A fresh pair of articles penned by Louis C. "Woody" Midgley have been posted to Mormon Interpreter
. As with the recent invective from John Sorenson, these two pieces are very much in the "classic-FARMS" tradition: angry, designed mainly to attack, and basically substance-free (apart, I suppose, from The Emperor's compressed "history of atheism" in the longer article). What's shocking, though, is how sloppy both of these pieces are: it's as if the MI
editorial team was either too busy to be bothered with doing a "professional" job, or they just didn't care. Perhaps haste was the order of the day?
In any case, the first of the articles can be found here:http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/atheis ... c-dubiety/
At some point, the yokels at the old FARMS realized that including abstracts would make their work seem more "scholarly," and indeed, this "realization" has been included here. Personally, I found bits of Midgley's abstract rather confusing. He mentions a "mass-market secular humanist magazine" without naming it, and then goes on to complain about pieces in said "mass-market secular humanist magazine" that characterize Joseph Smith thusly:
This is done by ignoring the details of Joseph Smith’s career in order to picture him as the equivalent of a bizarre, emotionally conflicted figure like Charles Manson or as the embodiment of one of a wide range of mythical trickster figures like Brer Rabbit, Felix the Cat, or Doctor Who.Huh?
"Felix the Cat"? "Doctor Who"?
It turns out that Midgley is actually criticizing a Mormon-themed issue of the secular-humanist magazine, Free Inquiry
, though the article muddles things at times. Take a look at this passage, a few "pages" in:
The October/November Seven
The October/November issue of Free Inquiry comprises a total of sixty-six pages, of which twenty-one constitute a miscellany of opinion on Mormon topics. None of these essays make a contribution to understanding the faith of the Saints or the crucial history of the restoration. Some of the authors assume the conclusions they reach. None of these essays give the appearance of having been written with much understanding of Latter-day Saint history or faith. Each of the seven essays is reviewed separately below.
Apart from "Woody"'s casual and hubristic dismissal of the entire seven essays, the editing here is really pretty terrible. "The October/November issue" would lead you to believe that he's writing about the current
issue, no? It would make perfect sense, given the current political climate, and yet, when you navigate on over to the Free Inquiry
Web site, it seems that the 2012 Oct./Nov. issue isn't even out yet. It turns out that this is actually discussing last year's
Oct./Nov. issue. You wonder why either Midgley or his editorial assistant failed to clarify this in the text.
As you read on, it becomes clear: this article was probably meant to be published last year, as part of a planned Mormon Review
attack on John Dehlin. Just look at this passage:
Dalton is known for having created a serial comic sketch in which he plays “Mr. Deity,” the lead role.21 “My Journey” is clearly an exit story. As is common in this genre, Dalton includes a fashionable complaint about the sense of betrayal and pain that he experienced when he went missing. [sic] A more naïve, candid, and revealing version of Dalton’s exit story has been made available in an interview by John Dehlin.
Dalton, led by Dehlin, actually claims to have read much LDS apologetic literature prior to his aborted mission call. But nothing in his interview indicates that either Dalton or Dehlin has even an elementary grasp of contemporary LDS scholarship. Dehlin gently coaches Mr. Deity to claim that DNA studies, along with hearing about seer stones, led him to reject the Book of Mormon. But did this realization come long after he had lapsed back into the pop music world, with its abundance of moral evil? Neither Dalton nor Dehlin sort any such questions.
I would guess that substantial chunks of this now-terminated issue of the Review
contained elements that were meant to attack John Dehlin--more than just the epic-length Greg Smith "hit piece." Probably, Midgley was a driving force behind the attack strategy.
In any case, he carries on in his rather crummy article, marching through each of the essays in turn, spending a few paragraphs on each to make his usual crotchety complaints: the author "doesn't understand" Mormonism; the author "doesn't have a solid grasp" of contemporary "scholarship" (read: Mopologetics); the author is "naïve"; the author is a "dogmatic atheist" and thus unable to view things fairly. And so on. You don't really have to bother reading the criticisms, because you've heard them all before. Midgley could save himself a lot of time by simply ordering a bunch of rubber stamps and using them to mark up every single non-Mopologetic publication that discusses Mormonism.
