I'd reconsidered writing anything more about Beck and her book. However I notice many questions coming from a lot people. They're the sort of questions that I think most Mormons and Utahns know to be false, but I thought I'd put up a few of them. I'll probably do an other read of the book later this week and put up some more detailed comments. So if you have some questions about the book or the conspiracy, don't hesitate to let me know. Nibley himself is apparently near death. (He's in his 90's and has had deteriorating health for quite some time) Beck is planning on releasing the book in a couple of weeks.
Claim 1: Joseph Smith's Tar and Feathering
I knew that Joseph Smith had been tarred and feathered by a mob but not that they were there because he'd had sex with the fifteen-year-old daughter of a man who had rented a room to Joseph and Emma. (Beck, Leaving the Saints -- sorry I don't have the page number handy. I'll add it in later.)
The person in question was Marinda Johnson, daughter of John Johnson who was 15. Fawn Brodie in her highly controversial biography of Joseph Smith says that Johnson's brother Eli demanded that Joseph be tarred, feathered and castrated for sleeping with his sister. Unfortunately for Brodie, Johnson had no brother named Eli. She did have a brother named Luke Johnson though. In her autobiography, however, Marinda makes it clear that she felt Joseph made no inappropriate advances.
The next fall Joseph came with his family to live at my father's house. He was at that time translating the Bible, and Elder Rigdon was acting as scribe. The following spring, a mob, disguising themselves as black men, gathered and burst into his sleeping apartment one night, and dragged him from the bed where he was nursing a sick child. They also went to the house of Elder Rigdon, and took him out with Joseph into an orchard, where, after choking and beating them, they tarred and feathered them, and left them nearly dead. My father, at the first onset, started to the rescue, but was knocked down, and lay senseless for some time. Here I feel like bearing my testimony that during the whole year that Joseph was an inmate of my father's house I never saw aught in his daily life or conversation to make me doubt his divine mission.
One wonders why Brodie didn't note this and further why Beck, who likely would have been familiar with LDS criticisms of Brodie, wasn't aware of this. After all her father wrote one of the more famous rebuttals to Brodie's work. For those interested in some of the details of the event and surrounding history, Max Parkin's Conflict at Kirtland: A Study of the Nature and Causes of External and Internal Conflict of the Mormons in Ohio Between 1830 and 1838 is available online. In more recent scholarship, Todd Compton's In Sacred Loneliness wrote the following regarding the claim that the mob violence was over Joseph's taking advantage of Marinda.
Many other factors, however, aruge against this theory. First, Marinda had no brother named Eli, which suggests that Braden's accusation, late as it is is, is garbled and unreliable. In addition, two antagonistic accouns by Hayden and S. F. Whitney give an entirely different reason for the mobbing, with an entirely different leader, Simonds Ryder, an ex-Mormon, though the Johnson brothers are still participants. In these accounts the reason for the violence is economic: the Johnson boys were in the mob because of 'the horrid fact that a plot was laid to take their property from them and place it under the control of Smith.' The castration, in this scenario, may have only been a threat, meant to intimidate Smith and cause him to leave Hiram. (Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, 231)
One should also note that Sidney Rigdon, then an other leader within the church, was attacked just as badly as Joseph Smith was. Once again let me re-emphasize the nature of this violence against Joseph Smith. Compton recounts Luke Johnson's accounts of the violence as follows.
According to Luke Johnson, Smith was stretched on a board, then "they tore off the few night clothes that he had on, for the purpose of emasculating him, and had Dr. Dennison there to perform the operation. But when the Dr. saw the prophet stripped and stretched on the plank, his heart failed him, and he refused to operate. (ibid)
Let's put it this way, one of Martha Beck's conspiracies for a "cultural of violence" is actually an innocent man being drug out of his house beaten and then burnt with hot tar. (If you've been around tar during road construction, then you know how hot it is) Then after the fact, according to all modern historians, the people who beat him made up a story of sexual abuse denied by all involved which doesn't have even the basic facts right. It is this that Beck appeals to. One can't help but wonder if this gives insight into Beck's own writing.
Claim 2: No Independent Salvation for Women
Latter-day saints believe that no woman will ever get to the celestial kingdom on her own-both her connection to the present God and her passage to eternal glory rely on her soon-to-be-divine husband. If a woman dies unmarried, she must be "sealed" to a worthy Mormon male (it is to be hoped that she'll catch a live husband, but if necessary, she can be posthumously sealed to the partner of her descendants' choice) before she can proceed toward salvation.
This isn't so much wrong, as amazingly distorted and misleading. Mormons believe that as one accepts Christ one will participate in the ordinances of the gospel. Ordinances like baptism. One of the ordinances Mormon believe Christ gave is marriage. Thus to return to God and be saved in full one must be married. Beck makes it appear like this is somehow denying power to women. However the fact is that Mormons believe that the same is equally true of men. Mormons typically appeal to 1 Cor 11:11 to explain this. The idea is that Adam and Eve were created together and that as we overcome the fall of Adam through Christ's atonement, we retrace the steps of Adam and Eve to return to the condition they were in prior to the fall. That is, together in the Garden of Eden.
I certainly understand those who disagree with with LDS theology. However Beck attempts to take this idea and twist it and turn it into some feminist tract. I think one should note that Beck is doing this, and not just here, but throughout the book. Beliefs are twisted and cast into a light to make it appear like we are asserting something we don't. Beck's goal is to make us look as weird and as backwards as possible to people not familiar with Mormons. If she simply disagreed, I wouldn't mind. But these distortions really remind me of anti-semitic literature.
Claim 3: Church Tried to Obscure the Book of Abraham
The whole issue of the Joseph Smith papyri seems to create unbearable anxiety for [Hugh Nibley, Beck's father], and I can certainly see why. Anyone who knows Mormon history would understand. Now, it's true that the Church has done a good job of making sure that this particular part of Mormon history remains obscure even to Latter-day Saints.
