[Update 8/25/2014] Mr. Peterson’s entire talk can be found here
I have to wonder if I need to apologize to Jeremy Runnells. Before my article on “Big Lists,” FAIR hadn’t seemed to notice the CES letter. But Jeff Lindsay replied saying he hadn’t seen it, and since that day it’s been one FAIR contributor or another bullying poor Mr. Runnells.
In fact, I have to wonder if Mr. Lindsay was the one who contacted Mr. Peterson when he said:
Someone said, “You know, maybe you should address that. Maybe that would be a good topic.” And I said, “Yeah, OK. I’ll think about that.”
Perhaps, and perhaps not. Regardless, I feel some need to reply as I might have kicked off the bullification of the CES Letter’s author.
Criticism the first
I found it very painful to go through the 90 pages. It is wearisome reading and that, point after point, multiple times at a page, I was exasperated.
Daniel seems to want his audience to think that 90 pages of discussions of Mormonism is a slog. It’s difficult to wade through. Never mind that this guy made money by publishing BYU Studies, or spends his career publishing about mormon issues. 90 pages… wow. I mean, the average BYU Studies magazine had over 100 pages, but who would want to slog through 90 pages!!
And this goes along with Mr. Peterson’s opening paragraph. Nothing points out how dismissive someone is than when they miss things like that the letter was originally a very short list and has since been added to. But Mr. Peterson places the argument that the list is overwhelming in the location one might put a centeral thesis.
It’s just a ratta tat tat list of objections. I can understand why a normal person confronted by that would say, “Well, you know, I’ve got a life.” In 90 pages of quick and dirty objections would take 500 pages to respond to, and probably wouldn’t do much good, so, never mind.
Criticism the second
My impression is that the author is someone who had leanings in more of what you might call a fundamentalist direction than my own, but he was blindsided by things that he was learning about history and historical difficulties that he had not encountered before.
Ah, yes. It is Jeremy’s fault for being blindsided. If only he had studied enough… not of the CES “fundamentalist” doctrines, but from other sources, maybe like listening to John Dehlin, er no no no, I mean, reading BYU Studies, he would not have been so lost at believing things that were pure deception. It’s Jeremy’s fault for not having the “right kind” of faith.
He lost his trust and felt betrayed.
Best line in the whole darn thing. This is it. This is why people leave the church. Mr. Peterson, if you could convince general authorities to stop doing deceptive things, issuing statements as thought they came from God that are later changed out and so forth, people wouldn’t lose trust and feel betrayed. But as long as you and yours defend them in their deceptions, I’m afraid people will correctly lose trust in you and in the general authorities of the church, and will continue to leave.
The CES Letter is not effective because it is deceptive, as so many FAIR apologists have tried to imply, but because it is accurate, well sourced, and speaks to the deception that people are feeling week in and week out at church.
Accusation the third
As I say, it’s a kind of compendium, not original at all…not really pretending to originality.
This is a really odd thing to say. Mr. Runnells does not say, “Here is a new issue with the church.” He said, “Here are issues that I have that I asked and no one had answers for.” Do you see the difference? A compendium of questions with poor answers. And then he goes to Mr. Peterson’s friends there at FAIR for answers and lists how they agree with him that these things are real issues.
Somehow, Mr. Peterson sees this as a bad thing. Seeking answers to questions at the FAIR website and listing why those answers are not sufficient or lacking… he sees 90 pages of that kind of questioning as a bothersome un-original agitation. And why shouldn’t he? I mean if people read it, they’ll see how many problems there are with all the work his FAIR buddies have been doing.
Accusation the fourth
My impression and view of the bottom line is that the author spent too little time and effort looking at these questions, that he “jumped ship” too soon,
And here we get to the bullying. If Mr. Peterson had taken time to email the man rather than to attack him, he might have learned about his struggle… how long he fought and wrestled with these questions. Mr. Runnells came to me and we discussed these questions before he was willing to “jump ship.” I found him an honest truth seeker who just wanted to understand how things really went down. But I guess when you’re as important or as distant from people, or whatever as Daniel C. Peterson, you don’t actually talk to people with questions before you insinuate they were never that serious.
