In May 2000, Baker Books one of the largest and most respected publishers of evangelical Christian materials, published Mormonism 101. There were many reasons why we were very excited about the publication of this book. For one, we believed that we were successful in comparing Mormonism with evangelical Christianity. We began this book project in 1995 and did not complete it until January 2000.
Why did we believe Mormonism 101 was necessary? Over the years many people have asked us if Mormonism was coming closer to an orthodox consensus. Because many LDS leaders appear more guarded in how they publicly present their faith, some observers have come to think that the LDS Church is involved in a serious doctrinal transition. One of our primary goals was to show how this is not true.
In order to make our point, it was natural that we include statements from early Mormon leaders who seem to have been much blunter than current leadership when it came to expressing Mormon doctrine. However, aside from the fact that Mormon spokespersons are more careful in how they express their faith, we argue that little has changed. In a strange way our premise was vindicated when, at the fall 2001 general conference, President Gordon Hinckley insisted, “Those who observe us say that we are moving into the mainstream of religion. We are not changing. The world’s perception of us is changing. We teach the same doctrine” (Ensign, November 2001, p.5).
While some Mormon critics may bemoan what they say is a book “full of the same old things,” the fact is that many of the quotes we provide are actually quite recent. In addition, Mormonism 101was not meant to be an academic work. It was intended to be a background resource for the average layperson. We believe that Mormonism 101 serves as a summary for much of what our ministry is about, with the inclusion of many important references and logical tactics that we use on a regular basis.
Another reason for our excitement was the book’s easy-to-follow format. We specifically made the book so that it did not have to be read cover to cover in order to be understood. Any difficult-to-understand term or idea was specifically defined for easier understanding. For instance, we very clearly described (in what we felt was simple English) the different nuances between the soteriological words of justification, sanctification, and glorification. We certainly did not want anyone to misunderstand what we were saying.
We decided to include a witnessing tip at the end of each of the six sections. We knew that the accusation of the “straw man” logical fallacy could be made, which can easily occur in this type of back-and-forth format. However, these tips were based on personal witnessing experiences that we have had. We also included the following words on page 58 at the beginning of our first witnessing tip: “Remember that this is a sample dialogue, so a Mormon will not necessarily answer in the manner given below. But using these verses can certainly help you show how the Bible and the LDS view of God are incompatible.”
Finally, we were able to provide the information in a format that could be understood by the average layperson without getting too technical. At the same time, we did provide more than 500 endnotes from more than 100 sources, most of which were from past and present LDS general authorities. Thus, we limited (though not completely ignored) quotations from LDS scholars such as those hailing from the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS), Brigham Young University (BYU), and other places.
There is no secret that we hold to a philosophy that Mormonism is built (or destroyed) on the foundation of the LDS prophets and apostles. After all, these are the men God supposedly provided to provide further revelation and teach correct doctrine. “Doctrinal interpretation is the province of the First Presidency,” Ezra Taft Benson said. “The Lord has given that stewardship to them by revelation. No teacher has the right to interpret doctrine for the members of the Church.” Thus, we decided to utilize the teachings of these leaders and the LDS scriptures upon which their philosophy is based.
We maintain that trying to answer individual Mormons is not as productive as responding to the scriptures and the LDS leadership. Granted, many Mormons have absorbed the beliefs of popular LDS writers who do not carry the authoritative weight of a general authority, but ultimately the average Mormon looks to Salt Lake City and the leadership for guidance on doctrinal issues.
Can you pass the “ad hominem” please?
With these things said, we prepared ourselves for potential criticism that would inevitably come from Mormons who disagreed with our conclusions. Our experience has taught us that Mormons, as a rule, generally loathe criticism, no matter how accurate it might be. However, few people enjoy critical analysis if it means someone is probing into your personal beliefs. We feel that we did a good job of pointing out the nuances of Mormon thought without resorting to the name calling so often prevalent in the writings of Mormon apologists.
Despite our care, a number (though not all) of the Mormonism 201 writers utilized flame words that were certainly meant to paint us as hateful bigots. Insinuating that our motives were purely monetary or that we are willful deceivers, 201 oftentimes uses ad hominem (against the man) attacks to get its points across. This is not to say that we are against FAIR writers being pithy in their rebuttals; even some of our writers occasionally utilize this creative writing style. However, this lack of professionalism and mean-spiritedness on the part of many FAIR writers is everything that is wrong with much of Mormon apologetics. Trash the character of your accuser and you deflect attention from the real issues.
