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F.A.R.M.S. Strikes Again

 


James White

The evidence continues to pile in. We began exposing the double-standards and downright childish behavior of the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (F.A.R.M.S.), now based out of Brigham Young University, many years ago when they first wrote a review of my book, Letters to a Mormon Elder in 1993 (click here for that first response). In that instance, they published a review written by L. Ara Norwood wherein Norwood had used less than honest means to attempt to "get information" regarding the background of the book, including contacting us on his employer’s stationery as a possible means of reprinting the book. We have since learned that they must not have felt Norwood’s attempt was worthwhile, since another review has been published. We have yet to see it, but have been told it is over 200 pages in length.

Then in 1995 I was asked to write an article on the apologetic methodologies of F.A.R.M.S. for the Christian Research Journal (click here to read). The article minced no words and went right to the real issue, and that was not appreciated either by F.A.R.M.S. nor by some evangelicals who, for whatever reasons, seem to believe F.A.R.M.S. to have taken the place of the General Authorities as the governing and defining body of the LDS Church. Yet, F.A.R.M.S. had little response, as the gaffs and errors documented in the article are so clear that it is far easier for them to attempt to attack the messenger than to deal with the message. And that is the standard F.A.R.M.S. response: go ad-hominem and then look utterly shocked when someone points it out. Immediately identify the target of your attacks as an "anti-Mormon," and do your best to look like the offended party. It is very, very hard not to notice the parallels between F.A.R.M.S. and Catholic Answers!

Then, a few years later, we compiled quite the file of "nastigrams" from some of the principal players in F.A.R.M.S. that again illustrated the kind of behavior that having a graduate degree does nothing about. You can read these for yourself here. [I note that for those brave enough to read through this file, I received another lovely nastigram from Louis Midgley only today, 8/30/00!]

At the same time I engaged William Hamblin, a professor of history at BYU, in a conversation on the subject of Psalm 82/John 10. This conversation is found at www.aomin.org/Psalm82.html. As the article notes, this conversation began during one of my trips to Long Island for the "Great Debate" series. It really began shortly before this, when I was a guest on the radio in Salt Lake City on the Sunday night of General Conference. One of the callers who identified himself simply as "Bill" was in fact William Hamblin. He had presented an argument based upon a textual variant in the Hebrew of Deuteronomy 32. Made for obscure radio (I’m sure the audience loved the discussion of textual variants in Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia) but was interesting nonetheless. Hamblin then contacted me by e-mail, and thus the discussion began. It extended into late May.

A few items need to be understood right at the start if the rest of this saga is going to make sense and provide a useful insight into the behavior of the leaders of F.A.R.M.S. The beginning of the Hamblin/White discussion coincided with the flood of nastigrams from Peterson, Midgley, etc. Secondly, the discussion was supposed to be on one topic, and the only reason I invested the time into it that I did was due to the fact that, at least at first, Hamblin behaved substantially better than his compatriots. Of course, I doubted that it would last (it didn’t), but it was worth the effort if others would be helped (and they have).

Next, and most importantly, the conversation dragged on over the course of a number of weeks. During that time, small e-mails were exchanged that had absolutely, positively no bearing on the topic of Psalm 82/John 10. For example, the following message is not included on our web page for the obvious reason that it has no bearing on anyone who wishes to understand a written debate between a Mormon and a Christian on the topic of polytheism in the text of the Bible:

Date: Thu, 09 Apr 1998 16:46:21 -0600
From: "William J. Hamblin" <william_hamblin@byu.edu>
Subject: You still don't get it
To: James White <orthopodeo@aomin.org>
Cc: Paul OWEN <9753633@bute.sms.ed.ac.uk>

>HAMBLIN
>I will not be able to read your entire response carefully until tonight.
>It's final paper time, so it may be a few days before I respond completely.
>In a first brief overview, your response is most disappointing.  You don't
>get it.

JAMES
I'll assume that "you don't get it" is equal to "you don't agree with me."  As to who has presented a solidly biblical exegesis of the passage, well, again, I'll leave that to others to judge.

BILL
No, James, I mean you don't get it.  I don't expect you to agree with me.  Quite the opposite.  But I do hope that you will be able to understand my arguments, and deal with those arguments.  Your response, at this point, has demonstrated that "you don't get it."

William J. Hamblin
Associate Professor of History
323 KMB
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602-4446

801-378-6469
wh4@email.byu.edu
FAX 801-378-5784

Why is it important to note this? Because our attempt to "stick to the facts" and make the presentation readable for those truly interested in theology and apologetics is now being used to slander us. How can an obvious, honest desire to keep a debate clear and not clutter it be turned against you? Well, let’s see how F.A.R.M.S. has done it again....

A New Book

During the course of the conversation with William Hamblin it was mentioned that Daniel Peterson (who was, at the time, sending me nastigrams) had written an article on the subject of Psalm 82 and John 10. I have, since 1998, asked Daniel Peterson a number of times when this work was going to be ready. It finally appeared in the 2000 release of the book, The Disciple as Scholar: Essays on Scripture and the Ancient World in Honor of Richard Lloyd Anderson, edited by Stephen D. Ricks, Donald W. Parry, and Andrew H. Hedges (FARMS, 2000). It is titled, "Ye are Gods": Psalm 82 and John 10 as Witnesses to the Divine Nature of Humankind." This is not an article. It is a 123 page work with 332 endnotes--obviously many hands played a part in its production. There are many things to be said about this article (Lord willing, I will be able to respond to it in a shorter time period than that which transpired between my hearing of it and my obtaining it, which was over two years). But for now, its dishonest and unnecessary ad-hominem attack on me will suffice to show yet again the true character of the LDS leadership of F.A.R.M.S.

