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

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Oliver Cowdery: A Powerful Witness of the Book of Mormon

A message sent out by the folks at the NephiProject.com reminds me of the significance of Oliver Cowdery's role as an eyewitness to the Book of Mormon. The message turns to October 1848, when Oliver went from his home in Tiffin, Ohio to Iowa to rejoin the Saints. At a conference on October 21st, Oliver Cowdery gave the following account regarding the Book of Mormon:
Friends and Brethren: My name is Cowdery, Oliver Cowdery. In the early history of this Church, I stood identified with her, and one in her councils. True it is that the gifts and callings of God are without repentance; not because I was better than the rest of mankind was I called, to fulfill the purposes of God. He called me to a high and holy calling. I wrote with my own pen, the entire Book of Mormon (save a few pages) as it fell from the lips of the Prophet Joseph Smith, as he translated it by the gift and power of God, by means of the Urim and Thummim, or, as it is called by the book, "holy interpreters." I beheld with my eyes, and handled with my hands, the gold plates from which it was translated. I also saw with my eyes and handled with my hands the "holy interpreters." The book is true. Sidney Rigdon did not write it; Mr. Spaulding did not write it; I wrote it myself as it fell from the lips of the Prophet. It contains the everlasting gospel, and came forth to the children of men in fulfillment of the revelations of John, where he says he saw an angel come with the everlasting gospel to preach to every nation, kindred, tongue and people. It contains principles of salvation; and if you, my hearers, will walk by its light and obey its precepts, you will be saved with an everlasting salvation in the kingdom of God on high

(Joseph Fielding Smith, The Restoration of All Things, p.114)
Oliver was just one of many who saw the plates and knew they were real and of divine origin. None of these witnesses ever retracted their testimony of the Book of Mormon, in spite of some leaving the Church after becoming upset with later events or with Joseph Smith.

65 comments:

Samuel said...

Jeff,

You are on fire the last few days with these great posts of evidences of the BoM! Unfortunately, the DNA evidence makes all this other evidence moot, since we all know the DNA evidence proves the BoM completely wrong. ;)

Oh well. Thanks anyhow.

Daniel Peterson said...

Oliver Cowdery's testimony is very compelling indeed, as is that of the other Witnesses.

Some might be interested to know that the very latest issue of the FARMS Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, just off the press, features a substantial article by Richard Lloyd Anderson (the premier authority on the Witnesses) in which he confronts efforts by Grant Palmer and Dan Vogel to explain the experience of the Eight Witnesses away as merely subjective or hallucinatory.

Professor Anderson's Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses remains the classic and indispensable overall treatment of the subject.

Anonymous said...

From what I have read from Oliver, I would not trust him. He knew JS very well and still accused him of adultery. Great trusted friend.

Mike Parker said...

There is an enormous difference between a falling out between friends and eye-witness testimony. Especially in this case, where Oliver's reasons for accusing Joseph are complex.

Anonymous said...

A falling out between friends?
Uh, Oliver Cowdery brought to light the relationship that Joseph was having with some young women. I would hardly call that a good friend. Nor someone that could be trusted

Massive Mormon MegaMan 7000 said...

Oliver's testimony as a witness, coupled with the others, along with his consistency throughout his life, lead one to realize that any fallacious innuendo that may have occurred between JS and himself is just not relevant. Oliver's path in life ultimately led him back, to what degree and standing with the Lord, I do not know -- that is irrelevant also.
The key to all this is that Oliver knew what he witnessed, knew that the Lord himself knew, and was appropriately true to that knowledge.

Despite his 'falling out' for whatever pointless reason, Oliver, ultimately, was true to himself and the proclamation of testimony he gave to the world.
That is relevant.

Walker said...

Ah, Anon@6:39, concerning your argument about Oliver Cowdery's loyalty, to paraphrase Inigo Montoya on Princess Bride, "I don't think it means what we think it means." I get this funny little impression that you're not REALLY arguing about Cowdery's loyalty. You've got issues with polygamy (the whole "young women" phrase has a nasty connotation, wouldn't you agree)?

Well, I don't want to threadjack here, so I will forego a lengthy discussion of the complicated picture of what Oliver knew, what Joseph did, and what historical evidence we have for both. I will note that credible evidence suggests that Oliver was engaged in polygamy as well during this time (Brigham Young in Wilford Woodruff journal, 26 August 1857, HDC; Brigham Young in Manuscript History of Brigham Young, 1857, 439 (based on Woodruff's journal entry with added detail), HDC; Heber C. Kimball (comment made 24 May 1868) in "Record of the Provo Stake of Zion," HDC; Brigham Young in Joseph F. Smith diary, 9 October 1869, HDC; Brigham Young in Charles Walker Diary, 26 July 1872, HDC; Joseph F. Smith, 7 July 1878, in JD 20:29; George Q. Cannon in Juvenile Instructor 16 (15 September 1881): 206; and Joseph F. Smith (comment made 4 March 1883) in "Utah Stake Historical Record, 1877–1888," HDC.).

Additionally, the "young woman" innuendo is a simplification of the way Joseph's marriages actually worked, at least in regards to the younger ones. Helen Kimball, for example, never even moved in with Joseph.

Just some thoughts.

Walker said...

The "so what" of it all:

Oliver had plenty of "reasons" (excuses, depending on whom you listen to) to be upset with the church. He furthermore had all the "reasons" in the world to deny the whole fiasco as a bizarre chapter in his life history whose last pages were being written. But he did not. That should tell us something about his convictions, if not even the event's veracity.

See Scott Faurling's essay on the "Return of Oliver" for more info. It can be found on farms.byu.edu

Anonymous said...

