Still Losing the Battle . . . Still Not Knowing It:
An Open Letter to Hank Hanegraaff

Review of Hank Hanegraaff. The Mormon
Mirage: Seeing Through the Illusion of Mainstream Mormonism.
Charlotte, NC: Christian Research Institute, 2008. 52 pp. Free with a donation
to the publisher.

Still Losing the Battle . . . Still Not Knowing It: An Open Letter to Hank Hanegraaff

Reviewed by L. Ara Norwood

The evangelical world needs to wake up and respond to contemporary
Mormon scholarship. If not, we will needlessly lose the battle without ever
knowing it.[1]

Dear Hank:

It’s a pleasure to be writing to you. I have followed your
career over the years ever since you emerged as the heir apparent to Walter
Martin’s Christian Research Institute as the “Bible Answer Man.” I
honestly wondered whether you’d get the job over Craig Hawkins, and I think you’ve
done a decent job building on Martin’s foundation. I listen to your radio
program from time to time, and I have always been impressed with the way you
calmly but earnestly articulate your views on the air. You sound congenial most
of the time, and while many of the questions your listening audience poses to
you are not often what one could call “deep,” it’s clear you take
your job very seriously in trying to offer sound answers and other resources to
those who call in. I am also impressed with the fact that, as a father of nine,
you seem to take the idea of family very seriously, and I appreciated the 9
July 2008 blog entry you wrote entitled “The Enduring Legacy of a Father.”[2] I consider you a moral man, and a gentleman.

I have read your new publication, a booklet entitled The Mormon
. It may interest you to see how a Latter-day Saint perceives
your work on his faith. I wonder if you would consider publishing my review in
your Christian
Research Journal

Frankly, I find The Mormon Mirage rather thin,
not just in terms of size but in terms of substance. While you treat subjects
as diverse as Mormon-Evangelical relations, the Book of Mormon and other
Latter-day Saint scriptural records, priesthood, the deity of Christ, original
sin, the biblical canon, the Trinity, resurrection, the virgin birth, salvation
by grace, the millennium, temple oaths, and plural marriage, your comments on
these matters are brief—barely skimming the surface, highly one-sided,
and largely inaccurate, as is often the case with this genre of writing.

Latter-day Saints and their evangelical detractors do not
usually have a meaningful or substantive exchange. Instead, the pattern goes
like this: the critic makes all sorts of irresponsible and inaccurate
statements against Latter-day Saint teachings, all the while betraying no clear
understanding of the great conversation[3] that has been
going on in Latter-day Saint circles about those same issues. The Latter-day
Saint apologist then points out the erroneous premises used by the critics in
their attacks on all things Latter-day Saint and demonstrates that the answers
to the flawed and misleading claims against the restored gospel have already
been addressed, usually in print. Neither side ever gets around to a meaningful
discussion of the issues in question, as the time is spent, at least by the
average Latter-day Saint scholar, pointing out the critic’s plethora of missteps.
If the critic would take the time to get the basics correct, a meaningful
exchange could take place. All of this demonstrates that the critic is, for the
most part, mis- or uninformed. Unfortunately, Hank, like your fellow critics,
you appear to manifest no real understanding of the various issues you write
about, at least from the Latter-day Saint perspective.

While I won’t take the
time to respond to everything, or even most things, you write about, for that
would be tedious and unnecessary, I will comment on the first three items in
your booklet. Your publication opens with a statement by Sandra Tanner.
Although only fifty-five words in length, it is instructive for how larded with
error it is:

The Mormon church has a PR department probably better than
anybody else. And they are very careful in painting a public image that tries
to make Mormonism sound like it’s just about the same as evangelical
Christianity, but it really isn’t. . . . I think it’s kind of similar to saying
that a cat is a dog. (p. 2)

First, a small item: she
claims the church has a PR department. The church does not, at least not by
that name. She probably has in mind its Public Affairs department. I know, a
small quibble. I’ll move on.

