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Sunday, September 16, 2012

A New Twist on the Spalding Theory--And Sidney's Amazing Voice Trick

For some critics, the story of the lost 116 pages in the coming forth of the Book of Mormon is utterly ridiculous. Some say it shows Joseph was just making things up on the fly and would have all sorts of accidental changes as he went through the fabrication process a second time, so for safety, he just punted with the first part of the record and concocted the story of the small plates. This is the "Joseph was an idiot with bad memory" theory. The story of the 116 pages from that perspective directly challenges the popular theory of "Joseph got help from Sidney Rigdon or some other very smart person" to create the impressive and remarkably self-consistent text of the Book of Mormon. These theories based on plagiarism and texts from the likes of Solomon Spaulding or Sidney Rigdon or both assume that there was some text that had been prepared and carefully edited over many months or even years in preparation for the grand Book of Mormon scheme. When Joseph was dictating the Book of Mormon to his scribes, he must have been reading from the pre-written manuscript. If such a manuscript existed, then it would have been no trouble reading it again exactly as read before.

A more imaginative anti-Mormon "solution" to the origins of the Book of Mormon has been proposed. Robert W. Thurston's Unlocking the Great Mormon Mystery: A Radically New Approach to Deciphering Mormon Origins (New York: iUniverse, Inc., 2008) is actually one of the "best" and most responsible anti-Mormon books that I have read--"responsible" in the sense that it actually acknowledges the existence of pro-Book of Mormon scholarship from people such as Stephen Ricks and Daniel Peterson of BYU rather than just alleging that there is no serious evidence of any kind for ancient origins. Thurston has seen the evidence, recognizes that some of it can be quite impressive, and has to conclude that the Book of Mormon could not have been authored by the likes of Joseph Smith. In that sense, he's actually ahead of many Latter-day Saints in appreciating the richness of the Book of Mormon text. And I'll also credit him for a generally enjoyable and readable style in his writing.

His imaginative solution takes an old, tired theory and gives it an interesting new twist. Thurston argues, as a number of others have, that the Book of Mormon is far too sophisticated to have been written by Joseph, so it must have come from--you guessed it--Sidney Rigdon with the aid of Solomon Spalding, well educated men with access to scholarly resources, men who were able to put years into their masterpiece of deceit (Hebraisms! Arabian Peninsula details! even the Narrative of Zosimus!). Their carefully drafted manuscript only had to be dictated by an alleged prophet who would claim to be "translating" a text from gold plates. This man would be their partner in crime, Joseph Smith, Jr. The scheme was designed to bring Sidney access to religious power and fame, and would give Joseph a chance to introduce polygamy so he could party with lots of wild Mormon women (when he wasn't being jailed or tarred and feathered, that is).

The basic framework of Thurston's solution, the Spalding theory via Sidney Rigdon, is easily refuted and has been rather dead for years (more on that later), but there is a cute twist: the doomed manuscript that Joseph gave to Martin Harris was actually not the 116 pages of partially completed dictation to a scribe, but, through a horrific and remarkably stupid blunder, the full, big, original manuscript, the much lengthier Spalding manuscript itself that was the basis for the whole fraud that Sidney and Joseph were developing. This hypothesis supposedly solves several problems.

Thurston, who has impressive experience in solving secular problems, feels that perplexing little details in the story may be the key to finding the surprising truth. One of the little details that others allegedly ignore and he uses as a key to discovery is the reaction of Joseph Smith to the loss of the manuscript he gave to Martin Harris. Thurston says Joseph's gloom-and-doom reaction is completely illogical if he were a prophet of God. If a prophet, Joseph would have just shrugged off the loss and said, "OK, let's retranslate." Or he could have relied on the powerful Angel Moroni to simply transport the manuscript back into his hands. No trouble! But the depression and anxiety shows something else was going on, according to Thurston.

Here I begin to have trouble with Thurston's analysis--or perhaps it's just a personality thing. He must be a very easy-going fellow who doesn't understand what it feels like for some people ("spiritual Type A" perhaps?) to take on a huge responsibility, to feel the full weight of an important project or duty affecting other lives, and then to make mistakes that lead to failure. For some of us, failure, especially when it is clearly our fault, is a terribly painful ordeal. I have felt similar pain for much smaller and less serious blunders. Maybe Joseph, like me, was more prone to guilt trips than the general population, but to dismiss his reaction as absurd is sloppy. Joseph's reaction makes sense to me and I can accept it at face value. Maybe Thurston would have been comfortable telling the Almighty that he had just lost the sacred manuscript he was supposed to publish and "let's just start again--no problem, right?" But it was a much bigger failure for Joseph.

