Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Believable Book of Mormon

I believe the Book of Mormon to be true. I would even go further to say that by the power of the Holy Ghost, I have received the unmistakable testimony from God that it is true. I consider that a great blessing and a precious gift to have received such knowledge. When I was not committed to the Church, I did search for truth as an 18-19 year old, and I was exposed to the harshest criticisms of the Church and the Book of Mormon then available, including the Tanner's "Changing World of Mormonism" and Walter Martin's various works available back in 1979. I wasn't born a Mormon, and my family was completely inactive after having joined the LDS Church in 1976. So no one was forcing me or tricking me or coaching me. There was no guilt trip or sense of debt to anyone in the LDS Church. I had been a very good debater, I was a well educated student, and I seemed to do well on tests of ability to reason and think. So I came at the Book of Mormon with a simple desire to know if it was true, and a willingness to walk away if I found it not to be believable. I was raised Lutheran and attended many different Christian churches, so I wasn't "against" any faith or position. My best friend eventually went on to become a pastor of a Four Square Church in Idaho.

So I had an open mind. I still do, but that is getting ahead of things.

The first thing of huge import is the Book of Mormon has witnesses besides just Joseph Smith. And the closest of those witnesses all left the Church and in Joseph Smith's lifetime did not return. The two closest to Joseph Smith of the three, Oliver and Martin, later returned to the LDS Church. Oliver was actually present for angels visiting to confer the priesthood on two separate occasions.

I read how there was some talk that the witnesses, Oliver in particular, may have denied his witness. This was proposed by the Tanner's because a poem included a statement indicating Oliver may have done so, and the author said it did not matter. The Tanner's were being deceptive even publishing that, which I discovered, as the poem was reacting to a false report made about Oliver. This caused me then to become very careful in uncritically accepting as "facts" statements of critics. Sure a member of the Church published the poem and thought Oliver had denied his testimony. But it was false. Presenting responses to false statements without providing the context is to lie by omission.

I have learned the critics of the LDS faith do not feel any need to be balanced in presenting history of LDS doctrine. So I now always review their supporting information before I will accept something as factual. This is not based on just one incident. It is literally based on hundreds, maybe thousands of such interactions with both printed material and individuals.

So we have witnesses. What did they witness? Of the 11 people who are listed as witnesses in the front of the BOM, 10 actually held the plates and handled the individual pages (only David Whitmer did not). They saw the engravings, the color, the binding and lifted them to feel their weight. They did so in broad daylight. They did so in groups, usually. There is some controversy about whether two groups of four or all eight at once saw the plates. No real matter. Oliver and Martin were alone with Joseph when they handled the plates in the open.

Now the plates were actually quite heavy. Joseph let many people handle the plates and lift them while they were covered up. Maybe 16 or more people that I can count. The reports are the plates weighed between 30-60 pounds. That is not really much of a range if you lift a solid block of metal and then guess at the weight.

William Smith would later say the plates were a combination of copper and gold. All of the witnesses said they had the "appearance of gold". Moroni is quoted as saying they were "gold plates". All of these statements are consistent with a material used by Meso-American tribes called Tumbaga, which is a alloy of copper and gold, and depending upon that mixture, would have weighed about what the witnesses said the plates weighed. This is remarkable because Joseph Smith and the witnesses would have had no knowledge of Tumbaga, or its link to Central America.

Next, the text of the Book of Mormon is miraculous in its consistency. The work done by Royal Skousen on restoring the original text of the Book of Mormon is amazing on many levels. But what we find is a document which is not just the helter-skelter dictations of someone trying to crank out a book. It is consistent and complicated.

The text has had several in-depth studies done on "word printing". It is obvious from these studies (Hilton in 1997, Todd K. Moon, 2006, "Document Author
Classification using Generalized Discriminant Analysis")the Book of Mormon was not composed by Joseph Smith, only translated by him. This makes the case for the Book of Mormon being from Joseph Smith's mind extremely unlikely. Hilton's study also disqualified Solomon Spaulding and Oliver Cowdery. If not these folks, then who wrote it? The studies simply state there are unique author traits in the texts, so the authors are unknown. The most logical answer is they are those individuals whose names are on the books within the Book of Mormon, barring evidence of other composers.

