[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.”
It was the nonsensical, inane and utterly ridiculous apologetics that FAIR provided that eventually convinced me that not only does the church not have an answer to these damning facts, not only do their prophets, seers and revelators have nothing… So hide behind PR girls dresses- but that these ridiculous replies, and logical fallacies, and ad hominems, this bullshit (because what other word is there for it?) was actually the best they could come up with, from the best they have.
And that was enough to know an answer would never come, and yes, they were all facts.
But clearly I was just lazy, impatient, offended, or wanted to sin.
They have nothing
I don’t even believe they can buy their own stupid responses.
How effed in the head must these people actually be.
**** me I’d be petrified if I was on trial and saw them on the jury.
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If you can’t say anything substantive, go with ad-homiem.
This seems to be the modus operandi of LDS apologetics. Of course without anything substantive that they can say, especially in reference to the CES letter, I’d guess that’s all they have left in their arsenal…just a great lot of hot air, unsubstantiated claims and general whining.
YOUR reply was overly long, rambling, disjointed and nothing new. Therefore I won’t waste time I can spend helping disabled sick third world children in hospitals instead because clearly your agenda is twisted and you just lie in wait and haven’t read enough or you wouldn’t post that, appeal to faith insert scripture showing I’m right. You didn’t even spend time correcting grammar that also proves you are lazy and wrong.
(was I close?)
1) “… Daniel seems to want his audience to think that 90 pages of discussions of Mormonism is a slog. It’s difficult to wade through …”
The only reason it’s difficult to wade through is not that it’s a “discussion of Mormonism” – nor that the questions are unimportant. The reason it’s difficult is that the points have been made and answered for years. My guess is that you could go to the last-century archives of alt.religion.mormon and see the exact same material, asked and answered there.
As LdS critics Mosser and Owen pointed out (in 1997!) there are, with few exceptions, “no books from an evangelical perspective that responsibly interact with contemporary LDS scholarly and apologetic writing.” The same is still true for most writing critical of the Church.
2) “… Best line in the whole darn thing …”
This, I think, is the crux of the matter. After one has “lost his trust and felt betrayed” it has stopped being an intellectual matter and become an emotional matter . From that point forward, no intellectual response will ever be good enough, no matter how well-reasoned and well-articulated it may be.
3) “… he sees 90 pages of that kind of questioning as a bothersome un-original agitation …”
Let’s look at one example given. Of the Book of Abraham, the author writes “Joseph Smith got everything wrong about the papyri, the facsimiles, the names, the gods … it’s gibberish” (emphasis mine). Peterson then proceeds to elucidate one thing (of many) that Smith got right: the crocodile-god of Pharaoh.
So the problems with this particular question are (a) sweeping generalizations are never true (big wide grin), (b) as evidenced by the example Peterson presented, and (c) it ignores any other scholarship on the matter. For this last point I would refer you to Traditions About the Early Life of Abraham, by Tvednes, Hauglid and Gee. It examines sources in Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Syriac, Arabic, Demotic, Old Coptic, Old Turkish, and Persian. Sources from three different continents and thousands of years of human history.
The premise of their book is that if the BofA is authentic, the non-Biblical details of Abraham’s life it contains will have these same themes/elements attested in non-Biblical Abrahamic traditions.
And they are attested. In spades. Each and every non-Biblical detail – not just one or two, but all. Joseph Smith got everything wrong? I don’t think so!
4) “… he might have learned about his struggle …”
This accusation might have some merit.
But, in Peterson’s defense, the purpose of his BYU Education Week address was not in outreach to Mr. Runnells – in fact, he never even mentions Runnells by name. He says, “I’m not really addressing him. I’m addressing people who might run into these things that are still puzzled by the charges that he makes.”
It seems incongruous, to me, that you would belittle Peterson for not learning more about “how long [Runnells] fought and wrestled with these questions” – and then, at the same time, belittle him for assuring his BYU Education Week audience that “there are answers, at least adequate, and in some cases really much more than adequate to just about every issue raised.” Perhaps if Runnells had received that assurance, at the get-go, his “fight” and “wrestle” might not have been such an arduous task!
5) “… I want to point out that Mr. Peterson doesn’t even address a single issue out of the 90 pages. …”
Bzzzzt! Wrong! But thanks for playing. We have a lovely parting gift for you.
Please go to the transcript of Peterson’s address. There are (by my count) 9 direct quotes from the letter, indicated by “[Letter to a CES Director]” in bold italic.
Sorry, this got buried
>”made and answered for years. ” yes with shitty answers. But these are not discussed on Sundays; this is questions made and discussed by intellectuals selling books.
>LdS critics Mosser and Owen pointed out (in 1997!) there are, with few exceptions, “no books from an evangelical perspective that responsibly interact with contemporary LDS scholarly and apologetic writing.”