If Joseph were a fraud, argues Thurston, his reaction still poses difficulties. Losing the dictated text, the 116 pages, is an inconvenience that simply requires starting over to dictate the "translation" exactly as before. Just a few days of copying would be lost. But if Joseph had an original manuscript with a carefully written text upon which all depended, and then, through amazing stupidity, handed that to Martin Harris instead of the smaller 116 pages, it truly would have been a disaster. That's the interesting twist proposed by Thurston, and I have to credit him for creative thinking here and for significantly advancing the cause of the Spalding Theory. The Spalding Manuscript itself is what Joseph foolishly handed to Martin Harris, according to Thurston. Wow!

Such a mistake by Joseph would be a double disaster, actually, because the manuscript was lost and their main source of funds for the scheme, Martin Harris, might be lost as well. Instead of strengthening his faith in the work to lead him to give financial support, he would be puzzled about receiving the full manuscript when it was supposed to be only partially translated, only 116 pages so far. He might notice that the text was already complete and in someone else's handwriting, or perhaps, I would suggest, he might see that it looked like a carefully written and edited manuscript that had been around for years, not a fresh dictation to a scribe. Gratefully, Thurston acknowledges that Martin Harris can't just be dismissed as a con-man accomplice knowingly supporting a crooked scheme (the same actually applies to the other witnesses such as Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer, but this is conveniently overlooked and they remain knowing accomplices of Joseph's outrageous fraud in Thurston's model). So the concern was that Martin, the one they needed to dupe to gain access to his funds to publish their book, might, uh, begin to have misgivings. He would need to be given revived confidence in Joseph the "prophet" and the divinity of the Book of Mormon. How to rescue the scheme? Here comes another creative twist with a kicker that I just love.

With Sidney's brilliant help, a backup plan was quickly concocted in short order. The "small plates" story was contrived and a new Book of Mormon text was crafted on the fly (hey, how then do we fit in all the intricate details that had been crafted in the lost original manuscript?). Further, to regain Martin Harris's trust, Joseph and Sidney concocted the "three witnesses scheme" in which those in one the con job (Joseph, David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, and Sidney Rigdon) would use peer pressure and trickery to make Martin Harris think he saw an angel and the plates. As for the Angel Moroni that Martin would see, it was actually just the voice of Sidney Rigdon--um, hiding behind a tree. That's the best part. I love it!

This may be the most enjoyable anti-Mormon book of the decade, and one of the few with the courage to admit that there is any kind of scholarship on the pro-Book of Mormon side. Many bonus points for that. He discusses chiasmus, Hebraisms, confirmations from Arabian geography, cool parallels to the Narrative of Zosiumus, word print studies and even the Mesoamerican limited geography theory as a plausible location for Book of Mormon events, and attempts to explain it all as good scholarship (good? maybe "genius," "visionary," or even "prophetic" would be better) by Sidney in collaboration with Spalding, drawing upon the scholarship of Alexander Campbell and others.

His fresh take on the old Spalding theory is interesting, but when it comes to confronting the reality of numerous witnesses with track records, reputations, and lifelong commitment to the divine origins of the Book of Mormon, well, Thurston's theory simply falls flat. It doesn't come close to matching the details of the lives and testimonies of the Three Witnesses and the many other facts associated with the witnesses to the plates, the witnesses to the translation processes, and the other details of the Book of Mormon story. And seriously, Sidney behind a tree as the Angel Moroni--an event that would change Martin's life, motivate him to sacrifice all for the cause of the Book of Mormon, and be part of his vibrant testimony to the day he died? Well, Sidney did have a great voice, I guess.

