Yesterday I was skimming through Daniel Peterson's introduction to the most recent issue of the FARMS Review, "An Unapologetic Apology for Apologetics," and something caught my eye. He writes (quoting a couple anonymous writers):
Some Latter-day Saints who object in principle to the apologetic enterprise may hold to a slightly different faith—or, at least, affirm the faith a little differently—than do most members of the church. A hypothetical situation was proposed to one such objector, and his response was revealing. "Suppose," a questioner wrote,
that a friend or family member approaches you and says "I am beginning to have doubts about my testimony. There are things from the history of the Church which I never knew about, but which concern me. For example, my friend said that Joseph Smith stole the temple endowment from Freemasonry. I was told the endowment was revealed by God, and now I am really having some confusing doubts."
When I read this the last couple quotations reminded me of something I had read elsewhere. After doing a quick google search I realized that it seemed familiar because it was something that I had written on a message board several months ago. Upon further skimming of the article I noticed that nearly each section of Peterson's article was quoting and responding to other comments I had made on that thread, as well as to a paper I had written on Mormon apologetics for a class I had with Richard Bushman last spring.What would you do? Would you say, "Well, your problem is that you are using 'reason' to assess the claims of the gospel. I think what you need is more faith. If you just have faith and pray about it, it will be okay." Would you say something else? What would you do? 18In response, the objector said that he would answer that,
yes, Joseph Smith used Masonic rites to develop his endowment ceremony. If they want to ask more questions, I'd give them more answers: No, I don't think they are based on actually ancient rituals. Yes, I find them beautiful and meaningful nonetheless. No, I don't think they are magically efficacious. Yes, I believe that God uses them to bind us into communities to build the Kingdom of God, etc.19The appropriate way to respond to our critics, he continued, "depends on the criticism."
Sometimes the proper response is: Yes, you are right. Sometimes the proper response is to point out poor argumentation (which could be equally done by a non-believer). Sometimes the response is "I don't know." Other times the only response is: Perhaps, but it doesn't matter.
Needless to say, I am a bit honored that Peterson took the time to publish a response to quick comments that I had made in an informal (and awful) message board and a 12-page paper for one of my classes. And because Peterson and I had once been friends I appreciate that he avoided the traditional snide remarks and personal jabs that are often a trademark of the FARMS Review--even throwing in a couple compliments in my direction.