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

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Joseph's Excessive Modesty

D.E. Neighbors has an interesting new article at FAIRLDS.org, "The Book of Mormon vs. the Critics: Nit-Picking for Fun and Profit." It deals with the issue of changes in the Book of Mormon, a topic I also address.

One interesting quote from that article comes from Joseph Smith:
"[A]s it required the exertions of all that were able to render any assistance for the support of the Family therefore we were deprived of the bennifit of an education suffice it to say I was mearly instructid in reading writing and the ground of Arithmatic which const[it]tuted my whole literary acquirements."
I found this to be a great example of Joseph's excessive modesty. As so many anti-Mormon scholars have pointed out, Joseph Smith drew upon vast intellectual resources to fabricate the Book of Mormon, relying on many dozens of books, maps, and periodicals as well as his profound knowledge of Hebrew to craft the many "internal evidences" of Book of Mormon authenticity. It even appears that he may have used a primitive but version of Google Earth to identify fertile regions in the Arabian Peninsula and to identify a plausible route for Lehi's group to pass between two segments of the Empty Quarter and arrive safely in Bountiful in present day Oman. Joseph was a remarkably educated scholar using resources many decades ahead of his time, yet his excessive modesty compelled him to speak little of such attainments, dismissing his education as rough and rudimentary. Of course, critics will scream that this was all a lie, part of deception that convinced even those closest to him that he was poorly educated (and those misspellings in his writing - was this also part of an act?). But I prefer to give him a little credit and suggest that he was just incredibly modest. (This stands in contrast to some of our modern critics who have worked hard to inflate their academic credentials, even to the point of referring to degrees they didn't exactly earn.)

51 comments:

Anonymous said...

Joseph Smith drew upon vast intellectual resources to fabricate the Book of Mormon, relying on many dozens of books, maps, and periodicals as well as his profound knowledge of Hebrew to craft the many "internal evidences" of Book of Mormon authenticity.

Actually, all he did was mimic the KJ Bible, and a rather mediocre job he made of it, yea, even as a dreary longwinded drone did he fashion it. The 'internal evidences' are convincing to no one but Mormons.

I don't know if old Joe was modest, but I will agree that he had a heck of a lot to be modest about--and ashamed.

Walker said...

Is that the best you can do--snide remark and blase argumentation Anon? (Yawn). All you are showing us here is an ignorance of the scholarship on the BOM. As always, i invite to dare, even make an honest attempt to discredit these 'internal evidences.' That's what scholars do anyway.

Also, no evidence indicates that Joseph ever had a bible in hand as he translated. No witnesses, nothing. Besides what's Oliver going to do while he watches this "prophet" read the words of an "ancient text" from the KJV? Wouldn't Oliver get a little suspicious? I would. But then again, I'm just a naive, intellectually impaired Mormon.

Anonymous said...

(1) Why would anyone need a bible 'in hand' to mimic its style?

(2) Walker misses the point. There are no 'internal evidences' to discredit.

(3)I'm just a naive, intellectually impaired Mormon. It is you who say it. There is of course no "scholarship" that supports the BOM; there does seem to be a plethora of amateur apologetics.

why me said...

To say that Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon is a bold move. Unfortunately no conclusive evidence by the critic has been provided that he did. If one reads Joseph's posted writing and then compares it to the book of mormon, one can see quite a difference in sentence structure and syntax.

And anonymous the critic could do nothing but give a simpleton nonanswer to the Mormanity's statement.

ltbugaf said...

Anon, if style was all he mimicked, then you haven't accounted for content, and your statement that "all he did" was mimic obviously can't be true.

Your assertion that "there are no 'internal evidences'" is backed by nothing, and is flatly contradicted by the vast volume of such evidences presented on Jeff's site and elsewhere.

Your convenient dismissal of all Book of Mormon scholarship as nonscholarship is facile, unthinking, and not coincidentally, wrong.

Anonymous said...

Funny how one of Joseph Smith's earliest prophesies rings truer than ever almost 180 years after the fact. (see Joseph Smith History 1:33) Pretty insightful for a dumb little perverted farm boy.

Anonymous said...

Your assertion that "there are no 'internal evidences'" is backed by nothing, and is flatly contradicted by the vast volume of such evidences presented on Jeff's site and elsewhere.