I don’t know what you’re saying here. You ignore Lighthouse ministries. I don’t know why “From an evangelical perspective” would matter. And certainly there are plenty of books now. Can you not find one? I can help you if necessary, but Google can probably produce a few in a few seconds.
>Peterson then proceeds to elucidate one thing (of many) that Smith got right: the crocodile-god of Pharaoh.
And here is one of those “shitty answers”. Crocodile god of pharoah is in the wrong place, the wrong time, it is not accurate for where Abraham would be. Yes there was, for a few years, a crocodile that was associated with pharoah, and later Pharoah was seen as a god… but it’s just; it’s a shitty answer.
> it ignores any other scholarship on the matter.
Something you’re doing right now. Something Daniel Peterson certainly does. Look, I’m glad you replied. I’m glad you’re upset about the CES letter. But so far you’re so convinced of your own thoughts, it’s hard to really take you seriously. You brush aside that Egyptologists for the church have their credentials revoked and treat Mr. Runnels like he was the one with no knowledge.
How about this, you get a Prophet to back up any of your answers; officially from the church (not in an anonymous essay) and I’ll consider your positions. Until then, your thoughts are no more or less valid than mine.
John Gee (I assume this is the Egyptologist you had in mind) and I were at Berkeley together in the Near Eastern Studies Ph.D. program before he left the program for Yale. I sort of lost track (and interest) afterwards.
Can you please elaborate on the “credentials revoked” comment?
Though I hate to admit it–I love ad hominem attacks, especially for folks like Peterson and Hales. I also have a soft spot for the One True Scotsmen logical fallacy. Plus the 90+ page is way out of control and shows Runnells as the winner in a war of wits with both men. That said, I agree with your breakdown, what really makes Peterson unique is his being a bully. Not surprising that FAIRMormon ditched his ass as soon as they could.
That said, I’m still hoping for a review of literature that ends the pre-eminence of Hales, his material has been considered “state of the art” for way too long, and the JS materials seems like it should put him into an early, though much deserved, intellectual grave.
Anyway thanks for the clarity, you’re awesome and keep up the good work!
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I just found this article.
Thanks for calling out Mr Peterson and stating the truth…. he is a bully….and more.
A person who goes straight to name calling has no argument; does not have the intelligence or maturity to discuss the issue; is letting Emotions and personal bias get in the way of civil and intelligent discussion and it is a way to ignore facts among many other reasons.
I gave facts to Peterson about a certain subject, did not call him any names, gave links to articles where the facts were and links to articles of people explaining this subject and why people like Peterson, who defend it the way they do, are wrong. He became unhinged. He went straight to calling me derogatory terms to brand me as a horrible person, called me cuss words, and proceeded attacking me as if he personally knew me, how I think and what is in my heart, and what God thinks of me.
When a person starts derogatory name calling it shows :. opposite views and opinions are not allowed; a closed mind; a lack of good moral character; a lack of knowledge in subject matter; willful ignorance. More importantly using derogatory terms and cuss words and pretending to know what the other person thinks, feels and believes, shows that the attacker has no facts to back them up and is using only emotions and personal biases to defend their position. Using derogatory names is used to shut down all discussion and brand others as horrible people in an attempt to smear them and shame them publicly, because the atttacker’s narrow world view and beliefs can not, and must not, be challenged by anyone. The attacker likes living in their own little bubble and loves that their echo chamber strokes their ego.
In the mind of the name caller, he has every right to resort to verbal abuse and not engage in a civil, intelligent discussion because he is right, his world views and beliefs are right, his position and actions are right, and anyone who disagrees is absolutely wrong. People like this can not stand to be challenged and refuse to be challenged. What is disturbing is too many people agree with this type of behavior. It is more disturbing that many LDS people, and scholars, and leaders defend Peterson and his tactics and behavior.
Ironic and hypocritical for Peterson to be so vile and mean spirited in his attacks of others because he whines, screams and stomps his feet about how anti Mormons, hostile ex Mormons and others use name calling, derogatory terms, lies, deceptive tactics and word twisting of church leaders and twisting of Mormon scripture to attack the LDS religion, leaders and members. He decries the narrow and closed minds of LDS church enemies and critics. He is closed and narrow minded, will not listen to opposite views and beliefs and absolutely refuses to do so, he is not open to understanding opposite views, will not have a civil discussion, he never shows charity or humility.
He did to me and others the very thing he decries. He is absolutely the very things he accuses others of being and doing.
I now know why Peterson was fired from the Maxwell Institute while he was in another country. Had he been fired in person he would have made a scene and gone ballistic because he can not control his temper and emotions, as well as being unreasonable.
I would bet that many people at the Maxwell Institute are relieved
he is no longer there.