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

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Ken Jennings on Anti-LDS Bigotry

A hat tip to Ian Cook for drawing my attention to Ken Jenning's post on anti-LDS bigotry. Excellent points, Ken. And I'm pleased to learn that Ken has a blog. Cool!

8 comments:

texasspirit314 said...

"Realize that pretty much all religious belief is fundamentally irrational"

Mr. Lindsay said something of the same thing when he said "Every religion is goofy." last week.

Look, I'm sorry, but if Mormonism were simply about covenants and golden plates, I would have stopped caring long ago. What caught my eye, and what continues to drive my interest in the church of JCLDS, were your appeals to reason. If Joseph Smith were a con man, you argued, how could he have known so much about Mesoamerica? If the Book of Abraham was a fraud, why is it consistant with other tales known from the Egyptian area? As an agnostic, I was intrigued by the idea that religion could be based on rational thought.

But I'm starting to get the impression Mormons don't really believe these arguments. Implied in the statements of Lindsay and Jennings is that their religion (like all others) is "fundamentally irrational" and that their beliefs should not be based on facts or logic. Your statements about archeology and open-mindedness are just a facade for the blind faith that really drives your religion. And when confronted with the charge that your religion is stupid, you simply reply "yours is too".

Mr. Lindsay why do you really believe?

Russell said...

I can't speak for Mr. Lindsay, but I can certainly speak for myself.

There are two elements of our theology, even more so than other Christian denominations: 1) the tangible, the empirical (gold plates, archaeology, linguistic evidence, etc. and 2) the supernatural, the mystical even (the Resurrection, the First Vision, Moroni, divine healings, etc.).

In the latter sense, yes our religion is fundamentally irrational in our mortal inability to reduce spiritual witnesses to any kind of lowest common denominator of evidence (though even the idea of empiricism itself cannot be empirically proven--to borrow from G.K. Chesterton's train of thought). There is no way I can prove that Christ atoned for anyone's sins other than to appeal to the authority of select group of men/"apostles" (quite a small group if viewed in panorama).

However, as Terryl Givens has pointed out, Mormonism is more at ease in the first element than most Christian religions; we have both material and the supernatural claims. Taken seriously, I believe they can create a plausible case--an "intellectual respectibility"--for Mormonism that demands at least sincere attention and in my case, conversion.

Anonymous said...

Joseph never claimed to know anything about Mesoamerica. According to him, Manti was in Missouri.

Mormanity said...

I believe that it is impossible to use empirical evidence alone to bring a person to God, because God demands faith and our our choosing of Him, rather than yielding to pressure and the inescapable weight of scholarship alone. If He wanted evidence to convert, He would just show up in fully glory, make the announcement that He is real, vaporize all problem makers, etc.

Instead, He asks us to believe in things that we cannot see and prove to others who don't want to see them. How can we prove that Jesus is the Christ and was resurrected? How can we prove that God gave the 10 commandments to Moses? If someone doesn't want to believe, there is plenty of reason not to. Indeed, based on material evidence alone, all religion is goofy. Faith is required, questions are unanswered, conundrums exist. That's the way it is - for now. When God comes and clears up all our questions and doubts, it won't take faith any more, and the chance to choose Him out of our quest for goodness and truth will have been missed.

That said, He has not left us without comfort and without powerful confirmations of faith or answers to major questions for those who have an open mind and basic faith in Him. For exmaple, there were many witnesses who saw Jesus and His miracles, including witnesses of His Resurrection.

For the Book of Mormon, it is not God's plan that we can prove it to be the word of God, but there are many fascinating evidences in the text and from the witnesses of the plates and the story of the plates that point to plausibility beyond what could have been crated by Joseph Smith.

We puzzle over the extent and location of Book of Mormon civilizations and difficulties such as animals termed "horses" when there is not unquestionable evidence that actual horses were known to humans at the time in the New World. But in spite of many questions and some puzzles, there are remarkable elements that greatly enhance the sense of historicity and the general plausibility of the text.