Second, she claims that department is “probably better
than anybody else.” I assume she is trying to say that it is her view that
the Public Affairs Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints is superior to that of similar departments in other organizations. This
raises several questions. What sorts of organizations does she have in mind
when she makes this comparison? Other churches? Other nonprofit groups? Other U.S. corporations? She is unclear. If she
means other U.S. corporations, I wonder if you would agree with her. Do you
think the Public Affairs Department of the Church of Jesus Christ is “better
than” the equivalent departments of such firms as Apple Computer, IBM,
Southwest Airlines, or Procter & Gamble? Also, in what sense does she
believe the church’s Public Affairs Department to be superior? Superior in
terms of trained staff?[4] talent? budget?[5] awards garnered?[6] Again, one can only wonder since she gave a very vague, murky statement, one
that you chose to open your publication with. I have to wonder why you opted to
lead with her statement.[7]

Third, she makes the allegation that this “PR
department” tries very hard to make “Mormonism sound like it’s just
about the same as evangelical Christianity.” What evidence does she
provide for this allegation? None that I can see. And I will tell you right off
that this is erroneous.[8] We Latter-day Saints do not want our church to resemble evangelical
Christianity, nor for that matter mainstream or liberal Protestantism, Eastern
Orthodoxy, or Jainism. To suggest otherwise is to demonstrate that even after
spending her entire adult life in a career attempting to undermine my church,
Sandra Tanner and those who follow her have failed to understand us. I am not
talking about agreeing with us, or acknowledging that our doctrinal positions
are sound or even plausible. Instead I am talking about accurately assessing
our goals, motives, and identity. Hence this open letter—my attempt to
aid you in acquiring an understanding of my faith. I am not striving to
persuade you that our positions are ones that you should adopt yourself, but
rather to encourage you to rethink the issues that you currently
misunderstand—and misunderstand badly.

Why on earth would the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints want the public to see it as just another evangelical denomination? What
would be its motivation? We see Evangelicals as good people with a flawed
theology—one that is based on the philosophies of men mingled with
scripture. We believe we possess the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ
along with the true priesthood authority. And we believe your religious tradition
possesses neither. So why, Hank, would we want to present ourselves as just
another evangelical sect? We don’t. Sandra Tanner is wrong. It is a shame you
chose to lead with her feckless statement.

In saying this, I hasten to add that I come to this task with
several assumptions. For example, I assume you are an honest man and that when
you get something wrong it is an error of the head, not of the heart. I trust
that when I provide evidence that has no clear counter­evidence to refute
it, you will accept, at least tentatively, the new evidence as valid and modify
your views—at least for the time being. I also believe (or hope) that you
would go on the air during future broadcasts of your radio program and correct
any misinformation that may have been published in The Mormon Mirage. I
trust you will do this because I believe that you are a fundamentally decent
fellow who tries to live a life of discipleship to our Savior Jesus Christ as
you understand him. I will be listening to future broadcasts of your radio show
to see if these assumptions of mine are correct.

To close this initial discussion of Sandra Tanner’s
erroneous statement, let me clarify for you what our actual position is, in
terms of how we would like to be seen. I will give it to you in three simple
words: Christian,
but different.

Christian, but different.
That should be clear enough. Yes, we see ourselves as Christian. But we do not
see ourselves as Christian in the same sense in which you typically use the
word. We do not use the word the way you do. To you, the term Christian means one who believes
in the fundamentals of what you like to call “historic biblical
Christianity.” We think your very definition is the mirage, but I do not
intend to debate that with you. Suffice it to say that when we say we are
Christian, we are merely saying that we are partisans of Christ. We place
Christ at the center of our lives. I have no qualms about referring to you as a
Christian. But in doing so, I do not assume that all of your beliefs represent
true doctrine (though some of them certainly do). So I do not believe that it
is “true doctrine” that bestows the title of Christian on a
person—if I did, I wouldn’t consider you a Christian. Instead, what makes
one a Christian is less about correct theology (important though that is) and
more about placing Christ at the center of one’s life and also behaving like a
Christian. Why? “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if
ye have love one to another” (John 13:35).

In your introductory comments, you build on Sandra Tanner’s
opening statement. That strikes me as wholly partisan and unbalanced: your
words lead me to believe that understanding the Church of Jesus Christ is not
your primary interest. You appear to be highlighting what you see as doctrinal differences
and then closing the door. In other words, you do not seem interested in a
balanced understanding of my faith. For instance, you couldn’t possibly be unaware
on where we happen to agree, yet you have no interest in even admitting that
some points of commonality exist. I wonder why that is. Only you can answer