The folks at FAIR love the term “anti Mormon(s)” and use it often in 201. This tired old moniker goes back to the 19th century when real anti-Mormons existed – back in a time when people disliked the Mormons as a people and wanted to cause them bodily harm. The term “anti-Mormons” quite literally means (anti) against, Mormons.
However, regardless of the fact that the individuals at FAIR refuse to listen, we are not against Mormons any more than Christian missionaries to Africa are against Africans. We may disagree with the tenets of Mormonism, but at best this would be described as “anti-Mormonism,” not anti-Mormon. Though sometimes Mormon apologists do occasionally get it right, many still ardently defend the anti-Mormon label. For instance, on the FAIR website an article by Russell McGregor titled “Are anti-Mormons Christian,” he states:
“The term anti-Mormon is herein used to describe any person or organization that is directly and actively opposed to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, its doctrines, policies and programs. It is not, as critics sometimes mischievously try to claim, a catchall term for anyone who does not accept or believe in the Church, but is applied only to those who actively campaign against it. As an adjective, it applies to those specific activities that may with reasonable accuracy be described as attacks upon the Church.”
People like McGregor get extremely irritable when those outside of the LDS Church question the Christianity of Mormons. Yet he has no problem questioning the Christian faith of those who actively question the teachings of Mormonism. He adds:
So we return to the question with which we began this survey: are anti-Mormons Christian? The answer: of course not. They were never even in the hunt. Their clerical collars and pious platitudes are simply a smokescreen to hide the ugly reality that anti-Mormonism is one of the clear manifestations of the darkest side of human nature; the side that made possible the death camps and burning crosses, the massacre of the Hutus and the wholesale slaughter of the Native Americans. Just as vicious and repressive dictatorships like to give themselves grandiose and liberal-sounding titles like “The People’s Democratic Socialist Republic of Such-and-such”, so these nasty religious haters appropriate the label of “Christian” in order to claim for themselves a specious respectability that their deeds and attitudes do not merit. Notwithstanding all of the above, Latter-day Saints are, and continue to be, more than willing to allow these folk the right to call themselves Christians. All we ask is that they return the same courtesy.
Such demonization of those who are critical of Mormonism is commonplace. And while McGregor detests anyone who might question the claim Mormons make for being “Christian,” he has no problem questioning the faith of those he deems “anti-Mormons.” Mormons are certainly not innocent when it comes to questioning the “Christianity” of others. Brigham Young said, “Should you ask why we differ from other Christians, as they are called, it is simply because they are not Christians as the New Testament defines Christianity” Every time Mormons point to an alleged “complete apostasy” or that the LDS Church is the “only true church,” they insult every Christian who holds the Bible dear.
Again, McGregor insists that it is perfectly acceptable to disagree with the doctrines, policies, and programs of the LDS Church, but those who do so are not allowed to “actively campaign against it.” Basically what McGregor is doing is imposing the same type of restrictions upon non-members that are used on members. In the LDS Church it is often stated that members are free to have personal opinions; however, such opinions, if in disagreement with the leaders, are best kept to themselves.
Plenty of examples can be cited to show that the Mormon Church does not take kindly to criticism, no matter how “constructive” it may be. As authors Richard and Joan Ostling note in their excellent book, Mormon America, “The LDS Church however, is unusual in penalizing members for merely criticizing officialdom or for publishing truthful – if uncomfortable—information.” Apparently Mormons like McGregor feel we can disagree, but we can’t explain why we disagree.
We see no reason to be muzzled by such definitions. As the Ostlings also note, “…there is always a high price to be paid when certain questions are not to be asked, when certain questioners are not to be welcomed, and when certain leaders are not to be questioned.”
Our guidelines for criticism come from scripture. We tried hard to treat the subject within 101 with as much respect as possible. We tried even harder to support every claim we made with references from LDS materials. Despite the scurrilous accusations from FAIR, many who reviewed101 on Amazon.com apparently felt we succeeded in our goal. For example:
“The authors, to their credit, use fairly recent sources most of the time, and they avoid much of the sensationalism that other LDS critics use all too frequently. And, again avoiding sensationalism, their description of what goes on in so-called secret temple ceremonies is reasonably accurate and respectful.”
“My dear Mormon friend read this book and found it accurate and non-condemning.”
