Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Friday, September 30, 2005

We All Need a Little More Education

"Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence."

- Robert Frost


We get to listen to a lot of things from some of our critics. We all need a little more education so that we can avoid losing our temper over some of the things they dare to say. And more education will help us avoid losing our confidence in the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. Serious study of the Book of Mormon is one way to be more educated about the Gospel. If it's true, a lot of things fall into place. If it's not, there's no need to pay tithing. If Joseph Smith were a fraud, the Book of Mormon should provide ample proof, fall more valuable that the hearsay of critics or interpretations of historians about whether or not he did or said this or that. And if he were a prophet of God, the Book of Mormon should be the surest way to test that hypothesis. So let's get more educated, starting now.

20 comments:

BYU alter ego said...

Jeff,

You gave a most interesting challenge. I dare say you illustrated the same "fundamentalist" point of view I myself have been accused of here.

Obviously you and I both feel we've furthered our education, especially concerning the issues surrounding the Church and the Book of Mormon, but we of course disagree on the conclusion.

Looking to the BOM to test the "Prophet or Not" hypothesis is the exact opposite of what I've been told here time and time again.

Mike Parker has told me, "It's not your devotion I question. It's your over-devotion to the point of believing that everything coming from the pulpit is coming direct from God's mouth."

How can I test a prophet hypothesis then if I can't accurately measure when he's being prophetic?

Mike also said in regards to the same issue, "we're dealing with BYU Gestapo's presumptions being the actual problem."

He's right, I do have a problem. Presumption is defined as, "Acceptance or belief based on reasonable evidence; assumption or supposition."

How can I make spiritually based decisions unless I can make them without help from others? If I rely on others, I have even LESS surety that I know the truth.

So because I can only judge for myself, I have to be "reasonable" in how I interpret what I hear, see and read.

Daniel Peterson in fact agrees with me that belief must be based on "reasonable inference." When many on the blog thought I was a troll, they quickly and also erroneously jumped to conclusions. Here is a sample of what Dr. Peterson said:

BYU Gestapo: "First off, I am NOT this Brendan Mcpherson. He simply copied and pasted my comments into his blog."

[Daniel Peterson]How was I supposed to know that you were not Brendan McPherson? I know nothing about you, but Mr. McPherson, whom I also do not know, posted your words as his on his blog. I apologize for the error, but, like Mike Parker, I think it was a reasonable (even almost inevitable) inference, under the circumstances.


Dr. Peterson believed I was Brendan McPherson on false pretenses. He even said that his conlclusion was "almost inevitable." Then he claimed to be inculpable because he lacked sufficient "data" as it were to know the truth.

So what's the standard here? Do I have to prove the Book of Mormon events were absolutely impossible before I discredit them? Or can I use "reasonable inference"?

I suggest that it should be higher than Daniel's but less than Mike's. It certainly should be possible.

You once said, "Again, when it comes to science and the Book of Mormon, it is vitally important that we are careful about what hypothesis we are testing when we apply science."

Indeed, and I would argue that it doesn't just apply to science based hypotheses.

You stated, "If it's true, a lot of things fall into place." Is this the hypothesis you choose then?

Because if anything the correlation of science and history with the BOM is less now than it ever has been. The weight of evidence for the BOM has paled in comparison to the weight against.

At a minimum it makes for very murky waters.

You also said, "If Joseph Smith were a fraud, the Book of Mormon should provide ample proof..."

Well do the very unoriginal theme of Hebrew Indians, obvious copying of King James Language, the similarities of the Angel Moroni story with the "Golden Pot," the stark parallels between the stories of Alma and Paul, the inclusion of "Old World" objects, than didn't used to exist in the "New World," the obvious 19th century racism, Christ uttering a King James version of the beatitudes in 3rd Nephi, the unrealistic population growth, count?

Has it ever occured to you, that if Joseph intended to defraud others, that he might be good at it? Are you arguing that because the fraudulence isn't obvious that you can rule it out?

Good frauds don't make it that easy for us suckers.

