As Things Stand at the Moment

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The most widely syndicated article on the “Joseph Smith Papyri” to appear to date is a typical performance of Mr. Wallace Turner which first appeared in the New York Times of July 15, 1968. It is one of those high-flown insinuating reports breathing an aloof superiority, studiously evasive of anything specific. First we are told that there has been “bitter wrangling among the intellectuals of the Mormon world.” If an intellectual is anybody willing to argue, what is meant by the “Mormon world”? If the Church is meant, why not say Church? “The attack,” Mr. Turner continues, “has come from within the Mormon community.” Again, why “community” instead of “Church”? Because, to be sure, there has been no attack and no wrangling whatever within the Church. Later on Mr. Turner mentions “two heretics notorious to the church establishment” (a term dear to the heart of Mr. Turner), unaware that there are no heretics in a church where every member is supposed to have his own personal, nontransferable testimony, and that to be a heretic in any church one must be a member: the two in question are not members of the Mormon Church and were not members at the time they are supposed to have attacked from “within the community.” A favorite means of lending authority to attacks on the Mormon Church has ever been the announcement that the attacker was himself once a good and active Mormon. But since the only qualification for such a title is one’s demonstrated capacity to remain true and faithful to the end, no backslider can claim it. Mr. Turner’s problem is to tell the world that the question of the papyri has split the Mormons, without actually saying so—an assignment for which he is peculiarly well-fitted.

 

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