Thus Malcolm Muggeridge’s poignant question, “Would something like the miracle of Bethlehem even be allowed to happen in our day?” (M. Muggeridge, Jesus, p. 19):
In humanistic times like ours, a contemporary virgin … would regard a message from the Angel Gabriel that she might expect to give birth to a son to be called the Son of the Highest as ill-tidings of great sorrow … It is, in point of fact, extremely improbable, under existing conditions, that Jesus would have been permitted to be born at all. Mary’s pregnancy, in poor circumstances, and with the father unknown, would have been an obvious case for an abortion; and her talk of having conceived as a result of the intervention of the Holy Ghost would have pointed to the need for psychiatric treatment, and made the case for terminating her pregnancy even stronger. Thus our generation, needing a Savior more, perhaps, than any that has ever existed, would be too humane to allow one to be born; too enlightened to permit the Light of the World to shine in a darkness that grows ever more oppressive.
 Already in 1905, George Chesterton could write: “Atheism itself is too theological for us today” (G. K. Chesterton, Heretics, p. 40). Likewise, Charles Taylor provides an eloquent discussion of the process and consequences of the loss of “immediate certainty” of the moral/spiritual in Western culture (C. Taylor, Secular Age-see, e.g., pp. 11ff. See also T. Asad, Construction, pp. 47-52). This point is illustrated by Dan Peterson in his discussion of an essay by Jacob Weisberg that views “reliance upon religious faith in general, not merely Mormonism, as an alternative to rational understanding of complex issues’… Weisberg regards all religious doctrines as dogmatic, irrational, and absurd. By holding them, someone indicates a basic failure to think for himself or see the world as it is.’ [See Asad for a view that “the reasons for a person’s attachment to a given way of life, or conversion to another, cannot be reduced to an idealized model of scientific theory building” (ibid., p. 235).] More commonly held creeds have simply been granted an unmerited patina of respectability by the sheer passage of time. Perhaps Christianity and Judaism are merely more venerable and poetic versions of the same. But a few eons makes a big difference'” (D. C. Peterson, Reflections pp. xxiii-xxiv. See J. Weisberg, Romney’s Religion.) Peterson also cites a critical review of Bushman’s biography of Joseph Smith which implied that Bushman was overreaching himself in crafting a book that tries to make a place for “both inspiration and rational discourse.” Peterson notes the “apparent assumption that rational discourse and inspiration are radically incompatible” and cites the reviewer’s declaration “that, in order to earn a secular historian’s acceptance, Smith’s revelations would need to be explained materially as a product of his cultural or physical environment'” (D. C. Peterson, Reflections p. xxx. See L. F. Maffly-Kipp, Who’s That, p. 11).
Nonmember historian Jan Shipps’ experiences in responding to media questions about Mormonism illustrate the kinds of issues that arise for believers of all faiths in our day (J. Shipps, Sojourner, pp. 282-283; cf. R. L. Bushman, Mormonism pp. 113-114):
I remember very well how the voice of one reporter coming across the telephone wire expressed both exasperation and astonishment. “How,” he wailed, “can perfectly sane people believe all this crazy stuff?” Because I had spent the first half of the 1980s writing a book designed to answer that very question, I had a ready reply… It usually began with my pointing out that the idea that Joseph Smith found golden plates and had revelations was not any more absurd than the idea that Moses and the Hebrews walked across the Red Sea without getting wet or that Jesus, who was dead, is now alive.
That debates about the reality of Jesus’ resurrection are not a new phenomenon of the age of science is emphasized by N. T. Wright, who reminds us: “We didn’t need Galileo and Einstein to tell us that dead people don’t come back to life” (N. T. Wright, Surprised, p. 294).
Getting to the nub of the problem, Jacob Neusner concludes that “among our colleagues are some who do not really like religion in its living forms, but find terribly interesting religion in its dead ones. That is why an old Christian text, one from the first century for example, is deemed a worthy subject of scholarship. But a fresh Christian expression (I think in this connection of the Book of Mormon) is available principally for ridicule, but never for study. Religious experience in the third century is fascinating. Religious experience in the twentieth century is frightening or absurd” (J. Neusner, Vocation, p. 117).