“It is easy to tell which reviews have been written by Mormons—each one that condemns and belittles the book no doubt was written by a Mormon. I was a Mormon for many years and in the real LDS tradition, I can testify to you that this book is extremely accurate in its depiction of LDS doctrines.”
“As someone who was raised as a Mormon, I have been surprised at how little serious theology is done inside the Mormon Church. … Outside analysis has been strident, and frequently generated more heat than light over these issues, leaving the reader to wonder about the fairness of the analysis. Mormonism 101 avoids the combative tone and for the most part, gives accurate positions for Mormon theology. They expose many of the flaws and inconsistencies in Mormon doctrine. Recognize that their analysis is designed to show that Mormonism is not a Christian religion and to sell the reader on the alternative belief system, Christianity, and that the authors’ analysis showing that alternative Christian beliefs are somehow better may leave the skeptical reader cold. Those caveats notwithstanding, this is a good introduction to the problems that infest Mormon theological underpinnings.”
“I’ve read some of the reviews here that continually blast this work. It’s sad because most of these bad reviews are from Mormons who disagree with the authors for fear that the authors may be correct. The authors were extremely fair in presenting their well-documented evidence; unfortunately the evidence conflicts with Mormon beliefs, ergo reviews of cynicism followed. Those few Mormons who can read this book and not have the automatic reflex of dismissing it as “anti-Mormon” might actually glean some relevant information about the LDS Church. I’ve studied the LDS Church and each time I come across a work by non-LDS authors dealing with the LDS Church, the Mormons seemingly always display an “us verses them” mentality (the reviews here are case-in-point). This work provides great information and should be read by all interested in or a member of the LDS Church. Hopefully one day, books that speak fairly of the Mormon Church will not fall on the deaf ears of its members.”
“I felt that this book did a good job of contrasting Mormonism and Christianity. It did so without as much obvious antagonism to Mormons… A key strength of this book is the contrast between Mormon and Christian theology as well as the witnessing tips for sharing the gospel with Mormons. This is a key point that Christians should not miss.”
“McKeever and Johnson, to their credit, are not as obviously hateful and sensationalistic as some of their competition in the countercult (and particularly anti-Mormon) industry. The book is reasonably clear, and not overtly insulting.”
Now FAIR is certainly free to disagree with the above, but the point we are trying to make is that not everybody sees 101 from their perspective. It is one thing to make accusations, but quite another to prove it. We leave this up to the general public.
Scott Gordon, the president of FAIR, said that his organization does not condone arguing. “We’re not looking for personal attacks, rather well-researched articles that discuss the issues,” he said. One need only read the FAIR website and many of their rebuttals to 101 to see how disingenuous such a statement is.
Mormonism 201’s incessant use of pejorative language certainly does not go unnoticed. Such behavior is a trademark of apologetic groups like FAIR and FARMS. For instance, commenting on the latter, the Ostlings write. “The FARMS team is particularly shrill in its rhetoric, an odd pose for an organization that seeks to win intellectual respectability for the church. All too often Saints use the label ‘anti-Mormon’ as a tactic to forestall serious discussion.”
We don’t discount the fact that throughout the history of Mormonism, outsiders have sometimes been led to think that Mormons believe things they really don’t believe. We certainly can’t speak for all of these infractions, but we can say that we were very careful to make sure we did not use the phrase “Mormons believe” unless it was a very basic teaching of the LDS faith. We usually qualified a doctrinal statement by crediting the actual person who made the quote (i.e. “Joseph Smith said,” or “Brigham Young taught”). At times it was necessary to say, “Mormon leaders have taught.” We tried hard to refrain from stereotyping all Mormons.
In our preface we asked “what constitutes Mormonism?” Anticipating the above straw man argument, we wrote: “…when members are confronted with an embarrassing statement from one of their general authorities, it is not uncommon for them to quickly distance themselves from the quote, claiming it is the mere opinion of that individual. While this may certainly be true, the student of Mormonism still needs to carefully weigh what LDS leaders have said and are saying, since it gives us an idea of what kind of men they really are.”
