An Open Letter to Rodney Meldrum #2
AN OPEN LETTER TO ROD MELDRUM – Number 2 [14 July 2011]
[Dr. Gregory Smith’s reply is below. Rod's paraphrased text is in red.
On Jul 13, 2011, rodney meldrum wrote:
Thanks for responding with your open letter. I’ve read it but need to look at it more closely. It seems
civil but it can be frustrating that our dialogue hasn’t brought us closer to agreement.
You are welcome. I am glad you think it an improvement, though I honestly don't think my message
or tone has changed much. I reiterate again that I do not speak for FAIR, the Maxwell Institute, BYU,
or the Church.
I’ll try to respond but am unsure when that will be. I don’t know if I feel if it is important to give
your organization my response before I publish it. I’d give it more thought if I could trust our
dialogue would remain behind the scenes, but FAIR has made it evident that whatever I email
out is available for them to use. I can’t see us having an open discussion because if I change
something, FAIR will use that as evidence of me being wrong and admitting to it.
We've never done this to you—you've never admitted you were wrong about anything except
Pres Hinckley's quote, so we certainly haven't had anything to “use against you”.
We told you upfront in the beginning we were not willing to have "off the record" conversations
generally. We have nothing to hide, and since you often misrepresent what written documents
say, it is important to be able to substantiate the actual content of the conversation.
That said, when we forwarded you our research, one stipulation was that you were not to
reproduce it or share it, and were to destroy it when the deadline expired. So far as I know,
you kept that part of the agreement, and I think the management board of FAIR would be
willing to have a similar stipulation in regards to looking at your material.
If you are referring to the e-mail you sent to your supporters discussing spiritual witnesses
and signs from God, that was not a private e-mail from you to us. It was not a private e-mail
at all, because we received multiple copies of it from various sources.
FAIR members received three copies of your e-mail discussing your sign seeking, etc.
Copies came from areas as widely spaced as Utah and northern Alberta that I know of.
That's a pretty wide-spread message—not a small circle of people.
And, even if it was: why would that matter? You said those things; they (I presume)
accurately describe how you were marketing yourself to those you hoped would support.
And, it is that which most concerns me.
I cannot trust FAIR, again. After what we experienced previously, I don’t feel comfortable divulging
any information because it will be used against me
The decision is yours. But, we have scrupulously kept every agreement we have made with
you, and done exactly what we said we would do. You have not. And, what motive would we
have to betray an agreement? You could just use that fact to discredit us. Doesn't make
sense. Plus, it would be wrong.
Will there ever be a time when FAIR/NAMI/BMAF will accept my theory as an alternative theory
to Mesoamerica? Will this ever happen? Will I ever be allowed to teach my theory at a FAIR
conference, FAIR Youtube channel to show that they are not biased in regards to Book of Mormon
[GLS] I reiterate again that our concern is not with a North American model. I think it
virtually certain, though, that there is no way you would present at a FAIR conference (or the
Maxwell Institute, I suspect; I have no knowledge of BMAF) as long as you:
• claim that Joseph Smith had a revelation that the leaders of the Church do not recognize;
• malign the faithfulness or question the testimony of those who disagree with you;
• do not retract and refrain from your claims about getting signs from God connected with this material;
• do not retract and refrain from efforts to use personal blessings, revelations, etc. as support for your endeavors;
• do not remove the many testimonials from your website that add fuel to the fire for the above two items re: revelation, etc.
• provided fuel and tacit encouragement for the rather deplorable behavior of those who agree with you (such as Mr. Stephen Reed's recurrent attack by e-mail on Dan Peterson) and thus follow your lead in declaring those who disagree as idiots and/or apostates undermining the Church. He is exhibit A for how divisive, juvenile, and inappropriate your tactics and message are. And, he is not an isolated example, unfortunately.
Now, could you or someone else present about a North American model if these were not
issues? Of course. But, you would have to have work that would stand up to scientific review,
and be useful in the defense of the Church, the Saints, and our leaders.
FAIR is not a group for spreading ideas about Mormon things; it is targeted at helping
members or interested non-members who are troubled by attacks upon the doctrines,
scriptures, and leaders of the Church.
As a result, we only want thorough, solid stuff that will help create a climate in which faith and
testimony can flourish. It does not good to present easily-debunked ideas. So, there is some
filter first to find only useful material.
