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  1. Lloyds arguments makes my head hurt. Although he brings the importance of community and myth as importance in our minds, that doesn’t address the false narrative the LDS church gives it’s members. These are completely different topics. Just because community and myth are important, doesn’t negate that the LDS church is giving people false narratives. He doesn’t understand the point- perhaps because he doesn’t understand it? His nuanced views are so narrow- he loves to dance around the real issue.

    His argument that you can’t use secular tools to understand the religious world is just not realistic and is escapism. The church makes secular arguments- The Lamanites were people, JS translated golden plates etc. It is either true or not true. We have to use our logic/intelligence to ascertain these truth statements. You can’t hide behind God when you want to make statements but don’t want to back them up and say that it is “religion” and you can’t talk about it because it is in the “religious” realm instead of the “secular” realm. That is cowardice and lacks integrity. It also leads to terrifying places like the inquisition, polygamy, false teachings etc.

    We have been given our intelligence for a reason and we need to use it.

    1. I agree, joysays. I need to listen to the full series still, but your assessment is correct. This church speaks in absolutes — about almost everything! So the church can’t be right by removing those absolutes and making it about myth. If you take away the absolutes of Jospeh literally and accurately translating plates, and prophets receiving revelation, then you also have to remove absolutes about sexual orientation, word of wisdom, and SO many other things that were preached as eternal doctrines!

    2. I agree Joy. I’m glad you posted this. Lloyd, and Dan to a lesser extent, want to have their cake and eat it too. It’s the same old apologetic arguments repackaged. I went to BYU for a bit 20 years ago and they were saying the same things.

      Lloyd’s argument that you can’t use secular tools to evaluate religious claims is just a repackaged argument about separate magesteria. This was outlined by Stephen Gould years ago as a reason why religion and science are separate and can be compatible I think there is some truth to this, with the huge exception that it doesn’t apply when religion makes claims that are testable by science and/or evidence. Mormonism is FULL of claims that involve the real world, how it works, and things that supposedly happened. These are all subject to logic, evidence, and reason. To say we shouldn’t use every tool we have available to evaluate those claims is absurd.

      Mormonism is a historical religion. It’s origins are not buried in the mists of thousands of years of time like Buddhism or other ancient religions. There is a ton of evidence documenting what happened, or supposedly happened. And what actually happened really matters for Mormonism. The truth of whether or not Joseph Smith actually saw god and jesus matters. It matters if the events described in the Book of Mormon actually happened.

      Lloyd and Dan can pretend that facts and history don’t matter. They can think they have advanced and evolved beyond the need for reality to matter. They can think they have achieved a higher level of spirituality, one independent of facts and history. If they find meaning and spirituality within Mormonism, fine, but don’t pretend that facts don’t matter, that years and years of leaders pushing a false narrative should just be forgotten. Also don’t fool yourselves into thinking that your brand of Mormonism (a mysticism divorced from reality) is anything close to what the average Mormon believes, what the leaders are teaching, or what the institution is pushing.

      My impression of Dan and Lloyd is that they are so wrapped up in academic arguments, and the need to defend mormonism, they have let common sense go.

  2. Can we stop using the term “Spiritual” until we can have a clearer agreement as to what that means? I have a feeling that there are those that think that spiritual things are still outside of the imperical, outside of our biology, that some sort of finer “material” independent from us can act materially upon our biology to give us emotions outside of our own making. Perhaps a better approach is defining the spiritual as a methodology of beneficial and strategic psychological tools and thinking that advances the individual’s personal well being.

    1. I totally agree. Dan uses the term “spirutual” in such a vapid meaningless way as far as I can discern I have no idea as to what he thinks it means and it would be nice to hear him define it. And further why mormonisms “spirtual” gifts are to be respected anymore than any other fiction. Its amuzing that these religious scholars snicker when critics just can’t seem to see things in the same muddied light that they do. They would do well to broaden their field of vision to other lines of insight rather than pound ever nail of life with hamer of archaic religious studies. I find the study of human psychology, human biology and evolutionary anthropology vastly more explanatory in power and rewarding.

    2. Believers will stop using the term “spiritual” when you atheists stop using the word “love.” If there is no empirical evidence such as historical or biological, then leave it out of your everyday conversations with family and don’t dare mention the term “love” in public discourse.