This clarification has often gone unheeded by Mormons who continue to insist that we are implying every quote we use in 101 was an “official” pronouncement. They aren’t and we weren’t. However, having said that, we would hope that before our Mormon readers swallow FAIR’s neo-orthodoxy, they pay attention to a statement made from the pen of Mormon Apostle John Widtsoe:
“Though the prophet may step out of his official role in dealing with the daily affairs of life, he can never divest himself of the spirit and influence which belong to the sacred office which the Lord has placed on them…his unofficial expressions carry greater weight than the opinions of other men of equal or greater gifts and experience without the power of the prophetic office. It would be wisdom on all occasions and with respect to all subjects in any field of human activity, to hearken to the prophet’s voice” (Evidences and Reconciliations, p. 237. Also cited on page 22 of Teachings of the Living Prophets handbook published by the LDS Church, 1982).
The Genesis of Mormonism “201”
On April 11, 2001, Kevin Graham, a Mormon apologist, wrote us an e-mail that said the following:”Mormonism 202 on it’s (sic) way.” That was the extent of the message and our first contact with Mr. Graham, which certainly seemed odd at the time. What did this mean, Mormonism 202? It was obviously a response to Mormonism 101, but we were not sure if this was going to be handled by the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) or some other group.
Almost half a year later—three days after the tragedy of 9-11-01—we got another e-mail from Graham. With all that was going on in our country, we thought the timing was a bit strange, but he wrote in part, “Dear Mr. McKeever. My name is Kevin Graham, a devout Latter-day Saint who is in the process of putting together a response to your latest book called Mormonism 201 (sic). [This is a dangling modifier, making it appear that OUR latest book was called Mormonism 201. Notice also the change from “202” to the current “201.”] It has come to my attention from other Latter-day Saints who have conversed with you via email, that you are already aware of this project’s development.” It seems strange that Graham would make it appear that we might not know of his project since he had told us about it just several months earlier.
Mormonism 201 made a partial debut in 2002. Utilizing different Mormons and even a newly baptized Catholic, the organizers apparently gave each responder general freedom to rebut our different chapters. They originally posted just a few of these rebuttals, but sometime in mid-2002 the articles were placed on two different web sites— www.fair-lds.org (hereafter FAIR) andwww.anti-mormonism-revealed.com (hereafter REVEALED).
The next time we personally heard from Graham was on May 24, 2002 when Graham told us that he and Roger Cook (a philosophy professor from BYU) had listened to a May 2002 broadcast of the Christian Research Institute’s The Bible Answer Man Show when we were the guests on two consecutive shows. However, the May 2002 show was a repeat from an episode that originally aired in 2001. Graham wrote, “I actually listened to the first 20 minutes, only to realize that it was a recording. Otherwise, I would have called in. Roger Cook and I wanted to make a conference call appearance. Darn.”
It was about this time that we decided to provide rejoinders to these critiques. Some of our friends have questioned whether we ought to bother. After all, why should we answer FAIR, an organization that even many Mormons do not respect? Isn’t this tossing pearls before swine? And when will it ever stop? These are good concerns, and so we give three reasons why we decided to respond:
1) Although the Internet is not exactly the same as a book, it is considered to be a published response. In some ways, having a group of Mormons respond to our work is flattering. If we had received no response from anyone in the wide LDS population, then we would have to wonder if our book had made any impact at all.
2) We predicted that many people would take our silence as if we had nothing to say at all. We feared that just tossing aside Mormonism 201 and continuing as if it never occurred would be misunderstood. Sure enough, Graham (and others) has publicly criticized us for not answering fast enough. (We’ll deal with this a little later.)
Meanwhile, we began to see pro-Mormonism 201 endorsements on the Internet. For instance, several Amazon.com reviews of our book that were posted in 2003 mentioned Mormonism 201, including one that somehow was allowed to give the site’s URL (a violation of Amazon.com rules). Another review merely quoted one of the Mormonism 201 rebuttals word for word, making it appear to us that the Amazon reviewer had probably never read our book.
3) Although we were able to predict many possible responses to Mormonism 101, we were not able to predict them all. With the exception of David Waltz, all of the writers of these rebuttals are Mormons from different places and backgrounds who make up a fairly good representation of an “unofficial” response. As far as we understand, not one of these responders claims to speak on behalf of the Mormon Church. (We ought to point out that not one of the responders was a general authority, something that we would have welcomed even more—for obvious reasons.) The REVEALED site includes up to two or three rebuttals from different individuals on a particular chapter, each of which averaged between 10-40 printed Internet pages. We are therefore taking these rebuttals as the “best shots” aimed at our work.