I've had quite a good time trawling through Jeff's site, actually. There's nothing convincing there, except, as I've said, to other Mormons. It is interesting, however, to see how his mind works--grasping at historical straws to support the curious edifice that is Mormon doctrine.

Jeff is tongue-in-cheek, of course, when he calls JSmith "modest"--no one's ever called him that. But why do Mormons want to pretend he was stupid? Uneducated, yes, as the "Joseph Lied" article mentioned in Jeff's link demonstrates, but that's hardly the same thing as stupid.

To say that Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon is a bold move.

I may have made some bold moves in my life, but that statement isn't one of them. The vast majority of people who have ever heard of J Smith agree with it, as I'm sure you're aware.

John said...

anonymous @ 7:33, 8:23, and 11:59,

Your attempt at provoking a fight will not work. We can see your motives clearly enough. Please, give up your little game. At the very least, take it elsewhere.

ltbugaf said...

"There's nothing convincing there, except, as I've said, to other Mormons."

In other words, no one is convinced except the people who are convinced.

What a shocker.

(This anon character just seems too similar to Radicalfeministpoet for pure coincidence. Am I right?)

John said...

(You are right)

Anonymous said...

I'm don't follow the reference to Joseph Smith History 1:33 (that his "name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people"). This certainly hasn't come true yet, as most people in the United States, let alone the rest of the world, have ever heard of the guy. Certainly Hitler, Mohammed, and Napoleon are each more famous than J smith. Heck, Britney Spears is probably more famous than J Smith.

In other words, no one is convinced except the people who are convinced.

We must be patient with
ltbugaf. A Hindu, a Buddhist, an atheist, can find evidence for historicity in the Bible. They may not believe in the Jewish God, they may not believe there is any God, but they can find evidence for real historical events and real people, sprinkled in among the folklore and myth, without buying into the theology. But no non-Mormon anywhere has ever found a shred of historical credibility in the BOM.

Walker said...

Anon

And your evidence is what? All I've seen is a lot of hot air.

"grasping at historical straws to support the curious edifice that is Mormon doctrine"

This is superior to what I've seen come from your side--no evidence whatsoever. At least Jeff makes an honest attempt.

And in answer to your question on the bible, I frankly wouldn't care if Joseph spoke in ebonics. The language is just a production layer, as translators call it. What was the "scriptural" language of the time? The bible. I wouldn't expect a modern bible translator to speak like King James would I? If Joseph lived today, the translation would have certainly been different.

"But no non-Mormon anywhere has ever found a shred of historical credibility in the BOM."

Stooping to proving a negative eh? I'm not a scholar and I can point to one, William F. Albright. I quote: "It is all the more surprising that there are two Egyptian names, Paanch[i] and Pahor[an] which appear in the Book of Mormon in close connection with a reference to the original language being 'Reformed Egyptian."

In sum, all you make are assertions--something I hear day in day out of undergraduate work. Anyone, schooled, unschooled, or even fools, can make assertions. It takes true intelligence to actually provide us with evidence.

Either do so or stop provoking. Please.

ltbugaf said...

So, RFP, why are you now refusing to identify yourself as you did before?

Walker said...

His language is remarkably similar, I must admit. Even uses the same typology and approach: "edifice" as well his belief that is more interesting to study the Mormons than Mormons claims. Hmmm...

Mike Parker said...

With apologies to Wm. Shakespeare:

[Our Anonymous is] but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: he is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.


Good at sarcastic insults. Long on wild accusations. Unsurprisingly short on evidence, documentation, or analysis.

Bookslinger said...

"But no non-Mormon anywhere has ever found a shred of historical credibility in the BOM."

That's just plain wrong. One piece of evidence is barley. The Book of Mormon talks about barley. That was soundly ridiculed because the native americans did not cultivate barley when Europeans arrived. And no archaeological evidence of barley was found for a long long time.

But, eventually some grains of barley were eventually found by archaeologists. It's not the same strain of barley that's common today, but it's definitely barley.

Barley is just one item. There are others.

Bob C said...

Anon said: "The 'internal evidences' are convincing to no one but Mormons."

Yeah, like a couple of ministers on my mission who joined the Church, and a Berkeley professor of mine.

All depends upon your immediate perspective.

Bob C said...

Anon: The 'internal evidences' are convincing to no one but Mormons.

