"How can a person like you believe all these things?"This
question is a red herring.The issue at hand isn't our view of Joseph
Smith, but Joseph Smith's claim.To say 'do you believe Smith's
account?' fails to address anything other than how this man reasons. If someone
actually wanted to know about the LDS Church, they should ask more about the
account of the first vision, rather than how others view it.With
that, I don't see this as real curiosity about the Church as a plausible true
choice... but rather an examination of either a foreign group and philosophy- or
an examination of how the Church or members currently play a role in current
events.With how much incivility arises from a lack of understanding
the LDS position and paradigm- I think that it would be better for people to ask
what we believe, rather than IF we believe. And "How can a person like
you..." seems to only be asking if he believes, not what he believes.It would do more good by wanting to learn other views, rather than put
to question the legitimacy of believing them, which this seems to do.
This was a fantastic article. I wonder if Professor Bushman knows how much his
life, his books, and his approach to our faith has meant to Mormons like me
during my life. I'm in my mid-thirties now, with a family of my own, but while
in high school I read his book "Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of
Mormonism," and then of course later read Rough Stone Rolling, which is
without question my favorite biography of all time--and I read a lot of books!
Prof. Bushman has had a profoundly positive impact on my life and my testimony
of the gospel. Even his simple but thoughtful responses to the "Book of
Mormon" musical (referenced in this article) made me feel proud to be a
latter-day saint. It means everything to me to know that a person of his
capacity and understanding is so profoundly faithful at the same time. I wish I
could thank him in person, and hope someday I'll get the chance.
In his classic talk, "Profile of a Prophet," Hugh B. Brown explained
how he, as a rational and educated man, could believe such a thing (the First
Vision) during a conversation he had with a highly educated and respected
(though unnamed) judge, just prior to WW II, I believe it was.I
recommend this talk to anyone who would be interested in the approach he took to
this very question.
Why do you believe the things you do? Its a good questiona and one that is
answered every day by truth seekers around the world. Go to the source of all
truth, God. I know that he is not dead, as some religions would say, but that
he lives and will answer the heartfelt prayers of his children, just like he
answered the prayer of a young boy named Joseph Smith.
Great article. I really like what Richard Bushman has to say and the way he says
it.The religious of this world should have little cause to say
"How can a person like you believe all these things?" because they
themselves believe in miracles. Yet they do ask the question because such an
event, if it really happened, would require them to change their view of God.Incredulity from religious persons seems to come from two
perspectives:God couldn't do that.God wouldn't do that.Of course the first doesn't make sense because, by definition, God is
omnipotent. If He wants to appear corporeally to Joseph Smith, he certainly has
the ability.To the second, Latter-day Saints answer, "Of course
he would! He loves his children."For others to accept that God
would personally speak to his children, will take a big shift. The Old Testament
says Moses and others spoke with him face to face in Genesis, Exodus, Numbers,
and Deuteronomy. The New Testament says Stephen saw him. Nonetheless, most
people alive today, even those who believe the Bible, cannot accept this. Of
course, the LDS are excepted because it's happened multiple times since the
Bushman's approach is refreshing. LDS claims, like all religious claims, can
come across as strange and difficult for outsiders to understand let alone
accept. Some LDS are so comfortable and familiar with LDS claims and
beliefs that it is hard to put themselves into the shoes of outsiders. I hear
the full-time missionaries in our area say that if someone doesn't accept the
message they just "weren't ready" or "sufficiently humble".
We don't empathize with the real and honest "strangeness" of the story
to someone who has not grown up hearing it repeated multiple times a week. Bushman seems to get that and is willing to acknowledge the difficulties
of accepting or understanding the LDS story while sharing his own personal
belief and faith.
I should clarify- I am not criticizing Bushman or the interviewer. I'm only
examining the interviewing methodology.With how much incivility,
hostility, and even violence has come from such a subtle distinction, I think
it's important to clarify the difference and the outcome of each option.
