BACKGROUND: On January 01, 2004 I e-mailed Stan Barker, nominal head of SHIELDS, to inform him of a broken link to my web page on the Priesthood/Relief Society manuals and to wish him a Happy New Year. That e-mail prompted three e-mail exchanges, excerpted below. Spelling and grammar have been preserved as received. Comments and clarifications by me are in bold and within [brackets]. His words are in blockquoted (double-indented) format, whereas my words are not indented.
"I must say, and I don't know how to say it without offending, but your comment [. . . would he kindly point out where in the manual we can find Brigham Young's teachings on the Adam-God doctrine, blood atonement, and polygamy?] seems silly on the face of it. That is no argument. Why would we need to find BY's teachings on those issues?"
You'd need to find them in order to "deepen the doctrinal understanding of Church members and to awaken within them a greater desire to know the things of God," as stated on page v of the manual.
"No manual in the history of the Church has everything in them ever taught by a prophet. Instead of a manual, we would have a multi-volume set and then expect a teacher to cover it? How ludicrous, how silly."
You're right, your argument is indeed ludicrous and silly. The manual states on page v that Brigham Young's "words are still fresh and appropriate for us today[.]" Nowhere does it give any caveats, qualifications, or disclaimers for that statement. So there's no need for a multi-volume set in order to give a representative cross-section of Brigham's so-called "fresh and appropriate" teachings.
"You are trying to strain at a gnat or pick at a nit and you come up empty handed. No rational Mormon is going to fall for such nonsense. But, if it makes you feel good to tout such things, then continue on to your own condemnation."
"Condemnation?" My goodness! Such harsh words for someone who only wanted to inform you of a broken link and wish you a Happy New Year! Perhaps a lesson on good manners is in order.
"Material, as Gary pointed out, is available for one and all, and IF, as you claim, people are discouraged from pursuing the references to such material, so what?"
You don't see a problem with people being discouraged from pursuing references that are available to all? In other words, being discouraged from pursuing knowledge? Wow.
"Some people are capable of not worrying about it and focusing on what is important."
Which is precisely why your particular religious sect--and others like it--will continue to thrive for generations to come.
"BTW, we have all been down this path before. You might want to take a look at the silly correspondence with Concerned Christians, on the SHIELDS web site."
I am not a Christian. Is there anything there that would apply to me?
"Now, I mention, this only for the record. But I have no desire to enter into time-wasting controversy with you over this matter."
Neither do I. Yet since you seemed unaware of my response to Mr. Novak, perhaps you and the "Skinny" and "LDS Apologetics" list--to which you CC'd your response--are also unaware that I responded to Russ McGregor's Mark Hofmann apologetic on FAIR at http://www.mormoninformation.com/response.htm and to John Tvedtnes' FRoB review of my FARMS website at http://www.mormoninformation.com/tvedtnes.htm.
"The record stands for itself."
Truer words were never spoken, my friend.
Take care and WWJD,
"Simply expressing your personal opinion on this issue does not make it a fact."
A lesson you would do well to integrate.
"How many people do you think join the Church that has, for example, never heard that Pres. Young taught polygamy?"
I served my mission in Asia, and none of my investigators had heard that Pres. Young taught polygamy.
[Regarding my statement that his argument is ludicrous and silly] "Trying to play words games, eh? Frankly that retort sounds like a high school kid, who replies to an argument, 'yo mama!'"
You obviously missed the point. It is, quite literally, ludicrous and silly to assume that my concern is that your particular religious sect didn't publish a multi-volume set.
"Again, go back to my point. If you can't understand it, then there is no point in going any further with this because you never will."
I understand it perfectly. But that's not my point. Whitewash Brigham, sanitize him, use creative ellipses and brackets, etc. to your heart's delight, but just don't go around discouraging the flock from learning about the real Brigham.
"What is the purpose of a Sunday School manual, where you have less than 45 minutes a week to teach principles of the Gospel.... One wonders if you really ever sat in a Gospel Doctrine class, and moreover if you have ever been faced with actually teaching a class of that sort."
[Regarding my assertion that "there's no need for a multi-volume set in order to give a representative cross-section of Brigham's so-called 'fresh and appropriate' teachings"] "Oh please.... this is ridiculous."
So you're saying it is necessary to have a multi-volume set in order to give a representative cross-section of Brigham's teachings?
"If you fight against the Church of God, what do you think the outcome will be?"
I have never, nor am I now, fighting against "the Church of God." (Psst. . . Utah's dominant sect of Brighamite Mormonism isn't "the Church of God.")