      1. “Spiritual” signifies a connection with the unseen and unknowable. “Love” often involves a connection with knowable tangible reality. You have put forward a classic straw man argument here. “Love” can be demonstrated by empirical evidence, as anyone who has been the beneficiary of some known act of kindness will tell you.

  3. Any honest Mormon apologetic would admit that negative conclusions about Mormonism are justified at every turn by the same, common body of evidence available to everybody. The church and their apologists —whether hard core, neo-, or squishy, whatever — should first admit only that they CHOSE to conclude and believe otherwise, and then just agree to disagree.

    They can say why they conclude as they do, but they can NOT honestly or accurately claim that negative conclusions are not wholly warranted by a thoughtful, honest, informed and critical look at the evidence.

    The Mormon blame & shame game indulged by the church and their apologists against fully capable and competent members should stop. That rejection should be acknowledged for what it honestly is, and not dismissed for what it’s not. First, because the rejection is honest and justified, and second because it makes the apologists look stupid and dishonest and arrogant and manipulative. And in possession of some superior knowledge or insight or analytic power or erudition.

    Apologists may chose to disagree but it’s entirely reasonable to conclude that the BOM is a 19th century human invention, that the BOM people never existed, and that the BOM adds nothing to our knowledge of the archaeology or ancient peoples or the DNA in America. That gaps or uncertainties remain as to authors and sources is not evidence that a god had anything to do with it. Or that the magic rock was any more reliable interpreting words than it was for finding buried treasure.

    It’s reasonable to conclude that Joseph Smith’s canonical and late-appearing “First Vision” is a purely made up invention. Disagree if you like, but the evidence supports that conclusion — don’t say that it doesn’t.

    It’s justified to conclude that Joseph Smith is the sole owner, author and proprietor of D&C132 and that no god had anything to do with it. And that Smith used it — in the name of the Lord — to self-appoint and authorize and justify and excuse for himself all of his extra-Emma girls and women. There’s not a shred of evidence that a god had anything to do with it, and there’s no other candidate author. Just because there may not be documented offspring doesn’t mean he didn’t have sex with them, or want or try to have sex, or to have acquired them for the purpose of having sex.

    Ditto the BoA — it’s reasonable to conclude it’s a purely a human invention by Joseph Smith with an agenda, from the first Facsimile to the last jot and tittle.

    Ditto the entire D&C. And the entire PoGP and JST. Add Sidney Rigdon as a possible co-theologian and author if you like.

    Ditto the whole Mormon ‘burning bosom” testimony — or whatever other religious or “spiritual” experience is evoked. It’s reasonable to conclude that a “Holy Ghost” had nothing to do with it, and that it’s not a credible witness for truth or for knowing — regardless how deeply it vibrates and no matter how good it tastes.

    1. Up until the last decade, atheists gloated about the stupidity of Christians. Now, the tables have turned as nearly every Non-Christian New Testament Scholar in the world has concluded that Jesus lived, preached, and was crucified by Pontius Pilate.

      1. I’m unaware of either atheists gloating about Christians and their stupidity, or of tables turned — with or without the new mythicists.

        That Jesus lived, and preached his Jewish message, and was crucified by Pilate — and that his Jewish life and Roman death became the basis of the Christian myth — seems rather obvious to me, the new mythicists not withstanding.

        There are prominent stories in the Gospels in which the Evangelists admit point blank that Jesus was publicly and provocatively guilty of capital crimes, including messianic violence, for which Pilate and Roman empire predictably and justifiably would have killed him. I don’t believe anybody would have made that up if historical memory hadn’t forced them to admit it.

        I’m not sure what your point was.

      2. William Wallace existed as well, but I’m not sure I’d take “Braveheart” as an official account too seriously. Did Jesus exist? Probably. But you have a gulf and a lot of work in front of you to assert the divine, the miracles, the mission. To think that we’d all be having this conversation without the actions of Constantine and his placing the smallish Christian sect under his approval and acceptance would be shortsighted. You obviously feel strongly about this. But that is a problem. You feel. Bart Ehrman is excellent. Continue the study and don’t cherry pick his conclusions.