The Greatest Witness of the Book of Mormon?

The greatest witness is He, of who the book is witness.

Roy W. Wright said...

Actually, the greatest witness is the Holy Spirit. But that's almost semantics.

Jon said...

Might I suggest that what you (or Faulring) term "credible evidence" for Cowdery's involvement in polygamy is pretty thin and calls for skepticism.

The earliest source, Woodruff's August 26, 1857, journal article, states: "Presidet Young staid 3+ hours in Compiling his History. He remarked that the revelation upon a plurality of wives was given to Joseph Smith. He revealed it to Oliver Cowdery alone upon the solem pledge that He would not reveal it or act upon it but He did act upon it in a secret manner & that was the cause of his overthrow."

How does Young know this? Did he hear it from Joseph Smith? Or from Oliver Cowdery? Or from Church members with a motive to smear Cowdery's name? Or the town gossip? He doesn't say.

Anonymous said...

Walker, I apologize, I did not intend to write women, but woman. Namely Fanny Alger. It was Joseph's relationship to her that brought about the charge of adultery. The reasons for excommunication were several and Oliver's exposing that relationship was just one of the several.
Yes, I agree, the young women, does have a nasty connotation. I think the whole thing was a nasty affair. No pun intended. :)

Walker said...

Thank you Jon. I commend you for your citation of evidence and tough questioning.

The real question is: would Brigham Young believe some wild rumors running around about Oliver and then repeat them to Woodruff w/o any qualification? If it was common knowledge amongst the townspeople or other members, I would wonder the other documentation is? Perhaps it's there (you'd be suprised what you can find even in published materials--nothing explosive, but certainly interesting). Considering that Oliver had essentially given up the issue when he rejoined the Church, I think it's fair to say that his later opposition was more a case of bitterness than of moral indignation.

And as far as the "young women" issue goes, my point was not the number but the undue emphasis on the age. The history is squeamish enough; we don't need to make more so by insinuating things about Joseph that didn't happen. Helen Kimball was lined up w/Joseph by her father just so Heber could be related to Joseph! That should indicate a certain level of acceptance in marrying young. If not, we should expect Heber to be having heartburn over the issue--which he didn't (at least over Helen; Vilate was a different issue).

As Jon's evidence implies, if Oliver was revealing something about Fanny, he was doing so with duplicity.

No worries though. He came back later--and that's what counts in the end.

Jon said...

The real question is: would Brigham Young believe some wild rumors running around about Oliver and then repeat them to Woodruff w/o any qualification? If it was common knowledge amongst the townspeople or other members, I would wonder the other documentation is? Perhaps it's there (you'd be suprised what you can find even in published materials--nothing explosive, but certainly interesting).

I think it's irresponsible to tar a man based on (third-hand, fourth-hand, fifth-hand?) sources dated 20, 30, or 40 years after the alleged fact. When Cowdery was tried for his membership, why wasn't he charged with adultery or unlawful polygamy?

Joseph F. Smith was not even alive when these events supposedly happened, and he is one of the sources.

Anonymous said...

That threw me for a loop as well. I don't understand where this charge now comes from that Oliver was having an adulterous affair. He was not charged with it during his ex. He only spoke out to his bosom friend when he thought he was in the wrong. And that was one of the reasons for the excommunication. I don't think it fair to rewite history that way. Oliver seemed to have Joseph's best interests in mind when he counciled him regarding Fanny.

Walker said...

I wouldn't call this "tarring" a man any more than I would the examination some of Joseph's more human traits. Nor would I call it rewriting history (which tends to smack of apologetics). If that's rewriting history, that's all historians do! Just because someone questions the common understanding of an event does not make that person guilty of historical tarring and feathering.

Nevertheless, after looking more carefully, I would have to concede that this evidence does leave something to be desired. However, I wouldn't dispose of it just yet. First we would have to see if all the documentation came, in one way or another, from the same source. If so, then we have cause to doubt the source's credibility. HOwever, if numerous individuals attested to it independently (which, with the obvious exception of Joseph F. Smith), then we have reason to believe that the charge is correct.

If O.C. had participated, he was likely just censured at the time, Joseph Smith viewing it as a non-exc. offense; after all, he did write the "Article on Marriage" in 1835 proclaiming monogamy to be the way of the church. However, the W.W. entry is tricky, since Woodruff mentions that Cowdery's indulgence was "the cause of his overthrow." Perhaps Young was connecting O.C.'s later apostasy with the initial germ of it bred during O.C's polygamous indulgence. Hmmm...Still questions left to be asked.

Jon said...

I think we ought to give Cowdery the same benefit of the doubt we grant to Joseph Smith.

Bookslinger said...

Does anyone have the reference, (I think it's either in JS's journals, or in the History of the Church) where he said that when he told Oliver of the revelation on plural marriage, Oliver was more eager to practice it than he was?

Bookslinger said...

I think all of us, including myself, need to be more charitable towards Oliver Cowdery.

His history in the church shows that he was highly favored of the Lord: being permitted to translate for at least a little, having Moroni present the plates (and I think the other artifacts too, such as the sword of Laban) to him, Martin Harris, and David Whitmer, and witnessing the glorious events in the Kirtland temple.

Such grand outpourings and witnesses come only after one has exercised much faith.

Both his fall from grace and his return to the saints should be lessons for all of us. No matter what testimonies we've received, we need to always watch and pray so we don't fall. And the door is always open to those who want to come back.

Both Oliver Cowdery and Thomas B. Marsh (and maybe Sidney Rigdon?) stood in line before Brigham Young to become the president and prophet of the church after Joseph Smith.

Oliver Cowdery's life is a lesson of both good things, and bad things.

