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LOUIS C. MIDGLEY
LOUIS C. MIDGLEY, Mormon Apologist.
| Louis Midgley, probably the rudest apologist at FARMS, has just given the world his view of RFM and exmormons in general in the latest FARMS Review of Books. If you remember, Midgley was the one who got kicked out of the Tanner's bookstore. Perhaps this attitude gives us some clues as to why.
The following begins on page xxviii of the Editor's Introduction:
"Of course, Brodie’s analysis in 1968 preceded Signature Books and Sunstone conferences, as well as the current flush of unseemly blogs and message boards on the Internet. What was once primarily focused on Salt Lake City, if Brodie was correct, has toadstooled into an industry reaching the entire world. I am, however, not eager to identify the self-serving, unsavory, even obscene, and quite unfair so-called “recovery,” “lampoon” or “salamander” message boards, blogs, and Web pages. I am inclined to comment on public gatherings that feature what have become known as “alternative voices” –that is, gatherings that allow and even feature dissidents and apostates railing against the Saints and their history, beliefs, and leaders. All of these, of course, thrive on mockery and not much else."
There's lots to comment on here, but I'll wait for others to respond before adding my 2 cents worth. But for starters, it's extremely obvious that he falls into all the tired, worn-out Mormon stereotypes of those who leave. Sure enough, you can leave the church, but you can't leave those who leave the church alone.
| Dr. Robbers, on a separate, highly insightful thread, has begun to unpack and explore the strange arguments of Mr. Boyce. As such, I thought it would be worthwhile to look at the latest FARMS Review introduction, which was written by Prof. Louis Midgley. Many here are probably aware of the fact that Midgley is extraordinarily bigoted against Evangelicals, and that he has published a series of anti-EV essays in the FROB. This latest entry, fresh and steaming from the FARMS sphincter, is intriguing for a variety of reasons. |
In a bold move, Midgley begins by telling us what might be called an "Origin Story." He explains where his desire to debate and combat Church critics comes from:
My first skirmish with one who might now be described as a "debating evangelical" took place in 1951 while I was a missionary in New Zealand. The pastor of a small Baptist church in Point Chevalier, a suburb some six kilometers west of the center of Auckland, had been surveying my missionary companion and me as we went about our activities, including our travel on the tram then connecting Point Chevalier, where we lived, with Queen Street in the center of Auckland. Eventually he introduced himself and invited us to his home so that he could, he explained, learn more about our faith. I was, of course, delighted.
Notice the way that Midgley, now an aging, seasoned Mopologist, delights in painting himself as a naïve, young missionary, who is excited to be doing the Lord's work. Notice also that young Elder Midgley was apparently aware (though he does not explain how or why) that this minister was "surveying" him. In the end, as per this narrative, it doesn't matter, since it's a missionary opportunity! Things quickly take a darker turn:
But his invitation was a subterfuge. I anticipated a civil conversation. I was mistaken. As soon as I began describing the recovery of the Book of Mormon, this fellow launched into a blistering attack on me and my faith. I faced someone barely civil and fully confrontational. I was discombobulated, stunned, and on the ropes, and this preacher knew it. He showed no mercy; he pounded away, even boasting that, unlike him, I had not been properly trained for the ministry. He was not interested in learning a thing about the faith of Latter-day Saints. He was, instead, eager to bash our beliefs, which he was confident he already understood.
As I read this, I could not help but snicker. Any poor sap who has naively stumbled onto MAD, hoping for a civil discussion of, say, Blacks and the priesthood, has surely had much the same experience as poor Elder Midgley. Probably, if things got heated enough, the apologists would pull out their trump card, announcing that they have far more education and training than the said sap critic (cf. Gee, and the new review of the Turley et al. MMM book). A further interesting twist is the fact that this narrative is set in New Zealand---home to Rusty "Pahoran" McG.
You have probably already correctly guessed that Elder Midgley did not take this abuse sitting down. Sure, he was "discombobulated" at first, but almost immediately, he was thirsting for a counter-attack.
Savoring his triumph, he invited us back for a second bout. Since I suspected that he had been bluffing and wrong on some of what he had claimed, I accepted his invitation.
Next, the young apologist-in-training preps for his re-match in quasi-Rocky (or Harry Potter?) fashion:
Though I had earlier, as a student at the University of Utah, encountered secular critics of the faith of the Saints, this was my initial introduction to sectarian anti-Mormonism. In an effort to prepare for the second round in this debate, I visited a large Christian bookstore then located on Queen Street, where I purchased some leaflets and a pamphlet attacking the Church of Jesus Christ. This was my first encounter with sectarian anti-Mormon literature. Since I was already in the habit of looking for information in books, I also visited the little library in Point Chevalier, which is still there, as well as the much larger Auckland Public Library.
Presumably, Midgley was using P-day to do this. I have not heard of any missionaries who were allowed to go on rogue Mopologetic missions such as this. But, indeed, young Midgley's Mopologetic zeal was passionate indeed! It makes sense that this was the young man who would one day grow up to verbally assault Sandra Tanner in her place of business; it makes sense that he would scream profanities at the Lynn Whitesides vigil.
In any event, you are probably wondering how Round 2 turned out:
Elder Midgley wrote:
I discovered that our host had made assertions that were flatly wrong. At our second match, I was ready to respond to this preacher, who seemed to have relied on muddled anti-Mormon literature. The debate ended in a draw, and the preacher knew it.
With what I had discovered in those libraries, I was able to expose some bluffing and mistakes on several key issues.
[Sidenote: Did the preacher announce that he "knew" it was a draw? Or is this Midgley's attempt at mind-reading?]
Oddly, Midgley's story sounds remarkably similar to many of the "exit stories" of ex-Mormons: they stumble upon literature which reveals that certain aspects of the Church were "flatly wrong," and they proceed on out of the Church. It makes one wonder: What does Professor Midgley think about the Church's extremely paranoid and protective attitude towards its own extensive collections and libraries?
Midgley wraps up the narrative a few more final digs:
I testified to the truth of Joseph Smith's prophetic truth claims and to the gospel of Jesus Christ. I came away from that exchange with no information about the grounds or content of that preacher's faith. There was something odd about his mode of "witnessing." I have never lost interest in the literature sectarian critics produce, distribute, or rely upon. I have discovered that some Protestant preachers, especially those involved in or influenced by the countercult movement, have a proclivity for denigrating the faith of the Saints; they operate in a confrontational, attack mode.
