Minor, Ancillary Issues:
George Harris and the Nauvoo Expositor (Bachman)
On pp. 109-110 Bachman takes a whole page to attack my reporting of George Harris's role in the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor. He accuses me of suggesting that the council made a "rash," quick, decision, when in actuality, Joseph Smith met with the City Council for seven hours and thirty minutes.
This is one of many examples of Anderson, Faulring and Bachman attacking very minor, ancillary points in my book. And in fact, I was not writing an extensive treatment of the Expositor incident. I simply made a point in passing that Harris, a "first husband," was solidly on Joseph Smith's side during this crisis. The length of the meeting was not much of an issue to me. But after reading Bachman I checked to see if I had implied that the process was hasty and quick. I wrote (I add emphasis): "After a great deal of testimony relating to the alleged wrongdoings of the Expositor staff, 'Alderman Harris spoke from the chair, and expressed his feelings that the press ou[gh]t to be demolished.' The council quickly agreed, passing a resolution . . ." (In Sacred Loneliness, 51) So I did not suggest that the proceedings were abbreviated -- there was "a great deal of testimony" in the session before Harris spoke.
And as to my main point, there is no doubt that Joseph Smith wanted the Expositor suppressed, and that George Harris was on his side. This is not a difficult point. One is left wondering why Bachman would think it was worthwhile making an issue about this.
A few of the relatives of the women I write about were reputed to be Danites. I do not emphasize this; it is not central to the theme of my book (obviously, none of the women I write about were Danites). However, Anderson and Faulring imply that I have gone out of my way to find Danites of the most bloodthirsty sort under every bush. (pp. 93-94.)
On first reading their review, I was puzzled by this charge and once again wondered what I actually wrote about Danites. I found that the following men were mentioned as Danites in In Sacred Loneliness, and usually only in passing: George Washington Harris, Vinson Knight, Cornelius Lott, Oliver and Dimick Huntington, and Stephen Winchester. Danitism was simply part of Mormonism in Missouri; it would be irresponsible to ignore the phenomenon there. The importance of Danitism in such an important event as the election as Gallatin shows this.
Furthermore, when I wrote In Sacred Loneliness, I did not intend to write a book solving all problems in Mormon history, so I did not read all the primary and secondary literature related to Danites as I wrote the book. Over the years I've read some of the literature on Danites, merely out of interest, but the issue was very, very peripheral for my book. One striking account of Danitism that I ran across by accident was Oliver Huntington in his diaries. (See In Sacred Loneliness, 658.) But I merely wrote, "Both Dimick and Oliver Huntington served as Danites, and Dimick distinguished himself as a captain of the Danite guard." This is hardly an extreme emphasis on the subject. It was not a major issue for the life of Zina Huntington.
Anderson and Faulring, after accusing me of misinterpretation of history by overestimating the Danite membership, assert that there are two possible methods of Danite interpretation. One is that the Danites were a limited, oath-bound group. The other is that most loyal Mormon men were involved with Danites "at the close of Missouri hostilities." Anderson and Faulring assert that both these are valid, so I would be justified if I were accepting this second interpretation. However, they affirm that I take the "oath-bound" theory, then try to apply it to most Mormon men.
Again, when I read this, I was very puzzled, as I did not know that I had accepted the "oath-bound" theory. I read through the few passages in my book mentioning Danitism in Missouri to find out how I could have given this impression. I could find no references to "oath- bound" Danites. It was as if Anderson and Faulring were critiquing me for the mistake they wish I had made.
The reviewers critique my reference to Vinson Knight as associating with Danites. Strangely enough, in an earlier draft of this chapter, a descendant of Martha had objected to my referring to Vinson as a Danite. I looked at the primary source document, and it definitely said that he accepted plunder from Danites while Bishop. So, to please this descendant, instead of writing that Vinson was a Danite, I wrote that he associated with Danites. To me, that close association shows that he was connected with them somehow, but just to be cautious I did not say he was a Danite himself. Anderson and Faulring, apparently anxious to saddle me with a pan-Danite bias, did not pick up on this distinction.
