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

Friday, October 30, 2015

Did Joseph Use a Bible?

In discussions of Book of Mormon translation, many assume that Joseph must have turned to the KJV when quoting relevant passages. However, multiple witnesses of the translation process report that his dictation was done entirely by using the hat method, with his face in a hat to look at whatever he saw on the seer stone, making it impossible to read from a book or manuscript. None of the many witnesses reported the use of a Bible. These witnesses weren't all LDS conspirators, either. One was non-LDS, Michael Morse, Emma Smith's brother-in-law, who stated:
When Joseph was translating the Book of Mormon [I] had occasion more than once to go into his immediate presence, and saw him engaged at his work of translation. The mode of procedure consisted in Joseph's placing the Seer Stone in the crown of a hat, then putting his face into the hat, so as to entirely cover his face, resting his elbows upon his knees, and then dictating word after word, while the scribes Emma, John Whitmer, O. Cowdery, or some other wrote it down." (W.W. Blair interview with Michael Morse, Saints Herald, vol. 26, no. 12 (June 15, 1879), pp. 190-91.)
This needs to be considered in discussions on Book of Mormon origins.

Update, Nov 1, 2015: More Things to Keep in Mind, Including the "Good Enough" Theory for KJV Use

I appreciate the many efforts from commenters here to propose theories for how Joseph did the translation of the Book of Mormon, or more specifically, the dictation of the text. Proposing plausible theories for Book of Mormon creation is tough work if one cares to consider the relevant evidence. Some creative and interesting efforts have been offered here, and I thank my readers for at least taking the steps of engaging some of the evidence.

Given the similarities between the KJV text and the Book of Mormon, it has been natural for people in and out of the Church, myself included, to assume that there must have been direct usage of the Bible at least for the longer quoted passages. But upon further reflection, I don't think my previous assumptions fit what we understand about the translation. Here are some key points:

1. The translation took place with a high degree of transparency. Participants and visitors were able to observe the work taking place. Dr. Royal Skousen emphasized this point in his review of the witnesses to the translation in his recently recorded presentation at a Mormon Interpreter forum.

2. Not a single observer indicates anything other than direct dictation from Joseph. They raise no hint of any possibility of a manuscript that he was reading from.

3. Nobody reported that he was using a Bible for the frequent passages based on the KJV. It was just straight dictation, as far as we know.

4. While there would be no shame in using a Bible to reduce the work burden and the possibility of copying errors for those passages that are explicitly quoted from the Old Testament, such as entire chapters of Isaiah, the possibility of using a Bible or any other book is contrary to witness observations, and was explicitly denied by Emma, as she described some of her early work as a scribe:

Q — [Joseph Smith III]. What is the truth of Mormonism?
A — [Emma]. I know Mormonism to be the truth; and believe the church to have been established by divine direction. I have complete faith in it. In writing for your father I frequently wrote day after day, often sitting at the table close by him, he sitting with his face buried in his hat, with the stone in it, and dictating hour after hour with nothing between us.
Q —. Had he not a book or manuscript from which he read, or dictated to you?
A —. He had neither manuscript or book to read from.
Q —. Could he not have had, and you not know it?
A. — If he had anything of the kind he could not have concealed it from me.
Q. — Could not father have dictated the Book of Mormon to you, Oliver Cowdery and the others who wrote for him, after having first written it, or having first read it out of some book?
A. — Joseph Smith could neither write nor dictate a coherent and wellworded letter; let alone dictating a book like the Book of Mormon. And, though I was an active participant in the scenes that transpired, . . . it is marvelous to me, “a marvel and a wonder,” as much so as to any one else. (Edmund C. Briggs, “A Visit to Nauvoo in 1856,” Journal of History (Jan. 1916): 454; cited in Russell M. Nelson, "A Treasured Testament," Ensign 23 no. 7 (July 1993), 62.)
5. While many KJV verses are present verbatim, there are also frequent modifications, some subtle but profound. For example, the change of a "that" to a "when" in Isaiah 2:2 as quoted in 2 Nephi 12:2 introduces an apparent unnecessary error in English, but upon further inspection, it may be a beautiful example of a Hebraism (of a sort found in a variety of other places in the Book of Mormon) that actually enhances the significance of Isaiah 2:2 as applied to the context of the Restoration. It's the deep and subtle "mistake" that might suggest advanced Hebrew skills from its author, or yet another brilliantly lucky blunder from Joseph. See "Was Joseph Smith Smarter Than the Average Fourth Year Hebrew Student? Finding a Restoration-Significant Hebraism in Book of Mormon Isaiah" by Paul Y. Hoskisson in Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture (MormonInterpreter.com). There are many "errors" of this sort which can be readily dismissed as an error by those with eyes tuned to faults, but which can be sources of enhanced understanding and respect for those who are willing to look and see further.

6. Some of the alleged mistakes from the KJV that have entered into the Book of Mormon text are not necessarily errors, or if errors, may have been introduced by scribes rather than from revelation. This may be the case for the Red Sea questions, both with the introduction of "Red" in the quotation of Isaiah 9:1 (see also FairMormon on this issue), and in the Red Sea versus Reed Sea debate). I'll discuss this more fully in an upcoming post, "Feeling Blue Over the Red Sea?"

7. The Bible-related passages are not due to simple lifting of KJV text. Again, there are many subtle differences, and not just in the passages rendered in italics in many KJV printings. So what was the process in applying KJV language to the Book of Mormon?

8. In addition to the evidence from witnesses, including at least one non-LDS witness, of a translation process that precluded the use of any text or book for the dictated text that was given at a prodigious rate, the allegation of Joseph's direct use of a KJV Bible faces a further impediment: What Bible? There is no evidence that Joseph owned one as he was doing the translation, and an important piece of evidence suggesting he did not. After the Book of Mormon was completed and the typesetting was underway, he began his work of rendering an "inspired translation" of the Bible by taking an important first step: buying a Bible. Here I quote from a page at FAIRMormon.org:

There is no evidence that Joseph owned a Bible during the Book of Mormon translation

The difficult financial circumstances of Joseph's family during the Book of Mormon translation are well known.[8] There is no evidence that Joseph owned a Bible during the Book of Mormon translation.[9] In fact, Oliver would later purchase a Bible for Joseph, who used it in producing his revision of the Bible (which became known as the Joseph Smith Translation). This purchase occurred on 8 October 1829, from the same printer that was then setting the type for the already-translated Book of Mormon.[10] Why would Joseph, poor as he was, get a Bible if he already owned one?

But How Could God Allow Mortal Error in His Work?

Skousen and others have concluded that Joseph dictated the text, including the KJV excerpts, through revelation. If that were the case, how could there be mistakes that were conveyed in that process? How could the Lord pass up on the opportunity to correct the KJV and render a perfect translation ready for peer review that would finally impress and convince our harshest critics?

The theory that makes the most sense to me is that the KJV text is relied on as a general rule, for it is the language of scripture, and passages from the Bible are used verbatim or nearly so when they are good enough. Good enough for what? Good enough for the Lord's work, which is directed at saving souls, not impressing those who are looking for faults. So the language we are familiar with is used, even when it is not the most scholarly way of handling the ancient Hebrew text, as long as it is "good enough." So if a poetic passage from Isaiah refers to prancing satyrs in the KJV but some modern scholars think he might have meant goats, since this is a relatively inconsequential issue, the translation sticks with the KJV satyrs. Sorry, goat lovers. Likewise, when 3 Nephi 12:22 keeps the KJV's untranslated Aramaic word "Raca" instead of rendering an unavoidably debatable translation of this word, for which a correct translation is presently unknown apart from its obvious meaning, based on the context, of conveying contempt, Raca is clearly "good enough" for conveying doctrine, but those looking to find fault will cry fowl, or rather, Raca.

How could God allow errors or imperfections to creep into His holy word? In case you haven't noticed, nearly every aspect of every volume of scripture we have has involved human hands and minds. This includes understanding what was said or what happened in the first place, writing it or speaking it, transmitting it in various ways, translating it, editing it, copying it again and again, and printing it. And then comes the reading and interpretation thereof. Each step has the possibility of human error. There is complexity on every page of scripture, as there is in each life. Error is a reality, one that greatly worried the original authors of the Book of Mormon text, but those errors seem to be in minor matters, while the divine power of the text provides a clear and persistent signal about the divinity of Christ and the reality of the Restoration, in spite of its human errors and "good enough" elements.

In fact, nearly everything God does in His church, both ancient and modern, has involved human agents who are prone to error. He gives us the chance to grow by being involved in His work and having responsibility, but that comes at the price of imperfection. Quite unreliable. A real mess! In terms of the standards of modern scholars, it's all completely unacceptable.

If only He'd just come down and do all the speaking, writing, translating, and typesetting Himself (which should be trivially easy--I mean, He claims to be omnipotent, right?). Then we could have a reliable record at last, one that could be properly reviewed and critiqued in light of the latest scholarship.  Why not, unless He has something to hide? But frankly, hiding seems to be the modus operandi here--everything from His physical presence right down to the alleged golden plates.

Of course, it's not just a definitive written record that we will need for review. We must also require that He regularly subject Himself to scientific inquisition and peer review by leading scholars and highly credentialed skeptics to assess His works, His belief systems and social policies, and His suitability as Lord and God. When appropriate, these review panels would also hold Him accountable for past errors. If only He would meet these reasonable demands, then maybe we'd be willing to seriously consider His claims, right? And with the proper certifications and consensus from peer review, He may even have shot at being worshiped. Conceivable, anyway.

Hmm, when it comes to gaining the admiration of critics, the Book of Mormon will always be between a Raca and a hard place. 

Coming back to reality, God's marvelous work and wonder in the Book of Mormon is not about winning over critics with no need for faith and contemplation on their part. For those who want faults, they are there. Satyrs instead of goats. Raca untranslated. Red Sea, not Reed. Archaic words in Isaiah maintained instead of being updated. There's a boatload of fun for those whose goal is to mock, with remarkable evidences of Semitic origins and divine influence for those willing to consider the possibility and exercise faith, or at least an open mind.

So how did Joseph do the translation? With a manuscript from Solomon Spaulding in one hand and a Bible in the other? Behind a screen with a host of documents he could rifle through to find one phrase or concept at a time? With a team of scholars, a vast frontier library, and the latest maps of Arabia from European presses? Or was it by rapid fire dictation to scribes (completely unnecessary if an original text was available), creating text far faster than most modern translators and authors do, with his head in a hat striving to see whatever a seer sees when gazing into a seer stone, relying on scribes to correctly hear and record his words by hand, giving us an imperfect text filled that continues to surprise and bless those willing to give it a chance nearly 200 years later? As for me, I continue to be surprised and blessed, and encourage you to give it a chance.


Quantumleap42 said...

It's easy to say Joseph just copied passages from the Bible, but a comparison of passages in the BoM and the Bible shows significant variations. The presence of the variations demonstrates that they didn't just copy the Bible, because if they did the number of variations would be much, much smaller. These variations are also not random, as you would expect if someone was reciting the passages from memory. As indicated by the quote from Michael Morse, Joseph could not have been working from a prepared text. The presence of the variations also indicates that neither Joseph nor Oliver went back afterwards and "corrected" the text between the initial transcription and the publication. They left it, variations and all.

Orbiting Kolob said...

It's easy to say Joseph just copied passages from the Bible...

Indeed it is, because that is the most straightforward explanation for the evidence, and something we are all familiar with from experience. The "presence of variations" does not change this a whit, for even when copying is not perfect, it is still copying.

For those of us not predisposed to accept "God did it" as an explanation, the presence of KJV wording in the BoM is ipso facto evidence of copying, regardless of whether that copying is perfect or whether there are any recorded witnesses to it.

The evidence for the 19th-century origins of the BoM is overwhelming and decisive. Everything needed to compose it was present in 1820s New England.

Anonymous said...

What also needs to be considered is that all of the witnesses were related to either the Smith or the Whitmer family and that all the signatures to their witness were made by a single hand.


Anonymous said...

"The evidence for the 19th-century origins of the BoM is overwhelming and decisive. Everything needed to compose it was present in 1820s New England."

The evidence for 19th century origins is no where near decisive according to most experts on the Book of Mormon.


flying fig said...

Dead body with a knife in the back.
Police investigator #1: What have we got here? Okay, this person was stabbed in the back with a knife.
Police investigator #2: But we have witnesses who say he was not stabbed in the back.
Police investigator #1: I'm standing here looking at a knife in this person's back, it's right here, see for yourself!
Police investigator #2: Are you sure it's a knife? Because the witnesses say...no knife
Police investigator#1: Are you telling me you don't see a knife in this person's back??
Police investigator#2: Yeah, I see the knife, but I've been told there wasn't one so I just don't believe it

flying fig said...

"relevant passages"

Jeff, are there not KJV translation errors and added italicized words also found in the BoM? Why only mention "relevant passages"?

Anonymous said...

If it was a lie or hoax it would have eventually unraveled.

It has been proven that there are multiple authors in the Book of Mormon, and if read carefully some of the authors can be differentiated.


Anonymous said...

OK: "The evidence for the 19th-century origins of the BoM is overwhelming and decisive. Everything needed to compose it was present in 1820s New England." Wrong.
ff: "Jeff, are there not KJV translation errors and added italicized words also found in the BoM? Why only mention "relevant passages"?" Inaccurate and misleading. Please supply verses for "errors".

Orbiting Kolob said...

Anon, please remember that I qualified my comments with the words For those of us not predisposed to accept "God did it" as an explanation.

Obviously, experts who are also LDS, and are thus predisposed to accept "God did it" as an explanation, disagree with non-LDS scholars. Something very similar is true when it comes to creationism. LDS apologetics these days is in fact little better than creationism, and in the academic world has pretty much the same status.

Anonymous said...

O. Kolob, you can't simply chalk it up to bias. Mormon scholars are the real experts on the Book of Mormon. Non-Mormon scholars haven't come close to doing the kind of work on the BoM that LDS scholars have done. That said, yes, there is most certainly a bias on the part of LDS scholars. But there is no less of a bias on the part of those scholars who believe the BoM to be a work of fiction, most of whom enter the discussion with that assumption firmly in place.

Anon, Maybe the "body" fell from the balcony of a high-rise after he was stabbed in the back. Metaphors can be too narrow or misplaced if we don't know all the facts -- and sometimes even if we *do* know all the facts.


everythingbeforeus said...

Okay Anon. Maybe the best approach is to enter this debate without any assumptions in place at all. What conclusion do you think a person like that would come away with?

Your own church leaders have declared that the ONLY way to know if the book is what it claims to be is to pray about it. Thus, the ONLY way a person like that is going to join your camp is if he/she engages in an unscholarly approach.

In my opinion, it is oxymoronic to call anyone who accepts and researches the book as an authentic ancient record a "scholar."

Orbiting Kolob said...

ETBU nails it in the comment above.

I have no problem with anyone who says their spiritual experience -- testimony, prayer, whatever -- has led them to believe in the historicity of the BoM. There are plenty of people who say exactly this, and who see no need to use a secular, materialist methodology to defend their belief. They know that a leap of faith is exactly that: a leap of faith. They are honest and upfront about the primacy of the spiritual in their belief system. They are secure enough in their belief that they don't need to shore it up with the cultural authority of secular scholarship. Their faith is enough.

But: if the chain of reasoning leading up to a conclusion is ultimately grounded in such a spiritual experience -- that is, if nonbelievers cannot find such an argument persuasive without themselves having such a spiritual experience -- then you don't get to dignify that reasoning with the word "scholarship."

Anyone who has ever said "Ultimately, it's a matter of my religious faith/testimony" is admitting that it's not a matter of scholarship.

Scholarship is a communal enterprise. It is conducted by people of all faiths and of no faith. Biologists who are Mormon, Muslim, and atheist can all put their names on the same scientific paper, precisely because, as scholars, they leave their varying spiritual experiences out of the conclusions they draw from the evidence. As people, they have very different spiritual commitments, often contradictory spiritual commitments. But as scholars they have a shared commitment to methodological naturalism as the foundation of their research. The minute that one of them says "Hey, guys, I know the evidence and the argument look compelling to you, but my faith leads me to draw a very different conclusion," that one is kicked off the team, for the simple reason that he is no longer conducting biological research.

Sure, the believer can be a "scholar" in their other work, in whatever work remains unaffected by their faith. This is why we can all agree that there are plenty of Mormon scholars who believe in the BoM. But you cannot call their BoM arguments "scholarship." Skousen's textual editing of the BoM is scholarship. But his arguments about the historicity of the book, however much they draw on his scholarship, are not scholarship, because those arguments ultimately depend on his religious faith. His religious faith affects the way he interprets the evidence, it affects the question of the burden of proof, etc. It's not just a matter of first premises, it's something that influences the argument at several levels.

And please, everyone, spare us those silly arguments about how secular scholarship is itself grounded in some ultimate metaphysic. Of course it is. This observation is trivial, and irrelevant. It's irrelevant because the secular metaphysical groundings of scholarship -- most notably, its rejection of "God did it" as an explanation -- are part of the very definition of scholarship. If an explanation of an observed material phenomenon is "God did it," it ain't scholarship.

Again I would point to the special pleading or double standard used by LDS apologists. As people, and often as scholars, when they are thinking about virtually every other area of human inquiry, these apologists accept the secular assumptions and methods of genuine scholarship. But when the topic is the historicity of their scriptures, they make an exception. An LDS film scholar doesn't need a testimony to be persuaded of the influence of Holinshed on Shakespeare. Methodological naturalism works just fine. Ditto for the efficacy of an experimental drug, the construction of an electric car, the history of Italian nationalism, you name it. But when the question is 19th-century influence on the Book of Mormon, all that goes out the window.

James Anglin said...

Certainly not all of the Book of Mormon is copied from the Bible. But some passages are almost perfect copies of the King James Version. Are there any witness statements saying that Smith had no Bible at hand while those particular KJV passages were dictated?

If Smith were really getting a revelation from God, then he might well have used the same procedure for the entire Book of Mormon, because that was what God wanted. But if Smith were committing fraud, there's no reason at all to expect that he used only one procedure and never varied. If Smith and at least one of his scribes were dishonest, then they might very well have made a point of producing the Bible-copying passages while no-one else was looking, and then ostentatiously sticking to the face-in-hat spiel whenever an outsider showed up to watch the act.

If someone really reported Smith reeling off long chunks of Isaiah, with his face in the hat and no Bible in sight, then that might say something about this point. At least it would make me wonder how good Smith was at memorizing texts. But just to say that, on some random occasions, there was no Bible present — that tells me nothing.

The face-in-hat routine makes the Bible passages weirder, anyway. If Smith had really been poring over the golden plates directly, in sequential order, and if the plates just happened to quote long chunks of the Bible, then okay, he'd just have been translating what he found on the plates, whatever it was. But apparently what actually happened was that Smith had his face in his hat, looking at a seer stone, with the plates out of sight. So on that scenario, it seems to me that God must be choosing what texts to reveal to Joseph, and in what order. God didn't just reveal everything on the plates — some of them were kept sealed. So if God is picking and choosing what to reveal to Joseph, why would God reveal again stuff that was already in the Bible, and in the very same words?

