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

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Hunt for the Valley of Lemuel: S. Kent Brown Weighs In

Just got the latest issue of Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, published by the Maxwell Institute. This edition is not yet available online (hey, why not become a member and get it mailed to you?), but when it is, be sure to read S. Kent Brown's article, "The Hunt for the Valley of Lemuel." While our critics are busy claiming that there isn't one scrap of evidence for the Book of Mormon, LDS thinkers are busy evaluating which of several good candidates are the most plausible for sites that uninformed critics have scoffed at as being too funny for words. A green, hospitable place called Bountiful on the eastern shores of Arabia?! Hah, every moron knows that the Arabian Peninsula is nothing but sand and desert - except, perhaps, for those modern and ancient morons who have explored Wadi Sayq or the Salalah region on the coast of Oman. And the mighty Valley of Lemuel with a "continually flowing" river of water that empties into the Red Sea? Every fool knows that there are no such rivers in Arabia! Except, perhaps, for those fools, ancient and modern, who exercised faith and traveled to Wadi Tayyib al-Ism about 75 miles south of Aqaba. Of the three candidates for the Valley of Lemuel, this is the one that S. Kent Brown finds to be powerfully compelling, though some questions remain unanswered.

Some questions remain unanswered about exciting developments in Book of Mormon evidence, but more troubling is the fact that most questions remain unasked. Questions like, "What does the Book of Mormon actually say, and is there anything that provides plausibility for its message?" Or more specific questions like, "If Joseph Smith made up the Book of Mormon, how could he have gained access to detailed information about the Arabian Peninsula given in First Nephi - information that has eluded some of the most intelligent and highly educated anti-Mormon authors for decades?"

95 comments:

Latter-Day James said...

I wouldn't want to ask those questions or even try to answer if I were them. If they were answered in the true "anti" way I imagine there would be a lot of dipping and dodging.

Ryan said...

NM: did you have a particular question about Book of Mormon evidence?

NM said...

Ryan,

Jeff here has referred to Nephi. I've only really read Alma, and like I said before that I was pretty amazed by its accurate prophecy of who the coming Messiah was going to be! And as I said before, that the person who wrote Alma even knew that this Messiah was going to be called Jesus?! How amazing is that?! Not even Isaiah got that close; he only managed to get Immanuel, which let's face it is pretty generic.

So, I guess my first question is: who wrote the book of Nephi?

Ryan said...

Most books in the book of Mormon (including 1 Nephi) are named after the person who wrote them, similar to book naming in the Old Testament.

If your question was more biograpraphical, Nephi was the son of Lehi, a prophet and wealthy resident of Jerusalem ca. 600 BC (during the early reign of Zedekiah, contemporary to Jeremiah).

Actually, all this comes from the first 2 chapters of 1 Nephi, if you want to read it for yourself (or if I didn't answer your question)

Doug Forbes said...

Why Lehi started out toward Yemen.

Although Lehi was soon given an instrument to guide him by God and it eventually led to modern Oman rather than Yemen, The first moves Lehi made were toward Yemen. If he wanted to head West, he would have gone to Sidon or Tyre where he could get paid passage as far as Spain or Morocco. Instead, he headed south toward the Red Sea.

Lehi may have known people and even had relatives that had left Jerusalem in 629 BC for Yemen. According to the folk history of Jews from Sanaa, their ancestors left Jerusalem when they heard the prophecies of Jeremiah. 29 year later Lehi took his family on a route leading to Yemen before the Lord directed them to make a sharp left, and cross the desert to what is now Oman.

According to research by Shen et al in 2004, about 15% of Yemenite Jews belong to a rare branch of the Q lineage group called Q5 or Q-M323. Q is the primary lineage of Native Americans. To date, Q-M323 has only been found in Jews. Assuming future research bears this out, the existence of Q-M323 in Jews and only Jews testifies to the fact that the Q* lineage, ancestral to both M323 and M3, probably existed in ancient Israel.

Russell said...

NM:

Let me let you in on a little lesser-known tenet of BOM geography/textual analysis: we don't always know as much as we think we know.

In other words, do we necessarily know that the words "Jesus Christ" were verbatim written on the plates? Perhaps...indeed, I tend to believe on that side. However, it's not the only faithful interpretation. We know very little about the translation process--given some of the phrasing of the BOM, we can't help but suppose that his own linguistic tendencies/phrasings were very much a part of how he worded things in the way he did. Perhaps the words in the text was "Jehovah," but Joseph, being a seer, would certainly have been more concerned with the essence of the translation and not with the word itself. Therefore, he translates according to the more substantive meaning and translates it as Jesus Christ.

I mostly point this out to demonstrate that there is "wiggle room" in Mormon doctrine--once a few core tenets are established (the absolute conviction in the divine Sonship of Christ and his atoning sacrifice, Joseph Smith's prophetic status, and the divine sanction of the Church), then other niches/niceties are up for grabs.

tatabug said...

NM,

For those who are familiar with and understand the nature of prophecy and prophets, it isn't so amazing in the sense that you seem to be amazed, i.e. strange or odd. Prophets are privy to lots of information, some of which may be off-limits from being divulged, particularly when taking the audience into consideration.

But you seem to insinuate that Isaiah would somehow be an inferior prophet because he only managed to come up with a generic identification for the Savior. Well, I think it's pretty amazing that Isaiah SAW Him and received some pretty awesome prophecies concerning Him. It can't get much better than that!

NM said...

Russell,

Yes, I understand your point. So, what you're saying (or at least what I think you're saying) is that there's no verifiable way of finding out the words were 'Jesus Christ' or whatever?

So, is there any way of finding out if Joseph Smith's translations were accurate or whatever with the book of Alma/Nephi? Or are we having to depend solely upon the event when Joseph translated these books?

Tatabug,

Hello again you. I didn't mean to put a value-judgement on Isaiah's prophetic skill neither did I really mean to compare the two... I think...I was just highlighting how accurate the Book of Mormon was with regard to its prophetic content.

Russell said...

NM:

We have no independently verifiable set of gold plates--that's true. But then again, there are no original Old Testament manuscripts available to us (and the Dead Sea Scrolls don't count, they themselves were copies).

That said, the text is not without signature marks of ancient linguistic origin. The literature is vast enough that to list it here would be redundant. Look at maxwellinstitute.org to get some idea of what's available. Look at "Browse our research" and then click on the Book of Mormon. Let's just say that Hebrew literary forms seem to peacefully coexist with Joseph Smith's phrasing in the text.

And the way we find out the BOM is true is the same way we learn that Jesus Christ is our Savior: the testimony of the Holy Spirit. Yes, objective measures can be fruitfully applied re: the Book of Mormon, but they do not close the deal. The experience will be a subjective experience--a subsidiary to our conversion to Jesus Christ, but the processes are nevertheless similar.

tatabug said...

NM,

Well then, what are you waiting for? Join us and enjoy much more prophetic accuracy!

Jon said...

I think NM is being courteous when it comes to the prophesies in the Book of Mormon. Given the near-pinpoint accuracy of the Book of Mormon, the possibility arises that the prophesies were fabrications, i.e. written after the fact, possibly by Joseph Smith himself.

This is not MY opinion; I, personally believe, as the Book of Mormon itself states, that the descendants of Lehi were given a special dispensation of knowledge from on high, which was preserved in their records. While I believe that some Jews and all the prophets in Palestine shared this special dispensation, none of it has been preserved in the OT in its current form.

Nevertheless, I think it is inappropriate to blithely say, "Well then, what are you waiting for? Join us and enjoy much more prophetic accuracy!" as if to say, "Our prophets are better than your prophets!"

Come one, guys, NM's observation is understandable. The Book of Mormon effectively presents a view of essentially pre-Christian Christians, which, to someone heretofore unfamiliar with the concept, is understandably surprising.

tatabug said...

Jon,

I'm sorry you felt that my comment was inappropriate. I was just playing a bit and didn't intend to say that that our prophets are better than any other prophets, but to merely say that if he was genuinely impressed with the prophetic accuracy of the Book of Mormon that there was so much more that was in store for him to discover. But I am hesitant to truly believe that he is impressed with the prophetic accuracy of the Book of Mormon so much as he is doubtful of its truthfulness. I believe that his views lie somewhere among the views expressed in your first paragraph, and so his "courtesy" is a bit patronizing in my opinion. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate his kindness and his tolerance, but I am not going to be deluded into thinking all of his statements with regards to his views of Mormon belief are sincere, which is why I thought it would be nicer to jokingly, but ever so "lovingly," invite him to join us and enjoy the blessings, than to make accusations, but it seems that I have done just that in my response to you.

NM,

Please forgive me if I've offended you. That wasn't my intent.

NM said...

Tatabug,

No offence taken. Although, I do need to say (with clenched teeth) that I think you have me worked out. ;)

Saying that though, I am sincere when I say that I don't know anything about the Book of Mormon. And I know that you know that I take a skeptical view of it =) My only solace with how it is that I feel so skeptical when it comes to the Book of Mormon is that skepticism is my default mode for anything that I investigate. Would you say that was fair, perhaps?

I don't know about what you guys do in your church, but at my church here in Derby, we hold what's called, 'Christianity Explored' courses. The course runs for approximately 7 weeks and is intended for people who we might already know, maybe for who we might be at work with etc. to invite to and investigate, firstly: the claims of Jesus Christ, secondly the evidence for the trustworthiness of the Bible (i.e. from historical, archaeological, perspectives etc.), and thirdly, the idea that if Jesus' claims are true (by looking at the effect it had on His apostles and so on and so forth) how we might come to respond to His death, resurrection etc. and what it might mean to how we live the rest of our lives...

