Wednesday, August 6, 2008

An Interview with Margaret Barker

Professor William Hamblin of Brigham Young University, who is the author of several important articles and books relating to the subjects of Mormonism and ancient Near Eastern history*, has posted some Youtube videos of a conversation he had with biblical scholar Margaret Barker. Ms. Barker, a Methodist from Great Britain, has written some excellent books and articles on ancient Jewish and Christian theologies and their relationship to the Temple. She even has written an essay on the Book of Mormon and its ancient Near Eastern background that was presented at the Worlds of Joseph Smith Conference in 2005 at the Library of Congress. Her website can be accessed here.

I am posting these videos for those interested and must say in disclaimer that Professor Hamblin has promised more videos to come in the future, so keep your eyes open.

Part 1

Part 2

* His most recent publication, co-written with David Seely, was published by Thames & Hudson in 2007 and is entitled Solomon's Temple: Myth and History.

Article(s) of the Week: Daniel C. Peterson on Secular Anti-Mormonism

I have missed the last two sundays and hence my ability to post my weekly Article(s) of the Week. Because of such, I will post two more editions now; one for the week of 0f 07-27-08 and another for the week of 08-03-08.

This article of the week, although not directly connected to the Book of Mormon, is nevertheless an intensely fascinating study by Daniel C. Peterson, professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at Brigham Young University. It was originally presented at the 2005 FAIR Conference under the name Reflections on Secular Anti-Mormonism and was subsequently re-published in the FARMS Review (17/2). 

In this fascinating essay, Dr. Peterson presents what he calls "merely preliminary thoughts" on secular anti-Mormonism and how it has affected not only the Church but the direction of Latter-day Saint apologetics. He briefly touches on the distinction between the Evangelical form of anti-Mormonism (which he describes has "come, with a few exceptions, to bore me intensely") and that of secular critics such as Dan Vogel and John Krakauer. Dr. Peterson further elaborates on some secular online critics on an unnamed message board (possibly the Recovery From Mormonism website) and how they, instead of dealing LDS scholars on intellectual grounds, tend to lean towards vicious ad hominem attacks and cheap caricatures. Further on in the essay, Dr. Peterson details European secularism and its relationship to secular anti-Mormonism.

I found this essay extremely interesting in a number of ways. First, Professor Peterson is absolutely hilarious in disarming the ridiculousness of online secular critics. His whit and sharp rhetorical skills creates an essay that is not only interesting, but fun to read. And, true to form, his subtle jabs into anti-Mormonism create an enjoyable ethos and pathos throughout the entire essay.*

But Professor Peterson does not just appeal to the audience in a rhetorical fashion. His analysis and critique of secular anti-Mormonism is backed by a mastery of secondary literature on the subject and a careful exposition on the arguments of critics such as Dan Vogel. At one point in the essay, for example, Dr. Peterson takes Vogel's ad hoc "tin plates"** theory to task and rebukes the accusation that Mormon apologists overly indulge in ad hoc approaches.

So, considering these factors, I nominate Dr. Daniel C. Peterson's essay Reflections on Secular Anti-Mormonism as the article of the week for 07-27-08.

Reflections on Secular Anti-Mormonism by Daniel C. Peterson. 

* Truth be told, this has landed Professor Peterson in some hot water before. Some have criticized him for being too sarcastic in his writings and employing ad hominem attacks. However, it must be considered that in order to connect with the pathos and ethos of an audience, one will inevitably be forced to involve some form of sarcasm or irony in one's piece for the sake of rhetorical appeal.

** Dan Vogel, an influential albeit critical biographer of Joseph Smith, in order to combat the testimony of the 3 & 8 Witnesses and others who testified to handling the plates (such as Emma and Lucy Mack Smith), has previously argued that perhaps Joseph Smith crafted a set of bogus tin plates to fool his contemporaries. On the flaws of this argument, see Richard L. Anderson in Attempts to Redefine the Experience of the 8 Witnesses.

2008 FAIR Conference

FAIR - or the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research - has its annual FAIR Conference this year on August 7th and 8th at South Towne Exposition Center in Sandy, Utah. This year's conference is sure to be good, as a number of excellent scholars and speakers are lined up to speak on topics including the Book of Mormon, the Book of Abraham, the Book of Moses, Church history, apologetics, Joseph Smith's DNA and many more topics. 