Based on these reasons, we decided to put together our rejoinder of Mormonism 201.
Responding to “Mormonism 201”
Although Kevin Graham and others associated with this project have accused us of having motivations of greed and hatred, let us remind the reader what we wrote on page 12 of our book:”Finally, it is unfortunate that some Latter-day Saints may assume that we were motivated to write this book out of hatred or bigotry. Be assured that we are moved with the same compassion felt by the LDS missionaries and lay members who attempt to defend what they believe to be true.” The fact that folks like Graham choose to ignore this is their problem, not ours.
We have been criticized because we have received royalties for this book. For example, listen to what Steven Danderson of Saint Leo University wrote on the FAIR site: “Aren’t YOU supposed to be the PROFESSIONALS and the EXPERTS on the subject of Mormonism? After all it is YOU who wrote Mormonism 101, and are getting paid for it. We are admittedly amteurs (sic), writing and researching on religion in our spare time. I have not received any money for my efforts; to my knowledge, neither has anyone else at FAIR.”
In a post sent to us on June 6, 2002, Graham wrote, “Evil will always be around, and your financial clout with CRI will guarantee that the Evangelical gullible will always have something new to blow their money on.” The next day, Graham accused us of plagiarism (an issue that will be dealt with in our rejoinder of chapter 14) before adding, “Why (CRI’s) Hank (Hangegraff) advises people to add this book to their bookshelf, when any faithful anti-Mormon will already have the Tanner’s books alongside them, is a mystery to me. But we already know it couldn’t be because of money. No. Never.”
Consider the introduction listed on the FAIR site and the cheap shot taken at us: “The (Mormonism 201) undertaking was massive for the volunteer FAIR members, and it continues to be a work in progress. (Oh, how we have wished–more than once–for a paid, professional staff of apologists such as those associated with the Mormonism Research Ministry and dozens of other such groups that make their paychecks as professional anti-Mormons. Such is not the case, however.)”
The tone coming from Danderson and Graham is very clear. We feel such personal attacks—typical as they are—are not only uncalled for but also unmerited. Since our motives have been questioned, the reader ought to know that, at the time of this writing (July 2004), less than 20,000 copies of Mormonism 101 have been sold. Anyone who understands the publishing business can attest that we have not gotten rich off book sales, especially since royalty checks are split between us. Also, we wonder how our hearts or motives can be judged this way. We challenge Danderson, Graham, or others to prove that our motivation to write Mormonism 101 or to operate Mormonism Research Ministry is based on greed or other unbiblical principles!
Also, are we to assume that Mormons—including Mormonism 201 contributors such as Richard Hopkins and Michael Hickenbotham—who have also written books receive no royalties whatsoever for their books? Our office library is full of books written by Mormons. Are we really to assume that none of them received a royalty for their work? If so, Graham and company should stop playing the hypocrite and condemn them as well. If we were to insinuate that Mormons who write books do so only because they are greedy, no doubt people like Graham and Danderson would howl. We choose not to because 1) not being omniscient, we can’t know for sure what motivates any Mormon; 2) It isn’t any of our business. It speaks volumes knowing these men think this is a viable argument.
The ultimate double standard
After discussing the tactic of our rebuttal, we decided to ask some friends in different apologetic ministries if they would like to help us respond. We realized that our busy schedules and the many long rebuttals to our book would not be a quick and simple task. Having other responders would also show that what we had originally written is more than just our personal opinions. Therefore, we asked a number of other people from other Christian ministries, including our own Lane Thuet and John Divito, if they would like to help us in individual chapter rejoinders.
Imagine our surprise, then, when we received the following e-mail from Kevin Graham on June 5, 2002: “Hey, just curious. But what on earth could you guys be thinking by recruiting others to help defend YOUR book?? I’m left dumbfounded.”
After I responded to his e-mail and explained, among other things, that “having others’ input on this project will also show that M101 was not just our opinion,” Graham responded with this the next day: “Let us suppose, I was incapable of writing 201 alone, and I got on my knees and begged all Mormons from the four corners of the earth to unite with me in this endeavor. Even if this were the case, you still have no excuse for asking others to defend your book. This is the epitome of cowardice.”
In the next paragraph he wrote: “Last year I was actually planning on writing 201 alone. I informed several posters on the FAIR email list about it and said it would be done in a few months. The next thing I know, one guy asked if he could help out. Then another. Then another. Before long, I was getting requests for chapter reviews out my ears, and that is why there are some chapters receiving multiple reviews.” A paragraph later, he continues: “So when these other guys jump on your bandwagon, it is because of YOUR request to them.”