The one thing I really appreciate from being involved by helping to run such courses is that I have come to really appreciate people's honesty in their questions. I think you'll agree that we now live in a society that is almost void of the knowledge of God(!?) What once was a country whose traditions were embroiled in Scriptural living, is now erring toward post-modern anything-goes-kind-of-living. In many ways, it's actually easier now to present Biblical truths - the fact that there exists transcendent truth (the idea that there are absolute truths etc.) because to declare that truth does exist goes completely contrary to the mainstream and popular belief that there are no truths, just subjective ones.

I have digressed.

Yes, I guess the way that I might want to explore the Book of Mormon might be similar to the way that I expect the people that I run the courses for when introducing them to the Bible. Do you know what I mean? I don't mind (at all) when these guys ask the most basic of questions - because sometimes, the most basic of questions are the ones that really matter. =) And I find now, that the questions being asked aren't so enmeshed with religious-ness. Do you know what I mean by this? I don't know if any of you guys have ever read a book entitled, "The Case for Christ" by Lee Strobell? I really, really like that book, because it asks the most basic of questions - questions that demand a rational, reasoned and evidence-based answer - and not mere textbook answers - what you might expect from a geeky-Christian. Do you see? And if one comes to find out that the Bible is dependable, that it is trust-worthy; you know that these things can be verified through archaeology, secondary historical texts etc. then it's easy to accept that Jesus REALLY DID EXIST! And that if HE REALLY DID EXIST - and if He really did die and ressurect, what about the outrageous claims He made about Himself?! How do we respond to what He claimed?!

I think you guys get the point...

So, anyway. Tatabug: you have me all worked out! And Jon, you need to read me way better ;)

But please know that I ask questions with the utmost respect. I never want to offend; and if I do - I will always acknowledge it and will apologise and hopefully learn not to be so crass.

With that note, I bid you all goodnight. It's midnight here in England. Ready for more top discussions over the weekend!

Kathleen said...

I was going to ask if anyone has read "The Case for Christ" by Lee Strobel, but NM beat me to it. It was one of the things that turned me to Christ.

Historical evidence (or lack thereof) is one of the huge issues I have with Mormonism (do you guys mind if I use that term? I'm sorry if it's offensive...let me know, okay?). I know, I know, that's what Jeff's site is all about, and that's probably one of the reasons I find it so interesting. Can't people just find evidence for whatever they want, though? Mormons can find evidence for BM authenticity, but orthodoxes come up with reams of support for their positions, too...So who's right? And how do we know? One of the joys (and curses) of the Internet is just how much information is available for both sides of this. And they are both biased, saying they're right...

Peter said...

NM,

I am surprised you turn to the world to prove the Bible. It sounds like you believe that the Bible is true but you don't know for certain. I was that way at the beginning of last year. I believed that the Bible was true but I didn't know for sure. I was at a turning point in my life where I needed to know if it was true or not. I remember getting on my knees and asking to know if it is true. I was never a kneeling prayer sort of guy. As I read through the New Testament I remember having that desire to know if it is true. At some point through 1st Peter, if I remember correctly, I got my answer. I remember it was a sudden indescribable realisation that it was true. The Lord had told me the answer. So, I can honestly say that I know it's true. I don't just believe/ think it's true. At that time the Lord taught me many other things about his Church. I almost started a church because I didn't know know of one that did everything the Lord asked. I asked him to bring it to me. 7 Months later I was being taught by two young missionaries who, to this day, are the only ones who came to me to talk to me about the Lord's church. Everything they taught me falls in line with everything I understood from the New Testament. So I can say that with only a witness of the Bible I was able to recognise the true Church. It was a bit odd that there was other scripture, it was a bit odd hearing everyone talk about some guy called Alma, who I knew nothing about. I couldn't deny the teachings or the organisation of the church. I was a bit disappointed that I wasn't the prophet I thought I was though ;)

Kathleen said...

That's really neat, Peter. What were you before?

Peter said...

technically I was a south-west baptist, I wasn't baptised though. Just the Church my Mum felt most comfortable going to. I learned a lot there though, quite cool

Peter said...

To be honest Kathleen I don't understand how people can claim to be a prophet of God and start a church. It's just that how do they prove it? If they had only a Bible saying I have been chosen to lead you to God they are echoing hundreds of other churches. Throughout time there has been new scripture and revelation from the Prophets to provide proof. There have been prophecies and, generally, persecutions.
You know, as I was thinking about starting a church I had one thing that echoed in my mind, there has to be one. I even had a name for the church I was going to start - the Resurrected Church of Christ. Because it can't be a reformed church because it'd still be wrong, it would have to be the exact church that Christ established - hence the resurrected in the title.

Just to let you know how serious I was...

Ryan said...

So who's right? And how do we know? One of the joys (and curses) of the Internet is just how much information is available for both sides of this. And they are both biased, saying they're right...

I remember having a pretty big "Aha" moment in a class that brushed up against Epistemology (the study of the value of information, and how to integrate conflicting and unreliable sources). Not that I'm an expert by any stretch, but just being aware of the concept opened my eyes a bit - not all information is created equal!

Seriously, though, the best way I know to evaluate religious ideas is in three steps:
1. Study and absorb the idea
2. Mull for a long time (anywhere form days to months to years)
3. Wait for God to place tidbits in my path to confirm (or shoot down). It's amazing how I can get some wrong idea in my head, only to have a long a string of "coincidences" make it really obvious what's wrong about it.

The more important the topic, the quicker and thicker the tidbits come, especially if I've also been praying about it.

Anonymous said...

You Go Peter. Thanks for your testimony. I like you had a spiritual experience with God, Jesus Christ, then the Joseph Smith story. Once I felt the spirit I knew before this I did little or know studing and knew very little about the Bible. Studing just brings the spirit more and more but I could have studied all my life and would have never known if it was true unless the Holy Spirit told me it was true.

Anonymous said...

Sorry about the spelling and grammar. I am not very skilled and only have a short time to post. At least I have something in common with Joseph Smith.

Anonymous said...

So who's right? And how do we know?
My formula is to ask God in prayer by making a covenant that you will do all that is in your power to follow His teaching. You most likely have enough information now. You must pray in the name of Jesus Christ with real intent to know if Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and that Heavenly Father and Son Jesus Christ appear to him and command Joseph to translate the Book of Mormon and establish His Church in these last days? When Our Heavenly Father confirms this to you by the power of the Holy Ghost then follow up with the missionaries and start on your path back to Him.
When I desired to know with real intent and decided to pray, I recalled a story where Plato wanted to be taught by Socrates so he could learn all that his master knew. In order to determine if Plato was serious Socrates ask Plato to wade out into the waves of the ocean where Socrates ask him how deeply did he desire to know this important knowledge? Then Socrates pushed Plato's head under the water until he felt he was going to drown. When Socrates let Plato up for air he ask him if he wanted this knowledge as much as he wanted that first breath of air.
I don't know if this story is true but if you truly desire to know Our Heavenly Father is waiting. Knock and it shall be opened to you. Seek and you shall fine the truth. Ask and He will reveal it unto you.

NM said...

Hi Peter,

First of all, thank you for sharing your amazing experience =) I can imagine, just like the apostle Paul's reaction to his experience on the road to Damascus(?was it?), that it stopped you in your track of day-to-day living! ...to say the least!

It's good to have these kind of experiences, it wakes us up to the fact that the spiritual dimension is very much a present reality. It's arguably contested by our psuedo-scientific friends of course, and that such 'religious' experiences are due to frontal lobe malfunctions etc. but the truth (and I should know as I work in mental health) is that such people who write psychiatric propositions in the DSM IV textbooks is that it isn't actually based upon biological evidence....at all!?!

In fact, there's a clever 'anti-psychiatry' video on youtube which challenges how psychiatric disorders are created....after watching the video, one does wonder if such disorders are actually MADE UP?! It was, however, created by The Church of Scientology. But even so, their research into the area of psychiatry and its exposure of it show some striking results.

Anyway, I have again, digressed.

You said, "I am surprised you turn to the world to prove the Bible. It sounds like you believe that the Bible is true but you don't know for certain."

To be honest with you, I have gone through so much agony with whether Christianity is true/not true. I guess this is the curse of having been brought up a Christian. I grew up (as kids do) swallowing things before chewing them. I believed because my parents said so. You know the score. And it wasn't until I came to university that I was exposed to existential/nihilist/humanist-type philsophies that things came to a head. Plus of course, the token evolutionary theories, which have remained popular for the past 100 or so years.

The main challenge came from existential philosophy, particularly from Sartre, Camus and Neitzche who proposed the idea that 'truth' is ultimately subjective. Nihilism states there is no truth. Existentialism at least makes things a little better by stating that even though there is no objective truth, we can all make our own truth. This idea of subjectivism, I believe, is the society that we live and breath today. It was made more challenging because, as a student I was exposed to many, MANY great thinkers...and people who I really admired. Do you know what I mean? I had friends who were Buddhists, and actively engaged in charity work; humanists who were actively on the streets working with the homeless etc. And how did these people come to do such things? Because they too, experienced something in their lives that made them stop and think.

Then I thought, "Well, I know that at the age of 8 (or whatever) I made a commitment to Jesus and after that I knew my life changed and strived to be a better Christian, but how is my experience of Jesus any better than these guys who are also doing some great things?"

So...coupled with whether or not 'truth' exists and also having friends who were of other faiths regularly exercising their faiths. It was then that I decided that 'faith' had to be more than mere experience and feeling...

Because if my faith in Christ, rested alone on an experience that I had...then effectively, Christianity is no better than the Buddhist, who let's face it, did a much better job of getting on with life than I did =)

Do you see the kind of dilemma I was faced with?

When I say I was depressed, I mean I hit rock bottom. Can you imagine? A system that I had based the best part of 20 years on? Rocked? The walls began to crumble and I guess all that I could do was to start again =)

...so I did.

