View other faiths fairly, he says, and learn
SANDY — Bluffing is involved in a great many verbal and written attacks on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, according to an unofficial apologist for the church.
Daniel C. Peterson, sometimes referred to as the “chief apologist for the LDS Church,” made that declaration Friday in the final session of the sixth annual Mormon Apologetics Conference, sponsored by the Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research, at the South Towne Exposition Center.
“Sometimes you just have to stand up to them,” said Peterson, himself a member of the LDS faith.
Peterson is a professor of Islamic Studies and Arabic at Brigham Young University and the director and executive editor of BYU’s three-part Middle Eastern Texts Initiative.
He said it is possible to make any religious faith look stupid, and he offered three principles for fairly dealing with other religions:
• Don’t go to a faith’s enemies for information. Go to its adherents.
• Don’t compare the best in your faith with the worst in the one you are criticizing. Keep a level playing field.
• Always leave room for holy envy — what is it that this faith really does well?
By following these principles, which Peterson adopted but did not invent, you can study other religions and really learn something beneficial, he said.
He’s also convinced that LDS religion is a good lens through which to view other religions.
Peterson said his study of early Christianity shows that the LDS doctrines stand up well and leave other faiths having to explain how many of the original Christian beliefs became altered or lost.
He also is involved with the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies and said that involvement has given him an intellectual, historical testimony of the group.
“FARMS, I think, is a wonderful thing,” he said, though it is not inventing things to save the church or make it look good. “It’s not a desperate rear-guard action.”
He said FARMS has morphed lately into preserving ancient texts. It also provides book reviews.
“I enjoy a good, spirited round of discussion,” Peterson said, being one of the few well-known Mormon apologists who will also participate on Internet message boards. “I’m a cuddly fella, not nearly as mean as my critics think.”
Peterson defended the Book of Mormon against recent claims of new DNA evidence that dissenters say disprove the book, and said FARMS is publishing a new look at the original version of the Book of Mormon.
“The Book of Mormon stands up well in good company,” he said. “I’m dazzled by the book.”
Margaret Young, a BYU writing instructor who also teamed with Darius Gray to author the “Standing on the Promises” trilogy, said Latter-day Saints need to get folklore about blacks and the pre-earth life out of their thinking.
“The basic truth is, we are all of one blood,” she said, decrying the theory that blacks were in any way less valiant in the pre-earth life, and that their dark skin was a curse.
She said the Book of Mormon is a story about two races and that’s one reason why it’s a great book for our day.
“We need to come together as a body of Christ.”
FAIR is a non-profit group and not sponsored by the church. More information on FAIR is available online at www.fairlds.org.
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