Questioning only whether someone believes only offers to examine that
individual- where questioning those beliefs for yourself is not just potentially
more productive, but it is far more conducive to a peaceful dialogue.I also want to clarify my original post (it's hard with the word limit)... The
interviewer said, "How can a person like you believe...?" I realize
that "how" isn't "If" as I was examining. But in the second
to last paragraph I was addressing why I see it actually meaning "if"
instead. However, in the case that "how" was intended, then the
question would only serve an even less appropriate end. "How can someone
like you" casts doubt and is fallacy, specifically the "loaded
question" as it will be understood most often as "Someone like you
shouldn't believe this".So- not asking if or why, but 'what one
believes' is the most productive approach in preserving peaceable public
Every Mormon should read this. Every Mormon should understand this. Having the
skills to talk to the media should not just be reserved for Mormon celebs. Just
like his sweet and wise wife Claudia said, we all need to be less defensive and
more generous with our answers and our attitude. We need to teach our kids the
first lesson offered in this article - which is that most people think we are
NUTS for believing in Joseph Smith. Love his rules for talking with the media -
and those rules could apply to everyone. I echo Texas Reader's comments. I'm a
big fan of Professor Bushman's work and am grateful for his perspective. It's
difficult for the "leadership" to publicly take on sensitive issues
but more and more that's what we have to explain - so it's great to have a
"leader" such as this.
I am a great admirer of both Richard Bushman and Hugh Nibley. I loved Bushman's
biography of Joseph Smith and have read much of Nibley's work concerning LDS
topics. I appreciate the insightful, thoughtful and kind way Prof. Bushman
reacts when he is asked to speak or is interviewed. I loved knowing his
approach to speaking and being interviewed, " I am a follower of Jesus
Christ". I wish to follow his example as well.
The controversy and conflict with the public perception of Mormons doesn't seem
to be with Mormon believes, everyone is entitiled to their believes, it is with
the Mormon fatuous claim to know. Mormons seldom say what they believe, it is
what they think they know; and they almost always bear their testimony that they
do know, therefore they are right and all other believes are wrong. Mormons
seldom prove what they say they know, it is a magic spirit that witnesses to
them that no one else knows. It seems to be an arrogant and false witness to
others who have to listen to it.
Here is a quote from Richard Bushman that didn't make it into the article. I
asked him what question he wished reporters would ask him:"I think
what reporters need to ask, but don't, is, 'Why is Mormonism valuable to you?
What do you get out of your religion that is really important?' Mormons should
have that question asked them more. They should answer it all the time because
we have such prefabricated (language for our) testimonies that they begin to be
drained of authenticity after we've said them a thousand times. It's a good
question to be asked and to think about. I'd like to have reporters ask me
that," Bushman said.Here is a quote from Terryl Givens also not
in the article:"We've come a long way from Parley P. Pratt, the LDS
Church's first really prolific proselytizer and defender. When he was queried
about the church's position on orthodoxies, not only did he not shy away from
them, he exploited them. He exploited the opportunity to emphasize Mormonism's
radical break with a Christian tradition." (Givens has a great new
biography of Pratt coming out in Oct.)
In the presidential contest a major issue is the degree to which an LDS
president would have to take direction for the president of the LDS Church.
Sooner or later Romney and Huntsman are going to have to answer that question.
What is the correct response to that question? What is the official LDS Church
view of that question? There are a number of different views.
Michael De Groote,The 'value' and 'what do you get out of your
religion' quote is something I certainly agree with. I obviously don't know the
whole interview experience myself, which is why I was trying to avoid sounding
critical of Bushman or the interviewer. I do feel that the 'why is it valuable'
is a worth while question, it's just that one of my biggest worries about public
discourse is the idea of justifying hostility for a different belief, simply
because it's different- without even fully understanding the stance one is
fighting. Because of this, I made my "what do you believe" comment.BUT, with that in mind... I loved the quote about Parley P. Pratt. I
like the mentality. Some of my recent comments on this article and others have
been heavily focused on the need to listen to each other. I'm not saying I'm
perfect here, just that it's the right thing to do.The idea of
exploiting the differences in LDS doctrine resonates with the idea of welcoming
diversity, welcoming civil discourse, and ultimately the freedom to share one's
views.Thanks for the quotes! In my opinion, very relevant to the
article and thought provoking.
The Joseph Smith story can seem pretty wierd to outsiders. I met a stake
president in europe who told me when he first heard the story he figured it was
probably true becuase if we were going to make a story up we could come up with
a lot better one.
Skeptic has a point. But as a believing, knowing LDS, there are parts of my
testimony that I KNOW because of empirical experience. And yes, I KNOW I cannot
prove those experiences to someone else, regardless of 'the magic spirit' he
cites. But those experiences are real, very real, very knowable. On the
other hand, in our LDS culture, we do conflate 'know' and 'believe' far too
often and it should not be so.But I still know what I know and believe
what I believe. Now if I can only live accordingly, eh? But I am trying. You?
