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

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Divinity is in the Details

We recently had an anonymous poster bring up the old anti-Mormon claim that the many witnesses of the gold plates of the Book of Mormon never physically saw the plates but just had some kind of a purely spiritual/hallucinatory experience. But the repeated affirmations of the witnesses and the many statements they left behind indicate something quite different. Critics must ignore a vast expanse of consistent detail in the historical record to offer the myth that they never actually experienced the physical reality of the plates. In this case, the divinity is in the details: details that point to the physical reality of the sacred ancient gold plates of the Book of Mormon. One important contribution in dealing with anti-Mormon efforts in this area is Richard Lloyd Anderson's article, "Attempts to Redefine the Experience of the Eight Witnesses (PDF) (Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 14, No. 1, 2005.

In surveying the extensive literature on the witnesses, it is overwhelmingly clear that these people saw and experienced something real. We can see that we are dealing with plates that weighted about 60 pounds, were made of fine, thin sheets of a deep yellow metal with engravings on both sides, and bound by 3 D-shaped rings. A miraculous spiritual experience did play a role for three of the witnesses, who not only saw the plates, but saw the Angel Moroni showing them the plates and testifying that they were of God. But though this was a spiritual experience, spiritual as well as physical eyes did the beholding. It was a real experience, not one imagined in religious frenzy. And for the many other witnesses of the plates, they were seen and handled in plain daylight and were obviously real and physical. Not one of the witnesses ever denied their testimony, even though some would have differences with the Church and leave, even in bitterness. In spite of that, none would ever deny the physical reality of what they experienced. That's an amazing level of corroboration.

66 comments:

SteSmo said...

Good post, Jeff. I have found the explinations against the Witnesses, well, rather lacking. They often rely on rationalizations and other unimpressive methods such as generalizations and ad hoc arguments (Dan Vogel's "tin plates" theory comes to mind).

The fact is that the 3 & 8 Witnesses stand as the # 1 problem for those who deny the Book of Mormon's authenticity. They are the first thing that critics are going to have to deal with when trying to refute the Book of Mormon's authenticity.

The Witnesses' testimonies stand for all the world to read. They testify to the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and the claims of Joseph Smith.

Greg said...

I agree - the Witnesses are a genuine strong point for the BoM's authenticity and deserve careful consideration. Not everyone questioning Martin Harris' "spiritual eyes" is an anti-Mormon by default, however, as the wiki article suggests.

Plenty of non-anti critics simply think that Martin Harris' statement about spiritual eyes is just ambiguous and strange. Frankly, it simply doesn't help the claim to word it that way, even if it was a common way of saying things or a product of the time - but I do know that context does matter, something that I readily acknowledge when considering the Witnesses' claims.

"They [the Witnesses] are the first thing that critics are going to have to deal with when trying to refute the Book of Mormon's authenticity."

I don't think that's true. Mormons don't first appeal to the truthfulness of the Witnesses; I see more pointing to evidences of plausibility. If this is the best argument, then why not make it the first line of defense? The answer is easy - someone's word simply isn't as strong as tangible evidence supporting the overall big claim of the BoM's truthfulness.

Someone's word can never be proven or disproven, but historical events, details, descriptions, DNA, etc. all stand a much better chance of supporting a claim.

I've said this earlier, and still think it's a good example: plenty of UFO witnesses stand by their testimony of contacting alien life - many of whom never profited or sought profit or attention from their "encounters." Do we place the burden on us to disprove them? No, it's theirs. Extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence before people believe them.

In the greater scheme, it should be, completely objectively, concerning that there is no solid evidence backing up the grand, historical and meaningful events described in the Book of Mormon.

Dan Knudsen said...

More than 40 years ago I was in Hyrum Andrus’ ward at BYU. He mentioned one time that when getting his Phd, he did his dissertation on the Book Of Mormon, and included the testimonies of the Book Of Mormon witnesses. He was told by his committee that he had to remove the testimony of the Eight Witnesses--which he refused to do. He said the reason the committee wanted that done was because the Three Witnesses could be explained away as hallucinations; whereas, the Eight Witnesses were not refutable. Before that I’d always thought the testimony of the Three Witnesses was the much stronger of the two.

Latter-Day James said...

Dan that phrase,

"the reason the committee wanted that done was because the Three Witnesses could be explained away as hallucinations; whereas, the Eight Witnesses were not refutable"

is hilarious. That is up there with ministers of congregations asking investigators of the BOM not to pray about it.

Anonymous said...

I do believe Joesph saw something, whether than angel was of God or not is another story. I have my doubts as the teachings of Joesph contradict scripture. A true prophet of God's words never contradicted scripture, however the scriptures do warn us about listening to angels preaching a different gospel.

Anonymous said...

"I have my doubts as the teachings of Joesph contradict scripture."

I have my doubts about the New Testiment because it contradicts the Old Testiment and a true prophet of God's words never contradicted scripture.

Anonymous said...

The old testament does not contradict the new new testament. The new testament fulfills the old testament law.

Anonymous said...

Only because you choose to believe that.

Bookslinger said...

The New Testament contradicts itself over and over. Even Paul wrote things that contradicted himself.

The four Gospel writers even got some details different. One said there was one angel at the empty tomb, one said there were two.

That being said, I still believe the New Testament, as far as it is translated correctly.

Greg said...

Yeah, I don't think it's fair to say Joseph Smith was wrong because of a contradiction here or there. Genesis contradicts itself in the first two chapters if you read it closely.

Alex Valencic said...

I don't think that's true. Mormons don't first appeal to the truthfulness of the Witnesses; I see more pointing to evidences of plausibility. If this is the best argument, then why not make it the first line of defense?

Actually, in my experience, most Mormons appeal to the power of the doctrines found within the Book of Mormon, and show how they stand as another witness that Jesus is the Christ.
Most Mormons don't give two hoots for plausibility and other evidences, because they have received a witness from the Spirit which they cannot deny.
Most Mormons don't care about the spiritual witnesses Muslims have concerning the Koran, because, for most Mormons, they have a hard enough time worrying about themselves and their families.

That being said, there are still plenty of Mormons who do care about these issues, and find topics like this fascinating.

Joseph Antley said...

It's all semantics, if you ask me. Somebody said X and I assume they mean Y because I mean Y when I say X, but they actually mean Z. Or maybe they mean X--that would make more sense.

Dan and Wendy said...

Great post. Believing that the 3 witnesses were hallucinating is quite a stretch. First, Martin Harris excused himself from the others because he didn't feel worthy, but later he received the same manifestation as the other witnesses. Second, as Jeff pointed out, not one of the m ever denied their witness. Even when doing so would've been easier, i.e. when some fell away from the church, they still didn't deny what they saw and knew to be true.