Yeah, like a couple of Protestant ministers on my mission who joined the Church, and a Berkeley professor of mine who taught at BYU.

Anonymous said...

Unsurprisingly short on evidence, documentation, or analysis.(Mike Parker)
It takes true intelligence to actually provide us with evidence. (Walker)
And your evidence is what? All I've seen is a lot of hot air. (Walker)

I’m not sure what ‘evidence’ or ‘analysis’ people want me to provide. If you are interested in disproving the authenticity of the BoM, a quick google search will turn up dozens of sites that will help you do that, but I’m afraid you will have to do that work yourselves. I’m responding to a piece Jeff wrote, obviously tongue-in-cheek, about JS’s ‘modesty.’ Since no one really thinks JS was modest, I assume what we’re really talking about is JS’s character. Obviously the authenticity, or otherwise, of the BoM has some bearing on that topic. And my point, which seems too self-evident to demand ‘analysis’, is that non-Mormons do not find alleged ‘internal evidence’ within the BoM compelling, in the way, for instance, that people find historical allusions in genuine ancient texts compelling.

Let’s examine this further. We don’t have to confine ourselves to the Bible here; we can include Homeric epics, Ugaritic inscriptions or anything else that strikes your fancy. None of us, I suspect, buy into the Olympian theology of Homer, and for a while there was a time when people even doubted there was such a place as Troy. Now most of us are able to read the text not as a work of complete fiction but as a story with some history, however garbled and ‘spun’, behind it all. Non-Jews and non-Christians can read the Bible and recognise that there is some history in there as well, though they won’t feel compelled to swallow the more incredible bits, and will recognise that is some places the Bible has got its history plain wrong. But no one outside Mormonism has ever found anything historically accurate within the BoM. Ltbugaf tried to, but came up wanting. Let’s examine his offering first, and then turn to an explanation that I’m surprised no one suggested, though perhaps this was what
Bob C was trying to say.

Ltbugaf writes, I'm not a scholar and I can point to one, William F. Albright. I quote: "It is all the more surprising that there are two Egyptian names, Paanch[i] and Pahor[an] which appear in the Book of Mormon in close connection with a reference to the original language being 'Reformed Egyptian."

Albright was an archaeologist and well published OT scholar, and of course I am very familiar with his work. Oddly, he seems to be something of a darling to the evangelical camp, probably because he championed the view that there actually was a lot of history—not necessarily accurate history, but history—in the OT, after a period of scepticism not unlike what we have described above in Homeric studies. He certainly never found Mormon claims convincing, as I’m sure you will all acknowledge. The quote ltbugaf offers is not in any book of Albright’s that I own, but reportedly comes from private correspondence at the age of 74, well after his retirement from Hopkins. In it, he apparently expresses ‘surprise’ that some names from the BoM resemble Egyptian names. Coincidences are, we must aver, by there very nature ‘surprising’, without being compelling. Of course, they are less surprising to a mathematician (which Albright was not), who would be more likely to be surprised if 2 people in an auditorium did not share a birthday, or if there were unable to find similarities between made-up names in a randomly chosen sci-fi/fantasy novel (I’m afraid I’d have to include the BoM here) and the corpus of Egyptian writing. But even the non-mathematical Albright was not impressed enough by chance similarity, brought to his attention in his dotage, to find the BoM historically convincing. I think what we’re looking for here is a reputable academic who says, “I find strong archaeological evidence that X really happened (the battle at Cumorah, for instance, or any other event you like). I’m not a Mormon, and I don’t believe what they believe, but clearly there’s at least some reliable history here.”

I think a lot of this speaks to how we interpret data. Mormons seem to have a rather unusual way of doing this, which interestingly enough shares some features with certain psychopathologies. I've been contemplating this lately, and I’ll have more to say about that anon.

A quick aside to Bookslinger, who writes One piece of evidence [supporting the BoM as history] is barley. The Book of Mormon talks about barley. That was soundly ridiculed because the native americans did not cultivate barley when Europeans arrived. And no archaeological evidence of barley was found for a long long time.
I’m not a botanist (though of course I could be if I turned my mind to it for a week or two), and therefore I’m not in a position to discuss whether a few seeds dug up in Arizona were really barley. But I was speaking, I think, of a rather more Whig version of history. Whether or not a particular grain existed is really neither here nor there. (They didn’t find a horse munching on that barley, by any chance, did they?)

