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

Friday, April 06, 2007

The Eight Witnesses: A Reminder from Scott Gordon

Scott Gordon's short article, "The Eight Witnesses," provides excellent insight into the significance of their testimony. It also deals with the squirrelly allegation from anti-Mormon sources that the Eight Witnesses didn't actually see the plates. Yes, that's actually a commonly repeated argument, believe it or not.

It's one of many valuable additions to the FAIRLDS.org Website, one of the best sites in Mormondom.

13 comments:

Guy Murray said...

Jeff,

Thanks for this link. I think the testimony not only of the eight witnesses but also of the three, making 11 total is incredibly clear and convincing evidence. In fact, it legal terms I would classify it as evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. Evidence of this nature would send a person to death or to life in prison in a criminal proceeding. It is some of the most powerful evidence speaking to the Book of Mormon's truth, and physical reality of the plates.

ruadamu2 said...

None of this makes sense. The purpose of the BofM is supposed to be to testify of Christ, nothing else. Why then all the secrecy? Why could no one see the plates? Why were they "taken" from the earth? Arguably because they never existed in the first place.

We have scrolls that include texts from the Bible that weren't "lifed up". The reasoning just doesn't add up.

I don't think that 8 witnesses that are all related in some fashion, and all having the same agenda, collaborating on a story is any kind of foolproof testiment.

Let's say for arguments sake that the 8 did see plates. That is not proof that the plates were not forgeries. You guys are clinging to plausibility in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Alma said...

ruadamu2, how do you conclude that 11 people (12 including Joseph Smith) constitutes "no one" seeing the plates? I just don't understand why people insist that these 12 people count up to equaling "no one."

It seems that your objection should begin from the premise that these people really do need to be considered. Why not ask, "Why were only 12 people allowed to see the plates?

Surely you perceive that the existence of copies of NT scrolls is no more compelling than copies of the Book of Mormon? The existence of thousands of copies of scrolls of the NT doesn't have any bearing on whether or not those scrolls are the word of God. But if the gold plates were available, they would be proof that Joseph Smith was a prophet. How then could we walk by faith rather than sight? (2 Cor. 5:7) Couldn't the Jews reasonably make the same argument as you regarding Jesus' resurrection? --Why all the secrecy? Why only show himself to these few witnesses rather than to all the people?

themmormons said...

Thanks for the link, Jeff! It was a great article!

Bookslinger said...

Ruadamu2: We have scrolls that include texts from the Bible that weren't "lifed up"

No, we don't. There are NO original texts/documents still extant. All the "originals" of the Bible, both OT and NT, are gone! GASP! How about that!?

And how did Moses know what to write in Genesis? Moses wasn't there. Did God tell Moses exactly what to write, or did Moses have documents and journals that were handed down from Adam through Noah and Abraham, etc?

If it was oral traditions passed down to Moses, who did he learn them from? He was raised Egyptian, not Israelite/Hebrew. His father-in-law, Jethro, was not Israelite either, though he was probably Hebrew. (Hebrew = descendent of Eber.)

Everything extant today is copies of copies of copies, at least third generation (and likely more) for the Old Testament, and at least 2nd generation copies for the New Testament.

If I remember correctly, prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, there are no Old Testament texts that pre-date something like 700 AD. Even the Jews lost track of originals. There is even a history somewhere of how the Jewish scribes and rabbis "recalled" old scriptures for wholesale editing, and re-issuing, under the guise of "correcting" them, but in reality, they edited out much in order to discredit Christians.

So what all Christians and Jews are doing with the Bible, is the same as Mormons are doing with the Book of Mormon, taking someone's word about the "chain of possession" and the legitimacy of copying and of translation.

We all (Mormons, Jews, and non-Mormon Christians) have to take the word of somebody that what we have today is a legitimate and correct transmission of the original.

It's hard to do. Ancient Hebrew had no vowels in the written language. Those were added in 700 AD. So there was ambiguity in many written words, which ambiguity had to be resolved via oral tradition, and we know that's not very reliable.

