What Da Vinci Didn't Know: An LDS Perspective

by Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, Andrew C. Skinner, Thomas A. Wayment

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Few books in recent years have enjoyed the popularity of Dan Brown's novel, The Da Vinci Code. Set amid the museums and cathedrals of Europe, the book purports to identify the Holy Grail and describes mysterious rituals and secret religious beliefs that have been kept hidden from the world by an ancient conspiracy. The most sensational claim made in the book is that Jesus was married and that his bloodline has been perpetuated in a princely line of unidentified descendents. That premise has captured the imagination of readers of all faiths and caused Latter-day Saints to wonder how much of the book is factual and how much is the product of the author's imagination.

In this lively conversation, three Latter-day Saint scholars discuss The Da Vinci Code, examining the plausibility of the "facts" presented by the author and comparing those to the teachings of the scriptures. Whether you have read the book or just been caught up in the world's current fascination with Christ, you'll find these informed opinions both interesting and faith promoting.

About the Authors

Richard Neitzel Holzapfel

Richard Neitzel Holzapfel is an Area Authority and senior manager of the Missionary Department for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and former professor of Church history and doctrine at BYU. He has a PhD in history from the University of California-Irvine.

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Andrew C. Skinner

Andrew C. Skinner is a former dean of Religious Education at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, and founding executive director of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship at BYU. He is Professor of Ancient Scripture and Near Eastern Studies at BYU, a member of the international advisory board of the Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation, author of several books and over 200 articles and encyclopedia entries on religious and historical topics. He is a graduate of the University of Colorado, holds masters’ degrees from Iliff School of Theology and Harvard University, and a Ph.D. degree in European and Near Eastern history from the University of Denver. He pursued graduate studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and taught at BYU’s Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies on several occasions. He taught Military History at the University of Colorado and Ricks College and was the recipient of a U.S. Military Academy Fellowship in U.S. military history. He is married to Janet Corbridge Skinner.

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Thomas A. Wayment

Thomas A. Wayment is a professor of classical studies at Brigham Young University. The author, coauthor, or editor of many articles and several books, he completed a PhD in New Testament Studies at Claremont Graduate University and has published extensively on New Testament topics. He served as the publications director of the BYU Religious Studies Center from 2013 until 2018.

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Average rating:

(based upon 7 reviews)

Worth a listen
By , Submitted on 2018-05-17

I read The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown against my better judgment and despite the advice from many intelligent people I respect. Honestly, if no one had told me how popular it was I would have assumed it was a bargain basement mystery novel. To be fair, that's exactly what it was. If the author hadn't drummed up interest by throwing in a lot of crazy anti-Christian conspiracies no one but his mom would have read it. The writing is incredibly bad on its own - no need to argue about his ridiculous theories.

So, why read this one? Good question. It's not like I felt Brown needed any rebuttal any more than Bigfoot nuts or alien abductees do. I just thought the authors of this book might have something interesting to say about the subject and it was included in my Deseret Book Plus membership and it was short. Okay, maybe that last factor was the biggest draw. I was in the mood for something that wouldn't take more than a minute and this one fit the bill.

This is not technically a book, not in the format I consumed, anyway. It's actually a recording of three LDS scholars who chat about the problems with The Da Vinci Code and their rebuttals for Brown's theories. It was an entertaining, informative, and short listen and did a great job with what they set out to do, outlining the LDS perspective. If you are LDS and thought Brown had any credibility, then give this a listen. Otherwise, it just gives more attention to a thoroughly forgettable, third-rate novel. The biggest mystery about The Da Vinci Code is how it got so popular. C'mon people, we can do better.

Very Beneficial Insight into the Most Important Facts
By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

I thought 'What Da Vinci Didn't Know' was an excellent listen, although I wish there had been more of it. The speakers didn't recommend either to read or not read the book. However, wIth their insights, I am now reading the book for the first time, and I am able to distinguish more clearly where Dan Brown takes poetic license with history. I very much appreciated the speakers' warning that we (Latter-Day Saints in particular) should not use a fictional book to acquire or build up a hatred of the Catholic church. The speakers treat the subject very well, their main point being that we should not let 'The Da Vinci Code' draw us away from 3 facts that Christ suffered for our sins, that he died for us all, and that he was resurrected on the third day. With that knowledge and confidence, The Da Vinci Code is an intriguing read although sometimes frustrating (what's really historically accurate and what's not). However, with 'What Da Vinci didn't Know', the most important facts are already known.