While you mention Fuller Seminary president Richard Mouw’s
apology to the Mormons for regular and ongoing evangelical misstatement of our
beliefs, you seem to disagree with Mouw. While you acknowledge that “some
Evangelicals have treated Mormons disrespectfully” (p. 5), you are
sweeping evangelical dirty laundry under the rug. After thirty years of being
involved in various forms of interaction with Evangelicals, I think I know
something about the bellicose tendencies of most of your colleagues in the
countercult movement.[9] What I know tells me that your statement, while technically true, is
misleading. Granted, some Evangelicals who haven’t yet been influenced by the
countercult movement do not have the sort of distrust, fear, loathing, or
hatred of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that most of your
listeners do. But most of those Evangelicals who have read the sort of
literature put forth by the likes of Walter Martin, James White, Sandra Tanner,
and now yourself do treat what you refer to as “Mormonism” and
Latter-day Saints in general with varying levels of contempt and disrespect. So
you are out of line or out of touch by downplaying evangelical mistreatment of
Mormons—a continuing mistreatment that began more than a century ago.
What has my attention is your downplaying the scope of this mistreatment rather
than the mistreatment itself. You would have much more credi­bility if you
would simply admit, as Mouw did, that as a general rule most Evangelicals
involved with the countercult movement have been abrasive, acrid, sarcastic,
insulting, demeaning, rude, belligerent, vindictive, and misinformed. And that’s
the short list.

Whatever one may think of the efforts of Robert Millet, he
does not strive to dupe Evangelicals into believing that Mormons are Evan­gelicals;
rather, he is trying a fresh approach in communicating, an alternative to the
usual and unseemly vitriol that accompanies such dialogues. To assume Millet is
trying to trick Evangelicals into believing that Mormons are Evangelicals is
simply to continue not to get it. Remember: Christian, but different.

My final response is to
the comments you make about the Book of Mormon (pp. 6–8). My initial
thoughts concern your choice of words. You chose to retell the story of Moroni
and Joseph Smith and the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated. I
would urge you, in the future, to try to tell the story as we would tell it,
using the terminology we would use. What I have in mind here is the way you
describe the interpreting device known as the Urim and Thummim. You call that
holy instrument “a pair of magical eyeglasses” (p. 7). I suspect you
do this as a way of making light of a detail of a foundational story of the
Latter-day Saint faith. But it’s unnecessary and unseemly to do this. May I
suggest that in the future you take the high ground by avoiding such cheap
shots that are both undiplomatic and undignified.

You also refer to the religion founded by Joseph Smith as “Mormon­ism.”
But you really ought to call this new religion by its official name, The Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, if you wish to be more accurate in your
retelling of the past. The term Mormon was originally applied to
us by our enemies.

After presenting some background
information, you dismiss the Book of Mormon with a mere three paragraphs of
badly reasoned analysis. You make five points:

1. The Book of
Mormon contains language that militates against the biblical doctrine of the

2. The Book of
Mormon contains the silly notion of a man struggling to catch his breath after
having his head cut off.

3. There is no
archaeological support for a reformed Egyptian language, for lands such as the
land of Moron, or for Book of Mormon peoples migrating from the ancient Near
East to the Americas.

4. The widely held
Mormon belief that Native Americans are descended from the Hebrew Lamanites has
been undermined by DNA science.

5. Whole sections
of the Book of Mormon are derived directly from the King James Version of the
Bible, in spite of the fact that the writings of Mormon and Moroni are said to
predate the King James Version by more than a thousand years.

Hank, do you honestly believe any
of these five criticisms cannot be answered, and answered decisively? Better
yet, are you under the impression that these criticisms have not been answered
already? All five of those issues, which I find deplorably weak, are easily answered.
I want to cut you some slack since you are not the “Book of Mormon Answer
Man,” but I would have assumed that someone of your stature would offer
more compelling criticisms.

Here is why these five criticisms lack merit:

1. As to the Book of Mormon employing language about the God­head
that is not Trinitarian, I would simply reply: Ignoratio elenchi! Totally
irrelevant! So what if the Book of Mormon’s teachings are not what you consider
orthodox Trinitarian? You are wrong to speak of “the biblical doctrine of
the Trinity.” There is no such doctrine taught in the Bible. You are
certainly free to preach whatever version of the Trinity you find compelling as
the supposedly correct way of conceiving the oneness of the Father and the Son,
but please do not pretend this doctrine is biblical. Creedal notions of the
Trinity may or may not be true, but it is misleading to call it a biblical doctrine. Why do I say that? Because many scholars make the case for it not
being biblical. Let me cite a number of them for you (and note that not one of
these scholars is a Latter-day Saint—in fact, all of them seem to believe
in some version of the Trinity):