Now let me turn to the suggestion that no one really offered. One reason non-Mormons cannot find a shred of historical support in the BoM could be that once they do so, they become Mormons. This may be what Bob C was going on about with the 2 protestant ministers and the Berkley professor (not a full professor, surely?). Now people convert to all sorts of religions, or to no religion at all, every day. I don’t think it’s likely to be a random process; I suspect certain personalities will be drawn to certain religions. I wonder what characterises converts to Mormonism? Any thoughts? I have a few of my own, but I’ll let others throw theirs in first, out of modesty.

ltbugaf said...

RFP wrote: "Ltbugaf writes, I'm not a scholar and I can point to one..."

No he doesn't.

Anonymous said...

It was of course Walker who said that.

Apologies to ltbugaf, who is of course a scholar, after a fashion.

ltbugaf said...

On what do you base that conclusion, RFP?

ltbugaf said...

And why are you still, bizarrely, hiding behind an utterly transparent "anonymous" moniker rather than being candid about your identity as Radicalfeministpoet?

Jason W said...

Anon Said ( at some point earlier):We must be patient with
ltbugaf. A Hindu, a Buddhist, an atheist, can find evidence for historicity in the Bible. They may not believe in the Jewish God, they may not believe there is any God, but they can find evidence for real historical events and real people, sprinkled in among the folklore and myth, without buying into the theology. But no non-Mormon anywhere has ever found a shred of historical credibility in the BOM.


If I follow ... are you suggesting that we base our 'Faith' on historocity or corroboration of historical artifacts? Are you telling that, that is how you know (or what helped you to know) that the Bible is 'true' or that what is taught in the Bible is true? If so, well ... then there you have it and that's all I surmise you will ever have as long as you have that perspective.

If I am not correct, what *do* you mean by this comment?

'We mormons' are convinced because we believe that when we exercised our faith, that it was responded to by promptings of the Holy Ghost. Nothing more or less than that.

Anonymous said...

What brought about the spate of RfM-er posts the past week or so?

These posts seem to come about in cycles. Did someone on the RfM board say "Hey, let's go stir things up at Lindsay's blog" ?

Walker said...

Oy vey.

Have fun all. RFP wants to dismiss ALbright's claims out of hand as being a coincidental, well, I guess too much of a red-stater to be able to engage in such brilliant wit and wisdom.

Shawn said...

"What brought about the spate of RfM-er posts the past week or so?
"

In anon/RFP's case, the past several months have probably been spent antagonizing Hindus, Buddhists, and atheists. :)

Welcome back anon/RFP!

Sorry, can't help you with your "cannot find a shred of historical support...[but] once [non-Mormons] do, they become Mormons" bait. If there no "historical support", there nothing to find for those who become Mormons.

Unless you're saying all those who become Mormons are brilliant because they've found the "historical support" that non-Mormons ignorantly can't find. ;)

(Most people join the Church because they need something better in their life and are witnesses to spiritual confirmation, but come on, you know that.)

Anon/RFP... May I assume you've ruled out Nahom and are ignoring Mormanity's reference above to Old World geography? By what course of logic, might I ask?

Your friend,
Shawn

Shawn said...

Hi Walker,

I think you've laid out the most appropriate response (i.e. don't engage).

Anon/RFP's pending diatribe on personalities of a Mormon convert can be easily surmised.

I'll do my best to not slide down that thread. :)

-Shawn

Mike Parker said...

If "Anonymous"/RFP is looking for BofM evidence, then the first place I'd point is the recent research into Lehi's journey in Arabia. It's becoming more and more clear that every description Nephi gave of the journey is verifiable, from the river Laman/valley Lemuel, to Shazer, to Nahom, to the difficulty of the journey after the eastward turn, to Bountiful.

He may have been a simple frontier yokel, but Joseph Smith got his geography of the Arabian peninsula right, point for point.

Walker said...

Thanks Mike. Whatever one may think of the Arabian peninsula evidence, it is always unscholarly to avoid evidence, or to brush it off as a mere foil by which to examine Mormons' historical delusions, as RFP does. If someone thinks his interpretation of Albright trumps Albright himself, well, as I said, let's spend our time in more enlightening pursuits.