Mark Hoffman would have never gotten caught based on his forged documents alone. They were that good. Remember even the brethren bought many documents from him. It took him bungling an attempt to silence a witness that brought him down.

Shall we apply the same standards to Hoffman, that we do to Joseph Smith?

I'll reaffirm to you all that the Book of Mormon, and it's connected flaws were the singular reason for my departure from the Church.

I'd argue to you that the more you get educated about it, the more questions you'll have.

Instead of a simpler understanding, to make the BOM history even possible your knowledge will have to become exceedingly complex.

You'll face those who will argue that your question is untestable or that you are a fundamentalist because you hold to previously held(but apparently outdated) claims from Church leaders.

I ultimately value the God's honest truth. So if education brings us closer to that, then I'm all for it.

I submit to you Jeff that you will only find more and more people like myself who learned all we could, and didn't like what we saw.

daylan darby said...

Is is possible, byu gestapo, that spiritual learning progresses as a sine wave and you decided to 'quit' at a low point?

Each time I read the BoM I learn more and I have more questions, however it seems that each time I read through it that I'm blessed with at least one episode of joy/peace/testimony.

These incites or feelings don't negate my questions and in no way do I believe that the BoM is perfect (In fact I'd be hard pressed to agree that it is the 'most perfect book').

As you, I can only judge for myself. However, I guess my point is that I can't argue against joy so I ignore the evidence (for and against), although I hope someday to get the answers from the original authorities.

Mormanity said...

Mr. Gestapo, you've got me intrigued. I've read the Golden Pot and couldn't help but chuckle at the alleged similarities to the Book of Mormon. Far less impressive that Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, for sure. But maybe I'm missing something.

What reasoning do you have for thinking the Golden Pot could be a source for the Book of Mormon?

Bookslinger said...

BYUG: "Well do the very unoriginal theme of Hebrew Indians, obvious copying of King James Language, the similarities of the Angel Moroni story with the "Golden Pot," the stark parallels between the stories of Alma and Paul, the inclusion of "Old World" objects, than didn't used to exist in the "New World," the obvious 19th century racism, Christ uttering a King James version of the beatitudes in 3rd Nephi, the unrealistic population growth, count?"

If all of those sources were plagiarized, then Joseph was one of the most well-read farm boys in New York. (A point Jeff amply demonstrates in his plagiarism parody.)

Perhaps Oliver Cowdery or Emma were in on the plagiarism, but Oliver never wavered in his testimony of the book even after claiming that Joseph was a "fallen prophet". Emma, though falling out with Brigham, also maintained her testimony of the book and Joseph's prophetic calling.

I too had trouble when I first read Christ's words in 3rd Nephi. First I thought "this was just copied". Then I thought "Why wouldn't Christ say the same or similar things?" And later when I noticed minute changes, I realized He's God and can word it however he wants. Then I prayed harder to know, and that's when I received a powerful miraculous manifestation from the Holy Ghost.

Why _shouldn't_ the Savior use the same words for 2 different groups of people? And if he words it slightly different, or if it gets translated slightly different (where the minute changes do come in), so what?

People criticize 3 Nephi for too many similarities to the Bible, then criticize it for not being exactly the same in every minute detail. Durned if you do, and durned if you don't.

You also continue to misrepresent the Book of Mormon when you say science is mounting evidence against it. Many have already amply shown that it is only a twisting of the Book of Mormon into a straw-man that makes it into a target for the mitochondrial DNA claims. The limited geographic model is NOT a recent invention to answer the DNA claims.

You're also overplaying the DNA claims.

Going back 10 generations, a person has 1024 ancestors, assuming no one married a distant cousin reducing the number of ancestors. Assuming some 2nd cousins or whatever did intermarry, so let's conservatively assume 128 unique ancestors at the 10th generation back. And if that's not good enough, lets go back further until we get 128 unique ancestral lines. We shouldn't have to go back farther than 600 BC, anyway.

Or use whatever number of unique ancestral lines you want.

The mitochondrial DNA only comes from ONE woman of those 64 (or X) couples.