But if there was other authors, where are there notes, books or for that matter their statements? Unlike the pictures we usually see in Sunday School of Joseph Smith behind a curtain with his finger on the plates translating, we know he actually was almost always in the open, initially wearing a breastplate and the Urim and Thummim attached to the breastplate in a sort of weird pair of glasses, then later putting his head in a hat with a seer stone. Those who commented, specifically Emma who was there, said he had no papers or books, and she would have seen them. I once challenged Dan Vogel, as an ex-LDS critic and perhaps the most scholarly critic of LDS history, to memorize 3 days work of the Isaiah passages, and then quote them back. That would be about 27 pages. Of course, you don't get to have a Bible around, since we know they did not have one present during the translation according to the witnesses present. And we will then make allowances for changes to the text at the same rate as Joseph Smith's dictation amends the Isaiah sections. Vogel declined, saying Joseph must have had a Bible. Really? You have witnesses present who say he did not, and your position is they are lying? Wouldn't Martin Harris and Oliver, both ex-communicated and humiliated at their leaving of the Church, mentioned this, even if false, to attack Joseph? I say even if false because they could have made the claim and why would they have cared, they were no longer in the Church? Because they knew there were lots of witnesses who saw how it was done. Vogel and the critics have no case that Joseph Smith actually wrote or copied the Book of Mormon from someone else' work. This evidence is very much on a par with the physical reality that there were gold plates. Because we can test the text and we have witnesses. And the witnesses obviously told other people, or else folks would not have constantly be trying to steal the non-existent plates he was translating.

The next item is the content of the text itself. As my friend Steve Smoot has pointed out on several occasions, Joseph Smith did not realize how "Hebrew" it was. He actually tried to edit out the "Hebrewisms" from later editions. However, we now know these unusual and non-English-style sentence structures are good Hebrew. And in his lifetime, Joseph Smith never claimed such a style to be present in the Book of Mormon. He doesn't say "See, there is Chiasmus and Hebrew sentence forms all over in it, proving it is Middle Eastern in its origin or influence." No. He goes the other way. Edit them out after the fact. Never comments on them. Hmm, its like he doesn't recognize they are there. Like he was just a translator or something...

Much has been made of the some "4,000 changes to the Book of Mormon". I always thought that was important. Until we looked closer. Editorially, if you count every comma, spelling and sentence structure change, Royal Skousen says there are closer to 100,000 such changes in a text of 400,000+ words. Is this a big deal? No. First, out of all of the changes, 99.5% were strictly to make the text more readable and are scatter across a dozen editions. Secondly, there are at most 50 some changes which could be considered significant in terms of doctrine for those not believing in prophetic direction. The addition of "son of..." to "God" in term describing Jesus, or the "pure" for "white" change describing the change to come to the Lamanites. How does this compare to the Bible? Well, there are at least 250,000, perhaps as many as 400,000 variations to the New Testament text in terms of spelling changes, word additions or deletions and word order changes. Since they did not include punctuation (that is added to translations, it is not in the Greek). Some of the changes are rather important. The last half of the last chapter of Mark, for example, is not considered by most textual scholars to be original to the text. 1John 5:7-8, the only text to fairly explicitly teach the doctrine of the Trinity in the Bible, is nearly universally rejected by scholars as a late (300 AD)addition to the text. Jesus being ministered to by an angel in the Garden of Gethsamane is not found in the earliest manuscripts, but is quoted by Justin Martyr, and found in later editions. The commentary on changes sold by United Bible Societies, which publishes the most widely accepted version of the Greek NT, lists over 3,800 changes they feel merit comment, out of which about 50 or 60 are such they admit they don't know what should be included in the text. The Book of Mormon suffers no such issue as to holes in the text.

The Old Testament does not fare much better. The main reason there are few variations in the Hebrew text of the Bible is because, (drum roll please), in the 10th Century AD the Rabbi's of the world met to decide what was the original text, and they destroyed all copies from earlier times. Fortunately we got the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947, and they became widely available in the past 10-15 years. We now know there are thousands of variations in the text. Actually, tens of thousands. Some entire verses were left out. Some verses changed to hide the original belief that there were many real gods (Compare Duet 32:8-9 in the King James Bible and in the NRSV). The King James Bible followed the tradition, edited text from the 10th Century AD. We know now the Greek and Samarian versions contain variants which legitimately belonged to the original OT.

So do all these variations matter? I don't really think so if you recognize that people are involved in passing the text along, and God can restore it as he decides to make it available. You can still find God in the Bible. He just never tells us to pray to know the Bible is true. As we can now tell, for obvious reasons. He still, however, instructs us to study it.

Another example of things worth considering in the Book of Mormon are all the things which Joseph Smith "got wrong", which turned out he got correct. Examples such as Alma being a man's name. The existence of Nahom, and it being on the trade route in Arabia. Jerusalem being the location of Jesus' birth. Barley being in the New World. Cement in Central America. The kinds of "swords" used by Native Americans. A great list of these are found in a talk by Matt Roper, now on FAIR's website.

Brant Gardner's work on the historical accuracy of the Book of Mormon's Meso American setting is equally compelling. There is a lot of information, and links to videos, etc, at this web page.