Resources: Update, Sept. 18.: Sigh. How disappointed I am to learn that Thurston's imaginative reworking of the Three Witnesses story, with Sidney Rigdon starring as the voice of the Angel Moroni, is not quite his original contribution after all. In fact, the core of this scenario is over a century old and comes from a 1908 book by William Heth Whitsitt--an author not mentioned by Thurston. It would be unjust to accuse Thurston of plagiarism--he probably picked up the idea from some other anti-Mormon source that plagiarized Whitsitt without credit, and then regurgitated it in this work, dressing it up a bit, and not feeling a need to give credit. That's OK, I guess, but it would have been helpful to know where such an amusing solution came from so we can all give proper credit. The information that unlocks the mystery of the origins of Thurston's Three Witnesses scenario comes from FAIRLDS, in a short page on the alleged missing, second Spalding manuscript. Here is the relevant text (note that Solomon Spalding's name can be been spelled both "Spalding" and "Spaulding"):
The discovery and publishing of the [Spaulding] manuscript put to rest the Spaulding theory for several decades. But in the early 20th century the theory surfaced again, only this time its advocates claimed there was a second Spaulding manuscript that was the real source for the Book of Mormon. However, supporters of the revised Spaulding theory have not produced this second purported manuscript. They do, however, rely upon early works such as a 1908 book written by William Heth Whitsitt called Sidney Rigdon, The Real Founder of Mormonism. The entire book is based upon Whitsitt's initial assumption that Rigdon and Spalding wrote the Book of Mormon. Whitsitt then proceeds to fit the known facts to match that assumption. One of the most amusing parts of the book is the attempt to explain the experience of the Three Witnesses. In Whitsitt's book, Sidney plays the Angel Moroni and the Spalding manuscript itself (the second, undiscovered one) actually plays the part of the gold plates! According to Whitsitt:
It is suspected that Mr. Rigdon was somewhere present in the undergrowth of the forest where the little company were assembled, and being in plain hearing of their devotions he could easily step forward at a signal from Joseph, and exhibit several of the most faded leaves of the manuscript, which from having been kept a series of years since the death of Spaulding would assume the yellow appearance that is well known in such circumstances. At a distance from the station which they occupied the writing on these yellow sheets of paper would also appear to their excited imagination in the light of engravings; Sidney was likewise very well equal to the task of uttering the assurances which Smith affirms the angel was kind enough to supply concerning the genuineness of the "plates" and the correctness of the translation.
OK, Thurston's scenario (or whoever it was that created it) "improves" upon Whitsitt by keeping Rigdon behind the tree and relying more fully on imagination to fill in the appearance of the angel and the plates, but it's still pretty similar. One must remember that anti-Mormon writings are not nearly as original as they seem. There is a great deal of unacknowledged borrowing going on, especially in the works accusing Joseph Smith of plagiarism. Understanding that principle can help us in unlocking the many mysteries of anti-Mormonism.

30 comments:

Quantumleap42 said...

What can I say. It looks like he read the hand book and followed it religiously (hehe).

How to Write an Anti-Mormon Book (A Handbook for Beginners)

Bookslinger said...

Wasn't Martin Harris the scribe for most of those 116 pages anyway?

That sort of blows this theory away.

Martin could not have been the scribe, and then been given something someone else wrote, thinking it was what he transcribed.

Bookslinger said...

If Joseph Smith were a fraud, then Emma Smith, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, Martin Harris and Sidney Rigdon would have had to all been in on it.

Mormography said...

If the review is accurate Thurston appears to come up with equally overly intricate and complex hypothesis as apologists.

I frequently witness apologists make these odd statements such as “these theories ….. assume that there was some text that had been prepared and carefully edited”, yet I rarely encounter a critic actually claim this. The usual critical take way from Spalding, Emanuel Swedenborg, etc. is at the very least items via Joseph Smith are not “impressive” extra human items, but typical of the time period. The striking textual similarities are usually used to indicate concept exposure, may be unconscious idea co-opting and influence, but not necessarily verbatim plagiarism.

I am curious which critics are proposing the "Joseph was an idiot with bad memory" theory (another strawman?). Usually it is critics that up play JS’s intelligence and apologist that paint JS as a simpleton, illiterate farmer boy in order to make the BoM sound all the more “impressive”. The way the 116 pages story is told in the canon the indication is that a verbatim reproduction similar to Jeremiah should have occurred. So the critical take is that JS was clever enough to recognize that he did not have a photographic memory and a verbatim reproduction would have been impossible. The unavoidable flaw is that if such evil conspirators actually existed that would have made the lost pages contradict ANY new material produced, as Mark Hofmann aspired to demonstrate.

Glenn Thigpen said...

The Spaulding theory is one that will not die, although, of all the theories that abound on the origins of the Book of Mormon, it is one of the weakest. No one has actually come close to providing any evidence that Sidney ever saw that manuscript in the first place.

One of the problems with Thurston's theory is the translation time line. Making it up on the fly in the time period that the translation was produced seems an especially far fetched idea.
Add to this the difficulty in keeping Rigdon's involvement secret from non-supportive eyes would have been well nigh impossible.

Glenn

Anonymous said...

Someone can correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think Sydney Rigdon arrived in New York or even met Joseph Smith until late in 1830 long after the Book of Mormon was completed. I've never understood how he was supposed to have had anything to do with its writing.

Marty said...

I thought the same thing as Bookslinger: that the 116 pages were at least partially in Martin Harris' own hand. Does anybody know?

The alternative hypothesis, that Joseph couldn't retranslate because unknown conspirators would alter the 116 pages to disagree with the retranslation, isn't all that credible either, unless one of the conspirators had also been one of the scribes who helped write the 116 pages. Then it would be possible to make the alterations in the same handwriting. Could Joseph, not knowing the identities of the conspirators, have suspected Martin Harris? He does refer to him (in the voice of the Lord) as a "wicked man." (D&C 3:12).