The NT does
not actually speak of triunity. We seek this in vain in the triadic formulae of
the NT. . . . Early Christianity itself . . . does not yet have the problem of
the Trinity in view.[10]

The New
Testament itself is far from any doctrine of the Trinity or of a
Triune God who is three co-equal Persons of One Nature.[11]

In the N.T.
there is no direct suggestion of a doctrine of the Trinity.[12]

The formal doctrine of the Trinity as it was defined by the
great church councils of the fourth and fifth centuries is not to be found in
the NT.[13]

I could have cited many more than
these four statements that put your statement in a very unfavorable light. The
scholarly world claims that the doctrine of the Trinity is not a biblical
doctrine. So to denigrate the Book of Mormon for not supporting a nonbiblical
doctrine makes no sense at all.

As an aside, I have to wonder just why you think that some understanding
of the Trinity that was adopted in the fourth and subsequent centuries ad is the correct doctrine. A look at
the history of Trinitarian formulas leaves one with evidence that the great
apostasy as foretold in scripture (Amos 8:11–12; Isaiah 24:5;
60:2–3; Acts 20:29; 2 Timothy 4:3–4; 2 Thessalonians 2:1–3)
and as taught by modern prophets was well under way.

To further show that the doctrine of the Trinity was
formulated in an environment of apostasy and darkness, I would recommend to you
a very enlightening book written by Ramsay MacMullen, Yale professor of
history, entitled Voting About God in Early Church Councils.[14] In
it MacMullen examines what church councils were like and who the typical bishop
was that attended such councils, pointing out that “some bishops were by
their own admission ill-equipped to follow the arguments they had to resolve.”[15]

Also, it is very interesting to know how these
self-professed men of God conducted themselves when things didn’t go quite
their way. According to MacMullen:

A particular proof of fervor lies also in the suffering they
are as ready to inflict as to suffer, where differences in belief arise. This
too, in its remarkable prevalence, is a novelty. In councils, bishops are at
their most ceremonious and reverent; yet even in such a solemn setting they
sometimes strike each other or restrain by force, muzzle or shove each other,
throw about this or that object, and yell out the most savage cries for this or
that adversary to be killed in this or that cruel manner. Outside of the
council chamber, they directly incite or participate in physical acts against
their adversaries, or witness such acts without protest; nor can they be heard
often, or ever, calling for an end to all the death and destruction which
darkened the streets around them.[16]

MacMullen concludes that shaping this Trinitarian doctrine
through the “creeds could be at least a contributing factor [to much
violence and loss of ecclesiastical authority], sometimes really the only one,
in street fights, stabbings in the church, brawls in public squares, and
general rough stuff”:

Besides, what of the tongues torn out of the mouths of bishops
found to have uttered blasphemous opinions? and bishops worked to death by a
sentence to the mines? or scarred for life by the beatings they received,
sometimes a judicial flogging, sometimes a blow from a sword that missed its
mark—to be seen on a fellow-bishop’s body, a sight to bring shivers.[17]

Does the formation of creedal Trinitarian doctrine
sound to you like it came through the work of the Holy Spirit, or is it more
likely to have come out of the then-fertile soil of apostasy? I think you know
where I stand on this question.

2. Your concern with a passage in Ether (15:30–31) is
misguided and based on a misreading of the text. But this is a common misunderstanding,
though I would have thought that since context is something you focus on so
often on your radio show, you would have examined the context of this passage.
(Have you ever read the entire fifteenth chapter of Ether?)

Here is the context: two warriors, Shiz and Coriantumr, are
left standing following a war of extermination. Shiz is said to have his head
cut off by Coriantumr.

And it came to pass that when Coriantumr had leaned upon his
sword, that he rested a little, he smote off the head of Shiz. And it came to
pass that after he had smitten off the head of Shiz, that Shiz raised up on his
hands and fell; and after that he had struggled for breath, he died. (Ether 15:30–31)

A simplistic reading suggests an
absurdity. I understand that. However, you should understand the text a bit

But first an aside: Do you really think that if Joseph Smith
were astute enough to produce a volume as singular as the Book of Mormon he’d
be such a colossal dunce as to assume that a man who had just gotten
decapitated could still breathe?