What's shocking, though, is the sloppiness that one finds throughout the piece:
He merely brushes aside the Book of Mormon. In doing this, as Professor William Hamblin has demonstrated, Price has ignored all the literature published by Latter-day Saints on the Book of Mormon.
*All* of it? Interestingly, Midgley provides a pair of endnotes to substantiate this. In note 37, he writes:
See Hamblin’s complaints about this devastating lacuna in his “‘There Really Is a God,’” 79 n. 2 (see n. 36 above). In addition to the studies mentioned by Hamblin, the list could now be increased substantially. Price also ignored Terryl Givens’s By the Hand of Mormon (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002).
And in note 36, he writes:
William J. Hamblin responded to Price in a devastating essay impishly entitled “‘There Really Is a God, and He Dwells in the Temporal Parietal Lobe of Joseph Smith’s Brain,’” Dialogue 36/4 (2003): 79–87. See the revised version of Professor Hamblin’s response entitled “Priced to Sell,” Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 16/1 (2004): 37–47. Price was back at it again with an essay entitled “Joseph Smith in the Book of Mormon,” Dialogue 36/4 (2003): 89–96. See also his self-published essays in Latter-day Scripture.
A sharp-eyed editor would immediately notice the repeated use--in a short span--of the word "devastating." (The word gets used four times in this essay.) Yes: we get that Midgley wants to emphasize how badly Bill Hamblin whooped up on Price, but still--it's time to get out the thesaurus. Even worse is the bit I've underlined. Has such a publication--with that title--ever existed? Of course, Midgley is referring to the FARMS Review
(or Mormon Studies Review
, or perhaps the FARMS Review of Books
). Maybe he's still living in the past?
Finally, there is the issue of whether or not Price really is guilty of a "devastating lacuna" [sic]. To show how poorly read on the scholarship Price is, Hamblin cites (drumroll....) a bunch of FARMS authors:
2. Dr. Price seems to be completely unaware of, or at least unwilling to engage, a large body of scholarship which challenges his prejudices on this issue. For the most recent popularizing sum- mary (with detailed notes to numerous technical studies), see Donald Parry, Daniel Peterson, and John Welch, eds. Echoes and Evidences, (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2002); see also Noel Reynolds, ed., Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited: the Evidence for Ancient Origins, (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1997).
Of course, Price's original quote reads, ""virtually all critical
scholars . . . agree that Joseph Smith did not discover the Book of Mormon but rather created it" (emphasis mine). Does Hamblin really think that DCP, Parry, Reynolds, and Welch are "critical scholars"? At least Midgley seems smart enough to throw someone respectable--Terryl Givens--into the mix, though this works against him, too, since it implies that Midgley himself is aware of the problem of trying to make the case using only FARMS authors.
Later, we come again to a strange mention of "Doctor Who":
However, Price cannot distinguish between the “trickster” as found in fable and fiction, such as Bugs Bunny or Felix the Cat, and actual human beings. In his essay he muddles the two notions together, making it possible for him to neglect to demonstrate a historical influence or connection between, say, Charles Manson or Doctor Who and Joseph Smith.
Is he really saying this? Does he really mean
this? Price doesn't know the difference between cartoon characters and "actual human beings"? Is this meant to be serious? Was this "peer reviewed"? Price's article can be read here:http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.ph ... price_31_6
Can you find the spot where Price makes any mention whatsoever of "Bugs Bunny or Felix the Cat" or "Doctor Who"? Or are these just Midgley's well-poisoning additions?
On and on it goes. In his discussion of the Alcock piece, Midgley feels compelled to mention that Alcock is "an amateur magician." I still can't figure out why this is relevant, though I'm sure both Midgley and the MI
editorial team had their reasons.