I think those are probably the big ones. That is, except for the witness of the Spirit. I would lie if I said there have not been issues which troubled me to some degree as I made my way through the various criticisms of the LDS Church. So it was that my Spiritual experiences, after I had studied out the issues of the Book of Mormon to the degree I was able, helped me wait to see the big picture. If the Tanners or Walter Martin repeatedly distort history because they think the bigger cause is to get people out of the Church, rather than being accountable ministers to God, then I don't have to panic when I read their latest attack. I also need to have the intellectual maturity to realize that what passes as normal or abnormal today is completely irrelevant to early LDS history or Bible or Book of Mormon history. Faith is complicated in that way, even as it is simple. I need to realize God wants me to follow him in order to obtain a witness of his work (John 8:31-32). It is only by the Holy Spirit, not by reading and studying, one can come to know Jesus is real (1Cor 12:3). For those troubled by history or science or even doctrine, I can't prove anything. But I think the case FOR the Book of Mormon and the Gospel of Jesus Christ restored in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is good enough to be worthy of exercising faith, and then not forgetting to be true to that witness.

Dan Peterson said in a talk, after evaluating the fact that Joseph Smith apparently never needed to actually see the plates to translate them, that the purpose of the plates is the proverbial thumb in the eye of critics. You cannot reasonably prove the LDS faith is false unless you can provide a plausible case against the existence and content of the plates. The plates are a historical reality. That is what the evidence says. Therefore the Church was restored. Joseph Smith was a prophet, right down to Thomas Monson today. The plates are enough to cause us to exercise a particle of faith, and come and follow. That particle, when nurtured, will grow into a full blown, saving witness. (Alma 32:26-43; Luke 8:4-18)

It is my desire this brief exposition can provide a context for those seeking evidence for why they should believe in Jesus Christ and the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.

43 comments:

Quest for Passage said...

Bob Thankyou for your words. I have a question for you if why has the book of abraham and sthe fascimiles been proven to be false if he was a prophet

bunker said...

Bob do you ever "Bible Bash " with the antis at the Manti Pageant? If so post when you will be there next June. I would love to tag along and witness some verbal and intellectual butt kicking. (You will be doing the kicking of course)

Bob the Anti-Anti said...

John,
The short answer on the Book of Abraham (BOA) is they have not been proven false. The longer answer is much more nuanced, but here are the issues, as I see them.

First, the BOA is not on any of the facsimiles or the extant papyri we have. John Gee has demonstrated that we have at most about 16% of all the Egyptian documents Joseph Smith had, and the facsimiles do not contain the text of the BoA. Facsimile #3, for example, is lost. However, many of the elements described in Facsimile #1 are correct. The best example is figure #9, the god of pharaoh. Turns out that is exactly correct. The idolatrous god Sobek. The very idea of a substitute being on the lion couch for sacrifice turns out to be correct. However, some things also appear to be in error, no question. But since this is a vignette, and not the actual BoA translation, don't too quickly associate BoA with the facsimile. It is amazing, considering the year of the facsimile translation, that Joseph gets anything right on any of the facsimile. But I believe some of this is simple human effort.

When Moses received the history of the world in Genesis , no doubt people said, because of the similarity to other Middle Eastern stories, that he copied it, or got it wrong, etc. But where did he get the info? I believe God revealed much of it to him, filling in the blanks of the limited history he would have known. I believe the same thing with the BoA. Joseph comments that the "translation" was a revelation. Since this is a comment page, I can't provide a lot of content, so I will pass the buck, somewhat, and ask you to look up Kerry Shirt's work, which is online as the Backyard Professor. Kerry has an amazing grasp of all of the issues around the BoA, and he is a nice guy to boot. Likewise, John Gee's work is fairly easy to access, and also makes good sense. But at the end of the day, we are dealing with issues of faith when it comes to the BoA, just like believing people saw the risen Christ, or John received the Revelation. It requires faith to accept the possibility. But I have heard Kerry say it many, many times: The content makes a huge case for its historic reality, even if they got it from a physical source we no longer have, or a spiritual source revealed to Joseph.

Bob the Anti-Anti said...

Bunker,
I got to Manti every year, and I try to camp out down there and stay for the entire time. This year I was away on business for more than half of the pageant, but I was still there for a bit. I have a few reports in this blog from trips down there over the years.

As for bashing, I never do that...well, sometimes never. Truthfully, I don't like arguing for the sake of arguing, but I do enjoy a willing audience hearing scriptures for the first time they didn't know were in their Bible. I still laugh when I am talking to a group of people, and one of the leaders will walk up and whisper in one person's ear, then they whisper to the next, and so on, and then they say, "We really need to go." Or I get, "Oh, you're that Bob." It probably wouldn't feel right if Bill McKeever didn't yell at me "deceiver", or whatever his line is in a particular year.

Next year I will try to have an off site meeting with the Anti's to discuss "The Miracle of Forgiveness". I was going to do it this year, but I did not have a firm time of when I was going to be down there, and I just started a new company this year, so I did not have time to prepare as I would have liked. I don't do debates, as I find those pointless because people don't answer questions. So I wanted some kind of moderated "chat" with Aaron S., so that we had to actually resolve something before we moved on.