I took the default skeptical view of everything. I never ingested, let alone digested anything, until I first chewed it. If it stood up to scrutiny, I took it, if it did not, I spat it out.

So, I think I remember starting out by looking at evidences for who Jesus is: whether or not he existed etc. Let's face it, when Paul was preaching, he had the luxury of being a contemporary of Jesus. He was there! He wasn't preaching something that asked people to believe whether or not he resurrected, because people around KNEW that this strange phenomenon happened!

After that, I looked at Christianity as a system. And for the first time, I saw a system that directly challenged post-modern thought. It was based upon absolute truths. That x, y and z do have values, whatever opinion people might have upon it. The judicial system is what really brought this home. With questions like, "Why do we have laws?", "Why has somebody decided that rape is wrong?" etc...

Do you see where I'm going with this? The fact that there are absolutes, is enough to push me to wonder how these transcendent truths came about!? There can only be one other source, other than merely saying that such rules are innate: that there must be a law-giver?!

God IS this law-giver! It's exactly what Paul was writing about in the first two chapters of Romans! The whole universe cries out, "Intelligence!!!"

So, if there is intelligence, who is it? etc.

Of course, this epiphany didn't make me leap straight to the Bible. It just revealed that 'truth' does exist....

...which then led me to investigate the different systems of thought that were pro-'absolute truth'. Systems that promoted post-modernity is wish-wash. So, it was then that I could avoid things like existentialism...it might also be worth noting that I couldn't even go to evolutionary theory, because I don't know if you realise this but 'science' in itself is constrained by 'naturalism' and 'materialism'. So for 'science' to explain things that cannot be measured, i.e. spirituality, can no longer science =) It's not that I am anti-science. I just don't trust the scientist who go about thinking that what they're doing is science =)

Well, I could go on and on....but Peter... I think you get my point.

The message of the gospel of Christ remains the same. It has never, ever changed. The message of the Bible that God exists, whether we like it or not, has also always remained the same. Sadly, societies do. Philisophical thoughts rise and fall and in most cases - people (like fish do not realise that they are in water, because it's all they've ever been exposed to), do not realise that they live and breathe the fad philosophical thought.

Like I've said: the message of the gospel has never changed. The area of the defense of the Christian faith is called apologetics. In of itself, it is useless, but it leads the way to the good news =)

Peter said...

NM,

My change wasn't as instantaneous as Paul's. I am still changing, slowly but surely. I am going to serve a mission next year (hopefully) so that when someone prays to the Lord asking for guidance or his church, I can repay the favor.

I do sometimes have trouble understanding you. It may be that I am not on the same wave length. What I understood from your post is that you don't trust yourself, so you want to have as much proof as possible. I understand this. There are more experiences that I have had that have left me wondering if I am insane. I am by no means a perfect person. That doubt that you have, because it really seems you do doubt, is planted by the devil. The other thing that I got, probably more frightening, is that you don't believe the Lord will answer.

Maybe you need worldly proof? That's not my call, if you had an experience similar to Paul's or mine, would it change your life?

Do you want your own experience? If so it's really easy. Exercise that faith of yours and get on your knees, ask to know the truth and read the Book of Mormon, if not that then the New Testament. Some belief in Jesus is better then none. Though not everyone's experience is going to be as hard hitting or blatantly obvious as mine or Paul's. Some people know the truth because of a simple warm feeling, others get it in dreams or visions. The Lord will tell you in whatever way you need, you just need to be on the look out.

If you have not yet received a spiritual witness, let us know and we will also pray with you to get an answer.

Peter said...

OK. I reread and got something along the lines of you were confused, you re-read the Bible? again and analyzed everything. You have now formed your own opinions and stick to them. Confirming information in the Bible with information in the world you have found evidence that Jesus exists.

You research to be able to show the world that Jesus exists.

Then you have a problem. You have no evidence that he was resurrected. Good thing the Book of Mormon has the ministry of Jesus after he was resurrected. Also you have no proof that his church exists today. Good thing we have the Doctrine and Covenants otherwise the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints would be in the same pickle :|

NM said...

Hi Peter,

Thank you for what you have written. And I appreciate your concern. I like the way that you show your concern - it is something to be admired. =)

Errm, I shared my experience of Christianity to show that mere experience of an event is not enough to know that it is truth. I doubt you agree, but I'll carry on with the thread...

For example, let's take Mohammed (the most prominent prophet in Islam): it seems that he too had visions, which lasted for a few years! I think the story goes that he was in a cave and within this spate of time, he was visited by a messenger angel telling Mohammed that he was to be the last prophet of God. It also seems that Mohammed experienced some AMAZING things like riding to the heavens on a winged horse etc. And throughout this amazing experience, he was told of the final thing about the character of God, the giving of the Jihad etc.

Now, from our perspective, and from reading the Qu'ran (not that I've read all of it - only part of it) that the Qu'ran is the truth of who God is. Would you believe this? I doubt it, because first of all, it denounces the validity of Jesus who lived 600 years prior to Mohammed, claiming that Jesus was NOT the Son of God and that he was a mere prophet etc. How can this be a progression of God's revelation?

How can Islam be true when it does not correlate with what has already been revealed in the Bible (and not just the Bible, but in Jesus!) which was also God's revealed Word?

My point is this: (and please know that I do not mean to cause offence) that mere experience is not enough to establish whether something is TRUE. Faith in Jesus, believe it or not, must be founded on substantiated facts. The existence of Jesus is a FACT. He really did exist and His death, ressurection and the effect which this had upon those around Him can be verified through people like Josephus etc.

Do you see my point?

(BTW) I've just read the second part of your reply - which makes everything that I have said - void! =D I'll carry on anyway...

"You have no evidence that he was resurrected"? I think books written by Lee Strobel would be good for you to read. =)

"Good thing the Book of Mormon has the ministry of Jesus after he was resurrected. Also you have no proof that his church exists today."

I'm really sorry, but I just don't understand statements like this. God, if He is Sovereign, will always keep to Himself a remnant =) Do you remember when Elijah said to God, "Look God, I am the only one left and your enemies are trying to kill even me!". What did God say in reply, "Don't worry, I've kept 7000 people for myself who haven't bowed down to Baal"...

I can only imagine Elijah's reply, "Oh right. =/"

I don't think that we should presume that the church (whatever this might mean for the LDS) ceased to exist, because God - in His Sovereignty, will always keep to Himself a remnant. Who are these remnant? Answer: those who are part of his 'unseen' church...

It seems there are many people who profess to be Christians, who when they die and see Him will say, "But Lord, I have done this, that n' the other AND I did them in Your name", but He'll turn away and simply say, "I NEVER knew you..."

Eep!

Anyway....back to the subject of the BoM!!!

Are there any books, which Joseph translated that were not written on these golden plates? If so, can they be verified?

tatabug said...

NM,

I have no problem with your skepticism. In fact, I think a skeptical approach to new information is generally a good thing.

But I am suprised at your evidentiary approach to verifying the authenticity of the Bible. That seems to me to be the basis of a very shaky foundation and an approach which subordinates faith and reliance on the Holy Ghost, which are both very Biblical principles of determining truth.

Without going into details, there are definite problems with the Bible involiving evidence and anachronisms. But even if all of those issues were resolved, there are many things that cannot be proven through evidence. All the physical evidence and historical and scientific accuracy in the world does not verify a true prophet of God or the Son of God. Jesus may have existed, but how can archaeology or historical records verify the truth of His claims or the reality of His resurrection?

But anyway, we don't have anything similar to your 'Christianity Explored' course. I went to a fireside once where physical evidence for the Book of Mormon was discussed, but such a thing is rare, and such a technique is not used (or at least not prescribed) when it comes to teaching investigators. The most powerful witness, after all, is the Holy Ghost. Evidence is fun and can add a bit to one's faith, but it isn't the basis of faith or an adequate substitute for the witness of the Holy Ghost.

NM said...

Hi Tatabug,

I think this is why I said that mere apologetics is never good enough. Although I did say that Christian apologetics (a defense of Christianity) is a good way of breaking barriers, but in of itself is actually quite useless =)

I don't know if you'd be interested in this: 'Be Thinking.org' it is a site owned by UCCF (whose American equivalent is Inter-Varsity-Press IVP). It is an organisation which support the Christian Union Movement in all universities and colleges in Britain. The movement was started a few hundred years ago by Cambridge University and has carried on since. UCCF is, might I add, a strong advocate for reformed theology =)

tatabug said...

NM,

To answer your question about other books that Joseph wrote which were not on the gold plates, and can be verified, is yes. But I'm sure you are probably aware of just what book that might be. Although it is likely that most of the papyrus used in translation of the Book of Abraham were burned in a fire, there are remaining fragments which provide clues and some evidence. That evidence however meets with a great deal of criticism, no doubt, but I find it very compelling.

tatabug said...

NM,

I know you said you haven't read the entire Book of Mormon, but I am curious to know why. Why all the interest in Mormonism, but none of the effort on your part to find out whether or not it's true? You ask a lot of questions here, but there are resources at your fingertips of which I'm sure you are aware but you apparently don't utilize. To me, that indicates that you have already made up your mind that it isn't true. But I don't see how a person can make an informed decision like that without first taking on a serious investigation of the subject. Because Mormonism conflicts with some or many of your predisposed ideas of how things should be is probably among the reasons you might have, but that would be like someone who is Muslim saying that Christianity is false because the teachings in the Bible conflict with the teachings in the Quran. You've said that apologetics (or evidence) is useless in and of itself, but it seems you expect for Mormonism to stand or fall on that basis. Maybe I am off-base here, and I apologize if I am being too presumptuous, but I'm just seeing a lot of contradiction here that I can't seem to reconcile. Although, I may be guilty of just such a contradiction myself. You are probably just here to rescue 'lost souls,' but what makes you so sure that the Church is false?

tatabug said...