Until then, brace yourselves...RFP's flood of nonsense cometh.

John said...

Walker, Shawn,

Thank you! This has been my own policy regarding him/her since the last visit s/he made. If all s/he is looking for is to infuriate people (of which there is little doubt), why provide the fuel?

Anonymous said...

I don't think we are giving Joseph Smith enough credit here if he really did write the BOM himself. I mean how many years did it take Tyndale and other scholars to come up with the beautiful writing of the New Testament? And he was an Oxford scholar. Joseph took a couple of months with no scholarship at all, and the language in the BOM is every bit as rich as the NT. And Tyndale translated while Joseph supposedly had to come up with original stuff.

It is also absolutely amazing that he was able to convince so many people 170 years after his death that it is true. And this was in the days of the greatest intellectual achievements in the history of the world.

I believe that Joseph translated it like he said he did. But after reading it over and over again, if he wrote it himself we need to give him some respect as one of the greatest authors in the modern century.

Ryan said...

Now let me turn to the suggestion that no one really offered.
I suspect a touch of stigma might just attach itself to the (once) reputable academic who were to venture a claim of BoM authenticity.

Even assuming nobody has anything against the Church, this particular historical document presents a problem: just accepting it as authentic (if not necessarily true) brings up some really pesky questions.

For example, "How the heck did Joseph Smith learn to translate an ancient language?" Whether you believe the Nephites wrote in Reformed Egyptian or not, they most certainly didn't write in a language he should have known, so if he didn't have divine help...

Jean said...

Poor poor poor unbelievers. Those who think that this world is just made up of a physical realm. Do you think that you are an authority on the world? Are you all knowing? Oh the proud and vain and foolishness of men. When they are learned they think they are wise. You know nothing, if you believe only what your eyes see, your ears hear, your nose smell and your skin touch. And if you only believe what you see, then what is the feeling of love, or do you not have that in your life either. Those who believe in anything that is not seen, believe because they feel and because they have tested what they feel. There is nothing scientific or predictable about human feelings. Everyone is an individual. This is what I feel. I know who I am. I am a daughter of God and therefore heir to his throne. And guess what, I believe you are his child too. Can you disprove that? No, that is my feelings and my belief. Can you allocate me to some psycological disorder? You probebly think you could. But if a pro were to examine the type of person that I was, here's how it would go.... mentally stable... tick!! Reality is those of you who want to, can bla bla bla all day about disproving the Book Of Mormon or Joseph Smith. I don't give a rat's hair. What you cannot do is disprove people all over the world who have a belief in their heart. So keep going, you must be waisting so much or your precious human time with dribble from your mouth.

Ryan said...

Mormons seem to have a rather unusual way of doing this, which interestingly enough shares some features with certain psychopathologies.

Heh. Everyone's crazy. Most of us just manage to be crazy in a way that's socially acceptable. Do you know anyone that doesn't exhibit any features of any psychopathologies?

I think what we’re looking for here is a reputable academic who says, “I find strong [historical] evidence that X really happened (the battle at Cumorah, for instance, or any other event you like). I’m not a Mormon, and I don’t believe what they believe, but clearly there’s at least some reliable history here.”

I'm not an OT scholar, so I don't know her reputation, but Margaret Barker came awfully close to quoting Anon in her presentation at the Library of Congress last year, speaking of the religious and political climate of Jerusalem ca. 600 B.C.

Unfortunately, there's no written transcript, but you can get an audio archive of the talk at http://lds.org/library/display/0,4945,510-1-3067-1,00.html.

Of course, if she were to ever join the Church, that would instantly and completely void her opinion, but, for the moment we seem to be safe.

Anonymous said...

Jason W writes, If I follow ... are you suggesting that we base our 'Faith' on historocity or corroboration of historical artifacts?…. 'We mormons' are convinced because we believe that when we exercised our faith, that it was responded to by promptings of the Holy Ghost. Nothing more or less than that.

I don’t suppose for a moment that anyone ever became a Mormon, or even stayed a Mormon, because she found convincing evidence for any historical accuracy within the BoM. I agree that one does so because of a feeling, which you attribute to a ‘response of the Holy Ghost’, and most other people would attribute to autosuggestion. But what happens next, it seems, is that Mormons try to find historicity in the BoM—these are the alleged ‘internal evidences’. This effort is perhaps understandable. I am merely pointing out that non-Mormons do not find these evidences in the least bit convincing. That’s not true of other, genuine ancient texts, where non-believers can find evidence for real historical events and persons.