It would actually make more sense, to me, if God had said to Joseph at that point, "I'm skipping this part — it's just chapters X and Y from Isaiah again." And if Smith had said, "God told me that, so I went to my Bible and copied in the passages God mentioned," then I'd have had less concern about these passages being in the Book of Mormon. Whereas it seems as though he put out the Book of Mormon, with long chunks from the Bible in it, and made no comment on that fact. That I find weird.

Quantumleap42 said...


First off, you are using a rather strange definition of "faith" which essentially boils down to, "That which cannot be known through experience, observation or reason." Essentially you are assuming that "faith", and anything "known through faith" is something for which there is no evidence, no rational argument and just "is". It is somewhat equivalent to Robert Heinlein's concept "grok". Without reason and evidence you try to drive a wedge between "faith" (according to your definition) and reason. According to your definition, where ever faith goes, reason and scholarship must leave. But I know that is false from personal experience, and by the experience of so many other faithful scholars.

Anyway, what is fundamental to Skousen's scholarship regarding the historicity of the BoM is that at no point does he he say, "This is the correct interpretation because I had a spiritual experience." His, and so many other LDS scholars, arguments are based on sound scholarship, the methods of which are recognized by others. It is the nature of the scholarly world, and the world in general, that even with excellent scholarship others do not instantly accept the conclusions. So without evidence you claim that Skousen's conclusions fall in the realm of "faith" (your definition), and not scholarship, in order to satisfy your own bias conclusions.

Anonymous said...

Not sure if I'm the "Anon" that some were responding to. I always try to sign the name "Jack" at the bottom of my anonymous comments. But if it was me -- remember that part of my argument is that, regardless of bias, LDS scholars are way, way ahead of anyone else on Book of Mormon studies. So, if there's going to be an automatic disqualification of that body of study because of bias then I would assume that it should only be fair that those who have a different bias ought to produce the same level of scholarship on the subject before they, with a mere wave of the hand, reject the rather immense canon that has been produced be believing scholars.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and I forgot to sign the name "Jack" in the above comment.


Anonymous said...

"But if Smith were committing fraud, there's no reason at all to expect that he used only one procedure and never varied."

I, personally, have no problem with Joseph Smith using the Bible in an inspired translation process. I could imagine him coming upon a certain passage and saying, "wait a minute! I know this passage" and then grabbing a Bible and translating from there, making a few adjustments as per inspiration. In fact, one could almost make the claim that he would have been tempting God had he not used the most practical means at hand.

That said, this approach would only be practical in the more extensive quotations such as the Isaiah chapters and so forth. There are many other snippets of the KJV peppered throughout the text that seem to reflect a natural dialect of sorts on the part of the translator (which in itself is an amazingly intuitive gift on the part of Joseph even if he were making up the whole thing -- something to be reckoned with as per Harold Bloom).


everythingbeforeus said...

The idea that Smith saw familiar passages in the BoM and then just picked up his Bible to copy them doesn't hold up because he'd have no idea of when to stop the copying. Also, he'd be taking a bit of a risk. How could he be sure that what seemed like a familiar passage was indeed the same as the Bible text from start to finish. Either way, he'd have to consult the BoM to make sure of where to stop copying and to make sure it was indeed completely the same as the Bible's passage. Therefore, it would be far easier for him just to use the stone and copy it all down that way, not bothering to consult the Bible OR the plates.

Really, if the text was scrolling across the stone like the live Twitter feed during the Republican debates, why would he bother to ever consult anything?

Anonymous said...

Well, Everything, it may have happened just as you suggest -- and there are LDS scholars who tack that tack. I have no problem with that approach myself, if it is, indeed, the way it happened. As for using a Bible, I'm just saying that I'm open to the possibility. And the problem of knowing when to start or stop, I think, is easily remedied if there is revelation involved in the process.


Quantumleap42 said...

As I mentioned in my first comment, if you look at the variations between Isaiah in the BoM and the corresponding passages in the Bible, the differences indicate that neither Joseph nor any of his scribes used the Bible since the variations are too numerous and not the type you would expect if someone was transcribing from one text to another. I don't have any hard numbers off hand but there are some systematic differences in the italicized text, though the variations only affect about 1/3 of the italicized text. Other variations include entire phrases or shifting sentences around that would not happen if Joseph or the scribes were copying straight from the Bible. There are also a very small number ( < 5) of variations that are obviously from dictation (e.g. "raiment" vs. "remnant", try saying the two words out loud with a New England accent, also "Son" and "sun"). The fact that those variations remained indicate that neither Joseph nor his scribes went back after the fact and compared the Isaiah passages to the Bible in order to correct them. Which is something you would expect if they used the Bible at any point.

everythingbeforeus said...


What role do YOU think the seerstone played? You can't deny the seerstone now that the church has released pictures of it.

So God, through the power of revelation, brings forth the Book of Mormon on a stone (and it isn't just scholars that propose this theory...check out the October Ensign), and when time comes for portions of Isaiah to be transmitted on the stone, God then reveals to Joseph Smith that he can put the stone down and just pick up the Bible, and it'll be revealed when exactly to stop copying.

This story just keeps becoming crazier and crazier. And crazier! But I don't laugh, because this isn't funny at all. It is quite sad. This book just NEEDS to be true, doesn't it?

Orbiting Kolob said...

Jack, my point is not that a scholar cannot also be a believer; it's about whether a particular instance of their work qualifies as genuine scholarship (as opposed to apologetics).

Royal Skousen is a believer and a scholar, and his great work of textual editing, The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text, is genuine scholarship. But note the way he limits himself in that work to claims that do not depend on any preexisting religious faith -- as, to cite just one of many examples, he refers in his introduction to "Joseph Smith's claim that as he was praying in his bedroom ... an angel appeared" (my italics). Had Skousen written of the First Vision using language that took its authenticity for granted, his book would have never passed peer review and never been published by a legitimate scholarly press (much less such a presitigious one as Yale University Press).

You're right that elsewhere Skousen has argued, on the basis of his textual editing work, for the historicity of the BoM. But have any of those arguments been published in secular, peer-reviewed academic journals? As far as I know, not a one -- they've all been published by FARMs and the like. Why? Because he can't make that argument in a way that is persuasive to editors/reviewers who do not share his faith commitments.

Orbiting Kolob said...

Jack, you write that the problem of knowing when to start or stop, I think, is easily remedied if there is revelation involved in the process.

Well, I suppose so. But think about what you're doing here. Someone has raised a rational objection to your theory, and you've answered that objection by appealing to "revelation," to the actions of a supernatural being who can do anything at all.

This is really no different than what happens when the young-earth creationist is confronted with the facts of radiocarbon dating, and says, "Well, maybe God is manipulating the carbon atoms to make it seem like the earth is billions of years old, in order to impress upon us the importance of faith...."

Once you get in the habit of invoking an omnipotent god as an answer to objections, then there's pretty much no objection at all that you cannot answer. (This is one reason why "God did it" does not fly in genuine scholarship.) To put it another way, there's no way your hypothesis can ever be falsified. You might believe the most ridiculous thing imaginable, and no amount of evidence will persuade you otherwise. And while that might work for you personally, you can't really expect it to be very persuasive to others.

James Anglin said...

Is secular scholarship all about an invincible bias against religious faith?

Well, I think it's true there's not much chance of many non-Mormon scholars ever examining the evidence dispassionately and concluding, "My goodness — Joseph Smith was a true prophet." If mass conversions were going to happen like that, they would have happened already.

But I don't think secular scholars are too biased to conclude something like, "Hmmm. This text really doesn't fit an obvious pattern of fraud very well, because of X, Y, and Z. So whatever it is, it's something strange." I imagine that, if the evidence really did tend that way, then secular scholars would be willing to sign their names to that. Maybe not all, but at least a fair few — if not enough for a consensus, then at least enough for a controversy.

So why aren't Mormon apologists pointing to that kind of controversy among secular scholars? It must not be there to point at. Why not? If the problem is that not enough secular scholars even bother to look at the Book of Mormon, I would think that the LDS church could just buy attention, by offering prizes and research grants. As long as there are no strings attached regarding conclusions, scholars will follow money. You could get quite a lot of scholarly attention for a paltry few million dollars, and if that money established even a scholarly controversy over the Book of Mormon, that ought to be worth a lot for evangelism. From the fact that the church has not already done this, I conclude that the church leadership doubts that enough secular scholars would reach sufficiently non-negative conclusions if they looked at the Book of Mormon.

This isn't a knock-down proof from silence that the Book of Mormon is a fraud. There is still the possibility that the evidence lies in a grey area, where no secular scholar is going to see anything inconsistent with fraud, but believers can still find a leg of some kind on which to stand. That's probably where we are, in fact, I figure.

If that's so, then Mormon apologists can very reasonably try to argue their case, with specific bits of evidence or lines of reasoning. By all means summarize Royal Skousen's arguments; maybe they're good. But I don't see how Mormon apologists can appeal to scholarly authority, saying, "You should believe this because scholar So-and-So said so." If scholarly authority were really on the side of the Book of Mormon, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

James Anglin said...

I think everybody grasps the idea that, if Mormonism is true, then God could have done everything just as Mormons believe. So when critics point out that something seems weird, they're not really insisting that God could not possibly have done it that way.

For me at least, the breaking point comes when a supposedly omnipotent God seems to be spending more omnipotence on excuses than on acts worthy of an omnipotent God. At that point, I'll admit that the theory is still logically self-consistent, but I start to get a hollow feeling, and I think of the beginning of Isaiah 46, which draws the contrast between false gods, whose idols have to be carried with effort by their human worshippers, and the true God, who carries the people.

James Anglin said...

I'm intrigued by the differences QuantumLeap42 mentions between the KJV text and the Book of Mormon parallel passages. How hard have people really looked at these differences?

Is there really a substitution of 'raiment' for 'remnant'?

I believe that could actually happen as a copying error — I make errors like that in typing, sometimes. If you're copying along quickly, your eyes kind of get ahead of your fingers, and you can read 'remnant', then think 'raiment' just as a random association, and wind up writing the word you thought of instead of the word you read.

But it does seem more likely as a dictation error. So how would that have happened? Did Joseph see 'remnant' on the seer stone, and call out 'remnant' in his New England accent, but Oliver mis-heard it as 'raiment', and wrote what he thought he heard? If so, isn't it a little weird that God performs a thousand years worth of miracles to get this ancient text translated, and lets a slip of the tongue screw up the text at the very end?

Or was 'raiment' really what appeared on the seer stone as revelation from God, when 'remnant' is in the KJV? If so, then the Hebrew word which the KJV translators rendered as 'remnant' must have been an error; it should have been the Hebrew word for 'raiment'. God then personally corrected the error for Joseph Smith. But it's rather a fluke that a Hebrew error should happen to be one that English speakers would more easily make.

I'm afraid I find another scenario more plausible. Despite what some eyewitnesses may have said about some occasions, on this other occasion Joseph is dictating from behind a curtain or something, and is surreptitiously reading from the King James Bible. Oliver mis-hears him; but Joseph can't bring the text out to compare, because that would give the game away. He has to let the mistake stand; and there we are.

Anonymous said...


You are revealing more about how you view the process of revelation (generally) than the supposed flaws in one's argument for revelation in the translation process. If Joseph did use a Bible (and I'm not saying that he must have) it probably would have been Joseph himself who recognized the opportunity to use the most practical resources at hand (the bible). This is generally the pattern in revelation. To ask God to do what we are already capable of doing could be an instance of tempting Him.


Of course I'm appealing to revelation. There's no other way (IMO) to explain the existence of the BoM. What I bring to the argument in terms of rationale is the fact that there is not a sufficient rational (naturalistic) explanation for the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.


Anonymous said...

"...isn't it a little weird that God performs a thousand years worth of miracles to get this ancient text translated, and lets a slip of the tongue screw up the text at the very end?"

Not at all. God condescends to work with imperfect people and, therefore, gets imperfect results along the way. But in the end we are all the better for it if we recognize the need to trust Him in spite of the imperfections of His servants.

Orbiting Kolob said...

...there is not a sufficient rational (naturalistic) explanation for the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.

Well, this is really where we disagree.

I don't buy this "argument from impossibility" because I don't see anything in the book that couldn't have been written in the 1820s by Smith or someone like him.

Chiasmus? Anyone familiar with the Bible is familiar with chiasmus (regardless of whether they know the term for it). EModE? Most likely an artifact of Stanford Carmack's poor "Texas sharpshooter" methodology. Nahom? Nehem was right there on widely available maps of Arabia. Etc. It's all there.

Ben Britton said...

i just wanted to throw in some pennies. I'm a faithful Mormon who views our sacred texts as more apocraphal than historical. I know the subject is the BOM, but I wanted to bring up the book of Moses which has included items related to Enoch that would be found in apocraphal texts discovered/translated later than Joseph's work. one oft quoted example is Enoch's nick name of "lad", a term unique to the book of Moses and specifically enoch in Joseph's corpus. This term is the angel's favorite name for Enoch in an apocraphal text, 2nd Enoch I believe, which was definitely unavailable to anyone in 1830/31.

I completely understand some of the commenters's logical appeal to a naturalistic explanation. For the Book of Moses it doesn't look like Joseph is the logical choice as author, even in looking for a completely naturalistic explanation.

The Book of Mormon poses some of the same problems. The history of the rechabites has a very large number of parallels to 1st Nephi, so much so that, had the history of the rechabites already been discovered and translated by 1828/29/30, it would be an obvious point of departure for creating the text of 1st Nephi. However, the text wasn't discovered until the 1870s. Another potentially difficult example is an interaction between the the BOM and the Talmud which I found, where The text of 1st Nephi pretty clearly expands a speech attributed to Caleb in the Talmud. Again the Talmud's translation and availability in English render it highly unlikely that Joseph would have had this information on hand. The point of all this is I don't think Joseph had everything on hand to create the Book of Mormon or the book of Moses. In finding a naturalistic explanation I think we need to look beyond Joseph.

James Anglin said...

@anonymous 11:05:

Sure, God works with imperfect servants; but in this particular case the imperfections and the miracles just seem inconsistent. If a few changed words in Holy Scripture are the kind of imperfection God tolerates, then why would God go to all that trouble to preserve golden plates and Urim and Thummim, and send an angel? Here God is, unleashing the naked power of heaven itself to preserve ancient writings through the ages and restore the pure gospel by revelation to the latter day prophet; it is such a sin, for that prophet to let the holy transcript out of his own possession once, that the missing 116 pages could never be translated again. And yet all that transcendent power and holiness stumbles over Joseph's New England accent? And God lets it stand?

Given the assumptions that God can do whatever God wants, and God's ways are not our ways, then of course, it could conceivably have happened that way. But it's bizarre. Omnipotence is doing too much cleaning up after itself here, it seems to me.

Furthermore, even if God let the scribe write the wrong word, why wouldn't Joseph look over the transcript afterwards and say, "No, you dope: I said 'remnant'!" Being fussy enough to avoid silly typos like that is hard, but it's well within the range of human capability. Think of medieval monks, or Masoretic scribes. People who believe they are transcribing the Word of God take extraordinary care. Why didn't these guys? If they just didn't think enough about the problem, not being professional scribes, then why didn't God, who gave all kinds of elaborate instructions on other topics, issue a few commands about proofreading?

James Anglin said...

I'll second Orbiting Kolob's view, that the Book of Mormon really does not seem at all hard to explain naturalistically. A little cunning and glibness on Smith's part, a little collusion or deception of witnesses and scribes, and there you go. I'm serious — this does not seem like a stretch to me at all. On the contrary, the Mormon apologists' claims that the Book of Mormon is hard to explain all kind of make my head snap. Huh?

Many of their arguments sound like somebody trying to prove that a stage illusionist must have used real magic, because "we all looked, and there was nothing in his hat!" There seems to be this weird inability to think seriously about the possibility that the guy was trying to deceive. Of course there was nothing in the hat: that's why he showed it. The rabbit was in the drawer at that point, and he was deliberately drawing our attention away.

Similarly here: of course some witnesses saw Smith working with no Bible present. If I were sneaking Isaiah into my revelation, I'd hide the Bible, too, and only pull it out when no-one could see. Of course the language of the Book of Mormon is a weird mix of styles that no-one ever naturally spoke: it was made up by a self-educated con-man who was trying to sound archaic, but couldn't nail the King James dialect. Of course a few witnesses made supporting statements: if I were running a con, there's no way I'd let anyone close to the operation who wasn't either a partner in crime, or very easily duped.

Aw, gee: when you take it seriously, the hypothesis of an intelligent con artist turns out to be almost as hard to falsify as the hypothesis of a whimsically omnipotent God. This is the skeptics' point: everything we know about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon is indeed easily consistent with fraud.

James Anglin said...

@Ben Britton:
Can you explain a bit more about Enoch the lad, in the Book of Moses and in this apocryphal book discovered after Joseph Smith's day? From what you say, this actually does sound like the kind of thing that might count as real evidence for the Book of Moses. Not a knock-down proof, because that's just really hard, but the kind of thing that might make any secular scholar have to shrug and admit, "Yeah, that's pretty weird." So I would think that this is the kind of point that Mormon apologists should be making loudly.

Judging from other apologetic arguments that I've seen, however, I'm still holding onto my wallet at this point, on this one. Does it really hold up when you look hard at it? I'd like to see.

Ah, actually I just googled a bit: it's looking wobbly. By searching "enoch lad" I found a page on christianity.stackexchange which has some more detailed discussion, and a link to a doctoral thesis that goes into more detail still. I wouldn't call the stackexchange page anti-Mormon at all; it's a respectful back-and-forth discussion like here, about technical issues. I haven't dug into the topic yet, but it looks as though "Smith could not have known the prior Enoch literature" has weakened into "yes he probably knew it in 1841, through his buddy Alexander Neibaur, but not in 1831". So okay, maybe that ten-year gap turns out to be a strong rock on which to stand firmly. But it's a long way from Smith anticipating something that no-one in the world knew until decades after his death.

everythingbeforeus said...

Enoch shows up frequently in written Masonic lore. That alone isn't an explanation for the 2 Enoch connections with the Book of Moses, because some of the stuff in 2 Enoch isn't in the Masonic writings. But Freeasonry is very much an oral tradition. Things get passed down orally. I do think 2 Enoch is a rather strong bit of evidence on the Mormon side of the argument, but I also think it causes some serious problems, because Enoch plays a big role in occultic systems like Freemasonry and Kabbalah. When one begins investigation, a lot of the "non-traditional-Christian" aspects of Mormonism can be found in the occult. The temple is very much an occultic-infused practice. The doctrines of eternal marriage and eternal progression have connections in alchemy, Kabbalah, Thomas Burgoyne's Hermetic Order of Luxor, etc.

everythingbeforeus said...
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James Anglin said...

That thesis I just mentioned is actually only a Master's Thesis, but it seems at least to be a good place to start for this topic. It's from Durham University, which is a good place.

From what Ben Britton posted I had the idea that Enoch in the Book of Moses anticipated details of the Enoch story that were only found in non-Mormon literature from ancient texts that were first discovered long after Smith's death. (I'm not blaming Ben for saying that — you can read that he didn't say that at all — I'm just saying that this is what I thought of, when I read what he posted.) The actual story is, at the least, a lot messier. It bogs down in speculations about what Sidney Rigdon might or might not have known, in what year, and stuff like that. The facts seem to be that Enoch literature was in fact much more widely accessible at the time than Hugh Nibley realized, and it wouldn't have seemed nearly as wildly esoteric and obscure to people in Smith's circles as it does to us today. Interest in ancient Jewish literature may have been kind of the New Age movement of their day.

