I will review George L. Mitton’s introduction to FARMS Review Volume 16, Issue 1, “Editor’s Introduction: Anti-Mormon Writings: Encountering a Topsy-Turvy Approach to Mormon Origins.” Published by the Maxwell Institute in 2004.
I get the lovely chance to read someone’s lead into something published about anti-mormon writings. Prior to writing my review of the introduction, I have not read, and will not read, the essays or reviews that follow the introduction and are published in Volume 16, Issue 1.
It is difficult to say to what, exactly, Mitton could be disagreeing. His opening paragraph says, “It is our experience that a careful consideration of [anti-Mormon] writings is instructive and that the faith always comes out better understood and strengthened. Nevertheless, in this issue we offer essays on a remarkable range of subjects, including several of interest on some very positive works and developments. I will mention these briefly and then discuss some important general matters regarding anti-Mormon writings, helping to explain why we feel a need to study and respond to them. “
I believe Mitton is making the point that apologetics, and FARMS, are necessary and that he disagrees to the opposite argument, that apologetics are not necessary.
The first section of Mitton’s intro, “Some Congenial Things,” merely lists the essays that follow in the Review. Nothing here.
Section Rating for Congenial Things – NA.
The second section of the intro, “Responses to Anti-Mormon Writings – or ad Hominem Attacks?” begins with an insult of sorts. Mitton says that anti-Mormon authors “do their best to undermine our faith and the faith of our youth, vilify the prophets whose memory we hold dear, dishonor our scriptures, and trample on things that are sacred to us and thereby violate some of our most tender feelings.”
Here Mitton is exaggerating and pretending to know the intent of every author. In fairness, it is very possible that the writings of so- called anti-Mormon authors, regardless of their intent, may undermine the faith of youth and vilify prophets. However, the writings of prophets may also undermine the faith of youth and vilify prophets. Mitton’s stereotypes and generalization here are borderline name-calling. Mitton explains that it is an ad hominem attack on the FAIR authors to accuse the authors of FAIR using ad hominem methods. This is a nonsensical argument. Any criticism of the FAIR authors for their use of ad hominem is actually a criticism or disagreement with the content or methods of writing and does not compare to a real ad hominem method where one’s sexuality, affiliations, divorces or wealth come into question.
Section rating for “ad Hominem Attacks” – DH0. The only meaningful content here is that anti-mormons are bullies and do not listen or even counter every explanation the apologists make.
Next, Mitton addresses “The Anti-Mormon Concatenation.” Well, too bad for all y’all, I have not a goddamn clue what that word even means. Here I come, M. Webster-Google. My great-grandma spent many years in a nursing home, I think a lot of her co-tenants were either in diapers or had concatenation.
Thanks Mr. and Mrs. Webster-Google. Apparently, concatenations has nothing to do with a toilet. It is a really big word for when things happen after other things happen, and they are related. Apparently, Joseph Smith used this fancy word when he was in Liberty Jail. He told the saints to respond to the concatenations, or libelous publications, about him or his church. Here, Mitton starts to provide backup to the need for anti-anti-Mormon writing. He claims the anti-Mormon writings go back to Abner Cole and the Palmyra Reflector. In this intro, there are no examples of the satire or anti-Mormon writings. Mitton points to a negative reaction by readers of the Reflector without addressing the content.
Mitton leaps from Abner Cole, to contemporary authors. Early authors did not have the benefit of centuries of re-written history, according to Mitton. They can be excused. Contemporary authors have more information, and thus, must be motivated and led by the series of anti-mormon sentiments that began during Joseph Smith’s life.
Mitton parts with a generalization and attempted jab at George and Camilla Smith’s publishing company, Signature Books. “From Louis Midgley, we have an investigative essay about Signature Books. With its tendentious agenda, it appears to us that it is the publishing house that is far and away producing the most anti-Mormon literature of this genre.” Still, we have no evidence of any arguments made by other authors, though Mitton has declared the writings of Abnor Cole and Signature Books’ authors as anti-Mormon.
The Concatenation section is given a rating of DH0. Only labeling and name-calling was provided in this section. Note, I, Mayan Elephant, I am saying that the use of the label “anti-Mormon” is pejorative, and is on the level of name-calling. Mitton does not provide evidence or cite actual writings or acts that are anti-Mormon.