This is a jumbled and confused paragraph. Midgley says that he "won" the debate by bearing his testimony, and then he immediately goes on to complain that he failed to learn anything from the preacher (except, of course, how to "fight back"), and that he developed a bizarre taste for reading anti-Mormon lit.
This narrative is fascinating in the way it describes the gestation and birth of a career Mopologist. Midgley seems to have found his calling in the role of the savagely vicious, revenge-fueled apologist. And, as he discovered, there is always a fail-safe escape hatch: the bearing of the testimony---something which is often used as a last-ditch tactic by Mopologists.
Later on, Midgley writes:
My first encounter with sectarian anti-Mormonism was an indication of the proclivity I would later encounter from some Protestant preachers, and also, unfortunately, a harbinger of many later wearisome conversations with sectarian critics of the Church of Jesus Christ. It is clear that debating with our sectarian critics, though amusing or perhaps exhilarating, may turn out to be a mistake. Debating evangelicals may not be a useful way of witnessing either in word or deed to our own faith in the Holy One of Israel and the redemption from both sin and death that he has made possible. And yet I am confident that we must defend the faith.
Again, we see the deep conflict in the heart of the Mopologist. Midgley knows that the desire to exact revenge on the "mean" critics is un-Christlike, but he finds it "exhilarating," and thus, he has "confidence" that he's doing the right thing. Elder Midgley's experience in New Zealand caused him to develop a very new sort of testimony---not of the Church, but of Mopologetics.
In yet another stunning, revelatory paragraph, Midgley continues:
And when our opinions are challenged, we fight back and may even desire revenge or succumb to the urge to counterattack. We can easily be induced into seeing the Other as a Diabolical Monster and ourselves as a Holy Knight fighting the good fight against evil and error. We also may find it useful to rationalize our words and deeds. Likewise, when we confront those with different opinions, we may end up in verbal or written strife, competition, or combat over our opinions. We may also make the mistake of not really desiring to understand the opinions of the Other. One reason for this is that debates take place before real or imagined audiences and hence in a kind of theater in which points are scored or awarded. The "winner" in a debate often succeeds by the crafty use of rhetoric. The goal easily becomes winning or appearing to win a contest. Clever, quick, confident responses are at a premium in such exchanges. And often biased, poorly informed audiences serve as the judge and presumably determine a winner.
This is exactly what I have been saying in several threads, and yet DCP (among others) continues to deny that this is the case. The call for "humble" apologetics has reappeared again here, in the form of L. Midgley's words, but these words seem remarkably hollow. The apologists seem unwilling or unable to let go of their apparently intense, deeply ingrained need for revenge.
Just who might Midgley be talking about here?
he desire to thrash an opponent in a debate, especially while drawing on an arsenal of rhetorical or other tricks, could be an indication of the absence of an appropriate and necessary moral discipline. Put another way, until or unless we manifest an appropriate moderation, we do not represent well the faith we seek to proclaim. It is a mistake to fall into anything like the pattern commonly found among our critics who often insist on an essentially abrasive, confrontational mode of discourse. Currently the absence of moderation can be seen on blogs, lists, and boards. In some of these venues, diseases of the soul are nourished and spread, rather than assistance being provided to aid in the recovery of sometimes severely spoiled souls.
The essay continues, with Midgley admonishing the apologists for their harsher tactics, and then, shockingly, he lets loose with this disquieting admission:
It is possible for Latter-day Saints to have productive conversations with those not of our faith. If this were not so, few would have become Latter-day Saints.
I could be wrong, but it seems that Midgley is saying that the only kind of "productive" conversation that LDS can have with other faiths is a conversation which leads those Others to abandon their faith(s) in favor of Mormonism. Thus, we can observe a subtly diabolical method of destroying other faiths. Midgley's chutzpah is extraordinary.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Midgley goes on to ignore much of what he just said. The 2nd half of the essay is devoted to nitpicking and attacking critics of the Church. Consider this gleeful tidbit on Ron Huggins:
Huggins seems to have imagined that, if he could only find some feature of Nibley's writings about which he could complain, the chief foundation of the Latter-day Saint effort to defend their faith would crumble and the entire edifice would begin to collapse. But Huggins met an obstacle: Dialogue declined to publish this essay. He turned to the Tanner tabloid. His attack on Nibley might be an indication of what he considers "a real dialogue" with Latter-day Saints. Shirley Ricks, in a delightful essay, has demolished the Huggins effort.
Is this Midgley's idea of "humble" exchange? Whereas earlier he had seemed to be calling for moderation in the debate, he concludes the essay by placing all of the blame on his opponents:
The anarchy of contemporary Protestantism is such that debates with our more polished and respectable evangelical "friends" have not reduced the calumny directed at the Saints and their faith. Evangelicals eager to debate theology with us have neither the will nor the ability to tame the countercult beast that operates with little or no supervision or discipline on the margins of the larger evangelical movement.
Thus, he shrugs his shoulders and gives permission to Mopologists to continue with their revenge-fueled, "exhilarating" assaults on critics (and on Chapel Mormons!).
All in all, I enjoyed this essay. I hope that Midgley will write more nakedly revelatory essays just like this one. I believe I have offered up an honest critique of this piece, and I would urge everyone to read it in the original, so that you can see that I haven't distorted it in the least:
http://farms.byu.edu/publications/revie ... m=2andamp;id=718
| A fresh pair of articles penned by Louis C. "Woody" Midgley have been posted to Mormon Interpreter. As with the recent invective from John Sorenson, these two pieces are very much in the "classic-FARMS" tradition: angry, designed mainly to attack, and basically substance-free (apart, I suppose, from The Emperor's compressed "history of atheism" in the longer article). What's shocking, though, is how sloppy both of these pieces are: it's as if the MI editorial team was either too busy to be bothered with doing a "professional" job, or they just didn't care. Perhaps haste was the order of the day? |
In any case, the first of the articles can be found here:
http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/atheis ... c-dubiety/
At some point, the yokels at the old FARMS realized that including abstracts would make their work seem more "scholarly," and indeed, this "realization" has been included here. Personally, I found bits of Midgley's abstract rather confusing. He mentions a "mass-market secular humanist magazine" without naming it, and then goes on to complain about pieces in said "mass-market secular humanist magazine" that characterize Joseph Smith thusly:
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.Huh? "Felix the Cat"? "Doctor Who"?