Even though I am reporting this late, it is still not too late to come. I attended last year and can testify to the fun and excitement of being able to rub shoulders and talk shop with other online apologists and brilliant scholars. Anyone who wishes to still come are highly encouraged to attend. More information on the conference can be found at the FAIR website.

I will be attending and will report on the FAIR Conference here at American Testament. Three speakers, Mark Wright, Brant Gardner and Larry Poulsen will be focusing on topics involving the Book of Mormon, which I will pay considerable attention to and report here after words. I also will then discuss the role of apologetics in the Church and why I am proud to call myself a Mormon apologist. 

For a complete schedule of the 2008 FAIR Conference, see below:

Thursday Schedule
Time Speaker/Event Presentation
8:00 am Registration 
9:00 am Opening 
9:10 am Mike Ash Shaken Faith Syndrome
10:10 am Mark Wright The Book of Mormon and Mesoamerica
11:10 am Margaret Young and
Darius Gray
 Nobody Knows, the Untold Story of Black Mormons
12:10 pm Lunch 
1:15 pm Brian Birch,
Blake Ostler, and
James Faulconer
 Philosophy and Mormonism
2:30 pm Jeffrey Bradshaw The Message of the Joseph Smith Translation: A Walk in the Garden
3:30 pm Snack Break 
3:45 pm Larry Poulsen Book of Mormon Geography
4:45 pm Ugo Perego Joseph Smith's DNA Revealed: New Clues from the Prophet's Genes
5:45 pm Closing 


Friday Schedule
Time Speaker/Event Presentation
8:00 am Registration 
9:00 am Opening 
9:05 am Ron Esplin The Joseph Smith Papers
10:05 am Matthew Brown The Israelite Temple and the Early Christians
11:05 am Newell Bringhurst and
Craig Foster
 The White Horse Prophecy: Myth vs. Reality
12:05 am Lunch 
1:00 pm FAIR Business 
1:30 pm Scott Gordon Online Apologetics
2:30 pm Brian Hauglid The Book of Abraham
3:30 pm Snack Break 
3:45 pm Brant Gardner Second Witness: The Book of Mormon
4:45 pm Daniel Peterson Humble Apologetics
5:45 pm Closing 

Extra! Extra! Read All About it!

The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, formerly the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, has recently released two new books that are a must have for members of the Church in general and Latter-day Saint apologists in particular. They are Eloquent Witness: Nibley on Himself, Others, and the Temple and The Book of Mormon and DNA Research. The former is a new volume (#17) in the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley and the latter is a compilation of articles and essays written by faithful Latter-day Saint scholars on the topic of the recent DNA controversy surrounding the historicity of the Book of Mormon. Considering that I have read both, I will give a quick synopsis of them for the reader here.

Eloquent Witness: Nibley on Himself, Others, and the Temple

This new volume in the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley is a compilation of some of the late Dr. Nibley's letters, journals, interviews and reviews on, as the title says, himself, others and the Temple. Also included, (at last!), is a transcript of the documentary Faith of an Observer and some of Nibley's materials that are otherwise difficult to find. For example, also included are personal letters Nibley sent to friends, or foes, and an unpublished autobiography.

This is a valuable addition to anyone's library, as it offers a glimpse into Nibley's personal life and character. It allows those who have read his other works to get a peek into the man behind the books.

The Book of Mormon and DNA Research

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the role of DNA testing and the Book of Mormon. Some critics claim that the absence of discernible Near Eastern DNA in Native American populations disproves the Book of Mormon's claims of authenticity and historicity. These claims and criticisms, however, have been countered by Latter-day Saint scholars and apologists almost as soon as the criticisms hit print.

This new book, edited by Daniel C. Peterson, is a collection of some of the cream of the crop of the Mormon response to the "DNA question". It is essentially a collection of previous articles and essays written in the FARMS Review and the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies. These articles individually may be difficult to come by, as it would require searching through the pages of the FARMS Review and the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies. So this new volume offers a place wherein one can find these articles easily and in a reader friendly format. This book is also a good one to give to perhaps friends or family struggling with the issue of DNA and the Book of Mormon as it brings together the current Mormon scholarship on the issue into one volume. Thus, you can skip having to laboriously search the website of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for these articles individually.

In short, these two new books are a must have and should be seen as a welcomed addition to one's personal library.