Having witnesses corresponds to the New Testament where it says, "Out of the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established."

Anonymous said...

That's the thing about "manifestations". It makes it difficult to separate fact from fantasy. Sounds like something from the Twilight Zone.

Bookslinger said...

Dan & Wendy: "Believing that the 3 witnesses were hallucinating is quite a stretch."

For a non-Mormon (of any religion or no religion) I don't think it would be a stretch at all to believe the 3 were hallucinating. After all, the three witnesses claimed it to be a supernatural experience in addition to actually physically happening in 3-dimensional space.

Non-believers will say that supernatural experiences just don't happen. And even many believing Christians say that supernatural experiences were done away with after the original apostles died off.

I think it's covering all the bases for the Lord to ordain two sets of witnesses, the set of three men with a supernatural (but still physically real) experience where they beheld the glory of an angel, and the set of eight men with "just" a temporal or non-supernatural experience.

If it were only the 8, then it could be said that Joseph and/or Martin Harris merely assembled the items themselves, making it look like gold plates with engravings.

Perhaps the Lord foresaw the objections and granted both sets or types of experiences.

But Elder Ballard said it best in one of the Public Affairs videos on YouTube, the Lord just doesn't work by showing conclusive evidence to everybody, because then faith wouldn't be necessary. And in addition, people still wouldn't believe if they saw the gold plates.

If the plates came forth now, in a temporal non-supernatural way, people would just say that the church has had 178 years to "invent" reformed-Egyption and "concoct" something that matches the Book of Mormon.

And if the Angel Moroni took the gold plates around to every temple-recommend holding Mormon's house and showed them, and 100,000+ Latter-day saints said "Hey! I met Moroni, and saw the plates!", then the world would still disbelieve, saying "Yeah, right, you saw an angel."

And if Moroni took the plates and showed the Pope, and the Pope joined the church, people would say, "Well, he's LDS now, and so of course he's biased."

And Moroni wouldn't go around in public showing everybody the plates, because that's not what angels do. If angels were supposed to prove God's true religion to everyone, then Peter, James, John, Paul, John the Baptist, Moses, Isaiah, and the rest would be going around "proving" God and Jesus.

Only a select few get to be direct witnesses. Of the rest of us, faith is required. And if we exercise faith, then oftentimes a testimony of the Spirit is granted. And only after someone proves himself in all things, does he then get to be a direct witness.

Anonymous said...

The 12 witnesses is an important part because it is one the things that help me to pray about the BoM. If you look also ath the lives of the 12 witnesses many had many other experiences that testify to Joseph Smiths work. One would have to discard all these experiences also. If you do this you might as well throw out all spiritual experiences after the Bible.

Tracy Keeney said...

Well said, Bookslinger.

Anonymous said...

Fortunately, the internet provides access to other sources of information for those searching for the truth....instead of having to rely on the church's filtered version.

Anonymous said...

I am not troubled in the least about throwing out the specifics of the Bible and treating it like a useful allegory and folktales with messages. OTOH, there's entirely too much about the Book of Mormon that sounds like the current spate of televangelists, most of whom have a legions who swear to their various miracles and godly annointing.

In particular, Joseph Smith's polygamy, herding people from place and the martyrdom he took on from the very beginning strike me as very much like the misguided Jim Jones of the Ghana and KoolAid fame who may very much have felt that he had the interests of his followers at heart when he got started but who got drunk on the power and lost his way.

I'm sorry to be so blunt. I suppose that will be hard to hear. But it's my honest assessment when the claims for "truth" are made and people are leaned on for tons of free service and hard earned dollars for an organization with no more accountability than the televangelists provide and a lust for right wing political influence in the bargain.

Bookslinger said...

In particular, Joseph Smith's polygamy,

Like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, King David, Solomon, etc.

herding people from place

Like Moses and Joshua.

and the martyrdom he took on

Like John the Baptist, Peter, Paul, etc.

from the very beginning strike me as very much like the misguided Jim Jones of the Ghana and KoolAid fame

That's GUYANA where they drank the Kool-Aid(tm), not Ghana.

... and people are leaned on for tons of free service and hard earned dollars ...

Like the Israelites stealing the Egyptian riches and using it to build the tabernacle, or maybe like King Solomon forcing his people to contribute to and build the temple; and maybe like Jesus asking the one guy to sell all he had, and then the apostles telling their followers to put everything in common, kind of like communism.

Sounds like you'd have trouble with the whole Bible, not just Mormonism.

I've read the Bible and accepted/believed the Bible, and that gives me a framework for understanding the kinds of things God has done and would do. Those biblical things then prepared the way for me to accept the Book of Mormon.

Christianity doesn't seem to be a good fit for everyone. And Mormonism doesn't seem to be a good fit for all Christians.

And you didn't even get to the parts about giving up Starbucks, Earl Grey, and Samuel Adams, having to go to church for THREE WHOLE HOURS (sheesh!) on Sunday, letting church "spies" (aka home teachers) come into your home once a month, going "spying" on others once a month, and wearing special underwear.

But there is a short-cut answer to all those things. It's the Book of Mormon. If the Book of Mormon is true, then JS was a prophet, and then the church is true, and all those things are proper.

So it's really not necessary to investigate and argue all those points. It all boils down to getting a spiritual witness of the Book of Mormon.

IMO, the whole point of apologetics is merely to rule out the things that critics point to when they claim the BoM can't be true.

Jeff's, or any apoligist's, points are that the so called "evidences" that the critics use are not really proofs that the Bom can't be true.

You could spend a whole life analyzing all the points and counter-points, and you'd still not know the spiritual status of the Book of Mormon.

Reading, pondering, praying really is the only way to find out.

Moving around, dietary laws, meetings, service to others, tithing, and wearing special clothing is all in the Bible, so it's really not worth arguing over.

And all those requirements pale into insignificance under the burning light of a genuine spiritual witness.

Bookslinger said...

Oops, it was actually "Flavor Aid" that Jim Jones had them drink in Guyana. See here and here.

Wookface said...

Anonymous @ 6:05 said:
"Fortunately, the internet provides access to other sources of information for those searching for the truth....instead of having to rely on the church's filtered version."

Whoa, the internet? Well, if its on the internet, then its GOTTA be true!

Bookslinger, thanks for all of your insightful comments. Joseph Smith said, "I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book." That's one of the many witnesses to me that the Book of Mormon is truly what it claims to be: when I read it, study it, ponder it and strive to live by the teachings found in its pages (ie, the Gospel of Jesus Christ), I feel a greater measure of God's Spirit in my life and feel closer to the Savior. By their fruits...

Anonymous said...

"I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book."