Regarding Jeff's Spiritual type A description of those who are prone to guilt, maybe that applied to Joseph Smith, but in my experience, it isn't a sign of personal righteousness. I can't understand how the Lord isn't as culpable in this as Joseph since He gave Joseph permission to loan the manuscript to Martin Harris, His previous refusals notwithstanding. Knowing the future, He could have told Joseph that the manuscript would be lost, or, if He's too majestic to explain His decisions, He could have just said no forever; there are precedents for that ("Trouble me no more on this matter"). The idea that the Lord gave Joseph permission to loan the manuscript knowing that it would be lost just so that he could teach Joseph a lesson makes the Lord out to be like a manipulative parent who relies on guilt trips to control children. That's why I don't buy it. Spare me the platitudes about how the Lord's ways aren't man's ways (they would be if the story were true) and how I'm elevating myself by being critical of how the Lord does things, that I think He should conform to my ideas of what seems reasonable. I'm not criticizing the Lord. I'm criticizing a story about the Lord that makes Him seem petty in order to salvage the reputation of a prophet.

Jeff Lindsay said...

The threat from an altered manuscript doesn't require any attention to handwriting at all. The threat is taking it the newspaper and publishing it, with affidavits that this is from the original 116 pages. After that, the damage is done and the altered manuscript can be conveniently lost.

This is entirely plausible because it already happened to some degree in related scenarios. In the case of the Spalding theory, numerous "witnesses" claimed that they saw Spalding's text and it matched the Book of Mormon--until it was discovered and found to have no relation. And in the case of the Book of Mormon itself, others already plagiarized and published part of the manuscript against Joseph's will.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Why did the Lord let Joseph do something stupid? Perhaps for the same reasons that He lets all of us do stupid things. There's a hugely valuable lesson for all of us in Joseph's experience that teaches us the dangers of clinging to our will, even in prayer.

And dismissing the most fundamental answers to the questions as platitudes is unwise. This is a classic case where the Lord has wise purposes and tells us so, and we can see part of the wisdom already, but can we really grumble because we don't get it all? Getting it all involves knowing what's in the 116 pages and why it's not right for us to have it now. We'll get it later. My guess is that one reason involves the secular information in that section providing far too many details that could be used to "prove" the accuracy and authenticity of the Book of Mormon. Not for now. So we're stuck with the more religious, less secular and less scientifically interesting small plates. For now. be patient. The Lord is brilliant, folks, and knows what He's doing. That's truth, not a platitude.

Janice said...

How many time can this topic/theory be rehashed? After what,170 years, no one can come up with anything new about how the Book of Mormon came into existence.

Anonymous said...

To make his point, Thurston appears to have taken a sledge hammer to Occam's razor.

Mark Steele

Anonymous said...

Getting it all involves knowing what's in the 116 pages and why it's not right for us to have it now.... My guess is that one reason involves the secular information in that section providing far too many details that could be used to "prove" the accuracy and authenticity of the Book of Mormon.

So, you're suggesting there is strong evidence for the BoM's authenticity, but God is keeping it from us? Why would that be? Because God wants to test our ability to take certain things on faith rather than evidence?

Seems just as likely to me that God does not want us to take so many implausible claims on faith. Maybe God wants us to be more skeptical and scientific. Maybe God wants to help us toward that end by continually putting our empiricism to the test, and to make it a more sporting test he created C.S. Lewis and Hugh Nibley....

-- Eveningsun

Sam said...

ha, I love the sidney rigdon behind a tree part

Jeff Lindsay said...

Evening Sun, there already is strong evidence of authenticity for the Book of Mormon, but always with room for debate and the need for some degree of faith. I'm suggesting that there could be things in the more secular (and thus, presumably, physical detail oriented) 116 pages from the large plates that would go beyond mere "evidence of authenticity" and be slam-dunk proof of authenticity, that kind of evidence that would even get some of my skeptical readers here to buckle.

Marty said...

Jeff,

Thanks for your reply. I'm always interested to know how you respond to these things.

If the conspirators need only rely on affidavits, they could have gone through with their plan anyway, as you point out. Having the manuscript in original handwriting would be stronger evidence. Most importantly, translating new material wouldn't stop them. They could produce a manuscript in someone else's handwriting that contradicts details in the new material regardless. It seems clear to me that Joseph suspected Martin Harris, in whose handwriting all 116 pages were (I looked it up), was complicit. D&C 10:6-8 "Behold, they have sought to destroy you; yea, even the man in whom you have trusted has sought to destroy you. And for this cause I said that he is a wicked man, for he has sought to take away the things wherewith you have been entrusted; and he has also sought to destroy your gift. And because you have delivered the writings into his hands, behold, wicked men have taken them from you." That pretty much names Martin Harris as a conspirator. Hopefully you can appreciate that I'm dismissing the idea that Joseph Smith couldn't reproduce the original material even if not verbatim. I'm suggesting that inability to reproduce it wasn't his motivation, unlike what other critics have suggested. He seemed genuinely concerned that Martin Harris et al would alter the manuscript.