The fact is that as soon as the papyri was found to be at the New York Metropolitan Museum the Church published photographs in their official magazine, The Improvement Era. The majority of Mormons at the time received this magazine. Later issues dealt with the Book of Abraham. Deseret Books, a publisher owned by the Church, has published dozens of books on the history and content of the papyri and the Book of Abraham, including several by her father. It remains one of the more popular topics among intellectually oriented Mormons. While clearly not everyone agrees with the view of many Mormon intellectuals towards the text, the Church has hardly been covering it up or obscuring it. You can go the the FARMS website right now and find dozens of papers on the papyri and numerous books. If the church is suppressing the topic, they are sure going about it in a weird manner.
Likewise far from being anxious about the papyri Nibley seems quite excited about it. He taught very popular classes on it at BYU. I never saw the least bit of anxiety when he talked about it. (And he talked about it frequently) Admittedly I wasn't close to Nibley, but I talked to him numerous times about it and a few related topics. More importantly it isn't clear why Nibley would be anxious. Beck assumes that there is some cognitive dissonance on Nibley's part. But there are many Mormons, myself included, who don't see a problem at all. Once again you may disagree, but Beck seems to take the line of thought that to appear to think differently from her perspective must entail cognitive dissonance or worse. Surely people can simply disagree?
Beck's argument is that the strain of having to defend the indefensible - the Book of Abraham - made Nibley go insane. Yet as I said, there are many intelligent people, including people with degrees in Egyptology, who agree on many points with Nibley. This whole line of reasoning, while it may make sense to Beck, makes little sense to those familiar with FARMS and those who participate in studies on the Book of Abraham.
Claim 4: Leg Hair is Pubic Hair
Men must also wear socks, on the premise that the hair on human ankles can be thought of as an extension of pubic hair (I don't know what group of anatomical analysts made this determination, but whoever they are, I never want to see them naked) All females, it goes without saying, shave their legs - underarms too, though these are concealed by required sleeves (it's unclear to me whether armpit hair is also suspected of having pubic origins, but I wouldn't doubt it.)
This is one of the more bizarre claims by Beck. Now I was at BYU while Beck was a professor there and when most of these events in the book were transpiring. There was a joke going around about pubic hair, but it was clearly a joke making fun of the school's dress code. Exactly why Beck would take this as something serious about the dress code escapes me. Well, not really. Clearly she wants to make BYU students seem as idiotic as possible to readers not familiar with the school. Now once again one can disagree with dress codes at universities. Some people feel them to be against what they feel to be the spirit of a university. I can certainly understand that. However it seems quite odd to take rules designed to have people take care of themselves and appear professional while on campus and portray it as some bizarre sexual rule. (And, I should note, these rules don't apply off campus and the rules change with changing times and fashions)
Claim 5: BYU Professors Can't Publish in Journals not Approved by the Church
"I'm sure you're all aware," he said, "that the brethren in Salt Lake are asking BYU faculty to refrain from publishing in any journals that are considered 'alternative voices.'"
It took me a second to recall that "alternative voices" was the label applied by Latter-day Saints to any publications not approved by the Church authorites, from the Christian Science Monitor to Hustler.
This is just a plain lie. (Ironically the Church hired the editor of the Christian Science Monitor to run the paper it owns in Salt Lake City, the Deseret News) At the time she was speaking of, a journal called Sunstone was publishing many social critiques and essays attacking the Church's policies on many issues. Some of these related to the church court system - how they decide to excommunicate people. Some of these related to issues of feminism. (And this is what Beck is most angry at) The Church has what they call the priesthood and it is given to men. Thus only men are allowed to be Apostles, Bishops and a few other callings. It follows that most positions of authority in the church are male only. Needless to say feminists didn't appreciate that. Sunstone and to a lesser extent the journal Dialog were often critical of this and a few other social and doctrinal issues.
Now I can certainly understand disagreeing with the Church on this issue, just as I can understand people disagreeing with Catholicism or similar faiths for the same reason. However there really is no need to be distorting here. Further, while once again I understand people will come to different views on the matter, it doesn't seem that out of line to ask people at a Church run facility to not contribute to attacks on the Church. Yet the only magazines in question were these two and a symposium held by Sunstone that was popular with critics of the church at the time. Further it was a request. Admittedly a strong request, but a request nonetheless. I should note that these journals were and still are available at BYU. Indeed there were available at multiple locations throughout the library. I should also note that these were not peer reviewed journals. So they didn't really count towards tenure. Sunstone in particular, while it had historic papers at times, was much more social in nature. It was not what you consider a scholarly journal. (It's available online, for those curious)
Claim 6: BYU Isn't Respected Academically
Once academics have spent several years at BYU, most other universities won't touch them: rightly or wrongly, they're seen as religious loonies who prefer fundamentalist doctrine to academic process. The place was a dead end.
This is so wrong, it's not even funny. Most of the scientifically inclined might recall a major study a few years back on the evolution of characteristics that are lost and then re-evolve. It was published in Nature and was quite prestigious. I know people at BYU working on the malaria research and who are very respected in their field. Paul Cox, a noted biologist, is at BYU and was "Time Magazine's Hero of Medicine" in 1997. Daniel Simmons in the chemistry department discovered the COX-2 enzyme, which led to the drugs Celebrex, Vioxx and others. I know of respected relativists in physics and x-ray interferometry. Indeed several BYU researchers started up Moxtek which builds many kinds of lenses and filters for x-rays and is very respected. (They started the firm around the time Beck is writing about, as I recall) Wilferd Griggs published a book on Egyptian Christianity with Brill, the most prestigious publisher in the world. That came out in the period in question. BYU's Don Parry just published the complete Dead Sea Scrolls with Brill. BYU professors contribted to the prestigious Anchor Bible Dictionary. I could go on, but a brief glance at the publishing histories of many BYU professors would show Beck's claims to be outrageously false.
Once again, why does Beck make these claims? Because her thesis is that of pressure and violence. Everyone is being forced under threat by the Church to tow the line. No one can leave and everyone is living under fear. The facts are quite different.
Again, let me return to the point that people can disagree with Church policy and even BYU policy. And certainly some people wouldn't like to teach at BYU. But the situation is anything but akin to to what Beck portrays, and I personally suspect it wouldn't be hard for most good professors at BYU to find work elsewhere. Certainly her father, who was an extremely respected scholar in the 1960's, wouldn't have had trouble. Yet Beck claims part of his insanity was because he had to publish something positive about the Book of Abraham otherwise he'd be fired. Beck suggests that part of the mental trauma was worry about this. The fact is Nibley could have gotten on the staff of many major universities and earned considerably more than he did at BYU.
