I learned a little more about Mike Adams and his Mormon experience today. He actually has done more homework (or claims to have done more homework) than I thought. Unfortunately, that doesn’t bode well for him. What is worse than simply not doing the homework? Doing your homework and not learning anything from it.
Seven years, to the day, before his recent screed, Adams wrote:
I read The Book of Mormon without giving a fair hearing to books like The God Makers that attacked its basic foundations. When I wanted to learn more about the structure and finances of the church, I read Mormon America: the Power and the Promise – a book that has been praised by Mormons for its objectivity. I also read Standing for Something by Gordon Hinckley in order to hear the LDS president speak on values we hold in common.
Actually, Mormon America has been sharply criticized for its lack of objectivity, but I will grant it is better than The God Makers. And he certainly deserves some credit for reading Hinkley’s Stand for Something. Bravo! But there is more. When approaching controversial topics, he sought out Mormon sources:
When it came time to approach the controversial topic of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, I read a book by the same name written by a Mormon named Juanita Brooks. In so doing, I avoided the more recent and decidedly anti-Mormon account by Sally Denton.
Finally, when it came time to read about the life of Joseph Smith, author of The Book of Mormon, I avoided the anti-Smith biography No Man Knows my History by Fawn M. Brodie. Instead, I read a more favorable account called Rough Stone Rolling by Richard Lyman Bushman – a devout Mormon and distinguished historian from Columbia University.
In his personal life, he saw the manifest biases against Mormons and thought it was unfair. “I saw evidence of the profound bias Mormons have complained about for decades,” he wrote. He even responded to the accusation that Mormons are cult and not Christian:
The idea that the LDS church is a cult stems largely from a wildly biased media that focuses on breakaway congregations still practicing polygamy – a practice long rejected by the leadership of the LDS church. I suspect that the feminist influence within the mainstream media intentionally distorts this aspect of Mormonism as a punishment for the lack of an organized feminist movement in the church. (Author’s note: this is not to suggest a conspiracy but, rather, a collective result of individual bigotry).
The idea that Mormons are not Christians is also untenable. No one reading Romans 10:9 and John 14:6 can deny that Mormons are Christians who are saved by faith and destined for heaven. Of course, raising the issue of heaven might not be the best way to bridge the gap between Mormon and non-Mormon Christians. In fact, it leads inevitably to a discussion of the controversial life and revelations of Joseph Smith, Jr.
Now compare that last paragraph to the one that spawned the recent “apology”:
People often try to call something a marriage when it isn’t,” he had written. “Calling a union between two men or between two women a marriage doesn’t make it one. It’s like embedding the name ‘Jesus Christ’ in the official title of the LDS church and thinking that makes Mormonism somehow Christian. Call a square a triangle if you like but it’s still a square. Your hardheadedness won’t make it become a triangle. It will only make you appear obtuse.
Somewhere along the line, Adams became much more akin to Decker and Denton than Bushman and Brooks. What happened? I don’t know, but the 180 turn apparently happened within two days of that original post.
In any event, this just makes yesterdays rant all the more embarrassing for Adams. If he read Bushman’s biography of Joseph Smith, then he should have known about several things I brought up yesterday. He should have known at least a little about LDS responses to criticisms of the Book of Mormon (pp.92-94) and following Bushman’s footnotes and bibliography could have lead to where he could find more. Specifically, he should have known about the archaeological evidence in the Middle-East (p. 93) I mentioned yesterday. He definitely should have known about the witnesses who saw the gold plates (pp. 76-80). And yet he betrays no awareness of this matter at all. Furthermore, one would be hard press to find Bushman’s influence on Adams’s views of Joseph Smith’s polygamy.
Still, reading Richard Bushman is not even close to doing enough “homework.” Now I understand that not everyone can read dozens of books and articles on every little squabble over the claims made by Mormons, and I don’t expect them too. But I don’t think it would be too much to have asked that Adams read Terryl Givens’s By the Hand of Mormon, which would have given him at least a good foundation on LDS scholarship into the Book of Mormon, and from a fairly balanced perspective, too. Furthermore, if one is going to publicly comment on matters – especially if one is in an influential position, as Adams is, then one has a fundamental responsibility to do a little more than read a few primers on the subject. And if that public statement is seven years after you did your reading, it doesn’t seem like to much to ask that they make some effort to see what, if anything, has changed in the last few years – what new research is there, and how does it square with their perceptions? Thus enter Hales’s work on Joseph Smith’s polygamy. (Simply put, if you haven’t read Hales on the subject, you shouldn’t be commenting on it today, period. You don’t have to agree with him, but you have to know what he has said, and you have to engage it.) Or Perego’s work on DNA and the Book of Mormon. Most of what I mentioned yesterday, though, would have been available in 2006.
As it stands, from what Adams has made publicly available, it is the equivalent of reading the summary on the back of book and then writing your book report. Anyone who has actually read the book is going know you are bluffing. And if he did more reading and studying than what is indicated, well then, as I said, that only makes matters worse. Because as it is, he should have known better. It is one thing to not do your homework. It is something else entirely to do your homework and not learn a darn thing from it.