For example, if you were going to talk on DNA, someone like Ugo Perego would have to
agree you've used all the data responsibly and fairly. You couldn't be doing any of your "Well,
we know mankind can't be that old, so this data is wrong, and it really means this but the
scientists are too stubborn to see it,” tactics. That just isn't an honest scholarly approach, and
it will backfire, even if you are right about the age of humanity. You don't get to cook data that
way. It just isn't done. It is dishonest.
I don't know the geography and archaeology standards you'd have to satisfy; as I've
repeatedly said I don't really follow that area for Mesoamerica or other regions. I'm mainly
interested in internal models of Book of Mormon geography.
So, yes, you could present in principle—but, at present your ideas come nowhere close to
meeting the proper scholarly standards, even if the more troubling theological/behavioral
issues didn't exist. I know that's a hard thing to hear, but it is an honest and much-shared
assessment of where you are at at present.
I don’t foresee this happening. That would mean that these organizations would have to back
off as Mesoamerica being the only possibility.
[GLS] I can't speak for the BMAF, but I repeat again that neither the Maxwell Institute or FAIR
thinks it is the only possibility.
What does “the consensus” mean? All it means is that informed people who have looked at
the matter have come to a general agreement about what all the data mean. It's a provisional
conclusion, nothing more.
Consensus changes all the time in science—but, to change it means data has to be better
understood, more potent arguments, or better data. Telling you something is “the consensus”
isn't intended to shut down the discussion—it's an attempt to persuade you that you are not
yet familiar enough with a discussion that has been going on for over a hundred years, and in
a serious, rigorous way for at least half a century. If you want to join the conversation, you
have to show some mastery and awareness of what has gone before, and respond to it
A (Hopefully Helpful) Example
Let's give you an example to show what I mean. I audited a Greek class once upon a time. I
think Greek is very cool. I can read it by sounding out the letters, and I can use dictionaries
and concordances given enough time.
Now, let's imagine that I come up with what I think is a game-changing, brilliant deduction
concerning the Greek text of the New Testament. No one has thought of it before! This is
So, anxious to share my discovery, I tell my acquaintances about it. They have PhDs in
Greek, they've studied it for years. They quickly look at my argument and say, “No, sorry, it
isn't right.” Privately, they shake their heads, and note that a first year undergraduate in
Greek wouldn't have made the errors I made. It can't even get off the ground, so to speak.
Now, this offends me. They've hardly glanced at it! How do they know? Just because they
have credentials, it doesn't mean they're right, does it? No. It must be a plot. They're
jealous, or scared of it, or maybe they really don't believe Jesus was resurrected, and my
work proves it! No wonder they're trying to shut me down.
Now, of course, authority or experience alone means nothing, ultimately. It doesn't matter if I
don't have credentials—if my arguments and evidence can make my case. But, my grounding
in the necessary field is limited. I've not had formal training. I don't understand all the
complexities of the situation. Some very bright people have given the Greek text of the New
Testament a great deal of attention for many years.
It bears thinking about very, very hard that what seems very convincing to me (an amateur in
Greek things) is not going to be persuasive at all to someone who has dedicated ten or fifteen
years to its study—or a lifetime, especially when you factor in everyone that has gone before
and the accumulated wisdom upon which they can draw.
This is the situation you are in with genetics particularly, and with the broader geography
questions generally. You do not seem to have mastered what has gone before. Even if you
want to change the consensus, or think it wrong, you must show that you understand why the
consensus is what it is. You need to address the very best evidences that the consensus has,
and show them why your model is better. (This does not consist in merely running down the
'consensus,' or complaining that there is a consensus, or misrepresenting it, or trying to take a
short cut by claiming Joseph had a revelation that agrees with you and disagrees with the
In my Greek example, I could claim that the Greek experts are just arrogant, or just out to
defend what they've always thought or said. Maybe that's true. But, what's more likely—that
I, a rank amateur, has stumbled on to a game-changing discovery, or that I am mistaken or
haven't understood everything quite right? Which would you bet on? Humility argues for the
Your continued insistence that a commitment to evolution or Mesoamerica blinds people is a
cop-out. If you were right, the scholar that could prove it would be famous (in and out of the
Church), would get a ton of research money forever, and (more importantly to a scientist) a
ton of awards and professional recognition. Any scholar would jump at that. They might even
steal it from you, if they could get away with it. :-) The fact that none so far think you're on to
much should tell you something. You haven't made the case you think you have. It is not
nearly as compelling and air-tight as you believe.