As for the Lord letting people do stupid things, you're appealing to the fact that in everyday experience the Lord doesn't actively prevent people from doing some stupid things. That's a different situation from that of losing the 116 pages. Joseph Smith supposedly wouldn't let Martin have the 116 pages without express permission from the Lord. We can claim that the Lord allows us to do stupid things because he doesn't actively prevent us because of free will or whatever, but to claim that we do those things with his express permission is quite another matter.

As for my reference to "platitudes," I'm referring to attempts by believers to shut down debate about God by making his actions off limits to our scrutiny. I do not scrutinize God. I scrutinize stories about God to see whether they comport with our God-given reason.

Anonymous said...

A change of subject, I know, but I'm guessing a lot of people here will be pleased to read this if they haven't already:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/19/us/historian-says-piece-of-papyrus-refers-to-jesus-wife.html?_r=1&hp

-- Eveningsun

Anonymous said...

"As for the Lord letting people do stupid things, you're appealing to the fact that in everyday experience the Lord doesn't actively prevent people from doing some stupid things. That's a different situation from that of losing the 116 pages. Joseph Smith supposedly wouldn't let Martin have the 116 pages without express permission from the Lord. We can claim that the Lord allows us to do stupid things because he doesn't actively prevent us because of free will or whatever, but to claim that we do those things with his express permission is quite another matter."

I don't think it was particularly "express" permission, after all, he said NO three times before telling Joseph that he wouldn't interfere with his agency. Joseph made a human error by allowing his friendship with Martin (not to mention a reasonable lack of faith on Martin's part) to get in the way of what was clearly God's will. There wasn't any clear "I changed my mind, go ahead and give Martin the pages with my blessing" on God's part.

Bookslinger said...

I don't have the reference, but I've seen claims floating around the Internet that Sidney Rigdon and Joseph Smith were in the same town or township at the same time at some point prior to Joseph starting the translation work.

I did not follow the references back to original sources, so I don't know how reliable or detailed the original claims were. If I remember correctly, it was a "connecting of the dots" between two separate sources of who was where and when, and not one eyewitness of them both in the same place. And the sources may not have been direct or first hand.

Joseph was not erudite enough to concoct the whole of the Book of Mormon by himself.

I believe the BoM is what it claims to be. I have very strong personal spiritual evidence that it is what it claims to be.

During my absence from the church, I tried to conceive of ways it could all be fake, but nothing came close to over-riding my personal testimony.

None of the counter claims even rose to the level of countering the testimony of the 3 and 8 witnesses.

Since coming back to church, and reading all this critical (anti) and apologetic information, my conclusion is even stronger. Jeff is right, the more you study it, the evidence of plausibility gets stronger and stronger.

Supposing Jospeh and Oliver made it all up, there was not enough time during their association prior to delivering the manuscript to the printer to concoct it all.

Unless it was concocted over a period of years by Oliver and brought by Oliver to Joseph. But, Joseph started telling stories of Nephites in 1820, long before Oliver came into the picture. You would have to show an early connection between Joseph and Oliver to defend the idea that Oliver wrote or helped write the Book of Mormon.

Supposing that Joseph and someone else beside Oliver made it up, Joseph would have had to be reading from the secretly concocted "original" manuscript that he and his co-conspirators made, while dictating the "translation" to Oliver. Since Oliver would have been able to tell if Joseph was reading a previously prepared script, Oliver would still have had to be "in on it" if Joseph and someone else made it all up.

Technically, I suppose one could claim that Joseph had between 1820 and mid to late 1829 to concoct the text of the Book of Mormon. But again, Oliver, Emma and all the other witnesses would have had to have been in cahoots with Joseph in the supposed fraud.

Due to Sidney's involvement in the inner circle, and his sharing of revelations, he would have had to be in on it too, if it all were a hoax.

Even Martin Harris, after the 116 page debacle, still paid for the printing of the Book of Mormon, and sold off part of his land holdings to pay for it. The fact that he mortgaged his farm, or signed to have it used as collateral for the printing, shows either his belief in the truth of the Book of Mormon, or his complicity with Joseph.

Martin Harris made no money off of his association with Joseph or the church, yet he never denied seeing Moroni and the plates.

And his wife left him, publicly stating it was his connection to Joseph and paying for the Book of Mormon printing was why she left him.

The 3 witnesses (Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris) would have had to be in on the deception if there were no Moroni showing them the gold plates.