And the Y chromosome DNA only comes from ONE man of those 64 (or X) couples.

So what the recent DNA claims have done is merely say that 1/64th (or 1/32nd, or 1/16th, or whatever fraction we choose) of the American Indian genetic ancestory can't be of the same line as modern Jews.

That still leaves open the possibility that other fractions of the American Indian genetic ancestors WERE Israelite.

And, all it takes is ONE ancestral
"path", switching back and forth through male and female lines, for the Lehite ancestry to be legitimately claimed.

Another point is that modern Jews are, well, descended from Judah. Lehi was descended from Joseph. As Joseph went to Egypt when he was young, and married there, Joseph and Judah (and their children, and probably their grandchildren) married women from different areas. That could also explain a lot of mitochondrial DNA observations.

More overplay of the DNA hand are these tidbits:

1. There is NO DNA that is specifically and uniquely Jewish. No part of a "Jewish genome" can be pointed to and said "Aha! This makes him a literal descendant of Judah!"

2. There is NO DNA that is specifically and uniquely NON Jewish. There is nothing in the human genome that can be pointed to and said "Aha! This person CAN'T be Jewish.

Another thing is that Jacob/Israel had 12 SONS that became the tribes. Unless they married a sister, they married OUTSIDE the "house of Israel", and we are not sure who they married, nor who their kids married. Judah may have been a grandfather by the time they all went to Egypt.

Some, such as Joseph, likely married outside of the Semitic peoples.

Archealogy HAS given plausibility to the Book of Mormon. Writing on metal plates was found. Stone boxes were found. History of warfare has been found. There are many similarities to the legend of Quetzalcoatl to the Book of Mormon. Jeff posted many similarities to religious practices, including confession, repentenance and baptism (or ritual bathing).

Barley, or a close-enough grain that can be called barley, was eventually found, after many critics pointed the finger at the BoM references to barley.

Horse statues dating from Book of Mormon times have been found. (And the absence of horse bones in the Hun empire in Asia, even though the Huns were documented to have horses, shows that horse remains don't remain for some reason.)

Carbonized iron (steel) objects were found among the Olmecs. Conquistadors called non-metal "cutting thingees" SWORDS. In the dictionary of Joseph's day "steel" was also used for any "hardened metal" not necessarily carbonized iron. Evidence of meteoric iron has also been found.

Sir, it is _your_ assertions that seem to have no backing.

BYU alter ego said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
BYU alter ego said...

To start, let me just thank all you guys who have responded thus far for how civil and fair you've been. I like debate so much better this way, however polarized and passionate it might get.

To Jeff,

In the interest of full disclosure I haven't given the "Golden Pot" as thourough a read through as I've given other text, particularling the BOM.

What I have read I have done in conjuncture with Grant Palmer's "An Insiders View of Mormon Origins," and focused on the passages that he focused on. I don't believe it was necessary to really care about the content that didn't relate to the BOM.

The similarities to the stories are the following:

Both Joseph and Anselmus,

1. recieve a shock, have a visions of angels, and recieve a message
2. Are called to translate ancient works
3. The next morning walk to the appointed place
4. Think about riches
5. Encounter an evil force
6. recieve a brief sketch of the "ancients"
7. The messenger in both accounts is a descendant of his people's founders
8. The messenger is the people's last archivist
9. The messenger is a spirit prince
(Note: According to Abner Cole, "the elder Smith declared that his son Jo had seen the spirit," also called "the prince of spirits."(Cole, 12 June 1830; 14 Feb. 1831))
10. The message is repeated and expanded
11. Both Joseph and Anselmus are chastized for disobedience
12. Have to wait one year
13. The next visit is connected with the Fall equinox (Look it up if you need to, but Joseph receives the plates September 22nd 1827)
14. Both were accompanied by a woman
15. The characters are in an unknown language
16. He translates by inspiration
17. He produces a most correct book

Now the above list deserves to be completely credited to Grant Palmer and is not my own analysis, nor is a complete list. I have however read the original text and compared to what Palmer writes and am convinced the analysis is sound. If anyone wants to get into further I suggest they read his book.