"And speaking of good manners, please don't try to come off holy with me. I have known of you and your arguments for a long time."
What, are you implying that my arguments are devoid of good manners? Coming from a mopologist, that's quite funny!
"I also read your response to Gary. You are acting exactly as I have depicted you in my response."
How did you depict me in your response?
"Should I be rude and not warn you of the potentional consequences of your actions?"
I'm extremely familiar with Mo-speak, so you need not waste your time. I've heard it all before.
"You don't even seem to perceive that you are being rude, but I guess it is all a matter of perspective."
I think it is far ruder to "beg the question" by calling down fire and brimstone, but that's just me.
"I'm sorry if you are offended."
Offended? Hardly. I've dealt with mopologists for some time; this is very routine.
"Secondly, you inserted the word 'discouraged.' That was your choice of words. If the situation were really as you assert it to be, there wouldn't even be references in the manual... Hmmm, seems to me that Gary pointed that out. You miss the point."
Okay, so what is your theory for why the manual takes pains to inform readers that "it is not necessary or recommended that members purchase additional commentaries or reference texts to support the material in the text?" "Not necessary" I can understand, but "not recommended?"
"Heavens, I am very familiar with all of these mighty issues you are touting as so important, . . . Yet, the more I know about these things, the stronger my understanding and testimony becomes."
Sort of like the Stockholm Syndrome?
"What do you know of the private teachings that Christ gave his Apostles during his 40-day ministry after his death?"
They didn't actually take place, since Christ (if he actually existed) died on the cross.
"And why don't you know about them? Or why is your knowledge of those things so limited?"
Because they didn't take place.
"P.S. If you decide to write back, let's not continue this, we aren't getting anywhere, but I would like to know what WWJD is. I haven't seen that one previously."
If you really don't want to continue this, then don't respond to this e-mail. And WWJD=What Would Jesus Do. You believe in him, so I believe it applies to you.
"The vast majority of the world knows [That Brigham Young taught polygamy]. I served my mission in England. Everyone knew. In fact, I am 58 years old and I've never talked to a person in my life who has heard of the Church that did not know... so, as I say, you are straining at a gnat."
Okay, that's your ancedote. It isn't mine. Besides, even if--for the sake of the argument--"the vast majority of the world knows," how much of that same "vast majority" knows about Blood Atonement or the Adam-God doctrine?
"Nobody is whitewashing or santizing. . . You are not addressing the point. I've said enough on the point for anyone to understand."
I've done nothing but address the point. Again, it is this: Sure, your manual doesn't have to be a representative cross-section of Brigham's teachings. But it's hardly the hallmark of a religious sect whose motto is "the glory of God is intelligence" to advise its members to avoid digging deeper into the real Brigham.
"If you don't or simply disagree, that is your option, but I think it is obvious. You are simply trying to create an argumentative situation for your own diabolical purposes."
"Diabolical purposes?" My my, aren't we being a little too melodramatic? But, out of curiousity, is it possible, in your mind, for someone to disagree with one or more aspects of your particular religious sect without being diabolical?
[Regarding my question, "So you're saying it is necessary to have a multi-volume set in order to give a representative cross-section of Brigham's teachings?"] "No, that isn't what I said. Must I speak to you on the level of a child who cannot follow an argument? Let me put it as plain and simply as I know how. To include all of BY's teachings (and not get dinged for elipses) one would need to have a multi-volume set of books (unreasonable for a 45-minute SS class - a point I'm sure you get, but just don't want to acceed to), you know, kind of like the number of discourses in the multi-vollume Journal of Discourses (and even they did not include all of his discourses)..."
That's a point I never argued against. Must I speak to you on the level of a child who cannot follow an argument? Let me put it as plain and simply as I know how. If Brigham's words are indeed "fresh and appropriate," then a cross-section of his teachings are in order. If, on the other hand, his teachings aren't fresh and appropriate, then don't go around claiming them to be so. Selectively cull only the still-politically correct teachings all you want, but don't discourage the flock from seeking further light and knowledge.
[Regarding my statement "Utah's dominant sect of Brighamite Mormonism isn't 'the Church of God'"] "IYUHO, but not in mine. And what would you know? You are an apostate who isn't even a Christian. What places you in such an exalted position to say who is right and who is wrong? Did God reveal it to you?"
Well, you were the one who "begged the question" by calling down fire and brimstone under the assumption that your particular religious sect was true, even though that's precisely the question under discussion. Since you initiated the sequence of assuming that your opinions are gospel truth, I figured the same standard applied to me and I could start assuming that my opinions are gospel truth. I'm just playing by your rules, my beloved brother. Or is there a double-standard at work here?