While not accepting the historicity of the Book of Mormon, non-Mormon scholar Thomas O’Dea is one who at least took the book seriously “as a legitimate work of religious literature” and acknowledged that most of the theories of its origin advanced by its critics were unconvincing (A. L. Mauss, Near-Nation, p. 307). He observed with irony that “the Book of Mormon has not been universally considered by its critics as one of those books that must be read in order to have an opinion of it” (T. F. O’Dea, Mormons, p. 26).
 Dickens later spoke admiringly of an uneducated but orderly group of Mormon emigrants he observed in Liverpool, concluding to his own surprise that if he hadn’t have known who they were: “I should have said they were in their degree, the pick and flower of England” (C. Dickens, Traveler, 22, 4 July 1863, p. 262). “Dickens related his experience to Richard Monckton Milnes, Lord Houghton, who said that he had himself written on the topic of the Latter-day Saints in the Edinburgh Review in January 1862. In his article Milnes refers to a House of Commons inquiry in 1854 … : The Select Committee of the House of Commons on emigrant ships for 1854 summoned the Mormon agent and passenger-broker before it, and came to the conclusion that no ships under the provisions of the Passengers Act’ could be depended upon for comfort and security in the same degree as those under his administration …. [T]he Mormon ship is a Family under a strong and accepted discipline, with every provision for comfort, decorum and internal peace'” (P. E. Kerry, Carlyle, pp. 266-267).
Dickens’ contemporaries John Stuart Mill and Thomas Carlyle also wrote sympathetically about the Mormons. In his 1859 essay On Liberty, Mill decried “the language of downright persecution which breaks out from the press of this country, whenever it feels called on to notice the remarkable phenomenon of Mormonism.” While characterizing the religion as “the product of palpable imposture,” all the more incredible because of its appearance “in the age of newspapers, railways, and the electric telegraph,” Mill was not at all partial to the teachings of the Church. However, it deeply concerned him that “its prophet and founder was, for his teaching, put to death by a mob; that others of its adherents lost their lives by the same lawless violence; that they were forcibly expelled, in a body, from the country in which they first grew up; while, now that they have been chased into a solitary recess in the midst of a desert, many in this country openly declare that it would be right (only that it is not convenient) to send an expedition against them, and compel them by force to conform to the opinions of other people.
” That legitimate means of persuasion could be used to counter its teachings seemed acceptable. “But when the dissentients have conceded to the hostile sentiments of others, far more than could justly be demanded; when they have left the countries to which their doctrines were unacceptable, and established themselves in a remote corner of the earth, which they have been the first to render habitable to human beings; it is difficult to see on what principles but those of tyranny they can be prevented from living there under what laws they please, provided they commit no aggression on other nations, and allow perfect freedom of departure to those who are dissatisfied with their ways” (J. S. Mill, Liberty, pp. 163-166).
In the 1854 draft of his Essay on the Mormons, Carlyle described Mormonism as “a gross physical form of Calvinism… but in this one point incommensurably (transcendently) superior to all other forms of religion now extant. That it is believed, that it is practically acted upon from day to day and from hour to hour; taken as a very fact, the neglect or contradiction of which will vitiate and ruin all other facts of the day and of the hour. That is its immeasurable superiority” (cited in (P. E. Kerry, Carlyle, pp. 266-267, p. 270).
 Thomas W. Merrill describes the prevailing attitudes of contentious believers and unbelievers as follows (T. W. Merrill, Children of Skeptics, pp. 238-239):
In the absence of a more satisfying refutation on the merits, … published attacks on orthodoxy [have often taken] the form of mockery. Mockery – still a dominant mode of critique of religion among today’s avowed atheists – insinuates that religious belief is mere prejudice, mere unthinking habit that has been shed by all forward thinking persons, who cannot help but have contempt or condescending pity for those stick-in-the-mud believers. In turn, those believers cannot help but resent the evident contempt of the intellectuals. Enlightenment thus understood is necessarily divisive: even to this day in all Western democracies, believers and unbelievers confront each other with the haughtiness of contempt on the one side and an understandable resentment on the other.