Claim 7: BYU Removed References to Sonja Johnson
There weren't many academic articles or books about Johnson's struggle wtih the Mormon authorities, but the BYU library had microfilm of most large newspapers, extending back to a time well before the equal rights amendment was proposed, so I could learn about Sonia Johnson and her feminist efforts from primary sources. . .
As it turned out, I had more than enough time to read everything about Sonia Johnson in the BYU library, because not a single reference to her showed up on the library's retrieval system. Puzzled, I checked the references I'd gotten from books, the ones that quoted specific articles in major newspapers. . .
The articles were simply missing.
All of them
Someone in the BYU library had spent an enormous amount of time and effort to excise every single reference to Sonia Johnson that had ever appeared in print.
This is simply bizarre. As I said I was at BYU at this time. The above is simply not true. Johnson was discussed and I recall reading quite a few things on her that I got from the library. Most BYU students felt Johnson was a quack. But that's a different matter upon which intelligent people can disagree.
For those not familiar with her, Johnson was a feminist Mormon who was a proponent of the equal rights amendment which the Church opposed. She became a very vocal critic of the Church and did the TV rounds attacking the Church. Numerous magazines and newspapers published interviews with her and covered her attacks on the Church. She was excommunicated over the issue of her attacks.
The point is that Beck raises a simply bizarre issue that anyone can check by just going to the library. While I've not checked the microfilm myself, others who have say Beck is just off in left field on this issue. Either she is delusional or she is lying.
I'll hold off on others for an other day. If you have any questions of things you've heard about the book and want answers for, let me know. Even if I can't answer them immediately I can generally find people who can check up the issues.
I may be posting on this topic from time to time. Especially as controversies pop up. I've put up a single page that'll include links to all the stories I do on the book.
Note that I had a couple of mistakes in the original of the above. I said University of Chicago was where the papyri were discovered while it was the New York Metropolitan Museum. For those interested, here's a brief writeup on the topic. I also said that Beck's book was coming out on Nibley's birthday. I just checked Amazon and it said it was being released March 1st. Nibley's birthday is March 27, I believe.
Add Stephen Houston, famous non-Mormon Mayanist, to your list of respected BYU profs.
Very nice discussion points, Clark.
Thanks for sharing these points with us. It will help as the book gets more attention.
I should note that some of the above points came from a discussion over at FAIR with several people contributing, especially Kevin Barney. Scott Gordon and Gregory Smith.
This is a great post, Clark. Many thanks.
That was me above.
Clark, you mention Nibley is near death. What is the status of his Abraham magnum opus he's supposedly been working on for years? Will it ever see the light of day? (Or has it already been published and I missed it?)
Purportedly his book was given to John Gee to clean up a few years ago. Unfortunately BYU's frequent policy of making professors Bishops makes doing research difficult. So I don't know how far along he is. At least that's the story I've been told. (Anyone who knows better can correct me) It will be a fairly large undertaking since there will be hundreds, if not thousands of fairly obscure footnotes that will need to be fact checked.
I also suspect that FARMS might use the book to hold Deseret Books feet to the fire so as to get the rest of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley out the door. I think had they their duthers, DB would only publish the Egyptian stuff since that is what is most popular. (Contra some of Beck's claims) I notice that this month DB released a new book in the series. The first in quite some time. So I wouldn't be at all surprised if FARMS was using the final book of Nibley for leverage.
I should note that Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri still hasn't been released in a new edition either. The edition from the 70's starts at $168 according to Amazon. So there are several books to come out.
1. The book is not being released on Nibley's birthday.
2. You write: "The fact is that as soon as the papyri was found by the University of Chicago the Church published photographs in their official magazine, The Improvement Era."
Setting aside the issue regarding the story of the "discovery" of the papyri (suffice it to say that there were individuals who knew about the papyri's existence before it was "discovered" in 1967), I think you mean New York's Metropolitan Museum.
3. You write: "Further, while once again I understand people will come to different views on the matter, it doesn't seem that out of line to ask people at a Church run facility to not contribute to attacks on the Church."
Please clarify. Does the mere fact that someone contributes an article (setting aside the issue of the particular article's approach, content, and tone) to Dialogue or Sunstone mean that he or she is contributing to attacks on the Church?
4. You write: "Yet the only magazines in question were these two and a symposium held by Sunstone that was popular with critics of the church at the time. Further it was a request. Admittedly a strong request, but a request nonetheless."
What, exactly, did the request state? Has it been published in some form as an official statement or policy for faculty?
Thanks for the corrections. I had thought it was being released on the Birthday. I'll correct that in all the posts. Mea culpa on the Chicago reference. My bad. I'll fix that one as well. I should have looked that up rather than going by memory.
Regarding the issue of contributing to Sunstone or Dialog. No, I don't think that contributing to a magazine entails you agree with the magazine. And, for the record, in the period in question I was in two Sunstone symposium presentations. I'd not do that today though. (Although the organizers of Sunstone are trying to break the reputation they earned in the 90's) Having said that though I think contributing to an organization that is attacking the church is aiding that attack. Thus I'd probably not contribute to Sunstone again unless they successfully remake themselves.
Regarding requests about Sunstone, there was a conference talk on it and, from what I'm told, BYU professors were counseled on the matter. So Beck's comments aren't from total left field here. Just strongly exaggerated.
Nice work, Clark, you've saved me the trouble of buying and reading the book.
There's a political element to getting tenure at any university, and at BYU that means Church politics. A "request" in the Church context, BYU included, is considerably more than a suggestion.
That said, why didn't MNB simply say that BYU prohibited profs from publishing in alternative Mormon publications (essentially accurate) instead of mentioning two irrelevant publications? Does she think faculty at other universities see CSM and Hustler as vehicles for publishing their research? Does she seriously think that ANY reader of her book is going to respond, "Oh! How terrible that a university would prevent faculty members from publishing their thoughts or research in the Christian Science Monitor or Hustler!!" Or maybe I'm just overestimating the average Oprah's Book Club reader.