My guess is that there's no question at all of it being strictly impossible for Smith to have found a source for his Book of Moses; the debate seems only to be over how likely the scenario would have been. And in the end your verdict probably depends on your assumptions about Smith's character. The efforts that Smith and his friends would have had to have taken to learn about Enoch would probably be ones that no sincere prophet would have made; but if these people were con artists working a line of newly revealed ancient scripture, then of course they would have been on the lookout for just this kind of esoteric material, and would have worked eagerly to pull off something cleverer than anyone would suspect.

flying fig said...

"when you take it seriously, the hypothesis of an intelligent con artist turns out to be almost as hard to falsify as the hypothesis of a whimsically omnipotent God. This is the skeptics' point: everything we know about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon is indeed easily consistent with fraud."

And this is where the character of a man comes into play when suspecting a con. What was Smith doing at this point in his life? He was known as the guy claiming to possess a mystical rock, that for a fee could find buried treasure and lost valuables. But unlike the conversion stories of flawed biblical figures, Smith continues and wholeheartedly defends his treasure finding rock to the point of it becoming the primary translation tool, surpassing tools supposedly given by God specifically for that purpose.
Couple this with the convenience that the golden plates could never be seen and had to be returned when translated, which were never really needed in the first place since all Smith did was his usual rock in the hat routine

To the believing LDS, can you understand why someone might be skeptical of Joseph Smith?

Jeff Lindsay said...

I just added a significant update to this post which addresses some of the interesting comments offered above. James and others--thank you for thinking in detail about how the translation might have been done. I really appreciate that. It's the kind of thinking that the Book of Mormon deserves, but there are some additional considerations I hope you'll add to your sleuthing. It is a fascinating text and the mystery of its origins deserves more than the cursory dismissal most critics give it.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Everything Before Us, your mischaracterization of my faith is seriously offensive. Even slanderous. Utterly disrespectful and immature. I deleted your last way-over-edge comment, the one involving "sex magic" and other slurs. There are other forums for that kind of behavior. Not here, please. Folks here have tried to engage with you respectfully. I'm gravely disappointed by the lack of reciprocation. OK, you hate the Church and think Mormons are idiots. Got it. But you'd do better to share your anger elsewhere.

Quantumleap42 said...

What I think is notable about this discussion is that those who accept Joseph's version of events rely on historical evidence (statements, witnesses, timelines, dates, etc.) or analysis of the text (careful comparisons of variations, comparisons with other translations of the Bible). But those who do not accept angels and gold plates, concoct scenarios independent of evidence, statements by witnesses and realities in the text of the BoM. For their avowed adherence to a naturalistic explanation there is a distinct lack of an empirical approach to their theories.

Orbiting Kolob said...

Hi Jeff -- good of you to drop in. I have a question about Skousen and his publications. The Earliest Text is a solid work of textual scholarship and was published by a respected university press. But this book does not itself argue for the ancient origins of the Book of Mormon. Elsewhere, Skousen does argue for the book's ancient origins, but as far as I know, never in peer-reviewed academic journals, only in venues like The Interpreter etc.

So, am I missing something here? Has Skousen in fact published anything on ancient BoM origins in legitimate scholarly journals? If so, could you let us know about them?

If not, any idea why?

I'm not trying to be cagey here. I'm suggesting that even someone like Skousen -- a brilliant man, thoroughly trained in linguistics and intimately familiar with the Book of Mormon's original text -- cannot find the evidence needed to put together an argument for ancientness that will pass scholarly muster. And if he can't find it, it's probably just not there.

Orbiting Kolob said...

Quantum, what in the world are you saying? Those of us who accept the BoM's 19th-century origins cite all kinds of empirical evidence. To name a few examples:

-- KJV passages in the BoM
-- View of the Hebrews and other texts indicating widespread interest in Native Ameican origins
-- Joseph Smith joining the Masons
-- The Morgan Affair


These are all "hard facts." Sure, we have to speculate about (say) exactly how Smith might have accessed a Bible, but what of that? Apologists engage in plenty of speculation themselves, and necessarily so. No historical argument manages to (or is even expected to) account for every single detail of a historical event, for the simple reason that the historical archive is always incomplete.

Your stress here on empirical evidence seems particularly bizarre considering that apologists feel so free to make text-based arguments about books known to us only in translation. Well, except for the Book of Abraham. In this case we do have the original papyrus, and guess what? It turns out not to be from the hand of Abraham but a common funerary text! But hey, no problem -- the Church simply decides this text is not to be approached empirically! Instead, the apologists start speculating like crazy: maybe the papyri served as a spiritual catalyst, maybe Smith was using "translation" to mean "inspiration," maybe this, maybe that.

Funny how that works.

flying fig said...

"How could God allow errors or imperfections to creep into His holy word? "
Jeff, I appreciate your update and agree with you that God uses our flaws and imperfections to complete his work. I can see how human translators could mess up God's inspired word through the years. The part I have a hard time believing is a perfect God dictating those same errors and imperfections directly back to Smith.
After all, wasn't Smith chosen to bring a restoration of the gospel? To clear up confusion? Why would God then dictate mistranslations and errors to Smith?

everythingbeforeus said...


This historical evidence and analysis that you boast of is geared toward one goal: support the claim that an angel told Smith to dig up a buried book and then Smith used a rock to read what was on that book, which was immediately taken back by the angel.

So, as you can see, you are not the one in this discussion that has the traditional methods of research and analysis on your side, because all your efforts are employed to prove the unprovable. Short of words suddenly showing up again on that rock in Salt Lake City, there is not going to be any solid evidence that finally proves your argument in any objective way. And your leaders have said so. This evidence is never going to turn up.

It is amusing that you accuse the critics of resorting to unempirical approaches when you have been informed by your leaders that there is no such thing available for your testimony.

everythingbeforeus said...
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James Anglin said...

Quantumleap42 has an interesting point: there is a certain imbalance in empirical evidence, between Mormons and skeptics. A Mormon apologist can point to actual contemporary testimony about Joseph Smith dictating for hours on end, without consulting a text. Skeptics can only speculate that, perhaps, at some other time when the witnesses weren't there, Smith sneakily pulled out a Bible. Mormons can point to written statements that Joseph Smith didn't own a Bible, and later had one bought for him. Skeptics can only speculate that, Bibles hardly being extremely rare at the time, Smith may have borrowed a Bible, or had one that he didn't admit to having.

And so it goes. There is a certain amount of empirical evidence in favor of the Mormon version of events. Skeptics are, in contrast, arguing from general principal, about what could in principle have happened, hypothetically. There are no affidavits from 1829 by anyone who walked by Joseph Smith's bedroom window and overheard him chatting with Oliver Cowdery about how they were going to concoct the next Book of Nephi.

Mormons may even feel a certain frustration. When the faithful talk about what could in principle have happened, if God had chosen to do thus-and-so, then the critics are all, "Whoa, you're appealing to faith!" But then when it comes time to producing historical documents, suddenly hypothetical scenarios are all fine and dandy — as long as they put Joseph Smith in the wrong.

The game seems unfair. The thing is, though: it isn't a game. Scientific reasoning and critical thinking aren't about fulfilling the right formal rules so that you're allowed in the club. It's nothing more nor less than meeting the same standards of evidence that would convince you in ordinary business. Would you buy a used car from Joseph Smith? Even if the lot was looking a little sparse and you were getting the idea that he really needed some money?

He could have faked it. Maybe it wouldn't have been easy, but he could have done it. That's the way you have to think, if you're dealing with a con artist. So that's how critics think. It's not unreasonable; it's not unfair, given the premise.

Conversely, of course, faithful Mormons have learned since childhood that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. Just as Jeff says, God Almighty is not in the business of presenting airtight proofs to overawe critics. Why should God do that? God has other priorities. It's not easy, being God.

Between those two viewpoints, is there even any point in discussing? I think there is; but it's not the same kind of discussion that you can have, with someone who shares your assumptions. Perhaps one prerequisite is to acknowledge that the other assumptions do make a difference, and take seriously what it's like to see the whole story from the other side. I think one can genuinely do that, without necessarily accepting the opposite viewpoint as true. But it leads to discussions of a different kind, that don't proceed as if scoring points according to rules that the opposite side doesn't even accept.

Quantumleap42 said...

Orbiting, everything and others,

A minor note: I specifically was commenting on this discussion, but noticing that would require a close reading of the text. In this discussion so far the general approach of those who agree with Joseph Smith's version is to consider statements from witnesses, consider the realities of the text and try to figure out if the evidence matches with what we think happened.

On the other hand I have seen a number of proposed theories presented in these comments about how the BoM is entirely a product of 19th century America, without the least concern if the theories fit with the evidence, or if the evidence presented actually supports that position. For example, mentioning View of the Hebrews is an excellent example of failing to consider if the evidence backs up the theory that the BoM is a modern work. View of the Hebrews at the very least does not support the idea that the BoM is a 19th century work, and at most demonstrates that no one in the 19th century would have even thought of writing anything like the BoM.

The Isaiah passages in the BoM are another excellent example of how the evidence you present does not actually support your position. The Isaiah passages, and the variations, are perhaps a strong indicator that Joseph was using an ancient text that was not the Bible, but at the least demonstrate that he did not just copy the Bible. This is evidence that has not been addressed so far, and demonstrates that many of the translation theories thrown out so far are not established by evidence.

Mentioning the Morgan affair is a good example of "evidence" that has been, or might be presented without establishing whether or not it has anything to do with the translation. Mentioning that Joseph Smith was a freemason is perhaps one that takes the cake. In the scriptures there are many examples of prophecies of future events but I have yet to see an example of a future event determining a past event. Perhaps there is some break through of science of which I am not aware of that allows Joseph Smith joining the Freemasons in 1842 as evidence of for the BoM, translated in 1828-1829, being a modern work.

The point is, there is no serious consideration of whether or not the scant evidence you do present actually supports your position, or even if it can be considered relevant evidence, in the case of the Freemasons.

Then there is the claim that the "historical evidence and analysis that you boast of is geared toward one goal: support the claim that an angel told Smith to dig up a buried book and then Smith used a rock to read what was on that book". This statement is made without seriously considering whether we only consider evidence that leads to that conclusion, or if in fact, the body of evidence points towards that conclusion. You will never know because you fail to consider the evidence.

Dogberry said...

OK, as I have read some of Skousen's writings, he is largely descriptive and avoids being apologetic. Yes, he does in various articles, written mainly for an LDS audience, assume a revealed text, even using the term revealed. It is usually matter-of-factly stated, however, without special emphasis. And that has been the case since the 1990s. So he doesn't get into the debate that such and such shows it's a revealed text as opposed to a text composed by Smith or someone else. He is mainly interested in the internal debate of whether the evidence argues for word-for-word transmission by Smith of a received text, or a text translated by Smith from ideas. The latter has been the dominant paradigm among certain LDS scholars (who have not been linguists), but much evidence is on Skousen's side. (For at least five years Sk has said that he thinks that what JS meant when he used translate was 'transmit' (or 're-transmit') -- also in AofF 9 in relation to the Bible, which is important for a proper understanding of that article.)

Take the simple phrase "the more part", used 23x as "the more part of X" in the earliest text (see Sk's ATV description at pages 2976-79). Would Smith have used it that way and that often if he had been translating from ideas into a quasi-biblical style? Probably not. This obsolete usage occurs only twice in the KJV as "the more part" (Acts 19:32; 27:12), not as the "the more part of X". The BofM has "the more part of them" 7x and "the more part of the people" 5x. It never has simple "the more part". It is likely that some of those 12 instances, had this been bibically derived, would have been the truncated form "the more part". Interestingly, the Coverdale Bible, and no other eModE Bible, has "the more part of them", once. Also, there is one case in the earliest text of "a more part of it", and two cases of "the more parts of the Nephites/his gospel". Both of these are examples of rare eModE usage not found in the modern era ("the more ... the more ..." is different and distinguishable). Loose control is much less likely than tight control with the phrase-type "the more part". Sk doesn't get into whether it was naturalistically possible, even though he could. From the latter point of view, we must say that JS read it either in a reprint of Holinshed's Chronicles (1577) (21 instances of "the more part of them/the people") or in Coverdale, or that he analogized from biblical usage, making it different consistently, and at the same time coincidentally matching rare eModE usage in three instances.

Anonymous said...


Orbiting Kolob said...

Dogberry, try googling "the more part of." I just did, and on the very first page there popped up a book titled The Report of the Commissioners Concerning Charities, which contains the more part of them, the more part of the parisioners, and the more part of the said householders.

It was published in the years 1826-1830.

Just sayin'.

Dogberry said...

That's British legal language from around the year 1700. But I guess Smith might have just googled it, or maybe he was studying old British legal documents, or reading legal treatises/digests that quoted the language. Just sayin'.

Dogberry said...

Actually, the language you mentioned, OK, may originate in Elizabethan era materials, since we often find Elizabethan statutory years associated with this language. You can find a couple scholars using it in the late 19th century. But it really doesn't matter too much, anyway, since there's also "a more part of" and "the more parts of". Moreover, such old language in the text isn't an isolated thing. All of it is mutually supportive.

Orbiting Kolob said...

Dogberry, what I'm trying to show is that, regardless of where such language originated, in the 1820s it was still in circulation, and ergo Joseph and his contemporaries could pick it up. It thus cannot be cited as evidence of something Joseph could not have known.

But it really doesn't matter too much, anyway, since there's also "a more part of" and "the more parts of".


Consider. The phrase Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife originated ca. 1600, but is still in circulation today. So are variations like "You should not covet your neighbor's wife." The use of such variants is a perfectly ordinary thing; why should we attach so much significance to variants such as "a more part of"?

Please remember that we don't acquire language simply by stockpiling words and phrases and repeating them verbatim. There's this thing called "grammar" that we understand unconsciously and that allows us to creatively recombine the lexical units we acquire in new ways. Once I have encountered a phrase like "the more part," the most natural thing in the world would be to later say "a more part" (because as a competent user of English I unconsciously understand that a participle like the can be replaced by another one, like a), or to say "the more part of the people" (because I undersand the grammatical rules governing prepositional phrases), etc.

This notion that the BoM's use of such variants has any real significance is just bizarre. It completely ignores everything we know about language.

Pardon my bluntness, but any competent, unbiased linguist would dismiss your arguments out of hand.

There's a very good reason that professional linguists like Stanford Carmack and Royal Skousen never take these kinds of arguments outside the LDS bubble and submit them for secular peer review. They don't want to get laughed at.

James Anglin said...

These posts are blog comments, not dissertations. People often refer to arguments or evidence, without thoroughly explaining them. It's probably true that people sometimes do that to imply that they have a better argument than they really do. I still don't think it's constructive to criticize people for having no concern with whether theories fit the evidence, just because they mention things without thoroughly summarizing them. I think it's better to just ask for more details, and presume in good faith that some more details are there to be had.

It's hard to avoid mentioning things without really giving enough detail, because we all get used to taking some things for granted. I do it, too. It's always a problem, however. For one thing, it invites straw man fallacies.

Critics allude to View of the Hebrews, for example, as a damning piece of evidence; but if they don't say anything about why they consider it so damning, then they shouldn't be surprised when Mormons object that there are vast differences between VotH and the BoM. In fact no critics consider the BoM to be a simple copy of VotH. They simply see the number of common elements as being so large as to suggest very strongly that Smith either was inspired to a great extent by VotH, or both works were inspired by some third common source, which was perhaps not even written in any one place, but existed as a body of contemporary memes.

On the other hand, Mormons often dismiss View of the Hebrews in equally vague and sweeping terms, as if it obviously had no relevance at all. If they don't say anything about why they consider it irrelevant, they shouldn't be surprised when critics bug their eyes out at how someone can be quibbling about technicalities when the list of common elements is so striking.

People on both sides seem to me to be often guilty of cargo cult scholarship, where they imagine that a few ritual gestures, like citing a scholar's credentials or quoting one text, somehow magically count as proving their case. The bell rings; they've scored a point; only three more rounds to go. But no-one would buy a used car using that kind of reasoning. "Oh, the salesman just showed me a quote from an online review. I guess I'll sign, then."

In fact scholarship is just as hard-nosed as car-buying, only a lot more so. You're allowed to kick the tires. In fact, people wear steel-toed boots just for tire-kicking. "Witnesses came and went all the time and never saw any Bible while Smith was translating." It's not a low blow to reply, "But were any of those witnesses looking when he was dictating those long Isaiah passages?" That kind of question is allowed, in fact encouraged, even though it does have the unsettling effect of making all those nice no-Bible witness statements nearly irrelevant.

Scholarship ought to be conducted politely, even when controversy rages, but scholarship isn't polite in its reasoning. As far as reasoning goes, it's streetfighting. No conventions; no holds barred. Would you buy a used car from this argument?

Jeff Lindsay said...

Orbiting said, "Nahom? Nehem was right there on widely available maps of Arabia. Etc. It's all there."

So what is your definition of widely available? Widely available, as in Europe? Relative to Joseph's known whereabouts, where was the nearest Nehem-bearing map during translation of the Book of Mormon? There was a book by Niebuhr at Allegheny College, 200 miles from Palmyra or 50 miles from Harmony, but were the drawings in the back of it adequate to help, and is there any way that Joseph was able to access that library? He wasn't much of a library hopper.

Can you propose a reason as to why he would consult a map and attempt a crazy journey across the Arabian Peninsula instead of just taking an easy route to the nearest shore? To add "local color" or evidence for plausibility? If intended to impress, why did he (as far as I know) never call attention to the accurate details in his description? Why did it take over a century for someone to actually notice the evidence, and longer for someone to do care enough to do field work and find remarkable correspondences? You really think he got those off a map? If he had a map with details, why not use them? Why not mention things that would resonate with information that people in his day might notice? Why not mention Mecca and other major sites, rather than focus on obscure places that people today still have never heard of, apart from LDS publications?

The River Laman was mocked for decades, as was the existence of a place called Bountiful. Now candidates for both are in plausible locations, complete with a real river and, for Bountiful, the largest lagoon in the Arabian Peninsula and extensive correspondences with the text. Can you please explain how Joseph would be able to accurately locate such a place, a place more learned people in recent years have mocked until the hard data came in? He did this from a map? Where? How? Why?

It's all trivially obvious to you, but Nehem/Nehhm on a European map, even if one managed to float down the Erie Canal into his neck of the woods, doesn't seem to do much to explain First Nephi 16-17, so I'd appreciate your elucidation. Along the way, would you explain how he managed to work in a decent Hebrew word play around Nahom and the mourning/murmuring of the party right after the burial at Nahom.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Deleted a link to a hostile website. I'm not interested in sending readers there from here. That's what I mean in my statement, "Anti-Mormon links are frowned upon."

Dogberry said...

A general problem with the naturalistic view is that it must vary between the scholarly and the dialectal in order to be explanatorily adequate.

If it were likely that non-scholars could produce these rare items, then we would see textual evidence of continued production. But we don't.