Sorry, forgot something.

By serious investigation, I don't mean reading stuff from people or organizations whose intent is to disprove the Church's claims, or even Mormon apologetics (good as they may be). I mean an open-minded study of the doctrines and teachings of the Church. What could that hurt?

NM said...

Tatabug,

I guess this is why I am here at Mormanity. The thing that I REALLY appreciate is that people like Jeff, BookSlinger, Russell etc. are real thinkers. They don't give the text-book answers that one might expect. They give well thought-out answers - most of the time ;)

I've seen some material, which might be considered 'anti-Mormon'. But to be honest, I'd rather not talk about such things, and instead engage with people like you to find out what you really think about such material. Plus, (and although we are limited by text-communication) I get to meet really cool people =)

I appreciate GOOD, MEATY discussions. And should God be glorified when we learn something of His nature, then so be it =)

Kathleen said...

I appreciate "good, meaty discussions" too!

Tatabug, I disagree with you. I think it is important to read both pro-Mormon and a-Mormon material. Not necessarily "anti" material, but material that presents the opposite view. Both sides will be biased, obviously.

Also, what do you guys think about following a religion that may not be historically viable, but the things it teaches are mostly good and/or true? (Sorry if it sounds loaded, it isn't meant to be.)

Latter-Day James said...

What religion do you speak of that isn't historically viable?

Peter said...

NM,

In regards to your comment on Islam. We know that Muhammad was a false prophet because he taught that Jesus was not the Son of God but only a prophet. We also know that he is not one definitive last prophet, because if he was Jesus would have come again. Because we have been sent prophets to prepare the way for the second coming.

In terms of other books that Joseph translated there is the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. That is cool. You should check that out. You don't even have to buy it, get it here.
This just lists the parts that Joseph changed to match the original scriptures. You will be surprised, if you haven't yet read it. It makes it more understandable. I sometimes think that the plague and fires that swept through England may be a result of people changing the words in the Bible.

Faith in Jesus is based on substantiated facts. For me the facts are in the Bible. They tell the story, then the Lord confirms that it is correct. There's my foundation. It's rock solid. No one can shake it. It seems that you feel that you can still be wrong even when you get confirmed truth. Regardless of the source.
Skepticism is a good thing as it prompts you to ask questions, to seek the truth.

NM said...

Peter,

It's interesting how you know that Mohammed is a false prophet.

Could I play devil's advocate for the time being?

1) Mohammed also had dreams/visions etc. And we both know that most of what is in the Qu'ran is actually the Jewish Torah. Everything other than Jesus being the Son of God, is the same. And everything seems to flow like the way that the Bible does.

So, here's my question: how do you go about telling a muslim that their prophet is a false prophet? Because he too had visions/dreams and he too proposed the idea of monotheism, the idea of obedience as a way to salvation etc.?

I'm sure you know where I'm going with this...

Interestingly though, it seems that thousands upon thousands of muslims are becoming Jesus followers (not wanting to use the word Christian as this - to them - has many western connotations) because of Mohammad's blood relation with Jesus! Mohammad is a direct descendent of Ishmael (who was a product of WORKS) and Jesus is the direct descendent of Isaac (who was the product of promise/GRACE/Divine intervention)...

...it seems that many muslims (from what our fellow brothers and sisters tell us who work in the middle east), are coming to know about the grace that Jesus gives...and many are becoming Jesus followers...=)

NM said...

Peter,


You said, "For me the facts are in the Bible. They tell the story, then the Lord confirms that it is correct. There's my foundation. It's rock solid. No one can shake it. It seems that you feel that you can still be wrong even when you get confirmed truth. Regardless of the source.

In one way, I really admire the strength of your faith. And I want to urge you to keep going on with the Bible! =D

But in another way, I'd want you to examine the Bible, void of the icky religiousness that you attach to it. (please bear in mind that I acknowledge that what I have said is coming across quite crass)

But if you apply the way you determine truth to someone, say, who follows Ron L Hubbard. What do you say to someone who truly believes that Lord Xemu exists, just because they too have had ethereal experiences through their auditing sessions? Bearing in mind that this person base their way of determining 'truth' by mere experience and their experience as a way that truth has been confrimed to them?

Anonymous said...

NM,

As a convet I produced the following thoughts.

After my outward conversion to Christianity, I began digging in the Bible for clues that could bring Islam and Christianity close to each other. However, I contrarily began to notice that the difference between them was getting deeper and larger to the point that there was no way these two religions could be from the same source. The Islamic idea that the Bible was falsified by the Jews could no longer convince me. Very soon, I accumulated several remarks and doubts that confused me. They were mainly as follows:

1- If Allah is the true and personal name of God, why he didn't use it in the Bible but instead used Yhwh?

2- It is obvious that the Allah of the Koran and Yhwh of the Bible can not be the same God, who speaks in

both books. Which one is the True God or even who is God?

3- Where in the Bible does it mention about the coming of Muhammad and Islam?

4- If the Koran and the Bible are the book of the same God, why then do they contradict each other?

(Both the Bible and the Koran often talk in the first person of a heavenly being speaking to men.)

5- Why do Christians claim that Jesus is God and that God is Triune? What biblical evidence do they have?

6- If God really exists and really spoke to the prophets and still speaks to theses Christians, can't He speak to

someone like me too?

At that time, I couldn't open up to anybody and share about my questions. Out of my fear, I kept all those doubts tormenting me on the inside. I thought that if our pastor knew that I had those doubts about Christianity, he would throw me out of the Church and take back the job from me. At the time, I was unaware that these fears were a lie from Satan to keep me in darkness and under his control. We can always be honest before God with any doubt or question.

NM said...

anonymous (1:10 AM, November 03, 2007),

Can you just confirm for me? Are you a convert from Islam to Christianity? =)

Peter said...

Thanks Anonymous, I think that will cover it well. Let me add this scripture - 1 John 2:22-23

NM,

I have no reason to study the Bible without the religious connotations, why wouldn't I give God his due respect when I know it's true? Honestly, I think that experiences are the only thing that let us tell what is truth. How do we know that the Bible is true without an experience? How do we know what someone tells us is true unless we experience that truth?
If you haven't experienced that truth you are surviving off of a shaky foundation. Building your faith on facts from the world is like building on sand. There need be only one wave that comes and can wipe out your whole faith. If you have experienced that truth then you are solid.
If you remember a couple of years ago (or maybe last year) when there was a guy who claimed he found Jesus' tomb. That probably rocked some foundations and destroyed others.

That's my take.

Anonymous said...

NM,
Are there any books, which Joseph translated that were not written on these golden plates? If so, can they be verified?

Jeff might have a link to:
There is a very good paper written by two evangelicals grad students that go through all the works of Hugh Nibley and others in the church that cover the Dead Sea Scrolls, Nag Hammadi library, pseudopigraphy, early church fathers and many others and state how impressed they are with the Mormon Scholars works. They do not agree the Mormons, but they say that the evangelicals are being caught sleeping when it come to such research. Some of this goes in to Joseph Smiths other works. Again check out FARMS research.

Anonymous said...

NM,
Are there any books, which Joseph translated that were not written on these golden plates? If so, can they be verified?

Jeff might have a link to:
There is a very good paper written by two evangelicals grad students that go through all the works of Hugh Nibley and others in the church that cover the Dead Sea Scrolls, Nag Hammadi library, pseudopigraphy, early church fathers and many others and state how impressed they are with the Mormon Scholars works. They do not agree the Mormons, but they say that the evangelicals are being caught sleeping when it come to such research. Some of this goes in to Joseph Smiths other works. Again check out FARMS research.

Anonymous said...

NM,
So, is there any way of finding out if Joseph Smith's translations were accurate or whatever with the book of Alma/Nephi? Or are we having to depend solely upon the event when Joseph translated these books?
It depends on what you call finding out (proof) if Joseph Smith's translations are accurate. There are many impressive and note worthy insights that have been found by various studies. Chamis and how easy the original manuscript translates to Hebrew. Check out FARMS research findings.

Anonymous said...

Convert to Christianity.

Anonymous said...

It is spelled chiasmus.

Peter said...

No offense meant anonymous but NM asked if you are a convert from Islam to Christianity, not just a convert to Christianity.

Anonymous said...

NM

I think that experiences are the only thing that let us tell what is truth. How do we know that the Bible is true without an experience? How do we know what someone tells us is true unless we experience that truth?

I am most likely the least intelligent of most of the bloggers that post here and before I obtained a spiritual conversion I had very little knowledge of Our Heavenly Father or Jesus Christ. On my mission I met many people that knew nothing of God or religion yet the spirit could still touch them with little knowledge.

Although spiritual experiences are not required (ie. many live by faith, some by knowledge, and some by study) it has been my own personal experience that this is how Our Heavenly Father can, if necessary, communicate to the least of us.

Also when I look at all the scholars and theologians that have brains 10,000 times larger than mine, with untold degrees, with untold man hours spent studing and debating the gospel and they can't agree then the only clear way is through the spirit. The gospel is for the humble not the learned.

Anonymous said...

yes

NM said...

Anonymous,

You said, "The gospel is for the humble not the learned."

Absolutely. Again, I need to stress that Christian apologetics alone is useless... there's a difference between knowing about God and knowing God personally =)

You hit it right on the nail when you said that the gospel is for the humble =) It really is! This is where 'grace' comes in. People who have a relationship with Christ are the ones who (at the end of the day) know nothing about how to give or how to work (because simply knowing about God or the different Christologies can be work...and not grace.

To be a follower of Christ requires a transformation, which is God's doing - not ours. All we do is accept that we are nothing (which paradoxically is the hardest work) and to simply receive the fact that Jesus has done it all! GRACE!