Anyway, I will be downtown at General Conference in a week. You can usually find me pretty easily. I have a big ugly motorhome I park west of the Conference Center, and I hang out there to watch conference, and then interact with the anti's. At least the ones who will talk with me. If it is too contentious, I figure I should move on to allow the Spirit to return.

7 Wherefore, confound your enemies; call upon them to meet you both in public and in private; and inasmuch as ye are faithful their shame shall be made manifest.
8 Wherefore, let them bring forth their strong reasons against the Lord.
9 Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you--there is no weapon that is formed against you shall prosper;
10 And if any man lift his voice against you he shall be confounded in mine own due time. (D&C 71:7-10)

It's a great way to learn your scriptures, that is for sure. :-)
Bob

bunker said...

McKeever....If I remember right that is the guy that had painted the weight set gold and was challenging people to pick it up. He totally misses the point of what the plates were made of and not solid gold.

Anyway I was there on the last Friday and those antis just kill me out there. I just kinda walk around and listen to discussions. Only time I actually said anything was when one anti (him and his entourage were wearing green shirts) was bullying a member (I assume) and not letting him answer the question. So I posed the question, "How do you know the bible is true?" At first he ignored me and kept ranting on and on. Then finally he answered me. Anyway I don't want to go into much detail but by the time I left he was literally in my face 2 inches away screaming "Will you let me talk!? Will you let me talk!?" I asked him if he was trying to convert me with the Spirit because it wasn't working. Anyway, I know, not very Christlike but neither is the reason they are there either.

Bob the Anti-Anti said...

Bunker,
Your Manti story is soooo funny. I was standing right there next to you. The guy yelling at you was Chip Thompson. He appealed to me at one point asking if he was being unreasonable because you kept peppering him with questions or whatever, and he felt you were not letting him answer. I remember seeing Chip get right up to you with the "Can I talk?" shout, and I remember your comment to him about his proselyting method. Very funny. I should have jumped in, and I wanted to because Chip's argument attempting to prove the Bible through archaeological proof is so full of holes it is literally non-sensical. Chip is a pretty nice guy generally, but you really got under his skin. I think you kept saying "How do you know?" or something on that order, and it literally is the fallacy of saying that study will prove the Bible true. No way is that true, or else there would be no effective reason for other faiths to exist. You could study your way to the "one great truth"

Well, maybe I will see you downtown in a week

bunker said...

Yo Bob.

So if I follow Quest for passage's blog, it says his blog is a Marvelous work and a lie. The blog surely doesn't seem like someone's in a Bishopric searching for answers. Seems outright anti, even references some MRM stuff and has MRM email address at bottom. Check it out. Almost like it is a wolf in sheep's clothing posing as a person searching for answers only to keep asking questions after you answer the last one. Not really wanting to listen to the answer, just needs an audience for the next question. Sound familiar?

bunker said...

Regarding Manti:

What a small world we are in that you were standing next to me in Manti at that moment.

I would also like to mention that you have an excellent memory. I think I did keep asking "how do you know?" regarding his testimony of the Bible. He would keep jumping around going back to the Book of Mormon or whatever. I wouldn't let him tap dance around the question. Of course us LDS folk believe the Bible to be the Word of God, barring errors of course, but the point to be made was this. Why can he have a testimony based on faith and witness of the Bible and not allow me to have a testimony of the Book of Mormon based on that same standard?

He did also try flashing archaeological evidences in my face. Being the amateur I am the only thing that came to me was to ask if there were no evidences like that then would he still believe in Christ and the Bible?

He also kept saying "Here's the problem" and I would respond "there is no problem" childish on my part but it was true, this was not a problem to me regarding lack of large amounts of archaeological evidences for the Book of Mormon peoples, only to him and other antis.

Chad said...

Hey Bob,

Love the blog brother! You do a great job. I just started a blog it is ldsandlovinit.blogspot.com check it out if you would like. Take care and keep the faith.

Chad

Walker said...

I haven't ever been to the Manti pageant. I recently mentioned my interest to my wife and she was enthusiastic, but then she realized that I was more excited about meeting up with antis. She thinks I'm a dork.

I've had a blog this past year and have never advertised it much, but it is walkstar.blogspot.com

I mainly didn't put it out there because it is more of a personal blog, with random posts dedicated to individuals I know, movie reviews, and the an occassional political post. However, the majority is dedicated to thoughts, views, and defenses of the gospel. Check it out if you like, even if you don't share my movie or political tastes.

Walker said...

And I think I put an extra 's' in "occasional." Just in case, here is my correction.

Anonymous said...

If the Dead Sea Scrolls are all that devastating to the content of the Bible, then why do you find Martin Abegg teaching at Trinity Western University (a Christian school) and not at BYU? I don't mean this to sound critical or anything, this is a serious question.

Bob the Anti-Anti said...