Funny because Jesus said HE is the chief cornerstone of the true church, a church which is based on faith in Him and that he was God in the flesh, who died on the cross and in three days rose again and conquered death. Whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.

Could the gospel that whoever calls on the name of the Lord REALLY have disappeared from the face of the earth for 1800 years? Definately not.

Anonymous said...

annon @5:15
there is a major difference between a keystone and a cornerstone.
A keystone is the central stone at the top of an arch
the cornerstone is "the chief foundation on which something is constructed or developed" [dictionary.com]
I'm failing to see the conflict

Anonymous said...

Anyone know why they changed the introduction to the BofM? If the intro was accurate for past printings, why change it now?

Anonymous said...

"Whoa, the internet? Well, if its on the internet, then its GOTTA be true!"

Never said everything on the net is true, but merely pointed out people have other sources for information about the LDS church; rather than rely on what comes out of SLC.

Latter-Day James said...

Anon 8:29

"Never said everything on the net is true, but merely pointed out people have other sources for information about the LDS church; rather than rely on what comes out of SLC."

That would be horrible to depend on information about an organization to come from that organization. Maybe we should find out the truth about all organizations by going to other sources. Maybe find out about Catholics from anti Catholic web pages or about Mormons from anti Mormons. The antis would definitely have the final word and definite authority on truth about the people they aim to "help" or "save". It would be more accurate to say smear.

Anonymous said...

Are you sure you want to live in a world divided into the LDS and "antis"? There ARE objective independent sources.

When I'm buying a car I may listen to what the salesman has to say but I certainly am not ready to make a decision until I've verified the claims and heard the downside as well from an independent source. If your whole orientation is salesmen and "antis" you've put yourself in a real bind.

Latter-Day James said...

I haven't found any anti-sites or "non" anti-sites yet that give the LDS a "fair shake". Why would they? The LDS Church is a "cult". Devoid of truth and light in their eyes. Even as we claim to believe one thing they call us liars and claim we believe another. Even as we claim to be Christian they say "You are mistaken. Your church is a cult!". We say we worship Christ. They say we worship a "different" Christ. Not the one in the New Testament. All of these neutral sites, as they claim or act to be, are not aiming to give an unbiased report on LDS belief. What they report is what they think is our belief and how it is wrong. And if it is reported correctly then that belief is wrong too. I would like to find a supposed non-anti site that is objective that gives "unfiltered" information. The sites you most likely find to be the most truthful and unbiased will most likely be the ones I find to be untruthful and deceiving.

Sorry for the rambling and poor writing.

Dan Knudsen said...

Anonymous is calling oranges and apples the same thing: “Chief cornerstone” is not the same as “keystone”--Cornerstone: A stone in the exterior of a large and important building; usually carved with a date and laid with appropriate ceremonies; Keystone: The central, wedge-shaped stone at the top of an arch that locks the arch together. Such an inaccurate conclusion as this one was, showing no research to get an understanding of those two terms, makes your other arguments highly suspect, as it indicates that it’s also possible (probable?) that the same lack of research and understanding has also made them flawed.

Aaron said...

Anon 9:57pm

Buying a car is much different than choosing a religion. In choosing a religion we should do what it says in James 1:5. and Ask of God. Ask in Faith nothing wavering. To do this we have to be willing to accept the answer that we recieve. If the Holy Spirit isn't a good enough compass, then I don't know what is.

Anonymous said...

"If the Holy Spirit isn't a good enough compass, then I don't know what is."


That and living it by faith to see it's fruits of blessings. There are some that it takes time for the Holy Spirit to give His witness.

bassooner said...

Anon @ 8:29

If you accuse pro-Mormon websites to be filtered then non-pro-Mormon sites are filtered even more.

Most pro sites I've seen present at least part of both sides of an argument. The non-pro sites seem to present only the critical arguments -- this isn't filtering???

Can you give us an example of one of these non-biased "neutral" sites? It doesn't matter who makes a presentation, they will all be biased, even if unintentionally.

Another reason you will never find a truly neutral site is that they never resolve anything -- all they can do is inform and if there are issues BOTH sides of the issue must be presented EQUALLY and without bias.

The only real chance to get to the truth of something is to see both sides of an argument/counterargument, each presented by their respective proponents, keeping an open mind and trying both sides as presented. If done with true sincerity you can now know who is right, wrong, both right, or both wrong.

Anonymous said...

If I were genuinely investigating I'd go to belief.net along with the info that comes from the mishies. There's a lot of info there that's pretty neutral and links to other sources. And, if you guys are honest, you know how carefully the MTC packages info to be persuasive rather than complete or unassailable. That is SERIOUS bias, whether it's comfortable to admit it or not.

If it were me, I'd be getting as much info as I could. Even if info came from "anti" sources, I'd want to ask the mishies and others about it before I made a committment.

You may downplay the analogy to buying a car, but if you're choosing a way to live your life every minute, the validity of the info becomes that much more important.

As for praying on it, why not? And, in some way, I think the intuition or what you'd probably call the "spirit" is what casts the ultimate deciding vote. I'd don't dismiss the intuition at all but I don't think it's value is as the first or overwhelming factor -- that's rash and irresponsible behavior in my opinion. It only becomes valuable when serious research and hardheaded analysis have eliminated errors ("errors" being as subjective as objective) and informed the intuition.

I am not expecting this to be compelling to anyone who's LDS. But there's a lot of circular reasoning in this discussion and it seems worth pointing out another point of view.

bassooner said...

I admit that the teachings of the missionaries (not mishies) is very biased - it should be - that is what missionary work is no matter who the missionary works for.

The non-LDS churches also have their heavy biases, whether for teir own churches or against the others. And they are not only biased, they will even threaten those who wish to investigate their anti-mormon biases.

I have looked at faith.net a few times. They do seem pretty neutral however there are still errors presented there (whether intentional or unintentional) and it still behooves any serious or sincere investigator to go to the source and not somewhere downstream where the cows have trampled.

Anonymous said...

I'd have a lot more respect for the LDS missionaries, and the church itself, if they would simply state, up front, what their doctrine truly is.

Bookslinger said...

Anonymous is giving us a good example of "he who frames the question and defines the terms wins the debate."

He is using that tactic here. Examples, saying cornerstone = keystone, and accusing us of labeling all non-mormons as "anti's".

Ho hum. Seen it all before.

Anonymous said...

I used "mishies" with affection. Believe me, if they can be called "elders" they can be called "mishies". ;-)

Latter-Day James said...

"I'd have a lot more respect for the LDS missionaries, and the church itself, if they would simply state, up front, what their doctrine truly is."

I have a feeling that no matter what the "mishies" say up front that your respect would still be withheld.