What's really sad is that she could have written a fine book if she'd wanted to, sort of "An Insider's View of BYU." Or maybe "Growing Up Nibley." Missed opportunity!
That's certainly true Dave. However I was more thinking about tenured professors. Further Beck's claim (on the same page as the quote I gave) that BYU professors would be unable to publish is quite silly. I recall similar arguments being made at the time. The fact is that if Sunstone is the only place you can publish you are already in big trouble. It's just not an academically relevant journal.
One quick addition Dave, I believe that the only real objections were to Sunstone and to a lesser extent Dialog. I don't think journals like the John Whitmer History Association were ever in question. Obviously BYU Studies wasn't either.
My sense was that Beck wanted to publish feminist critiques of BYU and the Church and felt cut off from the main relevant outlet. It wasn't really about scholarship as such. I could be wrong, of course. But if it were about sociology, then why the complaint? No one would complain if she published there. (Despite her insinuations) Certainly there would be political implications if she attacked the church. But that's really a separate issue.
I published in Sunstone. No sense preaching to the choir about sins they haven't committed. No sense talking to Church members about doubts they don't have. The healthy need no physician. Surveys show that about 80% of Sunstone's readers are active Church members and the majority are believers. Yet I have to believe that they turn to Sunstone because it fills some need (like enterntainment). In any event, Dan Wotherspoone had taken over the reigns and is doing a good job to bring it to center.
I tend to think the Sunstone thing was overblown a bit too. On the other hand there really was starting to be a movement around some of the figures. Say what you will, but the move pretty well lost a lot of its voice when Sunstone was demonized.
Nonetheless, I don't think I'd ever contribute to Sunstone, despite all the things Dan is doing quite well.
Having said that though, I think Nate's point about the greying of Sunstone is well made. (here and here) Most people interested in Sunstone are rather old. I think the up and coming generation is getting their information elsewhere. Further there are many more journals available now that seem relevant to Mormon studies. Also blogs simply take the place of a lot of social commentary for the younger crowd. (i.e. those under 40)
Interesting post, nice job.
But I beg to differ on the point of BYU's standing in the academic comunity. Back when I was involved in the humanities BYU had a reputation for limiting academic freedom and BYU undergrads did not seem to be going to good grad schools in significant numbers. Maybe this has changed now. But understand that its a big country and BYU being under the authority of the church as well as the crackdown on the september 6 or what every they were called made a big impression.
What makes Sonia Johnson significant (to the rest of the world) is her powerful personal narrative and her articulate feminist writings. She is a successful autor and teacher, regardless of her relation to the church.
Interesting event happened to me yesterday.
At institute class last night, this book came up. I mentioned that I had gone to Oprah's website and seen the book as "in the reading room" for her book club. I was imemdiately attacked by every woman in the room: NO! The church has already talked to Oprah! That book is not a part of her book club! I said, it's right there on the website, shall I show you! And nearly all the women accussed me of lying. Oprah would never do that! The teacher just finally said - we can all go check out the website later for ourselves if we want to. I'm guessing most of those who were (literally) yelling at me didn't.
Nor sure if this adds anything to the discussion, but I found it odd.
Ha! That's a funny story Ivan. It seems a lot of women see Oprah as a goddess so the implication that she might support something that attacks the church of the true and living God must rock some of their worlds...
Fluxous, I can't really speak for the humanities too much. (I'll admit to a scientist's perspective on them) However most of the graduating class of 94 in my major went on to some of the most prestigious universities there were. (i.e. MIT, Yale, Harvard, UT Austin, UC Davies, Cal Tech, etc.) All the people I knew in the humanities went on to Harvard, Yale, Notre Dame, or others in that class.
I suspect that in feminism and related studies BYU doesn't have a good reputation. Both because of the kind of studies one encounters at BYU as well as the reputation of the church in the feminist community. (And, let's be honest, in a way Beck's book is but one in a string of similar "aren't these Mormons misogynist" "tell all" books that tend to make their point by exaggeration) But given Beck's background, I can understand not thinking BYU is good. But note that isn't what she writes in her book. Had she just complained about the state of BYU's recognition in women's studies or related disciplines, there would be no problem. But instead, following her pattern in the book, she expands her complaints to the entire culture and then exaggerates some more.
FYI: The New York Times website just posted an article on Beck's book.
Here's the full link.
The article is important as it discusses a fact that Beck leaves out of her book - the fact that she had been sexually assaulted by a neighbor. I've refrained from mentioning that here, simply because it hasn't been in the press. (So I had something to refer to) But it clearly is a very serious omission for Beck to leave out. According to the New York Times, Beck left it out due to space considerations.
The New York Times also brings up the fact that Beck's therapist who helped her recover memories was a rather noted figure in the recovered memory scare of the early 90's, who actually claimed 1 in 3 people had been sexually assaulted. (She's the "Mona" pseudonym in the book for those with copies) The therapist, Lynne Finney, was infamous for working on recovered memories and using self-hypnosis which many scientists claim is extremely problematic. Beck claims she recovered the memories spontaneously prior to meeting with Finney, but admits at least one case of self-hypnosis.
To be fair the Times article also mentions Beck's cousin who, among the family, appears to be the only one who believes Beck.
The article also quote the American Psychological Association saying, "there is a consensus among memory researchers and clinicians that most people who were sexually abused as children remember all or part of what happened to them." Recovered memories can happen, but is quite rare.
There is a difference between Oprah's book club books and the "reading room" books. Her book club only does very select books that Oprah chooses, and AFAIK, she's been sticking to classics for the last while because choosing newer books got a little bit sticky. Any book she chooses will be a huge best seller and I think she wanted to get away from all the pressures that caused, or whatever.
The reading room books just appear to be new releases the O Magazine finds noteworthy.
that seems to be splitting hairs that most consumers won't even be aware can be split, since the "reading room" is on the "Oprah's Books" spot on her website, and the phrase "Oprah's Book Club" is all over the page.
In fact, the website seems to deliberately obscure the difference (if there is one) between the "Book club" and the "reading room" (not to mention the several other other book categories). A casual visitor would likely think they are all part of her Book Club.