OK, in looking at your citation, we find it was published in Exeter. No doubt we can find others with the language published in London. It is, however, reasonable to state that such language was not in circulation for JS, since there isn't evidence that Smith, given his circumstances, read British legal material before the dictation.

The OED and textual evidence are clear that by the year 1700 the phrase "the more part" was in effect dead. The dictionary calls it "Obs. exc. arch. (in phr. the more part)", because of an instance or two of late 19c scholarly use. It peaked in the print record in the mid 16c (coming out of late ME). It is uncommon in the early 17c, rare in the late 17c. The examples one can easily find in Google are reprinted paraphrases or quotes of much older language, and published in England -- formulaic writing confined to British legal discussions. Novel uses can be found by two scholars in the 1870s and '80s who read Holinshed and Chaucer. The BofM wasn't a scholarly production, unless we stipulate that it was. Was its use a reprint of older language? It doesn't seem to be. And because "the more part" was no longer a productive part of English, "a more part of" and "the more parts of" were no longer generated by speakers or writers. They were rare in the Early Modern era and are not found in the modern era. Even the late 19c scholars didn't use them, limiting themselves to the "the more part" (which was 99.5% dominant in the 16c, in relation to the rare phrases). The scholars may not have known the rare alternatives.

In conclusion, it is unlikely that JS could have learned "the more part" from any source beyond the KJV. And because biblical and BofM usage are categorically distinct, that makes it less likely that JS implemented that language based on the Bible. That is a reasonable position, despite protestations. Stepping beyond "the more part", what the BofM presents us with is a large network of eModE co-occurrence, and also quite frequent use that is categorically distinct from the KJV (or nearly so). That makes it highly unlikely that JS could have produced the text from his own knowledge base, especially in a steady dictation. Sorry for the cog dis. Cheers.

everythingbeforeus said...

I know we've all been through this before hundreds of times, but what in the world is anyone going to prove by showing that there is English in the Book of Mormon that Joseph Smith couldn't have used? What's is the point? It is a translation! These kinds of statements tell us absolutely nothing about the original text itself, which unfortunately is locked away in some vault in the Halls of Heaven.

What if we found French in Les Miserables that Victor Hugo couldn't possibly have known about? What would be your conclusion, Dogberry, in that hypothetical situation? Wouldn't your natural first guess be that perhaps we don't fully understand the French language of Victor Hugo's time period? Maybe our current theories are wrong? Would it really make sense at that point to start looking for divine sources of Les Miserables?

That is the natural first guess here in this real scenario. And with the EModE debate. If there is English in the Book of Mormon that does not fit in with our current theories about the English Smith was familiar with, we should conclude that perhaps there are gaps in our understanding of the English Smith was familiar with. We should by no means jump to the conclusion that God put that English in the Book of Mormon.

You are all embarrassing yourselves.

Dogberry said...

EBU, Hugo didn't claim there was a direct divine source for his writing, and he had a history of writing before producing said masterpiece. No history of such for Smith, and his masterpiece, the BofM, was declared by him to come directly from a divine source. So either it did or it was a product of fraud. For ebu to assert that it is otherwise, is lame and frankly embarrassing. Varied consistent witnesses, Nahom, a handful of compact chiastic passages, a large network of co-occurring eModE, etc. support what Smith asserted.

Orbiting Kolob said...

Nahom appears as Nehem on maps of the period. Chiasmus abounds in the Bible. A lot of the purported EModE*, including the phrase "the more part," also occurs in the Bible. "The more part" occurs twice in the Book of Acts, where Joseph surely would have encountered it.

Since all three of these were available to someone writing in the 19th century, none of them can be considered evidence for divine origins.

What is so hard to understand about this?

Jeff points out that the Arabian map was published in Europe and that the nearest copy that we know about today was located a couple hundred miles away. But so what? European publishers shipped to the U.S. all the time. New England was an important market. And do I really need to point out that (dare I say it?) the more part of the printed matter from the early 19th century has disappeared, so that the mere fact that a given item can today be found only in scattered locations is clearly not evidence that the item was equally hard to find back in its day?

Jeff, I can accept that you believe what you believe for spiritual reasons. But is your testimony so weak that you have to keep trying to shore it empirically? What kind of faith is it that requires such a perpetual torturing of the evidence?

* I should remind everyone that for some time now I've raised three other objections to the EModE claims of Carmack and others that still remain unanswered -- namely that the constructions in question (1) might have been present in the spoken language of Joseph Smith's time and place, even if it had largely disappeared in print (as, e.g., with y'all today); (2) might be a methodological artifact of the Texas sharpshooter variety; and (3) have no plausible relation whatsoever to the claim that Smith translated an ancient book written in Reformed Egyptian. I have yet to see any serious attempt to answer these objections, even from those, like Carmack, who actually understand what they are, and how fatal to his argument they are.

everythingbeforeus said...

My blog is far from a "hostile website," Jeff, and every time I post here, a link to my blog is automatically included in my username. So,...people have already been directed there from here.

It isn't hostile. It is challenging. It is research of the type you like to read, only it doesn't present the conclusion you like to draw. I am sorry you do not wish to respond to my post on the occult connections. I though that if you are interested in Clement of Alexandria talking about what seems to be temple rituals, you'd be interested in an astrologist/occultist basically teaching the concept of eternal progression through eternal marriage.

I must have been mistaken.

Jeff, perhaps I am wrong (I certainly may be wrong), but when 'anti-Mormons' devote all of their time to trying to prove the church wrong, there are Mormons who say that these people do this in order to avoid having to really face the reality that the Church is true. Perhaps. I suspect the reverse can also happen. Mormons who devote so much of their life to looking for empirical truth to their beliefs may do so because they do not want to confront the reality that it all may be a lie.

Jeff, you are probably a really great guy. And if we were face-to-face, we have a wonderful chat about the weather, the Far East (I served my mission on Okinawa), and family. But this blog of yours is not a face-to-face environment for chit-chat. You haven't constructed it that way. It is a place for hard-hitting conversation. I'll admit to perhaps taking it too far.

I would encourage you to really do some soul-searching and figure out why you do what you do here. Why does it need to be true for you? Read what I have written on my blog about the occult connections. Read what I have written about grace. (I suspect you already have.) Take it to God. Independent of the Church and the religion. God is a lot bigger than your church. He exists outside of it. Independent of it.

You may come to realize that your church does not represent him any more than any other church. That won't make God less real, though. You might find that God is far more real than your church even could've imagined for you.

Conversion should be a liberating experience. If it is anything other than that, you are in the wrong place.

Why do I do this? Because I like debate. I like stirring up trouble. But also because I found liberation, and I know that the church, despite all it claims and all it offers, never could've offered that to me. It gave it 38 years. It only gave me empty promises.

Anonymous said...

The comment by everythingbegoreus that Jeff deleted says more about the mind and mindset of evangelicals than anything else.

Sex magic......really? Seriously?! Wow. Evangelicals are obsessed with sex, ) and I don't mean gender) and underwear. And libido of Mormon men. That speaks volumes.

They need to be concerned with what their fellow church going prominent leaders are doing. There is always some sex and drug scandal in the evangelical / Protestant world......always. And yet.......silence from masses.

You have absolutely no right....or any ground....to stand on to attack LDS when the self righteous, pontificating, holier than thou hypocritical so called Christian evangelicals and protestants and others have so many flippin scandals involving sex, drugs, prostitution, gay sex, and money laundering, racism, bullying, manipulation, blackmail, and murder.

Take care of your own house. Then maybe you would have a leg to stand on when it comes to the LDS.

Anonymous said...

Concerning faith:

On a certain anti Mormon website the person who runs it mocks LDS for using faith and prayer to find if the LDS religion was restored as claimed. He mocks Moroni's promise at the end of the Book of Mormon.

Yet in the following paragraph he asks people to send in money to support their, ahem, so called ministry, to continue attacking the LDS. He also asks for people to PRAY before sending money so the people will get a witness as to whether sending in money is right. And he guarantees that they will get a witness that sending him money is right and God's will. And further he tells people to have faith that the money is being used properly, and to pray to get a witness of how evil Mormons are.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...


To say that the LDS church is off track because of connections with occult practices is akin to saying that the early christian church was off-base because some of those practices grew out of it over time. That's plain silly. The fact that there are corrupted versions of sacred rites does not mean that those rites were ill-begotten in their pure form.


Anonymous said...

The evangelicals always bring up the Adam-God sermons by Brigham Young.

A problem as I see it, is that there were no recording devices. People took hand notes, and thus a true and complete recording is not possible.

We don't have a complete snapshot of any history, from any time period of any country and its people. Those that recorded history wrote how they saw things, and they did not witness everything. Many records were lost or destroyed.
We still don't know everything from WWII, Korea War, Vietnam, Iraq, etc. We never will. We will never have a complete record of any history, any time period. Even today. There will always be missing pieces.

Hebrew is extremely poetic, and many, many words have no English equivalent. JS said English is a poor quality language to capture the nuances of Hebrew. Hence, we believe the Bible as long as it is translated correctly. Modern scholarship has proven the Bible has many translation errors, in the thousands.

Back to Adam-God. The BY sermons about this needs to be read very carefully.

If Adam is Elohim, why does BY speak of
"revelation given to Adam". Revelation from whom?

In the BY sermons why does Elohim refer to
"my son Adam"?

In these BY sermons and reports of the sermons, why does BY say of Adam and Eve,
"they are the children of our Heavenly Father" and refer to us as their children?

These contradict the evangelical spin.

Orbiting Kolob said...

For those interested in Brigham Young's pronouncements on Adam-God, I recommend reading the FAIR publication "Brigham Young's Teachings on Adam" by Matthew B. Brown.

Brown dives right in by quoting one of Young's most famous and controversial claims (the bolding is mine):

When our father Adam came into the Garden of Eden he came into it with a celestial body and brought Eve, one of his wives, with him. He helped to make and organize this world. He is Michael, the archangel, the "Ancient of Days" . . . . He is our Father and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do. . . . When the Virgin Mary conceived the child Jesus, the Father had begotten Him in His own likeness. He was not begotten by the Holy Ghost. And who is the Father? He is the first of the human family; and when he took a tabernacle it was begotten by his Father in heaven . . . from the fruits of the earth the first earthly tabernacles were originated by the Father....

Jesus, our elder brother, was begotten in the flesh by the same character [who] was in the Garden of Eden, and who is our Father in heaven. Now, let all who may hear these doctrines pause before they make light of them or treat them with indifference, for they will prove their salvation or damnation.

Brown then follows Young right down the rabbit-hole of some of the wildest theology I've ever encountered (it makes the King Follet Discourse seem tame). Of course I don't believe a word of it, and the Church itself seems unsure what to make of it, but it sure is interesting stuff.

everythingbeforeus said...

Anon 4:41.

I think I can agree with you that this anti-Mormon website is hardly Christian. Enterprises in which money is demanded are rarely, if ever, Christian in my opinion. Especially those that tack your eternal life onto your donation.

everythingbeforeus said...

Joseph Smith said English is a poor language to capture the nuances of Hebrew...Right. Because Joseph Smith was the foremost Hebrew scholar of his day. He'd know.

everythingbeforeus said...

Anon 5:31,

BY didn't say Adam was Elohim. He said Adam was our Father in Heaven. What do YOU think that means?

No,....Brigham Young's statements do NOT contradict the evangelical spin. They contradict Brigham Young. He tried to play it both ways.

Why don't you try to reconcile BY with BY? If people could have done it, it would already have been done. But even McConkie said BY contradicted BY. That is therefore an acknowledgement that yes...BY DID teach Adam-God.

everythingbeforeus said...

Brigham Young taught that there were three personages who oversaw the creation of this world Elohim, Jehovah, and Adam/Michael. Adam was at this point a Celestial being, having already inherited his Godhood through a mortal probation. Jehovah was Adam's first born spirit son, born to Adam and his Celestial wife Eve.

Adam and Eve came to this planet, began to partake of earthly fruit, which changed their bodies to the point that they could produce mortal tabernacles for their spirit children.

Eve is the mother in Heaven, one of Adam's many Celestial wives. This is probably where the doctrine of Heavenly Mother originated. Now you know why the church prefers not to talk about Heavenly Mother.

everythingbeforeus said...

You all really need to pay attention to this and the implications of this. BY did indeed teach this. It is part of a very consistent theology. It has its origins in Kabbalah. It is part of an overall cosmology in which women are given in marriage as rewards for obedience and righteousness.

Lorenzo Snow made it very clear in the Temple Lot trial that the women are sealed to the men, NOT the other way around. This is still the practice today. Find the sealing ceremony and read the disparity between what is spoken to the man and what is spoken to the woman. It is in the endowment also. You can try to hide polygamy, but it is an essential part of your doctrine. You can't get rid of it. Eternal marriage itself sprung out of it. It was originally a doctrine that gave religious justification for Joseph's dalliances. He was sealed to many women before he even bothered getting sealed to Emma. Most likely the sealing was a way of putting a spiritual gloss on his affairs. Just like the Cochranite doctrine of spiritual wifery.

Jeff has been deleting some of my posts, but it is what it is. Stop running from it. Deal with it. This is not hostility. It is not anger. It is reality. Learn your history. I'm sorry it is so uncomfortable. But there comes a time when you need to step up and see it for what it is.

everythingbeforeus said...

Alright Jeff. I had my say. I'll leave you and your friends alone. For good. Keep an open mind. There are people out there who have things to share that may be very uncomfortable to hear. But when you hear it, finally, it can open some amazing doors. I don't doubt your Christianity, Jeff. I honestly believe most Mormons are indeed Christians. So wake up! Take of these chains that have nothing to do with your faith in Jesus Christ as the one and only Savior of the World. Anything or anyone else that says, "You need me" is a false idol. Walking away from that is not walking away from Christ. It is walking toward Christ. Cheers.

Quantumleap42 said...

Too bad I don't have more time to comment, but everythingbeforeus, I thought Orbiting took the cake by alleging that Joseph Smith joining the Freemasons in 1842 influenced the translation of the BoM, but saying that the teachings of Brigham Young are based on Eastern European Jewish mysticism... wow.

Orbiting Kolob said...

You're right , Quantum. Of course Joseph's joining the Masons did not influence his writing of the BoM; it was anti-Masonry that did so. What Joseph's joining the Masons influenced was the Temple ritual. My mistake.

Anonymous said...

Nobody's running from anything, everything. It's your naive interpretations of the historical narrative that's putting people off -- not to mention your bulldozing through territory that is considered very sacred to many LDS.

Orbiting, I think you can do better than to blithely fall back on worn out memes.


Ben Britton said...

James, if you're still slogging through this comment thread, I'm not sure what thesis you're reading, but it sounds like it's talking about the parallels between the Book of Moses and what is commonly reffered to as Enoch 1. This text was discovered and translated right prior to Joseph's Moses. Of course, like you were saying, its a major question as to whether Joseph or associates would have been aware of this stuff (I always find it interesting that people try to bring Sidney Rigdon into early authorship debates. Isn't he not associated with Smith until afer the publication of the Book of Mormon? I'm not sure how that fits with the Book of Moses timeline).

Anyways, Enoch 2, which also has some strong parallels (more than Enoch 1 from what I remember) with the book of Moses, was not rediscovered and translated until the late 19th century (so, yeah, decades after Joseph was dead and gone). I don't have time to dig up the parallels specific to Enoch 2 right now (I thought the "lad" thing was one of them but it sounds like from what you read that is an Enoch 1 connection?), but I'm sure you can find them easily enough.

The book of Mormon really does have the same thing going for it with the History of the Rechabites. The wierd part of that though is that the History of the Rechabites, according to the most recent scholarship of multiple scholars, is from the 3rd or 4th century AD, so there is a real conundrum. What is that material doing in a document that, from a naturalistic view, comes from the 19th century or, from a traditional believer's view and according to Joseph's claim, from 600 BC. It doesn't fit either setting, making a great mystery for both sides of the table. A non-mormon scholar published in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies in the most recent issue, I believe, about important intertextuality between a chapter of first Nephi and an apocraphal book (I forgot which, but one that was available in JS time). He suggested a number of hypothesis for addressing the connection. He put the typical options on the table including 19th century authorship (I was a little surprised that the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies published this, but it makes perfect since given that they are trying to invite scholarship from the wider community, and I'm really happy about that), but he also addded a novel hypothesis, which was the book of Mormon could really be an authentic ancient text, only an Apocraphal one from a much later time period than the one claimed by the book. He said this hypothesis has lots of explaining power because it addresses all the new testament intertextuality, Joseph's and contemporary experiences with the divine, and the Book of Mormon's connection with the History of the Rechabites. While I'm not convinced that even this hypothesis can explain the book of Mormon, I was very happy to see someone trying to account for the Rechabite connection! The first article observing the connection was written in the early 80s I think, but as far as I know, it hasn't been seriously weighed in any kind on the Book of Mormon scholarship, at least none that's really gotten any wide recognition...

All that's to say, let not forget the History of the Rechabites! For true bluers that means being open to a wider array of influences in the Book of Mormon's vitals (not just translation). It doesn't seem like a purely 600 BC setting is going to be sufficient. For naturalists it quite possibly means that Joseph or contempararies are not your primary author(s)!

James Anglin said...

Thanks, Ben. I believe the gist I got from this thesis was that there is a huge mass of Enoch material — like, nearly two hundred chapters in total — and it has been circulated in various forms for quite a while. I'm fuzzy now on what was Enoch 1 versus Enoch 2, but for what it's worth my impression from the thesis was that the striking parallels with the Book of Moses were indeed accessible in English in Smith's time, in principle; the question is whether he ever actually saw them.

I'll put Rechabites on my list of things to look up. I'm afraid it will probably be a while before I get around to really digging into this stuff. On the one hand it has the potential to be more decisive than a lot of other arguments about the Books of Mormon and Moses. On the other hand, though, I worry that it, too, may well bog down.

If somebody can put a translated text within a few dozen miles and a few years of a Joseph Smith production, but no closer, then what does that mean? On the one hand, there's no evidence he ever saw the text in question. On the other hand, if you suspect him of being a clever con artist, then it's much too close for comfort. So you can spin the situation as a vindication or as a debunking.

Maybe one issue that would help tip the balance would be to see if there are any ancient texts or maps or whatever, which from their nature could plausibly have fit within the rest of Joseph Smith's canon, but which really were totally inaccessible in his day. Like, not translated from Ethiopic until fifty years later, or still buried in the Sinai when Smith died, or something like that. If there were enough of these kinds of ancient records — a big if — then you could maybe collect a table comparing which potential sources were strictly impossible for Smith to have seen, versus which were conceivably accessible even if it seems unlikely; and then compare which such texts actually made it into Smith's scriptures, and which didn't.

If it should line up that most things that he might possibly have seen made it in, and nothing that he couldn't have seen did, then this would fit a pattern of fraud — it would be like discovering that a psychic can read when blindfolded, but not when their head is fully enclosed in an opaque box. Suddenly you're not so sure how good that blindfold really was.

But of course that still wouldn't be decisive. Deciding which ancient texts would count as eligible would be pretty subjective.

"Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence." That's a popular slogan. For me the problem is that calling a claim 'extraordinary', and judging whether evidence is extraordinary, are themselves both claims. I think a more neutral statement of the principle is like Newton's First Law of Motion. Unless acted upon by an external force, people tend to go on believing what they're used to believing. And why shouldn't they? Beliefs about which people care are not idle associations, like seeing shapes in the clouds. People use their beliefs for guidance. Changing your beliefs is like replacing the steering mechanism in your car, while in motion on the freeway. Even if the final result is an improvement, making the change is a cost. So it's no wonder, I figure, that beliefs are resilient.

Ben Britton said...


Actuall what are called Enoch 1 and Enoch 2 are unrelated bodies of text. So the Enoch material you are referring is the Jewish book with origins in 300 BC - 1st century AD. It was rediscovered in the beginning of the 17th century. I'm not sure when it was translated into English, but yes it was there in the world, and who knows if Joseph and friends were checking it out or not.

Whats called Enoch 2 is an unrelated Jewish or Christian work from late 1st century AD (There is also a Enoch 3, which is a distinct text as well. The numbering system is just the simple reference system scholars took up). LIke I stated earlier Enoch 2 wasn't rediscovered (In slavonic I thinik, and then later on in Coptic?) until late 19th century (this info is readily available on Wikipedia). It's the parallels ffrom the book of Moses to the distinct material of Enoch 2 that I, of course, find most interesting.

Dogberry said...

Returning more closely to Jeff's post, if one wishes to say JSJr used a Bible, then all the versions needed must be acknowledged by the honest analyst, not just the convenient 1769, but a 1611 (there are at least three 1611 readings in Isaiah passages), a Bishop's or Douay-Rheims (for at least "if it so be" at Matt. 18:13, etc.; prior Bibles and the KJB have "if so be" or something else), a Coverdale (for at least "ships of the sea" 2N12:16). Because a Coverdale was needed for the latter, we should add "the more part of them", found at Acts 27:12 only in Coverdale among eModE Bibles. There is other possible Coverdale language in the BofM. For instance, close ye ~ thou switching is more clear in Coverdale than in the KJB at, for example, Leviticus 19:19, and such switching is found in many other authors as well. There is also the following Tyndale language found in the BofM (the {-th} plural of eModE in a conjoined predicate; see Lass, ed. CHEL 1999:165-66; and used by many authors as well):

Mark 13:28
Learne a similitude of the fygge tree. When his braunches are yett tender / and hath brought forthe leves / ye knowe / that sommer ys neare.

Mosiah 24:23
for the Lamanites have awoke and doth pursue thee.

1673 EEBO A26892 Richard Baxter [1615–1691] A Christian directory
when the Churches have felt such dreadful concussions, and bleedeth to this day, by so horrid divisions,

Helaman 13:21
because ye have set your hearts upon them
and hath not hearkened unto the words of him who gave them unto you.

1525 EEBO A71319 John Bourchier, tr. (Lord Berners) [1466/67–1533] | Jean Froissart [1338?–1410?] Chronicles
ye have greatly febled the signorie and realme of Englande /
and hath sore discoraged the hertes of the noble valyant knightes and squiers of the realme

For those who wonder about "have awoke":

1675 EEBO A43515 John Hacket [1592–1670] A century of sermons upon several remarkable subjects
had our Samson awoke out of sleep, and shook himself, no fetters could have held him;

1697 EEBO A58807 John Scott [1639–1695] Practical discourses upon several subjects
and afterwards when having awoke his Disciples, he returned to his Prayer again,

Helaman 5:42
they all did begin to cry unto the voice of him
which had shook the earth.

1656 EEBO A28504 Henry, Earl of Monmouth, tr. [1596–1661] | Traiano Boccalini [1556–1613] Advertisements from Parnassus in two centuries
and other people, who to make themselves free, had shook off the yoke of her Government.

Orbiting Kolob said...

James writes, People use their beliefs for guidance. Changing your beliefs is like replacing the steering mechanism in your car, while in motion on the freeway. Even if the final result is an improvement, making the change is a cost.

I love this analogy.

For me, I guess all this stuff boils down to investigative procedure. The Book of Mormon is indeed a puzzle, but how are we going to solve that puzzle? To me, methodological naturalism is the only game in town, because it's the only way that has proved itself effective in all other realms of inquiry.

The key idea is that you don't accept divine answers prematurely, because such as answers tend to close off the kind of continued naturalistic inquiry needed to eventually find the real explanation.

If your car develops a front-end shimmy that kicks in at 80 mph, you expect your mechanic to use a naturalistic approach in finding out why. You don't want to be told, "Hey, buddy, I looked quickly at a couple of things but didn't see anything wrong, so the only explanation is that God wants you to stop speeding."

If you accept that, you'll never find the real answer. You want the mechanic to keep looking until he finds the naturalistic explanation.

To my mind this is key. Go ahead and believe in the Book of Mormon as a divine translation of an ancient text if you wish. No problem. We all need a guidance system of some kind. But if instead of, or in addition to, using the book for guidance you really want to solve the puzzle of its origin, then you must bracket the divine explanations and stick to the naturalistic ones. If you don't do this, then you're simply not truly interested in solving the puzzle.

Consider the case of William Paley and his 1803 book Natural Theology. Paley was observing much of the same basic natural order and complexity that Charles Darwin was later to document in such detail. Both men were Christians, but where Paley accepted "God did it" as an explanation for what he observed, Darwin did not -- with the result that Darwin did not stop digging for a natural explanation until he'd made one of the greatest scientific discoveries of all time.

Now that evolution is so thoroughly proved, it's almost painful to read Natural Theology. It's painful to see a man of Paley's intelligence taking the first steps toward making a great discovery, but then, by accepting a divine explanation for what he observed, stepping back from further inquiry.

It's as if Newton had believed that the planets were being pushed around by angels and, satisfied with that explanation, never dug any further for a naturalistic explanation and thus deprived us of the theory of universal gravity. This is exactly what Jeff and Carmack are doing when they observe what they take to be some puzzling pre-KJV EModE in the BoM: they take it to be evidence of divine origins rather than digging deeper for the naturalistic explanation. Once their spiritual bias has been confirmed, they simply say "Well, will you look at that! Isn't God wonderful?" And just like William Paley, they stop digging.

What they should do instead is dig further for an explanation. They should be looking into natural ways Joseph might have picked up such language. Perhaps it was spoken in Joseph's time, etc. Their search has just begun! They should be following all the leads I and others have been suggesting here. But they're not. They're summarily dismissing our challenges. They're satisfied with "God did it," and of course they don't want to pursue any leads that might ultimately threaten their testimony. They're ultimately just not interested in solving the puzzle.

Dogberry said...

Perhaps these last bits gave you pause, OK. Tip of the iceberg. In the case of the BofM, one has to make a choice, divine or fraud. It is wholly different from almost every phenomenon we observe and wish to explain. The fact that Smith would have had to consult at least four different Bibles to carry out the fraud, some hard to access, makes that view difficult.

Orbiting Kolob said...

Actually, Dogberry, the Book of Mormon is not all that special. Joseph Smith is not all that different from any of a number of other religion-makers. In the early 1800s they were thick as thieves. You just happen to disbelieve in one less self-proclaimed prophet than I do.

Dogberry said...

Guess you can't quite come to grips with the reality of biblical language in the book. Seemingly nothing sways you; some BofM characters come to mind. The interesting thing about biblical passages is that it is one of lame talking points of a certain letter, and it actually ends up being a weak point for the critic when a somewhat thorough analysis is performed, as opposed to a superficial analysis.

Orbiting Kolob said...

So, Dogberry, you believe there's language in the Book of Mormon that simply cannot possibly be naturalistically explained?

And that therefore, instead of digging for a naturalistic explanation, we should simply accept a spiritual explanation?

To me, that looks like a recipe for "superficial analysis."

Anonymous said...

Here's one that I don't think OK has ever addressed: The distinct, detailed, technical level of Jewish law in the BofM.

I never noticed it, and as far as I know, until Welch discovered it no one else had noticed it either. It's kind of like Chiasmus... but not.

When Alma conducts his visit to Ammonihah, before Ammonihah is destroyed, he faithfully follows the Jewish law on destroying a city for apostasy. That law is based on one chapter in Deuteronomy, I think it is. There's an entire checklist of things to do before you can declare a city apostate and destroy it--And Alma does it all.

Now, the question is: To actually put that level of detail into the BofM requires a deep, deep familiarity with Jewish Biblical law.

Who did it? And more importantly, just as chiasmus, if it was deliberately put in there as part of a fraudulent "Let's make this better looking", why was it not mentioned until discovered centuries later? To write a story and consciously fulfill various elements of obscure Hebraic law--then not mention it as an evidence of authenticity? Especially when your fraudulent work is under attack as a fraud?


Anonymous said...

OK, your basic thesis is that Joseph Smith made it all up and just happened to be the worlds greatest expert in the Bible and geography in the early 1800's. That he had hundreds of books available to copy from, right? Ancient maps, the latest in Biblical scholarly writings published in Germany and England, etc.

So why did none of this stuff ever come out when people like Mark Twain were mocking the BofM as "chloroform in print?" Why is all this highly detailed, technical stuff just showing up now, when it has to have been deliberately designed and written in? And no one noticed?

Tell us, OK: When and where did Joseph Smith become the greatest biblical scholar of the age? Who taught him? Who trained him in theology? Who trained him in Hebrew poetry, in Hebraic law? Who trained him to be able to toss off stuff like Alma 36 and King Benjamin's speech just off the cuff? That's the natural explanation you are pushing, isn't it--that Joseph Smith wrote all of this intricate detailed Jewish stuff?

How did Joseph Smith know how the Jewish legal system worked--with trial by miracles; with appeals to God to solve the problems, with retributionary punishments? How did he know enough about the legal system to write a legal trial--as well as violations of that legal system in Abinadi's case? Alma the younger contributed a lot to the Book of Mormon, and he was a legal scholar--and all the parts of the Book of Mormon around his lifetime are filled to the brim with Jewish legal laws and procedures from Abinadi to Nehor to Ammonihah and Zeezrom. How did Joseph Smith do it--where was he trained? What school of Biblical law did he go to?

You can't answer that. Just "It can't be God, so it must be man!" How is that not a position based solely on faith, for you cannot offer any evidence that Joseph Smith copied or rewrote anything either. Where is his copy of the maps you say he had? Where is the Doctoral degree in Hebrew or Biblical law? Hebraic literature structures? His mastery of the Enoch and Abraham literature? Where did he learn all of it, or indeed, any of it?

You demand we LDS produce evidence; yet you produce none of your own. You ask us to believe your version on faith too.

You mock the gold plates because we don't have them today. Well, I mock your vast library that Joseph Smith had access to that he copied and learned all this from: it's just as vaporware--except Joseph has lots of witnesses to the gold plates. You have none for yours. Joseph introduced people to his teachers--Moroni and others. You cannot point to a single person that tutored Joseph Smith in intricate biblical history, law, poetry, and so forth. Nor can you point to anyone else who had the skill necessary either.

The fact is: both sides have a version of the "gold plates" story. The LDS church has the actual gold plates as the source, and the critics have a set of technical documents that Joseph copied from or drew inspiration from. But neither set of plates, as it were, are here. No one can point to them and say, "See! We were right, and here is the source!" There's not a shred of evidence for the critics source materials. Heck, Joseph didn't even own a Bible during the translation, yet somehow he copied and made deep Biblical style stuff that requires very close attention to detail? It's laughable.

The critics say the LDS version is laughable, but ours has witnesses. Your gold plates are truly without evidence at all that Joseph had them. Who is more believable? Both sides require faith. Yours has 0 evidence at all, though.

Anonymous said...

In fact, let's consider what would be required to make up the story of Ammonihah. This story arc covers roughly Alma chapters 8-16. So. 8 chapters; about two days worth of work for Joseph during the translation.

These 8 chapters 1) comport to Hebraic law regarding apostate cities; 2) contain a legal challenge between Amulek and Zeezrom
3) contain an entire monetary system, using at least one unit of money from Babylonian sources (the shiblon, I believe),
4) contains a massive doctrinal discourse on the resurrection and justice;
5) Contains a massive doctrinal discourse on the Melchizedek priesthood;
6) contains the false doctrines of the Nehorites;
7) ties in with the Sons of Mosiah's preachings later on to give the reason for Ammonihah's destruction

And that's the 30,000 foot overview of the chapters. I count three items at the least requiring detailed, intimate knowledge of the ancient world: law on apostate cities; law of legal disputes; and the ancient systems of money, which is weight based and not coinage (as well as tied to a grain standard). Each one of these, to get right (assuming "shiblon" was even known to be an ancient babylonian unit of money!) would require intensive study to weave into your fraudulent tale and get it right.
Then there is high theological content galore. Plus all the usual character and plot required.

All of this, requiring lots of knowledge, and expert at that, in two days. And then Joseph moves on to the visit of Ammon and his brothers to the Lamanites. Yet more highly detailed knowledge. Note that Babylonian rarely comes up, but it does in this chapter.

To fake all of this in two days requires a massive leap of faith. Yet that is what you are doing: asking us to make this massive leap of faith and believe in the "bound plates" of scholarly knowledge that Joseph had lying around, and whom no one else ever saw.

Orbiting Kolob said...

Wow, Anon 12:56. Let me respond to just one of your arguments:

When Alma conducts his visit to Ammonihah, before Ammonihah is destroyed, he faithfully follows the Jewish law on destroying a city for apostasy. That law is based on one chapter in Deuteronomy, I think it is. There's an entire checklist of things to do before you can declare a city apostate and destroy it--And Alma does it all. Now, the question is: To actually put that level of detail into the BofM requires a deep, deep familiarity with Jewish Biblical law...

You're right that the relevant law is in Deuteronomy, specifically chapter 13, which offers this "checklist" of things to do when destroying an apostate city:

(1) Look into things to make sure the reports of apostasy are real; and

(2) If the reports check out, then kill everyone* with the sword, including all the livestock; and

(3) don't keep any of the apostates' goodies for yourself, but rather pile them all up in the street and burn them along with the city; so that

(4) the city will never be rebuilt.

This is actually pretty much the standard M.O. for the time, and comprehending it doesn't exactly "require a deep, deep familiarity with Jewish Biblical law." It requires about 60 seconds reading Deuteronomy 13. It just ain't that deep.

But here's the important thing: the checklist is right there in the Bible.

It was right there at Joseph's fingertips.

In order to apply these rules to the destruction of Ammonihah, Joseph would not need to be an expert in the "detailed, technical level of Jewish law," as you put it; he would merely need to be familiar with the Bible, which of course he was. (Or are you saying that there are additional rules followed by Alma that are not found in the Bible? If so, please tell us what they are.)

* Everyone: men, women, and children, right down to the most helpless newborn babe in its mother's arms. Maybe you can worship such an immoral murderous God, but I sure can't.

Anonymous said...

So, OK: You are saying that Deuteronomy 13's requirements were standard for what time? Joseph's time? ancient days?

And while I agree that it is there in the Bible: How many people know Deuteronomy well enough that "hey, there's a standard protocol for destroying cities laid out right here" comes to mind? Sure, once you know it's there, it is obvious. But Deuteronomy, specifically 8 verses, is not well known. And who would think to say "Hey, I'm gonna write a story about a wicked city. Let's check Deuteronomy to see if there's any specific instructions there!"

Nobody noticed until maybe the 1980's that these 8 verses were fulfilled by Alma and the destruction of Ammonihah, down to the piling up of the dead and their stuff. Yet it was all right there at our fingertips! Why on earth didn't anyone notice?

That's the thing: For Joseph to have faked this story requires a level of knowledge of Hebrew law that hardly anyone has! People like James Talmage and Bruce R. McConkie, who were steeped in scripture, never noticed this connection, as far as I know. It took a fellow who was trained as a biblical law scholar to notice it.

It clearly isn't as obvious as "Hey, Joseph read the bible and it's right there!" Well, then why did it take 150 years for someone else to notice Joseph's sneaky use of Deuteronomy 13? I mean, don't we all just sneak in fulfillment of biblical law commands in our fraudulent stuff? Aren't we all deeply familiar with Deuteronomy? And especially, aren't rural farmers in 1820's America deeply concerned with Deuteronomy?

If Joseph was so knowledgable about the law of moses for these kinds of things, why did he never use it? The law of moses that he referenced was all about the atonement, sacrifices, those kind of things: not this kind of ritualism and legalism that didn't impact salvation theory.

Besides, Joseph didn't have a Bible while translating the Book of Mormon, as Jeff explained. So how did he read Deuteronomy 13? It's not like this is the kind of thing you just wing: he would have had to refer to the chapter... and it wasn't available.

Anonymous said...

Next is your false attack against God for commanding the entire city to be destroyed. This is, of course, a standard Atheist attack on God: that somehow He is evil for wiping out a group root and branch, and since God cannot be Evil, He must not exist.

I start with the Palestinians. And Isis. They are pretty much pure evil. The Palestinians tell their children to stab Jews; they celebrate sending their children to die. This is a very evil society. They have vowed to wipe Jews off the face of the earth. They openly campaign for genocide, as well as ISIS.

When a society reaches that state, what is to be done? Germany and Japan, WWII also reached that state. We had to basically wipe them off the planet: indeed, with the atomic bombs we literally fulfilled the biblical charge with Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Some still complain about that: but it was a mercy. We slaughtered 2-500,000 Japanese in those two attacks. But it caused them to finally repent; and it saved the lives of millions of Japanese and Americans and others. They would never have surrendered without those bombs, though, and we would have had to wipe them out man, woman and child.

What else to do to erase an evil society? With Germany we occupied them and destroyed all of their societal structure. And the Russians took a very, very bloody revenge on East Germany. But we had the organizational will and power to erase their society. Anciently? Don't be absurd: erasing a culture without slaughtering it was impossible. The Jews are still here, after all, despite Assyria, Babylon, and Persia. Despite the Romans too. When a society starts worshipping death like Baal and Molech anciently, and ISIS today, as well as the Japanese: Total destruction is required.

And that, sadly, is the civilization's choice. To allow it to continue would be an injustice to others and to the children who would be born to that culture. That is why the Spaniards were able to overthrow the Aztecs: their time of evil was over.

Unless you want to argue that the Aztec culture and civilization should have been spared? Or the Kamikaze Japanese? Or Nazi Germany? If everyone in the city is as wicked as the leaders of the SS, then why is it a bad thing to burn it to the ground?

Jerome said...

Emma was not a reliable witness. She told her sons that Joseph never practiced polygamy, which we know to be false. Martin Harris said that there was a curtain hung between him and Joseph Smith during the translation process, and I'm told by apologists that Martin Harris was a very reliable witness. When there was a curtain hung (which need not be all the time), nobody would know whether Joseph was consulting a Bible or not.

Orbiting Kolob said...

For Joseph to have faked this story requires a level of knowledge of Hebrew law that hardly anyone has!

No, it doesn't. Maybe it takes an uncommon familiarity with the Bible, but that's not the same thing as an exceptional "knowledge of Hebrew law."

... aren't rural farmers in 1820's America deeply concerned with Deuteronomy?

Of course not. But many if not most of them were intimately familiar with the Bible -- a far greater percentage than today.

Joseph didn't have a Bible while translating the Book of Mormon, as Jeff explained. So how did he read Deuteronomy 13? It's not like this is the kind of thing you just wing: he would have had to refer to the chapter... and it wasn't available.