Your enthusiasm is understandable, but misplaced. But, no one would really care if you
hadn't done the theological/behavioral things I listed above in the bullet points. You would
have just been ignored, as so many other failed theories have been and will continue to be.
Taking Your Model Seriously
I don’t see this happening, so why even make an attempt to reconcile? I want my theory taken
seriously by FAIR and hopefully to even improve it.
As I have said before, we took it very seriously. We looked at it very closely. And, it just didn't
add up. It failed almost every test we applied to it.
That is a mark of respect. If I was going to “disrespect” someone, I would just give it a flip
dismissal--”That's crazy” or “That's stupid.” Not worth my time to look close, or justify my
I and others have not done this. I've written dozens, if not hundreds, of pages about it, from a
host of angles. I don't do that for ideas that I don't treat with respect. Life is too short. I gave
you every benefit of the doubt that I could, but it didn't help. I regret that, but it's the truth.
That is why it is so annoying to have you continually claim that this is just because of my
secret Darwinism or Mesoamerican bias. It just ain't so, Joe. And, you doing that disrespects
me and others who have done what you claim you wanted—responded in a scholarly
discussion of your model. Why did we bother if you're just going to brush everything aside by
complaining we're “closet evolutionists” supposedly making money on Book of Mormon tours
to Central America? That's not a response, that's simply an insult. It's taking your ball and
No one from these organizations has said anything positive about my theory. This is not normal.
They should discuss the strengths and weaknesses but only point out the negative. They reject
I'm glad you noticed. Now, I'm going to tell you something, and you're not going to like it, but I
swear to you that it's the honest truth. And that is this:
The reason no one has said, “Hey, great idea, no one's thought of that before” is
because you have not (yet) presented anything that is new that is supported or
accurate. You haven't given me anything to work with.
I've mostly dealt with the genetics arguments, but Rod, in all honesty, there was hardly a
single paper that you quoted from the DNA literature (and I read them all) that you
represented fairly or accurately. Your DNA stuff is wrong almost from beginning to end. It just
doesn't work. There are even areas (and I point these out) where you make mistakes, and
those mistakes work against your theory. There are areas that if you had gotten them right, it
would have made your theory more plausible.
When you're making errors that make your case worse, this suggests that you really just don't
understand the material. And, that is no shame—this is complex stuff. I can wade in those
waters only because I spent three and a half years in a research-based physiology program
before medical school, where I did this type of thing day in and day out. I had whole courses
dedicated to it.
My medical training also spent a lot of time dissecting scientific papers. This is a learned skill,
and if you haven't been taught by someone who knows what they're doing, and practiced a
lot, it is hard to be good at it.
In short, you do not seem to realize how much you do not know. And, that is a dangerous
place to be, because you “don't know what you don't know.” I have the advantage, because I
at least know what I don't know. ;-)
You've admitted that you have no training in genetics, and that it isn't even the focus of your
research for your biology textbook. Again, not to be unkind—but it shows. You are like me
claiming to write fluent Greek when I've had a night class or two and know the Greek alphabet
—what you are producing is genetic gobbledy-gook, just as I would if I tried to break new
ground in Greek.
(I suspect some of the ideas aren't even original to you—I've seen a variation on your
argument in the so-called “creation science” literature that makes the same errors.1 This is
not a recipe for success, especially because if you borrowed the idea or approach, you didn't
even do the initial leg-work yourself. If this were the case, it would explain much. Is it?)
Starting from Scratch
The only way to make your organization happy is if I abandoned it altogether. I cannot do that
because I believe it is true and, in my opinion, gives more answers than other theories.
You are welcome to believe so, and I'm not insisting you “agree” to things you don't agree
with. But, if all the experts disagree with you, humility demands, doesn't it, that we step back
and say, “Maybe I'm missing some things that make this not work”?
You didn't like it before, but I really recommend you look again at my little blurb on self-doubt
in science. I did mean it to be helpful, and it does apply. You would spare yourself a lot of
grief and blind alleys if you observed these principles:
It is, contrary to your memory (which is probably shaded by your emotions of the time) neither
1 See Carl Wieland, “A shrinking date for 'Eve',” Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal (1998) 12(1): 1-3. On-line
version at http://creation.com/a-shrinking-date-for-eve. harsh, nor shrill, nor rude.