I think her viewers would know the difference. She doesn't choose a lot of books for her club, and viewers are aware of that. There's a few different books being recommended on that web page, and regular Oprah viewers would know which are the book club books because they get a lot of coverage on her show. (They're also released in special editions with "Oprah Book Club" all over them.) Anyway, I assume the women at your class thought you meant it was chosen as a book club book and that's why they freaked out. She's pretty careful about what books she choses to promote with her book club because so many people will purchase it.
Regardless Susan, it does seem that Oprah is pushing the book in her magazine and website. Perhaps this is, as someone earlier mentioned, merely some sort of joint marketing with a sister company. Either way it is free publicity and a kind of "respectability" for the book.
Susan's right on this one. There's a world of difference between Oprah's Book Club and all other books on Oprah's site/show/magazine/media empire, and her viewers know that difference. More importantly, publishers know that difference -- I think the number I saw was an initial run of 75,000 copies, nowhere near Oprah Book Club numbers.
There may be a difference, but I don't think it excuses the fact I was actually factually yelled at and accused of being a liar by other LDS women at the Institute.
Why is it that everyone seems to want to defend Oprah? I'm not actually accusing her of anything, I was just trying to show that the book wasn't just another anti-mormon screed, but one that had some "credentials" and was getting publciity. I doubt I would have gotten a more vehement reaction than if I had accused the prophet of being a bad prophet (which I would never do).
It was a non sequiter - Oprah's involvement wasn't my main point. The teacher had directly asked me to give an example of something that misrepresented the church and had potential to do damamge.
And I think Clark is right. Maybe die-hard Oprah fans know the difference, but I did a straw poll among fellow English majors (male and female) here at UT-Austin, and they didn't know the differnce. I showed them the web page, and the dozen or so I showed thought that meant it was part of the book club.
Fluxus, really, I can't pass up the opportunity to say that many people in my own major (German) at BYU went on to elitist Universities for graduate studies. I myself went to Oxford. Others went to Oxford, Harvard, Chicago, U of Illinois Urbana-champagne, etc. (admittedly some of them, at least, went to law school at these places).
I missed your earlier comment about your Institute class experience. Sadly, I can easily picture that scene. Somehow, Oprah fans seem to not want to admit that she's capable of anything other than good. True, she has done a lot to make her show into a place where people can learn to better themselves, but she has the luxury of being able to do whatever she pleases right now. Her show used to be a freak show just like any other, appealing to the lowest common denominator.
Just a note, on their website, the Nibley family is actually supportive of Oprah talking about the book. They just want to be able to come on to give their side of the story.
Sorry folks I know that its no fun when someone questions the standings of one's academic institution. I guess its just that I'm an old east coaster and there is a great deal of elitism in places such as NYC, Boston and Philly on such issues. Perhaps you are just seeing my East coast bias, so be it.
As for Oprah's web page I agree that it is ambiguous as to where the reading room ends and the book club begins. From a sales point of view this is how it should be to get the greatest volume of sales for all non book club titles.
So I'm going to say that the site is well designed and a good marketing tool for the books that are not actually in the official club.
About the leg hair thing and dress and grooming standards. I know this is minor but the dress and grooming standards at BYU were changed at the beginning of the Fall 1991 semester and since that time men have not been required to wear socks. I don't know the dates that MNB was at BYU but I went to a lecture by her during that school year (I don't remember anything she said though). It was silly that men couldn't be sock free, to be sure, but that hasn't been the case for ages and it wasn't the rule at least during part of her time at BYU.
Just to follow up Vicki's comments, since I was at BYU the same time. According to my memory, the joke about pubic hair arose around the time Rex E. Lee had some public forums to change the dress code in accordance with student feedback. I seem to recall the joke being made in the Student Review, an off campus student newspaper with a bit of an irreverant and humorous take on the news. I tried looking for evidence for this while writing my post but wasn't able to locate any. So take it for what is worth. I honestly don't ever recall anyone taking it seriously.
I'm not a die-hard Oprah fan, in fact I've only seen about 60 minutes worth of her show (10-15 minutes here and there) in the last several months, maybe a year. I was just explaining why the women in your class possibly overreacted as they did.
Oprah does a lot of good in the world, but I think only people who watch her show know what all she does (her miracle network--or is it angel network?--her schools for girls in Africa, etc). She inspires a lot of love and loyalty from people, and her message for the last several years has always been an intentionally uplifting one.
I for one think her magazine is ridiculous, if only because every single issue has a picture of her on the cover, and I've never read it. Her website is confusing to anyone not familiar with her book club, but to viewers of her show I don't think it would be. I think it's a shame she's promoting the book, but if it results in the Nibley family being able to appear on her show and tell their side of it, it could be a good thing.
Listening to KPFK in L.A. two nights ago I heard a black activist call Oprah a "white supremistist(sp?) sympathizer" I thought this was just a terriffic line, not so much because I understand it and can agree with it but because its such a radical reception of Oprah.
I have to admit that I have been uncomfortable with some of her "good works" I saw her television special about her trip to Africa. What was disturbing about this was that through and through it was another classic example of third world suffering, packaged and positioned as a back drop for the experience of a rich empowered westerner. The only alteration in this well worn narrative is that Oprah is a black woman rather than a white man.
As for her web site, sure, after a few visits people figure out what is what; Just as in a casino or department store, with experience you learn where the exits are. This does not make the design any less significant.
Steve Houston has left BYU and is at Brown now I believe. This is probably further evidence that you can work at BYU and not be labeled a quack in the wider world.
Just a few comments:
1. Why no mention that Joseph Smith ended up marrying Marinda Johnson when her then-husband, Orson Hyde, was on his mission to Palestine? It seems relevant to whether a relationship may have existed earlier between Marinda and Joseph.
2. In terms of eternal marriage, I agree that in Mormon theology all men and women must be married to attain the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom. One big difference, though -- a man can be sealed to many different women and have them as wives in the hereafter, whereas a woman can only be sealed to one man (i.e., not have multiple husbands in the hereafter). This practice is still in place in the LDS Church today, where a widower can be sealed to second wife (or more) for eternity, but a widow can only be sealed for eternity to one man.
