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The Strange Saga of the BYU Correspondence
(aka, Nastigrams 'R Us)

 


by James White

If I hadn't received these notes myself, I'd question their validity.  But, since these very same notes have been posted on the SHIELDS web page (http://shields-research.org/Critics/A-O_01.html), you can verify for yourself that these are indeed the writings of leading LDS scholars Daniel Peterson and Louis Midgely.

Here's the background:  My son and I spent four hours on KTKK radio in Salt Lake City on the Sunday night of General Conference on April 5th, 1998.  From 5PM to 7PM Van Hale hosted his program, Religion on the Line, and then Richard Hopkins came on and we continued as guests until 9PM, taking calls all the way through.  It was a profitable time.  Toward the end of Van Hale's show, a caller, who identified himself only as "Bill," called in and we began talking about Deuteronomy 32:8.  It was a rather technical discussion, and was rather rushed due to time.

Upon returning home, I received the first in a series of posts from Dr. William Hamblin of Brigham Young University, a participating member of FARMS, an author, and, as he informed me, the "Bill" who called in at the end of the radio show.  As the resulting correspondence with Dr. Hamblin did not, originally, take on the strange, harsh tone of what follows, I have included it in a separate page (click here to view that correspondence).   But I very quickly discovered that if you write to a BYU professor, you are writing not only to all interested BYU professors, but really to the entire world, for what you write will end up on the SHIELDS web page.  I'm thankful for the opportunity to post there and help spread God's truth, but the resulting e-mail messages have been most interesting---and enlightening.

Below you will find the messages of two BYU professors, Dr. Daniel C. Peterson, and Dr. Louis Midgley.  Their attentions were not solicited by me.  They began writing to me as a result of Dr. Hamblin passing around my response to him.  Eventually, as you will see, I stopped even replying to them....which has not, to this date, stopped them from sending me their nastigrams.  Most of these messages arrived while I was ministering on Long Island, NY, and preparing for, or engaging in, a debate with Fr. Mitchell Pacwa on the Papacy (click here for information on that debate). Amazingly, while they are intent upon accusing me of angry words, insults, and the like, anyone reading their notes can see who is doing what.   I am more than happy to allow the reader to judge the motivations, and the words, of both sides.

The first message came from Louis Midgley:

Date: Tue, 14 Apr 1998 00:17:06 -0600
From: "Louis C. Midgley" <midgleyl@burgoyne.com>
To: orthopodeo@aomin.org
Subject: THE QUALITY OF ANTI-MORMON LITERATURE

Dear Jim:

I have been observing and enjoying the exchange you have been having
with Bill Hamblin. And since, in an essay I am about to publish on
anti-Mormonism, I will be quoting (with approval I should add) language
found on page 17 of your IS THE MORMON MY BROTHER? in which you grant
that Latter-day Saints have "have little difficulty demonstrating
inconsistencies and half-truths" in anti-Mormon literature. There are
something like twenty or more lines on that page in which you set the
rhetorical stage for your book, which will, you imply, not be guilty of
the kinds of problems you attribute to those "many who would provide the
strongest denunciations of LDS theology and practice" but who fail to
take seriously what Latter-day Saints write in defense of the Church of
Jesus Christ.

Given the language found on page 17 of your book, I wonder if you
consider any anti-Mormon literature to be of a quality similar to or
approaching your own. And by that I mean is there any other anti-Mormon
literature, other than your own, of course, in which, from your
perspective, the authors have mastered and evaluated the arguments of
those you label "Mormon apologists" or "modern LDS apologists and
scholars"? And if so, which authors could you list as having more or
less been willing to take seriously what Latter-day Saints have been
saying in response to anti-Mormonism?

I trust that you will not be offended but perhaps please to learn that I
take your comments of page 17 or your recent book as an effort on your
part to indicate you (and your book) belong in a category apart from the
run-of-the-mill anti-Mormon book or pamphlet. And your observations, at
least from my perspective, seem to have been intended to indicate that
the reader of your book could expect to find one who has paid the price
and who is therefore both willing but also anxious to have a serious
conversation with Latter-day scholars, where other anti-Mormons have not
done what is necessary to engage in such a conversation.

I am anxious to know if there is an anti-Mormon literature that comes up
to your standards. Would you recommend, as companions to your own work,
say the writings of Walter Martin? If not, who might be in your league?
Or who might come close to your standard? Or should I read what you have
written on page 17 of your book as an attempt to distinguish your
writings in crucial ways from all previous anti-Mormon literature? If
not, then I would assume that you will be anxious to indicate who among
the current stable of anti-Mormons is not guilty of the complaints you
direct against your anti-Mormon associates in your recent book.

I thank you in advance for your efforts to address openly and honestly
the questions I have raised.

Grace and peace,

Louis Midgley


At this time, I was not aware of the SHIELDS page, nor a little inter-BYU list called "skinny-l," so I wondered how Midgley got hold of the Hamblin correspondence.   I replied:

>I have been observing and enjoying the exchange you have been having
>with Bill Hamblin.

May I ask how you have done this? I'm getting notes from people all over the place, so I assume they are being posted publicly. Where might this be?

>And since, in an essay I am about to publish on
>anti-Mormonism, I will be quoting (with approval I should add) language
>found on page 17 of your IS THE MORMON MY BROTHER? in which you grant
>that Latter-day Saints have "have little difficulty demonstrating
>inconsistencies and half-truths" in anti-Mormon literature. There are
>something like twenty or more lines on that page in which you set the
>rhetorical stage for your book, which will, you imply, not be guilty of
>the kinds of problems you attribute to those "many who would provide the
>strongest denunciations of LDS theology and practice" but who fail to
>take seriously what Latter-day Saints write in defense of the Church of
>Jesus Christ.

Actually, I do hope you do not hack up the quotation when you publish your article. This is what I have with me on my computer system (I am far from home at the moment, and don't even have a copy of that book with me):

There are many others, however, who have no doubts whatsoever about the LDS faith in general, and Mormons in particular. "It's a devil-inspired cult" they say, "and that's all there is to it." For many, Mormons are simply polygamous cultists, out to destroy the souls of anyone unwary enough to be caught in their clutches. Yet many who would provide the strongest denunciations of LDS theology and practice are the very ones who have done the least work in seriously studying LDS writings, and interacting with LDS viewpoints. Therefore, a large body of literature exists that is based not so much on fair, even-handed study of primary source documentation, but upon a very large dose of emotion and bias. Such literature normally emphasizes the sensational, seeking to arouse the emotions of the reader against the LDS faith. Modern LDS apologists and scholars like to focus upon such literature, often treating it as if it is the "norm" for all Christians, and have little difficulty demonstrating inconsistencies and half-truths, thereby dismissing all efforts at refuting LDS claims and evangelizing the LDS people. But for those who find in Mormonism the very embodiment of evil itself, there is little reason to even ask the question, "Is Mormonism Christian?" And there is even less reason to spend any time at all fairly evaluating the arguments of LDS scholars on the topic.

If *that* is what you are citing, what *I* intended, and the way you are using it, seem to be at odds. The sentence you cite in its original context states, "Modern LDS apologists and scholars like to focus upon such literature, often treating it as if it is the "norm" for all Christians, and have little difficulty demonstrating inconsistencies and half-truths, thereby dismissing all efforts at refuting LDS claims and evangelizing the LDS people." That is more of a criticism of Peterson and Ricks for _Offenders for a Word_ and other FARMS folks for their "reviews" in RBBoM than it is anything else.

>Given the language found on page 17 of your book, I wonder if you
>consider any anti-Mormon literature to be of a quality similar to or
>approaching your own.

Of course I do. I was referring primarily to non-specialized books and writers, not to those who focus on the field. You can look at the endnotes and if I cite the writer favorably, take your cue from that. I would include the Tanners, Bill McKeever, Wes Walters, etc., as excellent writers on the subject. And, I have publically criticized elements of Ed Decker's work, and William Schnoebelen (we include articles on our web page on the subject as well).

>And by that I mean is there any other anti-Mormon
>literature, other than your own, of course, in which, from your
>perspective, the authors have mastered and evaluated the arguments of
>those you label "Mormon apologists" or "modern LDS apologists and
>scholars"? And if so, which authors could you list as having more or
>less been willing to take seriously what Latter-day Saints have been
>saying in response to anti-Mormonism?
>
>I trust that you will not be offended but perhaps please to learn that I
>take your comments of page 17 or your recent book as an effort on your
>part to indicate you (and your book) belong in a category apart from the
>run-of-the-mill anti-Mormon book or pamphlet.

I don't know what a "run-of-the-mill anti-Mormon book" is, and I reject the label "anti-Mormon" to begin with. If you will identify yourself as an anti-Baptist, I'll let you call me an anti-Mormon. If not, please refrain from doing so.

James>>>


Well, that must have been my first tactical mistake....I mentioned Dan Peterson.   It wasn't long till this arrived:

 

From: Daniel Peterson <dcp6@email.byu.edu>
Subject: Newspeak
To: orthopodeo@aomin.org
Cc: Skinny-L <SKINNY-L@LISTS.TELEPORT.COM>
Reply-to: Daniel_Peterson@byu.edu
Organization: BYU

Dear Mr. White:


Prof. Midgley shared with me a copy of your e-mail to him. I shall
offer just a few observations:

a) I have never ever, ever, suggested, let alone explicitly said, that
Decker and Ankerberg and Weldon and people like that represent "the
'norm' for all Christians." How could I have done so? As you surely
should have noticed by now, I deny that evangelical Protestantism is
"the 'norm' for all Christians." So I am scarcely likely to grant that
status to the tiny but noisy faction of evangelical anti-Mormons. While
I am at it, though, I have never ever said that the Ankerbergs and the
Weldons and the Schnoebelens and the Deckers were representative, even,
of all critics of the Church of Jesus Christ. Please, if you are going
to read me, read me more carefully. And less inventively.

b) You criticize me and others at FARMS for allegedly concentrating on
the more zany anti-Mormons, while apparently neglecting such reputedly
respectable folk as the Tanners, Bill McKeever, and Wesley Walters. But,
of course, we have critiqued them, too, as you should be aware. (I
understand that we have not dealt with them to your satisfaction, as is,
I suppose, signaled by your use of quotation marks to refer generally to
our "reviews." But that does not alter the fact that we have responded
to them, as well as to your . . . "books.")

c) There is absolutely no reason for Dr. Midgley or any Latter-day
Saint I am aware of to describe himself as an "anti-Baptist." Not a
single one of us makes a living attacking other religions, in any
medium. We don't have professional disdainers of Baptists, Buddhists,
Muslims, Shintoists, or anybody else. "Anti-Mormons," however, are
legion, and the term is entirely appropriate to describe them. If,
though, they will find other jobs and give up their radio shows,
television programs, tabloid newspapers, pamphlet presses, lecture
series, book contracts, picket signs, and web sites assaulting my faith,
I will happily, as a quid pro quo, surrender the term "anti-Mormon."
They can go on preaching their own faith to their hearts' content, as we
do.