[Regarding my statement "Coming from a mopologist, that's quite funny"] "From a what? I see, you are one of those who likes to join in the little gang of neer-do-wells and call people names ad hominem. If I am going to call you a name, it will apply to you directly. But what ever... clearly you don't have any bad manners! Hah!"
"Mopologist" = "Mormon Apologist." A defender of Mormonism. An abbreviation, if you will. Now how is that an ad hominem?
[Regarding my statement "I've heard it all before"] "Then why did you write back to me... are you one of these that just absolutely has to have the last word?"
No, not at all. I wrote back to you in response to your question "Should I be rude and not warn you of the potential consequences of your actions?" My answer is no, you need not worry about warning me about the potential consequences of my actions, because I know all of the Mormon theories of such.
[Regarding my statement "I've dealt with mopologists for some time; this is very routine"] "And I've dealt with dopes for a long time, and found your responses to be very routine also.... I guess you could say you are one of the dopes that goes over and whines about Mormonism with all the groupies? How silly."
"Dopes?" I see, you are one of those who likes to join in the little gang of ne'er-do-wells and call people names ad hominem.
"It seems clear on the face of it. The purpose of the manual is to teach principles of the Gospel that apply to their everyday lives that will help us to become more godlike. That is the purpose of virtually every LDS SS manual, and always has been. It is not a theological school. Never has been."
For the umpteenth time, I'm aware of that. But like I said, what's the point of discouraging members from digging deeper? Where there's smoke, there's fire, methinks.
"But, lest you fear, there are plenty of us that don't even need to run out to buy the stuff. We already have it and have had for a very long time. I have had my set of the JoD for about 35 years. And that is just the smallest of the tip of the iceburg. I have nearly a complete set of Improvement Eras (which if you were to look at you would find hundreds of articles marked, per volume, for future inclusion on SHIELDS. I have about 30+ volumes of the Millennial Star, all volumes of the Messenger and Advocate, all volumes of the Contributor, the Times and Seasons, Evening and Morning Star, Elders Record, and the list just goes on and on. And I have researched in virtually all volumes. I have seen not one thing that disturbs me."
Is that because you've mastered the fine arts of rationalization and mental gymnastics?
[Regarding my question "Sort of like the Stockholm Syndrome?"] "No, you certainly are never rude or insulting, are you? Assume that worst.... Of course that reveals a great deal about your personal shallow perspectives on things."
Why the temper tantrum? I merely asked an innocent question.
"[Regarding my statement "Christ (if he actually existed) died on the cross"] (sigh) Well, you asserted; it MUST BE TRUE!!!!!"
No, I was just playing by your rules of asserting an opinion as though it were gospel truth. Again, why have you become so angry?
"I have to wonder what is struck in your craw that causes you to go after a religion, any religion, if in the end, it just really doesn't matter?"
Who says I'm "going after" any religion? I'm simply sharing information about it.
"Have you nothing better to do?"
I have lots of better things to do. The website takes up very, very little of my time.
"Is your mind incapable of reaching any higher plateaus in life?"
"In fact, to someone outside of you, your whole point of existence seems so terribly pointless and unimportant."
Tut tut, my good man! You only know me over the course of three e-mails, and yet you somehow feel qualified to pass judgment on the whole point of my existence? My, my! Just wondering, but does your sense of propriety need a tune-up?
"Is this a make you feelgood situation? Ah well, whatever the cause, it is a burden you must carry, like it or not."
Egads! One website--what a heavy burden!
"Even if they didn't, as you claim, your response misses the point of the argument, doesn't it. That is a cheap way of not having to deal with a parallel situation."
It's not a parallel situation, not by any stretch of the imagination. Even assuming Christ resurrected, etc., we don't have his teachings during that 40-day period. However, we do have many of Brigham's teachings, certainly enough to provide a representative cross-section of them, and certainly enough to get to know the real Brigham provided we aren't discouraged from doing so.
"Why would you use it ["WWJD"] if you don't believe in him?"
Because you, sir, DO believe in him. Simple, n'est-ce pas?
"You can have the last word. We have both wasted a lot of time."
Thank you for the last word. But I disagree that it has been a waste of time; I've finally gotten to know the great Stan Barker for myself.
"P.S. I"m not going back to proof-read to make sure I said or typed everything correctly. It seems pointless."
Good thinking. There were many things you said or typed incorrectly.