  4. Getting back to the big picture of the panel discussion. My wife and I enjoyed this episode and all the perspectives. It came across that all panel members viewed Mormon scripture and history as something different than what the church claims, but still having “spiritual” or “mythical” value.

    There were a number of good metaphors used in the discussion, in regards to the church problems and dealing with them….a vessel, boat, old car, and also a game. The “game” that Mormonism requires in its current form has a very lengthy and detailed set of game rules, that are not nuanced, open to wide interpretations, including being characterized as “myth”. What is the point of driving the “car” of Mormonism if you can only make “right turns”? (the right turns in my point of view, would be answering all the Temple Recommend questions correctly to please the Bishop).

    How far would any panel member get in a Temple Recommend interview if they answered honestly, all of the questions. “Please Bishop, I really want to see my child married in the Temple, but I dont
    really believe in the many literal claims of prophets, the history, lack of evidence, and I view the scriptures as inspiring fictional “myth”. In other words the panel members are defending a “game” they can’t play honestly with its current game rules. I guess the point in all this is the hope that these efforts may influence church leaders to “do what is right and let the consequence follow”.

    I personally

  5. So, for these apologists the words of the Book of Mormon could be thrown in a hat and put together in any random order – the book would be historically, archeologically (and grammatically) incorrect . . . .
    BUT, it would still be “religiously” true.

    I’m hearing from these gentlemen that “nothing matters but what I think and that’s a religious truth which can’t be addressed with secular arguments” (secular arguments being language).

    How should we deal with these “religious truths”? Grunts and groans with foot-stomping and inspired gestures? If that’s where we’re at, I’m looking forward to Neo-Apologetics Pt. 3.

  6. Lloyd says you can’t play the game where you discuss secular truths and religious truths because they are different games.

    Of course, another way of looking at it is that when you play the game of discussing the religious truth of the book of mormon by considering the external evidence – archeology, etc., then mormonism loses the game.

    I wonder what Loyd would say if the Book of Mormon did line up with secular truths. What if the Book of Mormon was not full of anachronisms but instead laid out truths? What if the hill of Cumorah was full of steel swords, chariots, coins and bones? What if the Book of Abraham was confirmed by Egyptologists? Then mormonism would win the game.

    It’s true you can’t play the game of discussing religious truth and secular truth. It is a “category mischaracterization” as Dan says.

    So, of course Dan wants John to get back to the “meta-issue” because when you get down to the nuts and bolts – or when you play the “game” of considering whether the Book of Mormon or Book of Abraham is what it claims to be – or when you ask whether the mormon church is lying to converts – well, mormonism loses.

    The “meta-issue” Dan wants to stick to is – forget the language, forget Joseph Smith’s claims, forget archeology, forget historical claims, forget angels, gold plates, forget funerary texts . . . and “hey, I think it’s true – and isn’t what I think evidence?”

    1. “I wonder what Loyd would say if the Book of Mormon did line up with secular truths. What if the Book of Mormon was not full of anachronisms but instead laid out truths? What if the hill of Cumorah was full of steel swords, chariots, coins and bones? What if the Book of Abraham was confirmed by Egyptologists? Then mormonism would win the game.”

      I would say, “Cool, you’ve got an ancient text that was translated somehow. That in itself doesn’t make it the word of God though.” I would then probably have some existential crisis, because this would mean that the universe does not at all work as I thought it did.

      Here is what I write in the book:
      —–
      But isn’t an assertion about the Book of Mormon’s historicity an assertion about its being the word of God? While the traditional understanding of the miraculous coming forth of the Book of Mormon may seem to imply as much, a closer examination reveals that such a line of thinking still falls into the same confusion. If Joseph Smith’s translation of the buried Nephite record had revealed that the plates of gold consisted of a daily log of Mormon’s grocery lists and losing lottery ticket numbers (or some other mundane record), few testimonies would be given of the Book of Mormon, and it would have hardly ever gained any traction as containing the word of God. Or to pull directly from the Book of Mormon, imagine that the writings on the plates consisted of only Alma 11:5–19:

      “Now the reckoning is thus—a senine of gold, a seon of gold, a shum of gold, and a limnah of gold. A senum of silver, an amnor of silver, an ezrom of silver, and an onti of silver. A senum of silver was equal to a senine of gold, and either for a measure of barley, and also for a measure of every kind of grain. Now the amount of a seon of gold was twice the value of a senine. And a shum of gold was twice the value of a seon. And a limnah of gold was the value of them all. And an amnor of silver was as great as two senums. And an ezrom of silver was as great as four senums. And an onti was as great as them all.
      “Now this is the value of the lesser numbers of their reckoning—A shiblon is half of a senum; therefore, a shiblon for half a measure of barley. And a shiblum is a half of a shiblon. And a leah is the half of a shiblum. Now this is their number, according to their reckoning. Now an antion of gold is equal to three shiblons. ”

      Now imagine that it could be undeniably proven that this text was a supernatural translation of an ancient record. In what sense would it be the word of God? Would religious testimony be shared of an onti of silver being the greatest of all? While such an undeniable proof of a miracle might shatter the wider global understanding of ontological reality, the text would still just be an ancient list of measurements with the religious importance of an English measurements conversion table between teaspoons and tablespoons.
      —–

  7. I don’t think it holds water to argue that the church doesn’t deceive people so much as it “shares its myths” with them. At no time is the central narrative presented as a myth and further, openly speaking of the truth claims as myths will get you punished and consigned to second-class status in the community which according to these arguments is the main reason to be there in the first place: to be part of the community. I can’t imagine telling someone a set of facts and stories about myself that are not actually ‘true’ and watching them make decisions and commitments to me based on what I told them and when they discover I had misrepresented myself, just telling them I was sharing my mythology with them and they should just see those things as such moving forward. Of course truth and reality (or lack of) matter and the proof is the way the leadership, the community and even family members treat Mormons who openly speak of these foundational events as myths. I was prevented from baptizing my child and have been branded an apostate by the community and I can tell you that if I told my children that I viewed the BOM as fiction or the first vision as a myth, I would be looking divorce right in the face. The stakes really are this high when people base their lives on what they were taught from birth was reality and find out too late that it wasn’t

    1. Well said. I’m not sure Dan and Lloyd understand that their approach to all things Mormonism is as apostate as is my complete rejection of the faith itself. I still attend regularly (I love the quiet time sitting next to my wife holding her hand, and enjoy the goodness that our friends and neighbors are) and I know what is taught, spoken of, assumed in the rooms of every wardhouse across the globe. If I was to raise my hand in GD class, or speak during sacrament meeting, or present in Elder’s Quorum a hypothesis like that of Dan’s and Lloyd’s, my standing in this community would immediately change, and not for the positive.

      We have a meeting set aside each month, the first Sunday of the month as a testimony meeting, where members get up and bear witness that they have been touched by the holy spirit unto not a belief in myth, but a factual event and circumstance; That the church is true, that Joseph Smith received a visitation from God the Father and the Son, and that the true organization that existed in the early days of the primitive church was restored exactly through Joseph Smith, continuing in efficacy and authority to this day with Thomas S Monson. They testify of the validity of the Book of Mormon, with no ambiguity that it is an actual, literal account of the people of the Americas. These assumptions are binding, it’s mortar, it’s the secret sauce that binds this community, this shared belief of the truthfulness of the cause in which they share. If a rabble rouser like Dan or Lloyd presented at church like they present here, their standing in this community, the community that seems to be the worthy goal, would be sorely compromised, if not destroyed.

      1. “I’m not sure Dan and Lloyd understand that their approach to all things Mormonism is as apostate as is my complete rejection of the faith itself. ”

        I can’t speak for Dan, but I’m fully aware that the views I expressed would probably be rejected by top leadership. A few years ago my stake president canceled my recommend (without even talking to me) because he thought my approach to Mormonism was apostate–and I have no doubt that he was interpreting the top leaders as they intended to be interpreted.

  8. On the subject of Perspective on Mormon Theology, I have not read the book, but did listen to the 3-part presentation. I would like to offer another little vantage point or perspective in regards to the beginning of Mormon Theology in the Book of Mormon.