Daniel Peterson


Meanwhile, Louis Midgely was busy as well:

Date: Thu, 16 Apr 1998 01:04:09 -0600
From: "Louis C. Midgley" <midgleyl@burgoyne.com>
Organization: TE ARIKI.
X-Mailer: Mozilla 4.04 [en] (Win95; I)
To: James White <orthopodeo@aomin.org>
CC: skinny <skinny-l@lists.teleport.com>
Subject: "ALL OF BYU" AND OTHER ODD THINGS

Dear Brother Jim:

I have read all of IS THE MORMON MY BROTHER? But before I would
venture more than a preliminary opinion about it, I would have to read
it several more times. But, I must admit, even at the risk of offending
you, it bores me. For one thing, you seem to assume that the JD is
official Mormon doctrine. And you want to make Latter-day Saints
responsible for every opinion of anyone whose words you would like to
use against the Church of Jesus Christ. That is simply not fair. And you
should know it. Are you bound by every statement of every Protestant
preacher? Or every Baptist pastor? Or everyone who happens to teach in a
Bible school, or seminary? Of course, the answer is no. But if I played
your game, I would sort through whatever I could find to locate
something that I would declare you are bound to defend or that is part
of your faith, whether you know it or not. Now I suppose you would
respond to such a silly game by saying that you are bound only by the
Bible. But even there we have different interpretations. You may or may
not think that the Bible sort of interprets itself, with a little help
from the creeds, or you may have some other notion about biblical
interpretation. But you must have some sense that yours is but one of
many possible interpretations of the Bible. But, the fact is I am not
the least interested in your interpretation of the Bible, so please do
not inflict any of that on me, other than try to deal with the problems
you got yourself into with Professor Hamblin. I am not interested in
your interpretation of the Bible because I have my own. And I think that
mine is superior precisely because I do not try to make the Bible fit
the creeds. Nor am I especially interested in trying to make our
scriptures fit some notion held by some Latter-day Saint. The reason is
that I have some notion of what constitutes the canon. And I can sense
when a prophetic charism is present, as can Latter-day Saints most of
the time.

When is your book on the trinity coming out. I phoned Bethany and
whoever answered had no idea that you had a book coming out. They ask
around and looked at their literature and found nothing. Is this book,
which I cannot wait to read, forthcoming this year?

Grace and peace,

lcm


First, my reply to Dr. Peterson:

>Prof. Midgley shared with me a copy of your e-mail to him. I shall offer just a few >observations:

Shall I assume that anything, sent to anyone, at BYU, is sent to ALL BYU staff? :-) Given recent e-mail adventures, I think so.

  • >a) I have never ever, ever, suggested, let alone explicitly said, that
  • >Decker and Ankerberg and Weldon and people like that represent "the
  • >'norm' for all Christians." How could I have done so? As you surely
  • >should have noticed by now, I deny that evangelical Protestantism is
  • >"the 'norm' for all Christians." So I am scarcely likely to grant that
  • >status to the tiny but noisy faction of evangelical anti-Mormons. While
  • >I am at it, though, I have never ever said that the Ankerbergs and the
  • >Weldons and the Schnoebelens and the Deckers were representative, even,
  • >of all critics of the Church of Jesus Christ. Please, if you are going
  • >to read me, read me more carefully. And less inventively.
  • Since we are talking about *my* sentence, then *my* use is in question---and what *I* meant is defined by the sentence, Dr. Peterson: I spoke of Christians in that sentence as follows:

    Modern LDS apologists and scholars like to focus upon such literature, often treating it as if it is the "norm" for all Christians, and have little difficulty demonstrating inconsistencies and half-truths, thereby dismissing all efforts at refuting LDS claims and evangelizing the LDS people.

    I believe Christians will, if they are serious about their faith and about truth, engage in "refuting LDS claims and evangelizing the LDS people." That obviously isn't how you use the word---indeed, I have criticized the redefinition of the term in _Offenders_ as rendering the term utterly meaningless. And hence, as I used the term, I was referring to books such as your own, and works such as that by Richard Hopkins, that are guilty of lumping all evangelical works into a single pile, not discerning the important differences in approach, background, and belief, that they represent.

    As to a tiny group of "noisy" evangelical "anti-Mormons," I repeat what I said to Professor Midgely: if you will start calling yourself an anti-Baptist, I'll let you call me an anti-Mormon. If not, I'd suggest honesty would require you to discontinue the use of the term.

  • >b) You criticize me and others at FARMS for allegedly concentrating on
  • >the more zany anti-Mormons, while apparently neglecting such reputedly
  • >respectable folk as the Tanners, Bill McKeever, and Wesley Walters.
  • Really? Where did I do that? Midgely asked me for some folks whose writings I respect, and I listed a few. Please cite the specific place in my post where I said the above. And as one person put it, please try to read my writings a little more closely, and a little less inventively. :) What I wrote was, "That is more of a criticism of Peterson and Ricks for _Offenders for a Word_ and other FARMS folks for their "reviews" in RBBoM than it is anything else." I hadn't even gotten to mentioning the Tanners or others at this point, so how you managed to invert my statement and so completely miss the context, I really don't know.

  • > But,
  • >of course, we have critiqued them, too, as you should be aware. (I
  • >understand that we have not dealt with them to your satisfaction, as is,
  • >I suppose, signaled by your use of quotation marks to refer generally to
  • >our "reviews." But that does not alter the fact that we have responded
  • >to them, as well as to your . . . "books.")
  • I used the quotes around "reviews" to indicate that in reality, most of the books you respond to in RBBoM really don't have much to do with the BoM to begin with, and they are not really reviews, but rebuttals. I have not seen a response to ITMMB from FARMS, and if the fellow from AOL with the screen name LDSApolog is writing the review (as he indicated), I don't expect it will rise much higher than Norwood's attempt. At least to my knowledge that fellow hasn't tried calling (without identifying himself or his purposes) to inquire if his company can print the book in the future.

  • >c) There is absolutely no reason for Dr. Midgley or any Latter-day
  • >Saint I am aware of to describe himself as an "anti-Baptist." Not a
  • >single one of us makes a living attacking other religions, in any
  • >medium.
  • I see. So disagreement with, and refutation of the claims of, another religious group does not amount to being an "anti." Very good. Then, since I spend the vast majority of my time presenting the Christian faith in a positive light, and simply provide a refutation of the claims of those groups that pervert the gospel message, I would not, likewise, qualify as an "anti-Mormon." I'm glad that is worked out, though, Norwood said I came from the "anti-Mormon cookie cutter," so I guess he might not agree.

  • > We don't have professional disdainers of Baptists, Buddhists,
  • >Muslims, Shintoists, or anybody else.
  • The long-standing portrayal of the Protestant minister in the endowment ceremony notwithstanding, of course. That would not qualify as "professional."

  • >"Anti-Mormons," however, are
  • >legion, and the term is entirely appropriate to describe them. If,
  • >though, they will find other jobs and give up their radio shows,
  • >television programs, tabloid newspapers, pamphlet presses, lecture
  • >series, book contracts, picket signs, and web sites assaulting my faith,
  • >I will happily, as a quid pro quo, surrender the term "anti-Mormon."
  • >They can go on preaching their own faith to their hearts' content, as we
  • >do.
  • When you stop telling people that Joseph Smith was told that the Christian faith, embodied in the ancient creeds of the Christian Church, are an "abomination" and those of us who teach those divine truths are in fact "corrupt," possibly we can talk some more. But it strikes me, sir, that you are operating on a very strong double-standard. I have just as valid a reason to call you an anti-Baptist, or even more, an anti-Christian----since you deny the very doctrines that *define* the Christian faith. But I do not, simply so as to avoid undue emotional clouding of the issues. So why do you use the term anti-Mormon? When I write on other issues, such as Roman Catholicism, the same issue comes up: they like to use the term "anti-Catholics" but will never call themselves "anti-Protestants." The hypocrisy is glaring in both cases, is it not?

    Finally, Steve Mayfield told me that you have not read ITMMB. Hence, you have not read my documentation of the teaching of the physical parentage of the Son by the Father in the book. Since you are *specifically* cited from _Offenders_ in the book, as is Dr. Robinson, and refuted by a mountain of statements by the General Authorities, I *do* hope that a *serious* response might someday be forthcoming on that topic.

    James>>>


    Then, my reply to Midgley.  As the reader can see, I was quickly realizing that reasoning with the good Dr. Midgley was not going to go anywhere.  One of the reasons I knew this was that I had corresponded with him, briefly, by snail mail (the USPS) a few years earlier:

    > I have read all of IS THE MORMON MY BROTHER? But before I would
    >venture more than a preliminary opinion about it, I would have to read
    >it several more times. But, I must admit, even at the risk of offending
    >you, it bores me. For one thing, you seem to assume that the JD is
    >official Mormon doctrine. And you want to make Latter-day Saints
    >responsible for every opinion of anyone whose words you would like to
    >use against the Church of Jesus Christ. That is simply not fair.

    Yes, sir, you *do* need to read it again....many times. If you can make a statement like this, you didn't read it very well at all. I discussed the Journals in the book....how about someone up there responding to what I write, rather than your feelings? I'm truly amazed.

    > When is your book on the trinity coming out. I phoned Bethany and
    >whoever answered had no idea that you had a book coming out. They ask
    >around and looked at their literature and found nothing. Is this book,
    >which I cannot wait to read, forthcoming this year?

    It is scheduled for September/October. I have the cover art sitting right next to me here. I doubt any knowledgeable person at Bethany House would not be familiar with it.

    James>>>


    Dan Peterson replied voluminously, and very quickly:

    Date: Wed, 15 Apr 1998 21:49:58 -0700
    From: Daniel Peterson <dcp6@email.byu.edu>
    Subject: Re: Newspeak
    To: James White <orthopodeo@aomin.org>
    Cc: Skinny-L <SKINNY-L@LISTS.TELEPORT.COM>
    Reply-to: Daniel_Peterson@byu.edu
    Organization: BYU

    Mr. White:


    You write, "Shall I assume that anything, sent to anyone, at BYU, is
    sent to ALL BYU staff? :-) Given recent e-mail adventures, I think
    so."

    As so frequently, you think wrongly.

    You respond, "Since we are talking about *my* sentence, then *my* use is
    in question---and what *I* meant is defined by the sentence, Dr.
    Peterson."

    But your sentence is about me. And since we are talking about ME, it is
    my thinking that is in question. And what I mean is defined by me, Mr.
    White.

    You continue, "I spoke of Christians in that sentence as follows: Modern
    LDS apologists and scholars like to focus upon such literature, often
    treating it as if it is the "norm" for all Christians,
    and have little difficulty demonstrating inconsistencies and
    half-truths, thereby dismissing all efforts at refuting LDS claims
    and evangelizing the LDS people."

    You are wrong. I do NOT treat your amusing colleagues as "the 'norm'
    for all Christians." The only "norm" for all Christians that I
    recognize is the will and word of God -- something I do not confuse with
    the will and word of any anti-Mormon. I do NOT think that, by refuting
    Decker and his cronies, I have refuted all efforts at proving my beliefs
    incorrect. Where do you come up with such stuff?

    You continue, "I believe [conservative Protestant] Christians will, if
    they are serious about their faith and about truth, engage in 'refuting
    LDS claims and evangelizing
    the LDS people.' That obviously isn't how you use the word---indeed, I
    have criticized the redefinition of the term in
    _Offenders_ as rendering the term utterly meaningless."