This takes the cake. You might want to refer to your own church's claim about Joseph that, and I'm quoting lds.org, "At age 14 he searched the scriptures and prayed to know which church to join...."

It's pretty hard to "search the scriptures" without access to a Bible. Access is the issue, not personal ownership. Personal ownership is a red herring.

When a society reaches that state, what is to be done? Germany and Japan, WWII also reached that state. We had to basically wipe them off the planet....

Now you're just being silly. First, we did not wipe these countries off the planet.

Second, at no time did we have an explicit policy of deliberately killing women and children and other noncombatants.

We did indeed kill many such noncombatants, but we would never have done so after achieving our victory. Think about ancient warfare: first the men go at it with each other with their swords and the like; only after dispatching the combatants and securing the city would one go after the woman and children. God's instructions in Deuteronomy are to kill the women and children even though doing so was not necessary to achieve victory. We would not and did not do anything remotely like that with either Germany or Japan. (Sadly, we did sometimes do that with Native Americans back in the day.) God's orders in Deuteronomy are not military but genocidal.

I trust you can see the difference.

As for your blatantly racist claims about "the Palestinians" -- you need to do some serious soul-searching. Since you probably won't listen to me, I would invite some of the Mormons on this blog to explain the problem to you.

everythingbeforeus said...

I said I was gone for good, but having served my mission in Japan, I think I want to pop back in just to address this: "We slaughtered 2-500,000 Japanese in those two attacks. But it caused them to finally repent."

Sick. Well...it looks like the Blood Atonement hasn't quite died yet. Mountain Meadow Massacre. Hiroshima. Nagasaki.

Where to next? What other sins out there must be atoned for by the shedding of blood?

My goodness...See, if you engage with Mormons in discussion long enough...this kind of stuff starts coming out. I've seen it before. Deep in their doctrinally-derived mindset is some very dark stuff. Very dark stuff, indeed.

Thanks Orbiting for forcing this stuff to rise to the surface.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Everything, the content you posted here was, to me, offensive and derisive. "Hostile" is a fair word, but perhaps too harsh. To follow that up with a link to your critical website where I presumed, perhaps mistakenly, that you were going to make the same offensive charges, is not consistent with my operating rules here. I am pro-LDS. I'm not interested in promoting websites that oppose my religion. Yes, people can find your stuff if they want, but I don't want direct links in posts to make it "too easy."

I'm for debate and discussion, but you crossed the line with a recent post. I hope you'll notice 99% of what you say is still here and I've welcome some of your insights. If you don't come back, it would be a loss, so I hope you'll reconsider. You do have perspectives and experiences that matter, even when we disagree. And you are most helpful in pointing out some foolishness here as well.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Orbiting, I don't think you noticed my question wasn't just "could Joseph have seen a map?" but with a European map of his day in hand, can you explain how and WHY he would use it for content in a few verses of First Nephi?

How could he come up with the River Laman from that map? You learned folk have mocked that for decades--a river?? Hah! Until field work revealed at plausible and impressive candidate for such a place. How could he place Shazer relative to the most fertile parts of the land? How would he make Nahom a burial place, link it with a Hebrew word play, and then identify it as the place where one can plausibly make an eastward turn? And why turn east? Then how could he get them eastward to a place called Bountiful, when you learned folk have been mocking the existence of such a place until overwhelming evidence was presented in nice color photographs from field work and satellite maps, none of which Joseph had access to--so how did get the direction and key features right? Bountiful has numerous elements one can extract froom the text, nearly all of which have confirmation or plausible explanation at the leading Wadi Sayq candidate.

Take a map with Nehem or Nehhm on it as one of the many dozens of names, and make it a little more clear to us how he would have come up with the River of Laman/ Shazer / Nahom burial / due east to Bountiful story, with field work and archaeological finds now adding plausibility to these items. There's a much richer story than you are willing to recognize, and I can't see how any fair person looking at these maps could come close to the delivering what we have in First Nephi. And if Joseph had a map, why not actually USE some of it, adding references to big, important locations that might add local color or plausibility? He didn't use the gold mine that such a map would provide, and nobody in his century ever mentioned the impressive evidences he had created. Why not? If Nahom was plagiarized from a map to be plausible, why not have someone "find" such a map after the Book of Mormon came out and hold a press conference about the cool confirmation that we just learned about? None of that happened. Why not? Because they didn't know. Only recently did we discover it. It wasn't "all there" as you assert. But I'm willing to listen to your explanation of how it really was, and how easy it would be to write the whole story with that map in hand. That magic map.

everythingbeforeus said...

Well, thanks Jeff. I'll try to play fair from here on out then. I wish I had James' temperament. I really do. He is far more diplomatic then I am.

Anonymous said...

So I guess everthingbeforeus approves of the Rape of Nanking and the Bataan Death march then? If he's an apologist now for Imperial Japan.

To say that it is evil to conclude that the Atomic Bombs were a necessity shows the moral bankruptcy of the poster. The plans for the invasion of Japan called for millions of deaths. They forecast the essential end of the Japanese race due to the kamikaze phenomenon. Ånd the Japanese were preparing for just that.

But yeah, it is "dark" and "evil" that we dropped the bombs. Explains a lot about you, really. You preferred tens of millions more to die, especially US troops. You must, if it is evil to think of the bombs as necessary.

As for OK's contention that we didn't deliberately kill women and children: explain, if you will, Dresden and the firebombing of Tokyo. Was it intentional? Perhaps not, but I'm pretty sure we didn't care too much. And after we saw Japanese women and children throwing themselves off a cliff rather than surrender, well, if they don't care about themselves, why should we?

And I'm not racist about the Palestinians... they are not a race. I"m just pointing out facts; which you haven't denied. They are indeed an evil society that promotes killing Jews as the highest thing you can do. If you agree with them, that's not my problem. And we indeed did wipe their culture out for the most part for Germany and Japan. Post war Japan is nowhere near prewar Japan. Nor is Post-War Germany. And I hope you would recognize the horrors Germany's women and children went through at the hands of the Russians.

everythingbeforeus said...

Anonymous. Ridiculous. I do not approve of the Rape of Nanking or the Bataan Death March. Nor do I approve of killing innocent children to prevent rapes of Nanking and Bataan Death marches, or to bring those who are committing such crimes to their knees in repentance. I think that makes sense.

I think if you research WWII, you'll see that the European and American powers had been acting imperialistically all throughout the world for centuries. Especially the Europeans. It is when Japan said, "Gee! I should try that, too" and then became competition for the Western Imperialists that Japan was suddenly seen as a threat.

I do not support the actions of Japan in China and the Pacific. But it isn't like Japan just suddenly turned into a monster overnight. And Japan was only doing what had been done elsewhere by the Europeans in Africa, India, the islands of Asia, etc...Maybe they were a little more violent and ugly. But they were grabbing up resources just like the West had been doing.

Imperialists don't get along with other imperialistic powers. What was okay for Europe and the U.S. apparently wasn't okay for Japan. This analysis surely doesn't account for all the complexities of WWII, but it is a piece of the picture.

But simply put...you don't kill a child to make the father feel bad for his actions. This is what you seem to be advocating. Sure..war is war. But as Christians, the job is simply to love. We cannot fix a broken world with broken tools.

Anonymous said...

This is far afield of the original post, so I'll just leave the topic at this: everythingbeforeus, you have to reconcile the Old Testament with your "our job is to love" bit. God did indeed declare some people had forfeited their right to continue living; and the entire community at that. You have to reconcile it.

OK is an Atheist, who as I recall hates the LDS church because he disagrees with us on homosexuality being wrong. Thus he's using standard Atheist dogma: that God wouldn't commit genocide (Of course, the worst killers in human history were Atheist, so not sure how that is supposed to help him....).

Back to the religion bit: I wish to correct my statements above about the money system being babylonian. I was actually thinking of the word "Sheum" which is listed as a grain the Nephites grew. And Sheum is the name of a grain in Akkadian. Which is pretty impressive, actually.

Orbiting Kolob said...

Jeff, when writers borrow from sources they typically don't borrow everything from that source. They replicate some names, places, etc. from sources, and they make other things up out of their head. Happens all the time, even with maps. It's what Shakespeare did with Holinshed. It's also perfectly ordinary for borrowings to deviate from the original; such deviations are (quite rightly) not considered evidence against borrowing. Your argument betrays a profound misunderstanding of the ordinary operations of literary influence. All I've been doing is applying standard literary-historical, methodological-naturalist thinking to the Mormon scriptures as others, including Mormons, would apply to any other text. I'm not making an exception, that's all.

Also, I know it's your blog, ergo your rules, but still, I'd be amazed if, after admonishing Everything for his excesses, you had nothing to say about Anon 3:58.

Orbiting Kolob said...

So, according to Anon, the Japanese Imperial Army commits the Nanking Massacre, and therefore it would be justified to kill every single man, woman, and suckling infant in Japan, because God.

Rarely does one see such moral depravity so openly expressed.

I suppose it's good to know people like Anon exist.

everythingbeforeus said...

Here is how I reconcile it:

The Jews practiced animal sacrifice. So did just about every other ancient culture.
The Jews had a Priesthood. So did just about every other ancient culture.
The Jews had temples. So did just about every other ancient culture.
The Jews engaged in genocidal warfare. So did just about every other ancient culture.
The Jewish Kings (David, Solomon, especially) were polygamists or had sex slaves/concubines. So did the powerful in just about every other ancient culture.

The Jews were the chosen people, not because they had true Priesthood, true animal sacrifices, true temples, true rules of warfare, true marriage arrangements. They were the chosen people because God said so, and he chose to send the Savior through the Jews. He also gave them his name and an understanding of his true nature.

All this other stuff that the Jews did, and claimed God told them to do it? Nope...just about every other ancient culture claimed that their gods were smiling upon their actions. Saying it doesn't make it so.

The Old Testament is God letting humans think they know what they are doing. The New Testament is God telling them, "You've been doing it wrong the whole time, let me show you how it is done."

Every now and again, they did start to figure it out, those Jews. For instance, King David, deep in the throes of repentance, had a moment of brilliant insight: "For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem. Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar." Psalm 51

David figured it out. Religion is fine, but it is meaningless to God. There are some "first principles" that must be hammered out FIRST. Then, your methods of religious devotion will mean something. I don't think God cares if I worship him with a tambourine and a snare drum or if I worship him with candles in a quiet cathedral. Worship is not for God. It is really for me. God wants something else FIRST. God doesn't want your sacrifice. He doesn't want your penance. He doesn't want your rituals. He doesn't want your "righteousness," although we do need to obey the commandments. He doesn't want anything except, basically, you. That is what "broken and contrite heart/spirit" means.

That does help?

everythingbeforeus said...

Correction: The Jews had A temple. Just one. Only one. And that was by commandment. None of this dotting the earth with temples business for the Jews. Nope.

Quantumleap42 said...

When we as believers present evidence, of necessity it includes things such as angels, gold plates, the physical appearance of God, and revelation. Others may not accept these fundamental premises but the evidence we present and accept as valid is consistent with the fundamental outlook we profess to believe. We take statements about angels, physical gold plates, revelation, and God at face value because those things form a fundamental part of our worldview. We do not have to force that particular evidence into agreement with our fundamental assumptions about the world since it already fits with it. In that way we can accept the presence of chiasmus, Nahom, and other correspondences as simple evidence without much debate since if Lehi and his family really left Jerusalem about 600 years BC, and the record they and their descendants wrote ultimately ended up on gold plates translated by Joseph Smith then we would expect those things.

Thus we present them as evidence to support our belief, not because they are more important than angels, the gold plates, and God Himself, but because they are things that can be looked at, considered, and must be addressed by those who do not accept the reality of angels, the gold plates and/or God. This is why critics try to dismiss or minimize those pieces of evidence, and the Book of Mormon in general, since they cannot glibly say, "Oh how convenient that Moroni took the gold plates back." when it comes to chiasmus, complex story lines, names derived from Hebrew and other such things found in the text. These things cannot easily be dismissed because they are present.

So for those who hold to, as Orbiting Kolob puts it, "a naturalistic explanation" there must be some other way for those things to be present without appealing to angels and gold plates. Hence they insist that Joseph Smith got the information from maps, Solomon Spalding, or some other source. The problem with this, as mentioned by Jeff and others, is that all of these theories introduce a layer of complexity that doesn't fit with historical evidence. In some cases these explanations border on the ridiculous to the point of introducing a kind of anti-spiritual magic.

For example, Orbiting Kolob has stated, "Anyone familiar with the Bible is familiar with chiasmus". Except, if we are all being honest and accepting a "naturalistic" worldview, chiasmus are not well known, or even well recognized, let alone reproduced on the scale seen in the BoM. There were a smattering of scholars in the 1820's in England who recognized that such a structure might exist, but it wasn't until 1920 that the concept of chiastic structures were introduced to the scholarly world. Even today they are not well known, or understood. Even at UNC-Chapel Hill, where the original book detailing chiasmus in the Bible was published in 1920, the concept of chiasmus is known, but outside a small circle of scholars (two of them LDS) they are not talked about or studied or even noticed. To say that chiastic structures were plain and obvious to anyone who read the Bible is to insist that a common plow boy noticed something that somehow slipped past scholars who make it their life work to study such things. It's a claim so absurd that it requires magical levels of insight and knowledge on the part of Joseph Smith that you might as well say God revealed it him.

Quantumleap42 said...

If Orbiting is really trying to adhere to a "naturalistic" worldview, I seriously wonder how he can and then insist on scenarios that require an almost supernatural level of ability on the part of Joseph Smith. The amount of obscure knowledge, information and connections that would have to be compiled from a vast frontier library are so extensive that it would surely require something magical, such as a palantír (wait...), to bring all that knowledge together from the far flung recesses of libraries scattered all over the US and Europe.

The fact that theories and scenarios such as that are proposed indicate to me that very little effort has gone into a critical examination of such theories before being proposed. Those who throw around theories such as that are in my opinion singularly ill-equipped to asses the suitability of evidence and whether or not an argument is valid. I do not mind people who disagree with me, but I do take issue with those who set themselves as the gate keepers of "rationality" and protectors and definers of "evidence", but fail to critically examine at least on a basic level their own thinking.

Quantumleap42 said...


Except for all the other temples such as the one at Leontopolis, and then the one at Elephantine, and even though Ezra and his followers didn't like it, the one at Mount Gerizim was staffed by Levities and the high priest there was descended from Aaron. And those are just the ones we can confirm.

everythingbeforeus said...


Regardless, my main point stands. Having a temple was a common ancient practice. Sumerians had temples. Greeks had temples. Romans had temples. Egyptians had temples. Everybody wanted a temple. They all believed they were legitimate, naturally. The Jews were no different.

But that is impressive information. Staffed by Levites, no less! With a High Priest descended from Aaron! Just like the way Mormons still do it today! Cool.

Orbiting Kolob said...

... chiasmus [is] not well known, or even well recognized, let alone reproduced on the scale seen in the BoM. There were a smattering of scholars in the 1820's in England who recognized that such a structure might exist...

I honestly don't get this, Quantum. Surely you can see that there's a difference between using a structure, on the one hand, and on the other hand consciously recognizing it as a structure, complete with a formal academic name, etc., etc.

Every time a child says "I want a cookie," she is using a particular syntactical structure. Of course, she couldn't attach a name to that structure -- she couldn't tell you that she's using what grammarians would label Noun-Verb-Direct Object -- but that hardly prevents her from using it! She uses it because she's picked it up from her linguistic environment -- from other people's speech -- not because she's consciously aware of it as a structure.

In exactly the same way, Joseph Smith's use of chiasmus in no way depends on his consciously comprehending it as a rhetorical trope. He uses it because he's picked it up from an influential part of his linguistic environment, the Bible. His use of chiasmus is no more remarkable than his use of "And it came to pass."

Your idea that no one could possibly use chiasmus until the "concept of chiastic structures [was] introduced to the scholarly world" in 1920 is just ludicrous. What will you tell us next, that without divine assistance, no one could speak English before the publication of the first dictionary? Makes about as much sense.

It's not hard to see why BYU has decided to distance itself from the FARMs-style apologetics that produces these silly arguments.

James Anglin said...

Mormons and skeptics actually agree that angels don't give out gold plates very often. And they should, at least, agree on something else: clever con artists are much more common than prophets. But when Mormon apologists scoff at critics for postulating Joseph Smith's 'enormous frontier library', I think they are refusing to think seriously about just how clever a clever con artist can be. There have been many examples of psychic or religious charlatans, some of whom have even launched large movements, who drew attention for performing feats that seemed to most people to be impossible without miraculous powers. Close and careful examination, however, has revealed that most people just wildly underestimate what a clever and determined trickster can do.

Mormons mostly grow up believing that Joseph Smith was a holy prophet, so I imagine that Mormons may feel as if they are bending over backwards to be open-minded, when they merely assess Smith's life as if he were a normal historical figure. Skeptics, however, suspect Smith of being an ingenious con artist. This brings different standards into play. The intensely suspicious standards which critics apply to Joseph Smith are not far fetched hypotheses designed especially to condemn the Mormon prophet. They are simply the standards that have been proven many times to be appropriate, when dealing with con artists, who definitely exist.

Is it unfair to apply such standards to Joseph Smith? Well, yes — if Smith was a true prophet. If Smith actually was a fraud, though, then scrutinizing him as if he were a con artist would be the right thing to do.

I know of nothing done by Joseph Smith that seems to me to be beyond the capability of a clever con artist. Yes, that's a really hard charge to contest. Con artists do things that seem impossible to most people — that's how they fool people. Unfortunately, though, clever con artists are real, and they are much more common than prophets.

James Anglin said...


Of course Joseph Smith would easily have learned Old Slavonic from his schoolmaster father ...

Just kidding. As far as I know at this point, it's quite hard to see how Joseph Smith could have had access to Enoch 2. I wonder one thing, though, about parallels between the Book of Moses and Enoch 2. How many of these parallels are not also parallels with Enoch 1? If imitation of Enoch 1 could account for all of them, without Enoch 2, then it really doesn't matter how many nice parallels with Enoch 2 one can find.

Because access to Enoch 1 looks a lot more feasible. I believe an English edition came out in 1820. Did it then get into the hands of Joseph Smith — or Sidney Rigdon — within the next decade? That was long before BitTorrent. But on the other hand, why did anyone publish such a text in 1820? It was a commercial proposition. There was a market for Hebrew esoterica; it was a fad of the day, at least to some degree. If a new style of dress came out in Paris in 1820, it probably would have reached upstate New York by 1830. Why not also a fashionable kind of book? Or at least bootleg extracts from it? Bootleg American editions were a plague on English publishing for most of the 19th century.

Jerome said...

Apologists tell us that there is no DNA evidence for BoM peoples because only a few dozen Israelites were swallowed up by a vastly more numerous population of Mesoamericans soon after their arrival. This makes me wonder which is the bigger miracle: that Joseph Smith would use Hebrew literary devices, or that Alma would use them. Alma, according to the apologists, was more Mayan than Hebrew. People who study Mesoamerica have decoded the Mayan language, and there's no evidence that they used Hebrew. How would Alma have known to use chiasmus? By imitating what was on the brass plates? Is that somehow easier to believe than Joseph Smith imitating what was in the Bible?