On Taking Hurlbut and Howe Too Seriously. Well that is some section heading. It reminds me of the entire Maxwell Institute purging of 2012, or whatever it was - Butthurt and How. So some dude, Eber D. Howe, published the first anti-Mormon (allegedly per Mitton) book, Mormonism Unvailed. Mitton says it has been discredited, though it is the foundation of a lot of other anti-Mormon books.
Howe published the Spalding Theory, which we still hear about today. Mitton says only a few die-hards still believe it. Hurlbut was an immoral (first DH1 ad hominem of the intro) excommunicated ex-Mormon. He studied the Mormons extensively and may have been paid for his writings, per Mitton.
In this section Mitton addresses the tone of Hurlbut and Howe. He does have some material (albeit from Dan Peterson) which refutes the actual content of what Hurlbut and Howe presented in the 19th century.
The Hurlbut and Howe section gets a rating of DH2.4. There is mostly a response to the tone, but some response to the content by contradiction. It is sorta like this, ‘they are mean and the fact that Joseph Smith is a prophet, proves that those authors were wrong.’ It is juvenile, but a bit better than calling people ‘anti-Mormon poopooheads.’
Damn this intro is boring. Who reads this?
There is another section here, the “Right Side Up” section. Oliver Cowdery says Joseph Smith is great, but not before declaring himself a sinner and using exactly 242 words in two sentences. Mitton says that Joseph Smith predicts his own persecutions, and that Joseph Smith was told of them by Moroni, or that Cowdery refers to something that Joseph Smith said that Moroni said. This section is gets a score of NA. What Cowdery says that Smith said that Moroni said is way too disconnected to be actual evidence of some need for anti-anti-mormon publications.
Moroni and the Ritual Life of Joseph Smith section starts out with a digression on the measuring scale. If, ‘You are dumb,’ or, ‘U R a Fag,’ are the zero-base for a disagreement spectrum, then Mitton has managed to go outside the boundaries to a Spinal Tapsian negative 1. Here we go –
“This is best seen by comparing [Joseph Smith’s] life with other prophetic figures whose lives have significant common elements or motifs, and especially with Christ, who was the great exemplar. Striving to understand the meaning behind the symbolic things Joseph exemplified can be a lifetime quest but very instructive indeed. Certainly Joseph Smith's neighbors did not begin to understand. Nor would I expect our agnostic-atheist detractors to grasp the significance of these subtleties either since they have already chosen to shut themselves off from an appreciation of transcendent things as obvious as the sun. But those who share our knowledge of the reality of spiritual forces—both good and ill—will recognize the supreme importance of such matters.”
In a nutshell – if you cannot see he was called to do this, and that he is like Christ, then you are just an atheist-agnostic detractor. Such labeling is meant pejoratively and will be followed in the next section with a Devil v. God association. Moroni’s instructions are just hearsay, so they do not get this section out of the DHneg1 range.
Joseph Smith’s Environment and the Two Powers. Guess what the two powers are? This section does not do much to persuade the reader or address the question of why we need apologists, or why we need ad hominem attacks. It merely tells the reader that Mitton’s opinion is that writings about Joseph Smith or Mormons must be from the Devil or God, leaving the option of something just being factual out of these options. This section gets an NA rating. Again, it lacks any factual substance or information about why FARMS or apologetics is necessary, except to highlight his belief that he is on the side of god, and counter arguments are on the side of the devil. So, again, more name-callingish activity, but I will not rate the section.
Overall rating – DH0.
In summary, this intro is a weak benchmark or measure of anything Dan Peterson or other authors write in response to Mormon themed publications. It is an intro to reviews of other books. It is possible that those reviews were line by line rebuttals of factual information, without any personal reference to the authors, publishers or subjects. With regard to the content, Mitton could have simply said we need anti-anti-Mormon authors because an angel said to do it, and the authors at FAIR are on the side of God and His angels.
Mitton may believe that the anti-mormon literature has roots in the 19th century, but he fails to even point out the legitimacy of his pejorative label.
"Rocks don't speak for themselves" is an unfortunate phrase to use in defense of a book produced by a rock actually 'speaking' for itself... (I have a Question, 5.15.15)