Walker said...

I'm not sure of the ref right off hand. I'll look it--might be interesting.

That being said, I agree with that, Bookslinger, believe it or not. I saw a simplification of facts on Joseph's plural marriage and Oliver's motives in revealing it, and I wanted to correct that. However, I should have stated my general support for Oliver earlier on so that I didn't sound like a historical mudslinger. Quite honestly, I care very little over the opinions people have on evidence, as long as they actually have the evidence.

If Oliver came back, almost everyone can come back.

Radicalfeministpoet said...

Good heavens! I wandered back to look again at this page, and all sorts of things have appeared.

I’m amazed that people can put so much stock in the testimony of eye-witnesses. If J smith’s BoM were the only multiply witnessed “miracle” in history, this might carry more weight. It isn’t, and it doesn’t. On the thread I just linked I mentioned several such examples within Christianity.

Here is something that is more compelling than so-called eyewitnesses:

1) Joseph Smith was a person of low moral character.
2) The BoM had never been heard of before it was “revealed” to Joseph. (This has happened before, but generally the manuscript hangs around long enough afterwards for people to be comfortable that it really existed.) After he “translated” it, the original document was whisked away by an angel, so we have no text to examine. (How do we know Joe translated it correctly? What if he put the U&T on upside down, or backwards?)
3) Joe’s other attempts at “translation” were fraudulent. The Kinderhook plates were fakes, and the “Book of Abraham” was an Egyptian funerary papyrus. Why would he get this one right? And how about that “grammar” he was writing?

There's a lot of wacky people around. Couldn't Oliver,like Joe, have been one of them?

Walker said...

More assertions--little to no evidence. The Kinderhook fraud was a total bust for those wishing to fool the prophet; as one of them noted: "We understood Jo Smith said [the plates] would make a book of 1200 pages but he would not agree to translate them until they were sent to the Antiquarian society at Philadelphia, France, and England." Also, the source comes from a lone journal entry by Clayton--ironic that RfP should rely so heavily on one "eyewitness" when she castigates us for relying on eleven.

The Book of Abraham assertion is also a gross simplification (see Jeff's page for a more complete coverage). But since RfP isn't interested in proving Mormonism incorrect anyway, well, I guess s/he has succeeded in that regard :)

ltbugaf said...

"Joseph Smith was a person of low moral character."

False conclusion.

Walker said...

Sorry for the threadjack--

Just a knee-jack reaction I guess :)

Samuel said...

"Sorry for the threadjack--"

No problem, I almost said something myself. You did better than I could of anyhow.

It also gets me that she acts as if all the witnesses had a spiritual manifestation (and thus untrustworthy.) The 8 saw the plates in a physical sense; they touched them, hefted them, examined the characters on them, turned the pages of them....

How do we dismiss the witness of the eight?

Also interesting that it would be so easy for her to disprove Mormonism, yet she keeps throwing out all the tired, anti-Mormon arguments. Surely someone with her self-confessed brains could come up with something new.

Radicalfeministpoet said...

Actually, nothing new is necessary. The same old tired arguments still work.

I have looked at Jeff's pages, and though they're not convincing, I'm fascinated by the castles in the air he's capable of building...as I mentioned HERE (click).

The Kinderhook plates, or a portion of them, still exist, unlike the mysterious "gold plates" of the BoM. Clayton's testimony was credible enough that the story is found in the Mormon "History of the Church"--and let's not lose sight of the fact that it's a lot more sensible to trust a witness who reported someone who claimed powers of translation was busy translating than a witness who claimed to have seen otherworldly visitors.

And what about that Egyptian grammar?

And what about all those witnessed non-Mormon miracles?

Walker said...

RfP--

You've undergone a change in your time away from us. Whatever happened to the good ole' days when you were just interested in understanding how people prop an intellectually indefensible religion? Decided that approach was no longer provoking, eh? Your "what about" question are indeed quite betraying of your approach Ah well, at least you've assumed the role of a stock anti-Mormon--shotgun questions, oversimplification (History of the Church is DEFINITELY not definitive, even if President Hinckley himself had compiled--not to mention that we have the quotation of one of the conspirators Kinderhook conspirators who stated that Smith was skeptical--see my post), and of course, there's your everlasting skepticism of "eyewitnesses" which you have now employed when it is convenient. When someone constantly shifts ground according to rhetorical expediency, I see no purpose in discoursing with him/her.

As I said before, good luck in your search for truth (which I hope you do seek). Obviously you don't find Mormonism attractive. Fine by me. Be the best the can and the world will be better for it.

ltbugaf said...

RfP said: "I’m amazed that people can put so much stock in the testimony of eye-witnesses."

RfP also said: "it's a lot more sensible to trust a witness who reported someone who claimed powers of translation was busy translating than a witness who claimed to have seen otherworldly visitors."


I really wish RfP would quit attacking the New Testament like that:

"Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things cwhich• are most surely believed among us,
Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word;
It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus,
That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed."
--Luke 1:1-4

"For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty."
--2 Peter 1:16

What isn't clear to me about RfP is why it chooses a thread about the Book of Mormon to attack the Bible.

ltbugaf said...

"generally the manuscript hangs around long enough afterwards for people to be comfortable that it really existed"

Gosh, if you'll just point me to all those original manuscripts of the Old and New Testaments I'd appreciate it.

Radicalfeministpoet said...