"Why is Mormonism valuable to you?" is a nice question. A reporter
could also ask: "Why is being a member of the NRA valuable to you?"
The differnce is that the NRA isn't claiming to be the only true rifle
association across the face of the earth.
To me, it's ridiculous to ask, "How can you possibly believe these
things?" for the simple reason that beliefs, by their very definition,
can't be factually proven. That's exactly *why* they're "beliefs."A better question to ask of anyone is, "How do your beliefs govern
your behavior in the factual world which we both share?"If I
had been Dr. Bushman, I would have suggested that the interviewer rephrase the
question to the above-mentioned one because, again, beliefs can never be
"rationalized."If the interviewer agreed to do that, then
Dr. Bushman could have presented an excellent case for Mormonism, based not on
beliefs which many people (myself included) simply cannot share, but on the many
admirable effects of those beliefs.As Jesus said, you can tell what
a tree is like by the fruit it bears.
Skeptic,First, no one "has" to listen to anything. If you
don't believe that the LDS paradigm has any merit and/or logical claim, then I
invite you to move on. But where I have a problem with such a claim is here-
'Regular' poster's who frequently take issue with the LDS Church, complaining
about 'having to listen to Mormon claims', on an LDS Church owned paper, on an
article appealing primarily to Mormons... are you aware of the logistical
problem of such a complaint? It would be like going into an LDS Chapel and
saying "I'm sick of having to be around you people". I'm simply
pointing out that you are in control of what you listen to or read.I
know this Church is true. However, every last argument, political point, or
other view I share, is supported by deductive reason. Even if I'm reasonable,
anti's still fight because 'anti' means 'refusal to listen'.I
believe in peace, which I believe is accomplished only through listening, and
focusing on points of agreement, where we find common ground... ultimately, by
working together. There is no "together" in spending all of one's
comments fighting another human beings beliefs.
Nice man. Good article. I'm glad he is here, now, helping the way he is.
To: Montana Mormon @ 8:44 AMHugh B. Brown's "Profile of a
Prophet" was a Great Presentation, a trueclassic.I'm sure
there's still copies of it around. The main focus, if I recall,was the
concept that with All the trouble in the World of today (and atthe time
just before World War 2 got really big), we certainly Need a prophet like in
times of old for Today. Hugh B. Brown was an attorney before being called to
high LDS leadership positions and he presented his "brief" just as a
lawyer would Do in trying to win a "case". Very well
done. There's Nothing there to be embarrassed about.Thanks Montana
Mormon for bringing up Brother Brown's Great Presentation!!
Nibley and Bushman are great examples (and spokesmen) because they have a sense
of humor; if we can increase in knowledge and not take ourselves too
seriously, that is a great accomplishment. This article didn't mention humor
but these men are probably the most talented with using humor in the history of
the world. Also, I've heard Prof. Bushman say when we are sharing the
gospel with others, (at work or wherever) that we should use the same everyday
voice that we use in talking about sports and the weather-----yet when we bring
up religion----- our voice changes, we become tense--- we are not the same and
it makes others uncomfortable.
Good to hear that Bro. Brown's "Profile of a Prophet" is still being
listened to. It was a staple in our mission so many years ago. I still feel
that same commitment and dedication to the gospel as I listen to it or read the
transcript. What a powerful testimony.
To Voice of ReasonIt would be nice if they would ask what the LDS
church believes, but I think they already think they know it all. Or if they
don't know much they don't really want to know any more. They know enough to
brand it as an outrageous story and they want to make Bushman and Givens look
like fools. I agree with the posters who suggested better
questions..."Why are these beliefs important to you?
"what the LDS Church believes.." A good place to find out would be
the Articles of Faith. They are clear and written in plain language that cannot
Am I reading this right? Are Mormons, including Bushman, really, seriously
criticizing and trying to dictate to others what questions are appropriate?Please tell me Mormons are not that arrogant...
@vanka, you didn't read the whole article did you? It was actually more about
Mormons being more generous with the answers to questions they are asked. A
good sense of humor comes in handy as well.
% A voice of reason: You write:First, no one "has" to listen to
anything. If you don't believe that the LDS paradigm has any merit and/or
logical claim, then I invite you to move on. Thank you for your
invite, but I live in a larger hetrogeous community of different people and
friends including Mormons. Our Mormon friends don't stay in there ward talking
to themselves, they share their lives with us, and they never tire of telling us
what they know is true. They think (like You) that they have the only truth and
the rest of us just have our believes. I feel perhaps it is you who needs to
move on to reality. It doesn't mean we can't be friends; right. I hope you have
a good day.