But, all that aside, I bet FAIR and the Maxwell Institute would have little concern about you, I
repeat yet again, if you just had a bad theory. It's all the other nonsense that has gone along
with it that is the cause of your grief.
Let “The People” Decide?
This theory has never been given an objective chance by these organizations as I see it, so if I
want it to be heard I need to take it to the people.
The problem, though, is that “the people” know less than you do about genetics, usually. So,
you have the risk of “the blind leading the blind.” Just because you can persuade a bunch of
people who know no human population genetics shouldn't increase your confidence. If what
you are telling people is not true, then you'll never know it, and neither will they. This may
speak to your ability as a salesman, but doesn't help you know if the science is right, partly
right, or completely wrong.
And, this happens, sadly. You misrepresent the data. Hence my review. If they have the
patience, they can read both. I explain in gory detail why what you make sound so convincing
is, in fact, not convincing at all.
Science and scholarship is done by peer review—you have to convince your “peers,” the
people who have the best chance of knowing what you're talking about. You're trying to shortcircuit
this process, and sell it for money. That looks suspicious.
Believe me or not, I gave your theory every benefit of the doubt. I really did. I discussed this
My initial reaction was that it didn't all add up but that the Xa haplogroup might be useful. I
looked into the Xa stuff for the wiki inclusion—but, it didn't work, and I dropped it. The
science just didn't add up. (I learned only later that Ugo agreed.)
That was before we learned about your sign seeking, and revelation, and condemning
scholars and all that. You know the story from there. ;-)
But, with every paper I read, it became more and more clear that you didn't know what you
were talking about. And, I'm not the only one. People who know more than me and you put
together about the topics don't agree with you either, and they agree that my reading is
correct. If the sources you're citing don't make your case, then that's as much of an
“objective” chance you can ask for.
[And for the record, I didn't need any evolutionary theory or assumptions to decide your
theory didn't work. The evo-bio aspects would also disconfirm it, but they are unnecessary to
disprove it. See here in II.D.7, for example, for completely “objective,” “measured-in-thelaboratory”
data that assume nothing about evolution that show how wrong-headed your
whole approach is.]
My review explains in great detail why your reading is wrong. You will need (if inclined) to
respond specifically to all those points, and do so without claiming that the reason I don't see
the truth that stares you in the face is because of my secret Darwinism or my deep love for
the Mesoamerican model. :-)
This is how scholarship is done.
But, again, I wouldn't have said or done much were it not for your sign-seeking, testimonials,
and slander of faithful Latter-day Saints and groups. Deal with all that, and you'll hear far less
from me, I suspect.
I would love to resolve this issue but don’t think that is possible. There is too much that has happened
but I would still like to try.
It probably is a near impossibility at least in the short term, but that is because of the “nonscholar”
problems #2 thru #4 below, and because of how far your theory has to go before it
has much to offer. I'm sorry to say that, but it is a honest assessment of where you stand a
The “Conspiracy”--One More Time!
My wish is that FAIR would just present evidence for the Mesoamerican theory without attacking the Heartland model.
Rod, I repeat yet again—for emphasis WE DON'T CARE ABOUT MESOAMERICA. :-)
Never have, never will. Give up the conspiracy angle or the “Mesoamericanists” angle, I beg
you. It isn't true, and it just distracts you from the real issues.
There are FAIR members who believe in a hemispheric model, some who are
Mesoamericanists, some who are Great Lakers, and a lot who don't know or care much.
We knew about your model before all the sign seeking stuff came to light, and didn't give it
any attention beyond a shrug.
As I have told you already, my concerns (which I believe are widely shared) are exclusively:
1) bad science being used to supposedly “shore up” the Church – though alone this would have
probably merited only a short review; such things are a dime a dozen sometimes
2) your claim that Joseph knew Book of Mormon geography by revelation – claims to
revelation that the Church authorities do not recognize are a serious matter
3) your email about sign seeking, revelation, and the website testimonials from your
audience that sing the same tune which you have chosen to post [lots of detail here in my review];
4) your repeated attacks on members of the Church for their opinions (or what you think
are their opinions), questioning their loyalty to the Church or the prophets or the
scriptures simply because they differ from you on issues about which the Church has
no official position (e.g., Book of Mormon geography, age of the earth, biology, whether
Joseph had a revelation about BoM geography, etc.)