Interesting but Narrow Focus
By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

I found the review interesting, enlightening and helpful in understanding the background of the book. The authors do a fairly good job of putting some of the issues treated in the book in perspective. My criticism is that the authors seemed to believe that Dan Brown's purpose was to attack the divinity of Christ and to promote a type of Isis worship. Actually, he had three concerns as he wrote the book exploring the hidden mysteries behind Da Vinci's art, the relationship between science and religion, and the loss of the 'sacred feminine.' However, he doesn't have any answers, just questions. He has to create some answers in the interest of resolving the plot. Otherwise, he just knows that there should be some answers to those but doesn't know what they are. My main disappointment is that the authors didn't go into more depth with some of the issues they raise. I also hoped they would deal with some other intriguing notions treated in the book such as the 'sacred feminine,' loss of wisdom literature, etc. These ideas, I believe, have some relevance to the LDS perspective.

LDS tradition not represented
By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

What a real disappointment to hear this from LDS scholars. Though the 'Code' work is fiction, it has raised serious public interest about the 'real' Jesus the Christ. The true Church should proclaim its eternal understanding of 'marriage' as being a doctorine and commandment of the Eternal Father. With all the issues facing other churches that expouse celibacy, the LDS cultrure and traditional teachings have always upheld sacred marriage as the natural way and truth of the spirit. Is that not really what is at the core of the 'Da Vinci Code' but in a fictional context. I hope that other LDS scholars will take up the argument in a more positive way. Food for thought!

By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

I was very pleased with this product! While not as in-depth and comprehensive as I would have desired, these four scholars sought to bring in some well needed thought-reality as it pertains to the gospel and 'The Da Vinci Code' by Dan Brown. They certainly did not berate Brown for his work. The intent of these men was to give a solid perspective of how the theories/stories that so many naieve LDS folks are ready to accept as fact without any study or research, are simply that-theories/stories with little fact. Perhaps Brown is innocent of the assertion that he is misleading people from their true faith and belief of Christ as the Savior-unintentionally, he is exposing a good deal of unlearned, arm-chair scholars down a road that could lead to problems. Good on these brethren for providing a much needed pause for reality check!!

Interesting hype-busting discussion
By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

I enjoyed this insightful look into the problems of Dan Brown's scholarship, and the reviewers' thoughts on why Latter-day Saints should hold back in getting caught up in the hype of the Da Vinci Code. , A previous reviewer said the reviewers were 'advocating false doctrines in a bold way.' I disagree. They did not say that Jesus could not have been married, but rather stressed that the New Testament is mute on this issue, and that our current prophets and apostles have not spoken about this, nor does the Book of Mormon speak about it. I think that they were making the point that there are more crucial doctrines for us to understand, and that if knowing whether or not Jesus was married was important, we would have more to go on, and it would be a conversation point in General Conference. , For me it much of what was interesting was just hearing BYU faculty articulately discussing something. They have subtly contrasting opinions on whether reading the book is worthwhile. , I would give it five stars, but I think the title of the talk is misleading -- they don't talk about Da Vinci at all, it would be more aptly titled, 'What Dan Brown Didn't Know.' I also think they could have done a more systematic job of taking points made in the book one by one and discussing them, but then again the more informal conversational format did make for interesting listening.

By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

I was shocked at the discussion on this cd. While the speakers are obviously very concerned about false theories regarding the Savior, they proceed to advocate man, many false doctrines in a very bold way. For example, they teach that while Christ had to be baptized, He did not have to marry, because 'we imitate Him, He doesn't imitate us!' While acknowledging the many teachings by General Authorities (primarily prophets and apostles) that Christ was in fact married, they excuse these away, saying that we have to consider them 'in the spirit of their times,' when 'the church was under a lot of pressure' and 'there was a lot of new revelation on the marriage covenant.' In other words, they tell listeners to disregard the teachings of earlier prophets and apostles, none of which have been corrected or contradicted by more recent prophets or apostles. They further suggest that we should disregard such teachings, because they 'may put up fences between us and those who may be interested in the Church.'

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