    I assume, although you do not say so explicitly, that "the word" to
    which you refer is "Christian." If so, you clearly misunderstand the
    argument in Offenders for a Word. For, since that book gives an
    explicit meaning and a demonstrable historical semantic range for the
    term "Christian," it cannot plausibly be argued that the definition of
    the word there -- which is not by any reasonable stretch of the
    imagination a redefinition -- is, as you assert, "utterly meaningless."
    Your unfortunate failure to discern meaning in a quite clear definition
    is a curious and interesting phenomenon, but scarcely lethal to it.

    You further write, "And hence, as I used the term, I was referring to
    books such as your own, and works such as that by Richard Hopkins, that
    are guilty of lumping all evangelical works into a single pile, not
    discerning the important differences in approach, background, and
    belief, that they represent."

    The "differences in approach, background, and belief" in the works I was
    discussing were entirely irrelevant to the issue under consideration. I
    prefer to focus on the question I am dealing with, rather than running
    off on tangents. A consideration of the various kinds of anti-Mormon
    ideologies loose in our cities might well be interesting, but that was
    not the book I was writing.

    "As to a tiny group of 'noisy' evangelical 'anti-Mormons,' I repeat what
    I said to Professor Midgely: if you will start calling
    yourself an anti-Baptist, I'll let you call me an anti-Mormon. If not,
    I'd suggest honesty would require you to discontinue the
    use of the term."

    Yours is a strange use of the term "honesty," that would require me to
    describe myself as something I am not, or to mischaracterize the works
    of others. Are you meaning to accuse me of writing books against the
    Baptists? Of running an anti-Baptist ministry? Do I have a television
    show in which I denounce fundamentalist Protestantism, or a radio
    program devoted to criticizing the beliefs of the Baptists? Have I ever
    written a pamphlet against the Baptists, or picketed one of their
    meetings? Do I even care one tiny little bit what they are doing or
    what they think, as long as they are not attacking my religious
    beliefs? No. So why should I be considered anti-Baptist any more than
    I am anti-Confucianist? What in the world are you claiming?

    You quote me as follows, "You criticize me and others at FARMS for
    allegedly concentrating on the more zany anti-Mormons, while apparently
    neglecting such reputedly respectable folk as the Tanners, Bill
    McKeever, and Wesley Walters."

    This statement does not please you, and you respond: "Really? Where did
    I do that? Midgely asked me for some folks whose writings I respect, and
    I listed a few. Please cite the
    specific place in my post where I said the above. And as one person put
    it, please try to read my writings a little more closely,
    and a little less inventively. :) What I wrote was, 'That is more of a
    criticism of Peterson and Ricks for _Offenders for a
    Word_ and other FARMS folks for their 'reviews' in RBBoM than it is
    anything else.' I hadn't even gotten to mentioning the
    Tanners or others at this point, so how you managed to invert my
    statement and so completely miss the context, I really don't
    know."

    I will explain it. Please try to follow the steps. To refresh your
    memory, this is what you said in your earlier posting:

    Speaking of the "bad" kind of anti-Mormon writing, of which you do not
    approve, you wrote, "Modern LDS apologists and scholars like to focus
    upon such literature, often treating it as if it is
    the 'norm' for all Christians. . . . That is . . . a criticism of
    Peterson and Ricks for _Offenders for a Word_ and other FARMS folks for
    their 'reviews' in RBBoM."

    Now, if we "focus" on the bad stuff, we must necessarily do so to the
    exclusion of something else (apparently, to the exclusion of the good
    stuff). That is what "focusing" means. And "to focus on" means very
    much the same thing as "to concentrate on." Which must mean, in this
    context, that we "concentrate on" the bad stuff, and, necessarily, by
    the very nature of concentrating, avert our attention from the good
    stuff. Moreover, if we claim that the bad stuff is the "norm," we must
    be excluding the good stuff from being normative. That is what
    "normativity" means.

    How, in a book or a collection of book reviews, does one "focus" or
    "concentrate" on something? By devoting attention to that something,
    and, by that very act, averting attention from -- "neglecting," if you
    will -- something else.

    So what is the good stuff that we are failing to concentrate on,
    neglecting to focus on? What is the good stuff that we are treating as
    non-normative, while we mischaracterize the bad stuff as "the norm"?
    You answer that question very helpfully, identifying "the Tanners, Bill
    McKeever, Wes Walters, etc., as excellent writers on the subject." If
    there is some other body of "good stuff," in which these people are not
    to be included, kindly tell me what it is.

    So you can see that my reading of your posting was both very close and
    quite non-inventive. Your message very clearly implies that we are
    "concentrating on the more zany anti-Mormons, while . . . neglecting
    such reputedly respectable folk as the Tanners, Bill McKeever, and
    Wesley Walters."

    You go on to say, "I used the quotes around 'reviews' to indicate that
    in reality, most of the books you respond to in RBBoM really don't have
    much to do with the BoM to begin with, and they are not really reviews,
    but rebuttals."

    Let me see if I understand this. Since the title of the journal was
    Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, a review published in it of a
    book unrelated to the Book of Mormon would, by reason of its subject
    matter, not really be a book review? By the same reasoning, if a
    Rembrandt turned up, by some chance, in a museum of modern art, would it
    not really be a painting? If, by some computer glitch, a review of a
    book on engineering turned up in the review section of a journal of
    molecular biology, would it thereby cease to be a book review at all?

    I will have to meditate on this new principle.

    By the way, have you not noticed that the Review of Books on the Book of
    Mormon no longer exists under that title? That, in fact, it has been
    the FARMS Review of Books since the beginning of 1996?

    Your distinction between "reviews" and "rebuttals" is a rather arbitrary
    and artificial one. But take it to the Times Literary Supplement or the
    New York Review of Books, and see how far you get with it. I'll be
    interested to hear how it goes.

    You complain, "I have not seen a response to ITMMB
    from FARMS, and if the fellow from AOL with the screen name LDSApolog is
    writing the review (as he indicated), I don't expect it will rise much
    higher than Norwood's attempt."

    Don't fret. When we get around to it, we will review your book. And,
    by the way, I don't know who "LDSApolog" is. And I didn't expect you to
    like Ara Norwood's review.

    Next, you trot out your tired old warhorse: "At least to my knowledge
    that fellow hasn't tried calling (without identifying himself or his
    purposes) to inquire if his company can print the book in the future."

    This one wasn't very impressive on its first appearance, and age has not
    improved it.

    You then quote me again: "There is," I quite rightly pointed out,
    "absolutely no reason for Dr. Midgley or any Latter-day Saint I am aware
    of to describe himself as an 'anti-Baptist.' Not a single one of us
    makes a living attacking other religions, in any medium."

    "I see," you remark, almost correctly. "So disagreement with, and
    refutation of the claims of, another religious group does not amount to
    being an 'anti.' Very good."

    Well, let's not feel TOO satisfied. It's not VERY good, but it's worth
    a passing grade.

    You are right. Mere disagreement with x does not make you anti-x. I
    disagree with existentialism. But I lose very little sleep over it, and
    only give the subject about sixty seconds' thought every year or so.
    Thus, it would be ludicrous to describe me as an "anti-existentialist."
    So, likewise, with literally hundreds of possible positions and
    ideologies. I disagree with -- oh, let's see -- Keynesian economics,
    poststructuralism, Sikhism, predeterminism, Freudian psychoanalysis,
    revisionist theories of the Kennedy assassination, and technical
    analysis of the stock market. But since I do not campaign or crusade
    against any of these, it would be very implausible to call me, say, an
    anti-Sikh or an anti-Keynesian.

    You continue, "Then, since I spend the vast majority of my time
    presenting the Christian faith in a positive light, and simply provide a
    refutation of the claims of those groups that [in my opinion] pervert
    the gospel message, I would not, likewise, qualify as an 'anti-Mormon.'"

    Almost! You almost have it! To the extent that you affirmatively
    present a view, any view, on any subject, you are not "anti-" anything
    else. But to the extent that you oppose something else -- this is
    really not very difficult, you know -- you are "anti-" that thing.

    "I'm glad that is worked out, though, Norwood said I came from the
    'anti-Mormon cookie cutter,' so I guess he might not agree."

    Oh, no. I am sure that Mr. Norwood and I agree entirely about your past
    behavior, which has been -- at least so far as I have monitored it --
    far more about opposing certain things (e.g. Catholicism and Mormonism)
    than about affirming your own positive beliefs. Quite clearly, you have
    been an anti-Mormon, because you have been against Mormon belief and
    practice. But now that you understand the distinction, perhaps you will
    be able to mend your ways. (I will admit, of course, that, to the
    extent you are merely affirmatively presenting your own beliefs, you are
    of rather little interest to me. You only draw my attention when you
    attack MY beliefs. I am perfectly content to leave you to yours.)

    As I said, "We don't have professional disdainers of Baptists,
    Buddhists, Muslims, Shintoists, or anybody else."

    To which you rather irrelevantly reply, "The long-standing portrayal of
    the Protestant minister in the endowment ceremony notwithstanding, of
    course. That would not qualify as 'professional.'"

    You're right, of course. It wouldn't. Unfortunately, for reasons that
    I am sure you know, I will not discuss the ordinances of the temple with
    you. I will simply say that I think you misread the situation there
    even more fundamentally than you misread me. But I will not argue that
    position, and you can dismiss it as you wish.

    Nearing the end of your epistle, you write, "When you stop telling
    people that Joseph Smith was told that the Christian faith, embodied in
    the ancient creeds of the Christian Church, are an 'abomination' and
    those of us who teach those divine truths are in fact 'corrupt,'
    possibly we can talk some more."

    You misunderstand. I have really very little interest in talking with
    you. If you would leave my beliefs alone, I would gladly leave you to
    your circle of friends and acquaintances in Arizona.

    You misunderstand. I have never told anybody that "the Christian faith
    . . . are an abomination." Since I am a Christian, I could never say
    any such thing. Nor do I think that the Christian faith, as such, of my
    Lutheran extended family is an abomination. Nor do I think that the
    faith of my Catholic friends is an abomination. I don't even think that
    YOUR faith is an abomination.

    I do think that the creeds, to the extent that they blind people to the
    truth revealed to prophets ancient and modern, are an abomination.
    Primarily, I think that because God said so, and I am hesitant to
    challenge him on it.

    You misunderstand when you imply that I think you corrupt. You may or
    may not be. I haven't thought about it. That would be a matter for
    your wife, or perhaps for the legal authorities to look into. Do I
    think your theological beliefs have been corrupted by various
    extra-divine influences? Certainly. And I regret it very much. But do
    not equivocate between that kind of corruption and moral corruption.
    They are quite distinct.

    You write on: "But it strikes me, sir, that you are operating on a very
    strong double-standard."

    Wrong.

    "I have just as valid a reason to call you an anti-Baptist, or even
    more, an anti-Christian----since you deny the very doctrines that
    *define* [my particular view of] the Christian faith."

    Wrong. I also deny the cardinal doctrines of Jainism. But I am not
    anti-Jain. I can't recall ever having met one. I have never written a
    pamphlet against them, or picketed a Jainist meeting, or denounced them
    on the radio. Surely you can understand this not-overly-subtle concept?

    "But I do not, simply so as to avoid undue emotional clouding of the
    issues."

    That is very kind of you.