3. I agree with you that the Church has not hidden away the JS papyri discovered in the 60's, but I do think they have gone out of their way NOT to inform the members of the controversies raging about the BofA not being a literal translation of the papyri. The most recent discussion in an official Church publication that I know of was the 1988 "I Have a Question" 2-page article written by Michael Rhodes (which I found to be utterly unconvincing), and I've noticed that in the past few years the GA's have avoided mentioning the BofA at all in their public discource. If I had to bet, I'd say the BofA controversy is the leading (or perhaps initial) reason most members lose their testimony and leave the Church.
4. I was at BYU when the "socks for men" rule was in place (I actually got called in to the Standards office for getting caught not wearing them). I can recall folks joking about the reason being that leg hair is extension of pubic hair, but I also remember it being mentioned in the Daily Universe (perhaps as a letter to the editor, but I don't really recall). But it was definitely something being bantered about -- Beck did not just make it up.
5. I'm sure that most BYU profs would tell you, if asked, that publishing in Sunstone or Dialogue is "professional suicide" at BYU. Sure, some still do, but most avoid it like the plague, and for good reason.
6. I think BYU is a great school, and may be admired by the outside world for certain research, but most know it's a "Mormon school" and that academic freedom is a real problem there. I find it loses respect in the outside world for that very reason.
Just my thoughts.
Joseph's marriage to Marinda years later doesn't seem to have much bearing on the reasons for Joseph's tar and feathering. The problem is that she and everyone else denies the fact. The only source for any relationship is Clark Braden, a late, antagonistic secondhand witness who asserts demonstrably false points. (Such as the non-existent brother Eli) There is no other evidence for the claim and considerable evidence against it. The point is that Beck follows a demonstrably wrong history implying something untrue about Joseph. Had Beck discussed the latter marriage to Marinda I'd have commented on it. She didn't. For more information on the arguments, I'd suggest Compton's biography of Marinda in in Sacred Loneliness. Compton's hardly writing apologetics and he sees no evidence for the claims Beck borrows.
With regards to marriage, you are right that living men can be sealed to a new wife after their wife has passed on. Women can't. However while doing genealogy women can be sealed to multiple husbands (presumably because people don't know the details of the arrangement) Once again had Beck focused in on that, I think it would be a fair point. She didn't and instead tried to portray Mormon conceptions in an incorrect fashion.
With regards to the Book of Abraham and the papyri, the church has published numerous articles in their official magazines and many more books from Deseret Books. As to promoting the views of critics, I'm not exactly sure why they should. Certainly apologists engage with the views of critics. But it escapes me how the Church not promoting views of critics it finds false is a valid criticism. In any case, that's not what Beck was criticizing. She was asserting that the church was trying to cover up the Book of Abraham and the papyri which is demonstrably not the case.
Had Beck instead raised the issues critics do and simply explained why she disbelieved I'd have had far less problem. That she chose instead to suggest a conspiracy is rather odd, although of course it would support the claims she is making about her father. The fact that the conspiracy she asserts didn't happen obviously undermines the claims she makes for a mental breakdown of her father. That seems a very different issue from what critics of the Book of Abraham are asserting.
As to whether members lose their testimony because of the Book of Abraham, I'm sure some people have doubts because of that, just as some do the Old Testament, the Book of Mormon or current church practice. Of course in such cases I'd quibble about what the basis for their testimony was and if it was a testimony in the sense discussed in church. But certainly you are right that critics attacking the church do cause people to shake in faith. The same might be said of Christianity in general.
Regarding the socks issue - the point is the Beck asserted as fact a claim that no one in general believed. Further, having been at BYU at the time Beck was, I think it fair to say she should have known better. She claimed this was the basis for the rule. The fact people were talking about this as a joke, and in an incredulous way simply points out a basic problem in how Beck remembers things and where she puts her credulity. The issue isn't whether Beck made it up out of thin air. (And I never claimed that) The point is that Beck took something and twisted it all out of recognition. It's a common thing she does in her book which ought to raise grave doubts about her main charges.
Certainly many BYU professors avoid Sunstone or Dialog. As I said I do as well, despite having contributed to two Sunstone Symposia. I think that is an understandable position to take. But once again Beck doesn't portray it that way. She portrays the issue as BYU professors being forbidden to publish in basically any journal. (And she mentions the Christian Science Monitor by name) As you say, over the past 10 years numerous BYU professors including Boyd Peterson have published in Sunstone or contributed to Symposia all without being fired as Beck claims. Once again the issue isn't if there is a kernel of truth behind what Beck asserts. It is the distortion and lies combined with it.
I should add that in this Beck misrepresents her own position at BYU, as if she were a professor who had to worry about this. In fact she worked for the honors department on a semester by semester basis. By that logic I was as much a BYU professor as Beck since I was doing the same thing. (Indeed I've wondered if we might not have met, since I was meeting with students around the same time she would have been)
Regarding academic freedom, clearly some in some fields do see a problem with BYU there. I think most of the views are incorrect and that the problem is vastly overhyped. But that would be a criticism I could understand. But Beck doesn't make that criticism. Instead she suggests that no one takes BYU seriously in any way and that a BYU professor would be unable to be employed elsewhere.
These sorts of claims go well beyond mere exaggeration. Further I could list dozens of more examples than I did in the above. Quite a few of the other reviews list more examples, for instance. I just listed a handful of examples that jumped out at me.
JS's later polyandrous marriage to Marinda, I think, is relevant to the nature of his relationship with her at the time of the tar and feathering. I have read Compton's account. Why bring along a doctor to emasculate JS? That may signify being upset over some sexual situation, in my mind. And the rumor was he was caught in a compromising situation (sitting on her bed with her, not that he had sex with her, although I could see why some woud jump to that conclusion), so I could see a brother trying to uphold his sister's honor, etc. It could be that Braden just got the brother's name wrong. I just think there's more to the story than simply JS was attacked because of his religious beliefs (which is the general message I hear in church).
The only exception in the Church Handbook of Instruction to the rule that a woman be sealed to only one man, is this: "A deceased woman may be sealed to all men to whom she was legally married during her life." I don't see any exception for a woman doing geneology. Care to elaborate?
The Church's "official" silence on the BofA controversy (in terms of discussing it in conference or in official publications -- that last mention of the controversy was in 1988) speaks volumes, imo. They know they have a problem, but are not talking about it, because many (if not most) members are oblivious to the issue. I'd like to see it addressed in the Church by someone other than FARMS.