Did Graham have requests to review our chapters coming “out of (his) ears”? There is no doubt that he gives the impression that he generally didn’t have to “recruit” until later in the process. And who knows? His story might be true. However, we know of at least one person who was recruited. David Waltz writes at the beginning of his review: “I guess word of my studies has ‘gotten around’, and I have been asked to contribute to F.A.I.R.’s review of McKeever and Johnson’s (hereafter M&J) Mormonism 101.”
An e-mail sent to me by Graham himself a year later contradicts his argument. This is what he wrote to me the next month (7/25/03): “In the beginning, I solicited this project out on the FAIR list and several people came to the call, wanting to take on a chapter or two. All the chapters were taken eventually and FAIR had its list of responses already set in stone. But then later more and more people came to me wanting to participate. Names like Richard Hopkins and Roger Cook were too good to pass up so I went ahead and accepted their contributions” So which is it?
Graham says it is the “epitome of cowardice” to ask other people to respond to the chapter rebuttals. Of course, he makes it look like we attempted to dump the whole project on other people, something that simply is not true. In fact, when our rejoinders are complete, we will not only have personally written approximately a quarter of all the responses, but we will also have edited each and every article. In fact, let us state here that this project is fully our responsibility because we personally approved everything you read in all of the articles and not just the ones with our names on them.
But what about Graham’s double standard? Is he allowed to ask others to write for his project and we’re not? Whether he asked just one individual or every single one of his responders doesn’t matter. The point is that, at the very least, he asked David Waltz to write for his project. We’re also wondering who wrote the rules when it comes to how a rejoinder can be organized. Where does it say that all rejoinders must specifically be written by the person(s) who is critiqued? Isn’t the substance of the rejoinder more important than who wrote it? And just because we asked others to help us with a massive project like this does not mean we did not have the answers to their critiques. Why should asking others to participate discredit us or our rejoinder to Mormonism 201?
At this point, we want to acknowledge that Mormonism 201 is housed on two separate web sites run by different people. We wondered why this was the case since doing so only invited confusion. For instance, why did the FAIR site not contain all of the articles published at REVEALED? Why did the REVEALED site have two or even three reviews per chapter while the FAIR site contained only one for each chapter of our book? Why did the third chapter on the Trinity reside on the FAIR site but remained inactivate on the REVEALED site? Why were the articles on FAIR better edited?
Eric posed these questions to Kevin Graham on 7/25/03, and this is how he responded the next day:
“When I first started the project, it was going to be something of my own, and then I would donate it to FAIR. FAIR initially said that it should be on either their site or mine, not both. But we agreed that since I had already put so much time into developing a website for it, that I could just retain a copy of the project on my site as well…
“The process of submitting an article for editing took years it seems and it got boring after awhile. I suppose FAIR thought one review per chapter was enough. Not really sure. We didn’t really discuss it and it wasn’t a big issue. We were both finally elated to have at least one per chapter. But I do know that my site does contain a few ‘rough drafts’ that had not been edited by the FAIR editors. I’ve also noticed a couple typos and such. For example, I think Roger Cook’s paper is still missing some footnotes. Rene’s Trinity essay is missing from my site because I had some disagreements with some of the things he said, and I asked him to rewrite some of it. I think he may have sent me a final draft sometime last year but I was too busy to get to it and post it. I didn’t realize it was still missing until you just pointed it out.
“We were on fire with this thing for more than a year but then we got bored with it, and it seemed evident that you guys weren’t going to respond to it or read it anyway, so I thing (sic) we all dropped the ball before any final polishing took place….Anyway, that sums up the confusion. The FAIR website has the official version of M201. It is edited better but my site has a more exhaustive version. If you guys are actually planning to respond, then I will get on it again and make sure both have identical versions – to make it easier for you. I’d probably change a few things in my chapters too – tone down the rhetoric and such.”