It turns out that Midgley is actually criticizing a Mormon-themed issue of the secular-humanist magazine, Free Inquiry, though the article muddles things at times. Take a look at this passage, a few "pages" in:
The October/November SevenApart from "Woody"'s casual and hubristic dismissal of the entire seven essays, the editing here is really pretty terrible. "The October/November issue" would lead you to believe that he's writing about the current issue, no? It would make perfect sense, given the current political climate, and yet, when you navigate on over to the Free Inquiry Web site, it seems that the 2012 Oct./Nov. issue isn't even out yet. It turns out that this is actually discussing last year's Oct./Nov. issue. You wonder why either Midgley or his editorial assistant failed to clarify this in the text.
The October/November issue of Free Inquiry comprises a total of sixty-six pages, of which twenty-one constitute a miscellany of opinion on Mormon topics. None of these essays make a contribution to understanding the faith of the Saints or the crucial history of the restoration. Some of the authors assume the conclusions they reach. None of these essays give the appearance of having been written with much understanding of Latter-day Saint history or faith. Each of the seven essays is reviewed separately below.
As you read on, it becomes clear: this article was probably meant to be published last year, as part of a planned Mormon Review attack on John Dehlin. Just look at this passage:
Dalton is known for having created a serial comic sketch in which he plays “Mr. Deity,” the lead role.21 “My Journey” is clearly an exit story. As is common in this genre, Dalton includes a fashionable complaint about the sense of betrayal and pain that he experienced when he went missing. [sic] A more naïve, candid, and revealing version of Dalton’s exit story has been made available in an interview by John Dehlin. (emphasis mine)
Dalton, led by Dehlin, actually claims to have read much LDS apologetic literature prior to his aborted mission call. But nothing in his interview indicates that either Dalton or Dehlin has even an elementary grasp of contemporary LDS scholarship. Dehlin gently coaches Mr. Deity to claim that DNA studies, along with hearing about seer stones, led him to reject the Book of Mormon. But did this realization come long after he had lapsed back into the pop music world, with its abundance of moral evil? Neither Dalton nor Dehlin sort any such questions.
I would guess that substantial chunks of this now-terminated issue of the Review contained elements that were meant to attack John Dehlin--more than just the epic-length Greg Smith "hit piece." Probably, Midgley was a driving force behind the attack strategy.
In any case, he carries on in his rather crummy article, marching through each of the essays in turn, spending a few paragraphs on each to make his usual crotchety complaints: the author "doesn't understand" Mormonism; the author "doesn't have a solid grasp" of contemporary "scholarship" (read: Mopologetics); the author is "naïve"; the author is a "dogmatic atheist" and thus unable to view things fairly. And so on. You don't really have to bother reading the criticisms, because you've heard them all before. Midgley could save himself a lot of time by simply ordering a bunch of rubber stamps and using them to mark up every single non-Mopologetic publication that discusses Mormonism.
What's shocking, though, is the sloppiness that one finds throughout the piece:
He merely brushes aside the Book of Mormon. In doing this, as Professor William Hamblin has demonstrated, Price has ignored all the literature published by Latter-day Saints on the Book of Mormon.*All* of it? Interestingly, Midgley provides a pair of endnotes to substantiate this. In note 37, he writes:
See Hamblin’s complaints about this devastating lacuna in his “‘There Really Is a God,’” 79 n. 2 (see n. 36 above). In addition to the studies mentioned by Hamblin, the list could now be increased substantially. Price also ignored Terryl Givens’s By the Hand of Mormon (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002).And in note 36, he writes:
William J. Hamblin responded to Price in a devastating essay impishly entitled “‘There Really Is a God, and He Dwells in the Temporal Parietal Lobe of Joseph Smith’s Brain,’” Dialogue 36/4 (2003): 79–87. See the revised version of Professor Hamblin’s response entitled “Priced to Sell,” Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 16/1 (2004): 37–47. Price was back at it again with an essay entitled “Joseph Smith in the Book of Mormon,” Dialogue 36/4 (2003): 89–96. See also his self-published essays in Latter-day Scripture.A sharp-eyed editor would immediately notice the repeated use--in a short span--of the word "devastating." (The word gets used four times in this essay.) Yes: we get that Midgley wants to emphasize how badly Bill Hamblin whooped up on Price, but still--it's time to get out the thesaurus. Even worse is the bit I've underlined. Has such a publication--with that title--ever existed? Of course, Midgley is referring to the FARMS Review (or Mormon Studies Review, or perhaps the FARMS Review of Books). Maybe he's still living in the past?
Finally, there is the issue of whether or not Price really is guilty of a "devastating lacuna" [sic]. To show how poorly read on the scholarship Price is, Hamblin cites (drumroll....) a bunch of FARMS authors:
2. Dr. Price seems to be completely unaware of, or at least unwilling to engage, a large body of scholarship which challenges his prejudices on this issue. For the most recent popularizing sum- mary (with detailed notes to numerous technical studies), see Donald Parry, Daniel Peterson, and John Welch, eds. Echoes and Evidences, (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2002); see also Noel Reynolds, ed., Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited: the Evidence for Ancient Origins, (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1997).Of course, Price's original quote reads, ""virtually all critical
scholars . . . agree that Joseph Smith did not discover the Book of Mormon but rather created it" (emphasis mine). Does Hamblin really think that DCP, Parry, Reynolds, and Welch are "critical scholars"? At least Midgley seems smart enough to throw someone respectable--Terryl Givens--into the mix, though this works against him, too, since it implies that Midgley himself is aware of the problem of trying to make the case using only FARMS authors.
Later, we come again to a strange mention of "Doctor Who":
However, Price cannot distinguish between the “trickster” as found in fable and fiction, such as Bugs Bunny or Felix the Cat, and actual human beings. In his essay he muddles the two notions together, making it possible for him to neglect to demonstrate a historical influence or connection between, say, Charles Manson or Doctor Who and Joseph Smith.
Is he really saying this? Does he really mean
this? Price doesn't know the difference between cartoon characters and "actual human beings"? Is this meant to be serious? Was this "peer reviewed"? Price's article can be read here:http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.ph ... price_31_6
Can you find the spot where Price makes any mention whatsoever of "Bugs Bunny or Felix the Cat" or "Doctor Who"? Or are these just Midgley's well-poisoning additions?