On page 556 appears a paragraph, under the "Notes," but before the first end note citation, that reads:

I wish to thank my friends and colleagues Professors William J. Hamblin and Stephen D. Ricks for helpful comments on various drafts of this paper. Roger D. Cook, Daniel McKinlay, Stephen D. Ricks, Royal Skousen, John Tvedtnes, and Bryan J. Thomas assisted with important references. While making final adjustments to the essay, I profited from the lengthy and revealing e-mail exchange between Professor Hamblin and a professional anti-Mormon named James White on the interpretation of Psalm 82 that has been posted, completed and unedited, at shields-research.org/A-O_Min.htm (Mr. White has also placed a cropped and vigorously "spin-doctored" version of that exchange at his own web site). Of course, the argument and the conclusions (and any attendant errors of fact or judgment) are mine alone.

Now, someone familiar with the facts of this matter can’t help but see that the middle of this paragraph is nothing but unfounded slander, intended to continue the attempt on the part of F.A.R.M.S. to marginalize those (here myself, but they have done this to dozens of people in many contexts) who they know will never compromise with Mormonism and who continue to see the fruits of their efforts in the conversion of Mormons from darkness to faith in Jesus Christ. But let’s document the error of this assertion.

1) We have addressed the hypocrisy of identifying people as "anti-Mormons." It is the same tactic used by Roman Catholic apologists when they refer to people as "anti-Catholics," and Jehovah’s Witnesses when they label someone an "opposer." It is meant to create an emotional result, nothing more. And if Daniel Peterson cannot address me properly when he knows I have taught professionally for multiple institutions (Grand Canyon University, Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, etc.), and am far more published than he himself is, this only reflects upon him, not upon me.

2) It is obviously the intention of Peterson to directly allege editing on my part when he speaks of the SHIELDS edition as "complete and unedited" and mine as "cropped." This is a falsehood. There is nothing that passed between myself and William Hamblin on the subject of Psalm 82/John 10 that is not on our website. Nothing he wrote has been edited, removed, "cropped," or anything else. Nothing I wrote has been edited, improved, or corrected.

3) Such is not the case with the materials on the SHIELDS site. I noted in a brief review of the materials there that not only had errors been made in inserting links into my posts (one that caught my eye, because it is a "pet peeve," was the spelling of a reference to the Psalter as "Psalms" instead of the proper format, Psalm 11, Psalm 23, etc.) but editing has taken place on Hamblin’s letters, correcting errors that had appeared in the originals. At one point, when Hamblin decided to start behaving in typical F.A.R.M.S. fashion by referring to me as an "anti-Mormon," he referred to me "loosing" the argument. Of course, he meant "losing." When I replied, I quoted him directly, and put the misspelled word, "loosing," in quotes. Someone, either Hamblin himself, or more likely Stan Barker or someone at SHIELDS, decided that didn’t look good (misspelling things while insulting someone is rather embarrassing), so they fixed Hamblin’s error. Such leaves one wondering what other changes would come to light if I were to care enough to invest the effort to do a more careful comparison.

4) The reader is strongly encouraged to read the material that Peterson and Hamblin insist is necessary to include if the debate is to be fully aired. The direct link to the index page that contains all seventy-some odd e-mails is: http://www.shields-research.org/A-O_Min.htm.

A person who takes the time to drag themselves through all the totally unrelated material will discover that a) the entirety of the debate on Psalm 82/John 10 is on our site, and b) that which is not included contains a tremendous amount of material that reflects very poorly on Hamblin. Posting it would surely have gotten some people to the point of accusing us of impropriety!

Any fair-minded person will immediately see one glaring fact: the file on our web page presents the clearest, fairest, most readable presentation of the interchange. The reader is not distracted with messages that say "No, haven’t gotten to a reply yet, I’m busy doing this...." And it is absurd...no, childish, to insist that such materials have to be included for the discussion to be "unedited."

Finally, as to the charge of "spin-doctoring," again this can only refer to the insertion of explanatory introductions at the beginning of the file, along the way before e-mails, and at the end of the file. Yet, if one goes to the SHIELDS site, one will find at least one note inserted directly into the text of one of the e-mails! Is this not "spin-doctoring" then? I felt no need to "doctor" anything, since I believe the e-mails speak for themselves.

Conclusion

We are often asked how intelligent, highly-trained people can be deceived by such transparently untrue systems as Mormonism. For most, the answer is simply spiritual deception. But for those who are actively involved in promoting spiritual deception, the answer goes deeper. Even in the midst of writing an article that is specifically heretical, which presents to its readers a false god, a false Christ, and a false gospel, Daniel Peterson has to find a way to take a personal, unwarranted shot at someone he knows he cannot deceive but whose work has been used to deliver many from the very errors he is seeking to promote. There was no reason whatsoever for the inclusion of these words, outside of the furtherance of a cause. That cause is to denigrate and marginalize anyone who refuses to bow to the overwhelming "scholarship" of F.A.R.M.S. and its attempted defenses of the religion of Joseph Smith.

The reader should consider well: if Peterson is unfaithful in handling the little elements of truth, why should anyone assume he is handling the entire topic in a scholarly, let alone fair, manner?


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