I wrote Graham back:
“Kevin, regardless of what you may think, MRM’s resources are limited. Quite frankly, your Mormonism 201 project has not been at the top of our agenda list. You even admit that, for you and your volunteers, the project lost its luster, so to speak, and you therefore haven’t paid much attention to it. And now you agree that there were some things that needed to be cleaned up. You apparently were not even aware that your Trinity chapter has not been active on your site for more than a year. If you wanted to clean your site, this should have been done more than a year ago when you first discovered that we were ‘recruiting’ writers to respond. We’re currently on the final stages of our response, and at least some of our responders have undoubtedly worked off your particular site because we provided them with both Internet addresses. But now that you tell me the FAIR site ought to be considered the ‘official site,’ I will make sure any future reviews that have not yet been written will work from it.
“With this being said, I just don’t understand the following comment you make, that it ‘seemed evident that you guys weren’t going to respond to it or read it anyway, so I thing we all dropped the ball before any final polishing took place.’ Just what gave you this idea? It couldn’t be anything we ever said. Perhaps it was a ‘feeling’ you had, just another reason why ‘feelings’ cannot be completely trusted! Based on your knowledge that you had and the critique you wrote about how you thought it was cowardly to ask others to help in a project this size, you should have known that we were going to respond in some form. Maybe our response hasn’t been as quick as you would have liked, but just because we did not move according to your timetable does not mean that our rejoinders were forgotten.”
What our rejoinder is not
Since mid-2002, Graham and others have actively pointed out that we had not yet responded toMormonism 201. There are two reasons. One, doing this just wasn’t high on our priority list. In fact, we did not respond to Mr. Pyle’s rebuttal of Questions to Ask Your Mormon Friend until more than two years after his rebuttal was originally published. He too made a big deal about our apparent silence. With limited staff and numerous projects on the backburner, priorities must be made. While rejoinders from our friends eventually began to come in, it was not until the summer of 2003 when Eric dedicated much of his summer vacation to editing the rejoinders.
And second, these things take time. Graham ought to realize this. Consider the timeline:
May 2000: Mormonism 101 is published by Baker
April 2001: “Mormonism 202” is announced by Graham in an e-mail
Summer 2001: Several Mormonism 201 articles are put on an Internet site (www.geocities.com/aselahx/feature.html
Late Spring 2002: Mormonism 201 is published on the Internet
Please notice several things. It took a year from the time Graham “announced” his project to us until the time when the project was completed. We have no idea when he first began to think about responding to our book. For all we know, he could have thought about Mormonism 201since the summer of 2000, merely announcing it to us the following spring. We really don’t have the details, as only Graham knows them for sure. Also, Graham only wrote four of the several dozen rebuttals. The percentage of rejoinders that we have written is much greater and has therefore taken us more time to do the research.
We believe it is unfair for Graham to mock us because he apparently expected a quicker response. It’s interesting to hear of the tales being told on the Internet. For instance, we were sent this e-mail from a neutral party that apparently was written based on information from an e-mail sent to Kevin Graham asking about Waltz’ Catholic beliefs: “The mrm.org boys have had three years to respond to the counter-arguments as found in M201, and all he [Eric] can do is worry about researching the background of a Catholic who participated in it.”
When Eric tried to correct Graham that it had not been three years since his site had been published, he astonishingly wrote this e-mail on 7/26/03 regarding our silence on Mormonism 201:”It had everything to do with yrou (sic) nonchalant attitude towards it and the (sic) fact that three years have passed since the first article appeared and it has been almost two years now now (sic) that it was completed.” He apparently arrived at the “three years” by counting from the time he claims his project began, not when it ended. He wrote, “I didn’t say since its ‘completion’ now did I? I remember emailing the two of you when the project as in its preliminary stages in April of 2000.”
Amazingly enough, our book did not hit the bookstores until May 2000. Even we never saw a copy of the book until this time! In other words, Graham was claiming that he began his work three years ago, “in April of 2000,” when our book was not even available. I again pointed out Graham’s error, and that same day he admitted his mistake. “I WAS WRONG,” he wrote, “and I apologize for my bad math. M201 seemed to be so much a thing of the past that I let an entire year slip in somehow. I remember April so it must have been April of 2001. That means it was a little more than 2 years instead of three.”
We appreciate Graham’s admittance of the error, but we still disagree that his project should be considered as complete in 2001 since there were only a few articles posted on the site at that time. Instead, the majority of Mormonism 201 was posted in mid-2002. Because we have posted the majority of our rejoinders in the summer of 2004, we believe that we have responded in due and reasonable time.