 J. Hannay, Smith, p. 385, cited in R. J. Dunn, Dickens, p. 4. A non-LDS observer similarly wrote of the Mormons in 2009: “What would do you do if you met people you admired greatly, who reminded you of the best examples of your fellow believers, yet whose faith rested on what you saw as patent absurdities” W. Lobdell, Losing, pp. 121-122). He goes on to concede, however: “Yet what’s so strange about Mormonism compared to traditional Christianity … The details of Mormonism are fresher, but not much more strange and mythical” ibid., pp. 126, 127).
Elder Neal A. Maxwell expressed his “special appreciation for my friends who, though resolutely irreligious themselves, were not scoffers. Instead, though doubtless puzzled by me and their other religious friends, they were nevertheless respectful. I admire the day-to-day decency of such men and women. Though detached from theology, their decency is commendable” (N. A. Maxwell, Inexhaustible, p. 216). Among the many religious non-Mormon friends is historian Jan Shipps. She put her finger on part of the problem that people encounter in understanding LDS beliefs when she observed that “Mormonism is a really complex theological system … All its parts fit together beautifully. But if you just know a little bit about one of them, or part of them, it seems weird” (M. Luo, Test. For an insightful essay charting the historical evolution of charges that Mormonism is not Christian, see J. Shipps, Sojourner, pp. 335-357. For general overviews of changes in public perceptions of the Mormons in America, see T. L. Givens, Viper; J. Shipps, Sojourner, pp. 51-123).
The well-known Vatican astronomer, Guy Consolmagno, found that two religions were universally dismissed by the subjectively selected sample of scientists and engineers he interviewed as “obviously wrong”: Scientology and Mormonism. However, he also notes a difference between the two: “… no scientist of my acquaintance has ever had something good to say about Scientology – rather ironic, given its name. But as it happens, I know a number of techies who are Mormons, including my thesis advisor at MIT” (G. Consolmagno, God’s Mechanics, p. 98). Consolmagno’s masters thesis advisor was John S. Lewis, a speaker at this event, who joined the Church in Boston while teaching at MIT and, among many other accomplishments, was an internationally-respected professor of planetary science at the University of Arizona.
As one who has experienced both the perplexity and the generosity of spirit of his non-LDS colleagues, prominent Mormon historian Richard L. Bushman shared the following (R. L. Bushman, R. L. Bushman, pp. 79-80):
I have lived an academic life ever since I graduated from Harvard College in 1955 and then later received a Ph.D. in the history of American civilization from that same institution. Since then I have taught at Brigham Young University, Boston University, and the University of Delaware, been visiting professor at Brown and Harvard universities, and now am Gouverneur Morris Professor of History at Columbia University. In these many years as an academic, I have never been belittled for my religious beliefs or felt excluded. I have published books, contributed to conferences, entered into scholarly controversies, and had my share of honors without once feeling that my well-known faith raised a barrier. Only now and then have I caught a glimpse of the wonder my colleagues must feel that a rational, modern man believes the stories and doctrines of the Latter-day Saints. Soon after I was hired as professor of history and chair of the department at the University of Delaware, a member of the search committee invited me to lunch. While we were driving along, I mentioned my work on a biography of Joseph Smith, the founder of the Latter-day Saint Church. My colleague, doubtless to reassure me, turned quickly and said, “Dick, we took all that into account and decided it didn’t matter.” Apparently he was thinking of the peculiar tic in my intellectual makeup that allowed me to hold these strange beliefs. A similar reaction greeted me on coming to Columbia in 1989. Introduced to a member of the faculty, he said jovially, “Oh, you’re the Mormon,” an entirely amiable remark meant to make me feel at home. But one can imagine the repercussions if a new faculty member at Brigham Young University was greeted with “Oh, you’re the Jew,” or “Oh, you’re the Catholic.”
The extravagant nature of the Latter-day Saint religion probably accounts for the perplexity of my colleagues. Christian and Jewish doctrines, weathered by time, no longer strike people as bizarre or unusual.
One can hold to one of the moderate versions of these ancient religions without startling one’s friends. But Joseph Smith saw the angel Moroni less than two hundred years ago and then brought home gold plates and translated the Book of Mormon. These miraculous events, happening so close to home, strain one’s credulity. How can anyone in this day of science and skepticism believe that God sends angels to speak to humans and requires such unlikely acts as the translation of an ancient history with the aid of a Urim and Thummim? My sophomore tutor, the distinguished historian of science, I. B. Cohen, once coyly mentioned to me that many people thought LDS beliefs were pure garbage. He doubtless was trying gently to bring me to my senses after my sheltered upbringing as a member of the Church.