Missionaries are going to teach the simplest and most basic of our doctrines. There isn't time in the world for them to teach it all. We learn these things in Sunday School class, I learn something new every week. The gospel is taught line upon line, precept upon precept. One drop of water at a time, not the whole pool all at once.

bassooner said...

Thank-you LDJ.

The missionaries can only teach a very small portion of the Gospel in their discussions. Does our Anon friend truly expect them to dump the whole pool on those they teach at once?

You are right, the Gospel has to be presented line-upon-line. The milk has to come before the meat (1 Cor. 3:2).

So come to think of it the missionary discussions are not all that biased, they are just simplified so that those who are new can understand.

If anyone feels that the discussions are too biased, I would like to know why they think so.

Mormanity said...

I'd have a lot more respect for the LDS missionaries, and the church itself, if they would simply state, up front, what their doctrine truly is.

Faith in Christ, repentance of sins, baptism by immersion, and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. I seem to recall that being way up front.

Or were you more interested in having them go over arcane policies, speculations, historical developments, varying interpretations of the vast body of scripture, all twenty-zillion pages of the Journal of Discourses, the 1000+ posts here at Mormanity and maybe a few other LDS bloggers, and all the little footnotes and details that take a lifetime to sort through? Sound like a long first discussion to me!

OK, seriously, there are lots of things that go along with LDS scriptures and teachings, but the real core doctrine is simple and basic. The pros and cons of capital punishment, or speculations about the reasons for historical policies on the priesthood, or all the guesswork about the nature of eternity, etc. - that's not core doctrine. Those are appendages, in my opinion. The discussions do a great job of teaching what people really need to know.

Mormanity said...

I'd have a lot more respect for the LDS missionaries, and the church itself, if they would simply state, up front, what their doctrine truly is.

Faith in Christ, repentance of sins, baptism by immersion, and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. I seem to recall that being way up front.

I hope you don't mean all the little footnotes and details that take a lifetime to sort through? Sound like a long first discussion to me!

There are lots of things that go along with LDS scriptures and teachings, but the real core doctrine is simple and basic. The pros and cons of capital punishment, or speculations about the reasons for historical policies on the priesthood, or all the guesswork about the nature of eternity, etc. - that's not core doctrine. Those are appendages, in my opinion. The discussions do a great job of teaching what people really need to know.

Andrew I. Miller said...

The testimony of the witnesses to the Book of Mormon combined with the many other evidences makes it hard for me not to believe in the Book of Mormon--let alone the spiritual witnesses I have had of it's truthfulness!

jake said...

If I want to find out how a product truly works, I try to find reviews on the internet from people who have used the product in actuality and who write from real experience; whether positive or negative. IN FACT, I like to include the world "sucks" or "scam" after a product or company name search just to see what kind of negative experiences people have had, if any.

In some cases, there are no negative reviews, and happy day! I can buy the product with a clear conscience. That explains why i bought a Nissan car recently. I was considering a Chevy, and if I just read what's on the Chevy website, it looks every bit as good as the Nissan. But the actual customers had much different points of view! The Nissan was apparently much more reliable. Hmm. You can't get that kind of honesty from the people who are trying to sell you the car!!!!

People who buy products based only on what comes out of a salesperson's mouth are ill informed indeed. Salespeople have a VESTED INTEREST in painting the most positive picture they can, oft times at the expense of the reality of a product. I absolutely love the internet for that reason alone. It has a way of making otherwise inaccessible information readily available. Information that is updated in real-time that real people with minimal biases write because that is their honest-to-goodness experience with a particular product.

I'm sure many Mormons can understand at least the concept outlined above. I think what some of the people who've posted here are trying to do is basically explain this concept, but as it applies to the Mormon church. Mormons are taught to only listen to those who control the information in a positive way. I guess if you believe the men are God's prophets that makes sense. If you don't, then it's a little scary to see a whole society that trusts people who have much more interest or bias than just your everyday salesperson.

Tracy Keeney said...

You can't get that kind of honesty from the people who are trying to sell you the car!!!!


That's a valid point, Jake. Nissan or Chevy dealers are each going to sing the praises of their perspective 'product'.
But, isn't it also a valid point
that you can't necessarily trust the CHEVY people to tell you the truth or paint an accurate picture of a NISSAN?
You're talking about personal opinions and experiences. One guy might LOVE his Chevy while another hates it. You like your Nissan, but I'm sure others have had one and didn't like it.
If you're looking for factual information about a car itself, not OPINIONS about the car, or personal feelings about the car, but actual specifications of a Nissan Maxima engine, horsepower, timing system, transmission, drivetrain, down to the voltage of the sparkplug wire sets-- are you count on a Chevy guy to give you that info?
The best source to go for that is
Nissan. Sure, you could ask a Chevy guy, and he can look it up I suppose. But if he wants you to buy his Chevy and on top of that, he personally thinks that Nissans suck, what kind of misinformed or skewed info might you get from him?

Latter-Day James said...

Awesome analogy Tracy!

jake said...

Your analogy is not as consumer-smart as it could be, and hence not very reassuring. All you've said is that salesmen from both companies may not have accurate information about each other, or that they may even go so far as to "bad-mouth" each other. Of course they would. They're competing salesmen.

Maybe we could substitute in a very conservative Mormon vs. a rigorous anti-Mormon as the salesmen. There you've got two people with heavy emotional biases who have vested interests in painting their version of the picture.

I wouldn't trust either. I really mean that. Anti-Mormons can be extremely disrespectful and annoying, just as some very conservative Mormons can be.

All I'm saying is that in an ideal situation, instead of being afraid of information or even being taught not do look at information, people could with confidence look at all the facts, and THEN make a decision. Get research from the whole spectrum from happy Mormons to conservative Mormons to peaceful ex-mormons to anti-Mormons. I dunno. Only listening to one version of the details just doesn't hold water for me. Like I said before, you'd have to believe these men really were from God to ONLY take their word on everything.

I for one think it is a bit shady when even accepted facts (like what's contained in Rough Stone Rolling) are denied or "glossed over" by missionaries. For example, investigator says: "I've been hearing about polygamy and your church." Mormon missionary says, "We don't do that anymore." See? A salseman. He didn't say yes or no. He told half the truth. I hope that investigator is smart enough to do his research and THEN make a decision. If he only listens to the missionary, he's not going to get the whole story. Never. You know that. So do I.

jake said...

I think some of you reading this will obviously wonder how much connection I've had with the church. I'll fess up and admit that for some reason I was tempted to cheat a little and hide or leave this important information out or at least leave it ambiguous. My connection with the church is that I used to be a Mormon. I served a mission in Mexico. I was a very obedient Mormon, of good upbringing by Mormon standards.