Hi skeptic, you say:"The controversy and conflict with the public
perception of Mormons doesn't seem to be with Mormon believes(sic.), everyone is
entitiled to their believes(sic.), it is with the Mormon fatuous claim to know.
Mormons seldom say what they believe, it is what they think they know; and they
almost always bear their testimony that they do know, therefore they are right
and all other believes are wrong. Mormons seldom prove what they say they know,
it is a magic spirit that witnesses to them that no one else knows. It seems to
be an arrogant and false witness to others who have to listen to it."The LDS General Relief Society President Julie B. Beck taught in April
2010 General Conference, "The ability to qualify for, receive, and act on
personal revelation is the single most important skill that can be acquired in
this life." When the LDS bear testimony, it is a testimony of a mantic
experience, and not a sophic one.As far as bearing this testimony to
the world, that was commanded by the Savior himself. All true Christians
enthusiastically share the good news of Jesus Christ with an unbelieving world.
@skepticAnd atheists don't advertise? Never tiring, by telling us
what they think is true? How about the billboard that says "Don't believe
in God? You're not alone." How about bus advertisements that
say "Why believe in God? Just be good for goodness sake". One wonders
where they think goodness comes from.How about during the Christmas
season, where you'll find posters at the Washington State Capitol building which
read: "At this season of the Winter Solstice may reason prevail. There are
no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural
world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves
minds."Talk about in your face.
%New York; Thank you for sharing your incites; but how, or why would I believe
or accept what a Mormon tells me he/she knows is the truth more than I would a
Catholic priest, or a born again christian, or an Orthadox Jew,or even a devout
Muslim. These people have dedicated their lives to prayer,study and religion and
they do not claim to know, or agree with you. I maintain that we can only
believe and that we do not know. I do not believe that I know, and I do not
believe that you know.%Ms.W: I am a skeptic, not an atheist.
skeptic,The answer to your question is simple. Develop your own
ability to qualify for, receive, and act on personal revelation. It's the single
most important skill that can be acquired in this life.LDS teachings
are that God directs different people to different things, even other churches
to achieve his eternal purposes. In 1842, Joseph Smith taught, "The Great
Parent of the universe looks upon the whole human family with a fatherly care
and paternal regard; He views them as His offspring, and without any of those
contracted feelings that influence the children of men.... He will judge them,
'not according to what they have not, but according to what they have,' those
who have lived without law, will be judged without law, and those who have a
law, will be judged by that law.... When the designs of God shall be made
manifest, and the curtain of futurity be withdrawn, we shall all of us
eventually have to confess that the Judge of all the earth has done right."
skeptic: I offer an alternative solution to your concerns. If a Mormon indeed
saw God the Father and Jesus Christ and was told that no other church's were
right then that Mormon indeed has very good cause to say "this is
absolutely true and I know it to be true".Please try to
understand it this way instead. We believe ourselves to be true, and members may
possibly have every reason to say that they know it, whether they've seen God
for themselves or not; with that in mind, my saying "I'm right" does
not necessarily mean that I'm saying "your wrong". I could be saying
"Joseph Smith was conferred the priesthood and no other religion offers
revelation from God" and also believe that other religions have certain
things right, or have knowledge of certain truths, if even many truths... but
that they simply do not have the priesthood authority to provide modern
revelation.Saying "I know that Joseph Smith was a true prophet
of God" does not mean that there are not true aspects of your own faith. We
do not claim to be perfect either though, as the Book of Mormon title page
addresses. Any help?
% New Yorker and Freedom-in-Danger:Thank you gentlemen. At this
point I am lost for comment. Pehaps you do have a conduit to god that no one
else seems to have. I am very happy for you. I am happy that you know things
that I myself and others can only hope to believe. You have a wonderful gift, I
sincerly hope it serves you and others well. Best wishes.
If your God is perfect, only perfect people can "know" Him.If you claim to "know" Him, but then also claim "nobody's
perfect, even us", then you do not know him."Knowing"
does not contain any dilution.If you claim to "know", you
had better be perfect, or else you are a liar. See 1 John 2:4.