    "So why do you use the term anti-Mormon?"

    Because it is precisely accurate.

    "When I write on other issues, such as Roman Catholicism, the same issue
    comes up: they like to use the term "anti-Catholics" but
    will never call themselves 'anti-Protestants.'"

    You see? THEY understand.

    "The hypocrisy is glaring in both cases, is it not?"

    No. It is not. The Catholics are precisely right. They are NOT
    anti-Protestant, at least to the extent that they are simply preaching
    their doctrines. And even when they are defending their doctrines
    against your attacks -- as opposed to going after your beliefs -- they
    are not being anti-Protestant. I understand them quite well, and only
    marvel that you apparently cannot.

    "Finally, Steve Mayfield told me that you have not read ITMMB."

    Quite correct, although I have skimmed through portions of it.

    "Hence, you have not read my documentation of the teaching
    of the physical parentage of the Son by the Father in the book. Since
    you are *specifically* cited from _Offenders_ in the book, as is Dr.
    Robinson, and refuted by a mountain of statements by the General
    Authorities, I *do* hope that a *serious* response might someday be
    forthcoming on that topic."

    It might well be. Someday. I have a lot of things to do. One of the
    portions of the book that I have skimmed is that wherein you attempt to
    refute me. As I say, it was a cursory glance. Maybe your arguments
    will appear more solid after a careful reading. As it is, I think you
    rather missed my point. And you certainly did on the question of
    deification. Ah well. I'll just have to buck up my spirits and live
    with it.


    Daniel Peterson


    The reader will notice the tremendous escalation in the "sarcasm factor" that fills Dr. Peterson's post.  The arrogance that fills this kind of post is evident in much that is produced by FARMS as well. And, scarcely two hours later, Dr. Midgley fired back:

    Date: Wed, 15 Apr 1998 23:53:01 -0600
    From: "Louis C. Midgley" <midgleyl@burgoyne.com>
    Organization: TE ARIKI.
    X-Mailer: Mozilla 4.04 [en] (Win95; I)
    To: James White <orthopodeo@aomin.org>, skinny <skinny-l@lists.teleport.com>
    Subject: ANTI-MORMONISM

    Dear Brother Jim:

    I did not write to you to pick a fight. And I am not responding to
    your letter now in an effort to do so. I appreciate your response to my
    modest inquiries. What I would like is some additional clarifications.

    But before I get to my additional questions and observation, I must
    point out that I do not intend to strike some deal with you on the use
    of the label "anti-Mormon." Nor do I think that you can legislate on how
    or whether I use that label. You may, of course, reject that label if
    that is your desire. But from my perspective, it fits you and your work.
    Just look at your recent book. You proclaim that people like me are not
    your brothers. Instead of asking whether the Church of Jesus Christ is
    like a faction of Christians who identify themselves as evangelicals or
    whatever the proper designation happens to be, you personalize the issue
    by asking IS THE MORMON MY BROTHER? The assumption is that you somehow
    get to determine who is or is not authentically Christian. Be that as it
    may, you leave no doubt about the answer to the question the title of
    your book asks. From my perspective we are all children of a common
    Father, though currently we may be more or less alienated in various
    ways from him. But you want to insist that your God--the real God--is
    not my God, hence that I am not your brother. Now, I ask myself, why
    would an otherwise intelligent person want to fashion set forth such a
    stance? The answer must be that you are against or opposed to my faith,
    and my faith so irritates you that it makes us less than the children of
    a common Father.

    Now before getting up in arms over the label "anti-Mormon," I
    suggest that you consult the entry under "anti" in a dictionary. This
    prefix simply means "against" or "opposed to." If you are not against or
    opposed to the Church of Jesus Christ, to the faith of Latter-day
    Saints, to the Book of Mormon, to the prophetic truth claims of Joseph
    Smith, then have I entirely misunderstood you. But I am confident that I
    have not misunderstood you. Are you for all of these things? Or are you
    simply disinterested or neutral? It seems to me to be entirely
    reasonable to say that you are against my faith, and hence anti-Mormon.
    Perhaps you could explain exactly why you do not like being known as
    anti-Mormon.

    On the other hand, I have little interest in Baptist things, and
    little knowledge of them. I have never published a word about Baptist
    religiosity. I have not been critical of Baptists. I have not attacked
    their faith. And I certainly do not make my living operating a tax
    exempt public foundation dedicated to attacking the faith of anyone,
    including Ratana, Ringatu, Jews, Roman Catholics, or anyone else for
    that matter.

    Now if, for what ever reason, you do not like being identified as an
    anti-Mormon, what label would you suggest for people like you? I think I
    understand the desire of some to avoid the label anti-Mormon. In what
    are essentially political disputes, where truth is not the issue, and
    where every effort is made to manipulate an audience with slogans, one
    can expect enemies of the Church of Jesus Christ to try to avoid
    negative labels. And, of course, critics of my faith always just love
    the Mormon people, it is just the faith that they detest.

    In my initial letter, I was not, as you suggest, hacking up that
    paragraph oddly entitled "How Can Anyone Really Wonder?" that appears on
    page seventeen of your recent book. I merely tried to quote sufficiently
    from that paragraph so that you would be able to see immediately what
    portion of your book had led me to raise some questions with you. In
    your response, you quote the entire paragraph. In my forthcoming essay I
    will quote virtually this entire paragraph.

    I have been trying to figure out what the language found in this
    paragraph means. What you have now told me is that what you intended to
    say is actually somewhat different from what you actually wrote. Instead
    of addressing the bulk of the paragraph (about twenty lines), you focus
    on what appears to be a sub-text constituting, as you say, "more a
    criticism of Peterson and Ricks...and other FARMS folks for their
    'reviews' in RBBOFM than it is anything else." I trust that you realize
    that you do not mention any essays published by FARMS. How is the reader
    supposed to figure out what you were getting at? I will grant that what
    you may have intended was a criticism of OFFENDERS FOR A WORD, and the
    various essays responding to anti-Mormon literature published by FARMS.
    If that was really your intent, then you wrote very carelessly. Instead
    of offering substantive criticisms of anything published by FARMS, you
    seem to be saying that Latter-day Saints have had an easy time
    responding to much or most of the literature critical of their faith.
    Hence, I prefer to think that what your language must mean, if it means
    anything, is that Latter-day Saints have been able to respond to much or
    most anti-Mormon literature for exactly the reasons you set forth. Of
    course, you claim that Latter-day Saints see as typical the kind of
    literature to which they have responded. Well, why not? The question is:
    is there any anti-Mormon literature of any substance to which we have
    not responded? If there is such a literature, in addition, of course, to
    your own book, please let us know about it so that we can examine it.

    Your point seems to be, if there is a point, that your book will
    offer a criticism of Mormon things that is superior to the stuff that
    Latter-day Saints have previously been able to deal with rather easily,
    which they take to be the norm among anti-Mormon literature. But you do
    not present either evidence or argument supporting the notion that
    Latter-day Saints brush aside all anti-Mormon literature on the
    assumption that it is all the same. Even a glance at the journal
    Professor Peterson edits will show you that we distinguish between the
    very bizarre stuff and the somewhat less irresponsible stuff. And also
    please notice that you only cite OFFENDERS FOR A WORD, and a recent
    video and never mention a single additional response to any anti-Mormon
    literature by a Latter-day Saint scholar in that note on page seventeen
    of your book. Please explain exactly how the reader to know that for the
    most part your remarks were intended by you to be critical of essays
    published by FARMS? That is, that your point was not really that most or
    much anti-Mormon literature is of such a low quality that Latter-day
    Saints have been able to deal with it easily? I assumed that you cited
    Professor Peterson's book and the video as evidence of how easy it has
    been for Latter-day Saints to deal with the typical criticisms of their
    faith. If I am wrong about this, how is a reader to tell that your
    having cited OFFENDERS FOR A WORD was a criticism of that book?

    I will grant that you may have intended that paragraph on page
    seventeen to be a criticism of what has been published by FARMS and a
    criticism of OFFENDERS FOR A WORD, but I am at a loss to know how the
    reader is supposed to figure that out. I assumed that you were a more
    thoughtful person and a more careful writer than your explanation
    indicates. Or have I missed something?

    Given what appears on page seventeen of your book, I wondered
    whether you might think that all anti-Mormon literature (or whatever you
    may want to call it), until you came along with your book, has been such
    that Latter-day Saints, if they bothered, could easily deal with it. I
    assumed that you were claiming that, unlike previous anti-Mormons, you
    have paid the price and hence can enter into a real conversation with
    Latter-day Saints, since you have mastered our literature. I am, I must
    admit, somewhat pleased with your clarification. But what you have
    written, since you apparently see a number of other critics of the
    Church of Jesus Christ as worthy colleagues in your endeavors, raises
    some additional questions. For instance, you indicate that you are fond
    of the "Tanners. Bill McKeever, Wes Walters, etc." And you direct me the
    notes in your book for additional indications of those anti-Mormon
    writers who you think have done at least satisfactory or perhaps even
    commendable work.

    In addition, you indicate that you were "referring primarily to
    non-specialized books and writers" in your seemingly critical comments
    on page seventeen of your book in which you seem quite critical of
    anti-Mormon writers and their literature, but "not on those who focus on
    the field," whatever that may mean. Please explain what you are getting
    at? I am not sure what field you have in mind. Latter-day Saints? Or is
    the field somehow the countercult world? I wonder whether you have in
    mind countercultists generally--are they the vulnerable ones? Or is it
    those who focus their attacks on the field, meaning on Latter-day
    Saints? I would appreciate a clarification.

    As I have indicated, I do not wish to pick a fight with you--I am
    merely somewhat puzzled by your explanations. Why? One reason is that
    the work of the Tanners, Walters and McKeever has not stood up well to
    careful inspection. You may disagree, but from our perspective the
    Tanners are just modestly better than Ed Decker. Nor is the work of
    Charles Larson and the few others you cite in your notes for your book
    all that impressive. Among those whose work has been shown to be badly
    flawed are a number of those who you have suggested that I should
    identify by glancing at the notes for your book. Please ask yourself if
    it has been any more difficult for Latter-day Saint scholars to identify
    flaws in Charles Larson's book than the stuff written by Bill
    Schnoebelen, Dean Helland, Ed Decker, Mr. Weldon and Ankerberg, or any
    of the others dealt with in essays published by FARMS?

    In addition, if that paragraph on page seventeen of your book was
    primarily intended as a criticism of Dan Peterson (and others who may
    have published responses to attacks on the Church of Jesus Christ) for
    not confronting and effectively answering those you consider the really
    big names in anti-Mormonism (or whatever you wish to call it), let me
    remind you of the names of those that Peterson dealt with in OFFENDERS
    FOR A WORD. These include Walter Martin, Gordon Lewis, Josh McDowell,
    Robert McKay, Bob Larson, William Irving, Dave Hunt, Dean Helland,
    Gordon Fraser, Bill McKeever, Bob and Gretchen Passantino, John L.
    Smith, James Spencer, Wally Tope, James Walker, Wesley Walters, the
    Tanners, Floyd McElveen, Charles Sackett, Peter Bartley, Dave Breese,
    Thelma Geer and others. Did Peterson miss anyone important, I wonder,
    other than you?