When I read things on the FARMS website and in Rough Stone Rolling, to name a few LDS sanctioned examples, I felt cheated. My generation (I'm 25 yrs old) is very into transparency. Politicians say inappropriate things? We hear about it on YouTube the next day. You just can't hide information like you used to be able to!

If I could have learned certain disturbing things from a trusted leader, I would still be a Mormon today. I just felt like the church was playing the game just like politicians do. Telling the best side of the story. But it hurt worse to me, because as a missionary I actually lied to people in my lack of knowledge! I told them the story of Joseph that I was told, which is only part of the story. Honest Mormons can admit to that. The story missionaries tell investigators is only a part. It just felt wrong to me to be used in that way, as I disagreed with many of the things Joseph did so strongly once I learned about them. Mind you, I've already said that I don't like heavy anti-Mormon garbage. These things I learned from LDS sanctioned places. Movies like that cartoon on YouTube called the "God Makers" are childish and inane.

Joseph really did marry other mens' wives. Joseph really did also marry underage girls. Those two things alone caught me so off guard! That was the beginning of the end.

When the church is ready to adopt a policy of true transparency as the internet is forcing not only the church but EVERYONE to do (companies, salesmen, politicians, you name it) then I suspect less people will fall away in the fashion I did. Until then, people like me will lose their testimonies when they feel betrayed. Does this make sense? I hope I'm not starting to sound like an idiot anti-Mormon. I don't want to. Bigotry has no place in my value set.

Jake.

Tracy Keeney said...

Understood Jake.
But that's how EVERYTHING works. You're assuming that it's a dishonesty and lack of transparency thing. But when you start learning math, you start with number recognition, patterns, work you're way into simple addition and subtraction, etc. You're NOT going to learn the more difficult stuff, the more advanced stuff etc. In fact, I'd bet that if kids knew how much harder it was going to get, 75% of them would quit right after long division.
You start a job flipping burgers in McDonalds, you're ONLY going to learn what's necessary for your job, plus maybe some simple corporate info. How the company got started, the year, how many countries around the world have restaurants, it's basic business philosophy, and a thorough lesson on the importance of safe food handling and hand washing.
They're not going to give you every single corporate detail down to the dating habits of the founder. You'll learn more about the corporate stuff, the more detailed corporate history, track record, problems, etc the longer you're with the company, and the more you personally look into it.
No matter WHAT you're learning about, studying, researching, etc the longer, further and deeper you go, the more you're going to discover that you didn't know before.
It sounds like what you want is for missionaries to knock on people's doors, introduce themselves and list out all the
controversies in the name of transparency.
The problem, is that those controversies have nothing to do with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Church's mission is to bring people to Christ. How can missionaries do that, if before they can teach the actual DOCTRINES of the Church (what's important) they have to address the criticisms and controversies? Do you expect people of OTHER religions to do that with the Bible or their church history?
Do you expect the Manager at McDonald's to say "Hey kid, I know you want a job here. And I DO want to hire you. But I want to be "honest" with you..we believe in 'transparency' arouner here", then list out all the questionable and controversial things that have happened within the company? Tell you how many times their stores throughout the world have been robbed? How many people have choked to death on the Quarter Pounder, or slipped on the wet bathroom floor because some dorky kid forgot to put down the "caution, wet floor" sign? How many times a hair has been found in the special sauce of the Big Mac? How many times the founder married and divorced? How many wives the new CEO has had?
As a former member, you KNOW that the Church's mission is to preach the gospel, perfect the Saints and redeem the dead. THAT'S it's focus.
They teach the DOCTRINES of the gospel because that's what's important. The Church doesn't "hide" it's history-- you can learn all about it IN the church and through church sources-- the polygamy, the Danites, Mountain meadows, yadda, yadda, yadda.
But NONE of that is the actual GOSPEL of Jesus Christ. It's NOT what's important.
So the point was-- if you want to know the DOCTRINES of a church, the best source to go to is THAT church.
If want you want is OPINIONS of the doctrines, then heck- you can go anywhere you want.

Latter-Day James said...

I think in the end you have to have a testimony of the BOM. anon have you lost that as well? Did you have a confirmation of its truth through prayer prior to finding out some things about Joseph Smith you didn't like? Or were you using "borrowed light"? If it is the former, than what has happened to that truth you have discovered before other things have upset you? Is the BOM still not true? Just curious.

jake said...

Latter day james:

I was definitely not operating on borrowed light! haha. I loved the church and was a very strong and exemplary member. Anyone that knows me knows that.

Tracy, your analogy is the exact thing I would have said if I were defending Mormonism. I've been in your shoes! haha. Your analogy makes the point that newcomers in any situation would not be able to process advanced material. I concur.

However, your analogy also hints at the idea that eventually the newcomers would learn the advanced stuff. So, at what point was I going to get the facts stated in Rough Stone Rolling from the head of the church? Am I the only one out there that thinks this information is a bit on the heavy side to just 'not talk about it'? Am I the only one who sees that as borderline dishonesty/politics?

Can any faithful Mormon at least compassionately understand how painful discovering those things (undisputed things, mind you) about Joseph was for me? A seer stone? In a top hat? What?? Russell M. Nelson apparently knows about it (search "seer stone" in the article provided)... why don't I? Am I the only guy out there who would feel just a little 'taken advantage of' by this? Maybe at a pro-mormon blog I am. I dunno.

http://library.lds.org/nxt/gateway.dll/Magazines/Ensign/1993.htm/ensign%20july%201993.htm/a%20treasured%20testament.htm

Hans said...

Jake, I can sympathize with you and how you are feeling. While I have come to different conclusions based on the information that we learnt later in life, it is still not easy information to digest nevertheless.

I can say for myself that I learnt much of the information that we are uncomfortable with I learnt from Susan Easton Black in her class at BYU, especially a lot about Polygamy and the prevalent use of the Seer Stone in translation. You obviously can't say that this is being taught extensively, but I agree with Latter-day James that the reason that I have been able to absorb the information is because it is not critical to the Gospel itself.

Like Rough Stone Rolling (which we all allude to here) hints throughout the book so many times, Joseph himself wasn't the focul point of early missionary work but the BoM and Zionism, etc. I can see where you are coming from where we really only have a good perspective of Joseph and then that is shattered when we learn possible dubious details of his personal life. I think that the church does not encourage us to learn about it because it really is not essential to the Gospel. Whether Joseph drank wine after the WoW does not mean that it is not divine in origin.