Peter,

Do I assume correctly that you assume that I haven't had experience/testimony? If I my assumption is correct, then I must interject and say that I DO HAVE MY OWN TESTIMONY =)

Peter, Christ lives in me =) And I can't help but praise God everyday of my life =)

All that I was saying is that mere experience cannot be the thing that determines 'truth'.

Peter, I work a lot with mentally ill patients. People who have schizophrenia. One of the main symptoms of this illness is delusional thought. Some firmly believe that they are Christ, the devil, an angel, a prophet etc. because they have experienced something quite extraordinary...do you see my point here?

Mere experience (alone) is not enough to determine whether something is true... =) Otherwise, person x who claims to be the last prophet which God sent (but having no proof of showing it) has an equal right just as anybody else to claim that his truth is the truth... Do you see my point?

Peter said...

Nathaniel,

I am glad I finally have a name for the initials NM, I found it on the blog post about Romans 2.

I am sorry to have assumed you don't have a testimony, it is just that your writing seemed to outlay that your uncertain.
Nathaniel I know about schizophrenia. I have thought that I might suffer it. Some of these mentally ill people you deal with may very well not be ill at all. Spirits do exist and it is not impossible for some people to see them. They communicate with us daily.
For those that believe they are Christ, it is a trick of Satan. I was almost led to believe this same thing once.
For those that are thinking they are prophets I was also led to believe the same thing. Another trick of Satan.
If the person is of reasonably sound mind, in that they can communicate with reasoning and logic, perhaps an objective review of the word and prayers to God can help?
What do you do with those that profess to be Christ or prophets?

Anonymous said...

NM,

To be a follower of Christ requires a transformation, which is God's doing - not ours. All we do is accept that we are nothing (which paradoxically is the hardest work) and to simply receive the fact that Jesus has done it all! GRACE!


I second this. Before I joined the LDS church I gained a testimony of Our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I did very little study and had only read one book about Jesus Christ. It truly was the grace of God through the Holy Spirit that changed me. Thanks for shairing your testimony with us NM.

Kathleen said...

Anon said, "Experiences are the only thing that let us tell what is truth".

If that were so, there would be no such thing as truth. Why? Two people could experience the same thing and have totally different feelings/opinions about it. Say the go to the symphony. Their feelings are interpretations of the music. The fact that the symphony played, say, the Firebird Suite, is an objective truth. The listeners may have attended it and created opinions on it. One thought it was exquisite, the other thought it was imperfect because the timing was off. Their opinions are just that--opinions. The truth remains that the symphony played the Firebird Suite. Does that make sense?

Truth isn't a subjective thing; that is, it does not depend on how we perceive it or what we think of it. It is true regardless of people's perception of it. It is objective and can be measured (and should be measured) by something outside the realm of personal experience.

Ryan said...

it [truth] is objective and can be measured (and should be measured) by something outside the realm of personal experience.

First off, let's be clear that I'm with you -- truth exists regardless of our awareness or opinion of it.

What do you mean by a measurement outside the realm of personal experience? Is that just "what I observe, rather than what I feel about it?"

While feelings can deceive us, I would argue that instruments and measurements suffer a different limitation -- they only measure (imperfectly, at that) what something appears to be, which may not be what it *is.* If we are after the simplest explanation for a phenomenon which is sufficiently accurate for its intended use, that's perfect. If we are after Truth, though, it's going to take something more, and things tend to wander away from science into the realm of philosophy.

Perhaps a combination of the two? A rigorous inquiry into how ideas and experiences impact us?

28 Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.
...
31 And now, behold, are ye sure that this is a good seed? I say unto you, Yea; for every seed bringeth forth unto its own likeness.
32 Therefore, if a seed groweth it is good, but if it groweth not, behold it is not good, therefore it is cast away.
33 And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good.


To me this says:
1. Consider the idea that claims to be truth. Analyze it -- see what it claims to be, to do.
2. Try applying it in your life
3. If the result comes as advertised, and it brings enlightenment and growth, you have something good on your hands.

Re schizophrenia: I am not a psychologist, but have some family members who suffer from this and similar ailments. I have never heard of a case of mental illness where the delusion could deliver on its promises while also bringing enlightenment and growth. Schizophrenia, especially, seems to universally bring darkness and despair.

Ryan said...

Sorry, that quote was from Alma 32...

Peter said...

Hi Kathleen,

Actually that quote you had from anonymous was quoting something I said earlier.

That the orchestra played Firebird Suite is the perceived absolute truth. This can be verified either two ways, you find the piece and listen to it or, if it's original, you can talk to the composer. Either way another experience is needed to determine the fact. It's the law of the two witnesses.
The two opinions are true also, it's just subjective truth to the amount of experience they have had.

I should actually clear up my statement about schizophrenia. I don't know it in that I don't know anyone with it. I have seen much on TV and read some in books. Limited experience. Without experiencing someone with schizophrenia I don't think that I could make an informed idea about the condition. At my current thought about it, I believe that someone may have been caught in a lie from Satan and can not get out. Again I can not comment fully because of my limited experience. I would like to know for sure though.

NM said...

Peter,

Thank you for your honesty. =) To be honest, I did wonder whether you might have experienced symptoms of schizophrenia - certainly psychosis...(if it really is a medical illness?!). It was quite telling when you started to talk about starting a new church in a previous post...I didn't want to mention it then as I didn't know how you might react if I asked you whether you thought you might have experienced such (extra-ordinary) things in the past...

Please know that I really admire you for your honesty with such a disclosure =)

You asked, "What do you do with those that profess to be Christ or prophets?"

Well, for now let's say that the bio-medical way of describing mental illness is inadequate. Peter, bear in mind that I am a clinician and that I do deal with many clients who have 'schizophrenia'.

The way to deal with such people who do make such claims is to see if what they say can be substantiated. If someone who I suspect is suffering from delusional thought, for example: he might think that he is 'the special last prophet of God' (which is quite common), then we must question whether or not it correlates with reality. Do you see my point? If however, their claim cannot be substantiated, then you do have to wonder what on earth is going on...(?!) Usual practice for people here in Britain who pose some sort of problem because of their delusional beliefs, which either poses a serious danger to themselves or a danger to others, would be hospitalisation and medication =(

Also, something to bear in mind is that psychosis is actually more common than most people think (or would like to admit). And its first onset is around the age of adolescence and can be as young as 10 years. What's interesting here in Britain is that there exists a government-funded organisation called Early Intervention Service, whose job it is, is to deal with people who present with early onset psychosis. Evidence shows that the most common age for someone to experience psychosis is between the ages 14-28. Interesting, huh?

Ryan,

Schizophrenia can actually have some beneficence - and usually for people who are going through a manic phase =) I assure you, it's not all doom and gloom...

Peter,

I have an interesting documentary (should you want to watch it) called 'Hearing Voices'. It was broadcasted in Britain sometime last year, which exposed the some of the absurdities of the bio-medical explanation of this so-called illness. It's very, VERY interesting. If you want, I could send the file to you via skype? My username is nathanielmacrae. And again, I really admire you for your honesty =)

So, what do we do with people who claim to be prophets? I find it interesting that according to sources, J. Smith had such visions at the age of 14. I've seen a video (and I think it was made by the LDS church) which described J.Smith as somewhat of a quiet boy, somewhat uneducated and special boy who had unique gifts....?

This particular youtube video really spun the idea that J.Smith was unique and everything. But as a clinician watching the video, I couldn't help but think that J.Smith was having a psychotic episode... Please know that I spend most of my working days with adolescents who do have schizophrenia. One of the most striking things about their character is that they are usually shy, who would rather be by themselves than to socialise with others etc. Most of the people I see have drug-induced psychosis, with related family problems - abuse, neglect etc. And there are others (quite interestingly) who have been involved with the occult. Does J.Smith fit any of these profiles? Probably, but I guess as would most people =) But I would be interested to see if someone, say a clinical psychologist could draw up some sort of psychological profile on J.Smith, taking some of the evidence that speak out for and against his reputation.

I'm sure Russell would agree with this one, but it does seem that J.Smith was involved with some deviant behaviour in his life time. Is that a fair thing to say? I don't know...

And to approach this subject of 'gods' again...I think the reason why I become so INCREDIBLY wary of those who start to talk about us being or becoming 'gods' just sound very new-agey....do you know what I mean about this? It just doesn't sit well with me, because it really just doesn't sound Biblical - AT ALL...

The subject of us being 'gods' is something that I might expect when talking to a person who is into eastern-mysticism...

I don't know, what do you think?

Russtafarian said...

Well, NM, I'm always quite skiddish of psychohistory...we can't prove that there is a universal human essence. It's just a big assumption, so to conclude that because schizophrenics are shy and Joseph Smith was shy, ergo, Joseph is a schizophrenic...BIG leap.

Add to that...we have spotty evidence concerning Joseph's shyness. Normally, it consists of a fellow seeing him one day and saying: "Oh my, what a shy boy!" after seeing him for a few minutes in passing. Better to ask his FRIENDS (and him, for that matter). In his 1838 history, Joseph saw he was of a mirthful countenance and if he anything, he was a bit too boisterous for his own good. Bottom line: Joseph's personality, like MANY personalities, defy simplistic descriptions. I know many shy people who are anything but drug addicts and I know quite sociable, even healthy people who have been through h--- and back after growing up in the ghetto. Categorization of individuals based on singe traits or circumstances makes for precarious business indeed.

Was Joseph "deviant"? Such a nasty word in the popular vernacular (obviously, the psychologists of the world would disagree). Did he do things out of the norm? Certainly. However, that is a poor measure of one's prophetic status.

NM said...

Russtafarian,

I must stress that all of what I have said is from my personal experience. I have worked in a number of different mental health settings. Most of what I have described was when I used to work within psychiatric wards (for people with acute mental health issues).

