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REVIEWING THE REVIEW: VOL. 17, ISS. 1 (2005)


Overview

            Another issue of the Review which touches on a large variety of subjects, one of which is bound to be of interest to even some casual readers. This issue touches on Masonry, early Mormon history, the angel vs. treasure guardian debate, DNA, the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, science, and both LDS and evangelical theology, with a tribute to Hugh Nibley to boot!

Recommended Reading:


            Louis Midgley, “Editor’s Introduction – The First Steps,” pg. xi-lvi: Midgely opines on various matters related to both sectarian and secular anti-Mormonism, offering interesting insights throughout. The portion discussing faith as the basis of all religious decisions – including the decision not to believe – is especially interesting and thoughtful.

            Larry E. Morris, “‘I Should Have an Eye Single to the Glory of God’: Joseph Smith’sAccount of the Angel and the Plates,” a review of Ronald V. Huggins, “FromCaptain Kidd’s Treasure Ghost to the Angel Moroni: Changing Dramatis Personaein Early Mormonism,” Dialogue 36/4(2003): 17-42, pg. 11-81: As noted in my review of 18/1, Ashurst-McGee has given us the benchmark for any and all research dealing with the treasure guardian/angel question. While this review by Morris is not quite on par with Ashurst-McGee’s work, it is still a very important and invaluable contribution to this topic. In some instances, Morris’s analysis of the early accounts surpasses that of Ashurst-McGee, (something that Ashurst-McGee himself concedes) and Morris illustrates that many of the supposed “treasure guardian” elements can just as easily fit into a religious context, and he argues that evidence from the primary sources suggest that it was in a religious context that Joseph Smith understood those things. Morris also provides four appendices which contain the relevant excerpts from the essential sources on this issue, thus making it very easy for the interested reader to consult the original sources and decide for themselves, rather than rely on the analysis of Morris, or Huggins, or even Ashurst-McGee. Thus, as I have noted before, Morris’s review here is an important supplement to be used along with the essay by Ashurst-McGee.
 
            Ryan Parr, “Missing the Boat to Ancient America… Just Plain Missing the Boat,” areview of Simon G. Southerton, Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA, and the Mormon Church (Salt Lake City,UT: Signature Books, 2005), pg. 83-106: Parr adds his voice to the numerous DNA expects who had already documented the complications of trying to judge the Book of Mormon based on DNA research. Particularly informative statistics Parr provides are that after 20 generations, only 2 out of 18 unique mtDNA “names” will have survived, while 13 out 18 are lost in just four generations for Y-chromosome DNA. Thus, there is no reason to expect Lehi’s particular DNA to be immediately present in Native American populations. Parr offers additional information explaining how ancestors become increasingly less genetically significant and other limitations on DNA science. Parr also discusses interesting information regarding plant genetics that Southerton (a plant geneticist) ironically ignores. Parr also touches on the interaction of belief and science and provides some other criticisms of Southerson’s approach.

            Gregory Taggart, “How Martha Wrote an Anti-Mormon Book (Using Her Father’s Handbook asHer Guide?),” a review of Martha Beck, Leaving the Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith (New York, NY: Crown,2005), pg. 123-170: Taggart goes through all 36 rules which Hugh Nibley wrote in his satirical book How to Write an Anti-Mormon Book and demonstrates that Beck (who is Nibely’s daughter) follows those rule to the tee.

            David L. Paulsen and Brent Alvord, “Joseph Smith and the Problem of the Unevangelized,”a review of John Sanders, No Other Name: An Investigation into the Destiny of the Unevangelized (Eugene, OR: Wipfand Stock, 2001) and John Sanders, Gabriel Fackre, and Ronald H. Nash, What about Those Who Have Never Heard?(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1995), pg. 171-204: Paulson and Alvord examine the types of theories on the unevangelized as they are found in the two books under review, and then they compare the doctrine revealed to Joseph Smith regarding the spirit world, three degrees of glory, and salvation for the dead with those theories, noting how this doctrine creates a synthesis of the different theological attempts to resolve this problem; and they note that this doctrine overcomes the various hang-ups that impede each theory individually.
 
            Andrew H. Hedges and Dawson W. Hedges, “No, Dan, That’s Still Not History,” a review of Dan Vogel, Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet (Salt Lake City, UT: Signature Books, 2004), pg. 205-222: The Hedges (one of which has training in American history, the other of which has training in psychiatry) go after Vogal for his tendency to read minds, fill in the gaps where there are no sources, and use selective source criticism of the sources which don’t support his thesis. They also argue that he tends to use circular reasoning as his psychoanalysis becomes evidence for his conclusions.

            Ernst Benz, “Imago dei: Man as the Image of God,” translated by Alan F. Keele, pg. 223-254: Benz, a renowned German theologian, originally gave this presentation in 1969 (in German). Benz provides an enlightening discussion of how man as the “image of God” has been understood by Christians through the ages, focusing primarily on mystics and Latter-day Saints. While Benz does not perfectly understand the LDS view (on outsider never could, in my opinion), he does an admirable job – and it is always interesting to see how we are being perceived from a true scholarly outside perspective (instead of the pseudo-scholarly perspective offered by anti-Mormons).

            Dilworth B. Parkinson, “We Have Received, and We Need No More,” pg. 255-271: Parkinson offers an interesting and enlightening discussion of the process of learning “line-upon-line.” He identifies 8 principles to learning line-upon-line and illustrating his point from the scriptures and his experience learning and teaching a foreign language.
    
            Allen R. Buskirk, “Science, Pseudoscience, and Religious Belief,” a review of CarlSagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Scienceas Candle in the Dark (New York, NY: Ballantine Books, 1996), pg. 273-309: Buskirk critiques Sagan’s approach to religion (he treats it as another form of “pseudoscience”) and provides a good discussion of evidence and authority and how they work in both science and religion.

            Richard Neitzel Holzapfel and David M. Whitchurch, “Assessing the Countercult,” a review of Douglas E. Cowen, Bearing FalseWitness? An Introduction to the Christian Countercult (Westport, CT:Praeger, 2003), pg. 311-335:  Doug Cowen was a protestant minister who could not reconcile the image of Mormons found in anti-Mormon literature with what he experienced with real life Mormons. So, when he went back to school for his graduate work in sociology, he made the Christian countercult the focus of his study. His book Bearing False Witness? Is the product of that study, being a simplified version of his doctoral dissertation. Holzapfel and Whitchurch summarize Cowen’s findings, noting that countercult “apologetics” is a form of boundary maintenance.

            Louis Midgely, “A Mighty Kauri has Fallen: Hugh Winder Nibley (1910-2005), pg. 337-354:  A tribute to the legendary scholar and apologist.

Final Thoughts

            Overall, this is another quality issue of the FARMS Review. The articles by Morris, Parr, and Benz are necessary reading for anyone interested in those issues. In addition to those, the introduction by Midgely, along with the reviews/articles by Paulsen and Alvord, Parkinson, and Buskirk are important contributions to Mormon studies.

Rating: 4/5 

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