So when Mike Parker points to the recent research into Lehi's journey in Arabia, and insists that [i]t's becoming more and more clear that every description Nephi gave of the journey is verifiable, from the river Laman/valley Lemuel, to Shazer, to Nahom, to the difficulty of the journey after the eastward turn, to Bountiful, he needs to understand that other people do not in fact find this ‘evidence’ convincing, though he may do himself. This is why I pointed out that no non-Mormon scholar I’ve ever heard of has found any shred of historicity in the BoM. When I make this observation, it seems to be interpreted as an attempt to ‘disprove’ the BoM, when really I have as much interest in as ‘disproving’ Jack and the Beanstalk. Rather, I’m interested in how Mormons respond to the fact non-Mormons unanimously reject the conclusions they feel should be so convincing.


One way is the desperate hunt for a fellow-traveller. If only one sympathetic non-Mormon could be found, it would make us feel so much better. Walker speaks of ‘Albright’s claims’, for instance, when in fact Albright claimed nothing at all. He is merely reported to have expressed polite surprise, in an unpublished letter written quite late in his life, that 2 BoM resemble 2 Egyptian names. (We should remember here that hieroglyphic, hieratic and demotic Egyptian was devoid of symbols for vowels.) Ryan suggests that Margaret Barker came ‘awfully close’ to declaring that there were real historical events recorded in the BoM in that LOC symposium in 2005. I listened to that talk some time ago, and again over my tea and crumpets this morning, and I can assure him that she did nothing of the sort. (There seems to be a transcript here, though I can’t vouch for its accuracy.) Without going into a critique of Margaret’s work, I think it’s fair to say that her notion of the heterogeneity of Israelite religion and sacred texts will ‘come as a shock’ to nobody except, perhaps, a few evangelical protestants. What she does in this talk is point out some thematic similarities between Mormon texts and apocryphal OT texts. Essentially, this is an exercise in literary criticism. Nowhere does she state that she finds events described in the BoM convincing as history. (I also note in passing that her statement about the Jerusalem translation was inaccurate: ‘YHWH’ is not found in the NT, and ‘the Lord’ was used to translate the Greek ho kurios.) In short, there do not seem to be any fellow travellers.

Ryan suggests an alternative explanation: I suspect a touch of stigma might just attach itself to the (once) reputable academic who were to venture a claim of BoM authenticity. I think there may be some truth to that, but at the same time, championing an unconventional view is also an excellent way to get oneself noticed in academia: notoriety can be a valuable commodity. So if there were some verifiable history in the BoM, I really think the less timid would seize upon it if only to stir up a little excitement. Again, you don’t have to buy into the theology, any more that you buy into Olympian cosmology when you talk about Troy as a real place. But still, nobody does this. Anyone else have other thoughts or explanations? (As I’ve suggested, I think a lot of it comes down to how we process information.)

Mike Parker said...

Anonymous wrote: "So when Mike Parker points to 'the recent research into Lehi's journey in Arabia,' and insists that '[i]t's becoming more and more clear that every description Nephi gave of the journey is verifiable, from the river Laman/valley Lemuel, to Shazer, to Nahom, to the difficulty of the journey after the eastward turn, to Bountiful,' he needs to understand that other people do not in fact find this 'evidence' convincing, though he may do himself. This is why I pointed out that no non-Mormon scholar I've ever heard of has found any shred of historicity in the BoM."

I think you are confusing lack of awareness for lack of being convinced. The reason most non-Mormon scholars don't worry about Book of Mormon historicity is because they either (a) don't know what the Book of Mormon claims to be, (b) don't care what the Book of Mormon claims to be, or (c) aren't aware of the growing body of evidence for its historicity.

What is needed here is for a reputable non-Mormon scholar to engage the Arabian evidence. But that isn't going to happen. And I don't know exactly what it would prove if someone did.

And I happen to know for a fact that your assessment of Margaret Barker is simply wrong. I have been privy to a significant number of personal communications between her and LDS scholars, and she is very impressed with the historical and textual evidence for Lehi's Old World setting.

ltbugaf said...