Here is how the context of this passage might be understood:
Shiz and Coriantumr had been battling for a long time. They were both
exhausted. Coriantumr, in accordance with prophecy (Ether 13:20–21), got
the upper hand, as an incapacitated Shiz was essentially lying prone. While
Coriantumr tried to steady himself to deliver the deathblow with his sword, he
evidently did not decapitate his foe. Taking what was likely a wild swipe
brought on by sheer exhaustion as opposed to the pinpoint accuracy he would
have employed had he been well rested, Coriantumr may have missed his intended
target of Shiz’s neck. The blade of the sword struck perhaps about five to
eight inches above the intended target, cutting off a portion of Shiz’s head,
perhaps just above the ear. This was a deadly blow, but not a decapitation as
we normally envision it. Thus Shiz, though dying, still had much of his head
intact while some of the upper portion was crushed and/or severed. Read this
way, it is entirely possible that Shiz could have raised up on his hands and
gasped for breath before giving up the ghost.[18] Therefore,
the only real problem here is in the reading of this passage, not the passage
itself. Comments? Counterpoints? I’d love to hear them.

3. You claim that there is no archaeological support for the
Book of Mormon, nor evidence for a language like reformed Egyptian. Have you
read Professor William Hamblin’s paper on this subject? I rather doubt it. It
will only take you a couple of minutes to get up to speed on this issue.
Hamblin concludes: “There are thus a number of historical examples of
Semitic or other languages being written in ‘reformed’ or modified Egyptian
script; the Book of Mormon account is entirely plausible on this point.”[19]

I wonder just how informed you are on the question of archaeological
support for the Book of Mormon. Are you aware of the work that has been done in
the Old World, particularly on the question of Book of Mormon place-names such
as Nahom and Bountiful?[20] If you are not, one may fairly wonder how responsible it is to make such
dogmatic and uninformed statements. Are you familiar with the work of
archaeologist John Clark?[21] Apparently not, for his analysis brings your dismissive disregard for the Book
of Mormon with respect to archaeological support into a very bad light. What
about the work of anthropologist John Sorenson?[22] If you have
not studied his work, I would urge you to do so, for he makes a compelling case
for the historical reality of the Book of Mormon.

As to your assertion that there is no evidence that
Nephites, Lamanites, or Jaredites migrated to the Americas from the Old World,
I wonder if this is a resort to a kind of legerdemain on your part. Is the
issue one of looking for evidence that points to exactly and only Nephites,
Lamanites, and Jaredites that migrated to the Americas from the Old World?
Wouldn’t one start out by asking, more generally, if there is evidence that
various peoples migrated to the Americas from the Old World? If you agree with
that approach, then the evidence does support the Book of Mormon, as a number
of studies show.[23]

4. “In fact,” you assert, “in recent years
the widely held Mormon belief that Native Americans are descended from the
Hebrew Laman­ites has been undermined by DNA science. Ironically, Mormon biologists,
geneticists, and anthropologists acknowledge this powerful DNA evidence that
refutes the alleged historical accounts of the Book of Mormon” (p. 8). You
are simply not stating the truth here. Plenty of Mormon scholars who are
trained in the intricacies of DNA science have said the opposite. Here are some

Michael F.
Whiting: “As someone who has spent a decade using DNA information to
decipher the past, I recognize the tentative nature of all my conclusions,
regardless of whether or not they have been based on DNA. There are some very
good scientific reasons for why the Book of Mormon is neither easily
corroborated nor refuted by DNA evidence, and current attempts to do so are
based on dubious science.”[25]

John M.
Butler: “A spiritual witness is the only way to know the truthfulness of
the Book of Mormon. Although DNA studies have made links between Native
Americans and Asians, these studies in no way invalidate the Book of Mormon
despite the loud voices of detractors.”[26]

Ryan Parr: “There
will always be those who must have every detail before them prior to any
acceptance of truth. This view always generates a cascade of doubt that ends in
an appeal to the secular judge of science; however, in this particular instance,
the insistence that the presence of small groups from the ancient Near East
must absolutely be present in the current genetic record of Native Americans,
as a means of testing the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, is an unrealistic

David A. McClellan: “Although it may be possible to
recover the genetic signature of a small migrating family from 2,600 years ago,
it is not probable. But either way, it would not allow the story line of the
Book of Mormon to be rejected because the absence of a genetic signature means
absolutely nothing. . . . Thus, a statement that the Book of Mormon account is
absolutely impossible would be at the very least naïve, but most probably quite
foolish. It would reveal the overall absence of scientific training, as well as
an underlying agenda.”[28]

I hasten to point out that all the
statements I have quoted here are summary statements that come at the end of
very detailed and scholarly essays.