Skeptic: I'm sure you are done with this conversation so I do not want to feed
an argument; but I do want to add one thing if it helps. I myself do not believe
that God does not answer prayers of anyone who is not LDS. I believe that he
indeed does.I believe revelation and prayer are different. While I
believe anyone can receive the truth from God and that anyone can have prayers
answered, I believe that priesthood authority has more to do with ministering
this work to others. Only one ordained with authority from God can reveal things
to others. Sometimes people need help from someone else and prayer isn't the
right answer. Sometimes we can be so prideful that we might deny a prayer with a
subtle denial, but by believing in the leadership of the church, we would follow
their counsel when not following something that came to us directly. It's
complicated, obviously, but the only point I'm driving at here is that I don't
believe that only I can get truth, just that the 'true church' in my eyes has
more to do with the LDS traits regarding organized religion.Wish you
It's interesting that Hugh B. Browns name has been mentioned a few times in the
comments. If Pres. Brown was still alive, would he be as respected today in
Utah seeing that he was a life time member of the Democratic Party, was the
first chairman of Utah's Liquor Control Commission, and wanted to rescind the
Negro Doctrine 9 years before it happened?Also in light of the Amish
and Presbyterian example stated in the article, I dont recall either of those
religions making claims like the LDS Church does, such as possession of golden
plates, speaking to the Godhead in a grove of trees, the Garden of Eden being in
Missouri, God living on the planet Kolob, practicing polygamy etc.
To those whose interest was piqued by the frequent mention of Hugh B. Brown's
"Profile of a Prophet," hey, we live in the Internet Age! You don't
have to hunt down a copy--simply Google it. It'll come right up.I
must say I'm amused by the posters here who are doing a back-and-forth about
"beliefs." As I mentioned in my previous posting, beliefs can never
be "proven," so why even bother debating them? I'll respect anyone's
beliefs as long as they don't try to push those beliefs into public law, such as
the opponents of gay marriage are trying to do. Only a belief, never a fact,
could be against gay marriage.
Don't forget that there were multiple versions of the "first vision"
and they don't agree with on another.Just sayin'
To RanchHand - don't forget that there are no contradictions in Joseph Smith's
multiple versions of the First Vision, despite different emphases on different
elements of the experience, at different moments of re-telling. There is no
disagreement as you claim, and simply repeating this worn-out and disproved
claim does not lend more credence to the conclusion so deceptively implied, no
matter how much a simple-minded anti-Mormon may so desperately want to believe
I had the same thoughts as Vanka to a degree. It is not reasonable for Mormons
to present the world with the relevant questions. This really say's nothing
about those inquiring into Mormonism, but rather suggests the type of questions
that Mormons would prefer to answer. This isn't good business. Mormons in the
media, such as Bushman, would be better focused on trying to understand the
kinds of questions that people are asking - and then to provide better answers
to those questions.Asking someone if they "really believe"
in the First Vision is probably one of the most relevant questions that can be
asked. In response to the question is the opportunity to explain why? Besides,
if what Bushman gets out of Mormonism is directly tied to the belief that the
"church is true" (along the lines of standard Mormon convention) -
then essentially he was asked the question he was hoping for...he just didn't
recognize it. If on the other hand, the literal truthfulness of Mormon claims is
not where Bushman derives his utility of membership, then yes, the question:
"do you really believe this stuff", would be quite problematic and
Vanka at 3:19 a.m. Sept. 5 asks, "Am I reading this right? Are Mormons,
including Bushman, really, seriously criticizing and trying to dictate to others
what questions are appropriate?"Answer: No, you are not reading
it right.Vanka then says, "Please tell me Mormons are not that
arrogant..." Answer: Ok. Mormons are not that arrogant.
Having visions in the early 1800s wasn't that strange."I saw
two spirits, which I knew at the first sight. But if I had the tongue of an
Angel I could not describe their glory, for they brought the joys of heaven with
them. One was God, my Maker, almost in bodily shape like a man. His face was,
as it were a flame of Fire, and his body, as it had been a Pillar and a cloud.
In looking steadfastly to discern features, I could see none, but a small
glimpse would appear in some other place. Below him stood Jesus Christ my
Redeemer, in perfect shape like a man---His face was not ablaze, but had the
countenance of fire, being bright and shining. His Father's will appeared to be
his! All was condescension, peace, and love."Was this a
previously unpublished version of Joseph Smith's "first vision," one
might ask? No. It was the claim of one Norris Stearns, published in 1815, in
Greenfield, Massachusetts---not far from where the Joseph Smith Senior family
lived in Vermont.
Nice response, Michael.
Never seen vanka at a loss for words. Clever response Michael