Mike, I don't think RFP is "confusing" lack of awareness for lack of being convinced. That would imply that RFP is sincere. There's a difference between "confusing" and "willfully ignoring."

Anonymous said...

I understand why Mr Perkins would really like to believe that there are non-Mormon scholars out there who find at least some shreds of historical credibility in the BoM. Now, Margaret Barker is what is politely called an ‘independent scholar’, and without going into all her eccentricities, suffice it to say that if there were anyone who could convince herself that there’s a scrap of real history in the BoM it would be she—not, say, Gerald Wilson, or Peter Machinist or some other (shall we say) more conventional academic. But she hasn’t. In the talk linked above, she cited literary parallels, not history. Mr Perkins would have us believe that in private conversations, she says something different. As he is someone who is very fond of demanding ‘evidence’, we find it most curious that unattested private communication, rather than the published record, should satisfy Mr Perkins. In fact, it seems extraordinarily contradictory. But perhaps this merely proves that a person can believe two conflicting things at once.

I asked how Mormons explain the fact that no non-Mormon scholar finds the events described in the BoM historically credible. So far, I see 3 explanations offered:

1) Denial—‘but they do!’ This from ltbugaf and Mr Perkins, for example. Requires a fall-back onto ‘personal communication’, etc.
2) Fear of ridicule and ostracism. They would announce that the BoM contains some reliable history, but they’re afraid their peers will laugh at them. (This from Jack Walsh.) Interesting thought.
3) They would see find historicity in the BoM, but they just won’t read the darn thing. This newest addition is also from Mr Perkins. Again, I understand why he would wish to believe this, and I’m sure that many academics don’t bother with the BoM for the reasons he states, but on the other hand some do. I, for instance, find the thing fascinating, though utterly devoid of real history. The ‘growing body of evidence for its historicity’ is a mere will o’ the wisp to myself and other very intelligent people who have examined it. Mr Perkins should try and understand that. For my part, I am trying to understand how Mormons can look at evidence in a manner so different from the rest of us.

That’s 3 so far. Can anybody think of any others?

ltbugaf said...

Radicalfeministpoet said: "...‘but they do!’ This from ltbugaf..."

Again, no. Not from ltbugaf. I realize you're too cowardly to identify yourself properly (even though you've been far from "anonymous" since you began on these recent threads), but you should at least strive to identify others properly.

ltbugaf said...

And by the way, who is this mysterious "Mr. Perkins" you refer to, RFP?

Anonymous said...

"Mr Perkins" is my pet name for the man who calls himself "Mike Parker". I am sorry to keep tarring ltbugaf with the brush meant for Walker, but he does rather keep getting in the way.

ltbugaf said...

At least you can acknowledge that "tarring" is what you come here to do. I wonder what kind of personality takes delight in such activity. It certainly shares some features with certain psychopathologies.

Mike Parker said...

Anonymous:

You ask for a non-Mormon scholar, and, when given one, marginalize her as "eccentric."

Your smugness, pet names, and ad hominem arguments betray you for what you really are: A bitter individual who looks for the worst in Mormonism and ignores anything that doesn't fit your thesis that all Mormons are ignorant, immoral liars.

Having provided evidence time and time again and having received nothing from you but insults, name-calling, and unsubstantiated accusations, please consider our conversations concluded.

I will leave it in the hands of the readers of this blog to determine if my assessment is accurate.

Walker said...

All readers who agree with Mike's assertions say "Aye" (of course, because we're all red-staters, it comes out more like "aah").

ltbugaf said...

But how can you trust us to say "aye" or "aah" truthfully, if we're all Mormons, who, as everyone knows, are known to be liars?

Anonymous said...

Mr P, as I suppose we now must call him, writes, You ask for a non-Mormon scholar, and, when given one, marginalize her as "eccentric."

This is not quite fair. I have had nothing to do with Margaret's marginalisation. For one reason or another, she remains unconnected with any academic institution whatsoever and, as is often the case with "private scholars", has a tendency to shoot from the hip. In her LOC talk, I pointed out two errors: (1) that ‘traditional Christians’ would be shocked at the variety of Israelite religious expression (she is probably coloured by her Methodist background here), and (2) that the Jerusalem bible should have used "Yahweh" in the NT to be consistent with the Old. Neither of these has anything to do with Mormonism, but they do suggest she may be prone to rash statements. For an interesting conversation among Mormons on Margaret's reliability, see the comments to THIS PIECE (Scroll down to comments 4 and ff.).

