Monday, November 18, 2013

REVIEWING THE REVIEW: VOL. 4 (1992)

Overview

This issue has a great editorial introduction which discusses the then-current controversies involving FARMS and Signature Books, a fascinating chapter in Mormon apologetics and even just Mormon studies more broadly. After this introduction, however, the issue starts slowly, and never really fully picks up steam. Of the first 12 reviews, only one engages a volume critical of Mormons, and even that review is relatively short. There are also a couple more interesting reviews of faithful books, but nothing particularly noteworthy. Of the remaining 18 reviews, only 6 of them engage critical material, and most of it is standard sectarian anti-Mormonism, which only 4 volumes in is already getting boring. (I can only imagine what it was like for those who had to keep reviewing these books.) I nonetheless recommend these reviews because they tend to have potentially useful material on the Book of Mormon, and for the sake of some who may not have already gotten over the standard hurdles of 1990s anti-Mormonism who might find these reviews helpful.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Book of Mormon Archaeology and Agenda-Driven Narratives

Websites critical of the Church love to tell the story of one Thomas Stuart Ferguson, an archaeologist who spent years trying to prove the Book of Mormon was true only to be ultimately disappointed, reaching the conclusion that the Book of Mormon could not possibly be true history. Or, so the story goes, in a nutshell. There are a lot of problems with the way the critics like to tell the story. For one, it should be born in mind that Ferguson was not a professional archaeologist, and that he did not have advanced training in the matter. He was at best an amateur archaeologist with enough passion and enthusiasm to establish the New World Archaeological Foundation. Also, while there can be little doubt that he did lose his faith at one point, stories from close family and friends suggest that toward the end of his life he may have regained his faith. But I’m not really going to make a fuss about that right now. I am more interested in talking about why critics tell the story in the first place.