The fact that J.Smith had visions, (and it doesn't matter who it is that claims to have had visions) - I automatically wonder if it is actually psychosis (note: not schizophrenia). Like I said before, psychotic episodes occur more often than people would like to admit =)

Please know that I don't mean to cause offence. If I did hit a nerve with you, then I apologise.

As a Christian, I too, am quite skiddish of psycho-babble. Most of the time, I DO wonder if such (extra-ordinary) experiences are more spiritual than medical.

So, I guess the inevitable question begs. If what happened to J.Smith was a spiritual phenomenon, then we need to ask: (from what has been recorded of J.Smith's life-time) what kind of influences was he involved with, which may lend us to determine whether such visions were from God or from something malevolent?

To visit a previous comment that I made: Mohammad ALSO had visions and dreams - who ALSO claimed to have received messages from an angel and WHO also claimed to be a prophet. If it was from God, did what Mohammad write in the Qu'ran correlate with what we already know about God's character as revealed in the Bible? And please bear in mind: Christianity was already 600 years in the making before Mohammad's Jihad law came into being...

Ok, if we treat Mohammad's visions n' dreams etc. as a purely spiritual phenomenon (and not label him with a psychiatric diagnosis), was his experience from God? How can we know if his experience was from God? Well, it all happened way too long ago for us to be able to interview him or his friends. What we can do though, is to read the Qu'ran and see if it correlates with the Bible... Because as you know, the Bible is God's revealed Word - and it just so happens that the Bible reveals Jesus as Divine. What does the Qu'ran say about Jesus? NOT Divine. Well, divine to a certain extent - but it claims that Jesus was a mere prophet. Well, firstly we could ask which book is telling the truth? Or we could automatically say (being pro-Jesus and all) that the Qu'ran along with the prophet Mohammad's visions DID NOT COME FROM GOD. Do you see where I'm going with this? I'm sure you do...

Shall we now look at J.Smith's visions? And furthermore, shall we also look at the kinds of practices that J.Smith was involved with? Russtafarian, I dread to think where we'll end up dared to investigate...

Your call. =) I'm off to bed...feelin' way too tired for all of this...

NM said...

Jeff,

Perhaps you could open up a new topic relating to J.Smith's vision? I think (and I admit that it's my fault) this thread is going way off track...yet again.

*sorry*

Peter said...

NM,

Education is a double edged sword when it comes to the spiritual. Because we know so much we try to explain it with things we can measure. Lacking any real way to measure spirituality people tend to claim psychosis. It has a lot of grounding these days as claiming someone had a demon or evil spirit is so dark ages. Was Paul a schizophrenic? How about Phillip? Moses? The whole Bible could be the work of an "over active imagination".
So, are we a whole bunch of psychotic people or do good and evil spirits exist? Because the world can't measure spirit we're led to believe that we are crazy. I am quite sure that I am not suffering from any form of psychosis. Though I have had many experiences that people would probably conclude as multiple temporary psychosis. I don't know if there is a technical term for that.
I don't care if people call me crazy, John the Baptist was probably called crazy to. I mean, he did eat grasshoppers and wear skins for clothes...

Anonymous said...

Peter,
I have enjoyed your testimony and felt the Holy Spirit as you have shared it with us. But just a word of caution about revealing to much about yourself. When I was a young new convert I was sent on a mission to the heart of Mormon country and found out the hard way how judgmental they can be. Most of the missionaries were at the cut off age for when young men can go on a mission and many, like myself, had lived worldly lives. A number of them left early, not because of a lack of testimony or unworthiness, but because what they experienced from the members. It only took me about 30 years to have enough and have my name removed form the records. I am not the over sensitive type ether; I am will to go toe to toe or nose to nose with anyone and am the first for wigs on the green, except that I am ordered by Jesus Christ to turn the other cheek, but sooner or later you run out of cheek. Remember they are very judgmental. Judgmental not in just the normal human way, but their drive for perfection and the necessity to judge you for all kinds of things like missions, church callings, and temple recommends could be in jeopardy. Having sat in many meetings, leadership positions, counseling of many members and worked in the mental health profession I can tell you that you will be judged in the court of religious opinion. Man can not frustrate the will of God but they can hurt your chances and opportunities. I would always hope that every decision they make is of God but I know from my own decisions the can be full of prejudices. I still have a strong testimony of the church, the restoration of the Kingdom of God, the leaders of the church, and enjoy the blessings of my Father in Heaven from time to time and wish you all the best on your mission.

Peter said...

Anonymous,

I thank you for your concern.

Anonymous said...

NM,

You are to late. Others have look into Joseph Smiths mental and physical state from a medical view. I think they call this arm chair medical analyses. I have heard of people doing this for Bill Clinton and George Bush also. I have also heard the CIA has tried this on foreign leaders and are not very good at it.

As far as Mohammad is concerned I think the LDS church considers
all religions to have been inspired of God. Just like the Bible states,
God is in charge of all governments and the armies of the world. The Bible tell us how to determine who is (male or female) a prophet and which church is correct. Because the majority of the people of the world have no choice in what religion the are it would follow that God would be in charge of them also.

Russell said...

No, you didn't hit a nerve with me, so no worries (and this is Russell--I have another screen that I default to and I forgot to change it this time).

So if Jesus' divinity is the sure test, then you've made the LDS response an easy one. Just read the Book of Mormon, and tell me what it says about Jesus...over, and over, and over again.

Was Joseph involved in practices unfamiliar to our culture but were quite familiar to his? (I'm talking here of seer stones and money digging). Certainly. But so was Paul, and his activities with the Sanhedrin were HOSTILE to Christianity. Matthew was a scribe, considered a pariah in his community. We have no evidence that Joseph embraced these practices throughout his life.

So while you may dread Joseph's past, I do not...and I am quite certain that I have done more research from scholars on this than most.

My comment was simply a statement on the current state of psychohistory...it is not reliable. Folks had different assumptions in Joseph Smith's time than they do now (excepting Appalachia though, where modernity seems to have passed it by).

NM said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter said...

Nathaniel,

The point behind this is that you don't believe. If you did you wouldn't chalk up spiritual experiences as psychosis. If you have had some, or even one, how would you like people to react to your experience? With skepticism and belittlement? Or with loving open arms and glorying in the Lord?
We are taught that all things good are of God and all things bad are from the devil. We are also counseled to not attribute the things of God to the devil and vice versa. So we need to be very wary to whom we allocate said things. I probably also need to be more careful as well.

Peter said...

Nathaniel,

Sorry I wasn't trying to sound like I was accusing you of anything or that I was hurt because I didn't feel that you were attacking me. I was just voicing and opinion that seemed to come out harsher then I intended.

Mormanity said...

Regarding Joseph's vision, the best way to determine if he was a con artist or prophet of God is the Book of Mormon. That's what needs to be put to the test. That's the much more obvious path to explore, rather than modern speculation about his mental health as viewed from a warped lens over 170 years away.

NM, have you seriously read and pondered the Book of Mormon? That's the place to start.

Russell said...

Again, these "deviant" practices are deviant because we say they are...not because they necessarily are. These seer stones were part of this culture; they were immature, embryonic understandings of rural Christianity--even respected ministers dabbled in them. They were born of a historical context in which they were viewed as for more mainstream. Now that we live in a materialistic AND poststructuralist society (two terms that are in some ways mutually exclusive, but yet here they), such ideas seem absurd.

As for the RED FLAGS, all I can tell you to do is to chill. JOseph Smith was hardly the Muhummad people say. If you're really aching for a full fledged treatment about the merit of the comparison, see Arnold Green's and Lawrence Goldrup's, "Joseph Smith: An American Muhummad? An Essay on the Perils of Historical Analogy," Dialogue, 6(1). You can access Dialogue for free for getting on dialoguejournal.com. Just click on "Free archive of vols. 1-37"

Then again, if you insist on being alarmed, I can do nothing to stop you...sadly, my persuasive powers (and God's too) cannot prevent you from believing what you choose to believe. I can tell you that as a thinker (which you have described me as) and more importantly, as a disciple of Christ (if you insist upon not calling me a Christian, you really should concede that point), I am completely comfortable with the doctrinal teachings of JOseph Smith when acting under his prophetic mantle.

Anonymous said...

NM, have you seriously read and pondered the Book of Mormon? That's the place to start.

I second what Jeff said above. Look at the products he produced. Plus the internet has all these topics covered for both sides. Then once you dig in and read them the final test is to "seriously read and ponder and pray about the works of Joseph Smith. Only any lack of humility would stand in the way. Gods grace will show you the truth the Holy Spirit.

NM said...

Anonymous,

Errm, all the things you talk about with God showing me His grace, I have already received =)

And His grace continues to be lavished upon my life =) Jesus' work (His grace) is something that I will always be thankful of...and it is something that I can't help but respond to. Which is why (I guess) the reason that I do my job. Since coming to know Him, my life has been so transformed that I no longer want to do what I want to do...but do what He wants me to do. =) I now feel, just as Jesus did when He was on earth, was to spend time with people. I want to help because He has helped me. =)

Grace (by His power alone) is very present in my life...and I can do nothing but praise Him in my humility, because His work upon my life really has been humbling...

Peter,
I think that all I am saying is that experiences alone CANNOT confirm 'truth'. Different people have different experiences of one objective truth, but it doesn't mean to way that one single experience is not THE truth. This is called phenomonology. Kathleen kindly pointed this out to us. i.e. whether or not you like bananas, they exist. Bananas do not cease to exist just becuase you don't like them etc...In the same way that Mohammad's experience, having had visions and dreams do not necessarily make what he declared afterward (as a result of such dreams and visions) as truth. We both know that what Mohammad said about Jesus being a mere prophet is NOT the truth. Do you see my point?