I will concur with you in one point in that the foundation of church follows his life closely and so every aspect of it is under a microscope and we think that he was a prophet every minute. Book/lectures like Madsen's don't help when the only focus on the prophetic moments, which are inherently good. That leads to disappointment when we find out he wasn't good every second. So I can sympathize with you on this. However, actually learning those details make me feel much better. I appreciate that Joseph made mistakes, and possibly some very serious mistakes in life. This means that someone like me has a better chance in the next life as I am not as far off from God as I thought I was. I don't think that Joseph ever thought of himself as perfect and was pretty self-humiliatory (if that's a word) through the D&C and his journals. I just think that the church and we members focus on the good because it is tied to the inspired part of his mission.

One final point and I will stop as this has turned into a long post. I like the approach that Bushman took that if we judge Joseph, it should be done in the context of his own time, not 21st century norms. Joseph seemed not take criticism well, but when Bushman describes the Honor society (Burr v. Hamilton duel) that was the 1830's this makes absolute sense. It was worse to offend someones character than to kill them. The Seer Stone fits into the overall culture of mysticism that was rampant in New England during that period. You can still go to places like Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey where people still swear by these things.

In sum, I understand where you are coming from but will diverge of where we go from that. Like Bushman said in a recent FAIR address, I realize that some things are never going to make sense in this life (plural marriage to already married women) based on the my understanding of things and only hearsay/second hand accounts. Fortunately, the BoM is where my anchor is and I can testify to the inspired mission of JS, but will admit that he was inspired only when inspired, otherwise he was as weak as you and me. The only person that really deserves the type of scrutiny for every second of their life is Jesus, and that's because he had to be perfect to fulfill the plan. JS, Moses, Jonah, Lehi and even Nephi (2 Nep. 4) made big mistakes. Fortunately the Spirit is there to help clears things up.

Good luck and I wish you the best.

someone else said...

I just want to point out that there is more than one way to react to new information in the gospel. It is our choice which path we take.

Several months before I left on my mission, I realized that there were many aspects of the gospel that I didn't understand, and that could shake my faith if I let them. For me, this realization brought me to a point of decision. I decided to have the faith that if there was something about the gospel that I didn't understand, then it was because of the limits of my understanding -- not because there was something wrong with the gospel. I came to this conclusion based on the many witnesses I had already received of the truthfulness of the gospel and the Book of Mormon.

Accepting the fact that my limited understanding is usually the problem has helped me to maintain my faith even through the most faith-trying times of my life. And I've had my faith tried to the point where it felt like it was hanging by a thread.

With the biggest trials of my faith, it hasn't been until I made it through that things fell into place and I was finally able to understand. My theory that the problem is generally my understanding has so far held up every single time.

I know what it is like to have serious doubts about the gospel. But I also know what it is like to have placed my trust in the Lord when I had these doubts, allowing Him to lead me along towards greater light until my mind and heart were finally ready to understand.

one other thing... said...

jake,

Maybe I'm wrong, but my impression is that learning the advanced stuff has always been the responsibilty of the member. We are taught in the gospel to seek all kinds of learning. We are encouraged to search and study and pray for understanding and to increase our knowledge.

General authorities are just that -- "general." (Elder Oaks has talked about that principle recently in some of his addresses, including a conference talk if I remember correctly.) They teach what the general body of the Church needs to know: the basic principles and doctrines.

GB said...

Jake: When I read things on the FARMS website and in Rough Stone Rolling, to name a few LDS sanctioned examples, I felt cheated.

GB: I know how you feel. I felt the same way when I learned that my Greatgrandparents WEREN'T perfect.

And again when I learned my Grandparents weren't perfect.

And again when I learned that my parents weren't perfect.

And again when I learned that missionaries weren't perfect.

And again when I learned that Joseph Smith wasn't perfect.

And again when I learned that everybody doesn't get married in the temple

And again . . . .
Well you get the point.

Life is full of disappointments. Some are very painful. I guess that is why "enduring to the end" is such a big deal.

Bookslinger said...

Jake,
Why do you have a problem with Rough Stone Rolling? The author of that book is still an active, faithful believing Mormon who believes that Joseph Smith Jr. was a prophet of God, and that the Book of Mormon is true.

I joined the church at age 24, and learned about Joseph's polygamy when I read section 132 of the D&C. I didn't feel cheated.

As far as "under age" goes, the youngest age was 14. Well, Texas just within the last couple years raised it's minimum age for marriage from 14 to 16. Even just a few years ago, like the late 1980's, many states still had a marriage age of 16 or 18 without parental consent, and 14 with parental consent.

14 was not really out of line for the 19th century.

You write as if you expect the church to teach those things in primary or YM/YW. Dude, there's not time to teach all that stuff in Primary/YM/YW. Kids in those ages have enough to learn just with the basics of the gospel.

Soon after I joined the church, I bought the 7 volume "History of the Church", and read a lot of stuff that was later in Rough Stone Rolling. It's not kept hidden from members. It's always been there.

But I think you're wrong to expect the church to hand you all the hard stuff on a silver platter before you went on your mission.

I also think you're wrong to demand the church air its past leaders' human-ness with warts and all. Those who want to see warts can still read the history, but it's not up to the church to go around advertising the prophets' warts.

If/when you get married are you going to give a copy of all your dental and medical records and x-rays to your fiancee, even if she doesn't ask for them first?

I can see it now, "Hey, look honey, here's the video of my colonoscopy where they removed a polyp."

So before you give her a ring, make sure she sits down with your parents and they tell her about every idiotic, stupid or embarrassing thing you ever did in your whole life, including any occasions where you wet the bed, got car sick, etc.

Will you demand to see her medical records in the name of transparency? Or will you just ask if there's anything still ongoing that you need to be aware of or worth mentioning, and take her word for it?

Mormon Dude said...

Jake: I for one think it is a bit shady when even accepted facts (like what's contained in Rough Stone Rolling) are denied or "glossed over" by missionaries. For example, investigator says: "I've been hearing about polygamy and your church." Mormon missionary says, "We don't do that anymore." See? A salseman. He didn't say yes or no. He told half the truth. I hope that investigator is smart enough to do his research and THEN make a decision. If he only listens to the missionary, he's not going to get the whole story. Never. You know that. So do I.

So when the investigator raises the issue of polygamy and the Elder says, "We don't do that anymore," explain why that is dishonest? You said, "He didn't say yes or no." To me, that is NO - as in No, we don't do that anymore. Which also recognizes that we used to do that. That seems pretty accurate and honest.

I guess that what you want is not just "yes" or "no." I think you want troubling and controversial information to be shared about something we don't understand well. Remember, our goal in missionary work is to bring people to Christ and teach the basics of the Gospel. At what point in the discussions do we really need to bring up the dirt about Abraham? Or about Joseph? Yes, polygamy was painful and troubling and, most important for us now, "we don't do that anymore."

Tracy Keeney said...