Then he tells an interesting story about a family who left over the “Spaulding” theory in a week. I think this really shows the heart of Daniel C. Peterson. Instead of him saying, “Wow. These people, they must have had a ton of issues dating for years and we really didn’t resolve them,” he sees a straw break a camel’s back and blames the camel.
They jumped ship too soon. I don’t know, it almost seemed as if they were poised at the door waiting for a reason to leave.
Because in his mind, anyone who leaves must be castigated as “Wanting to leave.” He then admits he “didn’t know them that well,” nor does he know Jeremy, but that won’t stop him from casting them as weak, wanting to leave the truth, fools in front of an audience.
Mr. Peterson then goes on to discuss “Big List” apologetics, and this is why I think that Mr. Lindsay and my conversation kicked off FAIR noticing the CES letter, because my conversation with Mr. Lindsay is here about his “Big List” post.
In that conversation I asked Mr. Lindsay what he did when he ran across evidence that was counter to his beliefs. I pointed out that, in his own articles, he has evidence that the Book of Mormon had to occur in two separate realities (Limited Geography and Hemispheric). The conversation stopped at that point, and he never replied.
So you see, you’re wrong if you write a big list. You’re wrong if you leave over “just one question.” To Mr. Peterson, Brian Hales, and Jeff Lindsay you’re going to be wrong if you believe anything except what they believe, and even that means suspending reviewing any data against your currently belief…
… otherwise you’re a target for mockery before the audience of the believing.
Accusation the fifth
Even for those who are prepared to answer questions on a wide variety of topics, the time it takes to lay a foundation to properly answer a question can be taken by the instantly impatient critics as an admission of weakness and confirmation that they are right
This is a valid complaint. I’ve run into this from the FAIR/faithful side and have even done it myself. I think this is human nature. We all do this sometimes and it is a mistake. He is right to call it out…
BUT I want to point out that Mr. Peterson doesn’t even address a single issue out of the 90 pages. In fact, he could have written this entire speech without even looking at the CES letter and just having Jeff or Brian describe it to him.
If someone has 90 pages of questions, the correct response from the church, or those who defend it, may not be to say, “meh, that one is already gone,” but rather to address the serious issues.
And not in ridiculous ways. If you believe that Joseph Smith had 35 wives and didn’t have sex with more than 9 of them, therefore it was okay for him to break the law and abuse his power to obtain those wives, people are going to balk at your answers.
If you suggest that horses are really deer or tapirs, you’re going to be mocked, not because you believe in the church, but because you are willing to defend it with ridiculous claims.
It’s a form of the “Gish Gallop.”
This is so important it gets its own section. The “Gish Gallop” is a technique used in oral debates of presenting so many issues, one cannot address them all in the time given.
But online, where one can post, write, and revise with all the time in the world, there is no such thing as a Gish Gallop.
Imagine if FAIR posted a section for the CES letter, and then addressed one page a day, for 90 days. One page. They could even list “Coming Soon” on all the other pages. At the end of 90 days, they’d have rebuttals posted to all 90 pages, and then Jeremy could write a rebuttal in another say, 90 days. Then they could write back. It would be one giant conversation that would help people resolve the most common issues with Mormonism.
Instead, I’ve seen first hand how they would deceptively alter links, change what they had said, and call him a liar. In the Mormon Historian’s facebook group, Brian Hales attacked Jeremy directly calling him a liar for posting a link to the RLDS version of the Temple Lot trial. NEVER MIND that Jeremy was linking to the FAIRmormon.org website and the mistake was there. Never mind that Brian had the power to make the change to the website himself and then just inform Jeremy “hey man, I saw you linked to our website, this was wrong, it was corrected, please update.” No, instead he posted on the FAIRmormon blog how Jeremy was a liar and a deceiver.
When you use the techniques of deception, even when you have the time to answer the problems, you cannot claim that you are being “Gish Galloped.”
A final note
FairMormon does incredible work on a shoestring budget. I mean, it’s astonishing, and with relatively little more (I’ll put in that plug, even though we have reached the fundraising goal for today).
Given that we have no “donation goals,” no payment to our work, and no group of individuals working like crazy to update webpages, all I can say about thinking that 90 pages is tiresome, that the author is disingenuous, and that he was “ready to jump ship anyway” while praising the shitstorm of paid-for deception that is FAIR, is “Mr. Peterson, go fuck yourself.”