Russell,

It is exactly J.Smith's behaviour that makes me NOT WANT TO READ the Book of Mormon. All the events like, where are these golden plates? What's with the Book of Abraham? Why do egyptologist oppose J/Smith's translation...things JUST DON'T CORRELATE... =) J.Smith's many wives? J.Smith's involvement with the Freemasons? What is all this about? Please understand that the Freemasons are not just a mere men's social club. Why was J.Smith so involved with them? Do you see many questions? Unless I can have resolve with this, I cannot study the Book of Mormon...

Like I said before: apologetics is a good thing. But in of themselves are USELESS...but apologetics DO HAVE THEIR PLACE. Certainly with Christian Apologetics (as shown at BeThinking.org), it's a way of presenting Christianity as a real, viable system of though - opposed to postmoderism etc.

So, unless such questions that I have about J.Smith are resolved, I think that to dive straight in, pray and look for some sort of experience asking God if the LDS church is the one true church or whatever is dangerous. I'm sure you all disagree... =)

I'm sure I could do the same with Buddhism. I'm sure that if I'd spent much of my time pondering upon its morality, its practices, spending time with many Buddhists, being part of that community and the sheer WANTING for Buddhism to be true...sooner or later WILL experience some sort of epiphany. Do you see my point here?

Jeff (and Russell) do not be so quick to give up on me and in to my questions. Such questions can for some (if truth is truth - and truth will stand up to ANY SCRUTINY) will only build yours and others' faith =)

Anonymous said...

NM said,

"It is exactly J.Smith's behaviour that makes me NOT WANT TO READ the Book of Mormon."

Sorry to hear that. Your loss and my gain. I am so grateful to my Heavenly Father that I did not hear all the negative things about Joseph Smith until I had felt the Holy Ghost and had gained a testimony (not by study and having all my questions resolved) give to me by the grace of my Heavenly Father. I feel bad for many people like NM because it came to me so easy and for this I am so grateful to my Heavenly Father.

The only thing I can relate to is getting the questions answered; but most of the hard answers I just had to wait, then over time I got the answers. But during the wait I gained many spiritul experiences that just kept building my testimony stronger. My questions to someone like NM is to ask: how bad do you want the answer and what are you willing to do to get it, and are you willing to give up everything if nessary to have the answer?

Anonymous said...

NM,

"Jeff (and Russell) do not be so quick to give up on me and in to my questions."

All of the questions you ask have been gone over by both sides and can be found on the internet. The big question is, do you study before or after you have a spiritual expeience at the hand of our Heavenly Father.

Russell said...

It's not a matter of giving up...it's a matter of recognizing the fundamental way of getting a testimony. Did Christ say that we needed to know all of Paul's mistakes, errors, and idiosyncracies in order for us to read his letters and follow his teachings? We learn some to be sure in the process (as we do in reading the Joseph Smith story), but they are not fundamental. I might ask that I know everything about Christ's disciples before I study their letters, but I don't. I mean, after all, Peter could easily be painted as a hoodlum, quick to the sword--even cut off a man's ear without direct provocation...

In any case, you seem to be imposing your proclivities on the revelatory process; you are instructing God on how to run his business. Besides that, answering EACH of your questions would require its own post.

I must say, you're beginning to sound frighteningly like many of the critics I have dealt with before...laundry-list accusations coupled with an insistence that one unanswered question spoils the batch. That's not how life works and that's definitely not how the gospel works.

NM said...

Russell,

"I must say, you're beginning to sound frighteningly like many of the critics I have dealt with before...laundry-list accusations coupled with an insistence that one unanswered question spoils the batch. That's not how life works and that's definitely not how the gospel works."

You've hit the nail right on its head. As soon as I gave my last set of questions, I suddenly thought to myself, "This isn't good"...

What I would like to say to all of you (Peter, Anonymous, Jeff, BookSlinger, Tatabug, Ryan and anybody who might want to be included in this list) is just how glad I am to see your love for what Jesus has done in all your individual lives. =)

I don't think that such questions, although it might be good for me to have resolved, probably isn't good to the rest of you...So, I think I need to tighten my reigns and maybe go and do some readin' at Jeff's website or something...

tatabug said...

NM,

I've been busy over the weekend, so I'm not even going to try and thoroughly catch up. However, I would like to say that I appreciated your last comment.

Many of us are not unaware of the anti-mormon arguments. I am aware of all of them which you brought up. And yet many of us are still able to maintain that the Church is true and was restored through Joseph Smith, who was a true prophet of God. It isn't because we are blind. It is because we have more information than what is presented, or we have a different perspective or opinion on certain things, or it may just be that we don't understand everything, but we know that the Church is true in the same way we know that Jesus is the Christ. That is through the revelation of the Holy Ghost, which isn't some wishful thinking, or bout of indigestion.

This is why I suggested that you learn from yourself in as unbiased a way as possible. You don't learn about Catholicism from a Protestant. You don't learn about Judaism from a Catholic. Any conflicting interest is going to give you a very unbalanced view. That is why you must go to the source. Why is it necessary to learn about the Church through the eyes of critics? Can one not use their own abilities to learn and study and pray for guidance in the matter? While it may seem logical to look at the matter from both sides, you must consider that the opposition may be completely wrong, but yet they have still managed to cast seeds of doubt. How can one enter into an exercise of faith where doubt exists?

Peter said...

Nathaniel,

I think I am starting to understand where you are coming from. I, like anonymous, was blessed in that I didn't get any anti information until after I joined the church. I did read through pretty much everything that I came across. The character of Joseph Smith was not something I stumbled on. There are many, many different sources of information on the internet. Jeff has quite good information, as does fairlds. These places, surely there are more, all give apologetic information. I am also sure that searching for "lds scholar" on Google will provide good results as well. I think that's how I found Jeff's page. If you are interested in learning, these are the avenues I went down. I did start out by reading the critic's information but I got sick and tired of people trying to tear it down, I wanted to know some logical information that supported what I already knew.

NM said...

Tatabug & Peter

To be honest this whole thing started out because two of my closest friends are Mormons. I grew up with them, not knowing much of their religion, and neither they with mine.

It's only quite recently (in the past year) that I've taken an interest in Mormonism because two young strapping missionaries with very strong American accents came knocking on my door one early evening. Our family tea came to a halt, much to my wife's displease as we talked for almost 2/3 hours! I guess it all started from there really...well, with the pursuit to understand more about Mormonism anyway...

The over-riding thing that I can't help but want to share with people (in general and not just here on Mormanity) is God's free gift of grace. =) - the absurd effect that it has had upon my life which has completely transformed all desires. =) It's just something that I can't help but want to talk about...=D

And I guess, even as a a reformist, that we (as humans) do not know who God has chosen for Himself...and in the same way that many professing Christians think they may have salvation but do not, might be the same the other way around...that those who I think do not fit this 'Christian criterium' that I have in my head, actually do. A person's relationship with Jesus as their Saviour is not for me to judge =) I think that God's calling upon me is simply to praise Him for what He has done in my life... =) But, I guess such things must have an outlet... =)

So, instead of asking not-so-helpful-questions (although they still do niggle at me from time to time), I'll just stick to what I know best and that is to declare Him as the person who has already done all the work, and everything that I do is a mere response to His work =)...

...'grace' is SO INCREDIBLY absurd...

I've been most encouraged by you Peter. Please know that I never meant to put doubt in your faith. You have a genuine love to do what is right and to live a life that is pleasing to God...

And I guess a big thank you to you Tatabug, Ryan, Anonymous (who ever you are you sneaky chappy), Russell, Jeff for your patience. For those many times you all rolled your eyes with the thought, "Oh boy, here we go again..."

...but don't think you guys are getting off easy. I'll probably be hovering from now on, firing the occassional question AT Russell n' Jeff...and pulling you all up on the subject of His Sovereign grace...

=)

Peter said...

Nathaniel,

We are not telling or asking you to go away, just trying to point you to where the information is at so that we don't need to repeat it over and over ;). Though it does help myself to get a better understanding on what I believe and how to convey it to others. But hey, the Lord IS preparing me to serve a mission. It's great talking to you and my understanding of grace is growing, not that I ever believed anything else. His grace IS a free gift. It is that my understanding of what Christ asks of us has grown. If anyone asked me why I changed my religion I tell them I haven't, I am still Christian it's just that my understanding has increased.

Ryan said...

Howdy NM,

I've been busy as well the last couple of days, but I'm sorry you feel badly about how these discussions have gone.

Stepping back and taking a look at the situation was kind of enlightening. We started out discussing some really interesting and meaningful topics, and somehow we started drifting from these insightful, "very NM-like" questions toward the same "tired old arguments" we get from posters who seem to care (and think) so much less than you do. It really took the life out of things.

Sadly, toward the end I even started wondering if you were the same as the self-styled psychologist who showed up a while ago and put on a big show of studying us poor deluded subjects over a breakfast of tea and crumpets.

I'm not sure how this happened, but hopefully we can get back that earlier spirit and leave the tiredness to someone else.

Oh, and I sincerely hope that some day you can work out a way to recognize and trust spiritual experiences without worrying they might be a symptom of something... It's easy to see where you're coming from on this, and I'm afraid I don't have an answer for you. Maybe some day...

Anonymous said...

NM,

I liked your farewell address.

Keep posting those questions and when we get the time we will address them. Just need them one at a time so we can look up the answers and try to present them in a understandable manner.

Anonymous said...

NM,


"Yes, I guess the way that I might want to explore the Book of Mormon might be similar to the way that I expect the people that I run the courses for when introducing them to the Bible."

The church has some good classed and books but if you have questions ask away.

Anonymous said...

NM,


J.Smith's involvement with the Freemasons? What is all this about? Please understand that the Freemasons are not just a mere men's social club.

What is your problem with Freemasons?

Mormanity said...