Jeff, this list is impressive and specific. It's of course not conclusive nor ever could be, but should at least make us ask questions.

To Daylan Derby,

I actually liked very much your example of spirituality being on a sine wave, I have often felt that way. I don't believe I left on a low point however.

In my past, as I related in Jeff's "Facing the Shotgun" discussion a couple of weeks ago, I have certainly been through some confusing times spiritually.

However, shortly after I graduated, and the pressure of school was off I did begin to feel on an "up" as it were. In fact I was at a point were reading the scriptures had become enjoyable again. Indeed even to this day, I still enjoy reading Alma 32 and believe the principle it teaches has great value.

But for the BOM to have authority in my life it has to be everything it claims.

It I believe what it claims isn't true, then all of the beliefs I held before that leaned on it's veracity come down with it.

I guess that's just the way I look at it. Many have disagreed with me here before, and we've hashed it out quite a bit, but it's what I think.

To Indy,

There are some flaws in logic concerning the genetics.

You are basically saying that it's still possible for an unknown haplotype to exist, and that if we found even the faintest hint of a new marker in the Amerinds, then that would give weight to a Limited Geography Theory scenario.

If that happened, I would totaly agree with you.

However there are two things to consider:

1. We are not working with an infinite sampling size. There are only 25 mitochondrial markers ever recorded out of the entire world population. Any addition markers other than that that perhaps existed has died out. It's not logical that the line from the Lamanites completely died out.

2. In addition, soon we will be at the hundreds of thousands of people sampled milestone with mtDNA and Y chromosome studies. Those of you with a statistics background will recognize that this is a HUGE sample size.

If we assume that it's okay to lump people into ethnicities based on morphology, then we're past the point of any major "surprises." Perhaps we'll find an isolated, novel branch in Micronesia, or an alternate migration pathway out of Africa.

But to imagine the Lamanites having a marker other than Hebrew (Ashkenazi, Cohen etc..) that has yet to be found is a reach.

About Joseph and literacy. His literacy frankly is in no way necessary. Most of the themes I mentioned earlier were commonly discussed. "View of the Hebrews" for example was written by Oliver Cowdery's cousin. It's completely reasonable to think that Oliver mentioned it to Joseph. It would have been enough to just hear about it.

In any event we know that Joseph was indeed literate. Also, he would have easy access to pamphlets, and newspapers. Also, a library did exist in Palmyra. So the "uneducated farmboy" idea can only be taken so far.

Anonymous said...

i like your comments byu gestapo. not that i agree w/ them. but FINALLY a former mormon who is civil. what more could we ask for.

I think the point BOM Inday was trying to make concerning genetics is not that the Lamanite DNA would be a perfectly identifiable type, not something obscure, but that it did disappear, as could very easily happen. As diploid organisms, we receive one of each chromosome of our parents. Thus, the other chromosome does disappear. Given the huge sample size you mentioned, this would not be enough in a general sense, except for the fact that we are dealing with strictly male or strictly female DNA. It wouldn't take more than ONE switch from male to female and back to completely avoid having any Lamanite DNA along the all male or all female lines.

Was Oliver Cowdery really cousins with the author of View of the Hebrews? You'd think we'd have heard that from some loud anti-mormon before, but that's new news to me.

BYU alter ego said...

To anonymous,

I need to correct myself. Joseph Smith jr. and Oliver were cousins. Ethan Smith, the author of "View of the Hebrews" was a pastor in Poultney, Rutland, VT, where Cowdery's family resided. It's highly likely that Oliver's family attended his services.

I apologize for error. It makes a difference. I didn't mean to mislead anyone.

Also, anon, you are speaking of Chromosomal DNA in the first place. mtDNA is very different and does not recombine, nor is there a meiotic process involved as you mentioned. It's located in the Mitochonria, completely separate from the cell nucleus. mtDNA combined with non-recombinant areas of the Y-Chromosome can look very far back due to the fact that the only changes occuring in them from generation are point mutations that occur at a measured rate.

So you guys, with respect, are both off on your explanations.