Yet I think it telling that the statement you made about
DNA, which you probably know little about since you are not a scientist,
reveals something about the nature of your overall commentary on my faith. It
reveals that you often say things that are, frankly, irresponsible. I would
hope that as you continue your ministry you would grow more circumspect and
less cavalier in your pronouncements on Latter-day Saint matters. The simple
fact is this: had you done the requisite study and analysis of the issues
regarding DNA science and the Book of Mormon, you would not have made the
claims you did. I hope you will recant them.

5. Your fifth criticism concerns the language of the Book of
Mor­mon. You write: “A final crack in the credibility of the Book of
Mormon is that whole sections are derived directly from the King James Version
of the Bible—this despite the fact that the writings of Moroni and his father,
Mormon, are said to predate the King James Version by more than a thousand
” (p. 8, emphasis in original).

Hank, I wish you could have been more clear. Since you didn’t
give a single example to support your claim, I am forced to try to read your
mind, something I prefer not to do.

Perhaps you are referring
to the various Isaiah passages that are found in the Book of Mormon (e.g., 1
Nephi 20–21; 2 Nephi 12–24). If so, your claim has no merit. All
one has to do to reach that conclusion is to consider the fact that the Book of
Mormon story includes a narrative of Lehi’s family obtaining an early version
of the Old Testament (as found on the brass plates of Laban discussed in 1
Nephi 3 and 4). So if this is part of the Book of Mormon story, which it is,
why do you not see that there is no particular problem with reproducing whole
sections of the Isaiah portions of the King James Version in the Book of
Mormon? These passages didn’t originate with Mormon and Moroni.

Perhaps you are referring to the Sermon on the Mount
passages that are found in the Book of Mormon (see 3 Nephi 12–14). If so,
again, your claim has no merit since the Book of Mormon includes a narrative of
the resurrected Savior Jesus Christ appearing to the Nephite faithful and
delivering essentially that same sermon found in Matthew 5–7. So there is
no particular problem with this kind of duplication. These passages didn’t
originate with Mormon or Moroni either.[29]

Perhaps what concerns you is the very nature of King James idiom
within the pages of the Book of Mormon. If so, your argument might be stated as
follows: “The Book of Mormon is false because Mormon and Moroni, who spoke
no Elizabethan English, use Elizabethan English throughout the Book of Mormon.”
I hope I am not creating a straw-man argument here, but you force me to make
some assumptions about your point of view since your argument needs
clarification. If this is essentially your point, it’s a terrible argument to
put forth because no thinking Mormon would claim that either Mormon or Moroni
employed English of any era, let alone Elizabethan English. The English text of
the Book of Mormon is the result of Joseph Smith’s translation—a process
of which we know very little. The King James–like language we read in the
English translation of the Book of Mormon is just that—a
. It in no way is meant to suggest that any Nephite
prophet used such language. Thus I do not see why you make such a fuss about
the fact that the Book of Mormon employs an idiom in line with the King James
Bible. That was considered the scriptural language of Joseph Smith’s day; I
would have been surprised if the translation had come out differently.

Finally, you write, “Little wonder, then, that Mormons
accept the testimony of Moroni . . . based on a subjective feeling—a ‘burning
in the bosom’—rather than on history and evidence” (p. 8). Do you
really want your constituency to believe that divine truths can be decided
strictly on the basis of “history and evidence”? Do you truly not
understand that “evidence” is in the eyes of the beholder and what
constitutes one man’s “evidence” is another man’s “wishful thinking”?
And the same goes for history: do you not realize that what passes for “history”
in some circles would be called “myth” in others?

Let me pose a question to you: when two of the New Testament
disciples were walking on the road to Emmaus along with Jesus (who was
incognito at the time), what was the ultimate source of their testimony? Was it
history and evidence as you use those terms? Here is what the New Testament
records: “And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us,
while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?”
(Luke 24:32). In other words, the final deciding factor for these two early
disciples was an inner conviction, born of the Holy Ghost, that brought them
truth. The New Testament language (“Did not our heart burn within us”)
is not too different from the language of latter-day scripture as found in
Doctrine and Covenants 9:8: “I will cause that your bosom shall burn
within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.”