On the socks issue, my copy of the book hasn't arrived yet, so I'll have to reserve judgment. I just recall that at the time most of us men thought the rule so stupid that we would have no problem with a stupid reason like extension of pubic hair.
I think BYU folks can still publish in Sunstone and Dialogue so long as their articles are overtly pro-Church (like Boyd Peterson's was), but anything controversial and they'll be in trouble.
I think BYU has that whole "academic freedom" stone hanging around its neck. So long as BYU is viewed as a university that suppresses open thought and discussion, no matter how good it does in a particular field, it will always have that qualifier, and it's too bad because I think it's a great school.
Once again regarding Marinda, all the modern historians agree on this point. You're free to disagree, of course. Just be aware the burden of the weight is against you. Your argument is that people wished violence on Joseph Smith and Joseph Smith years later married the woman in charge. Therefore he is guilty? That's a very strained argument, especially when all the involved people disagree. One's free to believe this. But I think they have to admit they are doing this independent of the evidence.
Had Beck been clear that this is what she was doing, I'd not have had any problem. Certainly we are all free to disagree on historical matters. And our biases certainly will affect how we view history and what we find persuasive. I can but point out once again the Beck did not do this but presented the claim as if it was agreed upon history.
Regarding the sealing issue. If you come upon a woman who was married to multiple men in her life, the traditional method is to submit the name so she is sealed to all of them. Since that's what you said, I'm not quite sure if or where you are disagreeing with me.
If your complaint is that the church doesn't discuss scholarly debates in conference, you're right. But so what? That's a place where sermons are given and not history conducted. In the forums for historical discussions the church hasn't hid anything. That you want it discussed in conference is fine. But it seems an unrealistic expectation. In any case it really isn't what Beck was asserting. So we can agree to disagree on this matter but the issue with Beck is quite different. For the record the church also doesn't discussion the Documentary Hypothesis of the Old Testament in conference, doesn't discuss controversies over the date of Jesus' birth nor the historical difficulties with the NT, nor a lot else. The purpose of conference is to preach the gospel.
I think that given Mormon BYU professors are supposed to maintain a temple recommend that attacking the church would be inappropriate. So you are right, were a BYU professor to attack the church they'd probably have their employment put in trouble. I think you'll find that is the case in most religious universities. If a professor at an Evangelical university were to go around preaching that Jesus was a myth then I'd expect them to be in trouble as well.
Certainly people can disagree with this. So the whole academic freedom issue is a big issue for private institutions. And that's a perfectly valid criticism to make. However it is more wrapped up in the purpose of a university and whether religious schools can possibly fit into what the seculary academy views the ideal nature of universities. So that is a rather large discussion.
I can but point out that had Beck engaged with that discussion I wouldn't have minded. I might disagree with her on political grounds. But it's a valid discussion. But she didn't say that. Instead she combined lies, distortions and exaggerations to portray the issue as something much more.
Regarding "Official" responses to the Book of Abraham:
Research and Perspectives: Abraham in Ancient Egyptian Texts
John Gee, “Abraham in Ancient Egyptian Texts,” Ensign, July 1992, 60
News from Antiquity
Daniel C. Peterson, “News from Antiquity,” Ensign, Jan. 1994, 16
The Book of Abraham: A Most Remarkable Book
Andrew Skinner, “The Book of Abraham: A Most Remarkable Book,” Ensign, Mar. 1997, 16
These and many more from earlier years, can easily be found by anyone searching the Offical Website at LDS.org. The more cutting edge stuff does come out through FARMS, for example, a response to Ritner in the current FARMS Review, the recent translation of the Book of the Breathings from FARMS, and a new edition of The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyrus coming out this year.
I think Rhodes translation of the papyri (which is pretty much the same as Ritner's) does illustrate that the church isn't covering anything up. Further I don't think anyone (including Nibley) has ever said the papyri is anything but what it is.
with regards to multiple sealings:
I am currently attending a Family History course at BYU, and when the matter was brought up last week, we were told basically what Clark said regarding deceased persons being sealed to multiple spouses. This is permitted for men and women, after they are dead. Since we are not to be the ones to decide who they should be sealed to, and we cannot simply ask them, they should be sealed to all the spouses they were married to in their lifetime and they can choose which sealings to accept.
Regarding living people, no one is allowed to be sealed to a second spouse while still living. There was a time when divorced or widowed men could be sealed again without breaking the first sealing, but that is no longer permitted. In my class they said that rule was changed about a half-dozen years ago.
Is there anyone who has current information on the subject who can dispute what was said in my class?
The last I heard, living men and women are treated differently.
A living woman can only be sealed to one husband. If she gets divorced, she must obtain a cancellation of sealing in order to be sealed to another man.
A living man, on the other hand, can be sealed to a second wife after his first wife dies (e.g., Dallin H. Oaks). But the second wife must not have been sealed previously.
If he gets divorced, he must obtain a sealing clearance before he is sealed to another woman.
I never said the evidence of Joseph's polyandrous marriage to Marinda (after he sent her husband, Orson Hyde, away on a mission) proves he's "guilty" of having an affair with her years earlier. But I do think it is relevant. I bet most TBM's do not know of JS's polyandrous marriage to Marinda Johnson Hyde, just like most don't the story of his tar and feathering perhaps being related to a brother of Marinda catching the married Joseph in her bedroom. It may not make the case one way or the other, but I think it is relevant in discussing the relationship between Joseph and Marinda as a possible basis for the attack.
I agree that Beck could have been more clear on this point, and should have stated that her info came from an unsubstantiated rumor rather than actual fact.
My query on the sealing issue related to living persons -- i.e., a living widower can be sealed to another living wife (who isn't already sealed to another man), but a living widow previously sealed to her dead husband cannot be sealed to another living husband. That was my only point. I consider it a form of polygamy that still can be practiced today within the Church.
I think the Church has gone out of its way to avoid discussing or even mentioning the controversy surrounding the BofA. I think it's unrealistic to ever expect a GA to discuss it at confernce or from any other pulpit. They have just stopped talking about the BofA at all these days. And their silence speaks volumes, imo.