Anonymous said...

the mtDNA comes from the mother. That means that if your father or grandfather (even matriarchal grandfather) will NOT have that mtDNA. and what if your lamanite ancestors are from that line which involves males. They have no mtDNA to pass, and therefore an analysis of mtDNA would find nothing. In other words, the only way you would find that mtDNA is if the living native american tested was a female descended from mother to daughter, centuries and centuries ago. When you require that the descendents of the Lamanites only came through strictly female lines, it is rather likely that wouldn't find what you are looking for; doesn't mean the DNA wasn't there. It just means somewhere in that lineage, a male was asked to pass it along and couldn't, since he doesn't pass mtDNA. right?

Anonymous said...

Um, weren't the mothers, those women that never got mentioned also jewish?

Science aside, I was raised mormon, read the BOM three times, the first time being before Baptism, and never recieved any burning breast during my years of prayers about it or otherwise.

I broke with it at 14 when prez Kimball, speaking at a General Conference, said masturbation leads to homosexuality. Even at 14 I knew that to be BLATENTLY false cause at least 70% of the world would have to be gay in that case.

Then you get to the actual doctrine, the words and the way in which they keep being reinterpreted. Now I'm reading maybe Joseph Smith didn't mean horses, maybe it was really deer! Wow, revisionist when the facts don't work much?

BYU alter ego said...

To first anon,

Above all, you can trace maternally AND paternally if you use y chromosome as well as mtDNA. So regardless, you can trace lineages.

Also, with a limited number of markers to choose from, a person's profile is going to fit in somewhere.

Besides, second anon is right, we're going to have to find some Hebrew somewhere at somepoint to make the Lamanites work. Even if it's from a "Limited Geography" setting.

Arguing that their line died out doesn't fit with the BOM prophecies and is just plain naive.

I hate to sound like a jerk, but you do guys even try to understand the science before you post?

Bookslinger said...

Yes, BYU-G, we do try. Jeff is a scientist as much as an engineer. I studied basic genetics in high school biology, so I have a basic understanding of DNA, mitochondria, X and Y chromosomes, etc. I obviously don't know all the details you do.

I'm also very comfortable with logic, and trying to see how things can logically reconcile. I think you've taken things that are "unlikely" and dismissed them out of hand merely because they are unlikely. Yet, "unlikely" doesn't mean "impossible."

All the DNA-based assertions against the BoM and the church's position have been countered, but, apparently the reason you dismiss the counter-arguments is that you hold fast to the fundamentalist and traditional, but definitely UNofficial, viewpoint that Amer-indians must be pure Jewish on simultaneous matriarchal and patriarchal lines.

Whereas the Book of Mormon specifically states that Lehi was tribe of Joseph. AND, the tribe of Joseph very likely married different women than the tribe of Judah, ever since the time that Jospeh was sold into Egypt.

We still don't know who the Lehites mixed with while here, neither during the 1000 year Lehite dynastry, nor after Moroni's day.

All it takes is one back-and-forth across male and female lines, somewhere in each line of descendency, so that you lose both the Lehite mitochondrial DNA line and the Lehite Y-chromosome line.

I'm assuming there is even a 'Lehite' mitochondrial DNA line based on Sariah or Mrs. Ishmael, whereas we really don't know the ancestry of those two matriarchs, or if they were the only two matriarchs in Lehite society.

Example A: If a Lehite woman married a non-Lehite man, it would cause the Lehite Y-chromosome to NOT appear among their direct male-line descendents, but their children could still legitimately claim descendancy from Lehi. Therefore the prophecies would still apply.

Example B: And if a Lehite man married a non-Lehite woman, their direct female-line descendants would not have Lehite mitochondrial DNA, though they could still claim descendancy from Lehi. Prophecy fulfilled.

If you have male descendents (anywhere down the line) from example A marrying female offspring (anywhere down the line) from example B, THEN you have further offsping who are still legitimate descendants of Lehi, who have neither Lehi's Y chromosome, nor Sariah's (or Mrs. Ishmael's) mitochondrial DNA.