Anyway, the Doctrine and Covenants contains chiasmus, and this does not purport to be an ancient document, which demonstrates that chiasmus is not a specific indicator of ancient Semitic composition.

everythingbeforeus said...

That's a good point, Jerome. And if the Nephites/Lamanites did get swallow up and fully inculturated into the existing order of things, you'd expect the see certain things in the Book of Mormon that simply aren't there. Like maize.

I was a believer. A true-blue, honest-to-God, nothing wavering, devoted, committed Mormon for many long years. I understand exactly HOW someone can believe it.

But now I see things from a different point of view. I see exactly why someone would NOT believe it.

As a non-believer, I am not threatened in the least to see it the way a believer sees it. But as a believer, to see it the way a nono-believer sees it would have been a very threatening act. This is the trap believers are in.

They cannot afford, even as an experiment, to step over to that other side. Doing so is giving power to the Devil. Until a believer truly leaves and looks back, he/she can never gain a full picture of Mormonism.

He will see "chiasmus" and EModE and NHM and feel confident. But when you step over, these things are still quite interesting. They really are. I can't fully explain NHM. And some of the arguments presented here criticizing NHM don't fully address the issue, in my opinion.

So, I am saying that sure...believers...you have some strong evidence on your side. You really do. But when you fully leave it all behind, especially if you leave it all behind for Christ of the Bible, the pile that will begin stacking up against Mormonism will start growing and growing and growing until it fully engulfs any of the evidence you once leaned upon.

Historical events or pronouncements made by old church leaders will suddenly move off the sidelines, and onto the field. When BY says that he'd give any sum of money or any of his wives to JS for the building up of the Kingdom of God, you see such a statement in its proper context. You'll realize that, essentially, you promised to do JUST THAT when you took out your endowment. Mormon apologists ignore or pooh-pooh such statements (and they are numerous). But such statements more accurately represent the reality of Mormonism on paper, if not always in contemporary practice, than anything you will hear over the General Conference pulpit.

Until you really step away, you will not be able to see this.

Ryan said...

For whatever it's worth, the introduction to my copy of the Popol Vuh specifically points out that the Maya used quite a bit of chiasmus.

Orbiting Kolob said...

... if the Nephites/Lamanites did get swallowed up and fully enculturated into the existing order of things, you'd expect the see certain things in the Book of Mormon that simply aren't there. Like maize.

Yes, absolutely. This is the problem with abandoning the idea of the Nephites/Lamanites as the ancestors of the Native Americans. Giving up that idea solves the DNA problem, but also raises fatal questions about the complete absence of all those other cultures from the BoM.

In any ancient historical narrative with a shred of historical grounding, interactions with the dominant cultures would play a significant role. Thus in the Bible we read of Israelite interaction with the Egyptians, Babylonians, Persians, Assyrians, Canaanites, Kushites, Philistines, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, Jebusites, Amalekites ... and of course Romans and Greeks.

Yet we are to believe that ancient American historians like Mormon would record a thousand years of the actual history of a small group of people surrounded by other, much larger cultures, yet never once mention those other peoples, much less describe in plausible detail what must at times have been highly significant conflicts with them? It defies everything we know about reality.

The apologists will respond by claiming that the BoM's ancient authors were interested only in producing a religious history. Those authors, we are told, were interested only in recording events of spiritual significance, and thus were not concerned with Nephite/Lamanite interaction with outside cultures. But this makes no sense, for the simple reason that conflicts with outside groups so often have spiritual significance, as any alert reader of the Bible can see. The whole Egypt cycle, from the Joseph story to the Exodus, is obviously of tremendous spiritual significance. Ditto for the Babylonian conquest and captivity. (Were it not for the Babylonian threat, would we have the Book of Isaiah at all?)

Any halfways reader of the Bible will recognize that the interaction with outside peoples was perpetually a source of Israelite anxiety about apostasy -- which is to say, again, that interactions with outsiders was of tremendous spiritual significance. Ditto for the Greeks and Romans in the Gospels, some of whose spiritual heft relies heavily on, for example, Jesus's confrontation with Pilate. Really, the unfolding of the whole passion narrative revolves around the conflict between Roman imperial power, the local Jewish puppet government, and the challenge posed to both of them by Jesus and his followers.

The inclusion of outside peoples in the story is not simply incidental, something that the Gospel writers could just as well have done without. The spiritual story simply would not be comprehensible if it were told, BoM-style, solely as a matter internal to the Jews, without attending to interactions with the other peoples involved. This is why so much of the Nephite-Lamanite conflict is so incomprehensible, or at least so "thin": the Lamanites are perpetually falling away from the straight and narrow, and warring against the Nephites, but the BoM, unlike the Bible, never gives us plausible reasons why.

So the apologists' explanation for the absence of outside groups from the BoM doesn't wash. The Book of Mormon simply is not grounded in ancient New World history.

everythingbeforeus said...

And don't forget Orbiting that while the Book of Mormon claims to be about spiritual matters only, large portions of it ARE nothing but "history." As a Mormon, I got so bored by the history chapters. I loved the other stuff. But that other stuff now reads a lot like Protestant sermons of the 19th Century. It has no resemblance to any spiritual writings of truly ancient cultures. The Old Testament has no sermons in anyway similar to the Book of Mormon sermons. Even Paul's letters don't read like Book of Mormon sermons. I think we get a good idea what Joseph Smith was listening to at the tent revivals, though.

everythingbeforeus said...

Also remember that the theory that the Nephites/Lamanites were not alone is relatively new. I grew up in the 70's and 80's and I never heard any theory other than that the Nephites and Lamanites were the ancestors of ALL the Native Americans. This was Joseph Smith's understanding. This was Orson Pratt's understanding. And the inclusion of illustrations of South American ruins alongside pictures of Hill Cumorah in New York in the old Books of Mormon from my childhood is proof positive that the Church itself believed this as well.

Anonymous said...

Orbiting, you are incorrect. The Book of Mormon is significantly concerned with other groups. Who were the Lamanites, always frequently mentioned as far more massive in numbers than the Nephites? The Nephites conquered the Mulekites, but had problems with them for decades (indeed, most of the Nehor, etc heresies were championed by the Mulekite factions). The Gadiantons grew into a mighty group, so much that at one point everyone else had to unite against them.

And don't forget the multiple groups of Jaredites at the end. There's lots of groups or nations in the Book of Mormon. And the Book of Mormon tells us that it is consolidating people; it mentions that there were Jacobites and Josephites and Zoramites and Lamanites and Lemuelites and Nephites and Ishmaelites. The authors consciously rolled them into two groups, but it does mention that they existed. And after the Nephite nation dissolved in the early AD's, it apparently never reformed; Mormon's leadership of the Nephite armies does not appear to have been complete control over an organized nation-state. Plenty of groups going around.

And as for stuff like the Aztecs and so forth: most of the groups we know show up after the BofM ended. Don't forget, the Book of Mormon ends just as the Classic Maya period begins. Pre-Classic Maya is far less well known.

Lamanite was just a term for "non-Nephite". And as for your thing about apostasy, it is there! The Nephites are continually struggling against local apostasy. Think of Jacob's campaign against polygamy: the Nephites started it due to local customs. From the people around them. It's not explicitly stated, but it's easy to read between the lines. And so forth.

By the way: I like your assertion that Chiasmus as complex as Alma 36 and King Benjamin's speech is just something that comes naturally, without trying. I know everyone just pumps out complex chiasm's without trying, right? Totally natural; easiest thing in the world to write a 40 verse multi-leveled chaistic structured account with the structure just naturally driving home the central doctrinal message. Happens to all of us, really. No big deal.

The argument that Alma would have been more Maya than Hebrew mistakes the point: The entire reason for the Nephite nation was their religion and culture tied to it. That's what made them a Nephite. Mosiah, and I assume everyone else in the line of record keeper, would of course been trained in Hebrew and the brass plates. It's the entire national rationale, after all. Just as we today still teach the Constitution, despite the creeping socialism trying to wipe it away.

Anonymous said...

And you mistake: the Book of Mormon DOES give the Lamanite version of history. Amalickiah and his brother Ammoron spout it quite faithfully. Also, King Zeniff puts it all down in Mosiah 10: 11-17.

Plus, we see at the end of the book of mormon, in the epistles of Mormon to his son Moroni, some "uncensored" stuff. And its full of Lamanite human sacrifice and cannibalism; which is very Mesoamerican. The Nephites are no better, though, and they should be better. Which is why they are destroyed--just as the Jews who should have known better got punished by God more.

Orbiting Kolob said...

Who were the Lamanites...?

Um, descendants of Laman? That is, not members of any pre-existing New World peoples.

If we were talking about the Israelites in conflict with other peoples, would it make sense to think of the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, etc. as "other peoples"? Of course not. They're all descendants of Jacob, just as the Nephites, Lamanites, etc. are all descendants of Lehi.

Remember the underlying context of this discussion: the fact that the Native Americans lack Israelite DNA. In response to this embarrassing fact, the Church decided to change the preface to the Book of Mormon so that it no longer said the Lamanites were the principal ancestors of the Indians -- just among those ancestors. (The Mulekites also would have had Israelite DNA. The Jaredites, I grant you, would not.) This is a huge change. Now we're supposed to believe that there were many other, non-Israelite, native peoples around, compared to whom the Nephites/Lamanites were just a small minority, so small that their Israelite DNA has been diluted beyond recognition. (So apparently it was wrong to tell all those Native Americans and Pacific Islanders about their Israelite origins. Oops! The mighty prophets of God were wrong.... Amazing.)

So, why are all these people absent from the book? Nothing significant ever happened involving them? Unbelievable.

We know a fair amount about Native American cultures between 600 BCE and 400 AD, and nothing of what we know is reflected in the BoM. Instead, all of the Book of Mormon peoples are cardboard characters created by an author with limited literary abilities.

Anyway, Anon 11:53, I'm done with you. My head can only withstand so much brick wall.

Orbiting Kolob said...

... that other stuff now reads a lot like Protestant sermons of the 19th Century. It has no resemblance to any spiritual writings of truly ancient cultures. The Old Testament has no sermons in any way similar to the Book of Mormon sermons. Even Paul's letters don't read like Book of Mormon sermons. I think we get a good idea what Joseph Smith was listening to at the tent revivals, though.

Everything, you're absolutely right. It's just amazing how many bloviating 19th-century preachers were running around in ancient America, and how few ancient Jews or authentically Native American cultures.

Anonymous said...

*shrug* you may be done with me, but you've ignored Jeff's questions to you. You've ignored the opportunity numerous times to explain your "Joseph just threw together a pastiche of scholars stuff and good guesses and out popped the Book of Mormon!" numerous times.

Since your version requires massive faith too; why should I believe you? You claim that Joseph could have gotten all that stuff from available materials; yet provided no evidence. Here's one; surely you can explain this naturally?

Book of Moses; the story of Enoch. During his travels, Enoch meets a man named Mahujah. Minor character, but he's there. Turns out, Enoch in the Book of Giant's from Qumram has an encounter with a man named Mahujah, who asks him similar questions than Enoch in the Book of Moses asked. The Book of Giants was not discovered until 1948. Mahujah is nowhere else in 1 Enoch or 2 Enoch referred to. No contemporary source material for Joseph to copy from.

How did Joseph Smith get such a bulls-eye? What's the naturalistic explanation? And will you refuse to answer this question as well? It's your turn to defend you "Vast library of sources no one ever saw" theory.

everythingbeforeus said...

The Mayan timeline matches the Nephite timeline, but the Mayans built ziggurat-like structures to worship their gods. If they were Israelites practicing the Law of Moses, as Nephi says they were, we would not have temples on top of masonry-covered mounds of earth, as the Mayans do.

So, your Mayan temples CAN'T be Nephite. At best, they would have to be Lamanite apostate temples. But this then makes me wonder were the evidence for Nephite worship is.

Orbiting Kolob said...

Yep. Can't be Nephite because Law of Moses. But it can't be Lamanite, either, because the descendants of the Mayans lack Israelite DNA. The Book of Mormon is fiction.

everythingbeforeus said...

"Previously unknown or little-known texts about Enoch were discovered at Qumran. The most important of these is The Book of Giants. Enoch lived before the Flood, during a time when the world, in ancient imagination, was very different. Human beings lived much longer, for one thing; Enoch's son Methuselah, for instance, attained the age of 969 years. Another difference was that angels and humans interacted freely -- so freely, in fact, that some of the angels begot children with human females. This fact is neutrally reported in Genesis (6:1-4), but other stories view this episode as the source of the corruption that made the punishing flood necessary. According to The Book of Enoch, the mingling of angel and human was actually the idea of Shernihaza, the leader of the evil angels, who lured 200 others to cohabit with women. The offspring of these unnatural unions were giants 450 feet high. The wicked angels and the giants began to oppress the human population and to teach them to do evil. For this reason God determined to imprison the angels until the final judgment and to destroy the earth with a flood. Enoch's efforts to intercede with heaven for the fallen angels were unsuccessful (1 Enoch 6-16). The Book of Giants retells part of this story.."

I cut and pasted that from the Web. Tell me, Anon, since this book is used to support the Enoch story in the Pearl of Great Price, do you consider it be a ancient and true record? Do you embrace the entirety of it as holy writ?

Anonymous said...

I'm just going to stare in amazement here at your complete missing of the point, everythingbeforeus. Where, exactly, did I claim it was holy writ?

I consider it an ancient record, yes. There is, if you would ever care to look, a very large quantity of Enoch literature of ancient date. Much of it contradicts itself; promotes heresies, etc. Traditions get mangled, and so forth.

Are you saying it's not an ancient record? That it does not talk about Enoch? I consider the books of the Maccabees to be ancient records as well; which does not mean I consider them writ.

The point being that a demonstrable ancient work about Enoch contains details that Joseph Smith could not have gotten from that work. Despite your attempts to dance around the subject: how did that happen? Both records recount a conversation between Enoch and a man named Mahujah. This is an authentic ancient tradition about Enoch that Joseph Smith couldn't have known about in any form, yet it is there. Same with the Rechabites, listed above. How did Joseph Smith get those echoes and details right when there was no possibility of him reading any "natural" resource? It's just sheer coincidence? What are the chances that I could write a story about, say, Lamech in the Bible, making up names and conversations and so forth, and then over 100 years later those same names and conversations are discovered in indisputably ancient works talking about Lamech? It's not just Enoch; the story of Abraham's life in the Book of Mormon also contains details that have been confirmed or at least mentioned in other works; that were not available to Joseph Smith or anyone else.
Provide the "He was a fraud" explanation, please. I don't have to agree with the theology of the Book of Giants to notice that it is an authentic ancient record containing details about Enoch that parallel the Book of Moses; nor do I endorse its theology.

Just as I don't endorse the Tell El-amara letters to realize that they provide significant confirmation for much of the Bible.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Orbiting, I think your desire to criticize blinds you to the genuine inquiry that some LDS folks pursue. Skousen and others are genuinely interested in understanding the origins of content in the dictated Bbok of Mormon. There is no reason to require or expect puzzling pre-KJV English in the text. There was no reason to assume that the seemingly bad grammar came from anything other than Joseph. But it was his pursuit of knowledge and open-mindedness that allowed him to drop east assumptions and dig. Carmack has dug even deeper. When I saw his work, I was skeptical and pushed back with a counter example (e.g., apreaching) that i then learned was EModE. I dug a little myself by looking through the 1835 D&C for similar language, and by doing a test based on characteristics of uniquely New England grammar, and in my explorations, have not yet found any way to explain the findings based on the assumption that it was just Joseph's language. Ditto for the Hebraisms. That does not necessarily mean it is divine, but it challenges existing theories based on Joseph alone or his peers alone.

Orbiting Kolob said...

Orbiting, I think your desire to criticize blinds you to the genuine inquiry that some LDS folks pursue.

Jeff, I've read a fair amount of "genuine inquiry" from fine LDS scholars. I encounter it all the time, in the place where such genuine inquiry is published: peer-reviewed academic journals.

flying fig said...

"Enoch contains details that Joseph Smith could not have gotten from that work"

Not true.

Read Salvatore Cirillo; Joseph Smith, Mormonism and Enochic Tradition

In Scripture and Scholarship in Early Modern England, “Og King of Bashan, Enoch and the Books of Enoch: Extra-Canonical Texts and Interpretations of Genesis 6:1-4,” Ariel Hessayon writes:

Far from being neglected, Enoch and the books under his name had preoccupied monks, chroniclers, rabbis, Kabbalists, Academicians, magicians, Catholic theologians, Protestant divines, Orientalists, sectarian and poets alike. So much so, that by the mid-eighteenth century the available evidence in Greek and Latin had been exhausted.

Indeed, in his article Joseph Smith, Mormonism and Enochic Tradition, Salvatore Cirillo exhausts several important responses to your claim.

Firstly, Cirillo dedicates a significant amount of effort to describe the trade of books between Europe and the Americas at the time, especially those of the Enochic narritive.

Cirillo lists five ways the Enochic literature was made accessible to Smith:

an advertisement for [Thomas Hartwell] Horne‘s book [An Introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures] in a Palmyra paper;
another advertisement for Horne‘s book in a nearby Canandaigua bookstore;
yet another advertisement indicating Horne‘s book was continuously on sale in Canandaigua;
Horne‘s book told Palmyra‘s residents that the BE [Books of Enoch] was important; and
an American printing of Laurence‘s 1En [First Book of Enoch] in 1828.

flying fig said...

As another point in his thesis, Cirillo exhibits Smith’s dependence on the documents in question using the legal standard of substantial similarity. He concludes,

Substantial similarities and influence as argued by the Stanford study both support this thesis‘ larger argument that Joseph Smith‘s EPE [Extract of the Prophecy of Enoch] was influenced by the BE [Books of Enoch]. Hugh Nibley‘s assumption that Smith‘s EPE was the result of independent and wholly divine revelation is not viable. There is clear evidence which favours access by Smith to materials related to the BE and, as this chapter has shown, there exists a degree of substantial similarities not easily dismissed as coincidence. The use of the Son of Man motif, the relationship of Enoch and Noah, and the accounts of the journey‘s to question Enoch between Mahijah, Mahaway, Methuselah and Noah, all establish enough substantial similarity to argue that Smith was influenced. That each of these ideas and there expressions was only available in the BE accounts at the time of Smith‘s writing is proof positive that influence did occur.

Aditionally, Joseph Smith, before the final publication of the completed Book of Moses in 1851 had access to the content of all of these texts in addition to a faithful convert to assist him in the rabbinically trained polyglot Alexander Neibaur. In Joseph Smith and Kabbalah: The Occult Connection, Lance S. Owens writes:

By 1842 Joseph Smith most likely had touched the subject of Kabbalah in several ways and versions, even if such contacts remain beyond easy documentation. During Joseph's final years in Nauvoo, however, his connection with Kabbalah becomes more concrete. In the spring of 1841 there apparently arrived in Nauvoo an extraordinary library of Kabbalistic writings belonging to a European Jew and convert to Mormonism who evidently knew Kabbalah and its principal written works. This man, Alexander Neibaur, would soon become the prophet's friend and companion.

Later, he says:

Newel and Avery note in their biography of Emma Smith, "Through Alexander Neibaur, Joseph Smith had access to ancient Jewish rites called cabalism at the same time he claimed to be translating the papyri from the Egyptian mummies." That he not only knew something of Kabbalah, but apparently possessed a collection of original Jewish Kabbalistic works in Nauvoo, is however documented in material almost totally overlooked by Mormon historians.