    And if you will glance at the anti-Mormon works you cite, you will
    notice that four or five of the six or seven names you include in your
    notes have been handled rather easily by Latter-day Saints. So I doubt
    that you were trying to say that Latter-day Saints always pick the wrong
    targets among their various critics--that they aim too low. It is
    difficult not to aim low, given what it out there. And, from our point
    of view, we have to deal with all the odd stuff out there, since
    evangelicals, to whom most of this literature is aimed, cannot tell the
    bad stuff from the really, really bad stuff. When you claim that "modern
    LDS apologists and scholars like to focus on such literature [where you
    clearly have identified the work of cranks who can and have been easily
    answered by pointing out, among other things, inconsistencies and
    half-truths and various other problems], often treating it as the norm,
    and have," as you admit, "little difficulty...dismissing all efforts at
    refuting LDS claims and evangelizing LDS people," you might be on to
    something important. But notice your equivocation. "Often," but now
    always, treating "it"--the stuff written by cranks--as the norm. Which
    evangelical critics of the Church of Jesus Christ have not shown to be
    full of inconsistencies, half-truths, logical blunders, and so forth,
    and who seem to us to be driven by anger and resentment? There are some
    evangelical who are responsible, and I suspect that Professor Peterson
    would even publish their work. FARMS and BYU STUDIES has published
    Massimo Introvigne. That may not mean anything to you, since Introvigne
    is a Roman Catholic. If I am wrong about this matter, then please
    identify the responsible evangelical authors and their books so that we
    can begin to give them the needed close attention. I will immediately
    pass your list on to Dan Peterson so that work can begin on those
    authors and their works. We are, as a matter of fact, looking for a
    literature that stands above the rather dismal run-of-the-mill
    anti-Mormon literature that you yourself have criticized on page
    seventeen of your book.

    I ask specifically for your opinion of Walter Martin. You must be
    familiar with the praise this fellow still gets from people in the
    countercult industry. Do you consider him among those that Latter-day
    Saints overlook? Is his MAZE OF MORMONISM or his chapter on the Church
    of Jesus Christ in his KINGDOM OF THE CULTS within the category of
    criticism that you consider superior? Would you cite Martin with
    approval on much of anything? Do you include Martin along with Bill
    McKeever, Charles Larson, Wes Walters, and the Tanners, as outstanding
    examples of critics of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Did McKeever (and
    Kurt Van Gorden) do a good job of updating and revising Martin's
    opinions on Mormon things in the most recent edition of the KINGDOM OF
    THE CULTS? You seem to like McKeever's work, what about his work in
    bringing Martin's criticisms of Mormon things up to date?

    I am looking forward to further clarification on the issues I have
    raised. And I thank you in advance for your response. I assume that you
    will not object if I share this letter with a few other interested
    parties. And I trust that you will not be offended if one or more others
    feels inclined to express their opinions. FYI, Skinny is not extensive,
    nor is it a BYU list, as you assumed. The fellow who operates it lives
    in Portland, Oregon. There are Latter-day Saint scholars (your
    apologists, I suppose) in places other than Provo, Utah.

    Grace and Peace,

    Louis Midgley


    At this point I knew Dr. Midgley was pushing his limits, having corresponded with him before.  I knew the "other shoe would fall" before long.  It only took an hour or so, actually:

    Date: Thu, 16 Apr 1998 00:47:14 -0600
    From: "Louis C. Midgley" <midgleyl@burgoyne.com>
    Organization: TE ARIKI.
    X-Mailer: Mozilla 4.04 [en] (Win95; I)
    To: James White <orthopodeo@aomin.org>
    CC: skinny <skinny-l@lists.teleport.com>
    Subject: GETTING MIDGLEY'S NAME RIGHT

    Dear Brother White:

    Right after I had sent my response to your recent letter, in came
    your response to Professor Peterson, and his reply. I enjoyed reading
    both, except when I noticed your habit of being just a tad bit
    discourteous. I have in mind your unfortunate habit of garbling my name.
    Midgley is not all that difficult. But neither is anti-Mormon, as I
    think both Professor Peterson and I have pointed out.

    Professor Peterson (and others) seem to know you as anti-Mormon and
    anti-Catholic. Without knowing anything about your attacks on Catholics,
    I must say that I feel some sympathy for them. And I can even sense some
    of their frustration when they find themselves being attacked and their
    faith attacked by one who cannot or simply will not see that he is
    anti-Catholic. But others who have given you even less attention that
    Professor Peterson and me may not realize that you have been down in the
    gutter--so to speak--with the strange KJV-only types. Now I wonder if
    you are anti-Ratana (a Maori Christian church). If not, why not? Well,
    let me explain. You know and hence presumably care not a bit about a
    Maori Christian church. You may not have even heard of the Maori. Good.
    I am sure that they are thankful for your neglect. But the point is that
    you are not anti-Ratana precisely because you know nothing about the
    Ratana and hence could not care less. That is exactly the way I feel
    about the Baptist faith or faiths, or about the various evangelicalisms
    that have become popular recently. I smile when I see that some of those
    on the margins of contemporary Protestant evangelicalism claim that
    their ideology is the only authentic, historic, trinitarian, biblical
    Christian faith. I do not mind evangelical believing whatever it is that
    they want to believe, but I find it odd that they claim the right to
    determine whether others can have their own opinions on such matters.

    Now, if you had not guessed, one reason for asking about Walter
    Martin is that he did not exclude Roman Catholics from authentic
    Christianity. You, I assume do. Do you then also exclude Walter Martin
    from authentic, biblical Christianity on the grounds that he made a
    terrible mistake about who are real Christians or what is biblical
    Christianity?

    And then there is your friend, or at least one you feel is
    competent, that is, Bill McKeever, editing and updating an essay on
    Mormon things and including within it the absurd Spalding explanation of
    the Book of Mormon. Well, I assume that McKeever and his associates
    could have removed that bit of nonsense, if they had (1) courage, (2)
    honesty, (3) any understanding of the issues. So much for the good,
    rather than the bad, anti-Mormons.

    Now I must admit that I had determined before I wrote to you that I
    would not pick a fight with you. But your response to Professor Peterson
    has softened my resolve. Please, no more nonsense about not being an
    anti-Mormon or insulting language about others not being able to read
    what you write carefully. I think that if you will look again at that
    paragraph on page seventeen of your recent book, and then examine your
    explanation of what you intended to say, you will see that you have done
    poor job of interpreting your own text. And please do not try to tell me
    that you get to determine what you meant on page seventeen by reference
    to what you now claim were your intentions. It is a mistake to confuse
    intention with meaning.

    Grace and peace,

    Louis Midgley


    My reply to Dr. Peterson was very short, very simple, and was intended to communicate the basic truth that I had no intention of playing school-yard games with him.  I don't have that kind of time:

    >Ah well. I'll just have to buck up my spirits and live
    >with it.
    >
    >
    >Daniel Peterson

    I've only a few times received a post that took so much time to completely twist every syllable I had written. And the little arrogance meter over on the right hand of my screen is now completely broken. I have no idea how to get it fixed....but I know when not to give credibility to such silliness and spend my time on worthwhile pursuits. You have fully substantiated that subtitle in the CRI Journal article: Farms Out of Control.

    James>>>


    I tried one last time with Midgley, though I ended the note with an indication that I realized that there was nothing more I could do for him:

    > But before I get to my additional questions and observation, I must
    >point out that I do not intend to strike some deal with you on the use
    >of the label "anti-Mormon." Nor do I think that you can legislate on how
    >or whether I use that label.

    Of course not. It is quite evident that you, and Dr. Peterson, are intent upon using it, whether it is glaringly hypocritical to do so or not. I can't stop you, but I can point out the blindness you show toward the topic, and many others will benefit from the demonstration. If LDS scholars are unable to see this basic issue and how they are prejudiced beyond logic regarding it, how much easier is it to explain their willingness to embrace the wildest theories creating entire societies in Meso-America?

    >You may, of course, reject that label if
    >that is your desire. But from my perspective, it fits you and your work.

    OK, that's fine. Then please don't complain when others say Mormonism is anti-Christian on the very same grounds. I'd appreciate at least some level of consistency there.

    >Just look at your recent book. You proclaim that people like me are not
    >your brothers. Instead of asking whether the Church of Jesus Christ is
    >like a faction of Christians who identify themselves as evangelicals or
    >whatever the proper designation happens to be, you personalize the issue
    >by asking IS THE MORMON MY BROTHER?

    Actually, the book fully explains the issue....I'm more than slightly amazed at how little you seem to have understood it, when so many others have understood it without the slightest problem. The issue is that we worship different gods----period. The book could not have made the point any more clearly than it did. (BTW, I don't title the books. That's done at the publisher).

    >The assumption is that you somehow
    >get to determine who is or is not authentically Christian.

    No, the assumption, seemingly rejected by LDS in general, is that what is means to be a real Christian *can* be answered, and that fully, without reference to Joseph Smith or "latter-day revelation." If we worship different gods, and Christians have never worshipped *your* god before, then it follows, logically, that Mormonism is as Christian as I am Mormon---and I'm no Mormon.

    >Be that as it
    >may, you leave no doubt about the answer to the question the title of
    >your book asks. From my perspective we are all children of a common
    >Father, though currently we may be more or less alienated in various
    >ways from him. But you want to insist that your God--the real God--is
    >not my God, hence that I am not your brother.

    And I substantiated that insistence rather fully. So far, no one to my knowledge has even attempted to interact in print with the biblical argumentation presented on monotheism.

    >Now, I ask myself, why
    >would an otherwise intelligent person want to fashion set forth such a
    >stance? The answer must be that you are against or opposed to my faith,
    >and my faith so irritates you that it makes us less than the children of
    >a common Father.

    As the book said, idolatry is a dangerous sin. I guess, using your argument, Moses was an "anti-Baalite," right? I mean, he had people KILLED for believing in Baal! So, by believing in absolute truth, so that one says that denials of that truth are in *error,* I must be "anti-untruth." OK, I guess that follows, right?

    > Now before getting up in arms over the label "anti-Mormon," I
    >suggest that you consult the entry under "anti" in a dictionary. This
    >prefix simply means "against" or "opposed to." If you are not against or
    >opposed to the Church of Jesus Christ, to the faith of Latter-day
    >Saints, to the Book of Mormon, to the prophetic truth claims of Joseph
    >Smith, then have I entirely misunderstood you.

    OK, then you are an anti-Baptist. That's fine. As I said, as long as you are consistent in identifying yourself that way, that's OK. It's just that we need to be consistent. If I'm an anti-Mormon, anti-Catholic, anti-JW, anti-Muslim, anti-Hindu, etc. and etc. and etc. (because I believe Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, I must be opposed to all systems that would say otherwise), then you are likewise anti-Baptist. Again, just a simple matter of logic.

    > On the other hand, I have little interest in Baptist things, and
    >little knowledge of them. I have never published a word about Baptist
    >religiosity. I have not been critical of Baptists. I have not attacked
    >their faith. And I certainly do not make my living operating a tax
    >exempt public foundation dedicated to attacking the faith of anyone,
    >including Ratana, Ringatu, Jews, Roman Catholics, or anyone else for
    >that matter.