Likewise, it was the Holy Spirit, not man’s logic and
reason, nor evidence and history, that brought truth to the early apostles when
deciding on a question involving circumcision for gentile converts: “For
it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden
than these necessary things” (Acts 15:28). And also, in the case of Peter’s
testimony concerning the divine sonship of Jesus, the source of such testimony
was not of man (as history and evidence is) but from a divine source: “And
Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh
and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven”
(Matthew 16:17).

Hank, the Latter-day Saints do not ignore evidence, history,
logic, reason, or other forms of education and learning, even when it is
secular in origin. However, while we keep a passport to Athens, we understand
our citizenship lies with Jerusalem. I think I have some idea as to why you
tend to discount the notion of someone receiving special revelation from the
Holy Spirit. I suspect that since the Bible is the only source you have (and
thus the only source you believe you need), you tend to assume that since you
do not receive divine revelation from the Holy Ghost, then no one else possibly
can. If indeed this is how you feel, ironically it has far more in common with
atheism than it does with theism. Atheists typically think in similar terms:
they deny divine things because they are not part of their world.

Hank, I would invite you to take a second look at the
teachings and practices and scriptures of the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints. I believe if you were to really examine what it is we teach
with a fresh curiosity and a true desire to understand, I think you would do a
much more credible job the next time you decide to publish something about the
faith of the Saints. Unlike the nearly fact-free tract you have published, I
would hope that with more inquisitiveness and less of an agenda, you would
produce something that is not quite so honeycombed with misstatements and
instead produce something fresh, distinctive, and instructive.

Warm regards,

L. Ara Norwood


[1]Carl Mosser
and Paul Owen, “Mormon Scholarship, Apologetics, and Evangelical Neglect:
Losing the Battle and Not Knowing It?” Trinity Journal, n.s., 19/2
(1998): 204.

(accessed 30 July 2008).

[3]For a
useful discussion of the “great conversation” metaphor, see Neil
Postman, The
End of Education
(New York: Vintage, 1995), 124–25, 128.

[4]The Public
Affairs Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints employs
about thirty-eight people in the United States. This number includes about five
secretaries. In addition, about eighteen other full-time employees work in
various foreign countries. There are also another thirty or so couples who
serve as Church-service missionaries. While recent hires for this department
have tended to include people with direct experience in fields such as public
affairs, advertising, or journalism, many of the full-time staff include people
who have had careers as college professors, accountants, businessmen, medical
doctors, lawyers, and computer experts; there is even a former lobbyist and a
former government analyst. Personal communication with Mark Tuttle, 18 March

[5]While the
operating budget of the church’s Public Affairs Department is not a public
matter, there is no advertising budget per se. Most of the budget covers the
salaries of the full-time employees; much of it covers expenditures associated
with things like luncheons hosted by the department and training materials. One
can be assured that the church’s public affairs budget does not come even
remotely close to the multimillion-dollar budgets of large public firms.

[6]The church’s
Public Affairs Department does rather good work on a shoestring budget. Over
the years it has earned several Creativity in Public Relations Awards (CIPRA),
a number of Bronze Anvil Awards, a Silver Anvil Award (the latter two bestowed
by the Public Relations Society of America), and two Golden World Awards
(presented by the International Public Relations Society), as well as several
Certificates of Excellence and six Angel Awards for excellence in broadcasting.

[7]The goal of
the church’s Public Affairs Department has been no secret: it is to build

this erroneous view came about after the Book of Mormon was given the subtitle “Another
Testament of Jesus Christ.”

[9]I’ve met
them near Temple Square in Salt Lake City during our church’s worldwide general
conference. They were saying and doing blasphemous things to that which I
consider highly sacred. When you’ve got a group of people who behave in ways
that cause even zealous critics like James White to retreat in shame for fear
of being associated with such smut, you know you’ve got a serious problem on
your hands.

Kittel, Theological
Dictionary of the New Testament
(Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1965),

[11]William J.
Hill, The
Three-Personed God: The Trinity as a Mystery of Salvation
(Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America, 1982), 27.

[12]Ernest F.
Scott, in An
Encyclopedia of Religion
, ed. Vergilius Ferm (New York:
Philosophical Library, 1945), 344.

Bible Dictionary
(San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985), 1099.

MacMullen, Voting
About God in Early Church Councils
(New Haven, CT: Yale University
Press, 2006).