Finally, when I first referred to Danites in my bibliographical notes, I did not take an immoderate hard-line "radical" approach, as Anderson and Faulring would imply. I simply guided the reader to a few "conservative" (Whittaker, Gentry) and "liberal" (Hill, Quinn) sources to show there has been a spectrum of interpretation. But the first source I listed was a conservative source. See In Sacred Loneliness, 651.
High Council (Anderson/Faulring)
Occasionally in In Sacred Loneliness I mention that the central High Council had much more authority in the early church than in the church today, and the apostles had less central authority. The apostles were important leaders, certainly, but in their early years they presided in the mission field. Even in early Utah, many apostles were sent away from Salt Lake City to live in and preside over mission field areas. Joseph Smith, on May 2, 1835, said that the Twelve "will have no right to go into Zion, or any of its stakes, and there undertake to regulate the affairs thereof, where there is a standing high council; but it is their duty to go abroad..." HC 2.220. Later during Joseph's lifetime, and in Utah, the Council of the Twelve came to have more central authority.
Again, this is not a major theme in my book. I refer to it occasionally in passing. It is significant for women who were married to or related to High Councillors, as it shows that their status was higher than a modern Mormon without historical background would immediately understand.
Anderson and Faulring take three pages, 94-96, to discuss my few references. They make two points that I think are valid and interesting, and have caused me to revise my thinking on specific details. However, they also make one slight misrepresentation of my book, and misleadingly cite an incomplete quotation that can be better understood in its entirety.
First, I accept their critique of my statement on In Sacred Loneliness, 254. The relative status of High Council and Apostles was probably not a factor here. The main point of the paragraph is not changed, though. All of these women except Elizabeth Durfee were married to high church leaders as first wives.
Anderson and Faulring's second valid point relates to the fact that on November 30, 1844 apostles John Taylor and Orson Hyde were present and very influential at a meeting of the Nauvoo High Council. On In Sacred Loneliness, 539-40, I stated that Hyde clearly dominated the council, though he had no formal authority to sit there, as the apostles had no authority in any stake high council. In the sense that Hyde acted as an apostle, I was correct; but Anderson and Faulring note that technically the Twelve became the First Presidency after August 8, 1844. They are also correct that the First Presidency presided over the (standing) High Council, and often had participated in High Council meetings. Therefore I accept their position here, that Hyde and Taylor had formal authority to attend as members of the First Presidency. Even accepting this point, it once again shows how the relative positions of Standing High Council and Traveling High Council (the Twelve) had changed as a result of that August 8, 1844 meeting. My summary of the event still stands, I think: "The apostles were on the ascendant in the church, and the high council, even of the central stake, would gradually become less important."
The slight misrepresentation is in relation to that quote. Anderson and Faulring sum up their section on Apostles and High Council by stating, "The executive and financial direction of the Twelve was vigorous immediately after church approval in early August 1844 [which I entirely agree with] and by no means developed gradually, as claimed in the above comments." However, as the reader may easily see, I stated that the high council decreased gradually; I did not use the term "gradually" to refer to the Twelve. Nevertheless, I think that the Twelve's centralized power certainly increased by increments from 1835 to 1844. I am not asserting that this was wrong, or that Joseph Smith did not support it. I simply think that it is an aspect of church history that we need to understand.