As far as our friends who have helped us with this massive project— you can read about each of the 10 authors in short biographies listed at the bottom of every article——we have given our responders freedom to write using whatever style that they wished. Each author has his own technique that is usually much different than ours, which we think is a great strength of this project. There are some occasions when our friends disagreed with us. Although we did edit the writing for spelling/ grammar/ style/ clarification, we have retained each and every criticism and have not deleted any of these. Finally, you should know that the authors were able to make any final adjustments before we published it on the Internet.
With that being said, we want to conclude this introduction chapter by listing what our rejoinders are NOT:
1) This set of rejoinders is not the second in a tag series where we anticipate another round of back-and-forth debates. As far as we are concerned, we do not owe anything more to FAIR, Kevin Graham, or anyone else associated with the Mormonism 201 project. (In fact, even this set of rejoinders is not “owed”; rather, it was our prerogative.)
If anyone insists that we should be required to respond to anything else in the future, it too is our prerogative and should not be considered as necessary in order to maintain the integrity of our book. While we are not saying that what we write ought to be considered the “final word,” what we are saying is that our opponents should not take silence in future “rounds” as a sign of victory and conduct unfair campaigns upon our integrity.
2) Our rejoinders do not need to answer every single point that the FAIR reviewers made. To place such a requirement on us is not fair since the FAIR responders did not answer every single point made in Mormonism 101. Rebuttals and rejoinders were never meant to answer each and every point, though a follow-up can certainly point out areas of silence in the response that are not covered.
We also want to acknowledge that we do not feel responsible to answer every single article on both sites since there are sometimes two or three rebuttals on a particular Mormonism 101chapter. Since we have been told by the author of REVEALED to consider the FAIR website as the more official of the two sites posting Mormonism 201, we will answer each and every article on it. We will answer additional articles on REVEALED only when we feel the argumentation is much different, including when different aspects of our chapter are emphasized. Please note that we will make our first comments with the FAIR chapter, and if we decide to cover additional REVEALED chapters, it may be in abbreviated form. The reader ought to read the chapter’s other rejoinder to get a fuller picture of our response.
3) Our rejoinders will not include the logical fallacy of ad hominem, that is, attacks against the man. While we and our fellow responders will be quite critical of what is written in Mormonism 201, we have made special effort to conduct ourselves in a professional tone and show necessary respect to each individual who wrote a particular rebuttal. While we should be allowed to disagree with ideas, ad hominem techniques such as name-calling or bashing personalities should never be utilized. We would agree with one of the contributors to Mormonism 201, Richard Hopkins, who wrote this in an introduction to his book Biblical Mormonism: “This book was written to refute such error, but not in a spirit of enmity. No offense to any Evangelical believer or scholar is intended by anything said in this work, nor should any Mormon give such offense. Every individual’s interpretation of the Bible should be respected (though not necessarily accepted), and, while Mormons know that they subscribe to the most accurate interpretation, they should always be agreeable when disagreeing. Discussions should be conducted pleasantly and with the Spirit of the Lord (even when that Spirit is not displayed by the other party to the discussion).”
4) Like our book, the rejoinders are intended for a layperson audience. Endnotes were used quite often by our reviewers, though some just used notes within the text. We also would like to note that, when we take words straight from the Mormonism 201 sites, we will boldface and italicize to distinguish these direct quotes from our words or other resources, which will generally be italicized.
As we close this first article, we would like to give a special thank you to those who have written the individual rejoinders. Obviously we could not have finished this project without them. In addition, our wives and families have been most understanding, especially late in this project when we dedicated ourselves to preparing the articles for Internet publication. As we said at the end of the preface in Mormonism 101, “To God be the glory.”
For other rejoinders to the rebuttals of Mormonism 201, click here.
“The Gospel Teacher and His Message,” in Charge to Religious Educators, pp.51-52; also cited inTeachings of the Living Prophets student manual, p.25).
Journal of Discourses 10:230
The Power and the Promise: Mormon America, Harper San Francisco, 1999, p.354
1 Peter 3:15
“Leaders of Fair organization seek BYU involvement,” 1/18/2001, http://www.newsnet.byu.edu/story.cfm/12952
The Power and the Promise: Mormon America, Harper San Francisco, 1999, p.376
Accessed on June 6, 2002
E-mail sent 7/26/03
E-mail received 7/25/03
E-mail received 7/26/03
Biblical Mormonism: Responding to Evangelical Criticism of LDS Theology (Horizon Publishers, 1994), p. 14.