There seems to be a misapprehension that the opposite of obfuscation is oversimplification. It is not my fault that the evidence against J Smith’s character is clear and can be expressed concisely. We are, after all, talking about a man who was not only caught out in his fraudulent attempts to “translate” ancient documents, but had a history of criminal activity and was a sexual predator as well as what we would call today a paedophile. These narcissistic traits unfortunately were not unique to Smith, we have seen them time and time again from those who would manipulate religious sensibilities for their own ends: viz. Father Divine, David Koresh, et al.

if you'll just point me to all those original manuscripts of the Old and New Testaments I'd appreciate it.
One of the chief traps I warn against falling into is the argument by analogy, which we see here in its implicit and hence perhaps most dangerous form. The earliest manuscripts of portion of the New Testament date back to before the 4th century, and become more numerous as time goes on. There are no manuscripts of the BoM, only a purported “translation” by a man whose credibility is extremely suspect.

Likewise, it appears that Mormons are unable or unwilling to see any difference in kind or degree between witnesses who claim to have seen an ordinary event (X is doing something at his desk) and a supernatural one (X is conversing with angels again). If anyone has difficulty seeing this, let me suggest a simple experiment. First, call your local emergency number and tell them your house is on fire. You will probably get a response within a few hours, possibly a day or two. The following week, phone them again and tell them you are being pestered by John the Baptist, or by an angel with gold plates. The only visit you are likely to get is from men in white coats. The credibility of witnesses relates not only to their character but to the content of their testimony.

Now I would like to hear about the Egyptian grammar. And again, how to Mormons explain witnesses to non-Mormon “miracles, ” which are legion?

Samuel said...

"as well as what we would call today a paedophile"

I would be careful when you throw around such categorizations. A pedophile (as we spell it here in stupid America) is defined as a person who has sexual feelings for prepubescent children. This is not the case with Joseph Smith and I think it is an awful (and false) aspersion to make about him.

ltbugaf said...

rfp: Since you still assert that an eyewitness unreliable if he claims to have witnessed something supernatural, I have no choice but to assume that you find the entire Bible unreliable.

So again, I ask, why are you focusing your attacks on Mormonism when your argument is against Christianity and Judaism?

ltbugaf said...

"The earliest manuscripts of portion of the New Testament date back to before the 4th century, and become more numerous as time goes on."

Yes, they become more numerous because they aren't originals. The "manuscripts" you describe are documents that purport to be copies, or translations, of earlier documents. But the earlier documents on which they claim to be based aren't around. They're gone! Missing! Yet you still give credence to the later documents that claim to be accurate copies or translations.

Joseph Smith's Book of Mormon manuscript is a document that purports to be a translation of an earlier document. But the earlier document isn't around. Here, you claim the absence of the original is damning. You insist that since the original plates aren't around for you to look at and translate yourself (which I have no doubt you can do, since you've studied at least one day at Harvard) then the whole story must be dismissed.

I wish your inconsistencies weren't quite so obvious.

What's most tragic is this: You throw out accusations that you KNOW have no substance, such as the Kinderhook episode (how could you NOT know how utterly discredited that accusation is?) and when one of them is knocked down, you come back with, "Oh yeah? Well what about something else?" until someone knocks that one down, too, and on and on. The problem is, you're being disingenuous from the start. You're already perfectly aware of the invalidity of your accusations. You know the Kinderhood episode proves nothing. You know the grammar proves nothing. You know Joseph Smith wasn't a pedophile. But for some reason you make a hobby of lobbing these silly arguments into the midst of what could otherwise be a valuable forum for discussion.

ltbugaf said...

"...call your local emergency number...and tell them you are being pestered by John the Baptist, or by an angel with gold plates. The only visit you are likely to get is from men in white coats."

While you're at it, tell them that a man who was executed by crucifixion three days ago has come back to life and appeared to you, wounds and all.

Again and again and again, your arguments are against all of Christianity and even all of religion, but you save useless stinkbombs like the one above only for Latter-day Saints.

Radicalfeministpoet said...

A paedophile is a person ho has sexual relations with a child or children, or (by extension) someone who would like to. (Pais + philia. Perhaps they don’t teacj Greek anymore in America.) A 14 year old is a child in anyone’s books. A modern American male who “married” a 14 year old would be called a paedophile, even if he couldn’t spell it properly.

Even if Smith had stuck completely to plural marriage with adults, including women who were already married and remained maried to prior husbands, he would still be a sexual predator, in the style of David Koresh.

I am surprised to hear Mormons defending the chequered character of Mr Smith. When I raised the issue with a duo of pimply-faces proselytisers, their response was gthat King David too had peccadilloes of his own. An unsatisfactory response, but a more honest one. Were they being heterodox?

All this relates to Smith’s credibility, which of course leads us back to the BoM. Ltbabgaf cannot be serious when s/he tries to equate the attestation of NT books with the BoM, and his confusion over the meaning of the word “manuscipt” cannot totally take the blame. First, it is far from clear whether many of the NT “books” had “original autographs”; many seem to be composites from several documents, and others to have been semi-independently derived from an unattested source document. According to Smith, there was but one original BoM, which he held in his hands but which conveninetly disappeared. Secondly, all NT books exist not only in translation but in the original Greek. The BoM exists only in Smith’s translation, the accuracy of which cannot be verified. Thirdly, the very existence of alternate translations of the NT, ranging from Old Latin to Ethiopic to Syrian to Armenian, supports the contention that there was something there to be translated. There are no corroborating translations for the BoM. Fourthly, reference to externally attested historic personages and events in the NT, even those that are erroneous in detail, support the anitquity of the document. There are no such persons or places in the BoM outside of the Alice-in –Wonderland world of FARMS et al. Finally, we’re back to Smith’s character. Jerome had his issues, by all accounts, but at least he really could read the languages he translated.