This is sort of an erroneous observation. Just because Abegg continues to teach at a Christian school, doesn't mean he does not know and accept the problems or variations within the Bible. It is like asking why LDS historians have not all left the LDS Church. Faith is not tied to facts, or no one would have faith.

For the negative impact of learning, consider Bart Ehrman or William Dever. Both through their studies, and they are considered world class experts in their different Biblical areas of expertise. Faith is not dependent upon facts. Jesus was dead, that was a fact. That he lives is taken on faith.

I hope this is what you meant.
Thanks,
Bob

Walker said...

I have yet to understand why it is that when we use a non-LDS expert or text to make our point, the rebuttal is consistently "how come they aren't Mormon then?" Yet, if they were to convert, then they would be "deceived." No win situation.

bunker said...

Walker Bob let me know when you guys go to Manti Pageant next year. I would like to pick up some pointers :-)

Walker said...

If I go, I certainly will. I've never been before, so we will probably both be picking up pointers from Bob.

Anonymous said...

If you have bought into the BOM and other LDS "scriptures", I feel sorry for you. You have been seriously deluded.

Walker said...

"I feel sorry for you."

I feel more sorry for people who criticize others anonymously. I'd hate to be that big of a wimp.

"You have been seriously deluded."

As Jeffrey R. Holland put it, "If anyone is foolish enough or misled enough to reject 531 pages of a heretofore unknown text teeming with literary and Semitic complexity without honestly attempting to account for the origin of those pages—especially without accounting for their powerful witness of Jesus Christ and the profound spiritual impact that witness has had on what is now tens of millions of readers—if that is the case, then such a person, elect or otherwise, has been deceived." That is both my and his response to your feeble assertion.

Anonymous said...

"As Jeffrey R. Holland put it, "If anyone is foolish enough or misled enough to reject 531 pages of a heretofore unknown text teeming with literary and Semitic complexity without honestly attempting to account for the origin of those pages—especially without accounting for their powerful witness of Jesus Christ and the profound spiritual impact that witness has had on what is now tens of millions of readers—if that is the case, then such a person, elect or otherwise, has been deceived." That is both my and his response to your feeble assertion."

Before I go throw up, I would like to say that I have noticed how you and "the Bob" seem to ignore commenter's inquiries as to the actual origin of those pages and to questions about the evidence that has surfaced that prove that they are a complete work of religious fiction. The reason you don't answer any of those questions is because you can't.

Walker said...

"Before I go throw up"

I do a little in my mouth each time I read your posts.

"ignore commenter's inquiries as to the actual origin of those pages and to questions about the evidence that has surfaced that prove that they are a complete work of religious fiction"

I don't know what you are talking about, unless you are alluding to random spurts of "Where are...(100 questions follow)." Many times, the questions are so fundamentally flawed, it is laughable. However, if one truly has a question, they should ask it. Asking one at a time and waiting for the answer shows a willingness to learn. Taking a shotgun approach is lazy.

Walker said...

"The reason you don't answer any of those questions is because you can't."

I doubt it.

Anonymous said...

"The short answer on the Book of Abraham (BOA) is they have not been proven false. The longer answer is much more nuanced, but here are the issues, as I see them.

First, the BOA is not on any of the facsimiles or the extant papyri we have. John Gee has demonstrated that we have at most about 16% of all the Egyptian documents Joseph Smith had, and the facsimiles do not contain the text of the BoA."

Bob, if you are going to have this blog, you need to publish the truth. What you say here is an outright lie. Maybe you don't that though. Or maybe you are lying to yourself.

Walker said...

"Bob, if you are going to have this blog, you need to publish the truth. What you say here is an outright lie."

Um, no. John Gee really did reach that conclusion. He published his findings.

Anonymous said...

"ignore commenter's inquiries as to the actual origin of those pages and to questions about the evidence that has surfaced that prove that they are a complete work of religious fiction"

"I don't know what you are talking about"

In the comment stream of the first blog entry, you totally ignored someone's questions regarding the Book of Mormon and its origins and the problems with it. This is what I was talking about.

Walker said...

"This is what I was talking about."

CFR

Anonymous said...

"Bob, if you are going to have this blog, you need to publish the truth. What you say here is an outright lie."

"Um, no. John Gee really did reach that conclusion. He published his findings."

John Gee, one of the LDS FARMS spin doctors? Oh yeah, I'm sure his research is totally objective and unbiased. Not! This is just another example of Mormons using falsified research to support their absurd claims.

Walker said...

"LDS FARMS spin doctors"

More like an Egyptologist with a doctorate from Yale.

"totally objective and unbiased"

About as objective and unbiased as anyone else.

"This is just another example of Mormons using falsified research to support their absurd claims"

So says the man with no rebuttal except "We can't trust anything a MORMON says!"

And I was simply correcting you that Bob did not lie. John Gee really did publish those findings.

Anonymous said...

"John Gee, one of the LDS FARMS spin doctors? Oh yeah, I'm sure his research is totally objective and unbiased. Not! This is just another example of Mormons using falsified research to support their absurd claims."