On and on it goes. In his discussion of the Alcock piece, Midgley feels compelled to mention that Alcock is "an amateur magician." I still can't figure out why this is relevant, though I'm sure both Midgley and the MI
editorial team had their reasons.
In his discussion of the C.L. Hanson article, Midgley stops just short of using a sexist epithet to describe Ms. Hanson:
She pictures herself as “a mild mannered mom” who posts up a storm on the Internet promoting what she calls “the middle ground where ‘nice,’ tactful atheism can occur” (p. 41). Her blogs–Main Street Plaza and Letters from a Broad–strike me as a bit raunchy and as lacking intellectual content.
Midgley helpfully supplies a link to help illustrate what he finds "raunchy":
For example, it really is ludicrous for Hanson to describe her teenage efforts to seduce boys or to describe what she claims to have managed in the library at BYU. See http://lfab-uvm.blogspot.com/2006/07/my ... point.html, including the comments for one of many similar examples of childish rubbish.
You kind of have to wonder what sort of sleuthing Midgley had to do in order to track this material down. The link takes you to Hanson's account of her loss of faith--as Midgley indicates, you really have to read down into the comments to learn that Hanson is (in?)famous for having had sex in/at the BYU library. The question I'm left with here is: Why was Midgley perusing this material? How much time did it take him to track this stuff down? And, is anyone else as creeped out by the thought of this man:
not only reading material of this nature, but saving links to it, probably sharing them on Skinny-L, and using them in an article like this? There is clearly a voyeuristic component to Midgley's complaints, and I personally think that he and his article would have been better off if he'd omitted this. The posting is over half a decade old, and I'm sure that he could have zeroed in on something that was more indicative of "Letters from a Broad" as a whole. Instead, in rather pervy fashion, he chose to focus on the author's recollections about her teenage sexuality. He ought to limit this kind of behavior to watching provocative videos on SocialCam.
But it doesn't end there! The Emperor goes on to cook up a conspiracy theory about how Free Inquiry
founder Paul Kurtz was in cahoots with Signature Books chief George Smith:
Beginning in 1984, through various conferences and publishing ventures, including Free Inquiry, Kurtz and Company, at times working with George D. Smith and Signature Books, have sponsored or published a series of attacks on Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon.
What is this supposed to prove, exactly? That Smith and Kurtz are friendly to one another?
As you might expect, Midgley begins to wrap things up with the accusation that atheism is actually a religion:
One reason for not wanting to be known as a religion is that, in the United States, if secular humanism is seen as a religion, then it could face big trouble in the courts because of the First Amendment. One can understand Kurtz’s concern over this matter. But otherwise, efforts to shed the religion label seem to me to be a bit callow, given the fact that secular humanists have not abandoned the idea that there is an atheist community and in this sense even a kind of church or assemblage of peoples.
So yet again we have the peculiar situation whereby Midgley is angry that the "militant atheists" are dismissive of religion, and so his strategy is to try and characterize them as a kind of religion. "Take that you guys! See! You actually are the very thing you hate!" Yep, that'll get 'em, Woody.
I have to say that, as bad as some Mopologetic articles have been in the past, this one really may take the cake: I think it may rank among the worst five or so Mopologetic articles ever written. It is mind-numbingly stupid, weighed down not just with anger and vindictiveness, but with creepiness and pettiness, too. It was clearly written in the spirit of revenge, and the fact is, the thing was really poorly edited. In addition to the items I already noted--pure carelessness, by the way--there is a paragraph that wasn't indented on "page" 129.
Seeing this, it's hard not to think that Gerald Bradford had truly legitimate reasons for wanting to keep this stuff away from the BYU imprimatur. Apart from being nasty and mean-spirited, this is just flat-out unprofessional and sloppy. It's as if Midgley banged this out the night before it was due, and yet as is quite obvious, this was written close to a year ago
. What is their excuse? And what will their supporters say? The lower-tier Mopologists have always pointed to the Skinny-L/FARMS crowd as the model for "Mormon scholarship." What excuses can they possibly have for work this is this transparently awful?
| Lou Costello was a genius, in my book. Here, for example, Costello explains how 7X13=28. The logic is brilliant, even if it doesn't work without some serious fudging. But Costello also had routines in which he was flustered by his inability to outsmart his straight man, Bud Abbott, such as in the "Two Tens for a Five" bit.
Mormon apologetics is a lot like an Abbott and Costello routine. The usual fare on the FAIR site and others involves some strained attempt to make a connection between Mormon truth claims and real history. Most of the time it sort of makes sense until you examine the logic and the evidence-then it's almost always found wanting. At other times, some apologists seem to realize that they've been outsmarted, and they get flustered and lash out at the church's critics. This latter approach, which I'll call "Two Tens for a Five" is exemplified by an essay by another Lou (Midgley) on the newly minted "Mormon Interpreter" apologetics site.
I won't go into detail about the history of the new site. Suffice it to say that after the recent shake-up at BYU's Maxwell Institute, some of the exiled have started an independent apologetic site. The first article, by David Bokovoy, seemed to signal that the Interpreter would focus on scholarly approaches to Mormon beliefs, rather than on snarky and mean-spirited attacks on critics. Unfortunately, Midgley's September 7, 2012, post proves that my initial impression was wrong.
Ostensibly, Midgley is responding to a series of seven essays on Mormonism in the November 2011 issue of andnbsp;Free Inquiry, a journal discussing secular humanism. You may be wondering why Midgley is responding nearly a year after the issue's publication. Until July or so, Midgley was a regular contributor and major figure in the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship at Brigham Young University. The Maxwell Institute, formerly known as the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon, or FARMS), had as its mission:
By furthering religious scholarship through the study of scripture and other texts, Brigham Young University's Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship seeks to deepen understanding and nurture discipleship among Latter-day Saints while promoting mutual respect and goodwill among people of all faiths.
As part of this mission they published apologetic books about Mormon topics and a journal called the FARMS Review, which over the years gained a reputation for polemical and mean-spirited attacks on those who questioned or criticized Mormonism. For example, one issue (volume 15, issue 2) contained 5 "reviews" of Grant Palmer's An Insider's View of Mormon Origins,andnbsp;most of which focus on Palmer's character, or lack thereof, with various authors labeling him as one who has "lived a life of deceit for many years" (258) and whoandnbsp;"still clings tenaciously, if irrationally, to a thread of faith in revelation" (301), with Louis Midgley adding the final insult to Palmer's Christian faith:andnbsp;"Palmer appears to have filled the empty space generated by his cynicism with sentimentality about Jesus" (397).