Now I do not mean to imply that we must believe everything in the NT because of its antiquity. We merely have to recognise that such a collection of texts actually existed from near the time it records. And if you choose to believe that any of the miracles recorded in the NT actually occurred, it does not follow that Smith's tall tales were true. Note too that these arguments apply not to the NT, but to any number of ancient texts. We may wonder whether a poet named Homer ever existed, we may have grave doubts whether he composed the poems attributed to him in the form they have come down to us, but internal and external evidence reassure us that there was such a poem as the Oddyssey in antiquity, even though the oldest known complete manuscipt is about 1700 years younger than the date of its probable redaction.

I’m interested in the pattern of avoidance I see here. When the issue of character is raised with respect to Smith, rather than admit his many deficiencies—which, yes, have direct impact on his credibility—people rush to split hairs over paedophilia versus ephebophilia. Or they—for want of a better word—lie to themselves about such issues as the Kinderhook plates. So far, no one seems to have answered the question of how to explain the many miracles recorded in history—I’m speaking of those with multiple witnesses—that don’t fit into Mormonism.

ltbugaf said...

"I am surprised to hear Mormons defending the chequered character of Mr Smith."

This, of course, is a lie. Not a mere misstatement. A deliberate falsehood. RFM is not the least bit surprised to hear Mormons defend Joseph Smith's character. RFM is a liar.


"duo of pimply-faces proselytisers"

Yet another example of deliberately inflammatory, bigoted and meaningless rhetoric that seeks only to incite rather than persuade. Demagoguery.


"Ltbabgaf cannot be serious"

Of course, I keep forgetting that anyone or anything that disagrees with RFM is not "serious." This makes for very easy analysis: If you don't agree with me, you can't possibly mean what you say. If RFM finds some comfort in holding on to that delusion, OK.


"it is far from clear whether many of the NT “books” had “original autographs”; many seem to be composites from several documents, and others to have been semi-independently derived from an unattested source document."

Exactly how is this supposed to make them reliable?


"all NT books exist not only in translation but in the original Greek."

Exactly what is "original" about the Greek manuscripts that don't come along until several centuries after the events they record?


"The BoM exists only in Smith’s translation, the accuracy of which cannot be verified."

Wrong again, of course. It CAN be verified by the means offered in Moroni, Chapter 10. (I realize RFM would prefer that the plates be cast before it like pearls, but we have some good advice on that practice in the New Testament--you know, that's the testament that RFM is simultaneously trying to defend and attack.)


"reference to externally attested historic personages and events in the NT, even those that are erroneous in detail, support the anitquity of the document."

But RFM wants us to dismiss external evidences of Book of Mormon plausibility that support its antiquity as presented by Mormanity here, with deliberately and patently offensive slurs and epithets.


"no one seems to have answered the question of how to explain the many miracles recorded in history—I’m speaking of those with multiple witnesses—that don’t fit into Mormonism."

Why is RFM concerned about this when it consistently argues that any and all testimony of miraculous events is inherently unreliable?


And speaking of patterns of avoidance, why doesn't RFM ever answer why it is concerning itself with tearing down Mormonism when its arguments against the plausibility of miracles is an argument against almost all of the Christian, Jewish and Muslim world? Does it believe, or not believe that Jesus was resurrected? If so, why? All it has to go on is the eyewitness testimony of people who said they saw a miracle, recorded in non-original form?

ltbugaf said...

By the way, I accidentally typed "RFM" when referring to "RFP." Although, come to think of it, RFP did long ago make its attacks indistinguishable from the tired tripe we get from the RfM crowd.

To take on RFP's challenge: How to explain other "miraculous" happenings that have had witnesses and don't square with the gospel? I don't know. Some are probably simple frauds, some may involve shared delusions, and some I just don't have an answer for. Unlike RFP, I don't claim to know everything. The fact that there isn't a ready and definite answer for every such event doesn't destroy the veracity of the 11 witnesses of the Book of Mormon.

ltbugaf said...

After doing a little re-reading on this thread, may I just add how staggeringly ironic it is for RFP to criticize someone else for being narcissistic?

Roy W. Wright said...

A 14 year old is a child in anyone’s books.

Maybe by the standards of today's society, obsessed with the indefinite extension of childhood as it is, but a 14-year-old is not (or should not be) a child in my book.

BYU alter ego said...

Roy, please take this question at face value only, but do you think 14 years is an age of appropriate sexual consent?

That's the real issue here.

Also, contrary to what many LDS believe, the average marrying age in Victorian society is NOT lower than the contemporary opinion. If anything the average is actually adjusted higher.

There is no doubt that Smith's relationship with Helen Mar Kimball was not commonplace. Helen in her later writings displays a lot of anger, and felt tricked. She professes that the arrangement was made to ensure exaltation for her family, so under those conditions (trivial right?) she agreed.

Radical fem poet may rub you all the wrong way, as I probably do, but she's not misrepresenting anything. That should matter to you.

ltbugaf said...

AE: It should matter to you that RFP is a liar and a demagogue. Does it?

ltbugaf said...

...and a bigot and a narcissist and an egomaniac.

BYU alter ego said...

Itbugaf,

A demagogue is someone who speaks to the passions and prejudice of the people to garner power, not someone who may irritate you and whom you believe is wrong.

Like I mentioned, thus far I don't think she's misrepresented.

As far as the bigot charge, well let me refresh your memory of that definition:

"One who is strongly partial to one's own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ."

You're way into glass house territory at this point man, I'd take it down a notch. Especially after your demands of civility earlier.

Remember how you jumped on me for referring to Peterson as "Danny Boy?" You make me look meek and mild indeed.

BYU alter ego said...

BTW...RFP is indeed narcisistic, I don't think even she would argue with herself on that one, so I think it's fair game.