The Masoretic texts, the Septuagint (The ancient-rabbi-approved Greek translation of the Old Testament), and the Dead Sea Scrolls have minor differences between them that show that ancient copying and translation was not perfect either.

Extant copies of the New Testament have minor disagreements, as often noted in the Zondervan's NIV translation.

We Mormons are taking the word of Joseph Smith, Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, etc, and the other witnesses. (Plus in millions of cases people have prayed and gotten their own answers from God about it. Me included.)

But in the case of the Bible, all Christians and Jews are also relying on even more ancient copyists and witnesses to ascertain the legitimacy of Old Testament and New Testament writings.

There are claims that post-Christian era Jews redacted specific Christ-supporting scriptures out of Old Tesatament writings, even whole books. And it was the Catholic church itself, led by pagan emperor Constantine, that decided which apostolic writings to canonize and which to leave out.

Do you trust that ancient Catholic committee in the 4th century which made the decisions of which epistles and which gospels and which histories to include/exclude from the New Testament canon? Who were they? What were their names? What was the decision-making process they used? What evidence did they use to decide what was in and what was kept out?

Who gets to say whether the Apocrypha are "in" or "out", and why?

People who want to know the truth of the Old Testament and New Testament have to pray about them, just like people who want to know the truth about the Book of Mormon.

"A Bible! A Bible! We've got a Bible!" doesn't logically convince people to accept the Christian or Jewish faith, any more than the presence of the Book of Mormon logically convinces people of the LDS faith.

ALL religions rely on faith and spiritual witness/confirmation of the truth.

In asking people to read, study, ponder and pray about the Book of Mormon, we are not asking people to do any more than what they should do with the Bible itself.

Bookslinger said...

Well, suppose there are a few NT epistles for which we have the orignals. How would we know they are the originals?

We'd have to take people's word for it. We'd have to believe (have faith in) the word of people who kept custody of it, to ascertain a "chain of posession." We'd have to take the words of dead men, going back almost 2000 years, so that would be many generations of dead men that we'd have to believe kept those original documents in their original condition.

At this point in time, how would we know for certain that those documents weren't forgeries made in 50 AD or 125 AD or 612 AD, or even 1310 AD? We wouldn't. There's no way to know, without TAKING THE WORD OF THE WITNESSES WHO PARTICIPATED IN THE CHAIN CUSTODY THEMSELVES.

Why is it easier to believe 30 generations of anonymous dead record keepers, going back 2000 years, yet so hard to believe 12 men of 176 years ago, who are very well known to this day, and are documented as having repeated their testimonies to their dieing day?

I say you don't have to trust dead men at all. Pray to the living God and get your answer directly.

JayBee said...

Bookslinger, great posts! You always make a whole lot of good sense. Thanks.

Mormanity said...

Excellent comments, Bookslinger. Thanks for dropping in!

David said...

Quite unrelated to this post, but I had a question about Mormonism and as I was surfing the net, I came across this blog. I suppose I will ask the question here then, if that's alright. =) (heh, I guess I'm not giving you much of a choice, am I?)
Hopefully you haven't answered this question in an earlier post of yours, because I wouldn't want to waste your time...

Well, anyway, let me get some things straight first about Mormonism.
I've heard that according to Mormonism, Jesus is basically our "elder brother," as we were all in a premortal state as spirits and Jesus just happened to be the firstborn of the Father. In other words, Jesus is just the same as us. Also I've heard that in order for us to become gods we must go through mortality first.


So if my understanding of Mormon teachings is correct, then my question is about Jesus.
Wasn't He a god before becoming a man? If so, then why is it that He is exempt from this requirement?

Hm, well, that's kind of two questions... but I hope you understand what I'm trying to ask.

Russell said...

David,

Unfortunately, many folks portray Mormonism as demeaning Jesus since we believe him to be our "elder brother" as though it means something similar to what we typically think of elder brothers--the dude we kick around with (or are kicked by) when we grow.