But I digress. Sometime over the summer, the old guard at the Maxwell Institute was relieved of its duties, and the new leadership renamed the Review to the Mormon Studies Review and suspended publication until they can determine how "to better position the newandnbsp;Mormon Studies Reviewandnbsp;within its academic discipline" ("A New Beginning ."). Some former Review contributors have reported that issues had been delayed or canceled because they continued in that aggressive stance, notably a purported "hit piece" on John Dehlin that was quashed. Presumably, then, Midgley's article-length post was intended for publication in the Review but was delayed or rejected. No longer constrained by the Maxwell Institute, Midgley has published it on the Interpreter.
I've read Midgley's entire article, and it's a stem-winder, but I am particularly interested in his discussion of my friend C.L. Hanson's essay,andnbsp;"Building on a Religious Background." Ms. Hanson has been a good friend of mine for several years. We first encountered each other when I first started blogging in 2005 or so. I became a fan of her Letters from a Broad blog, which discussed her life as a Java programmer, mother, and former Mormon. She also runs Main Street Plaza, which is mostly an aggregate of several LDS-related bloggers; her contribution is mostly limited to "Sunday in Outer Blogness," a roundup of the week's LDS-related blogging, pro and con. She is a delightful person who has helped me a great deal by encouraging my writing, reviewing and publicizing my book, and inviting me to participate in a panel and book-signing at this year's Sunstone conference. I am honored that she is my friend, so it is a little difficult to write objectively about Midgley's response to her essay.
The essay in question encourages former believers to build bridges with the faith communities they grew up with. She writes:
Atheists who were raised in other religions can form the same sorts of bridges with their own communities. I encourage them to do so. It makes sense that - within the atheist community - secular Jews should take the lead when discussing Israel, and people raised Muslim should take the lead in discussions about problems in Muslim countries, for example. They have added perspective on the subject, plus they can be trusted not to be biased by racism against their group nor by believing that their group is doing God's will. Being raised in religion isn't better or worse than being raised without it. But I believe that those of us who were raised in religious communities have a special role to play, and we should step up and play it.
This is hardly controversial, but it is nice for someone to be arguing that we do have a role to play in healing wounds and discussing problems within our former religions and communities. But here's how Midgley sees it:
Ms. Hanson proclaims that she is an atheist but "grew up Mormon" (p. 40). She can presumably "translate between [the] two communities" (p. 40). Why? Her once having been LDS makes her, she imagines, sort of "bilingual." She is ready and willing, she claims, to correct "those who believe the usual stereotypes about atheists" because she knows that they are not really "amoral nihilists, or whatever." She can, she claims, also correct mistakes that atheists make about the faith of Latter-day Saints. She does these things "sometimes on theandnbsp;Bloggernacleandnbsp;(network of faithful-Mormon blogs)."
She pictures herself as "a mild mannered mom" who posts up a storm on the Internet promoting what she calls "the middle ground where `nice,' tactful atheism can occur" (p. 41). Her blogs-Main Street Plazaandnbsp;andandnbsp;Letters from a Broad-strike me as a bit raunchy and as lacking intellectual content.andnbsp;Hanson needs a sense of solidarity with Latter-day Saints, even though her own nice "atheist community" (p. 41) should take care of her emotional needs by providing her with friends, a sense ofandnbsp;[Page 135] meaning, and an identity. She believes that "atheists who were raised in other religions can form the same sort of bridges with their own communities" (p. 41).
The fact is, however, that both substance and civility are in rather short supply on lists, boards, and blogs, where the most violent and uninformed are free to opine up a storm. And this goes, unfortunately, for both Latter-day Saints as well as their critics.
Some of Hanson's remarks, however, actually almost seem to address Tom Flynn's desires for an answer to the question of how atheists and Latter-day Saints can have something "to say to one another" (p. 21), presumably in addition to bashing each other on blogs. Unfortunately, she does not address the two questions-"Why did Mormonism grow?" and "Why does it endure?"-that constitute the subtitle of Tom Flynn's introduction. This fact highlights a problem with the seven items inandnbsp;Free Inquiry.
Where to begin with this diatribe? Why not the beginning? The first paragraph discusses Ms. Hanson's call for people like her (and me) to build bridges between believers and nonbelievers because, in some ways, we are "bilingual" because we understand what it's like to believe and not believe. Midgley seems to think she is being both arrogant and disingenuous, as she "claims" she can help correct misunderstandings and stereotypes believers and nonbelievers have about each other (I have seen her do this many times). Why is this a suspect claim for Lou? Because she sometimes posts on the Bloggernacle, an aggregate blog of mostly believing Mormons. What does Midgley have against the bloggernacle?
The second paragraph is so silly and presumptuous that I need to unpack it a little at a time.
She pictures herself as "a mild mannered mom" who posts up a storm on the Internet promoting what she calls "the middle ground where `nice,' tactful atheism can occur" (p. 41).
First, she is a "mild mannered mom," as anyone who reads her blogs can see and as those of us who have spent time with her know. But she doesn't "post up a storm on the Internet"; she's busy, and as I mentioned, her contributions include the Sunday news roundup and an occasional article. Her personal blog is, well, a personal blog. I do wonder why Midgley is hostile to niceness and tact; I suppose atheists should be more genuine about their evil intentions. In some ways I understand Midgley's fear of the nice and tactful; I've been told I'm one of the worst types of anti-Mormons because I try to be kind and fair. Apparently, my behavior is a ruse to ensnare the unwitting in the devil's clutches. Perhaps Midgley disdains her efforts at promoting civility precisely because he has no need for it himself.
Her blogs-Main Street Plazaandnbsp;andandnbsp;Letters from a Broad-strike me as a bit raunchy and as lacking intellectual content.
As I mentioned, MSP is simply a collecting point for a number of blogs and bloggers, and LFAB is a personal blog (here's a representative post). By "raunchy" Midgley apparently means that she speaks more frankly about sexuality than he deems proper (here's her Vagina Testimony, for example). In a footnote, he expands his scolding of her wanton crudeness by pointing to footnotes to a post from 2006(!):
For example, it really is ludicrous for Hanson to describe her teenage efforts to seduce boys or to describe what she claims to have managed in the library at BYU. Seeandnbsp;http://lfab-uvm.blogspot.com/2006/07/my-deconversion-part-3-tipping-point.html, including the comments for one of many similar examples of childish rubbish.
