Mormon Apologetics & Me: A Background
I like to think of myself as a friend of Mormon apologetics. I respect the concept of apologetics as an important branch of theology. The work of early Christian and patristic apologists such as Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Augustine contributed significantly to the theological development of early Christian theology. Mormonism is a young religion, so it has always been my hope that Mormon apologetics would likewise contribute significantly to the development of Mormon theology. The idea may seem antithetical to those who believe revelation in Mormonism comes spontaneously from the top of the hierarchy, but I maintain that even Mormons have such a thing as non-hierarchical revelation, and that Mormon academics may cause prophets and apostles to prayerfully meditate on the issues they raise. Theology is done in community, and Mormon apologists can and should be part of the conversation through which theology is done.
I’m also a friend of Mormon apologetics in a personal sense. I have been reading and interacting with Mormon apologists since I was in high school, a time when I ordered and read books like Richard Hopkins’ Biblical Mormonism (1994) and Barry Bickmore’s Restoring the Ancient Church (1999). At that time, I registered at the original FAIR discussion forum as “Junia” and interacted with apologists there. Pursuing my undergraduate education at Brigham Young University put me into closer touch with a number of apologists. In 2003, I attended the FAIR Conference with my then-fiancé and inadvertently wound up helping out at the bookstore. The next year, FAIR paid for my conference fare as an official bookstore volunteer, and FAIR President Scott Gordon asked me to introduce one of the speakers,
In 2004, my husband and I went through a separation. A volunteer from FAIR opened her home to me and allowed me to live with her for a month. No questions asked, nothing but love and support to get me through one of the most difficult times of my life. In the midst of it all, Scott Gordon e-mailed me to make sure I was okay. I remember that I didn’t even reply to his e-mail—I was so despondent and hurting, I was frequently pushing away the people who were trying to reach out to me—but I still remember the kindness and Christ-like love that these two individuals associated with FAIR showed in reaching out to me. It’s something I will never forget.
In 2009, a friend of mine who is an LDS scholar contacted me because an evangelical church was attempting to book him and another LDS scholar for a “mutual interfaith dialogue.” The two evangelicals they had booked for this were some of the most polemical counter-cultists in the business, but my friend did not know the names and wanted my opinion. I strongly urged him to steer clear of the event unless the church sought other evangelicals (Mouw, Blomberg, Mosser, or Owen) to participate. I even recommended that he contact Dan Peterson if he wanted more information. My friend’s acquaintance did this, and I was told that, at the time, Dan spoke very well of me.
I list all of these things because I want to establish that I am opposed to neither apologetics nor the Mormon church. I very much consider myself a friend of both. But here’s the crux: I firmly believe that the best friends we can have are the ones who love us enough to tell us when we are out of line. “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” (Proverbs 27:6)
So I am here to tell those apologists and other Latter-day Saints who are currently vilifying M. Gerald Bradford for his recent decision to release Daniel C. Peterson: you are out of line. You are of course welcome to disagree with his decision and even criticize him for it, but he does not deserve some of the hateful, unkind things that have been said about him. Furthermore, know that you are directing your ire at an effective middleman. As for Dan Peterson: he has been out of line for a long time, and Bradford was more than justified in releasing him. I’m going to explain to you why the vilification of Bradford is uncalled for (don’t worry—I’ve taken names) and why I potentially support a change in direction for the Maxwell Institute, and I’m going to be sharing some insider information in the process.