The 8 witnesses either all lied, or they saw _some_ kind of engravings on gold plates, even though it was in mundane circumstances, with no angel Moroni, and no glorious manifestations.

None of the 3 or the 8 ever recanted seeing the plates. None of the 3 recanted meeting Moroni, or seeing the other objects (sword of Laban, etc.)

So that was 11 people, plus Sidney Rigdon, plus Emma, at least, who had to have been in on a supposed conspiracy.

And even though most of them left the church, none of them, the 3 or the 8, denied their witness testimony.

Marty said...

@Anonymous

How do you know what the Lord said to Joseph Smith? Here's what Joseph Smith said about it:

"Some time after Mr. Harris had begun to write for me, he began to importune me to give him liberty to carry the writings home and show them; and desired of me that I would inquire of the Lord through the Urim and Thummim if he might not do so. I did inquire, and the answer was that he must not. However, he was not satisfied with this answer, and desired that I should inquire again. I did so, and the answer was as before. Still he could not be contented, but insisted that I should inquire once more. After much solicitation I again inquired of the Lord, and permission was granted him to have the writings on certain conditions..."

I draw your attention to Joseph's words: permission was granted. That's another way of saying permission was expressed, or express permission. He doesn't say that the Lord says anything about agency. So please, don't just make stuff up.

Paul Senzee said...

Bookslinger said:

Joseph was not erudite enough to concoct the whole of the Book of Mormon by himself.

I don't understand why people say this. I also don't get the whole Rigdon-Spaulding thing. I think the historical record shows that Joseph was highly intelligent, no doubt moreso than either Spaulding or Rigdon, and was intellectually curious and a voracious reader.

I find it easy to accept that Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon, just as I can accept that Steve Wozniak designed the Apple I at only 21 years of age, which, I would, having had experience in both writing and computer engineering, consider a more difficult feat.

TheDoctor said...

If that is the impression of the Lord you get from that storey then you do not understand it.

TheDoctor said...

Are we all missing the fact that if Smith was lying then he would spend years of his life in prison, being tortured, persecuted and ridiculed and eventually murdered for absolutely no reason.

And we think he would just be ok with that?

That none of the many people that would need to be involved in the conspiricy would consider saying anything to anyone when it became evident that their ploy had gotten out of hand or that none of them would try to escape?

We are expected to believe that Joseph would willingly sacrifice his own life and that of his beloved brother for the sake of a falsehood?

A more ridiculous claim I have never heard.

Paul Senzee said...

TheDoctor,

Sure. Far, far stranger things have happened in this world. What about every other religious reformer? How about Mohammed? Or even James Strang? Or David Koresh, Jim Jones, Martin Luther?

Joseph's gifts gave him power, made him a revered and beloved figure, gave him a place in history, not to mention 30+ wives.

But he loved to push the envelope. Rigdon's anti-'Gentile' rhetoric plus Smith's political ambitions, polygamy and subsequent destruction of the Expositor is what got him killed, not the Book of Mormon.

A more ridiculous claim? Is it more likely that he was one of many thousands of men who have started religions, or that he actually saw God and Jesus Christ face-to-face?

Smith was a man like many, many men; intoxicated by power. That's what he died for.

Paul Senzee said...

(Oops I see that I've continually misspelled 'Spalding')

Bookslinger said...

Paul S:

Joseph was intelligent/smart, but he was not schooled beyond the basics, not very literate, and not scholarly.

Go to JeffLindsay.com and look up "vast frontier library" (or search for "vast fronteir library" on this blog) to find all the works that a modern author of the Book of Mormon would have had to have studied in order to get so many "hits" on middle east geography, ancient history (both ancient Amer-Indian and Near Eastern), and hebraisms.

Then we have to believe all those books were physically located in libraries within travel distance of Joseph, or that he borrowed them through the mail or whatever book-lending arrangements existed.

And, that he read them all, and remembered key parts in which to insert in the Book of Mormon.

Then, add to that the things in the Book of Mormon that no one could have known at the time, that have been discovered since its publication, such as certain Hebrew names.

I think it's obvious from the complexity and internal consistency of the Book of Mormon that Joseph could not have concocted it on the fly as he dictated it to Oliver. The chiasmus alone indicates premeditation.

If Joseph (and/or others) concocted the Book of Mormon, he would have had to have written it out beforehand, and then either read it to Oliver (and parts to the other scribes before him), or have had it memorized and recited it to Oliver (and the other scribes.)

Or, else he just gave Oliver the pre-written manuscript, and Oliver was in on the deception. The surviving fragments of the original -and- the surviving printer's copy are in Oliver's handwriting. So we know Oliver wrote it out twice.

