Thanks for digging this up. Midgley does not think much of the new historians, and
has taken Murphy to task for his paper. If you read the paper, you'll see that he
refers to papers Midgley wrote about the Church in New Zealand, but Midgley has
told me he confronted Murphy about twisting the meaning of what Midgley had wrote.
Murphy was squirming, as I understand it, but stood by his position. I would urge
all to take this the same way we have taken Bagley's book on the MMM; more heat
than light, and it shall pass quickly enough. Those with a real interest in it
might want to sign up for FAIR's listserve -- this has been a topic of fruitful
discussion there.

Jim Cobabe wrote:

> A quote from Louis Midgley regarding those who question the Book of
> Mormon historicity--Sterling McMurrin, former philosophy prof at the
> University of Utah, typifies this crowd, and was the poster child of
> many of the current followers of the dissident camp.
> Revisionist History—The Great Leap Forward
> Some are still insisting that the Church must abandon the traditional
> understanding of the beginnings of the faith.  Why is such a revisionist
> history, as it is now being called, especially by RLDS historians,
> either desirable or necessary? Presumably, a competent, honest scrutiny
> of the historical foundations of the faith, that is, a serious look at
> the beginnings, discloses what  Sterling McMurrin labels "a good many
> unsavory things."  McMurrin, for example, charges "that the Church has
> intentionally distorted its own history by dealing fast and loose with
> historical data and imposing theological and religious interpretations
> on those data that are entirely unwarranted."
> For McMurrin, the Mormon "faith is so mixed up with so many commitments
> to historical events—or to events that are purported to be
> historical—that a competent study of history can be very disillusioning.
> Mormonism is a historically oriented religion. To a remarkable degree,
> the Church has concealed much of its history from its people, while at
> the same time causing them to tie their religious faith to its own
> controlled interpretations of its history." The problem, as McMurrin
> sees it, is a "fault of the weakness of the faith" which should not be
> tied at all to history. fn He strives to separate faith from history,
> substituting "naturalistic humanism" fn for prophetic faith—promoting
> the enterprise of philosophical theology as a substitute for divine
> special revelations. McMurrin provides the least sentimental statement
> of the intellectual grounds for a secular revisionist Mormon history,
> that is, one done entirely in naturalistic terms. McMurrin sees the
> Mormon past in what Leonard Arrington once called "human or naturalistic
> terms."
> We should, from McMurrin's perspective, begin with the dogma "that you
> don't get books from angels and translate them by miracles; it is just
> that simple." fn A history resting on that premise would require a
> fundamental reordering of the faith. fn His program would retain only
> fragments of a culture resting on abandoned beliefs. Marty, straying
> from the core of his argument, eventually introduces "many kinds of
> integrity. Some of these are appropriate to insiders and others to
> outsiders, some to church authorities and some to historians." fn But
> given what Marty had already shown about the necessity of the decisive
> generative events surviving the acids of modernity, it is difficult to
> see how he could defend the integrity of a stance such as McMurrin's.
> Certainly McMurrin's denials do not permit the survival of the crucial
> historical foundations. But still, Marty defends the history being done
> by some of those on the fringes of the Church whose arguments are not as
> coherent as those of McMurrin, yet whose premises are not unlike certain
> of his dogmas. fn
> The Book of Mormon, when viewed as a fictional or mythical account, and
> not as reality, no longer can have authority over us or provide genuine
> hope for the future. To treat the Book of Mormon as a strange
> theologically motivated brand of fiction, and in that sense as myth, is
> to alter radically both the form and content of faith and thereby
> fashion a new "church" in which the texts are told what they can and
> cannot mean on the basis of some exterior ideology. To reduce the Book
> of Mormon to mere myth weakens, if not destroys, the possibility of it
> witnessing to the truth about divine things. A fictional Book of Mormon
> fabricated by Joseph Smith, even when his inventiveness, genius, or
> inspiration is celebrated, does not witness to Jesus Christ but to human
> folly. A true Book of Mormon is a powerful witness; a fictional one is
> hardly worth reading and pondering. fn Still, the claims of the text
> must be scrutinized and tested, then either believed or not believed
> without a final historical proof.
> An historically grounded faith is vulnerable to the potential ravages of
> historical inquiry, but it is also one that could be true in a way that
> would make a profound difference. We are left, by God, with a witness to
> mighty acts, but we must judge, for we are always at the turning point
> between two ways. And listening to the text, not proving it true—an
> impossibility if not a presumption—to discover what its truth is for us,
> both reveals its truth and makes the sacred past plausible and thereby
> gives meaning to the life and deepest longings of the believer.
> The truth of the prophetic message found in the Book of Mormon is linked
> to both its claim to be an authentic history and to Joseph Smith's story
> of how we came to have the book. To be a Latter-day Saint is to believe,
> among other things, that the Book of Mormon is true, that there once was
> a Lehi who made a covenant with God and was led out of Jerusalem and so
> forth.
>  John M. Lundquist and Stephen D. Ricks, eds., By Study and Also by
> Faith: Essays in Honor of Hugh W. Nibley on the Occasion of His
> Eightieth Birthday, 27 March 1990, 2 vols. [Salt Lake City and Provo:
> Deseret Book Co., Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies,
> 1990], 2: 525.)
> //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
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> /////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Marc A. Schindler
Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canada -- Gateway to the Boreal Parkland

“Man will occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of the time he will pick
himself up and continue on” – Winston Churchill

Note: This communication represents the informal personal views of the author
solely; its contents do not necessarily reflect those of the author’s employer,
nor those of any organization with which the author may be associated.

///  ZION LIST CHARTER: Please read it at  ///
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