Anderson and Faulring quote Joseph Smith in 1841 to the effect that the Twelve should have authority in stakes. However, they abbreviate the quote significantly: "The time had come when the Twelve should be called upon to stand in their place next to the First Presidency and attend to . . . the business of the Church at the stakes." D. Michael Quinn agrees with Anderson and Faulring that at this point the Twelve were given some authority in the stakes, which was a significant change. However, the full quote preserves an important limitation: "The time had come when the Twelve should be called upon to stand in their place next to the First Presidency, and attend to the settling of emigrants and the business of the Church at the stakes and assist to bear off the kingdom victoriously to the nations . . ." (Emphasis mine.) Here Joseph Smith does not give the apostles authority to become a "standing" high council, but instead to do some limited work within the stakes. The first thing Joseph mentions, and the phrase that Anderson and Faulring left out, was "the settling of emigrants," a matter that is logically connected with missionary work. Anderson and Faulring probably would have been better served to reproduce the full quotation here. In addition, the purpose of the meeting was limited to local business related to missionary work: "to select men of experience to send forth into the vineyard, take measures to assist emigrants who may arrive at the places of gathering, and prevent impositions being practiced upon them by unprincipled speculators." Brigham Young, the president of the conference and first speaker, stated that "nothing could be further from his wishes, and those of his quorum, than to interfere with Church affairs in Zion and her stakes." This is clearly far from the centralized modern Mormon apostles who in fact travel to the stakes to select stake presidents. Brigham continued, "He had been in the vineyard so long, he had become attached to foreign missions . . ." Nevertheless, I agree that this passage shows a step toward the Twelve's eventual centralized role.
The Wording of the Plural Marriage Ceremony
This is an interesting subject; once again, I did not make a systematic study of this issue, but mentioned what there was to know about it (to be best of my knowledge) in passing. Using the full text of the Temple Lot transcript, Anderson and Faulring (at p. 87, cf. In Sacred Loneliness 598) argue that Melissa did not really remember the text of the plural marriage ceremony. When she stated that it was the standard Mormon wording as published in the Kirtland Doctrine and Covenants, in the view of Anderson and Faulring, she was badgered by the RLDS attorney into agreeing that the Kirtland D&C wording was used. In reality, Anderson and Faulring suggest, all she really remembered was that the marriage was for time and eternity.
This may be some truth to this, and Anderson and Faulring are correct in taking into account the dynamics of Melissa's full testimony. They are making a valuable point here. Though Melissa said, "That is as I understand it as nearly as I can remember," after the RLDS Kelley read the D&C marriage ceremony, at other times she seems to flatly deny that those words were used! But while my treatment did not reflect adequately the contradictory nature of her testimony, and I am grateful to Anderson and Faulring for alerting me to the complexities, Anderson and Faulring also oversimplify the issue. Melissa's testimony is all over the map. On the statement that Anderson and Faulring take as certain -- that the marriage was for time and eternity -- Melissa also seems somewhat contradictory. "Q. Well what ceremony was used on that occasion? A;-It was that I was married to him for time and all eternity." (line 56.) So far so good. In line 119, she says with certainty, "Yes sir. For time and eternity Q:-Was that in the ceremony? A;-Yes sir." Then line 122, "Well was that [time and eternity] in the ceremony, - that is the question? A;-Yes sir it was." Again, certainty. But then suddenly she is not sure: "Well now I couldn't say that it was . . ." Then she continues with less than certainty: "but I think it was".
Melissa is equally ambiguous about the D&C marriage wording. You could collect statements in favor of her remembering some form of the D&C wording, and array them against statements against the use of the D&C wording. After re-reading Melissa's full testimony on this issue, my feeling is that it may reflect that she remembered that some form of the D&C wording was used, though as she reasonably states, she did not make a transcript as the ceremony was taking place, and so could not testify as to the exact words used, especially after so many years. But since the D&C marriage ceremony would have been very familiar to her, she might have recognized it in some form. But she also remembered a time and eternity component to the ceremony.
This interpretation would be consistent with the parallels with the D&C marriage wording and the Sarah Ann Whitney plural marriage ceremony. This brings us to an important portion of my argument that Anderson and Faulring strangely simply ignore. I wrote, "Similarities to the Sarah Whitney vows make this version appear reliable." (In Sacred Loneliness, 598.) In fact, the structure of the Kirtland D&C marriage language is found in the Sarah Whitney vows. So even in this small passing reference, despite their very worthwhile reference to the full Temple Lot testimony of Melissa Willes, Anderson and Faulring do not come to grips with my argument and evidence.