While Mormons regard many of the doctrinal elaborations that occurred during the early centuries of Christianity as unwarranted intrusions of Greek philosophy into the straightforward historical truths of the Gospel, some non-Mormons see LDS theology merely as simplistic and nave. For example Thomas Cahill writes that Mormonism resembles Manichaeism in its philosophical impoverishment, being “full of assertions, but [yielding] no intellectual system to nourish a great intellect” (T. Cahill, Irish, p. 49). While a strong rebuttal of Cahill’s claim could be buttressed with arguments from a long line of scholars, both Mormon and non-Mormon, who have recognized the unique riches of the LDS tradition, such an argument would distract attention from a more central point: Like all religious traditions with which I am personally acquainted, the primary interest of Mormonism is in developing a universal community of saints not an elite cadre of scholars (see J. E. Faulconer, Tracy; J. Siebach, Response). In his essay on the Difference between a Genius and an Apostle, Kierkegaard eloquently captures this distinction between what he calls a “genius” and an “apostle” (S. Kierkegaard, Purity, from Translator’s Introduction, p. 21):
The genius, an aristocrat of the spirit, has had gifts lavished upon him by nature that distinguish him from his fellows. The apostle may be a commoner, a fisherman, a one-talent man by nature, or he may have ten talents-yet all that he has is dedicated to the service of the Eternal and as such is lifted up. The genius speaks with brilliance and charm. The apostle speaks with authority. The way of the genius is a way closed to all but a few. The way of the apostle is a way open to all as individuals-even to the genius himself if he can forsake the absorbing satisfactions of a brilliant self-sufficiency and be ready to will one thing.
For a similar point of view, see H. W. Nibley, Prophets. See also J. S. Tanner, Men and Mantles, pp. 159-160; J. L. Kugel, How to Read, pp. 679-689.
 J. E. Seaich, Ancient Texts 1995, p. vii.
 M. Barker, Hidden, p. 34.
 LaCocque observes: “To consider [such stories as tales] for children is only possible when the story is vaguely known, when it is considered from a distance, and with a preconceived feeling that nothing can be learned from so nave’ a tale” (A. LaCocque, Trial, pp. 10-11).
 H. W. Nibley, Before Adam, p. 63.
 1 Corinthians 13:11.
 “Thomas Paine, in his 1794 treatise The Age of Reason, dismissed the Flood story in one line by saying: The story of Eve and the serpent, and of Noah and his Ark, drops to a level with the Arabian Nights, without the merit of being entertaining” (J. D. Pleins, When, p. 19). Characterizing the view of contemporary scholarship, Elizabeth Harper observes: “Noah’s Ark still appeals as a colorful children’s toy, but otherwise it is a story much out of favor. It is, after all, historically ridiculous and even morally reprehensible. While it provides a fine example of source divisions for introductory biblical classes, exciting scholarly work seems to lie elsewhere” (E. A. Harper, It’s All (2013), p. 32). Cf. Richard Dawkins: “the legend of the animals going into the Ark two by two is charming, but the moral of the story of Noah is appalling” (R. Dawkins, Delusion, p. 237).
 J. David Pleins observes: “Creating a science of the Flood has not necessarily helped to shore up biblical belief. In fact, the preposterous character of so many of the proposals made belief in the Bible seem ludicrous” (J. D. Pleins, When, p. 11). Continuing, he writes (ibid., pp. 65-66):
Eating from the fruit of the tree of scientific knowledge has led to a loss of innocence for many believers. The sort of literalism demanded by so many fundamentalists today does not ring true to those who take the geological and evolutionary sciences seriously. Yet is there a place for religion at the table of the sciences? The culture war that creationists are waging has pushed many scientifically minded people away from interest in religion. Many secular scientists join the creationists in thinking that religion and science must ever be in conflict with one another. While rightly wishing to keep creation science out of the biology classroom, those who erect a barrier between modern science and religion run the risk of throwing the baby out with the bath water. Believers in the Bible have not always had a siege mentality when it comes to the sciences. In fact, the popularity of flood geology and creation science serves to conceal the many and varied attempts to bring religious realism and a scientific sensibility to the interpretation of scriptures. Since these more creative efforts, rather than fundamentalism, have dominated the Jewish and Christian centuries, the alternative approaches deserve separate treatment.