Mega Man 8000 said...

Itbugaf, I think Jeff mentioned something about being polite. You are under threat when you throw your accusations around without justification. Name calling is something you yourself condemn. Or is it only wrong when others do it?

ltbugaf said...

As you well know, everything I just said has been amply demonstrated on this thread alone, not to mention the threads that have preceded it. The thing that makes it so awful is that although these are RFP's own most self-proclaimed character traits, it still aims criticism at others for having them.

ltbugaf said...

The time for requiring politeness was when RFP starting calling people pimply-faced idiots, injuns, paedophiles, and so on. Why didn't you want to start then?

ltbugaf said...

Or perhaps you'd like to return to calling us Nazis, and then give me another lecture on civility?

Anonymous said...

Itbugaf, breathe buddy, innnnnnnnn and outttttttttt, slowly.
relax
it is going to be OK

Samuel said...

"Roy, please take this question at face value only, but do you think 14 years is an age of appropriate sexual consent?"

1. We do not know if JS and Helen consumated the marriage at all or whether it was a celestial (after death) marriage only.
2. The age of consent is really hardly the question. The age in which marriage (with parental consent) is allowed is the question. I have no idea what that was in Illinois at the time, but that is the point. The age of capacity is higher now, but I believe that is mostly the result of UN Conventions.
3. 14 is the age of consent in such "enlightened" European countries as Austria, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Liechtenstein and Portugal, though I am not too sure about Portugal. Spain's age of consent is 13.
4. Though I believe the average marrying age in the Victorian Period was around 25, that does not mean that very young girls did not get married.
5. It is never a good idea to put what passes for today's morals on to a different time period if we are trying to understand the culture from their point of view.
6. Helen Mar Kimball came to the realization that plural marriage was a celestial principle regardless of her initial doubts.

As a personal aside, my grandmother was married at 13. I do not personally believe this was appropriate, but again, it was her cultural norm (Lebanese Christian). It was an arranged marriage to an older man.

Walker said...

Quite frankly, I think there needs to be some hard core chilling out on this thread. Vigrorous debate is cool. What's going on here isn't. Again, we all have our moments (I have anyway). But as Anon said (which I say to everyone), it's going to be ok. In the end, this is just a blog, not an eternal court of law.

I hear where ya'll are coming from. It's not pleasant when someone attacks your fundamental beliefs, beliefs that form an essential part of our lives(often w/very little and/or shoddy evidence at that) However, that notwithstanding, we should still avoid "reviling against the revilers" (especially feminist ones :)

Merry Christmas

Radicalfeministpoet said...

Walker’s advice is sound. There are, after all, people who have good reason to be egotisitcal and narcisistic, and others who are so without cause, but none of that is on topic This is, after all, a thread about the Cowdery as witness, which has inevitably mushroomed into a more general discussion of witnesses and authenticity.

On that subject, I am obligated to point out that ltbugaf has not quite grasped the distinctions I made between the NT and the BoM. Whether or not one believes that the resurrection and the myriad of lesser miracles recorded throught the NT actually happened, there is ample reason to believe that each of the NT books actually existed at some point in time not far removed from the events (or non-events, for the more skeptical) they described. Whether or not it was accurate, the books themselves were real. There is no evidence beyond the testimony of certain witnesses—our topic here—that the BoM actually existed. Most people would say that it never did until Smith concocted it. Ltbugaf’s insistence that the “test” in Moroni 10 provides “evidence”—as if there were no such thing as autosuggestion—is not even worthy of consideration.

The credibility of witnesses must surely be considered when supernatural events are announced. I continue to be astonished at the lengths people here will go to defend the character of one Joseph Smith. Surely the approach taken by my two young visitors, whose skin condition ltbaguf was so anxious to defence, was the more realistic one. Does it not move closer to honesty to admit that Smith lived a rather dissolute life while stilll maintaining that , for reasons best known to the Almighty, he was nevertheless chosen for the Big Revelation? After all, even if his 14 year old bride were indeed sexually and emotionally precocious, or if Smith were uncharacteristically continent in his relations with her, the fact remains that he took multiple wives including the still-married wives of other men and blamed his “swinging”on God. While this behaviour is sadly not unique among religious and political leaders—men are, after all, in the main pigs—attributing sexual predation to God was an exercise of profound cycnicism. History is adorned with lives of exceptional individuals who may be described as saintly (I am one), but Smith was no saint. Rather than cover up his faults, we should address first the question of whether he might still not have been chosen to be the instrument of genuine new revelation, his character notwithstanding, and secondly, given the momentous nature of his claims, whether his character does not impair his credibility.

As some of you know, I’ve been developing a thesis that the unwillingness of Mormons to confront their past honestly has a direct reflection on their poorly developed moral sense in the present. (Click HERE for further exposition). The inability to critically examine the self-styled witnesses to Mormon foundational events provides yet another example.

Somewhere however among ltbaguf’s passionatley staccato posts is an answer to the question I asked. How to explain other "miraculous" happenings that have had witnesses and don't square with the [Mormon] gospel? I don't know. Some are probably simple frauds, some may involve shared delusions, and some I just don't have an answer for.

Now we’re on to something. In a previous post I succinctly but brilliantly sketched out how the NT, or the works of Homer, or the Bhagavad Gita, can be authenticated in ways which the BoM cannot. Now we can embark on a similar exercise, which I will leave to the Mormon readers here as a homework assignment. What distinguishes the Smithian apparitions and “revelations” from other such events? In order to narrow the focus somewhat and make it more manageable, you may want to consider starting the comparison with reports of Marian apparitions from Catholics, a nice list of which may be found HERE.(Keep in mind that Catholics are not required to believe that any of these really happened, and I suspect many don’t.) We may wish to move on to non-Christian examples in subsequent lessons.

ltbugaf said...