    If you embrace Joseph Smith, you are anti-Baptist. His beliefs are directly opposed mine, and he identified my God as a "monster" and my beliefs as an abomination. It is almost amusing (if it were not so serious, and sad), to watch LDS scholars swing wildly between internal contradictions in their beliefs at this point, with one hand agreeing that my beliefs are an "abomination," but with the other saying you are not opposed to them. If you aren't, you should be ashamed of yourself, taking an attitude of indifference toward something God says is an abomination!

    > Now if, for what ever reason, you do not like being identified as an
    >anti-Mormon, what label would you suggest for people like you?

    If you read my book, you know that I refer to LDS apologists. I refer to Roman Catholic apologists when writing on that topic. How about "Protestant apologists" or something like that? My faith is not defined by YOURs, sir. I respond to YOUR claims because they impact MINE. See the importance in that?

    > I have been trying to figure out what the language found in this
    >paragraph means. What you have now told me is that what you intended to
    >say is actually somewhat different from what you actually wrote.

    Of course not. I said you had badly misread the passage.

    >Instead
    >of addressing the bulk of the paragraph (about twenty lines), you focus
    >on what appears to be a sub-text constituting, as you say, "more a
    >criticism of Peterson and Ricks...and other FARMS folks for their
    >'reviews' in RBBOFM than it is anything else." I trust that you realize
    >that you do not mention any essays published by FARMS.

    < sigh >

    >How is the reader
    >supposed to figure out what you were getting at?

    Well, don't be too offended, but no one else has had a problem getting the point of the entire paragraph.

    >I will grant that what
    >you may have intended was a criticism of OFFENDERS FOR A WORD, and the
    >various essays responding to anti-Mormon literature published by FARMS.

    I really don't have the inclination to play word games with you, sir. The intention of the paragraph is simple, straightforward, and can only be missed by someone who either wants to miss it, or is attempting to find something to pick at, rather than dealing with the thesis of the book. There is good literature responding to Mormonism, and there is bad literature responding to Mormonism. When someone responds to the bad, and makes it appear that they have, by so doing, vindicated their position, they are engaging in deceptive behavior. And when someone writes poor literature about Mormonism, they only help Mormonism's defenders to keep up the appearance of a vital apologetic. It's really that simple.

    > Given what appears on page seventeen of your book, I wondered
    >whether you might think that all anti-Mormon literature (or whatever you
    >may want to call it), until you came along with your book, has been such
    >that Latter-day Saints, if they bothered, could easily deal with it.

    I'm afraid I can be of no assitance to you beyond this point, sir. Such a question can only be identified as "absurd," and I don't really have any desire to engage in absurd correspondence. I will allow my book to speak to those who are prepared to hear it, and I knew when I wrote it that some, no matter how clearly I wrote, would find a way of missing the point.

    James>>>


    Seemingly, Dr. Peterson did not like my brief response.  Rather quickly this came back.  Note the title he chose for his message:

    Date: Thu, 16 Apr 1998 17:49:54 -0700
    From: Daniel Peterson <dcp6@email.byu.edu>
    Subject: Mr. Charm
    To: orthopodeo@aomin.org
    Cc: Skinny-L <SKINNY-L@LISTS.TELEPORT.COM>
    Reply-to: Daniel_Peterson@byu.edu
    Organization: BYU

    Mr. White:


    Thank you for withdrawing from the exchange; I was worried that this was
    going to cost me a lot of time. Backed into a corner, eh? Beating an
    ungraceful retreat?

    I'm sorry you broke your arrogance meter. Was it a gift from your
    mother?

    I really don't understand why you feel the need to be so hostile.
    Perhaps you should add a contact sport to your cycling, so that you can
    work out your aggressions in a more socially acceptable manner. I have
    always told people that you were relatively polite when we met on the
    radio some years ago, and several have assured me that such polite and
    unaggressive behavior must have been an aberration. I guess they were
    right, and your reputation is not unearned.

    Too bad. I have had respectful interchanges with several critics of my
    faith. But you don't seem capable of such things. You have evidently
    chosen the right career.


    Daniel Peterson


    Take careful note of the tactics being used here: Dr. Peterson has been about as impolite and aggressive as one can be in the preceding posts.  He has used sarcasm and insult in almost every paragraph, yet, when I choose not to respond in kind, what does he do?  He accuses me of the very things he has been doing himself.  Throw in a little school-yard taunting, and one is amazed to realize that such messages are being written by one of the leading LDS scholars at Brigham Young University, a man who has often criticized Christians for their attitudes in dealing with Mormonism.  My response was brief and to the point:

    >Mr. White:
    >
    >
    >Thank you for withdrawing from the exchange; I was worried that this was
    >going to cost me a lot of time. Backed into a corner, eh? Beating an
    >ungraceful retreat?

    Do remember, Dr. Peterson, that since you have been passing around my posts to others, your own posts, including this wondrous example of FARMS mentality, will be archived and readily available to anyone who wishes a glimpse into the world of LDS apologetics.

    James>>>


    His responses only got more shrill:

    Date: Fri, 17 Apr 1998 12:42:49 -0700
    From: Daniel Peterson <dcp6@email.byu.edu>
    Subject: [Fwd: Re: Mr. Charm]
    To: orthopodeo@aomin.org
    Cc: Skinny-L <SKINNY-L@LISTS.TELEPORT.COM>
    Reply-to: Daniel_Peterson@byu.edu
    Organization: BYU

    Mr. White:


    You seem to think you have me. "Do remember, Dr. Peterson," you write,
    "that since you have been passing around my posts to others, your own
    posts, including this wondrous example of FARMS mentality, will be
    archived and readily available to anyone who wishes a glimpse into the
    world of LDS apologetics[?]."

    Go ahead. I am puzzled that you do not seem to see how unpleasantly YOU
    come across. My lengthy post to you contained arguments and serious
    positions, however cheekily expressed. For you to respond merely by
    denouncing my arrogance and silliness and pronouncing me not worth your
    time was, among other things, (a) not a cogent counterargument, (b)
    disrespectful, (c) uncharitable, and (d) exactly what I expected from
    you.

    I am quite capable of having a calm and well-tempered exchange. I have,
    as I say, had pleasant and respectful conversations with numerous people
    of other faiths, including several who are overtly critical of my
    beliefs. If you would like to do so, please shelve the hostility.
    Please cut the tendency to assume that your opponent is acting in bad
    faith, or from evil motives.

    Perhaps you do not recognize how alienating your hyper-confrontational
    style is, and how personal you tend to make the dispute between
    Latter-day Saints and evangelicals. Perhaps you do not realize -- oh,
    but surely you must! -- how off-putting your aggressiveness is, and how
    (for many of us) it gets in the way of the message that, I presume, you
    sincerely want to preach. Sensing that you would react badly, I tweaked
    you. I was having fun. (You know, teasing somebody who responds in
    satisfying ways to such teasing.) It was perhaps wrong for me to do so,
    but you reacted precisely as I had anticipated.

    It still appears to me that you fled a discussion when you realized that
    you were in a corner. Quite seriously, quite sincerely, that is how it
    appears to me. Leaving aside the question of my viciousness and my
    depravity, it seems so. Perhaps I am wrong, although I think not. But
    if I am wrong, it would be fitting -- certainly it would be the act of a
    disciple of Christ -- to correct me, not to assault me. Others had
    predicted that you would withdraw from the discussion. They are people
    who have followed your career somewhat, and they described it as your
    modus operandi whenever you seem to be losing control. (I am told that
    it happened at Temple Square earlier this month, when you were presented
    with evidence to which you had, in their view and in mine, no cogent
    answer.) You may despise me all you like, but your actions truly seem
    to me to be as I have characterized them, and as others had foretold.

    Yet others, however -- and I am merely passing on what they told me --
    predicted that your ego would never allow me to have the last word.
    Which, I admit, worried me, because I really don't have the time to get
    into a lengthy and quite futile e-mail catfight, especially with someone
    who evidently cannot even grant that I am a decent human being. And now
    that their prediction also seems to be coming true, I am worried again.
    (Attacking Mormonism may well be an important component of your
    employment; defending the gospel of Jesus Christ is something I do in
    spare moments.)

    What, by the way, is the "FARMS mentality"? Are you into faulty
    generalizations and stereotyping? FARMS did not write my posting to
    you. I wrote it. I am not FARMS, and FARMS is not Daniel Peterson.
    FARMS is a number of people, with widely varying styles, personalities,
    and approaches. There is no more a "FARMS mentality" than there is a
    "Jewish mentality" or a "black mentality." Latter-day Saints are
    individuals, as are Jews and blacks. As are fundamentalist and
    evangelical Protestants. (I know, because some are nasty and
    unpleasant, and some are very nice.) If generalizations like this
    really are permitted, there seems no principled ground on which you
    could criticize me for taking Ed Decker as the "norm" for anti-Mormonism
    -- if, indeed, I had ever thought to do so stupid a thing.


    Daniel Peterson


    Then, right on the heels of this lovely missive, comes another:

    Date: Fri, 17 Apr 1998 13:05:45 -0700
    From: Daniel Peterson <dcp6@email.byu.edu>
    Subject: Re: Mr. Charm
    To: James White <orthopodeo@aomin.org>
    Cc: Skinny-L <SKINNY-L@LISTS.TELEPORT.COM>
    Reply-to: Daniel_Peterson@byu.edu
    Organization: BYU

    Mr. White:

    Going through my e-mail, I came across a posting containing the
    following, from someone who has been monitoring our exchange:

    "By the Bye, never have I seen such arrogant rhetorical ranting with
    absolutely no substance behind it as in the White letters.
    Absolutely astonishing!"

    I share it with you not to hurt your feelings, nor to make you angry
    (although I am certain that it will, since you seem to be in a state of
    almost perpetual anger anyhow), and not as evidence that my estimate of
    you is true, but as an indication that I am not the only person out here
    in cyberland who views you in this way.

    Daniel Peterson


    Evidently, Dr. Peterson was not getting the idea that I had no intention of playing this game with him.  I tried one more time:

  • You seem to think you have me. "Do remember, Dr. Peterson," you write,
  • "that since you have been passing around my posts to others, your own
  • posts, including this wondrous example of FARMS mentality, will be
  • archived and readily available to anyone who wishes a glimpse into the
  • world of LDS apologetics[?]."
  • Go ahead. I am puzzled that you do not seem to see how unpleasantly YOU
  • come across.
  • No, sir, I believe it is the other way around. And I'm more than glad to let others judge that. I have no interest in you continuing to provide me with further examples of this kind of school-yard behavior. If you wish to continue writing long e-mails (while complaining about wasting your time), I won't stop you, but don't expect any replies.

    James>>>


    Seemingly, asking him to stop has the exact opposite impact.  In fact, he now began to forward nastigrams to me that he had actually written to other people!  This kind of behavior is tremendously rude and childish, but as of the date of this writing, it still hasn't stopped!  Here comes the first example of the "I'll send White something nasty I've written about him to someone else":

    Date: Sat, 18 Apr 1998 08:02:38 -0700
    From: Daniel Peterson <dcp6@email.byu.edu>
    Subject: Re: SKINNY: [Fwd: Re: Mr. Charm]
    To: skinny-l@teleport.com
    Cc: orthopodeo@aomin.org
    Reply-to: Daniel_Peterson@byu.edu
    Organization: BYU

    Malin:


    Thanks for the comments. I agree with what you say, and actually had
    some of those things in mind as I wrote. I know that James White quite
    literally believes me to be vicious and depraved. (That is the first
    element in TULIP, after all.) And I'm sure, since I am unregenerate,
    that he believes me to be acting in bad faith.