I think the complexity and consistency of it all is too much to assume that Joseph had his concoction memorized and then dictated from memory to Oliver. So if the BoM was a modern creation, someone had to have written it out beforehand (before Oliver wrote his two copies).

So I'm left to conclude, if Joseph Smith made it all up, then :

1) Oliver and the other 10 witnesses, plus the inner circle (Sidney, et. al.) were in on the deception.

2) Joseph was not just intelligent, but extremely well-read and knowledgable about near east geography, facets of ancient Amer-Indian culture, Hewbrew culture, and hebraism.

3) And since those, both outside and inside his family, who knew him, knew that he was not well-schooled or well-read in all those subjects, he must have had outside help in concocting the Book of Mormon.`

Paul Senzee said...

Bookslinger said:
Joseph was intelligent/smart, but he was not schooled beyond the basics, not very literate, and not scholarly.

Consider that Abraham Lincoln, Smith's contemporary, had less schooling than Joseph -- about a year's worth of classes. He was largely and successfully self-educated. Not only did Lincoln become probably the US's greatest president to date, but he was also one of America's great writers.

In Joseph's case, compare Joseph Smith's journals from Summer 1832 against, say D&C 88:45 (Dec 27, 1832):

"for I learned in the scriptures that God was the same yesterday to day and forever that he was no respecter to persons for he was God for I looked upon the sun the glorious luminary of the earth and also the moon rolling in their magesty through the heavens and also the stars shining in their courses and the earth also upon which I stood and the beast of the field and the fowls of heaven and the fish of the waters and also man walking forth upon the face of the earth in magesty and in the strength of beauty whose power and intiligence in governing the things which are so exceding great"

Here he appears to be quite capable of literate activity, even in journaling.

Bookslinger said: Then we have to believe all those books were physically located in libraries within travel distance of Joseph, or that he borrowed them through the mail or whatever book-lending arrangements existed.

To produce the BoM, I don't think he needed a vast library; certainly he needed the Bible, likely not even the apocrypha. No doubt he was somewhat versed in the popular mound-builder fiction of the day, and probably the well-known revivalist sermons such as Edwards' Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.

Bookslinger said: And, that he read them all, and remembered key parts in which to insert in the Book of Mormon.

Like I alluded to, except for portions of the Bible (Isaiah, Matthew), I don't really think he plagiarized for the BoM.

Bookslinger said: I think it's obvious from the complexity and internal consistency of the Book of Mormon that Joseph could not have concocted it on the fly as he dictated it to Oliver. The chiasmus alone indicates premeditation.

I don't think this is obvious. I don't think that the BoM is inordinately complex or internally consistent. Moreover, I don't think that the translation/dictation model we're that all familiar with is the whole story.

Bookslinger said: 1) Oliver and the other 10 witnesses, plus the inner circle (Sidney, et. al.) were in on the deception.

That's certainly a possibility, or were deceived themselves, or merely "saw by faith." There's a fair amount of equivocation on whether the three witnesses they saw the plates with their physical eyes or 'spiritual eyes'. One thing that's certain is that there is an utter lack of archeological evidence at Hill Cumorah.

Bookslinger said: 2) Joseph was not just intelligent, but extremely well-read and knowledgable about near east geography, facets of ancient Amer-Indian culture, Hewbrew culture, and hebraism.

I think this is overreaching. From an outsider's perspective, especially of ancient indigeneous American culture, it appears (from a modern scientific/historic perspective) that in geographical, archeological, agricultural, genetic terms that the BoM is pretty far off the mark. For more info, look at Criticism of the Book of Mormon on Wikipedia.

My own doubts about the Book of Mormon began as I read it so often in my mission. They were the typical observations: the word-for-word anachronistic prophecies, the KJV Isaiah chapters, the segments of Matthew, horses and steel, etc.

Bookslinger said...

"From an outsider's perspective, especially of ancient indigeneous American culture, it appears (from a modern scientific/historic perspective) that in geographical, archeological, agricultural, genetic terms that the BoM is pretty far off the mark. For more info, look at Criticism of the Book of Mormon on Wikipedia."

That's just not true. There is no scientific or archeological evidence that disproves the Book of Mormon.

There is a _lack_ of evidence that would prove _some_ of the things in the Book of Mormon, but absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. The argument that lack of _sufficient_ probative evidence
disproves the Book of Mormon is laughable, since the geographical areas that have been archeologically studied are such a miniscule portion of the entire hemisphere, or even of Mesoamerica in particular.

On the other hand, more and more things are found that _do_ support plausibility of the Book of Mormon.

Ancient barley has been found. Cities fortified by embankments and pallisades have been found. Both of those support the Book of Mormon, since no evidence of pallisade use was known until long after publication of the Book of Mormon.