MacMullen, Voting
About God
, 114.

[16]MacMullen, Voting About
, 116–17.

[17]MacMullen, Voting About
, 59–60.

[18]Dr. Gary M.
Hadfield offers this medical diagnosis: “Shiz’s death struggle illustrates
the classic reflex posture that occurs in both humans and animals when the
upper brain stem (midbrain/mesencephalon) is disconnected from the brain. The
extensor muscles of the arms and legs contract, and this reflex action could cause
Shiz to raise up on his hands.” Gary M. Hadfield and John W. Welch, “The
‘Decapitation’ of Shiz,” Insights (FARMS newsletter), November 1994, 2; BYU Studies 33 (1993):
324–25. See also (accessed 19 August 2008).

[19]William J.
Hamblin, “Reformed Egyptian,” Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Reli­gious
(accessed 19 August 2008).

[20]See S. Kent
Brown, “New Light from Arabia on Lehi’s Trail,” in Echoes and
Evi­dences of the Book of Mormon
, ed. Donald W. Parry, Daniel C.
Peterson, and John W. Welch (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2002), 55–125.

[21]John Clark,
“Archaeology, Relics, and Book of Mormon Belief,” Journal of
Book of Mormon Studies
14/2 (2005): 38–49; available at (accessed
19 August  2008).

[22]John L.
Sorenson, An
Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon
(Salt Lake City:
Deseret Book and FARMS, 1985); Images of Ancient America: Visualizing Book
of Mormon Life
(Provo, UT: FARMS, 1998); and Mormon’s Map (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2000). A massive two-volume work, Sorenson’s forthcoming
magnum opus on the issue of archaeology and the Book of Mormon will put to rest
the notion that there is no archaeological support for the Book of Mormon’s
truth claims.

[23]See Steven
C. Jett, “Before Columbus: The Question of Early Transoceanic Inter­influences,” BYU
33/2 (1993): 245–71; and John L. Sorenson, “Ancient
Voyages Across the Ocean to America: From ‘Impossible’ to ‘Certain,’ ” Journal of
Book of Mormon Studies
14/1 (2005): 4–17.

[24]For a
compilation of recent scholarship on this issue, see The Book of Mormon and DNA
Research: Essays from “The FARMS Review” and the “Journal of
Book of Mormon Studies,”
ed. Daniel C. Peterson (Provo, UT:
Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2008).

[25]Michael F.
Whiting, “DNA and the Book of Mormon: A Phylogenetic Perspective,” Journal of
Book of Mormon Studies
12/1 (2003): 24–35. Whiting earned his
PhD at Cornell University, is director of Brigham Young University’s DNA
Sequencing Center, and is currently an associate professor in BYU’s Department
of Integrative Biology.

[26]John M.
Butler, “A Few Thoughts from a Believing DNA Scientist,” Journal of
Book of Mormon Studies
12/1 (2003): 36–37. Butler earned his
doctoral degree in chemistry from the University of Virginia, is the author of
eighty research articles and book chapters on human DNA, and in 2002 was
awarded the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers from
President George W. Bush for his work in pioneering modern forensic DNA

[27]Ryan Parr, “Missing
the Boat to Ancient America . . . Just Plain Missing the Boat,” review of Losing a
Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA, and the Mormon Church
, by Simon
G. Southerton, FARMS Review 17/1 (2005): 83–106. Parr earned
his PhD in biological anthropology from the University of Utah and is currently
vice president of Research and Development at Genesis Genomics, a Canadian
biotechnical company exploring the use of mitochondrial DNA as a “biosensor”
for the early detection of prostate and breast cancer. He has authored and
coauthored mitochondrial DNA studies of Native Americans, specializing in
ancient DNA.

[28]David A.
McClellan, “Detecting Lehi’s Genetic Signature: Possible, Probable, or
Not?” FARMS Review 15/2
(2003): 35–90. McClellan earned his PhD at Louisiana State University and
is an assistant professor of integrative biology at Brigham Young University.

[29]See John W.
Welch, The
Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount
(Salt Lake City:
Deseret Book and FARMS, 1990). See especially pages 161–63, where Welch
discusses the absence of the phrase without a cause in 3 Nephi
12:22a; compare Matthew 5:22a. This same phrase, while present in the KJV, is
absent from many if not most of the earliest Greek manuscripts. So much for the
charge of blind plagiarism on the part of the Prophet Joseph Smith.