Exactly! Moreover, the spin doctors at FARMS have to falsify their research because if they published the truth, like Thomas Ferguson did, then they would take so much heat from the leaders of the church. So whenever research at FARMS is cited to support a claim, you can automatically dismiss it.

Walker said...

"Thomas Ferguson"

So because plenty of scholars don't agree with this one guy, they are all wrong? Ok...

"So whenever research at FARMS is cited to support a claim, you can automatically dismiss it."

And this is exactly why you have no credibility. It has nothing to do with scholarship. It has to do with you being a religious bigot.

Anonymous said...

"And this is exactly why you have no credibility. It has nothing to do with scholarship. It has to do with you being a religious bigot."

Ad hominem anyone?

Tony said...

Ad hominem? Perhaps.
You have yet to bring forth any evidence to support your claim that the BOM is "a complete work of religious fiction."

Walker said...

"Ad hominem anyone?"

Unless you can explain how dismissing scholars because of their religious affiliation is not religious bigotry, then I can care less what you call it. Ad hominem isn't a fallacy unless used in a fallacious manner. You dismiss John Gee and FARMS because they are Mormon. Your prejudice makes your objectivity and credibility questionable and I have called you out on it.

Anonymous said...

"Ad hominem? Perhaps.
You have yet to bring forth any evidence to support your claim that the BOM is "a complete work of religious fiction.""

Try this Tony (from another post):

"How come they don’t come out with an official geography for the BOM?"

“Why is it essential for them to? It seems like only the anti-Mormons want an official map.”

"Well, guess what, my friend. We know where the Bible story took place. You can actually go there. There are cities that are still there and you can go see them – Jerusalem, Jericho, Bethlehem, etc. There is also archaeological evidence (excavated sites) that supports the stories in the Bible as well. And you ask why it is important for there to be an official geography for the BOM? The reason it is important is because it would show the world that the story is true but the church doesn’t come out with one for the same reason they won’t excavate (and won’t let anyone else excavate) the hill Cumorah any further and that reason is because they know, and I know and you know, that the story is a work of fiction."

This should be enough for anyone. But the problem with the BOM and proving it's a work of fiction is that you can't prove a negative false. It's like trying to prove that Santa doesn't exist. There is common sense and the fact that there is nothing scientific that supports the story of Santa but to actually prove, in the mathematical sense, that Santa is nonexistent, isn't possible. The leaders of the church, and the spin doctors at FARMS, know this too and the play on it all the time.

Anonymous said...

"Unless you can explain how dismissing scholars because of their religious affiliation is not religious bigotry, then I can care less what you call it. Ad hominem isn't a fallacy unless used in a fallacious manner. You dismiss John Gee and FARMS because they are Mormon. Your prejudice makes your objectivity and credibility questionable and I have called you out on it."

That was explained already. Not sure if you read it. Maybe you didn't understand.

Also, here is a simple source, Wikipedia:

"
Faith-based arguments

Some critics assert that FARMS sometimes uses circular logic in their arguments. Similarly, some critics have suggested that FARMS' authors' reasoning is backwards from usual scientific or scholarly practices: They arrive at their faith-based conclusion first, then afterwards seeks out supporting evidence.

Polemics

Some have accused FARMS of engaging in mean-spirited polemics. One example of this occurred with Signature Books' publication of Grant Palmer's book An Insider's View of Mormon Origins. The publication of this book immediately resulted in five negative book reviews by FARMS. Ron Priddis of Signature Books responded to these reviews by stating: "Is nothing beyond the reach of sarcasm by FARMS polemicists?" Priddis refers to the book reviews by FARMS as "tabloid scholarship."

Some authors associated with FARMS have been accused of making ad hominem attacks: attacking someone personally, rather than analyzing the merits of their ideas. FARMS has also been accused of labeling someone an "anti-Mormon", and then discounting their works as biased, based largely on this pronouncement. In a speech offered before the Sunstone Symposium (titled "Why I No Longer Trust the FARMS Review of Books"), John Hatch said, "After reading the (FARMS) reviews myself, it appears to me, and is my opinion, that FARMS is interested in making Mormonism's past appear as normal as possible to readers by attacking history books that discuss complex or difficult aspects of the church's past. As one who hopes to some day contribute to the body of the New Mormon History, I am deeply troubled by what I see as continued efforts to attack honest scholarly work.""

Walker said...

"the hill Cumorah"

Since we are for sure where it is and all. I find it strange that Joseph Smith published a book that spoke of a nation, vast cities, and so forth on the American continent and years later the works on the ruins in Central America were published. Yet, no one cares about that.

And no one seems to care about NHM.

M said...

"Since we are for sure where it is and all. I find it strange that Joseph Smith published a book that spoke of a nation, vast cities, and so forth on the American continent and years later the works on the ruins in Central America were published. Yet, no one cares about that."