We don't have any articles on why the Mesoamerica theory cannot be true as you have done with
You would be free to produce such things, of course. You seem to think that arguments
against Mesoamerica are arguments in favor of your model (and vice versa).
This isn't true. They are two separate issues, and it is a logical fallacy to mix them up.
To support your model, you must:
a) explain the data that Mesoamericanists use in a better way than they do; and
b) make a compelling case for your alternative location.
You must do both. And, you have tried to “short-circuit” the whole process by claiming Joseph
had a revelation, so case closed. That just won't fly.
There is more than one choice—it isn't North America vs. Mesoamerica and nothing else.
There are many other models. These could both be wrong. Or, we might have inadequate
information to come to any conclusion. Only an analysis of all the data will tell us.
Just because I've proven beyond reasonable doubt that your model is flawed, this gives not
one shred of support to another model. None. That's an entirely separate argument and set
of data. But, I'm not making those arguments, because I (a) don't know enough; and (b) don't
Material in the FAIR Wiki
We only produce materials at FAIR that we believe can be supported against the critics (or
defend against that which we perceive to be threats to the faith of the Saints). (NAMI does
this as well; I know my material for them was peer-reviewed and source-checked.)
If there is more than one viable option of which we are aware, we include all of them. We
rewrite and rework frequently when better material becomes available, or when readers or
FAIR volunteers point out problems or alternative approaches.
North American models have, so far, not yet produced much that has stood up to sustained
analysis, so we haven't done much with it. There isn't a lot out there to be used. (FAIR has
gathered this material in one spot; we have not, to my knowledge, produced any new,
independent evidence for or against any model.)
I can't find much about a North American model (save yours specifically) in the wiki, except
this, which is a response to a hostile claim that Joseph made up the names based upon local
areas in the New York area.
And this, a brief summary of some of the problems which have appeared in the peer-reviewed
There isn't even much on the Mesoamerican model, save to point out a couple of areas that
have stood peer review. See here:
Think about this—if I can find all these problems in your model, what do you think a
committed anti-Mormon could do? :-) We aren't going to use such an easy target in
attempting to encourage faith, which is our goal.
If a good chunk of LDS scholars haven't concluded a model is at least viable, it is of little use
to FAIR, since a critic can always claim that few if any other LDS don't buy it. And, they'd be
right. That may change with respect to a North American model, and when it does, our wiki
will reflect it.
But, I repeat—you don't have to have a working model for me to lose interest in further
analysis. You just have to correct the stuff that has nothing to do with your model, and
everything to do with how you have presented and marketed it (#2-#4 above).
More (Unsolicited) Advice :-)
Finally, you would do yourself a great service if you found some line of work that didn't require
you to be selling your theory.
What you are doing looks mercenary. You complain that FAIR and I question the very basis
of your theory—and, we do.
But, you cannot easily question the basis of it, even if (as I and many others have concluded)
you needed to, because if you did—there goes your job, and your income. As a wise man
once said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something that his job depends on
him not understanding.”
But, you're telling people that God told you to quit your job to sell this stuff, and gave you a
sign to do it. Even if your motives are pure as the driven snow, that looks awfully dubious. If
you're right about where the Book of Mormon took place, it doesn't change my life or income
any. If you're wrong, though—well, your life and income gets changed a great deal, doesn't
That's a tough spot to be in, and I don't envy you it.
You should try to avoid even the very “appearance of evil” on this point if you want more
You are often complaining about others disagreeing with you because of financial motives.
This is mind-reading, and a dodge. But, if it's appropriate for you to claim that about people
who don't have a clear financial incentive, how is it not fair to draw the exact same conclusion
about you, for whom a financial incentive is as plain as the nose on my face? I discuss this
In your book, you claim it is “unconscionable" to engage in "questioning . . . of motives" (p.
149; see p. 163). Yet, you question my and FAIR's motives repeatedly (see your letter above)
and those who disagree for whom you claim it's all about money. Isn't this a double
standard? You know it is wrong—but you do it repeatedly.
Once again, what you say does not match what you do. And, it is there that you will find, I
think, a chief source of your difficulties in this matter. This could be fixed, but the ability and
onus for that lies squarely (and only) on you.