 N. Wyatt, Water, p. 219. For a survey of equally dubious modern attempts to create replicas of the Ark, see P. B. Thomas, Go-4-Wood.
 S. Lessin, Galzu. Sasha Lessin, who also goes by the name of Alex, claims a Ph.D. in anthropology from UCLA and describes himself as the “Dean of Instruction at Tantra Theosophical and Gaia Worshipping Society of the Divine Human Family.”
 P. Hall, Just How Much. See E. D. Cohen et al., After Me, for their analysis of three popular “apocalyptic” films with respect to their a “Noahide Apocalyptic Template.”
 Noah (Film), Noah (Film).
 P. Hall, Just How Much.
J. Smith, Jr., Teachings, 25 March 1839, p. 137.
 J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1; J. M. Bradshaw et al., God’s Image 2.
 D. Alighieri, La Divina Commedia, Inferno: Canto 4:13: “Or discendiam qua gi nel cieco mondo.”
 The virtuous Roman Virgil, the greatest of poets, served as a guide for Dante in his journeys through the frights of Hell and Purgatory in the Divine Comedy. However, because Virgil was unbaptized he could not accompany Dante on his visit to Paradise.
 R. Dawkins in D. Van Biema, God vs. Science, p. 55. As a matter of scientific principle, Dawkins has classed himself as a TAP (Temporary Agnostic in Practice), though he thinks the probability of a God is very small, and certainly in no sense would want to be “misunderstood as endorsing faith” (L. M. Krauss et al., Science (online)).
 L. M. Krauss et al., Science (online). Though personally rejecting the notion of a personal God, Albert Einstein is an example of one whose deeply-held “vision of unity and order” (C. H. Townes, Convergence, p. 66) – which throughout his life played an important role in shaping his scientific intuitions (see, e.g., E. Isaac, 1 Enoch, p. 335) – was chiefly motivated by his profound sense of awe and humility in the face of the lawful and “marvelously arranged” universe: “Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe-a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble” ibid., p. 388). Often more critical of the debunkers of religion than of na.ve believers in God, he explained: “The fanatical atheists are like slaves who are still feeling the weight of their chains which they have thrown off after hard struggle. They are creatures who-in their grudge against traditional religion as the opium of the masses’ – cannot hear the music of the spheres” (ibid., p. 390).
 Cited in N. A. Maxwell, Cosmos, p. 1.
 “Thy mind, O man! If thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity-thou must commune with God. How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God, than the vain imaginations of the human heart!” (J. Smith, Jr., Teachings, 25 March 1839, p. 137). For an insightful discussion of this imperative, see J. W. Welch, Thy Mind.
 Articles of Faith 1:9.
 For example, in the most recent statement by a standing Prophet specifically addressing the origin of man to appear in an official Church publication, President Spencer W. Kimball wrote: “The Creators breathed into their nostrils the breath of life and man and woman became living souls. We don’t know exactly how their coming into this world happened, and when we’re able to understand it the Lord will tell us” (Church Educational System, Religion 327, p. 9; S. W. Kimball, Blessings, emphasis added).
 J. Smith, Jr., Teachings, 16 June 1844, p. 374.
 Ibid., 16 June 1844, p. 374.
 Ibid., 20 January 1844, p. 331.
 “But there has been a great difficulty in getting anything into the heads of this generation. It has been like splitting hemlock knots with a corn-dodger [= a hard, fried corn-meal cake] for a wedge, and a pumpkin for a beetle [= a heavy hammer, a maul]” (ibid., 20 January 1844, p. 331).