It's stunning to me that someone can read a moving account of one's loss of faith and focus only on a tongue-in-cheek paragraph that explains why she chose to fictionalize her conversation with a non-Mormon the way she did:
However, in real life I did have a few non-member boyfriends at the time that I was in the process of trying to hustle into the bedroom as quickly as I could, with varying degrees of success. So if you'd like to tell yourself that my epiphany was motivated by my ferocious teenage hormones that wanted an open field to "sin," go ahead.
That's one of the things I admire about C.L. Hanson's writing, the casual tone and humor. I'm sorry Brother Midgley considers someone's humorous personal blog "childish rubbish." I wonder what he'd say if I reviewed his personal journal.
Next we read:
Hanson needs a sense of solidarity with Latter-day Saints, even though her own nice "atheist community" (p. 41) should take care of her emotional needs by providing her with friends, a sense ofandnbsp;[Page 135] meaning, and an identity.
I have no idea where this is coming from, and C.L. is equally mystified, as she writes in a response to Midgley on her blog, "This is the bit that most makes me go `WTF?'" She continues:
Midgley seems to be implying that I'm some sort of lonely, emotionally-needy person who clings to the faithful Mormon community due to some inadequacy in the atheist community. Not only is that not true, but there's really nothing in my article to suggest it. Allow me to explain that the point of the article was to convince atheists of the value of engaging in constructive dialog about religion.
The need to portray Ms. Hanson negatively is part of it, but there is a larger reason Midgley says this about atheism being a community that "shouldandnbsp;take care of her emotional needs by providing her with friends, a sense of meaning, and an identity." Midgley's essay is titled "Atheist Piety: A Religion of Dogmatic Dubiety." His thesis is that all the essays in the Free Inquiry issue, including Ms. Hanson's, are broadsides on Mormonism from the perspective of a dogmatic, militant atheism. After deriding some of the essays for their "nonscholarly" attacks on the church, he writes:
Others complain that the faith of the Saints tends to meet emotional needs or that their religious community has various ways of reinforcing their own moral demands. In no instance do these authors see their own deeply held ideology as serving similar personal and community-sustaining religious functions.
In short, Midgley tries the age-old tactic of insisting that atheism is actually a religion, and a dogmatic and intolerant religion at that. Of course, it won't do when an author like Ms. Hanson calls for bridge-building and reconciliation; he needs her to have a "deeply held ideology" that gives her the same support as "religious functions." Because she hasn't actually said anything like this in her essay, Midgley simply asserts that she has. She's clearly thrown the good professor for a loop because, no matter how many times he gives her two tens, she's giving back a five; she won't fit in his neat little apostate box because she wasn't there in the first place. andnbsp;So, lacking any justification, Dr. Midgley tells us she believes that the atheist community is supposed to take care of her. And just like that, a conciliatory essay is of a piece with the other essays, which he says
reflect a fashionable, dogmatic, naive, and deeply religious enmity toward the faith of Latter-day Saints. The essays are also shown to be instances of a modernandnbsp;militant atheism, which is contrasted with earlier and much less bold and aggressive doubts about divine things.
If nothing, Ms. Hanson writes about her religious upbringing with affection and sympathy, even though much of what she experienced was painful. But facts be damned, Midgley has a thesis to prove, so C.L. Hanson must be a militant atheist with nothing but enmity and contempt for Mormonism and Mormons.
In the next sentence, Midgley makes casual mention of Hanson's main point:
She believes that "atheists who were raised in other religions can form the same sort of bridges with their own communities" (p. 41).
But he quickly dismisses this as mere posturing:
The fact is, however, that both substance and civility are in rather short supply on lists, boards, and blogs, where the most violent and uninformed are free to opine up a storm. And this goes, unfortunately, for both Latter-day Saints as well as their critics.
Well, no kidding. Anyone who has been around Mormon discussions anywhere on the Internet knows there is a lot of rancor on both sides. That's why C.L. Hanson wrote the article. But Midgley doesn't care about her thesis. He simply wants to lump her in with the "violent and uninformed." Certainly, those Mormons who read Midgley's piece without actually reading the essays he attacks-er, reviews-will come away uninformed and probably a little angry.
Then he makes a backhanded concession:
Some of Hanson's remarks, however, actually almost seem to address Tom Flynn's desires for an answer to the question of how atheists and Latter-day Saints can have something "to say to one another" (p. 21), presumably in addition to bashing each other on blogs.
That's a neat trick, isn't it? He takes her entire thesis and reduces it to just "some of [her] remarks," as if her calls for conciliation were an intentional distraction from her true goal: "bashing each other on blogs."
His final complaint is this:
Unfortunately, she does not address the two questions-"Why did Mormonism grow?" and "Why does it endure?"-that constitute the subtitle of Tom Flynn's introduction.
That's probably because neither question was pertinent to her subject. It's quite ironic for someone who has systematically misrepresented another person's article to then complain that she didn't talk about what he wanted her to talk about.
Another footnote is instructive:
Hanson is an atheist housewife who blogs from Zurich, Switzerland (atandnbsp;Letters from a Broadandnbsp;andMain Street Plaza). She self-published in 2006 a novel entitledandnbsp;Ex Mormon.
He can't even get her occupation right. She's a Java programmer, which he should have figured out when he was scouring her personal blog for "raunchy" material. andnbsp;(What kind of perv does that, anyway?)
Thus, having portrayed my friend as a committed-and depraved-atheist, just like the other essayists, he moves in for the kill:
This is not, of course, to say that what Paul called atheos-being "without God in the world"-is not common when people see no necessity for God since they have the welfare state to support themselves, electronic toys to entertain themselves, or drugs to pleasure themselves. All of these, and many more similar things, are commonly worshipped. Idolatry has not disappeared, even among militant atheists. The reason is that there are many whose "hearts are upon their treasures; wherefore, their treasure is their god" (2 Nephi 9:30).
There is another wonderful passage in our scriptures that describes atheos. In the preface to the Doctrine and Covenants, we learn that there are those who "seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol" (Dandamp;C 1:16).