Typecasting as "Naturalistic"
Anderson and Faulring assert that I hold naturalistic positions. (p. 92) This pronouncement is highlighted and publicized by a bolded section heading. Bachman also states categorically that I hold naturalistic positions -- this characterization is found in his concluding paragraphs, which again highlights and publicizes the assertion. (pp. 136-37.) When I first read these statements, I was very puzzled, as I would never associate myself with that term "naturalism" as I understood it (meaning a rejection of God; an antonym for supernaturalism). I wondered if I was interpreting it incorrectly, so I looked it up in a standard dictionary, Webster's II New College Dictionary (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1995): "naturalism . . . 2. Philos. The system of thought holding that all phenomena can be explained in terms of natural causes and laws without attributing supernatural significance to them. 3. The doctrine that all religious truths are derived from nature and natural causes and not from revelation." Note: "all phenomena," "all religious truths," and the total rejection of the supernatural and revelation. The essence of naturalism is complete disbelief in God, or in any kind of supernatural phenomena. Naturalism and supernaturalism (including theism of any sort) are opposites. So in a strict sense, there is no such thing as a mixture of naturalism and belief in God. Someone who holds naturalistic positions is a complete atheist -- not even an agnostic of some sort.
Anderson, Faulring and Bachman had clear evidence before them that I was not an atheist (they quote my statement of belief in God and the supernatural, In Sacred Loneliness629, on pp. 70 and 108), so it is not easy to understand why they made this assertion, and emphasized it so strongly. Strangely enough, both reviews mention my statement of belief only in order to comment negatively on it. Anderson and Faulring state that I "apply" it to a "campaign" against polygamy. Though their logic is not entirely clear to me, the strange idea is that I would "use" a testimony for negative purposes. Bachman refers to my statement of belief sarcastically, then angrily objects to it in a footnote in which he misquotes it. It is as if a person delivered his testimony in a Fast and Testimony Meeting, and the next two speakers quickly rose to tear it down.
The irony of my statement on p. 629 is that I felt, in all honesty, that non-Mormon, secular readers had the right to know my religious biases, my acceptance of the supernatural. I did not expect that fellow Mormons would have quoted the statement as evidence against by belief.
There has been a controversy in Mormon history on the subject of "naturalism" -- some critics of the "New Mormon history" have asserted that such history is in essence dependent on naturalistic (atheist) underpinnings, and written by persons who may be perfunctory members of the church, but who are in reality writing from an essentially naturalistic, positivist (atheist) perspective borrowed from non-Mormon historical influences.
"New" Mormon historians typically combine a belief in God with interest in subjects considered secular. For instance, Leonard Arrington's Great Basin Kingdom looks at Mormon history from an economic perspective. Critics of the New Mormon History might argue that this is a naturalistic approach; Arrington himself would see his faith in God and his interest in economics as complementary. For him, God and economics were not competing explanations for Mormon history. The fact that an economic analysis answered many questions about Mormon history does not deny the supernatural, or that divine law might be found in economic forces.
Actually, there is in Mormonism a strong tradition that everything is part of the gospel. We remember Brigham Young's admonition to Karl Maeser to teach the multiplication tables by the spirit of God. Economics are an important theme in the New Testament, the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. We remember Brigham Young's admonitions to study all disciplines, history, politics, science. Alexander addresses this issue: "[I]n the most profound sense, the New Mormon Historians recognize no sacred-secular dichotomy and thus they melt the barrier between the two categories. . . . In short, the New Mormon History has not produced secular or naturalistic historical narratives in the usual meaning of those terms. Still, these narratives [history written by New Mormon Historians] -- grounded in the humane tradition and the human studies -- interpret both religious and temporal experiences, and address questions raised by people in our time and culture."