 R. L. Bushman, Rough Stone, p. 200 summarized the difficulties:
… “The Vision” confused Mormons who saw only its universalist bent. For most Christians, universal salvation exceeded the limits of acceptable orthodoxy. One Mormon [Brigham Young] reflected later that “my traditions were such, that when the Vision came first to me, it was so directly contrary and opposed to my former education, I said, wait a little; I did not reject it, but I could not understand it” (B. Young, 28 August 1852, p. 31, cited in R. J. Woodford, Historical Development., 2:929). Others who were “stumbling at it” did object. At a conference in Geneseo, New York, held to deal with the controversy, one brother declared “the vision was of the Devil & he believed it no more than he believed the devil was crucified” (cited in ibid., 2:930). Ezra Landon was cut off from the Church for insisting “the vision was of the Devil came from hel[l]” (cited in ibid., 2:931). Eventually Joseph counseled missionaries against publicizing “The Vision” prematurely. The first missionaries to England were told to stick to the first principles of the Gospel (J. Smith, Jr., Documentary History, 11 June 1837, 2:492). Other members found it thrilling. William Phelps immediately published “The Vision” in the Church newspaper in Missouri (E & MS, E & MS, vol. 1, no. 2, July 1832, pp. 27-30).
See R. J. Woodford, Historical Development., 2:929-933 for a more detailed account of the difficulties of the Saints with this revelation. See also D. Q. Cannon, Section 76, p. 414; B. Young, 18 May 1873, p. 42; M. McBride, The Vision. For more on universalism and the revelations of Joseph Smith, see C. P. Griffiths, Universalism.
Joseph Smith lamented: “I could explain a hundred fold more than I have of the glories of the kingdoms manifested in the vision, were I permitted, and were the people prepared to receive them. The Lord deals with this people as a tender parent with a child, communicating light and intelligence and the knowledge of His ways as they can bear it” (J. Smith, Jr., Teachings, 21 May 1843, p. 305).
 See a discussion of this issue in M. A. Wright, Heartland.
 Moses 1:33. See also Moses 1:35; D&C 76:24; D&C 88:46-61.
 The technique that Pisano uses for his engravings is called in French taille douce (literally gentle or delicate carving). “This is an engraving technique which involves hollowing out a metal-plate (zinc, copper, etc.) by the action of acid after making the drawing with an etcher’s needles, burin, aquateinte, etc. After inking, the prints are printed one by one with a hand press. The pressure is very high and allows the paper to pick up the ink from the hollows in the metal. The prints… are made from one, two, or three plates.” (N. Pisano, Prehistoric Engravings (Unpublished broadside))
 For a comprehensive and beautifully illustrated survey of European paleolithic art, see J. Clottes, L’Art.
 The description of how the image was created is drawn from I.
Cahn et al., L’Art, p. 16.
 Free translation of T. Flix et al., Prhistoire, pp. 106-107, with additional details provided by R. Teyssedou et al., Guide de Visite.
 See, e.g., H. W. Nibley, Dominion.
 H. W. Nibley, Before Adam, pp. 50, 51, 82-83.
 Moses 1:31.
 J. L. Sorenson, Ancient, pp. 50-56.
 Moses 5:12, 16.
 H. W. Nibley, Before Adam, p. 78 and Moses 7:33, 37.
 H. W. Nibley, Return, pp. 62-63 and Moses 5:5-9; cf. Revelation 20:12.
 E.g., F. S. Collins, Language, p. 126.
 M. J. W. Leith, Who Did Cain Marry?, p. 22. In addition to what limited arguments can be made from biblical sources, Leith cites Egyptologist Gerald Moers, who “has observed that in ancient Egypt, the word for Egyptian’ was also the word for human.’ Foreigners/outsiders were inhuman or subhuman and represented injustice and chaos: Non-Egyptians were barbaric … [with] monstrous bodies … animal-like, and a proper pharaoh kept them firmly under his foot.”
 Moses 5:12.
 Moses 7:21.
 Moses 7:12, 22.
 Moses 7:27.
 Moses 6:38.
 Moses 6:41.
 Moses 8:41-42.
 Moses 7:51-53.
 Moses 7:51-53.
 Moses 8:2-3.
 Moses 7:22.
 R. Parr, Missing, pp. 94-97.
 2 Nephi 27:20, 21.
 N. A. Maxwell, Richness. In another reference to these verses, Elder Maxwell said: “God’s capacity is such that two times in two verses in the Book of Mormon, He reassures us in a very polite but pointed way, I am able to do mine own work’ (2 Nephi 27:20-21). Is He ever!” (N. A. Maxwell, Wondrous, p. 33).