So, now she's a militant atheist idolater who worships drugs, electronic toys, and the welfare state(!). The sad part of all this is that she has offered the hand of friendship to people like Midgley, and he has slapped it away angrily. I applaud C.L. Hanson for attempting to build bridges, but I suspect she will have to look beyond people like Midgley, who are too busy planting dynamite around the footings to be bothered with kindness.
| Louis Midgley's latest review essay, "Evangelical Controversy: A Deeply Fragmented Movement," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 3 (2013):63-84, which offers a review of Kevin T. Bauder, R. Albert Mohler Jr., John G. Stackhouse Jr., and Roger E. Olsen, Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), may be more revealing for what it does not say as for what it does say.
Continuing a pattern found in previous IJMS articles (http://mormondiscussions.com/phpBB3/v...), Midgley's essay contains numerous errors. Spelling errors include: "rapproachement" (p. 65 n. 7; read: "rapprochement"); "isists" (p. 67 n. 9; read "insists"); and "Transdenominaltional" (p. 70 n. 15; read: "Transdenominational"). Midgley makes reference to the "Southern Baptism Convention" (p. 63 n. 3; read "Southern Baptist Convention"); Midgley mangles the title of D.G. Hart's Deconstructing Evangelicalism, calling it Deconstruction Evangelicalism (p. 65 n. 8); Midgley says that the "P" in the acronym TULIP associated with five-point Calvinism stands for "Predestination," rather than Perseverance (or Preservation) of the Saints (p. 68 n. 10); and Midgley twice cites John Stackhouse's statement that "certain Mormons" share five basic convictions that Stackhouse considers to define evangelical faith (70 and 71). In referencing R.G. McNiece's essay "Mormonism: Its Origin, Characteristics, and Doctrine," Midgley says that McNiece "claims to have been for twenty-four years the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Salt Lake City" (pp. 81-82 n. 26). In fact, the sources cited by Midgley state that McNiece was pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Salt Lake City for twenty years (http://www.fpcslc.org/content/view/11...). Finally, the correct title of Richard Mouw's most recent book is Talking with Mormons, rather than Talking with Mormon (p. 83 n. 27).
The numerous errors aside, the essay's biggest weakness is Midgley's failure to explore several implications of the book for Latter-day Saints or for members of other faith traditions associated with Joseph Smith. For example, Midgley characterizes the book's contributors' dismissal of the LDS faith as non-Christian or heretical as "part of conservative Protestant boundary maintenance." (He also writes, "Is it [sic], instead, an indication of evangelical boundary maintenance.") Midgley does not, however, address the issue of "boundary maintenance" as it is practiced by LDS leaders or in his own writings (http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/wp-c...).
Midgley takes pains to distinguish between what he characterizes as "the dominant Protestant understanding of the Atonement-which is the theory that Jesus of Nazareth somehow became objectively guilty of every sin, past, present, and future-or his death would not have redeemed totally depraved humans by the imposition of an alien righteousness on sinners" with the understanding of the Atonement he sees taught in the Book of Mormon. He writes:
In the typical Protestant theory of the Atonement, Jesus Christ was both sinless and also the ultimate sinner. If his bloody death was to be efficacious either (1) for those pictured in Calvinist theology as predestined at the moment of creation out of nothing to salvation, or (2) potentially for all of mankind who may decide to confess Jesus as Lord and Savior (in other competing Protestant dogmas), Jesus had to be fully guilty of all human sins. This, of course, flies in the face of what is taught in the Book of Mormon, where Jesus is pictured as having made a wholly sinless sacrifice for all of humanity, which is something they could not possibly have done for themselves. He managed this with a glorious victory over all the demonic powers that beset human beings during their mortal probation by (1) defeating mortal death and thereby opening the door for an eventual universal resurrection, and (2) by also making available merciful forgiveness of sin for all those who choose to follow him, seek and accept sanctification as genuine Saints, and endure faithfully to the end.
The Book of Mormon, I believe, sets out an account of the story of that Atonement that differs in crucial ways from the sophisticated Protestant speculation on this all-important matter. Latter-day Saints, I believe, may find the penal substitution theory of the Atonement especially odd, since the Book of Mormon makes it clear that the Holy One of Israel-the one known before His incarnation as Yahweh (YHWH)-was sinless and hence also an innocent victim of demonic powers over which He gained a final victory over both the death of our bodies and, on condition of our faithfulness, of our souls-the two deaths that all humans face. All of this is set out clearly in the Book of Mormon.
In drawing these lines of comparison, Midgley seems quite unaware of competent scholarship on the Atonement by Latter-day Saints.
Blake Ostler, for example, argues (http://www.blakeostler.com/docs/Atone...) that "it is safe to say that most Mormons accept a form of penal substitution theory of atonement," citing writings by Hyrum Andrus (God, Man and the Universe [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1968], chs. 15 and 16; Boyd K. Packer ("The Mediator," Ensign [May 1977]), and Ronald Heiner ("The Necessity of a Sinless Messiah," BYU Studies 22/1 : 5-30). Similarly, Jacob Morgan writes:
The theory I grew up with is often referred to as the penal-substitution theory, and it is the most prevalent theory of the atonement in modern Christianity. The central idea of this theory is that Christ suffered vicariously for our sins--that he stood in our place to suffer the punishment we deserved.
Morgan claims that "[t]his theory is accepted by the vast majority of Latter-day Saints, despite a passage in the Book of Mormon that seems to explicitly reject vicarious suffering for sin" (Alma 34:11-12).
Those readers who might wonder how the penal-substitution theory that Ostler and Morgan says is accepted by most Latter-day Saints differs from the Protestant penal-substitution theory described by Midgley will look in vain for an explanation in Midgley's article.
Ostler identifies several other Mormon theories regarding the atonement, including the demand of eternal intelligences for justice theory (advanced by Cleon Skousen), the self-rejection moral theory of atonement (http://www.dialoguejournal.com/wp-con... Eugene England), the empathy theory of atonement (http://dialoguejournal.com/wp-content... Dennis Potter), the divine-infusion theory (http://dialoguejournal.com/wp-content... Jacob Morgan), and Ostler's own compassion theory. (See also Lorin K. Hansen's "The 'Moral' Atonement as a Mormon Interpretation," (http://dialoguejournal.com/wp-content...) Dialogue 27/1 [Spring 1994]: 195-227, which cites other treatments by LDS scholars.)
Midgley's article fails to acknowledge any of these writings.