    To me there seems to have been missing an important balancing and enriching influence in the young life of Joseph Smith’s environment, which is the apparent lack of the enriching nature of the arts in his early life and even later life….other than literature as found in the Bible and the books of his time. Where was the influence of music and fine art to be found? Did the Smith home posses a piano, guitar, a banjo or even a harmonica? How about any art materials that we grew up with as normal kids….crayons, paints, pencils and paper to draw or paint with? Yes, I realize crayons were not invented yet, and most likely there wasn’t an art supply store around the corner, like one might find if living in New York, London, or Paris, in the 1800’s, or even today in most cities. Did any of the Smith kids get piano lessons? It seems the humanity and balance that fine art can give a person was missing in Joseph’s early life, and did not register in his mind.

    Why am I bringing this up? It is interesting that the humanity of the arts did not seem to register much in the minds of the ancient Americans to make it worth documenting in any detail either in the Book of Mormon, and yet the discovered cultures were incredibly artistic and most likely musical as well. Why would that be left out?

    When I read the Book of Mormon, I would have thought that the scribes would have recorded something about other things that inspired their lives such as some sort of reference to their music, and fine art, besides a mention of “fine apparel” or “curious workmanship”. Art has always been such a huge factor in humanity since ancient man, and yet the “spirit” of art seems void in the Book of Mormon. It’s “history” seems influenced by a mind or minds where art has not registered and seems to be a “blind spot” in their thinking and lives, not to mention it in any detail, as they did with farming, plants, a few odd animal names, coins, etc.

    The Book of Mormon tells us that “men are that they might have joy”….a good timeless principal, thanks to Adam and Eve (there’s the Myth part that we love). I wonder if the scribes could have left out some of the “and it came to pass” and dedicated a little more space to the humanity and soul of the people, besides the fixation of detailing battles and r-rated battle scenes? We do certainly know that Joseph did like swords and there were plenty to be found in the Book of Mormon.

    Some apologists like to argue that the Book of Mormon writing style telegraphs the hand of different authors. It doesn’t come across that way to me. I can imagine one later scribe reading the earlier record and saying something like “wow, I can’t believe nobody has mentioned the wonderful music and art we have created, and how we made those amazing colors with plant materials….and here is one of the songs we sang for our beliefs, and how we have this great choir that inspires us.”

    Anyway, that is my perspective, not as an apologist, but as a biased architect and painter that loves art and music, along with all the other great things in life that give it joy and meaning …especially my wife, 5 kids, and 5 grandchildren….so far!

    Thanks again for this episode and all those who have made excellent and thoughtful comments.

  9. Hi John, l agree with mostly everyone here and you yourself, who writes of how very important the truth church claims are in every individual Mormons life, it is the very basics of what we are brought up on and it really is either true or it isn’t, you can try to jump in and out of hoops with the belief system, but basically if joseph smith did author the book of Mormon himself even with so called inspiration its still doesn’t mean it was through god and that its real life people being written about in their real lives, in the stories inside the book of Mormon, myths really aren’t good enough to be basing your eternal salvation on here, as this is what the church claims to be, the one true church being led by a heavenly father who is guiding and directing his children through prophets here on the earth and he is the only mouth piece for god on earth, and that by keeping and abiding by all of its laws and principles and precepts and attending temple sessions, keeping your ordinances paying ten per cent of your wages to tithing, etc, you may have the opportunity to be saved and to once again live with our heavenly father again in the heavens again, that is why it is so important to be up front and honest about the truth claims,, it completely affects all our lives in every kind of way, thanks for speaking up your truth John,

    1. Loyd,

      Speaking for myself, I thought I heard you say something to the effect that a person can’t discuss and/or discredit religious truths by discussing secular truths – something to that affect.

      If I got that right (or am close), I saw that angle as shutting down a conversation that would demonstrate almost everything about mormonism to be false. John Dehlin wasn’t derailed by the attempts to keep him from asking some simple but devastating questions about mormonism.

      That’s all I’ve got. Did I miss the mark? I often do. 🙂

      But I do like your style and personality.

      (I should probably read your book)——

    2. Hi Loyd,

      Most likely, the intent of what people are responding to is in reference to the subject of the panel discussion….. Perspective on Mormon Theology-Apologetics. I personally did not refer to you as an apologist, but I would assume that to be invited to give a perspective on the subject that you either had at one time participated with it or at least had some “perspectives” on the subject.