Well, NM, it think it's lucky you read the Bible and became a Christian before reading anti-Christian /anti-Bible literature. If you had not been familiar with Christianity and took the same approach you propose before reading the Book of Mormon, would you have insisted that you first resolve psychological issues around Christ - you know, hearing voices, seeing visions, having a death wish, etc.? And what about issues around polygamy among prophets, the Canaanite Meadows Massacre of non-believers by Moses and his troops, scientific fallacies like six days of creation, the occult practices of Moses and his magic wand, Joseph and his divination cup, various prophets and their urim and thummim peepstones, the occult use of wormwood and other folk magic rites, etc., etc., etc.? Not to mention the allegations of Celsus and others that Christ was a magician using tricks to deceive the masses? Could you ever have resolved all those issues before you finally found a logical reason to pick up and read the Bible?

NM said...

Hi Jeff,

It's all by the grace of God, right?

To be honest though, my life did take a turn. And my issues were with 'truth' itself; the idea that 'truth' is actually subjective and it doesn't really matter what anybody actually believes, just as long as they have a belief(!) The work of Wittgenstein was the one that had me most stumped...as well as the usual suspects found in Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus and Friedrich Nietzsche...

Having been brought up in a Christian family, it's all too easy to take such things as 'absolute truth' for granted =(

So, when I was faced with 'other-truths', my world was turned upside-down and inside-out. And when I say that my life took a turn for the worst...it really did...

It has only been quite recently that it seems God had other plans...

It really helped to start all over again: to actually read the Bible, spiting out the religiousness I had come to swallow, looking at the evidence to support Christianity, and even through the observation of how 'truth' plays in our everyday lives =)

For example: if there is no 'absolute truth', the world would be in chaos...people would have their own truths, with individuals having the right to commit acts of crime against each other, without the expectancy of punishment etc.

The fact that we have laws, and I mean universal laws such as, it-is-wrong-to-take-things-which-don't-belong-to-you to the fact that there are laws of physics - the fact that we are able to measure and observe and to see that the universe is predictable etc. points to one fact alone: that there is a designer! etc. etc. etc...you get the point...

There are many other things that I could mention which have totally and radically transformed my life (some of which I sometimes wonder - like Peter - whether I'M GOING SLIGHTLY LOOPY) where God has been more than gracious to me and to my family =)

Like all the Apostles in the New Testament and some of the prophets in the Old, my wish is that my life is a living DOXOLOGY to the One who has graciously woken me up when all I deserve is death...

Jeff, can I ask how God's grace transformed your life?

Kathleen said...

NM,

"Errm, all the things you talk about with God showing me His grace, I have already received =)."

Gotta love it :)

Everyone else, I wonder the same things. NM just typed them out. You can pick on me too! :)

NM said...

Hello everybody,

I have just been made aware of a great site, made by Lee Strobel. I don't know if anyone here remember me talking about a book entitled, "The Case for Christ"?

Lee Strobel is a journalist. Not only that, he was also an atheist - that is until he set about trying to look at the evidence for and against the Bible with the intention to discredit it. The evidence that he did find was astounding and instead of dicrediting it, he found himself doing the opposite. =)

As I have said before: (Christian) apologetics, in of itself is useless - but it really helps the person who might not be at all interested in becoming a Christian, but know that the Bible is a historical fact. =)

Lee Strobel's website can be found at leestrobel dot com. I really wish that this site was available when I decided to start-all-over-again. The journey, for one thing, wouldn't have been as long nor as painful =/

There's a little two-minute video within his website entitled, "Can the Bible Be Trusted?", which Lee draws a comparison with the Qu'ran and the Bible, with its claim that Jesus isn't actually the Son of God, but a mere prophet...interesting stuff...

Anyway, enjoy! =)

Kathleen said...

You know, NM, Strobel never talks to any "antis". The only people he interviewed for TCFC were conservative evangelical scholars.

Just a thought...

NM said...

Really?! I thought he talked to that Anthony Flew professor guy? Hmmm...must re-read the book!

Wagoneer said...

To get back to the original post:

Jeff - It is beyond me how you make anything of this at all. Let me try to get it straight: in the Book of Mormon, there are relatively few details about this location. Now, many years later, in a coastline covering thousands of miles, several sites are found, miles and miles apart, that in some way match the relatively vague description. OK, so what?

I am starting to understand why you play this game. You can't lose. It is genius: how can you prove definitively that the Valley of Lemuel never existed? You can't. But you can sit back and wait for any new information that might have the slightest correlation with the Book of Mormon, and then pounce. Take that critics! Somewhere, along thousands of miles of coastline, there are a couple of places that are vaguely reminiscent of some place that was supposed to have existed 2500 years ago. What do you say now?

Darion Alexander said...

And why not believe it? As NM has stated Truth depends on the person or persons who view it. It's true from a certain point of view. Humans are amazing at finding what they call truth and then finding the 'evidences' that prove to them of that truth. The more you believe in something, the more it takes hold of your life and affects it. Is God real, is He not real? Is Christ real, or is He not real? Are there really coasts out there that could resemble the Valley of Lemuel? Well of coarse there are. Are their sites for the Garden of Eden? Probably and probably not. But if someone believes strongly enough in something, who am I, to try and tell them other wise.

NM said...

Errr...Darion...that is exactly what I DON'T MEAN!

Truth DOES NOT depend upon the person! Subjectivism/PostModernism is EXACTLY WHAT I CAMPAIGN AGAINST =D

Anonymous said...

I am starting to understand why you play this game.

We play this game becuse we, like all humans want to be renforced in out believes and all the more the Mormons because of the negative things said about our religion. I don't know of to many people that joined the church because of cost lines but the point is to keep us intertained and maybe some nonmember will be impressed enought to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it. Again most people don't join because of cost lines, DNA, ect. Also if you don't look you will never find anything that might support or prove any or all of the church.

Some nonmembers attent church because of the family values but could care less about cost lines.

Mormanity said...

Wagoneer, have you missed all the excitement and evidence from the Arabian Peninsula? You might want to check it out over at MormonEvidence.com. The discoveries by George Potter and others in the Arabian Peninsula aren't about claiming some random valley might be a valley where Lehi stayed. They are addressing a critical issue relating to a text with some meaty details to determine if there could be a plausible candidate. If you've followed anything about the Book of Mormon, you've got to know that critics for years have been saying that the idea of a continually flowing river emptying into the Red Sea from the Arabian Peninsula is absolutely absurd and refutes the Book of Mormon. They have been saying that a place like Bountiful on the east coast, with fruit trees, wood for ship making, water, etc., was also absurd and couldn't exist.

But some who took the Book of Mormon seriously have actually gone to Arabia and followed the directions given in the text. An accessible valley with impressive walls and a continually running stream emptying into the Red Sea should be within a three days journey from the borders of the Red Sea. Does such a place exist anywhere in Arabia, much less within a region possibly consistent with the distance specifications of the text? Field work has indeed identified a reasonable plausible candidate with a stream that flows year round into the Red Sea. And this counts for nothing? Remember, the critics, with all their education, guffawed at the idea. And yet a plausible candidate exists, though some questions remain.

Then, continuing from the Valley Lemuel and the River Laman, the Book of Mormon specifies a south-south east direction for a substantial distance. Along the way they encounter fertile regions called Shazer. This, again, is entirely plausible, based on field work. And they continue on this route until Ishmael dies, after which they bury him in a region called Nahom. The Semitic root of this word, NHM, is associated with mourning - a perfect name for an ancient burial place. And indeed, a map from the University of San'aa in Yemen confirms that there was an ancient burial place called Nehhem (same root: NHM) in a location remarkable consistent with First Nephi in the Book of Mormon.

Departing Nehem, Lehi travels nearly due east - a sharp departure from the south-southeast direction that paralleled the commonly traveled ancient incense trails in Arabia. They are now in in more difficult territory, according to the text, and this fits the Arabian geography well. In fact, after continuing along the ancient incense trails, turning due east in Arabia is utter suicide almost anywhere along the trail, for it would take you into regions called the Empty Quarter. But there is a narrow region where one can depart from the trails and head due east with a chance at survival, bypassing two swaths of the empty quarter, and that narrow window of opportunity just happens to be within about 3 miles of the ancient burial place Nehhem. It's remarkable. But I'm sure you'll roll your eyes and dismiss this as a game anyone can play. But when you try making up a story about a land you know nothing about, making statements that will seem ridiculous to your critics who know much more than you, and then go there and try to identify locations and structures consistent with your text, you'll see it's a game you're sure to lose. So was Joseph just really really lucky?

But it gets better. Ancient altars from the region around Nehhem have the NHM root engraved on them, and they date to the 7th century B.C., confirming that the Nihm tribe was in fact in that region in Lehi's day, greatly strengthening the plausibility of the text and the bulls-eye accuracy of the NHM root for that unusual place name.

And it gets even better. Continue due east from Nahom/Nehhem/Nihm: can you even reach the coast, or is it impassable? You can reach the coast. But what is there - more sand and desert, right? No, in fact, there is a place that seems to fit all the many requirements one can extract from the text for the place Bountiful. Once too funny for words, too silly for the educated anti-Mormon crowd to take seriously for one moment, now we have photos and field work and details showing that the description of Bountiful is remarkably plausible. It's nearly due east of Nahom, accessible, and consistent with what the text states.

Doesn't that count for something? Are the discoveries of these tentative candidates for places in the Book of Mormon just the result of amateur game playing without any substance whatever? You're really not just an little impressed - or maybe a tad irritated by the inconvenient evidence? No, of course, this doesn't prove Jesus is the Christ or anything like that, but it does raise serious questions about how Joseph in rural New York could come up with such stuff, when much better educated critics like you over 150 years later weren't aware of these details in Arabia.

Do you seriously think it's just game playing?

Torch said...

Wagoneer, where are you, man? I thought Mormanity gave a great answer to your smarmy comment. No response??