And it didn't have to occur all at once. They didn't have to all take non-Lehite husbands or non-Lehite wives in the same generation. There were approx 2100 years from Lehi to Christopher Columbus for the criss-crossing to occur.

But there is about 1100 years of history, from 421 AD to 1500 AD that is a big black hole in the history of the Amer-Indians.

The line of reasoning against the BoM also seems to assume that the women of Lehi's party (Mrs. Lehi, Mrs. Ishmael, and whatever female servants they took along) must also be of the same ancestral lines as the modern Jewish women. I don't think that's a logical assumption, especially given the 2600 years since separation.

One of the big hints from the Old testament is that from the time of King Solomon to 600 BC is that the Jews married women outside of Israel. They married outsiders during the Babylonian captivity, and it's highly likely that the scattered Jews of the 1st century AD married outsiders.

The point being that mitochondrial DNA among people identified as Jewish in modern times is highly unlikely to be close to the mitochondrial DNA of the women of Jerusalem in 600 BC. And we still don't know where Sariah and Mrs. Ishmael fit into that equation.

Samuel said...

There is no true evidence linking Ethan Smith to the Cowdery family, only speculation...

Good article debunking some of the claims:

https://byustudies.byu.edu/shop/PDFfiles/39.1Morris.pdf

And Oliver Cowdery was indeed a 3rd cousin to Lucy Mack Smith, but there is no evidence that they were even aware of the family connection. I actually knew a girl in college for some time before accidentally stumbling across the fact that she was my 3rd cousin. Having 2 people knowing that they have the same great great grandfather in the early 19th century is a bit unlikely.

BYU alter ego said...

To Samuel:

I read the article you referenced. It was nice to see something more professional for once. The FARMS stuff I've read lately has left me with indigestion... :)

I agree with Mr. Morris' analysis that the connection between Ethan Smith and Oliver is speculative. I've always thoughts so actually.

But understand that there is circumstantial evidence that gives rise to the speculation. A large weight of circumstantial evidence is not something to be dismissed.

Indeed, in the US courts at least, it's possible to prosecute for murder even if no body has been found.

See: http://www.nbc6.net/news/5003739/detail.html

Now that's just an example of course. BY what standard you judge spiritual matters is completely yours to decide.

For me, I look at is as cause and effect. I see the effect, or in other words the outcome, that was the Book of Mormon. It has to have a cause.

In essence, there are only two explanations of what that cause might be: Either it's true and divine, or it's literary and a fraud.

Evidence for the former had been found lacking in my life. That's just me I guess... :) And although there is indeed circumstantial evidence that support it's claim of divinity, there is MORE circumstantial evidence that denies it.

As has been preached by Lord knows how many people, you're not going to find direct evidence for or against the BOM.

I agree with that actually. Which is why I look to add up all the surrounding, connected facts.

As well done as the Morris article was, by the very nature of it's subject it's incapable of "debunking" anything as you said.

No theory the article analyzed, either from Van Wagoner, or Palmer, was ever claimed to be factual, or anything more than speculation.

But if you draw a circle of circumstantial evidence around a subject long enough, eventually you know that the truth has to be contained somewhere within it's perimeter.

In my opinion, there is little room for the divine option with that circle, it just does not add up.

My other contention, is that the faithful are overly confident in their traditional beliefs of Joseph's history.

Joseph has a mythos that grows every year, and anything that contradicts that mythos is viewed as a threat, indcluding those who profess the contradiction.

Too quick, are the faithful to proclaim "it's true!"

Which, going back to my original assertion in my message to Jeff, doesn't give me faith that a more educated membership will be more faithful. The more I have learned the less I have liked.

And perhaps surprising to you is that the more I've focused on the spiritual side, the less I've seen any reason to believe that spirituality is connected to Mormonism in any way.

Eric said...

I agree that people will come across many an uncomfortable thing when searching through the Church's history, but I don't think that is unique to Mormonism.