Jake,
I DO understand how painful those things can be. I think EVERY member who seriously studies and searches past the Sunday School and seminary class stuff gets to the SAME point you did.
Then, as others here have said it comes down to faith and whether or not you believe the Book Of Mormon is truly another testament of Christ-- whether or not you've had that personal witness.

Just as a side note--I think it's a very signficant thing that the scriptures hardly spill any of the "dirt" on God's prophets. Okay, so Jonah did some prejudging and didn't want to go to Ninevah... and Moses didn't get to go into the promised land. And what... the rest of them were practically perfect?

No lies, no wandering eyes, no dishonesty, no lust, no anger-control problems, no selfishness, no greed, no self-righteous pride?

It's nothing short of absurd to think that they didn't commit any of these sins. And yet not a word is written about it.

I mean really-- was Job actually "perfect"? Of course he wasn't. "For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God"
Yet all we hear is how perfect and upright he was, how he so magnificently endured through all the horrible trials he experienced.

BUT WHERE'S THE DIRT??

Does that make the Bible's author's "dishonest"? Should we criticize Paul or John for not being more transparent about their personal lives?

Or better yet, should we have expected that PETER as the apostle and prophet after Christ's ascension, should have gone around telling Christ's disciples and any future converts, all of his and the other apostles sins in the name of transparency?
"Yes good people of Judea, Matthew is an apostle of the Lord. But just so you know ahead of time and don't get thrown for a loop when the gossip train rolls around, I Peter would like to tell you about the time that Matthew _______"

We know more about Joseph Smith than ANY OTHER PROPHET in the history of the world. (even you don't believe he's a prophet, you still know more about HIM than you do about any of the others)
Think for a minute-- what would you learn about all the others if God was "transparent" about all their sins and frailties?

To be honest, I don't want the "Jerry Springer low-down" on ANY of them.

Dan Knudsen said...

Jake--I have difficulty in following your evolution. “If I could have learned certain disturbing things from a trusted leader, I would still be a Mormon today.” What trusted leader are you talking about? When would you have accepted it, so apostasy wouldn’t have happened? Why doesn’t that apply now? What’s the difference now, and what are you waiting for?

The learning of the Gospel has always been milk before meat, line upon line, precept upon precept. The heavy doctrine can’t be understood without getting the milk first, to build faith and get the Spirit’s understanding necessary for understanding all things--and knowledge of some things really isn’t necessary. Tracy’s comments have covered all of that quite well--what a gift for explaining!

“I was definitely not operating on borrowed light! haha. I loved the church and was a very strong and exemplary member. Anyone that knows me knows that.” So, what’s your problem now? What commandment/s do you not want to live? I can see no other reason for leaving the church--because nothing else holds water!--and being out of it is such a waste of your life. No one else can do it for you, but there are plenty of people willing to help. So, cut the excuses and complaining, and hop to it.

Ujlapana said...

Dan said: "What commandment/s do you not want to live?"

Wow, people still seriously say this today? Is that like asking "So you're still a Mormon--what part of reality do you not want to face? I can see no other reason for staying in the Church."

There's plenty of time to teach about the more troubling aspects of our history if we wanted to. I remember distinctly feeling that I was learning the same lesson over and over every year growing up. Do the YW really need that lesson on housekeeping?

The problem is that the church puts a lot of emphasis on its authority being rooted in its history. So history becomes very important in defining the "value" of the church. But unlike math, where understanding algebra is required to understand calculus, historical facts can all be learned as discrete events. You don't have to know about the restoration of the priesthood to know that Joseph Smith married other men's wives. You might need to be led a certain way (milk before meat, as they say) to accept it, but that comes back to Jake's sales analogy.

If the church asked for the emphasis to be placed solely on modern teachings, the founder's foibles wouldn't matter. But Joseph Smith is still a venerated figure (sung "Praise to the Man" lately?) in Mormondom. Contrast this with Lutherans' approach to Martin Luther. Martin started a movement that was larger than himself; Joseph started a movement which exalted himself. When you rely on the "arm of flesh" expect to face these kinds of challenges. (And no, I'm not stating that that was Joseph's intention per se, merely that that's where we are today.)

I think officially teaching more "dirt" would make a lot of sense in face of the Internet. Take the lost 116 pages, for example--I now consider this one of the most damning pieces of evidence against the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, but growing up, being told the story many times, it all made perfect sense. People will accept almost anything if they're used to it.

Latter-Day James said...

ujlapana

"The problem is that the church puts a lot of emphasis on its authority being rooted in its history. So history becomes very important in defining the "value" of the church."

Authority does not come from history, we know that. You should know the claim being a disaffected Mormon yourself. The LDS Church claims that the authority comes from Jesus Christ and the Church, having received the Holy Priesthood and the keys to the Church on earth today. It doesn't come from history. The "value" comes from authority and revelation. I am sure there is more to add to this.

"Joseph started a movement which exalted himself......... (And no, I'm not stating that that was Joseph's intention per se, merely that that's where we are today.)"

And yet you bring it up. I have never had a lesson stating how Joseph was above the Lord in any way. When missionaries went out when the Church was young Joseph wasn't talked about as much as the Restored Gospel of Christ. He is very important in the sense that he helped restore the Gospel but other than that he was just a man. All lessons point to Christ or how to build up His Church.

"Take the lost 116 pages, for example--I now consider this one of the most damning pieces of evidence against the authenticity of the Book of Mormon,"

Is this because there was no way he could have reproduced it?

Either way, false prophet or not, he would not have redone those pages.

If I were JS and making up the BOM for fun and had notes to cheat from so Martin Harris really thought I was translating, then lost those pages I could have done 2 things. Redo them perfectly from my cheat pages. Then the unbelievers would change my manuscript and call me a liar. Or I could realize that they would do this and I could refuse to redo them on that basis.

Or as the real prophet JS, I could redo them perfectly from translation because they were still the same golden plates and I had the same translation abilities. Then I would realize that the unbelievers would change the manuscript to make me a liar. Then I would refuse based on this.

You see, both ways a smart person wouldn't redo them. I don't see how this is damning evidence either way. Thats my opinion at least.

Mormanity said...

On the 116 pages, please note that some anti-Mormons are now theorizing that Joseph spent years crafting the Book of Mormon - a must in order to bring in all the scholarship needed to bring in so much from the Bible, from modern studies of scripture and Hebrew poetry, from information from Arabia and Mexico and numerous other details - and that he was fooling his helpers in appearing to craft the Book so quickly from scratch as he dictated its contents. So he must have had a extensive notes and multiple drafts and so forth. But there's no hint of any such volume of notes, of any other drafts, etc. Just the original manuscript penned by scribes as Joseph dictated it at a phenomenal pace. So I would suggest that the story of the 116 pages somewhat weakens, not refutes, one of the hypotheses for Book of Mormon origins based on fraud.