    The question then arises, Why does he bother to argue with Mormons at
    all? If we are all depraved and dishonest, we'll never accept or
    recognize the truth. And those who will, are fated to do so regardless
    of whether White evangelizes them or not. Of course, it is impossible
    to act practically, in everyday life, on the basis of predeterministic
    assumptions. You have to act as if you are free, even if you are
    convinced that you are not. So White is, I suppose, simply fated to
    evangelize Mormons and Catholics, and to be nasty and insulting. It all
    seems utterly pointless.

    It also seems, to me at least, quite unsuited to a free and democratic
    society. Why should a population largely depraved and vicious be
    allowed to vote? Should the Saved EVER treat the depraved and vicious
    multitude politely or respectfully, even in a town council meeting or a
    PTA gathering or on a Little League committee? Why? Shouldn't people
    like James White move to the Balkans, their natural home?


    dcp


    I ignored that one, but the hits kept coming:

    Date: Sat, 18 Apr 1998 07:50:05 -0700
    From: Daniel Peterson <dcp6@email.byu.edu>
    Subject: Being a Christian Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry?
    To: James White <orthopodeo@aomin.org>
    Cc: Skinny-L <SKINNY-L@LISTS.TELEPORT.COM>
    Reply-to: Daniel_Peterson@byu.edu
    Organization: BYU
    X-Mailer: Mozilla 3.04 (Macintosh; I; PPC)

    Mr. White:


    "School-yard behavior"? You're the same sweet and Christian fellow as
    ever! I have offered you a civil conversation, but I take it that is
    not the kind of thing that interests you. I have offered you serious
    arguments and considered positions, but it seems THOSE sorts of things
    frighten you off (even on the rather minor issues we were discussing).
    You seem to prefer the kind of correspondence with a "Mormon elder"
    where you get to write both sides.

    Please post the exchange. I plan to do so.


    Daniel Peterson


    The term "obsession" begins to take on new meaning as the unsolicited, and unwanted messages pile up:

    Date: Mon, 20 Apr 1998 18:51:24 -0700
    From: Daniel Peterson <dcp6@email.byu.edu>
    Subject: On James White as a Christian Paradigm
    To: orthopodeo@aomin.org
    Cc: Skinny-L <SKINNY-L@LISTS.TELEPORT.COM>
    Reply-to: Daniel_Peterson@byu.edu
    Organization: BYU

    Mr. White:

    You wrote the following to some fellow or other, and I was privileged to
    see it: "I've gotten messages from people who teach at BYU that sounded
    like they were written by someone on an 8th grade playground."

    I assume you are referring to me. You outdo yourself! I had heard it
    said that you have a vicious temper, that you ignore the issues when
    they don't go your way, and that you frequently mischaracterize your
    opponents in demonstrably inaccurate and remarkably uncharitable ways.
    But I had never personally experienced it. Thank you for remedying that
    gap in my personal history.

    Daniel Peterson


    That one got ignored, too.  Did that stop Dr. Peterson from his campaign?  No, it didn't.  Instead, more "let's make sure I send this note I wrote to Louis Midgley to White so that he knows I'm insulting him again" posts arrived:

    Date: Wed, 22 Apr 1998 16:59:33 -0700
    From: Daniel Peterson <dcp6@email.byu.edu>
    Subject: (John) Calvin and (Thomas) Hobbes
    To: James White <orthopodeo@aomin.org>
    Cc: Skinny-L <SKINNY-L@LISTS.TELEPORT.COM>
    Reply-to: Daniel_Peterson@byu.edu
    Organization: BYU

    Lou:


    Mr. White was a bit less obnoxious in this last communication. I wonder
    why? Perhaps he realizes that he overdid it in his previous few
    postings. Probably not, though. Self-scrutiny does not seem to be one
    of his strengths. Did you notice that he is still going on with his
    silly generalizations about "the attitudes of FARMS and BYU professors
    in general"? He really does seem to be incorrigible. But then, what
    incentive does he have to change? He is one of the world's winners, and
    there seems little reason for him to be held to the rules (e.g., of
    evidence and logic, let alone of civility) that bind the terminally
    depraved masses.

    He ought, though, to try to see things from our perspective. He is far
    more brilliant than we are. He is a far better person than we are --
    noble and courageous where we are craven, a model of mature manhood to
    be universally emulated (as his recent notes have strongly hinted),
    forthright and bold where we are sniveling and dishonest, inevitably
    victorious where we merely manage to stumble pathetically from defeat to
    ignominious defeat. Furthermore, as if all of his enviable natural
    qualities were not enough, he enjoys supernatural advantages as well:
    God loves him, and has predestined him to paradise, whereas God hates
    us, holds us like loathsome insects over a fire, patiently but happily
    waiting to plunge us into the flame, and, in fact, quite justly
    condemned us to hell before we were even born.

    Mr. White ought to pity us -- although, on second thought, God evidently
    doesn't, so perhaps he shouldn't either. But at least he could indulge
    our sad little attempts to enjoy ourselves before we commence upon our
    foredoomed eternity of torture and agony.

    Incidently, hearing that Mr. White is debating the Catholics rather
    warms me up to the Church of Rome.


    dcp


    Enough is enough, so I tried the direct approach:

    >Lou:
    >
    >
    >Mr. White was a bit less obnoxious in this last communication. I wonder
    >why? Perhaps he realizes that he overdid it in his previous few
    >postings. Probably not, though. Self-scrutiny does not seem to be one
    >of his strengths.

    Please, it is considered childish and rude to continue to send messages to those who have shown clearly that they do not desire such communication. As I have said, you have communicated your viewpoint clearly. I need no further examples of your expertise at ad-hominem argumentation. I will gladly post all your lovely messages when I return from speaking.

    James>>>


    Even the direct approach has no impact upon a person on a crusade:

    Date: Wed, 29 Apr 1998 06:40:51 -0700
    From: Daniel Peterson <dcp6@email.byu.edu>
    Subject: Re: (John) Calvin and (Thomas) Hobbes
    To: James White <orthopodeo@aomin.org>
    Cc: Skinny-L <SKINNY-L@LISTS.TELEPORT.COM>
    Reply-to: Daniel_Peterson@byu.edu
    Organization: BYU

    Mr. White:


    Thank you for your latest note. It was, as usual, a model of
    graciousness and the Christian spirit. My tardiness in acknowledging it
    comes only from my having been out of the state and away from my e-mail.

    You say you plan to post our exchange. Good. You may be interested to
    know that your self-revealing messages to me -- naturally including
    their forthright refusal to have a real dialogue with a Latter-day Saint
    on legitimate issues and their resort instead to unembarrassed evasion,
    personal insults, and ad hominem attacks -- have already been posted for
    some time.


    Daniel Peterson


    Now, as anyone can see, Dr. Peterson was never interested in a "real dialogue" with anyone, let alone me.  What I have refused to engage in is not a dialogue, but a spitting contest.  The fact that Peterson is intent upon sending me second-hand posts containing glaring insults and swipes, all the while accusing me of being mean-spirited, is so self-evident that it makes one wonder about the pride he shows in knowing that these posts would be made available on our web page and on the SHIELDS page (which just happens to be operated by a group of men I knew well when a regular on the old "MORMON Echo" back in the days of BBS's; two of the three men who run the page have engaged in the very same kind of emotionally-laden ad-hominem argumentation provided here by Dr. Peterson). He may not understand what I meant by "FARMS mentality," but other folks do.

    Now, Louis Midgley, likewise, did not give up his writing.  I return to his missives.  I had indicated to him with my last response that I did not feel I could be of any more assistance to him.  That didn't stop him, however:

    Date: Fri, 17 Apr 1998 08:40:44 -0600
    From: "Louis C. Midgley" <midgleyl@burgoyne.com>
    Organization: TE ARIKI.
    X-Mailer: Mozilla 4.04 [en] (Win95; I)
    To: James White <orthopodeo@aomin.org>
    CC: skinny <skinny-l@lists.teleport.com>
    Subject: MODERN LDS APOLOGIST...HAVE LITTLE DIFFICULTY DEMONSTRATING...

    Dear Brother White:

    Once again I must insist that I do not wish to pick a fight with
    you. I did not write to you to engage in some unseemly, insulting
    quarrel. I wrote to you to get some information--that is all. The
    controversy over the nice little shorthand label "anti-Mormon" was your
    doing. Unfortunately I took the bait.

    What I requested, if I remember correctly, were a few clarifications
    on one paragraph in your IS THE MORMON MY BROTHER? Even in my request
    for clarification you saw signs of my having hacked up your words and
    then later of having misinterpreted them. The fact is that all I want is
    your opinion about your words, so that I can be confident I understand
    your language the way you do.

    In order to see if I understand you correctly, I will paraphrase
    what I think you are trying to say in the paragraph on page seventeen of
    your recent book. You seem to me to be saying something like the
    following: modern Latter-day Saint scholars and apologists have little
    difficulty demonstrating inconsistencies and half-truths in the
    literature written by critics of their faith. Now why do you think that
    this is so? Well, at least for many critics of the faith of Latter-day
    Saints, those they like to call "Mormons" are simply polygamous cultists
    who are out to destroy the souls of anyone unwary enough to be caught in
    their clutches. Yet, it turns out, many of these critics of the faith of
    Latter-day Saints who would provide the strongest denunciations of the
    beliefs and practices of Latter-day Saints are the very ones who have
    done the least work in seriously studying LDS writings and they have
    also not interacted with LDS viewpoints. The result is that a large body
    of literature exists that is not based upon a fair, even-handed study of
    primary source documentation but is, instead, based upon a very large
    dose of emotion and bias. The resulting literature normally (that is,
    regularly, usually) emphasizes the sensational, seeking to arouse the
    emotions of the reader against the LDS faith.

    I believe that something very much like this is found in that
    paragraph on page seventeen of your recent book. In addition, you
    acknowledge that many of these incompetent critics of the faith of the
    faith of Latter-day Saints still maintain that the Church of Jesus
    Christ of Latter-day Saints is a devil-inspired cult and that is about
    all there is to it. For such people the question of interacting with
    genuine LDS points of view simply does not arise. Why? For those who
    find in what they call "Mormonism" the embodiment of evil itself, there
    is little reason to even ask if the Church of Jesus Christ is Christian.
    There is even less reason to spend time fairly evaluating the arguments
    put forth by Latter-day Saint scholars.

    You add one small caveat to this rather grim picture of the
    literature produced by emotional, sensationalizing and incompetent
    critics of the faith of Latter-day Saints. You claim that contemporary,
    I believe you say "apologists and scholars," Latter-day Saints, who have
    little difficulty demonstrating inconsistencies and half-truths in the
    literature critical of their faith that you have just negatively
    characterized, like to focus on such dismal literature and that they
    often treat it as if it were the norm for all of the critical literature
    produced by those claiming to represent the true, historic, biblical,
    trinitarian version of Christianity. At this point you attach a note to
    a recent LDS video and to Professor Peterson's book, presumably to
    indicate how Latter-day Saints easily deal with the bad literature
    produced by critics of their faith.