In his discussion of the C.L. Hanson article, Midgley stops just short of using a sexist epithet to describe Ms. Hanson:
She pictures herself as “a mild mannered mom” who posts up a storm on the Internet promoting what she calls “the middle ground where ‘nice,’ tactful atheism can occur” (p. 41). Her blogs—Main Street Plaza and Letters from a Broad—strike me as a bit raunchy and as lacking intellectual content.
Midgley helpfully supplies a link to help illustrate what he finds "raunchy":
For example, it really is ludicrous for Hanson to describe her teenage efforts to seduce boys or to describe what she claims to have managed in the library at BYU. See http://lfab-uvm.blogspot.com/2006/07/my ... point.html
, including the comments for one of many similar examples of childish rubbish.
You kind of have to wonder what sort of sleuthing Midgley had to do in order to track this material down. The link takes you to Hanson's account of her loss of faith--as Midgley indicates, you really have to read down into the comments to learn that Hanson is (in?)famous for having had sex in/at the BYU library. The question I'm left with here is: Why was Midgley perusing this material? How much time did it take him to track this stuff down? And, is anyone else as creeped out by the thought of this man:
not only reading material of this nature, but saving links to it, probably sharing them on Skinny-L, and using them in an article like this? There is clearly a voyeuristic component to Midgley's complaints, and I personally think that he and his article would have been better off if he'd omitted this. The posting is over half a decade old, and I'm sure that he could have zeroed in on something that was more indicative of "Letters from a Broad" as a whole. Instead, in rather pervy fashion, he chose to focus on the author's recollections about her teenage sexuality. He ought to limit this kind of behavior to watching provocative videos on SocialCam.
But it doesn't end there! The Emperor goes on to cook up a conspiracy theory about how Free Inquiry
founder Paul Kurtz was in cahoots with Signature Books chief George Smith:
Beginning in 1984, through various conferences and publishing ventures, including Free Inquiry, Kurtz and Company, at times working with George D. Smith and Signature Books, have sponsored or published a series of attacks on Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon.
What is this supposed to prove, exactly? That Smith and Kurtz are friendly to one another?
As you might expect, Midgley begins to wrap things up with the accusation that atheism is actually a religion:
One reason for not wanting to be known as a religion is that, in the United States, if secular humanism is seen as a religion, then it could face big trouble in the courts because of the First Amendment. One can understand Kurtz’s concern over this matter. But otherwise, efforts to shed the religion label seem to me to be a bit callow, given the fact that secular humanists have not abandoned the idea that there is an atheist community and in this sense even a kind of church or assemblage of peoples.
So yet again we have the peculiar situation whereby Midgley is angry that the "militant atheists" are dismissive of religion, and so his strategy is to try and characterize them as a kind of religion. "Take that you guys! See! You actually are the very thing you hate!" Yep, that'll get 'em, Woody.
I have to say that, as bad as some Mopologetic articles have been in the past, this one really may take the cake: I think it may rank among the worst five or so Mopologetic articles ever written. It is mind-numbingly stupid, weighed down not just with anger and vindictiveness, but with creepiness and pettiness, too. It was clearly written in the spirit of revenge, and the fact is, the thing was really poorly edited. In addition to the items I already noted--pure carelessness, by the way--there is a paragraph that wasn't indented on "page" 129.
Seeing this, it's hard not to think that Gerald Bradford had truly legitimate reasons for wanting to keep this stuff away from the BYU imprimatur. Apart from being nasty and mean-spirited, this is just flat-out unprofessional and sloppy. It's as if Midgley banged this out the night before it was due, and yet as is quite obvious, this was written close to a year ago
. What is their excuse? And what will their supporters say? The lower-tier Mopologists have always pointed to the Skinny-L/FARMS crowd as the model for "Mormon scholarship." What excuses can they possibly have for work this is this transparently awful?