Since the publication of his review of my book, Mr. Bachman has stated to me that he does not consider me an atheist, and that I was misinterpreting his use of the word naturalistic. However, as I clearly show above, the dictionary definition of the word naturalistic, within the context of religion and philosophy, is rejection of God and the supernatural. If authors use a private, idiosyncratic definition of a word, it is their duty to plainly state that they are using the word in a non-standard way. Mr. Bachman did not do this. And illogically, he continues to stand by his nonfactual characterization of me as having naturalistic perspectives.
At best, these three reviewers' use of the term "naturalistic" to characterize me is sloppy and unfortunate, showing that they did not do the basic homework of looking up a highly loaded word before using it. One hopes that such ad hominem sloppiness does not become the hallmark of the kind of scholarly dialogue found in FARMS, BYU and the Church Educational System.
One reader has written recently, mentioning that Leonard J. Arrington has sometimes referred to "human or naturalistic" analysis as a necessary component of the New Mormon history, without the New Mormon history (Arrington continues) denying in any way the belief in the divinity of the LDS church. (See, e.g., Arrington's "Scholarly Studies of Mormonism in the Twentieth Century," Dialogue 1 (Spring 1966), 15-32, 28.) However, Arrington uses this term in a much different context that do Anderson, Faulring and Bachman.
First, Arrington clearly is using "naturalistic" to describe a part of a whole. He emphasizes that the other part of the whole, and the most important part, is his belief in God. This "human or naturalistic" analysis does not conflict with an underlying belief in God. When Anderson, Faulring and Bachman used the term, they did not describe a part of a whole. They were not making a nuanced use of the term, emphasizing (or even mentioning) my overarching theism. They simply threw out a loaded term without qualification.
Second, Arrington is referring to himself, his own kind of history, the kind of history he approves of. He is not referring to another person, another individual, in a negative context. (And obviously, Anderson, Faulring and Bachman were not using their "naturalistic" language in a positive context.)
The abovementioned reader argued that I was misinterpreting the word "naturalistic," that it meant something entirely other than "atheist." He agreed that the dictionary definition of the word was atheist, someone who totally rejects God and the supernatural, but thought that that was not necessarily what the term really meant. However, I don't think that readers of FARMS Review of Books will look up the definition of naturalism in a dictionary of philosophy when they read those reviews. Instead, they will turn to a standard dictionary. (And the one I happened to turn to, Webster's, is a standard, mainstream dictionary. I didn't seek out a dictionary with a peculiar definition of naturalism.) At the very least, Anderson, Faulring and Bachman should have known that one basic meaning of the term naturalism is a rejection of God and the supernatural, and that if they used the term to mean something other than that, they should make it very clear that they were not using it in that basic, most obvious sense.
However, unfortunately, in my view, the argumentation of those passages where Anderson, Faulring and Bachman use the term "naturalistic" breaks down if the term wasn't intended to mean "rejection of God and the supernatural."
Since writing the above, I have casually checked other dictionaries on the meaning of the word "naturalism." Here is the definition offered by the new Microsoft Encarta College Dictionary (N.Y.: St. Martins Press, 2001): 2 . . . a belief that all religious truth is derived from nature and natural causes, and not from revelation 3 . . . a system of thought that rejects all spiritual and supernatural explanations of the world and holds that science is the sole basis of what can be known." Again, naturalism is a complete rejection of the supernatural and revelation: "all", "all," science as "sole basis." My view of God and science is simple: science and the study of nature is part of God's infinitely beautiful creation and learning about science is a way of discovering how God works, his laws. There is no conflict between the gospel and science, or between the gospel and the scientific process. Certainly, no scientist has complete and absolute truth; but no mortal man possesses complete and absolute truth. Religionists and scientists need to work together constructively, without demonizing each other. Next section