In its core doctrine, the Church has (as far as I know) remained steadfast; moreso than any other Christian denomination. Things have come and gone, like polygamy and prohibition on Blacks having the Priesthood, but that stuff was far from a basic belief of the Church.

The Church has done things that are bizarre, but when it comes down to basic doctrine, I like it. The more I experiance in life, the more I find the basic doctrines to be appealing. I honestly can't think of a single belief I disagree with. As a young teenager, I used to take issue with the Law of Chastity and the Word of Wisdom. I guess I just didn't understand the dangers inherint with disobeying such council. Now though at 17, I've seen the damage rampant sex, drugs, and the rest can render on a person.

Our gospel just makes sense. Maybe I have allowed myself to be 'brainwashed,' but even if that were the case, I wouldn't really care. I take comfort in knowing that our leaders are certaintly wise. Even if something may seem pointles, or self-limiting, it will make sense in time. I know that at the end of it all I will be able look back and see that I have led a good life. That is exactly what the Book of Mormon promises, and that is exactly what I hope to get (along with Celestial glory and like, of course).

And so I must disagree with you, BYU Gestapo. By gaining education and experiances, our faith can grow. We may be challenged at times and even fall away, but if we endure to the end it will all be made clear. We will understand the sacrafices we've made, and our faith will become be boundless.

Samuel said...

Hey Gestapo,

Thank you for your words...I am at a bit of a loss though. You mention that the more circumstantial evidence you have, the more likely truth is to be found therein (at least that is the way I read it.) I am a convert to the Church; believe me, I read everything I could get my hands on about the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, etc (for and against.) I sincerely believe that the Holy Spirit guided me to the place I am now, to the belief that the Church and the BoM are divinely inspired. But so did my careful reasoning and analysis of all the facts.

You speak of circumstantial evidence; here is how I look at that in view of the BoM (although I prefer to think of this as direct evidence that lends support to the premise that the BoM is what it says it is):

-Chiasmus in the BoM
-Hebraisms in the BoM
-The Witnesses (who never denied their testimony)
-How Mesoamerican geography fits in with the descriptions of the BoM
-How Arabic geography fits in with the descriptions of the BoM
-BoM weights and measures which are the same as what is used today in Central America
-the wordprint study that shows that Joseph Smith was most likely not the author of the BoM (and neither was Cowdery, Spaulding, and Alma and Nephi were written by different authors.)

I could go on and on. One or two of these could be simply coincedence, but the weight of them all is quite overwhelming (plus the others that could be brought forth.)

I expect that I am wasting my time here, but you say there is a great deal of circumstantial evidence against the BoM. I see it quite the opposite. What evidence are you speaking of that disproves the BoM?

Samuel said...

One more thing...I seem to recall reading somewhere that the Church, early on, printed portions of the "View of the Hebrews" as evidence for the BoM. Jeff may know when that appeared; I am fairly certain it occurred while Joseph Smith was still alive. Fairly bold if they (meaning Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery) had used it in the way alleged.

I know that it is printed now by BYU so that people can see that it hardly bears any resemblance to the BoM.

On another note, if Joseph Smith somehow forged the BoM and somehow formulated the chiasmus found in Alma (and to formulate it, you first have to know that chiasmus exists and then really have to plan it out to make it work), he never brought it up as evidence of the truthfulness of the BoM. Strange.

BYU alter ego said...

To Samuel,

I had previously read the BYU paper on Chiasmus and it's indeed a facinating subject.

I agree with the paper that the Chiasmus found in the Book of Mormon (especially Alma 36)are quite probably by design.

The question is whether the design was derived from inspiration from God, Hebraic tradition of BOM prophets, personal knowledge held by Joseph or perhaps outside knowledge offered by another party?

If you consider that the Doctrine and Covenants contain chiasmus as well as oratories by Joseph one can narrow down the options to either divine inspiration or personal knowledge.

It's possible that in the beginning Joseph had someone who could teach him about Chiamus. We can assume then that he learned it himself later on, or God was indeed inspiring him to use the literary form.

So the question of whether the existing chiamus in the BOM give evidence for or against it authenticy really bring you back to whether you believe Joseph was inspired or not.