First of all, let me say how satisfying it is to see RFP once again bearing out everything I've said about it. Giving "homework assignments"--that's rich.



"There is no evidence beyond the testimony of certain witnesses—our topic here—that the BoM actually existed."

And there is no evidence beyond the testimony of certain witnesses that Jesus healed anyone, or was resurrected. Irrespective of how long ago the witnesses gave their original testimony, and how many permutations their testimony has gone through, it all just depends on witnesses. RFP assails us with the assertion that we can't trust a witness who says he saw something supernatural. Yet RFP still refuses to recognize that this is a frontal attack on all belief in any divine events.

Has RFP fully considered the ethical implications of its proselytizing efforts--to convert its readers to atheism?

ltbugaf said...

"Ltbugaf’s insistence that the 'test' in Moroni 10 provides 'evidence'...is not even worthy of consideration."

RFP is once again preaching that prayer is a meaningless exercise, unworthy of consideration, and that belief in a God who answers prayer is foolishness. So why doesn't it just say so directly? Why go on this odd side-track of impugning Joseph Smith when all RFP needs to do is speak straightly and declare what it is declaring? RFP's message is that God doesn't exist and prayer doesn't work. So why pussyfoot around it? Why not just admit that this is the message and give it?

Anonymous said...

For someone who has shown he knows so little about so much you make a lot of assumptions and assertions. Your arguments are weak and positions untested.
What happened to that calming down other posters were trying to help you with? Seek help quick.

ltbugaf said...

Anonymous: If you honestly believe there is another conclusion to be drawn from RFP's arrogant dismissal of prayer and of every witness who claims to have seen something divine, then tell us what it is.

ltbugaf said...

"The credibility of witnesses must surely be considered when supernatural events are announced."

Stop avoid the questions: Are the witnesses of Christ's miracles credible or incredible? Are the witnesses of Christ's resurrection credible or incredible? Out with it! Tell us whether you give these witnesses credence or not, and tell us why.

Radicalfeministpoet said...

I don’t think Ltbugaf quite grasps the distinction here. Whether or not the miracles attributed to Jesus actually occurred (and it may surprise him to know that there are a fair number of Christians who suppose they didn’t, and don’t think it particularly matters), the historical evidence strongly supports the notion that there were a number of documents of various kinds written in the subapostolic age about Jesus, some of which were eventually canonised as scripture by the church. On the other hand, there is no credible evidence that the BoM ever existed until Joseph Smith wrote it. In other words, the NT is a real book, or a real collection of books, the BoM is a 19th century invention. Whether the events described in the NT are reliable are for the moment irrelevant; the point is that the book actually existed from a very early date. The difference between the NT and the BoM is like the difference between the Aeneid and the Works of Ossian. One has a genuine provenance (completely distinct from its historical reliability), the other is a hoax.

The subject of this thread is to discuss how so-called eyewitness testimony can be unreliable—notoriously so, as any one who has served on a jury will tell you. This is not my blog, it is Jeff’s, and it is not my place to proselytise. I have already prophesied that no apostasy will result from my presence here, and so far that has been 100% accurate. Unlike those fundamentalist types, who have a pretty weird theology themselves, I don’t think anything bad will happen to Jeff in the hereafter because he is a Mormon, unless you count feeling silly as particularly bad. I am merely interested for a brief moment in how he constructs his arguments.

ltbugaf said...

RFP: I do understand the distinction you're making, and I understand your point that there is historical evidence showing that the Bible is quite old. I agree that it's quite old.

But I'm trying to get at a much simpler point, which you have dodged, and dodged, and dodged, and now are dodging again. The point is this:

You say we shouldn't trust Oliver Cowdery as a witness BECAUSE he testified of miracles. You mocked us by pointing out that if you call your local emergency department and tell them such a story you'll be considered crazy.

You say that professing to have seen miracles makes a witness unreliable.

You openly mock the concept of receiving an answer to prayer, calling it "not even worthy of consideration."

Now, are you or are you not willing to apply the very same reasoning to the witnesses of Christ's miracles and resurrection? We should know where you stand. If you are preaching atheism, we should know it. If you are preaching a Christianity that denies miracles or resurrection, we should know that. But so far, you seem to argue everything and believe in nothing.

I have pointed out several times that when you base your campaign against Cowdery on his belief in miracles, you are arguing not merely against Christ's restored church, but also against every person and organization in the world that believes in a supernatural event.

If we are to accept your criterion and discount every witness who says he or she saw something supernatural, we have no belief in Christ's miracles, no belief in Christ's resurrection, to belief in angels visiting Abraham, no belief in Moses speaking to God. Buddhists accepting your criterion have no belief in enlightenment. Muslims accepting your criterion have no belief in an angel speaking to Mohammed.

If we accept your assertion that seeking answers to prayer is unworthy even of consideration, then we must believe either in no God, or in a god who has never interacted with man through prayer.

In short, your attack is a frontal assault on nearly all religious belief.

This has made me wonder why you save your cruelty for Mormons when you could inflict it on a much wider audience.

I think you should be willing to identify your position.

ltbugaf said...

(And, lest you still think I am misapprehending, I do understand the point you are making by contrast--that the Book of Mormon does not have centuries of manuscripts as scholarly proof of its ancientness. That isn't terribly surprising, however, for a record that was deliberately kept secret.)

ltbugaf said...

No response? Still unwilling to tell us where you stand? Easy to throw rocks at someone else's beliefs, as long as you never reveal your own and expose them to the same criticism. How does it look from the cheap seats?

