Tuesday, August 4, 2015

On Deliberate Obtuseness

Someone sent me the following link where an individual going under the name of jonathan3d (apparently Jonathan Neville) takes issue about something I published in 1998. At the time I stated:
Biographies like the book under review are deliberate, intentional acts; they do not occur by accident. Ferguson is largely unknown to the vast majority of Latter-day Saints; his impact on Book of Mormon studies is minimal. So, of all the lives that could be celebrated, why hold up that of a "double-acting sour-puss?"  . . .

With the deliberate inclusion of this material and the deliberate suppression of the fuller picture of Ferguson, [the author] demonstrates an interest in fashioning propaganda. With this book [the author] advocates (perhaps unintentionally) the view that Latter-day Saint doubters should mouth pieties in public and do as they please in private, and, most particularly, that they should covertly seek to undermine the faith of the weak and faltering. I am not convinced that this is unintentional, since [the author] (1) attempts to marshal as many reasons to create doubt as he can, (2) introduces controversies and arguments brought forth after Ferguson's death, and (3) consistently misrepresents the arguments of supporters of the Book of Mormon or the Book of Abraham. In an attempt to subvert the weak, weigh down the hands that hang down, and weaken the feeble knees, [the author] has carefully fashioned the hagiography of a hypocrite.
(John Gee, "The Hagiography of Doubting Thomas," FARMS Review of Books 10/2 (1998): 159-60. At the time of writing this entire issue is missing from the Maxwell Institute website http://publications.maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/periodicals/jbms/ ).
I included a footnote to explain what I meant by Ferguson being largely unknown, noting that the Comprehensive Annotated Book of Mormon Bibliography "lists four books and four articles by Ferguson out of 6,338 items published before 1994." I was addressing the issue of why write a biography of Ferguson and emphasize his Book of Mormon work since Ferguson was not exactly a Book of Mormon heavy-weight.

Our pseudonymous author (Jonathan Neville(?)) wrenches one sentence out of context and complains:
Finally, Gee asserts Ferguson's impact has been minimal, a claim that is easily rebutted by a simple Internet search where the Ferguson case is frequently cited by former, inactive, and anti-Mormons. (I realize Gee referred to the "vast majority of Latter-day Saints," but the "vast majority" is hardly synonymous with "active." Many former/inactive LDS have followed the same trajectory as Ferguson but have not remained in the Church after concluding the archaeological evidence in Mesoamerica does not substantiate the Book of Mormon. It's an ongoing and unnecessary tragedy when there is such an abundance of evidence in North America that does substantiate the Book of Mormon.
When I wrote the passage jonathan3d complains about Google did not yet exist, so his complaint is misplaced.

jonathan3d seems to think that Ferguson is the acme of Mesoamericanist Book of Mormon scholars. He was not. Both jonathan3d and Ferguson seem to me to have naive understandings of the Book of Mormon and what it means to situate the Book of Momon in Mesoamerica. But really if jonathan 3d thinks that North America is a better fit than Mesoamerica or a hemispheric model, he should state his case rather than take statements out of context to take pot-shots at others. After all, he claims:
I'd rather focus on the information and the logic of the arguments than the personalities.
If that is where he would rather focus, he is welcome to do so and doing so would certainly be welcome.