Midgley makes much of the diversity of belief within Protestantism. He argues that
Beyond mere slogans, there is no agreement on what, if anything, constitutes the central core of belief. The center simply does not hold. One reason is that Protestantism has no magisterium, being an anarchy from the start; it is, instead, among other things a diverse and shifting theological movement and hence has a broad spectrum of diverse beliefs. The fact is that those who self-identify as evangelicals are free to expand or contract the movement's assortment of competing beliefs in whatever way suits their fancy.
Midgley admits that "Latter-day Saints are familiar with defections within their own community," but he fails to note the implications of such defections as they pertain to diversity of belief within the Latter Day Saint movement (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latter_D...). He also does not address diversity of belief within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Could a book titled Four Views on the Spectrum of Mormonism be written? If so, what perspectives would or could be represented? Midgley's fragmented review essay makes no attempt to answer such questions.
| For Analytics' thread Facts, Appearances and Professor Peterson, I was tasked and did provide my evaluation of Louis Midgley's Editor's Introduction: The First Steps (2005, FARMS Review, Vol 17, Issue 1, pp xi-lvi). |
In doing so, and given the aim of Analytics, I circumscribed that evaluation primarily to the argumentative level and tactics used by Midgley. (It is one of three anticipated 'base line' evaluations against which 10 evaluations of introductions written by DCP will be compared.) I left much of the substance of Midgley's Introduction out of my evaluation, as the substance of it was only incidental to Analytics' purposes.
Here, I will raise and discuss separately some of the substance of Midgley's Introduction. Midgley addressed an analysis of Martin E. Marty (Protestant historian), that Mormon truth claims turn on the 'first steps' of the promenade of Mormon historical events, namely on the First Vision and the Book of Mormon. Marty postulates that Mormonism hinges on its historical events (fate) rather than as many other religions hinging on theology (faith). If the FV and Book of Mormon fail historically, nothing that follows salvages Mormonism as a religious faith.
Midgley dances the reader through an etymology discussion, trying to strip away any distinction between "fateful" and "faithful", referring to an early, now antiquated meaning of "fateful" as obedient love and trust in God, linking faith to historical events.
But that is one of his argumentative tactics that I belief is just a diversion. Midgley later offers up some explanation of his own, to de-emphasize the importance of LDS truth claims depending on the historicity of the FV and Book of Mormon. In this way, he hopes to inoculate the modern LDS Church from the historical frailties, particularly its founding, "generative" history and events of the 19th Century.
Midgley concedes that
From the perspective of sound historical method, only more or less plausible accounts and not final proofs are possible. From the perspective of faith, though a deeper appreciation and understanding is both necessary and possible, proof is not necessary. Critics demand proof because they get the cart before the horse. They thereby slam the door on faith understood as trust in God.Here, Midgley implies that facts are not friendly to faith. Facts first 'slams the door' on faith later. Only if one believes a postulated notion before learning the facts can faith withstand knowledge of those facts. Only with faith, can one understand and appreciate that proof is not necessary.
This reminds me of the U2 lyric, "a place that must be believed to be seen."
Midgley then recounts under the heading, Modernity and Mockery, how Spinoza in the 17th Century observed that, quoting Midgley, "religion is both grounded in and generates fear. Thus, fear of the gods--and also of death and divine judgment--is the primary source of misery. He [Spinoza] insisted that enlightenment would eventually eliminate superstition (aka religion) and thereby overcome irrational fear."
Midgley quotes Leo Strauss on Spinoza about the impact of the Enlightenment on religious belief as
man has to show himself theoretically and practically as the master of the world and the master of his life; the merely given world must be replaced by the world created by man theoretically and practically.I underline "merely given" modifier of world to emphasize what is the struggle: what man has discovered versus what is claimed, religiously--as though a 'given'.
Midgley notes that despite all that man has learned, "fear has not disappeared. Nor has unhappiness or human misery. And ironically, modernity has itself been called into question and is now on the defensive." (Earlier, Midgley had put his own imprint on what modernity means, "the network of beliefs that ground hostility to faith in the reality of God." A reality in essence that Midgley claims requires faith in that reality before one is exposed to the facts.)
Midgley gives an explanation of what he finds unsatisfying about atheism. Referring to apostates, "[a] few of them, however, seem a bit troubled by the thought that, with their new atheism--and so without even tiny remnants of their former faith--in fifty years nothing they now say or do will mean a thing. Atheism leaves a few of them rather listless. These somewhat more thoughtful ones, as they begin to sense that without God they are merely an accidental, meaningless excrescence on a tiny planet, describe an enervating ennui, lassitude, or apathy." Here, Midgley does not make an argument for faith, just points out how that atheism does not give one current hope for an eternal future. Sort of the basis and reason for KevinSim's belief.
At last, Midgley arrives at the nubbin, the crux of his view, under the heading "Religious 'Decisions' and Practical Matters" (underlining added).
The decision to either trust or turn away from God is necessarily made in the absence of proofs one way or the other and therefore is not based on the actual or possible evidence. The decision to believe or not to believe tells us more about the hopes and fears, the longings and desires of the one making it than it does about his or her intellectual capacities, accomplishments, or command of the evidence.
The theories defending faith are misunderstood if they are taken as the grounds of faith. * * * Both faith and unfaith (and indifference) are practical/moral decisions about how we desire to live. These decisions tell us more about our hearts than about the product of our inquiries. Such decisions are made before we have much in the way of a command of the scriptures, history, science, philosophy, or much of anything else. The persistence with which we project ourselves and strive to relate to others--including the divine--and thereby act on our longing and desire or how we understand ourselves may shift dramatically over time.I agree with Midgley that
- faith is an expression of one's 'hopes and fears, longings and desires'
- learning facts prevents the later development of faith
- faith requires persistence in projecting ourselves to relate with the divine
Midgley then backslides away from this rather frank admission that faith is a projection of our own, individual 'hopes and fears, longings and desires' to what he dubs the Alma Principle, back into 'direct encounter', 'immediate experience' with the divine as trumping all doubt. "[I]n our own personal stories, in a kind of history, where the real contest between faith and unfaith takes place."
Midgley dismisses "the so-called proofs of God" as "the real reason people decide to trust or not trust God, or to believe or not believe, though they may have a certain apologetic or polemic function." Indeed, as we've heard so many times before, Mopologetics has "not striven to prove the Book of Mormon. From the perspective of sound historical method, only more or less plausible accounts and not final proofs are possible."
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