I'm not talking about BYU profs "attacking" the Church; I'm talking about BYU profs not being able to address controversial or unorthodox topics that some may view as negative toward the Church. I see a big difference. As professors I think they ought to be able to do this without fear of professional or ecclesiastical discipline. I think that academic freedom (unless it relates to "positive" LDS views) is virtually non-existent at BYU.
I haven't finished Beck's book, but I've enjoyed it so far. Have I found mistakes? Sure. Do I disagree with some of her conclusions? Yes, again. She sometimes gets caught up in hyperbole, but on the whole I think the book is excellent and raises issues that ought to be discussed.
I think it is far more than Beck simply being clear. She presents the conclusions as a fact, an obvious fact, and a fact that was "hidden" from her. It isn't just a bit of unclarity from some inferrence she makes from a rumor. The problem is much bigger.
I disagree that the church has stopped talking about the Book of Abraham. I think the references Kevin mentioned are one example. So too are the books from Deseret Books, including one from Nibley being released this year with some fanfare.
I disagree with your characterization of BYU. We'll pretty much have to disagree there.
Just to add to my comments a tad - I think the complaint is less whether there is some kernel of a truth behind some of Beck's complaints. Rather they are so wrapped up in deceptive and exaggerated claims that they are no longer really about the issues at had. For instance I think both 19th century views of polygamy and academic freedom at BYU are completely valid topics. However the way Beck talks about them makes the issue so distorted that its hard to see its utility. If anything it'll be a step back for those who think there are real issues here. (As some ex-Mormon critics have noted) This is a highly distorted caricature of events.
I recognize that she's trying for the light spirited "exaggerated" style of a P. J. O'Rourke or even a Hunter S. Thompson or Dave Barry approach. However I think some might suggest that is inappropriate for a book accusing someone of child abuse. (I think she does a good job with her rhetoric, but that style isn't the sort that is going to make one believe you)
Justin (and whoever else can answer):
When was the last you heard?
How long ago was Elder Oaks' marriage to his second wife?
What I heard was that as of around six years ago, the guidelines were changed so that they are the same for men and women in all cases.
It's entirely possible that I heard wrong, but I am not looking for anyone to dispute it on hearsay; that sort of argument doesn't hold any more weight than mine, which I will readily admit is flimsy.
I am looking for someone who can tell me where I can go to look up the current guidelines, as they stand today. I will be happy to report back here, and if what I heard in class turns out to have been inaccurate, I will say so.
I should have said that I recently looked up the information on sealings contained in the 1999 Church Handbook of Instructions, the most recent version. It reflects what I said earlier with regard to living men and women being treated differently.
If the standards in the 1999 handbook (available online) were changed six years ago, I'm not aware of the change.
Elder Oaks remarried in 2000.
Thanks, Justin. That is the information I was looking for.
I'm sure I misheard the particulars that the person in class mentioned.
Previously you mentioned a "sealing clearance"--what is that?
Also, thanks for the link to the talk by Elder Oaks.
Had it not been for alleged sexual issues intertwined with her "story" this woman would not have received this type of attention for her tale! And I, for another, received an excellent education at BYU followed by studies and a Master's degree at Florida State. I received excellent scores on the GRE to enable me to enter a program there.
I think that is right. I don't think most Mormons care when someone who has left the church makes outrageous claims about Utah or Mormons. It's pretty much par for the course for disgruntled ex-Mormons. There are whole web sites based around such gripes. Most Mormons don't care. Here the situation was different precisely because of the purported abuse and who committed it. (Although, as I've mentioned, Nibley is hardly a Mormon leader)
Regarding the Book of Abraham issue Anonymous writes:
"I think it's unrealistic to ever expect a GA to discuss it at confernce or from any other pulpit. They have just stopped talking about the BofA at all these days. And their silence speaks volumes, imo."
Maybe I'm missing something, but according to one search engine, from April of 1996 to October of 2004 Abraham 3:24-26 was the sixth most-cited passage of scripture during 90 General Conference sessions. That doesn't seem like they stopped talking about it.
I have read all of the comments and suppositions of the above individuals. Once again, true to a brainwashed mentality, the writers do everything they can to defend the "one true church" despite volumes of evidence to the contrary. Martha Beck is only one speck of this evidence. Given the fact that her father, the revered Hugh Nibley, was just another Mormon pedophile only raises the TBM's unity of defense.The writers of these accusations should also read "Mormonism Unmasked", "The Mormon Conspiracy", "The Mormon Murders", and "What the Mormon Missionaries Don't Tell You." I have been a foolish "garment wearing" TBM for the past 14 years. Enough is enough. there comes a time when logical thought must prevail, despite the mind control set forthe by "The Bretheren."
Josh, you do realize that many of us have read such books? I'm not sure why you think us brainwashed simply because we don't read the evidence the way you do. The fact you claim as a fact independent of clear evidence that Nibley was a pedophile suggests that perhaps we're not the one engaging in simple reading? I try to read all sides of an argument, as best I can.
Um, I just have one very unacademic comment aimed at MNB: I think I shaved my legs & underarms like--oh, 5 times, maybe--the 3 years I was at BYU and not once was I called to standards--not ONCE! I think lots of people forget that these inaccurate statements and hyperbole are MNB's attempt (however irreverent)at being funny. So sad.
>>Nice work, Clark, you've saved me the trouble of buying and reading the book.
That's the problem of which plagues the members of the LDS faith, myself included. We see a piece of "anti" material, am curious about it and as soon as someone publishes their summary which happens to coincide with what we wished it would say all along, we accept it as fact.
Why do we continue to take everyone's word for gospel here? If you're curious why the hell would you rely on some guy who you don't even know's review of the book. READ IT AND MAKE YOUR OWN DECISION!
God gave us intellect for just that purpose!
While I certainly agree in principle I think we all also have to decide what books are worth buying. It's pretty common to go to reviews from people one is familiar with to make those decisions. I do that and I'm quite sure you do that as well.
I'd also add that I suspect many people simply don't have the background to evaluate this book. There are elements I can't evaluate and I tried to be forthright pointing such things out. But just from reading the book the average reader might well simply take her claims at face value. Having someone who has the ability to check into such matters can be helpful.
Of course that can't be the last word since there may be differing views over what claims are false or hyperbole. But by and large it can inform.