That said, did not ask for “a non-Mormon scholar”; I asked for a non-Mormon scholar who finds even a small part of the BoM historically credible. Margaret has pleased some Mormons by pointing to parallels between Mormon stories and other traditions, but this constitutes literary criticism. Nowhere—even, I submit, in your “personal communication”—has she ever said that it seems likely that persons mentioned in the BoM ever existed, or events described there really happened.

My interest, as I have made pretty clear, is not to convince anyone of one thing or another. I couldn’t care less if you believe in the tooth fairy. I’m interested in how Mormons respond to the fact that non-Mormons find their arguments unconvincing. From what I read here, it seems difficult for the Mormons on this blog at least to accept the notion that this is possible—hence explanations like fear of stigma, or denying that anyone’s actually examined your arguments. But is there no other explanation?

ltbugaf said...

So: The Bible requires religious faith to believe its important, regligious points (such as the existence of God, the reality of Christ's atonement, and so forth) but requires little such faith to believe in its unimportant, nonreligious points (such as the existence of certain cities or the fact of Jesus' birth). In contrast, the Book of Mormon, so far, requires religious faith to believe in its important points (such as the reality of Christ's appearance to the Nephites) and also for some of its unimportant points (such as the existence of certain cities or the reality of certain battles).

However, the Bible still requires plenty of faith to believe in such basic historical questions as whether Israelites were ever present in large numbers in Egypt. And the Book of Mormon requires no faith at all to believe in such basic historical questions as whether there was barley or cement in the ancient Americas.

But even going on the presumption that the Book of Mormon requires much more religious faith to accept than the Bible, as a historical text as well as a religious text, so what?

Anonymous said...

The Bible doesn’t require any faith at all. It’s quite easy to accept it as a genuine collection of ancient documents, portions of which reflect some version of historical reality. It’s quite possible that the story of Israel in Egypt and the exodus were nothing more than myths. But we know at least that they weren’t dictated through a hat in upstate New York.

People have disputed and continue to dispute the accuracy of the history recounted in the bible. But the provenance of the documents is not in question. Did the battle recounted in the Bhagavad Gita really happen? Who knows—but there’s no question it’s an ancient text. In the case of the BoM, there is no such evidence that non-Mormons find in the least convincing. Nor does any of the history recounted in it ever appear to have happened. I don’t expect a Mormon to adopt that outlook, but I am interested in how they explain the refusal of non-Mormon scholars to accept what they find so convincing.

Stevo said...

"The Bible doesn’t require any faith at all. It’s quite easy to accept it as a genuine collection of ancient documents, portions of which reflect some version of historical reality."

Wow. This is some serious academic wresting. It kills any power of history whatsoever. Jesus actually did affect people. Peter believed in the resurrection. So did John and Paul. And they were first hand witnesses. Their "historical reality" was the resurrection! Pretending to value Peter as a historical figure while claiming that Peter's beliefs were hocus pocus degenerates Peter to little more than a name on the street, a quack who believed in some cult leader. Such a belief in history is utterly useless for present day understanding. The fact that a Peter existed is of little value to me; the fact that he taught about a Jesus is of slightly more value. That he was able to assist in the establishment of a world religion is tremendous. The "historical reality" that you speak of, of geography and dates, was of little use to Peter; he cared about the message?

But we know at least that they weren’t dictated through a hat in upstate New York.

And John's Revelation on the Isle of Patmos? Talk about a trip! Beasts and whores and seven seals? If I were a secularist, that in and of itself ought to discount the New Testament as the rantings of some maddened zealots. Even if the geography of the revelation were correct, that would matter little. Some people claim that New York is the Great Babylon. New York's a real place alright, but it doesn't make the claimants any more correct.

And what is to be said of the Urim and Thummim of the high priest in the Old Testament? If you want to talk about superstition, they are on par with anything you claim Joseph Smith to have done.

ltbugaf said...

So...

Let's distill what RFP just said, in less self-aggrandizing style:

It requires little faith to believe the Bible is old.

It requires more faith to believe the Book of Mormon is old.

Which leads, of course to the same question posed before: So what?