It would be far better to take this in the context of CHrist being the BIRTHRIGHT son and as such, inheritor to all the Father has. You are right in ascribing godhood to Jesus in that he had the authority of Father (see John 1:1-3). Also, as Romans 8:16 states, we are joint-heirs with Christ as he is the heir of the Father.

Don't let the rhetoric of the naysayers trip you up. It's spin of the same brand that you seem from your average politico jockeying for position in the GOP (which we tend to see a lot of these days).

David said...

Russell,

Haha, yes, the Grand Old Party... they certainly seem to do most intriguing things nowadays.

Although I didn't quite receive a direct answer to my latter question, you brought up some good points. But Mormonism doesn't worship Jesus, does it? After all, I've heard that since Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit are represented to be three completely separate beings in Mormonism--simply united in purpose in the Godhead--to worship/pray to more than one god would be polytheism, strictly condemned by Scripture. Then again, I've felt that the definition of Trinity is often misunderstood.
The Trinity theology rests upon three principles heavily evidenced by the Bible:
1) There is only one true God;
2) Three People in the Bible are recognized as God (i.e. Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit);
3) These Three are therefore three-in-oneness in the Godhead, or Trinity.
(If you would like to see some evidence, I'd be happy to share the verses)
This idea, however, does not mean that the Godhead is just one Person and has three modes of likeness. That view is known as modalism. I also do not find that the Trinity theology leads to three separate and distinct People, for example, the apostles John, Matthew, and James, each different people with different characteristics and likenesses.
Rather, it is like three essences united in one Being, nature, and purpose and are basically inseparable.
Such a thing is difficult for us to understand. Obviously, the difficulty results because in this world, we see only one essence manifested in each creature. Never are there two or more. And I feel that this difficulty of not being able to fully comprehend the Trinity is partly what makes God so... magnificent. I feel that being able to fully understand God kind of diminishes His "mightiness." He is not like us... rather, He is God.
At least, a title such as "God" tends to give me that feeling of greatness.
A legend I heard recently concerning the Trinity was about St. Patrick, or the saint for whom St. Patrick's Day was named after. Not much is known about him, but this legend continues on. It talks about how St. Patrick traveled to the Irish and illustrated the Trinity to them through the shamrock. This three-leaved clover demonstrates the three divine Persons in one God.
Verses in the Book of Mormon also seem to attest to the concept of the Trinity, verses like Alma 11:44, and 2 Nephi 31:22.
It is without a doubt easy to confuse Trinity theology--the Bible speaks nothing of it, but it is definitely in concordance with its teachings. In fact, I think it explains things even better. I used to have a misconception about the Trinity as well, but fortunately I've learned much more about the nature of God these past couple of years through some of the books I've read and websites I've visited.

But anyway, I've gone on quite a tangent. Coming back to your comment, I do agree whole-heartedly with the usage of John 1:1-3. I like how John used the same words of "in the beginning" as Moses used when describing God creating the heavens and the earth in Genesis. (my KJV Bible also affirms this by cross-referencing John 1:2 to Genesis 1:1) It says that Jesus has always existed, as the Father and the Holy Spirit did too.
And I agree with you as well, that context is crucial. Looking up Romans 8:16-17, the context of the verses, (shown just in the verse before it, Romans 8:15,) seemed to convey a much different message.
Romans 8:15-17 state: "15For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
16The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
17And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together." (emphasis added by KJV) Taken in such context, it appears as if we are not literally children of God, but adopted. I'm sure one would certainly say that there is a huge difference between a birth child and an adopted one. But even though one child is adopted, he/she is still loved deeply by his/her parents. God loves us too, and offers us eternal life as His heirs, "so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together" (emphasis added).

Mormanity said...

The issue of "Jesus as our elder brother" is addressed on the Relationships LDSFAQ page.

But David, comments on this blog are intended for discussions of the post and related topics. In general, off-topic questions might be deleted to discourage "thread-jacking". A lot of basic questions are addressed at FAIRLDS.org, at my LDSFAQ site, SHIELDS, and other sites I link to on this blog.

David said...

Oh, oops, I'm sorry! Won't happen again then.