    That is all I see in that paragraph. I see nothing critical of
    anything published by FARMS. In fact, FARMS is not mentioned. And I see
    nothing that indicates that there is a good literature--a competent
    literature by critics of the faith of Latter-day Saints--in this
    paragraph. This is the reason I asked you if you see yourself as the
    only author to do the job right or whether you think that there is a
    body of competent criticism of LDS faith. And I also asked you to
    indicate who might have written this competent literature, if such
    exists in your estimation. You have more or less responded to these
    questions. If I understand you correctly, you think that there is a
    competent literature and you indicated three authors who have presumably
    helped produce it. And you suggested that I inspect the notes to your
    book for additional names.

    Now I have tried to point out that Latter-day Saints do not take
    Decker and Schnoebelen as the norm among their critics. We are what
    might be called equal opportunity critics of what we call anti-Mormon
    literature or whatever you might wish to call it. It seems to me, and I
    believe I am entirely correct on this matter, that we have dealt with
    virtually all of the even remotely significant authors of criticisms of
    our faith, including you. And so it turns out that your remark about how
    we take the really bad stuff as the norm is simply not true. We do not
    focus just on the really bad stuff, but we deal with all of our critics.
    If I am wrong about this, you can easily correct me by naming the
    significant, less incompetent authors whose works we have neglected.

    Now I have just one other tiny little point to make. I suppose I
    will agree to you describing me, in our correspondence and for purposes
    of conversation only, however, as "anti-Baptist," if you will allow me
    the courtesy of using the nice little shorthand label "anti-Mormon" in
    our correspondence as an easy way of saying something like "critics of
    the faith of Latter-day Saints." And I might add that I did not attempt
    to deal with or even characterize the general thesis or IS THE MORMON MY
    BROTHER? I merely cited one tiny thing that makes the book, for me at
    leas, boring. So I will just ignore all that stuff about my not
    understanding what you were up to in that book. I see all that abusive
    rhetoric as just your way of picking a fight and thus seeming scoring
    some points.

    Finally, I am interested in your relationship with, that is, your
    opinion of, the work of Walter Martin. Please address this question. Do
    you include Martin among those who did competent work or is he one of
    those we Latter-day Saints see as the norm for criticisms of our faith?
    This is a simple question. It should not be hard for you to express an
    opinion on Walter Martin's work. Why am I interested in Martin? I am
    writing an essay on his work. There are several reasons I would like to
    know what you think of Martin. One is that he was not, as you obviously
    are, anti-Catholic (ops, critical of Roman Catholicism because it is not
    Christian, or however you would put it). This is a way of trying to find
    out whether people are competent and Christian who disagree with you on
    your stand on Roman Catholicism. In addition, Martin always advanced the
    old Spalding theory to explain the Book of Mormon. But the Tanners, who
    you seem to think are competent, strongly disagreed with Martin on this
    important issue. Where do you stand on this issue and on the conflict
    among your associates on this issue.

    Please remember that I am not trying to pick a fight with you. All I
    would like is clarification on some matters. If I have not paraphrased
    your stance on page seventeen of you book, please do not insult me, but
    just adjust what I have written so that it reflect exactly what you
    intended to say. I will accept anything you say about your intentions in
    that paragraph, since you are the only authority on this matter. I
    appreciate your responding to my importunings and I thank you in advance
    for dealing with what is contained in this letter.


    It was becoming self-evident that this conversation was going nowhere, either, so I tried to make it clear:


    > Once again I must insist that I do not wish to pick a fight with
    >you. I did not write to you to engage in some unseemly, insulting
    >quarrel. I wrote to you to get some information--that is all. The
    >controversy over the nice little shorthand label "anti-Mormon" was your
    >doing. Unfortunately I took the bait.

    Bait assumes I wished to draw you into the conversation. To be honest, ever since you wrote a few years ago about the "plan of salvation" being Joseph Smith's idea, I haven't had any desire at all to have further interchange, I assure you. And I shall end this one now. Thanks for writing.

    James>>>


    Dr. Midgley's true feelings finally broke through:

    Date: Wed, 22 Apr 1998 07:22:17 -0600
    From: "Louis C. Midgley" <midgleyl@burgoyne.com>
    Organization: TE ARIKI.
    X-Mailer: Mozilla 4.04 [en] (Win95; I)
    To: James White <orthopodeo@aomin.org>
    CC: skinny <skinny-l@lists.teleport.com>
    Subject: WHAT HAPPENED TO THE SWEET REASONABLENESS?

    Dear Brother White:

    I must admit that I have enjoyed your messages to me and to others
    as well. I kind of enjoy seeing an anti-Mormon self-destruct. Yes,
    anti-Mormon. After all you are against, remember that is the meaning of
    that prefix, the faith of Latter-day Saints. I believe that you publish
    books attacking the Church of Jesus Christ, you come to the General
    Conferences of the Church of Jesus Christ and pass out literature and
    engage in conversations attempting to lure Latter-day Saints into
    abandoning their faith for your particular brand of Protestant
    religiosity, you make your living at least in part engaging in these and
    other similar and related activities. That would seem to qualify you as
    a card-carrying anti-Mormon, would it not?

    I must admit that I was somewhat stunned and also very amused to get
    something from you in which you claimed, if I remember correctly, that
    you are not anti-Mormon. I do not believe you offered an alternative
    label to describe your business. However, you were willing to accept the
    label, if I would agree to be known as anti-Baptist, even though I have
    never made my living creating or spreading anti-Baptist propaganda, have
    never written anything attacking any brand of Baptist ideology and so
    forth and so on.

    Now what has brought you to mind is that right now I am looking at
    the page-proofs to my essay entitled "Anti-Mormonism and the Newfangled
    Countercult Culture." And I mention and quote you on pages six and seven
    of this essay. I quote the bulk of that paragraph on page seventeen of
    your recent anti-Mormon book, the meaning of which we have been more or
    less discussing. By that I mean that I have been discussing the meaning
    of that passage and you have been opining about your intentions. And it
    turns out that your opining is not supported by what is found in that
    paragraph in your book. That much seems obvious. Be that as it may, I
    have described you as "one of the more gifted among the current crop of
    anti-Mormons." I am tempted to change this to read "one of the more
    belligerent (or pugnacious) among the current crop of anti-Mormons."

    But the fact is that you appear to be brighter than the average
    anti-Mormon. So I must give you that much credit. But you are also one
    of the nastier anti-Mormons that it has been my displeasure to
    encounter. And I find that others share my opinion. I wonder if you
    could supply the name of a single Latter-day Saint with whom you have
    corresponded who has not found you just plain nasty. I would be willing
    to provide you with a list of those Latter-day Saints who have indicated
    to me that they have found corresponding with you unpleasant. In person,
    Professor Peterson tells me, you seemed at least not enirely unpleasant.

    The unpleasantness seems to come more often in correspondence where
    it turns out you end up typically throwing what amounts to a fit when
    you get corned. You end up blasting away with insults and then fall
    silent. I cannot believe that you do not regret firing back what amount
    to thoughtless replies to those you consider your enemies. In fact, I am
    confident that you are bright enough to know when you are in
    intellectual trouble. In this regard it will be interesting to see if
    you respond to Professor Hamblin. But you have seem to have such a dose
    of pride that you simply cannot ever even appear to concede a thing or
    ever to back down.

    I suggest that you try admitting when someone has gotten the best of
    you. Merely because you are or imagine that you are regenerated does not
    mean that you automatically win every debate. I have wondered if you are
    attacking and insulting others because lurking behind your posture of
    certainty there may be a kind of cosmic uncertainty that you need
    desperately to drive away by blasting others. In the large sense this
    might explain your anti-Catholic and anti-Mormon endeavors. But it also
    might explain you lack of civility in correspondence. By the way, is it
    true that Professor Blomberg has a special message on his telephone
    answering machine just for you?

    I am, of course, expecting to hear from you. I will, I must admit,
    be disappointed if you have not only suddenly fallen silent but remain
    silent. But, on the other hand, if you really were to fall silent, that
    is, cease attacking my faith, then I would be very pleased. And I think
    that God would also be pleased if such were to happen.

    Grace and peace,

    Louis Midgley


    The terms "taunting" and "goading" accurately describe this kind of behavior.  For me, I will allow such statements to stand on their own.  It would be silly of me to respond to such personal attacks by dredging up the names of those who could give witness either in my defense, or in support of anyone who would point to the out-of-control antics of some at BYU.  Personally, I think these messages speak far more clearly than anything I could ever say.  I replied to Midgley:

    >Dear Brother White:
    >
    > I must admit that I have enjoyed your messages to me and to others
    >as well. I kind of enjoy seeing an anti-Mormon self-destruct.

    Thanks for writing, Dr. Midgley. I think I've made it fairly plain that I have no interest in the continued provision of evidence concerning the attitudes of FARMS and BYU professors in general. I'm not sure why you and Dr. Peterson feel such a drive to continue providing these gems, but I assure you, I have more than enough to convince the even semi-unbiased observer. Thanks for writing, but you really don't need to continue to do so. As I've informed everyone up there, I'm busy preaching, teaching, and debating here in the New York City area. Last evening we had a tremendous time debating the Papacy against Dr. Mitchell Pacwa, and I yet have eight more speaking engagements before I head home on Monday. I note with great humor your reference to my "falling silent." I can only guess that BYU doesn't keep you folks very busy. As for me, I really am glad to have work that keeps me quite absorbed.

    James>>>


    At this point I included a note about attaching future nastigrams.  Much to my chagrin, Dr. Midgley took that as an open invitation to continue sending me nastigrams.   Dr. Peterson sent me one more note and finally got the clear idea that I had no intention of giving in to his taunts.  But Dr. Midgley decided that he now had the right to have anything he writes posted here.  I never considered that possibility, but, I should have.  Sorry, Dr. Midgley....you'll have to post your nastigrams elsewhere.  What has already been provided is more than sufficient to give anyone who is interested a unique insight into BYU apologetics.

    James White

    Addendum:

    As amazing as it is, months after making it very clear that I had no intention of joining in the "fun," Dr. Midgely, without the slighest bit of provocation, fired off the following note in mid-June. 

    Date: Mon, 15 Jun 1998 09:54:58 -0600
    From: "Louis C. Midgley" <midgleyl@burgoyne.com>
    To: James White <orthopodeo@aomin.org>
    Cc: skinny <skinny-l@lists.teleport.com>
    Subject: JIMMY WHITE'S FAILURE TO REPLY

    Dear Jim:

    I am astonished and just a little disappointed that I have not
    heard heard a single word from you concerning my brief mention of
    your opining in the essay I recently published. It can be
    accessed at
    http://www.farmsresearch.com/frob/frobv10_1/midgley.htm or
    through the SHIELDS web site.

    Certainly one with your rather obvious passion for controversy
    will not let this opportunity to ventilate pass you by. Or have
    you finally noticed that you have not served your interests well
    by pouring out venom on those you obviously consider your
    enemies? I trust that you now regret posting the first portions
    of the correspondence you had with Professors Hamblin and
    Peterson, and perhaps even my little exchange with you.

    Grace and peach

    lcm

    "Amazing" is about the only word that works.


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