For example, the detailed description of Nephi's journeys in the Arabian Peninsual reveal many "direct hits" such as giving plausible directions for travel, that identifies an ancient place name (Nahom/Nehhem) for a burial site right where the Book of Mormon indicates, and then describes a plausible nearly due-east journey from Nahom that brings them to a place called Bountiful - a place that anti-Mormons said couldn't possibly exist but which actual field has shown to be remarkable plausible (two nearby candidates have been proposed, with numerous correspondences to the text of First Nephi).

In addition to the many fascinating issues around the Arabian Peninsula and Bountiful, we have other hot topics like the presence of Hebraic structure in the translated text - chiasmus, many other poetical forms, expressions, paired tricola, etc., along with authentic ancient Hebrew names such as "Alma", descriptions of ancient covenants patterns such as those in the Book of Mosiah, and many other issues. And then we have the fascinating scientific topic of volcanism, offering strong support for some aspects of Third Nephi. I discuss many of these things in my Book of Mormon Evidences page. The purpose of that page is not to prove or convert, but to help those who seek truth to understand the power of the Book of Mormon a little better, and to appreciate some of the gems the Lord has allowed us to see - for those who want to see.

I believe that there are great evidences for the plausibility of the Book of Mormon and many other aspects of the Restored Gospel. But faith is always required.

quandmemem said...

“I was intrigued by the idea that religion could be based on rational thought.”

Sorry, IMO, God gave us brains so we can figure out the faith part. Sure, there is some empiricism to it (Alma 32, etc.) but the epistemology is supernatural. To the natural mind, it is not reasonable that there should be such a being as a Christ, a Savior. But, it’s real. Because it’s real there is a ton of stuff that follows rationally, but you’ve got to get to the premise with faith, IMO. Sorry.

Doug Forbes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Doug Forbes said...

Hitchen's comments on 1826 "conviction" of JS are based on the following document

Same [meaning People] Misdemeanor
vs
Joseph Smith
the Glass Looker
March 20, 1826

For my fees in examination
of above cause $2.68

We know that the supposed "court record" can't be a court record for the following reasons.

1.Misdemeanor trials were not recorded, only felony trials

2.No witness signatures--they were required in an official record

3.It appears to be a pretrial hearing

4.Pretrial hearings cannot deliver guilty verdicts

Aside from which "legal" proceding in 1826 have less than complete legitimacy today. For example, the Extermination Order issued by the governor of Missouri was alsoa legal action. Today, it is more an embarrassment to Missouri than to the Mormons.

HiveRadical said...

But I'm starting to get the impression Mormons don't really believe these arguments. Implied in the statements of Lindsay and Jennings is that their religion (like all others) is "fundamentally irrational" and that their beliefs should not be based on facts or logic."

txspirit314,

In my view our faith's lack of a dividing line between faith and knowledge, between matter and spirit, brings the answer to your question to the forefront. This is because since there is ultimately no separate realm everything is a matter of degrees and approach rather than some grand reconciliation between two paradoxical realms.

Look at our view on faith as the foundation of all action and power. Then look at the statement in our scripture in which God proclaims that he's NEVER given a law or command that wasn't spiritual in nature. (that would have to include the genocide of the Old Testament). Tied all together with the fact that, in our paradigm spirit IS matter. Intelligence, Light and Truth are all equated. Bare with me on this--I hope it makes sense once it's all been put together.

You ultimately can't have rational thought without, what would seem to a finite mind, fundamentally irrational assumptions. The whole of science and logic, at least as we mortal humans apply it, is GROUNDED on the necessity of a significant portion of the process running on assumptions.

Now if you look at the idea of FAITH underlying all power and action, all in relation to the fact that all human logic is ultimately founded on subjectively grounded assumptions, you might get some idea as to why Mormons could be seen to gravitate paradoxically in more than a single direction. Because, truth be told, there's no dividing line between human knowledge and belief--they are degrees of each other-nicely partitioned in some construct we have fabricated.

Perception isn't inherently the reality of a thing, rather it's due to faith that's put into underlying assumptions held at the foundation of every human attempt at what we term rational thought. The substance of which is, due to the finite limits of man, ultimately subjective.


A better question--

texasspirit314 why do you really believe?