It doesn't attack the authenticity of the Book of Mormon at all. However, it can fit nicely into several conflicting views of the Book of Mormon.

Ujlapana said...

LDJ said:The LDS Church claims that the authority comes from Jesus Christ and the Church, having received the Holy Priesthood and the keys to the Church on earth today. It doesn't come from history.

Except that the narrative is set in the 1830's. Joseph Smith, a historical figure, is the link for all of this. That's when "the Restoration" occurred. Not today. So the "keys" are rooted in historical authority--if the chain broke (say all of the GA's died in a freak nuclear accident during General Conference), the church would have a problem based on their current authority claims. (Except for the standing High Councils, I guess.)

LDJ said:I have never had a lesson stating how Joseph was above the Lord in any way.

Nor have I. Nor did I ever suggest such lessons occur. You think Joseph Smith isn't mentioned more than Heber J Grant? More than founders of most other Protestant sects in their meetings? Again, sung "Praise to the Man" lately?

On the 116 pages, here's the problem. The original manuscripts were hand written. Martin Harris didn't lose a flash drive with a Word document on it, right? It was hand written. So to change it, conspiring men would have to rewrite, exactly copying another person's handwriting, whole pages. Otherwise changes would be obvious and limited to word substitutions. So how could they change it?

Well, simple, they couldn't. But if you're telling the story as you go, you aren't going to get it perfectly the second time around. You may miss some details, such as who begat whom, etc., so you'll want to retell it very differently.

Think about it, if enemies really had the ability to alter and republish the document, how did changing to the "small plates" even help? It wouldn't, because the enemies could still change things in a way that discredited the new portion. So either way Joseph would have been busted if they could really change the manuscript.

No, what he needed was an excuse to recompose completely different material. He couldn't match word for word, so he took some months off and put a new spin on things, including copious amounts of Isaiah, etc. It's possible that the Eastern Hemisphere part never existed in the first version--that it just started in America. Who knows, but that would be a safe way to rewrite the intro.

Given that the manuscript never turned up, it was probably never going to anyway--burned by Mrs. Harris, no doubt.

Latter-Day James said...

"So the "keys" are rooted in historical authority--if the chain broke (say all of the GA's died in a freak nuclear accident during General Conference), the church would have a problem based on their current authority claims. (Except for the standing High Councils, I guess.)"

If I have faith in Jesus Christ and that the LDS Church has the authority here on earth to represent Him. Why would we worry about loss of authority? Only one can allow this. Christ. He is the boss. If He allows it then so be it.

"You think Joseph Smith isn't mentioned more than Heber J Grant? More than founders of most other Protestant sects in their meetings? Again, sung "Praise to the Man" lately?"

Joseph Smith definitely is going to be mentioned more because of his role in the Restoration. Not a big deal in my eyes. Seems like a sticking point for certain people.
For instance, people looking for fault.

"It was hand written. So to change it, conspiring men would have to rewrite, exactly copying another person's handwriting, whole pages. Otherwise changes would be obvious and limited to word substitutions. So how could they change it?"

You know my grandma can sign and write just like my grandpa when she fills in paperwork for him. She has done this for him since they were married. Just an opinion, but Mrs. Harris could have written like her husband I bet. Anyone with a steady hand and some skill can mimic another's writing. There has been forgeries going on for, I don't know, a long time. :-) All one would have to do is say they found one half of a page of transcript and changed just that half a page. I don't know. Just an opinion.

"No, what he needed was an excuse to recompose completely different material. He couldn't match word for word, so he took some months off and put a new spin on things, including copious amounts of Isaiah, etc. It's possible that the Eastern Hemisphere part never existed in the first version--that it just started in America. Who knows, but that would be a safe way to rewrite the intro."

Why couldn't he match it word for word? If what you are claiming is true then he would have used his cheat sheet and read that back to Martin Harris word for word.

Doesn't sound like very damning evidence yet. I believe I will still be going to church this week.

Ujlapana said...

Who said he had a cheat sheet?

And you haven't resolved the fact that if someone did have the ability to forge Harris's handwriting perfectly, why didn't they create something more damning anyway? Wait for the "small plates" version to come out, then modify the 116 pages such that the "small plates" still wouldn't make sense. Joseph would be completely discredited, regardless of his "disclaimer."

Or how about forging a letter from Martin to Joseph saying, "I think people are really going to fall for this--we'll all be rich!" Or why bother with the forging at all--just get someone who appears to be an independent third party to claim that they saw the 116 pages and state that it didn't match?

And if we do accept that all of the events played out as claimed by Joseph and other BoM characters, we have completely eliminated free agency--God has complete foreknowledge of every single minute action. Seems like a terrible thing to be God--He couldn't "believe" in Joseph's ability to make the right choice in the first place because He knew 1,400 years earlier that he'd screw up. And poor Mormon had to create 116 pages worth of gold plates with the express purpose of getting them lost. How about a quick post-it on the plates from Moroni--"Dear Joseph: Martin Harris will ask for 116 pages of translated material. Don't loan it to him!" Even God loses free agency in this scenario because He forces Himself (back in 400 AD) to approve the loan of the pages in the end.

There are lots of gaping holes. But learning about it from childhood made those seem unimportant, which is my ultimate point. Nobody at church even discusses these things because it doesn't bother anyone.

Latter-Day James said...

"Who said he had a cheat sheet?"

I am not saying that but if he hadn't done the manuscript by revelation then he had to have a cheat sheet. Unless you are telling me he memorized pages at a time of scripture. So he could then look into his hat and repeat from memory what he had previously memorized.

"And you haven't resolved the fact that if someone did have the ability to forge Harris's handwriting perfectly, why didn't they create something more damning anyway? Wait for the "small plates" version to come out, then modify the 116 pages such that the "small plates" still wouldn't make sense. Joseph would be completely discredited, regardless of his "disclaimer."

Or how about forging a letter from Martin to Joseph saying, "I think people are really going to fall for this--we'll all be rich!" Or why bother with the forging at all--just get someone who appears to be an independent third party to claim that they saw the 116 pages and state that it didn't match?"

We are both speculating on this point. No one knows who would have done what in this particular situation for sure.

"Even God loses free agency in this scenario because He forces Himself (back in 400 AD) to approve the loan of the pages in the end."

I doubt God forces Himself to do anything. I am speculating again, but this could have been a learning moment for Joesph or it could just be that Heavenly Father lets Joseph practice his agency and keep bugging Him to let Harris have the plates. Heavenly Father knows all from beginning to end. He also knew that the basic idea would get through, through Nephi. I also think you are placing too many restrictions on our Heavenly Father's omniscience.