Radicalfeministpoet said...

One of the most satisfying paedogogical experiences imaginable occurs when, after instructing a student who has really struggled long and hard to fathom a particular something, one finally sees him, however slowly, commence to show the beginning of understanding. It is with such elation that I greet Ltbugaf’s latest epiphany.

For whereas on 17 December (7:24 am) he had this to say:
The [NT] "manuscripts" … are documents that purport to be copies, or translations, of earlier documents. But the earlier documents on which they claim to be based aren't around. They're gone! Missing! Yet you still give credence to the later documents that claim to be accurate copies or translations. Joseph Smith's Book of Mormon manuscript is a document that purports to be a translation of an earlier document. But the earlier document isn't around. Here, you claim the absence of the original is damning. You insist that since the original plates aren't around for you to look at and translate yourself …then the whole story must be dismissed.


Now, he realisines what he termed an “inconsistency” was no inconsistency at all, but a brilliant insight on my part: I do understand the distinction you're making, and I understand your point that there is historical evidence showing that the Bible is quite old

I repeat all this to to embarrass Ltbugaf, but to rejoice with him. Even if he progresses no further, I feel that my work here has been worthwhile. But labour on I must.

While others have been working diligently on the assignment I gave them, Ltbugaf has continued to protest. You say we shouldn't trust Oliver Cowdery as a witness BECAUSE he testified of miracles. …You say that professing to have seen miracles makes a witness unreliable.

That’s not quite what I said. I did suggest that is reasonable to demand a higher standard of proof when someone has claimed to have observed a prodigy. It is one thing to say that you have seen a traffic accident on the way to work, so everyone should seek an alternate route home; it is another to say that you have been visited by an angel who has given you rather important information. In the latter case, most people would want to consider the testimony a bit more carefully before accepting it. Among the tests we might consider: did the angel leave any tangible evidence of his sojourn among us, like a set of golden plates, or did he whisk everything away with him lest it end up on eBay? What is the character of the person who saw the apparition, both before and after the event? Were there any other witnesses to the event, and if so, what was the nature of their experience? What so we know of their character?

Now Ltbugaf wants us to compare the miraculous events Smith claimed to have been involved with, chiefof which was the appearance of the BoM, with the various miracles described in the NT. We can see right away that this comparison is much less useful than the one I have assigned, namely Marian apparitions in our own era (including the 19th century). We can see immediately why the comparison I propose is much better than Ltbugaf's. Remember that for the most part the NT miracles are not described first-hand; they’re already miracles once-removed, of not more. Remember that we don’t even know exactly who wrote the gospels; we shouldn’t assume that “The Gospel of Mark” = “The Gosple that Mark Wrote, with his Own Hands.” (John requires special discussion which space doesn’t permit.) We simply don’t have the opportunity to examine the evidences, if any, for NT miracles, nor do we have any substantive information on the alleged witnesses. Do we know whether St Peter had a police record, or whether St Andrew married the wives of other men, or whether St John ever joined the Masons? We are able, however, to consider such questions with reference to Smith’s “miracles”, and we can do likewise with many other modern-day alleged miracles. I would suggest starting with the apparitions at Fatima in Portugal.

It is hardly “a frontal assault on nearly all religious belief” to evaluate the reliability of one particular alleged event, and to examine dipassionately the evidence for and against its occurrence. If Smith lied about the BoM, or if, it’s no reflection on Mahayana Buddhism, Ethiopian Orthodoxy, or anybody else. I would note, however, that many members of such faiths have followed the advice in Moroni 10: they have prayed for confirmation of their beliefs andhave had their prayers anwered. The more circumspect among us may care to ask ourselves why that should be.

ltbugaf said...

RPF congratulates itself most heartily for pointing out what it terms a "brilliant insight." The so-called insight, once you subtract the insults, the self-aggrandizement, the mockery, the cutesie-poo speeches about men in white coats and so forth, comes to this:

Various texts of the New Testament have been known to the public longer than the Book of Mormon has.

Unfortunately, that's not even an insight, let alone a brilliant one. It's just a fact that was already obvious to me and to every other person RFP claims to be "teaching," long before RFP raised its egotistical head in this forum. It's a fact that is consistent with the Book of Mormon's own claims, not inconsistent with them.

The points I raised in response are the ones that RFP is deliberately mischaracterizing. Before I leave this thread for good, to do something more valuable and productive than fight with a skunk, I will explain them again.

1. The original source material for the Book of Mormon is unavailable. So is the original source material for the Old and New Testaments--the very oldest extant manuscripts of which are derived from other sources. This unavailability does not prove any of these sacred books to be untrue.

2. The absence of a large body of old manuscripts for the Book of Mormon does not damn it, but merely supports its own claims that it was deliberately hidden from mankind--literally buried--for centuries before being brought to light.

3. The fact that Oliver Cowdery claims to have seen heavenly messengers does not make him unreliable any more than Peter claiming to have seen a resurrected Jesus makes him unreliable or Paul claiming to have spoken to God makes him unreliable. However, Cowdery's lifelong consistency in standing by the Book of Mormon, when he had ample motives to deny it, is strongly supportive of the Book of Mormon's truthfulness.

4. Despite RFP's mockery of prayer, the test offered in Moroni chapter 10 is available to any and all who will apply it with humility, real intent and faith in Christ.

With that, I'm off. Brethren, adieu.

BYU alter ego said...

Moroni 10 stopped working for me...so what now? It's surely my own fault...silly me.

Anonymous said...

byu, Of course it is not working for you. Did you not read the above post? "it is available to any and all who will apply it with humility, real intent and faith in Christ."
Not what is it that you are doing wrong?