Pallisades and barley were used a _long time_ to attack the Book of Mormon. But now that they've been discovered, that attack is no longer valid.

So that leads me to believe that there will be future discoveries that further lend plausibility to the Book of Mormon.

Horse statuary of BoM times has also been found. (And horse bones have also NOT been found in other known horse-using cultures as as the Mongols.)

The issue of steel has been dealt with too. You just refuse to accept plausible explanations or explanations of plausibility.

Hebraisms, Hebraic sentence structure, names that were not known to be Hebrew prior to publication, are more evidence of plausibility.

The fact is that antis continue to use sweeping unproven generalizations such as your quote above, and you conveniently ignore or dismiss all the rejoinders.

To use archeology to discredit the Book of Mormon is to assume that _everything_ is known about _all_ ancient inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere.

Paul Senzee said...

Bookslinger: There is no scientific or archeological evidence that disproves the Book of Mormon.

I'd probably agree with that. If it did definitively and finally disprove it, we'd all just have to accept it and move on, right? But then, there would be those who would still defend it. But what about the Book of Abraham?

There are so many things in the BoM at odds with our modern understanding of the pre-Columbian Americas. It's not just archaeology. It's geography, geology, it's linguistics, genetics, history. There are also things in the BoM like nearly verbatim King James Version quoting of sections of the Bible, some of which hadn't yet been written, and in some cases including translation errors from that version.

Bookslinger: On the other hand, more and more things are found that _do_ support plausibility of the Book of Mormon.

I think it's going the other way. Certainly the recent DNA discoveries have been one of the more serious challenges for the historicity of the Book of Mormon. Another relatively recent discovery is that the chapters of Isaiah quoted in the BoM are widely believed to have been authored after Lehi would have left for the new world.

Bookslinger: The fact is that antis continue to use sweeping unproven generalizations such as your quote above..

Historical Authenticity of the Book of Mormon: The question of the historical authenticity of the Book of Mormon has long been a source of contention between members of the Latter Day Saint movement and non-members. Many, but not all, Mormons hold the book's connection to ancient American history as an article of their faith. However, this view finds no acceptance outside of Mormonism. The theory that the Book of Mormon is an ancient American history is considered to fall outside academic credibility.

This isn't antis in particular. This is the outside world with no axe to grind against Mormons. The Smithsonian rejected it, the Community of Christ (RLDS) no longer recognizes it as of divine origin. Even B.H. Roberts himself eloquently stated most of the principle problems with the Book of Mormon.

Bookslinger: .. and you conveniently ignore or dismiss all the rejoinders.

Many of the rejoinders simply aren't convincing, and come across as grasping at straws. If something strikes me as probable, I'll accept it, if it strikes me as unlikely, I probably won't. There are many aspects of the BoM that strike other people as strange/unlikely (such as the use of the word Adieu) that don't bother me at all.

Justifying the position that the Book of Mormon is what it claims to be requires so many explanations (hundreds?) from apologists because the apparent weight of evidence is against it. It requires that apologists go toe-to-toe with experts in dozens of fields.

Yet only one single explanation is truly necessary and it explains everything: the Book of Mormon is fiction.

Mormography said...

Paul Senzee you have valiantly stood up to and clearly responded to the supposed rejoinders of Bookslinger. It appears it is Bookslinger that has ”conveniently ignore or dismiss all the rejoinders“.

The canon clearly states that the small plates solution prevents evil conspirators from fraudulently changing the 116 pages in order to contradict the Book of Mormon translation. This is flat out wrong. Neither FAIR, Mormanity, nor Bookslinger dispute that the evil conspirators could indeed have made the 116 pages to contradict any part of the Book of Mormon. This undisputed fact brings into question Bookslinger’s assessment that the Book of Mormon contains “internal consistency”. According to Mormanity acknowledgement of this fact leads to the assessment of the “stupidity of the Book of Mormon story”, his words, not mine.

http://mormanity.blogspot.com/2012/08/imagination-secret-and-often-missing.html?showComment=1346361790393#c1660101757581569151

Mormography said...

FAIR has updated its rebuttal here: "It is easy, as this demonstrates, to spin theories about what 'should have' or 'would have' happened in the complete absence of any evidence. That the 116 pages existed cannot be doubted. Everything besides that is speculation."

It appears FAIR has taken my advice and gone for the that-was-never-official-doctrine defense. However, this defense essentially leads to declaring Doctrine and Covenants 10 (DC10) not canon and nothing more than uninspired speculation. Removing from the canon is not unprecedented (linked here)

It is impossible to never be wrong when the goal post can move at will. Canon can be added and removed at will and the definition of truth claims can change with the prevailing thought. The miracle of modern revelation.

The only question is who has the power to remove canon. It appears FAIR believes it has that power.