I'll spare you the details of my reasoning on the subject, but in short, the evolutionary nature of Church doctrine, and incidents such as the Kinderhook issue show to me that at a minimum there were times where Joseph was trying to act inspired when indeed he was not.

Those instances don't necessarily preclude other prophesies from being true outright, but it opens the door to questioning.

Is there evidence against the authenticity of the BOM that can also explain away the chiasmus? No, not in my opinion, at least not directly.

But that doesn't mean it's a shut case, it just means that no evidence has been found.

My own personally theory is that we don't know the whole story behind the origin of the BOM. I believe Joseph had help, although there exists no reliable proof of that help thus far.

The mere fact that he tried to profit from the sales of the BOM as well as the sale of it's copyright in Canada lead me to believe something was going on there.

Perhaps one could argue that he just wanted to pay off the debt to Martin Harris. That's valid.

But Joseph's history continued to show a pattern "get rich quick" behavior. Examples of that would be searching for treasure, abusing the bankruptcy laws and thus avoiding paying his debts, and the Kirtland Bank to name a few.

So I look at the relatively high price for the BOM in it's first printing as well as the attempted sale of the copyright in that light.

Because Joseph's motives don't appear as pure as one would expect, I'm lead to believe that at a minimum one should scrutinize the "Inspiration" option.

There are many I'm sure who will argue that my expectations are too high. My answer to that my submission of will, and the commitment of obedience as well as sacrifice come at a higher price than that.

So many people believe that Joseph deserves carte blanche in all of his acts BECAUSE he was prophet. Well have we ever considered the circular logic there?

Shouldn't we judge his lofty claim by his acts.

In the end, I know you'll probably argue with me about the role the Holy Ghost plays in this whole issue.

My personal "testimony" as it were is that those same flashes of insight, same heart warming feelings, same optimism, same enlightenment continue on for me. In my own estimation, they have no exclusive connection to Mormonism whatsoever.

So to me, anyone who judges the truthfulness of the Gospel by those notions alone has not vetted the process properly.

Ask yourself to catalog all the times where you had a spiritual "false alarm" where inspiration ended up meaning nothing.

How many times did that happen to me, lol, especially on my mission.

I think I have had perhaps 2-3 experiences in my whole life that I can not, and do not explain away. None of them had anything to do with the Gospel.

I know that one testimony doesn't "cancel" another, but I am suggesting that in using personal feelings as a evidence, a very, very, careful accounting should be done by yourself.

As far as the "View of the Hebrews" tidbit you mentioned, if you can source that for me so I can review what's known I can comment on it later. I hadn't heard about Joseph bringing it up before. It would make for an interesting read.

Thanks... :)

Samuel said...

Ges,

I finally found the information. It was mentioned by Jeff (no surprise there) from an article by a man named Mike Griffith. The link is to his article, even though Jeff quotes the relevant portion. It is under "A Puzzling Incident" though the whole article is a good read.

http://ourworld-top.cs.com/mikegriffith1/id108.htm

My personal belief is that we have a lot more reasons to believe the BoM than disbelieve. Just my opinion. I am a convert and I looked at both sides extensively before joining the Church. It really does all come down to faith in the end. I appreciate the way in which you discuss all these things. :)

Samuel said...

Ges,

If Joseph Smith wanted to make money, he sure went about it the wrong way. He went to all the trouble to manufacture this book (and the Church with troublesome doctrine like new scriptures, plural marriage, revelation, etc) when all he had to do to make money, given his incredible charisma and charm was to preach the regular gospel. I am sure he would have made a lot more money, and had a great deal more stability, rather than having to move 4 or 5 times in his life, hardly ever having a place of his own for he and his family, enduring arrests, beatings, jailings, unending prosecutions, financial difficulties, the loss of children, and his eventual death (by an armed mob) at the age of 38. Besides the fact that he wasted all that money and effort on building a temple in Kirtland which obviously took up a lot of the available cash.

No offense, but that makes no sense. The only way I can imagine he endured all this is if everything that he said is true.