The problem is that the ruins in Central America don't date back to the time mentioned in the BOM, so they can't be the ruins of the people mentioned in the BOM. Also, let's say they are, that still doesn't explain how the gold plates got all the way to NY, unless Moroni traveled all that way by himself just to place them there. You see, there are troubling inconsistencies. I will say that it is interesting though that around 1500 B.C., there were white bearded visitors who came in boats to the Olmec area at La Venta. Graham Hancock talks about it in this video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r3rpNvhpfHk&feature=related

The only thing about the white bearded visitors and the great white god Quetzalcoatl, is that the people of Joseph Smith's time knew about this. In Ethan Smith's, View of the Hebrews, the crowning event is not the visitation of Christ but of Quetzalcoatl (Fawn Brodie talks about this as well). There are so many parallels between the two books (VOTH and BOM - documented by B.H. Roberts, historian of the LDS chuch) that that can't be a coincidence. Also, given that Ethan Smith lived near Joseph Smith and was a pastor for a church Oliver Cowdery (who was JS's cousin) attended, it seems more likely that JS used ideas in Ethan Smith's book for the BOM. But of course that can't be proven so ...

Walker said...

"Wikipedia"

Because their work was criticized, FARMS automatically isn't good scholarship? Dan Peterson had a conversation about John Hatch online. He sarcastically stated "Why I No Longer Trust John Hatch."

"The problem is that the ruins in Central America don't date back to the time mentioned in the BOM"

What are you talking about? The main family of the BoM arrived between 600-500 BC and lasted for a thousand years. The Mayans alone date back further than that.

"unless Moroni traveled all that way by himself just to place them there"

Sure. Why not?

"god Quetzalcoatl"

Brant Gardner doesn't even think that is a good example anyway.

"can't be a coincidence"

http://en.fairmormon.org/Book_of_Mormon/Authorship_theories/View_of_the_Hebrews#Examples_of_parallels_and_differences

http://en.fairmormon.org/Book_of_Mormon/Authorship_theories/View_of_the_Hebrews/Unparallels

M said...

"The problem is that the ruins in Central America don't date back to the time mentioned in the BOM"

"What are you talking about? The main family of the BoM arrived between 600-500 BC and lasted for a thousand years. The Mayans alone date back further than that."

If I remember correctly, the BOM civilizations died out a little after 400 AD, at the least the advanced ones (the Nephites) who are responsible, according to the story, for the great structures that are seen today but the ruins in Central America date back to a time after that. I guess you could say that it could have been the Lamanites, but it doesn't seem likely given the nature of their civilization, at least it doesn't seem likely to me. Maybe to you. I will say this though, the claim that it is absurd that ancient people traveled in boats from the area of the world around the Middle East to the Americas, is wrong. It is also wrong to assume that ancient people didn't have the sophistication and intelligence that we do today. In fact, in many ways, they were better. Anyway, there were seafaring people in the ancient world but I think scholars are just not sure who they were. It is clear that they visited Egypt and given the similarities between the ancient Egyptian civilization and those studied in the Americas (Olmecs, Mayans, etc.), there has to be some sort of a connection there.


"unless Moroni traveled all that way by himself just to place them there"

"Sure. Why not?"

Yeah, I suppose but why would he do that? That's what doesn't make sense. If he were down in Central America and had plates to bury for the next prophet to come along, why wouldn't he just bury then there?

M said...

"can't be a coincidence"

"http://en.fairmormon.org/Book_of_Mormon/Authorship_theories/View_of_the_Hebrews#Examples_of_parallels_and_differences

http://en.fairmormon.org/Book_of_Mormon/Authorship_theories/View_of_the_Hebrews/Unparallels"


Thanks for the links. I checked them out. I see the arguments in the differences among the similarities and the differences between the two books in general but you have to admit, that there is enough similarity there to see where Joseph Smith got the idea. There were also other books and ideas in circulation at the time that seem to be incorporated into the BOM as well. I know you guys hate Shawn Mccraney but he said something that makes sense to me - that Joseph Smith was a great synthesizer. This is a good explanation.

I know that what Shawn Mccraney does is offensive to you but I know he is doing it because it is something he believes in and feels strongly about. I personally could never do it. Two of my best friends are LDS and I would never want them to leave their church. It would be devastating for them. I also don't believe in hating others for their religion. I think this can be dangerous when taken to the extreme. It leads to religious violence and holy wars. I think the LDS are not strangers to this either given what happens in front of the temples and the vandalism of the chapels during the whole Prop 8 affair. It's one thing to disagree with doctrine but another to do things like that. It is very wrong.

Walker said...

"there is enough similarity there to see where Joseph Smith got the idea"

Sure. I can definitely see why the theory came about.

"books and ideas in circulation at the time that seem to be incorporated into the BOM as well"

Without more detail, I can't really comment. The problem is, though, that Smith's own mother said he was the "least inclined to books." He didn't read very much. His family couldn't even afford a library card. Plus, all the historical documentation and witness accounts of the BoM translation state that he had no manuscript or books to read from.

