When I first heard about Laura H. Hales’ book A Reason for Faith: Navigating Church History and Doctrine, I was very pleased that she was compiling essays from some of Mormonism’s best scholars to defend the faith. The most note worthy contributors, in my opinion, are Richard Bushman, Brant Gardner, Don Bradley, W Paul Reeve, and Neylan McBaine. All of these authors have done a great amount of work in regards to Mormon scholarship. And all of their opinions are worth hearing.
The book covers a series of hot button topics regarding Church history and doctrine, such as polygamy, Book of Mormon historicity, science and religion, among others, all written by experts in their field. Brian Hales, for instance, contributed the essay “Joseph Smith’s Practice of Plural Marriage” and is also the author of the cutting edge Joseph Smith’s Polgamy, vol 1-3. Another example is W. Paul Reeve who wrote “Race, the Priesthood, and Temples.” Reeve is also the author of the wonderful volume Religion of a Different Color: The Mormon Struggle for Whiteness, which he references liberally in “Race, the Priesthood, and Temples.” Like Hales and Reeve, the authors of these essays have put in a large amount of study and writing that has given them a great deal of insight to LDS History.
My favorite essay, by far, has had to be Don Bradley’s and Mark Ashurst-Mcgee’s “Joseph Smith and the Kinderhook Plates.” This essay does a find job answering the accusations many critics make regarding the Kinderhook Plates. Basically, they argue convincingly, that Joseph Smith attempted to translate the Kinderhood plates, not as a prophet, but as an amateur linguist.
My next favorite essay following that has been Ty Mansfield’s essay titles “Homosexuality and the Gospel.” Mansfield talks about the complexity of sexuality, and how it’s more for one to simply be “gay.” Gay, for some, means one thing, and for others, means something else.
In short, I think A Reason for Faith is an excellent example of how Mormon scholars answer criticisms. The essays found therein are fantastic, and give deeper meaning to Church History and Doctrine. I think Latter-day Saints would do well to read and study this book.