      For most of us the problems in not necessarily with the idea of an apologist, but the ideas coming out of Mormon Apologetics that require partial facts/history, shaky science or lack of it, or creative conjecture such as “maybe translate doesn’t mean what we think”. More and more it seems there is an attempt to slowly “inoculate” with a new narrative that is focusing on the spiritual and even mythical value of the scripture. This point was made already very well in a number of the comments. For example, priesthood authority doesn’t play well as myth.

      I liked your “right turn only” in Mormon car metaphor. I previously mentioned that in my first comment, and even referenced to attempting to get a Temple Recommend….interestingly in one of your following comments, that point was validated, as it actually happened to you!

      Rather than we all listen to the podcast again, perhaps you can clarify the proper fit and extent of myth in regards to a regular member of the church, rather than a philosophical academic type. What is your relationship with the church today in regards to activity and belief?

      Thanks very much!

  10. the historicity and reality of the church’s claims are what gave the church power in my life. If those things aren’t real or true then the church loses all power to me.

  11. Ugh. Mormon apologists. They’re like those kids you knew that kept believing in Santa long after it was normal to do so. Just can’t seem to handle the truth. Hurts too much.

    1. In a month I am going to be sleepless with anticipation of watching my 4 and 6 yrs old children run down the stairs to see what Santa gave them. Before then, I’ll probably use the Santa story to get them to behave at times. When they are older I hope they experience the joy of watching their own children living the magic of Christmas morning.

      I feel sorry for both PostChristmas parents who refuse to celebrate Christmas because of its lack of historical and material reality, and for Christmas apologists who are too busy proving the existence of Santa Claus so that they forget to give gifts to their children.

      1. C’mon Loyd. I tell my wife she’s beautiful when at times, she’s not. I tell my kids that if they do their best that it will work out, when at times it doesn’t. I tell my co-workers that if they put in the time they’ll be rewarded, when at times they’re not. The Santa analogy does not work here, and we have joyful Christmases even with the teenagers who are long beyond Santa. Not sure you appreciate your Freudian slip using the Santa story to get them to behave. I’m sure you’re a better parent than that, why isn’t Elohim?

        Use the analogy that really works here, you can even call it myth. Tell your wife that myth has commanded you to take a second wife. Tell your kids when you miss the umpteenth soccer game that you were called by the Lord (myth) to serve. Tell your child that the Lord expects us to heal by faith, not by medicine, and that that pesky attraction to the same sex? More faithfulness! Refuse coffee for health reasons, but not the tub-o-coke. Employ the only commandment that guarantees hell fire to be staved, the myth of tithing (thanks very much, I’m sure the Lord will come up with a rent miracle). These are the faith (myth) stories that infect us and poison our basic integrities. Saying we can’t be moral without them, that we can’t be decent humans, nor exist with God without them. Call it myth or faith, it’s just as disgraceful and it poisons everything.

  12. I am curious how neoapologetists deal with the new archaeological debate over the historcity of the Exodus and Conquest in the OT. Archaeologist Israel Finkelstein in his book The Bible Unearthed claims the evidence shows these events did not happen. The same approach seems to be that of archaeologist William Dever.

  13. It’s difficult to get someone to understand something that they are paid NOT to understand. Most apologists are either paid by the church directly or receive a revenue stream indirectly through seminars, books and even podcasts. Most disinterested third parties would have little to no interest in plowing through Bushman’s tome or meandering through Given’s prose. I am certain that they have made more money on their apologetic works than other things they may have written. Anybody with a modicum of intellect and reason can only conclude that the church’s narrative and truth claims of restoration that they have been pushing for almost 190 years are false on every level. Every belief and practice that is unique to Mormonism never existed prior to Mormonism. No amount of mental gymnastics , nuanced spin or academic wordsmithing can justify any other conclusion although the discussions can be entertaining .

  14. The discussion here veers wildly into dishonesty and ignorance about what it means to most members of the church to be members of the church. Lloyd and Dan have separated and marginalized themselves from church membership in general. It is monumentally difficult and dangerous to tell ten members of your immediate family that you no longer believe the “myth”.
    In every general conference the leadership tells its members to stay in the boat, don’t rock the boat, don’t look behind the curtain and shield yourself from those sources of knowledge that may give freedom.

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