"It's one thing to disagree with doctrine but another to do things like that"

M, I like you. Thank you for your respectful tone.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if you even respond to posts this old but I was just curious if you had read "An Insider's View of Mormon Origins" by Grant H. Palmer? Interesting reading especially about the 11 witnesses that you mentioned in your blog and how they never actually physically saw or held the golden plates, but saw them with their "spiritual eyes". It also has a number of interviews about the priesthood, the translation, Joseph Smith's wives, etc.

Bob said...

Since I have comment screening turned on, I do read every comment that comes to my website. By the way, I think I have not published only one or two comments, and that is because they involved personal attacks.

Anyway, I own a copy of Grant Palmer's work. His assertion about the witnesses never physically seeing the plates is false. It is based on a single statement attributed to John Witmer, as reported by one Theodore Turley six years after the supposed statement in 1839. The FAIRWIKI.ORG website deals decisively with the assertion, which incidentally contradicts the 8 witnesses statement in the front of the Book of Mormon ("Smith...has shown unto us the plates...we saw the engravings...we did handle with our hands...we bear record with words of soberness...for we have seen and hefted, and know of a surety that the said Smith has got the plates...And we give our names unto the world, to witness unto the world that which we have seen.") Their original statements leave no doubt as to a physical, tangible experience.

But back to John Whitmer. In 1836, Whitmer wrote:
“I desire to testify unto all . . . that I have most assuredly seen the plates from whence the Book of Mormon [was] translated, and that I have handled these plates, and know of a surety that Joseph Smith, jr. has translated the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God.” Not much doubt about Whitmer's testimony.

But supposedly, in 1839, he tells Turley, a Church critic, after Turley challenges him about his testimony:
"Whitmer replied: ‘I now say, I handled those plates; there were fine engravings on both sides. I handled them;’ and he described how they were hung [on rings], and [said] ‘they were shown to me by a supernatural power;’ he acknowledged all.”
It is that final phrase, "by a supernatural power" which leads Palmer and ALL other critics of the LDS Church to assert that none of the witnesses physically saw the plates.
Late in Whitmer's life, he again responded to a request to describe his experience. Myron Bond published them shortly thereafter:
“John Whitmer told me last winter . . . [that he] ‘saw and handled’ [the plates and] . . . helped to copy [the Book of Mormon manuscript] as the words fell from Joseph’s lips by supernatural or [A]lmighty power.”
That the understanding of "supernatural" is meant to be taken as "miraculous" is seen, as published in the FAIRWIKI, from a statement by a skeptic, who wrote the Church for 'proof' of the reality of the Book of Mormon plates, and received a reply:
"In the Investigator, No. 12, Dec. 11, I published, by way of caution, a letter of Oliver H.P. Cowdry, in answer to my letter to Joseph Smith, Jun. Martin Harris, and David Whitmore—the believers in said bible of gold plates—which they affirm they have miraculously, or supernaturally beheld. I sought for evidences, and such as could not be disputed, of the existence of this bible of golden plates. But the answer was—the world must take their words for its existence; and that the book would appear this month."
(continued below"

Bob said...

(Continued)
As the FAIRWIKI notes, the words of the witness stand as proof of the existence of the plates. For the 8 witnesses, it was a tangible, physical experience.

It has been a few years since I started tracking down the various accounts by the witnesses. Aside from David Whitmer's numerous statements confirming his experience, I think I have read or heard that some 46 statements by the witnesses or people hearing the witnesses exist, and all of them by the 8 witnesses assert a physical experience.
Interestingly, Martin Harris, who did not have a physical handling experience as described in his written testimony in the Book of Mormon, related several times he personally held the plates during transport of the plates. At those times he did not see the plates, but related that he held them, and therefore would know them when saw them.
Joseph Smith Sr. is reported to have personally weighed the plates (he said they weighed 30 pounds). Again, it would be an absurdity to think he goes to the trouble to weigh the plates, which is a physical act, and when he finally sees the plates that it was only a "supernatural", non-physical experience.

The evidence is overwhelming that the witnesses physically handled real objects. They considered it miraculous, and to have been allowed by a supernatural intervention because others were not allowed to see them. Sort of like Mary seeing the risen Jesus before anyone else. That does not make Jesus non-physical. It just makes it miraculous. The witnesses considered it similarly from their point of view.
Grant Hardy is just wrong in heaping too much credit to such a tortured argument.

When Joseph first brought the plates home, EVERYONE in the house at the time was allowed to handle the plates while covered in the bag. This included non-family members as well as all family members, Joseph Smith Sr. included. The argument of critics of a non-physical witness by the 8, especially since several of those 8 witnesses were there in 1827 when Joseph brought the plates home for the first time, is not credible.
Thanks for the question.
Bob