows clearly that the known history of the Church, which many feel has been covered up, has in fact been plainly set forth by Mormon scholars at BYU and elsewhere.

    I thank all those who have participated in making plain the truth and not letting the innuendo of the critics dominate the discourse. In my experience, the more you know about Mormonism, the more certain you can be of the sincerity of the founders and leaders then and now.

    I like the story of the beheading of the bishop of Paris, who picked up his head and walked a hundred miles preaching the gospel before laying down to die. When the story was told to one person, she said, “The hard part to believe is the first step.”

    So it is with Mormonism. The fundamental principle of the gospel is the testimony of the death and resurrection of the Savior. In reality, that is the hard part to accept, though hundreds of millions have. Once accepted, nothing else should be a stumbling block if it is consistent with the Savior’s teachings and produces the fruits of the gospel. In the case of restored doctrine, the Savior’s teachings are magnified to make them all encompassing and vital at every level of life.

    The Spirit bears witness to my spirit that the restored gospel is true. The reality check for my physical mind is the fruits: Love and support your family, become well educated, care for the needy, and participate in civic matters for the welfare of community, nation and world.

  3. I make the study of Mormonism, and the history surrounding its restoration, a constant personal study for most of my 67 years of life. I am surprised that people are so easily dissuaded from the truth of their testimonies by questions by those who have an obvious anti-Mormon agenda. That they have so little faith as to assume that there is no possible positive response to the questions! These doubters are predisposed to believe the worst before they make any effort to gather some answers/facts that may indeed give a satisfactory response and allay doubts.
    Have they ever asked themselves the incredible question of why they believe in Christ? A person claimed to have lived a sinless life!!…nailed to a piece of wood, dies…then 3 days later he gets up alive again… an immortal being! Unbelievable! But, I believe it and Joseph Smith saw him too, some 1800 yrs later. Every question raised in the NY Times I seen before and they have been answered to my satisfaction.
    The only question is did JS see God the Father & Jesus, yes he did. Were there more than a few mistakes made during this great adventure called the restoration? And maybe we call them mistakes because of our ignorance? Don’t throw away a life of faith and good works because you can’t figure it out right now. Give your self time. I guarantee you’ll get an answer that will confirm the truth of Mormonism. Mike Russell

  4. Criticism of any figure or any topic is not edifying or uplifting in and of itself, regardless of how evil or incorrect that topic or person was. But when criticism and doubt are coupled with a drive towards knowledge, our understanding is refined. An objective thinker or scientist fosters doubt to learn things as they really are despite the way he feels. And it is criticism that prevents false claims and accusations from overcoming those fields.

    Yes BYU has provided all the information, but it is not directly available to most people who wish to study the issues. Most people are not even aware of most of the information available. Growing up in the church, especially in a different country, you tend to think that the Ensign and the standard works is all that really has ever existed. Because no information is available, you tend to think that whatever additional publications or doctrines tend to all be in harmony. If you are not naturally a scholar, most people run into the issues by people who are not members. Its shocking because they site sources from church publications on issues that you feel you should already be knowledgeable about. The church doesn’t necessarily hide the information, the church just leaves the members as they are. I personally considered myself pretty well read in the standard church literature most of my life, but it wasn’t until just recently had I heard issues regarding such topics as the kinderhook plates, the close relationships of the Masonic order to temple rights, View of the Hebrews, the arguements of DNA, etc..

    Most of us do not wish to give up the religion and traditions that we have held are whole lives. Why would we? Its uncomfortable, inconvenient, often depressing, and often social suicide if you live within a Mormon community. But when there is so much trust placed in an organization or group of people, and nobody has the decency to bring these issues forward before you make a lifelong commitment, you have to ask yourself why. People begin to feel swindled, like they’ve taken out a loan and weren’t aware of the fines outlined in the fine print. Did the church really want me to ask questions, or were they just saying that so that I wouldn’t? Why is this issue never discussed. Shouldn’t truth stand up to all criticism? Shouldn’t the answers be clearer than they are? If the answers are there, why aren’t they official and more available? Sooner or later your objectivity takes hold of you and you are open to whatever answers fit the information most plausibly. Maybe we have lost some sense of spirituality, but at least we are able to view the universe in a far more organized state than we could have otherwise.

    • Ryan, I have heard this general theme several times: There are answers, but they aren’t easy to find. The questions aren’t raised in Sunday School manuals. Now, I certainly agree that our Sunday School manuals leave a lot to be desired, but I think we are looking at a very different question. If those who are unaware of these questions find them on the Internet, and the answers are available on the Internet, am I really to believe that it is so difficult to find correct information? Can it really be true that those who search the Internet can only find questions but are somehow unable to similarly find the answers in the same medium?

      What about the questions themselves. I have heard a lot of comments about Joseph translating with a stone in a hat. People are shocked and they ask why no one told them about that. What they don’t ask is why they are shocked about it at all. We don’t ask why it was so widely accepted not only in Joseph’s time, but for hundreds of years before. We don’t ask why something that was so unremarkable then is so remarkable now. We retroject our ideas onto the past and seem to be shocked when we learn that people in the past weren’t exactly like us. That is a problem of the way we understand history. Does this mean that our educational institutions have been hiding things from us so that we do not really comprehend the way history has evolved into our current culture?

      Should the church be open about its history? I think so. I think it is hard to suggest that it is not if you look at the Joseph Smith Papers project. Not only is the material printed, but it is being put on the Internet (which ought to put it in the very same place as people are putting the questions). Should scholars in the church specifically address all of these concerns and provide the documentation to back up their analysis? Yes, and they have. They have for years, and the results of their work are not only published but available on the Internet.

      Does the church want you to ask questions? Doesn’t truth stand up to criticism? My experience in the church is that the answer is yes to both (with some very clear exceptions in some Sunday School classes I have been in). You said: “Yes BYU has provided all the information, but it is not directly available to most people who wish to study the issues. Most people are not even aware of most of the information available.” I am glad that you recognize that the information has been made available. Certainly there are organizations (such as the Interpreter Foundation) that are actively working to disseminate that information. Some of the roots of the Interpreter Foundation are in the people and ideas that first founded the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS), which began disseminating scholarly information in the early 80’s. While that was before the Internet explosion, most of the information has been moved to the Internet. That means that we have had good, faithful scholars working on questions and providing answers for over three decades. The Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR) has a wiki that contains a large amount of information on virtually every possible question.

      I have difficulties with the argument that the Internet has made it easy to find questions, but that the answers are so hard to find. They are on that same Internet. I can see a difference in the search parameters leading to different conclusions. I can see that preferring to be shocked by history is easier than understanding history. I cannot see that what is in the same Internet can be any more difficult to find.

      When good information that actually understands the context of history is made available on the Internet, why should I believe that it is so hard to find?

  5. Thanks, Ryan, for your comments. Thanks for your insights on the value of useful criticism.

    Here’s my thoughts: Pure revelation–the great standard–is what gives me clarity and inner strength. By experimenting with the words of the prophets, those of the current prophets as well as the words of Joseph Smith, rather than on the periphery, I find peace. Side issues do cause me concern when they come up. So I definitely research them thoroughly until I find resolution. I am grateful that it has not been difficult for me to find information.

    It is the brilliance of actual revelation that inspires me to endure the tough stuff of life and to be faithful. From my own efforts, I have found that the restored gospel and the church is definitely worth holding onto–with all my heart and mind, even if things are not always perfect. After a lifetime of deep search, I have found nothing to compare to it.

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