And so an argument that the Enochic literature and other writings of Kabbalah and Hermeticism influenced Smith’s later writings is simpler to establish. As a whole, the manuscripts of Smith's dictations and writings used to compose the Book of Moses show "signs of subsequent correcting, editing and amending" and "are full of errors, omissions, and revisions." The Book of Moses was not published in its entirety until 1851, some seven years after his death. As far as the remaining two (4 & 5 Enoch) of the four other volumes you describe, perhaps you can edit your question to clarify exactly what texts you're talking about. Standard catalogues of biblical pseudepigrapha list only 1, 2, and 3 Enoch.

everythingbeforeus said...

Thanks Flying Fig.

The Lance Owens essay is a great one.

Kabbalah is considered to be the grand-daddy of much occultic thought. Highly-placed Freemasons acknowledge their indebtedness to Kabbalah. Those aspects of Mormonism that cannot be found in mainstream Christianity (eternal progression, eternal marriage, Adam-God, etc...) all can be found to various degrees in Kabbalah, Gnosticism, and other occultic traditions. The temple is basically an occultic ritual.

The church works really hard to paint Joseph Smith as a poor, uneducated hick. This is simply NOT the case. And the ways in which early leaders (even some more recent leaders) speak of him is clearly anti-Christian.

Sample these marvels:

"Our entire case as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rests on the validity of [Joseph Smith's] glorious First Vision. . . . Nothing on which we base our doctrine, nothing we teach, nothing we live by is of greater importance than this initial declaration. I submit that if Joseph Smith talked with God the Father and His Beloved Son, then all else of which he spoke is true. This is the hinge on which turns the gate that leads to the path of salvation and eternal life." Hinckley

"And I hold that to accept Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Savior of the world I must necessarily accept Joseph Smith, as a divinely inspired servant and prophet of God." Joseph F. Smith

"No man or woman in this dispensation will ever enter into the Celestial Kingdom of God without the consent of Joseph Smith. From the day the Priesthood was taken from the earth to the winding-up scene of all things, every man and woman must have the certificate of Joseph Smith, Jr, as a passport to their entrance into the mansion where God and Christ are..." Brigham Young

"If we get our salvation we shall have to pass by [Joseph Smith]; if we enter into our glory it will be through the authority that he has received." George Q. Cannon

"No man on earth can say that Jesus lives and deny,..at the same time...the prophet Joseph Smith." Brigham Young.

If I can pass brother Joseph, I shall stand a good chance for passing Peter, Jesus, the Prophets, Moses, Abraham, and all back to Father Adam, and be pretty sure of receiving his approbation. . . . If we can pass the sentinel Joseph the Prophet, we shall go into the celestial kingdom, and not a man can injure us. If he says, "God bless you, come along here;" if we will live so that Joseph will justify us, and say, "Here am I, brethren," we shall pass every sentinel; there will be no danger but that we will pass into the celestial kingdom. Brigham Young

These statements are offensive to Christians. I can't even begin to tell you how offensive. If you still believe this stuff, you are going to have to face the fact that the Christian world is not going to accept your religion as Christian. There is a line that has to be drawn. These kinds of statements are clearly over that line.

James Anglin said...

Cirillo's thesis is the one I mentioned above. It's available freely and legally as an online thesis.

It seems to confirm pretty clearly that Enoch 1 would have been within reach of Joseph Smith or potential collaborators before the Book of Moses. In denying this, Nibley seems simply to have presumed in advance of the facts. There was an 1828 American edition, and quite a bit of buzz and interest in Enochian things.

Cirillo's thesis also discusses Mahujah and Mahijah at some length. The situation appears to be that only the Book of Moses mention these two names in that form, and from looking at the original manuscript of the Book of Moses, it appears as though both names refer to the person, a companion of Enoch. Later editions seem to have altered Smith's original text in such a way as to make Mahujah into a place name. A strange old text, called the Book of Giants, has a figure whose name could conceivably be transliterated as Mahujah, who talks rather in the way that the Book of Moses has its Mahujah talk with Enoch. It doesn't seem clear, however, that the Book of Giants would have been accessible to Joseph Smith. On the other hand it's also not clear whether the Book of Giants is really the only possible source for Mahujah.

To Cirillo, the correspondences between the Book of Giants and the Book of Moses are so close as to constitute strong evidence that Smith copied from some source. It may be, however, that no such source for Mahujah has yet been found that would have been available in Smith's time. If this source is indeed missing — I can't quite tell from the thesis — then we are left with two options. Either Smith copied from source that has not yet turned up, or he independently produced a close parallel to an episode in the Book of Giants. The second option further breaks down into two options: coincidence or revelation.

The case is certainly still open. But for me the probabilities incline strongly to the first option. There was a lot of Enoch material, and a lot of it was around in Smith's time and place. The possibility that something about Mahujah was among it, though not yet found, does not seem far-fetched. A coincidental reproduction of a close parallel does seem far-fetched. But revelation would also be bizarre, even if one does consider it possible.

The Book of Giants is a strange bit of pseudoepigraphia, never considered canonical by anyone. The giants about which it speaks are apparently said to have stood about 450 feet tall. It's not clear that there's any deep spiritual message in it, either; it appears to be at the comic-book end of the Enochian pool. So do we really think that the weird old Book of Giants was somehow inspired to contain a true history of Mahujah along with its nonsense about enormous human-angel hybrids, and that God then re-revealed this truth to Joseph Smith, in terms similar enough to be confused with copying?

To me that's such a weird scenario that I'm prepared, before I seriously entertain it, to wait quite a long time for a Mahujah source to turn up.

Anonymous said...

I find it funny that everythingbeforeus says that we have to change our core beliefs to be Christian. Indeed, I suspect that there is nothing at all, ever, that the LDS church could do to be considered "Christian" in his eyes. Not even Christ Himself endorsing the LDS church simultaneously on all cable channels would do the job.

Because the idea that God would care enough about us to call a prophet is so offensive to him, somehow. But then, the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders had the same problem with Jesus: worshipping the old while rejecting the source who was standing right there. Peter had that problem, so did Paul. And now Christianity is defined not by scripture, but by how close you hew to a council's doctrinal statements that were made after all agree the heavens were closed.

Quite funny, isn't it? God stopped talking to man, but we must obey the Nicene Creed, which by definition cannot be inspired since it came long after revelation ceased. What's more important, the Nicene Creed or the pronouncements of Jesus, Paul, and Peter?

For "Christians" of everythingbeforeus's type, it's the Nicene Creed. That is the ultimate scripture, after all. It overrules whatever the Apostles said. We Mormons believe the New Testament, not the creeds--and for that, the Christian world tries to evict us.

You guys follow Nicaea, not Christ. The LDS church is clearly in the same area as the early Church fathers; while those same Church Fathers labeled your beliefs heretical. The council of Nicaea changed the worship of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; they changed the worship of Christ into the worship of nothing--quite literally. The Nicene creed is the biggest definition of impossibilities there is; it describes nothing. There is no functional difference between the Nicene God and the philosophers: the "Unknown God" that Paul railed against. The God of the Bible has a body, has parts and passions. He actually sits on a throne because He has a body with which to sit. The Bible consistently reflects that. The Nicene God is something totally different and rejects the God of the Bible as a metaphor. This after revelation had ceased, of course. And yet you require us to deny God? That you have done so is your business, but I will stick with God as the Bible reveals Him.

everythingbeforeus said...

Funny how I have never once in this conversation said a single thing about the Nicene Creed, yet Anon is throwing it at me now. I guess he is getting bored talking about the occult.

Anon, find the expression "Eternal Family" in the Standard Works. It isn't there. Mormons use this term as a shortcut for speaking about a complex doctrine which they erroneously believe is in their scriptures. But, actually, it isn't. The scriptures never talk of anything except the New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage, which was polygamy. The only eternal family in Mormon scripture is the one in which there is one man and several wives.

Trinitarians acknowledge that the expression "Trinity" is not in the Bible. It is a shortcut word for expressing truths that they believe ARE in the Bible.

Jesus said he was the "I Am." That means he was Yahweh, the God the Jews worshiped as the one and only God. Even MOrmons believe Christ was the God of the Old Testament.

There were no Gods before this God. There are no Gods after this God. And there won't be, either. This God knows of no other Gods in Heaven above or Earth beneath. It can't be any clearer than that. Yet, Jesus is also telling us to pray to the Father.

Right there you have it....Trinity. Jesus is God (Paul says so...all the fullness of deity is in Christ bodily.) Yet Jesus tells us to pray to the Father.

In the Bible, everywhere Yahweh's name should be, you will find LORD in all caps. That means in the original Hebrew, there is the name Yahweh. Quite often you will find in the Old Testament this construction "LORD God." Do you know what that means? It means Jehovah Elohim. Elohim is the generic Hebrew word for "god." But you Mormons say Elohim is the name of the Father. You have no way of making sense of LORD God. Jehovah Elohim. Your apologist just say, "Well....nomenclature for God has not always been as standardized as it is in these Latter-day."

There is more scriptural support for the Trinity in the Bible than there is scriptural support for the modern understanding of eternal families in the entire Standard Works.

everythingbeforeus said...

1. There is one God.
2. The Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit are God.
3. The Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit are not the same person.

If you believe those, you are probably a Trinitarian.

Anonymous said...

Since we LDS believe all three of your points, you have no problems saying we are Christian, then? You are retracting your earlier statement?

You must be unique, since every other Evangelical will say that Mormons don't believe in the God of the Bible, by which they mean creedal Trinity. That we Mormons "worship a different Jesus" and other such nonsense. I'm glad that you are not party to that bit of nonsense. I am glad that you do not require the Nicene creed to be the definition of God, unlike practically all other Evangelical types I've ever met.

everythingbeforeus said...


Do you believe that the Son possesses the fullness of the divine nature, as Paul says?

If so, then how can those souls who inherit Terrestrial Glory and who cannot abide the fullness of the Father still abide in the presence of the Son?

See...Mormonism is Subordinationist. Even the Encyclopedia of Mormonism openly declares it as such. The Son is subordinate to the Father. This is the same teaching that forced the early church to convene the Council of Nicea. Arius was preaching that Jesus was God, but not really in the sense that the Father was God. Thus, technically, he was God in name only, but not THE GOD as described in the Old Testament.

So, on the surface, Mormons do accept these three statements. But in reality, they do not fully accept all the logical implications of these three statements.

But I do believe Mormons can be Christians. I am not a denominationalist. All relgions teach but a shadow of Truth. The transmission of Truth is reserved for the Holy Spirit alone. Not man. Certainly not man's organizations.

Anonymous said...

Since Jesus Himself said that the Father was greater than He was, I'm not sure why it's a problem that we agree with Him.
As to your question about how people can abide in the presence of the Son: how did people abide His presence while He was on earth? For that matter, the Father visited a few times Himself and people survived. The Son will not live in the Terrestrial Kingdom, nor do I suspect that the people in the Terrestrial Kingdom could abide the fullness of the Son either.
It's the rejection of subordination that made the early Christian's go off the rails. The early saints, and the New Testament clearly taught that God the Father was the greatest, far greater than the Son. Arius went wrong in saying that Jesus was not God in the sense that the Father is God.

Subordination is the truth; not the pernicious lie that says God is the same being spread in three separate persons. I don't know why people have such an issue with Jesus being 2nd in command, subject to the Father.

everythingbeforeus said...


Jesus said that the Father was greater than He was, but that was only because he temporarily took upon himself mortal flesh. In the intercessory prayer, Jesus prays and asks the Father to now glorify him with the SAME GLORY that he shared with the Father IN THE BEGINNING.

Christ's subordination to the Father was a necessary component of the Atonement, but it was temporary. He possessed the glory of the Father before the incarnation. And after he fulfilled the Atonement, he was glorified with that same glory once again. The Bible...amazing stuff in there.

People could abide in the Son's presence while he was on the earth because he was subordinate to the Father AT THAT TIME. And thus he rightfully said there is no one good except God.

The Father has NOT visited his people in the way that you describe. No man has seen the Father. The Bible, again...amazing stuff in there.

You believe that Jesus was the God of the Old Testament. So do I. What does this mean if Jesus was second in command? That is NOT the way the Jews described their God. Because the Old Testament God said there is none greater than He. That Old Testament God said that there are no Gods before Him or after Him.

I am sorry that Joseph Smith altered these truths so as to cause you this kind of confusion.

everythingbeforeus said...

This is the beauty of the doctrine of the incarnation: God is made flesh. God, himself. Not some second-in-command Demigod.

If it is not God Himself that saves us, we are not saved. Nor can we be. In Mormonism, there is no way to reconcile the ideas that Jesus was just one of God's spirit children, like all the rest of us, and Jesus was God. They two concepts are in stark opposition to each other. Because Mormons believe you cannot become God until you've passed through a mortal probation and proven yourself worthy of exaltation.

Jesus was God who became man. That's Biblical. But LDS Doctrine proposes a Jesus who was a man, but also in some inexplicable way also God, but then worked out his own salvation at the same time he worked out our salvation, and became an exalted man.

Mormons...you've been done a huge disservice. Reject the false doctrines that Joseph Smith added onto the truth.

James Anglin said...

The same church which agreed on the Nicene Creed also determined what writings, out of the many available, counted as New Testament Scripture. Obviously both decisions could have been wrong. But it seems a bit arbitrary to consider the one decision worthless heresy and the second decision infallible revelation.

In particular it seems a bit strange to me for Mormons, who believe in continuing revelation, to object to Nicene doctrines just because they are post-Biblical. I mean, objecting to Nicene Christianity is fine; but to object on those particular grounds seems inconsistent, to me, for Mormons.

I may not be a typical Christian, but I happen to believe much more strongly in the Trinity than I do in the authority of the Bible. I agree that the Old Testament picture of God is, at least in many places, much more anthropomorphic than Nicene theology. The Trinity is a pretty subtle idea, all right. But precisely this appeals to me. I'm a physics professor, and I find that our ideas about the natural universe have changed a lot since the Bronze Age. It turns out that reality just isn't as simple as we once assumed it was. So I'm afraid that the picture of God as a corporeal being just sounds to me like pretty primitive theology. The Trinity sounds a little more like the kind of transcendent being who might have created quantum fields.

Anonymous said...

I thought this was a post on the Bible, not the Crusades.


Anonymous said...

Really, Jeff. How long are you going to stand by and watch this butchery?


everythingbeforeus said...


everythingbeforeus said...

Jack, explain to me how Jesus is God. You can't just say so. What's the rationale for your belief? How does this square with your belief that he is a spirit child of God just like you and me? How can he be the God of the Old Testament before he has even had a trial of his agency in a mortal state? This IS the qualification for Godhood, right? We can't be exalted without being tried and tempted in mortality.

How do you reconcile these doctrinal disparities?
If the doctrine is so clear and obvious to you, please explain it to me.

Anonymous said...

EverythingBeforeus is mistaken: The Holy Ghost is also God, and does not have a body. Having a physical body is not a requirement for Godhood, and it was never stated so. Our life on earth is to gain a physical body that can become immortal through Christ. But said physical body is in no way a requirement for Godhood.

As for being exalted without being tempted and tried: perhaps you've mistaken the whole "Little Children are alive in Christ"; you know, the whole children who die before being accountable get a pass to heaven. Seems to me you've forgotten an awful lot of LDS theology, everythingbeforeus. Or perhaps you never knew it?

In the Old Testament, Jesus was God just as the Holy Ghost is God now. That He went through mortality and now has a resurrected, exalted body does not mean He was not God before birth.

Your problem is that you think of God as "There can be only one" without pausing to consider that such doctrine is clearly not Biblical; after all, Jesus promised us we would inherit everything the Father hath, and be a joint heir with Him--and He meant it. See C.S. Lewis for further details.

Quantumleap42 said...

I leave the comment thread for a day or two and it gets weird, and again I don't have time to comment much.

everythingbeforeus, there is no way we, or God Himself, could possibly explain anything relating to the divine to you. You have not the humility to consider plain words. Well did Jesus say, "Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." and "ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things." There is no answer or explanation we, or anybody else, could possibly give that would help you see that there is a truth beyond the "truth" you already "know". We cannot answer your questions and accusations, not because there is no answer, but because you have already decided what the answer is, and that we are wrong. Until you have a modicum of humility there is nothing anyone can say that will possibly explain any question you ask.

everythingbeforeus said...

Anonymous. Your statement is so full of problems I can't even begin to address it. If you believe Godhood doesn't require a body, you are in a state of apostasy from Mormon doctrine. See your bishop immediately.

Good grief!

Quantum...someday, you'll regret typing what you have typed. Be easy on yourself when this happens.

Anonymous said...


Your approach is based in a ridged creedalism. But the fact is that none of us knows very much about God. What's most important is that we do what He says. That said, what we *do* know about Him is given to us for a purpose: That we may know what we worship. And in having that knowledge we are led more directly toward God and, therefore, more directly toward becoming like Him.

Surely you must know that Mormons are obsessed with Christ. He is at the center of our faith. If you don't know that, then you don't know Mormons. Once our faith is established in Him then we move forward learning more about Him and His atonement. And in so doing we learn more about ourselves and our own potential as we are faithful to Him. And as our knowledge of Him grows we, over time, get a clearer view of His true eternal majesty, His unfathomable condescension, His boundless love and His supreme power.

This knowledge doesn't come by way of knowing about Him. It comes by knowing


Anonymous said...



everythingbeforeus said...

Jack, Here's how I developed my knowledge of God. It didn't have anything to do with the Creeds. I was a Mormon who was converted OUT of the church by a spiritual experience that had nothing to do with the creeds or any other denomination. I found Christ outside of religion. It was quite a few months later that I started investigating traditional Christianity.

I do know that Mormons are obsessed with Christ. So are the Jehovah's Witnesses. But they do not believe Jesus is the God of the Old Testament. So, tell me,...since this is the case, would you say that you and the Jehovah's Witnesses are acknowledging and relying upon the same Christ?

See the problem? There are plenty who profess the name of Christ. But God must be worshipped in spirit and in truth. In truth.

If someone said they know Jack, but then they describe a guy who only partially matches your description, would you be sure they have the right guy?

The Bible makes very specific claims about the nature of God. The Bible describes the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. Does your God match that description? Were there other Gods before Him? After Him? Is he eternal and unchanging?

A God that was once a man is none of these things.

everythingbeforeus said...

Jack said, "But the fact is that none of us knows very much about God."

Joseph Smith said, "Let us here observe, that three things are necessary in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God unto life and salvation. First, the idea that He actually exists. Secondly, a correct idea of His character, perfections, and attributes...." (Lectures on Faith)

Jeff Lindsay said...

Everything, this post is not about the occult, especially not the special definition you seem to be applying, similar to the Evangelical use of the word cult. Deification and numerous mysteries were part of legit early Christianity. Your rejection of that does not render us a cult in the negative sense not occult. Please save your occult themes for your own blog or for a post here on that topic. My request, please.

Anonymous said...

This blog is ruined because for some insane reason everythingbeforeus is allowed a platform to pontificate and blow hot air and regale us with how intelligent he is, that he knows more than Biblical scholars, he knows all. How lucky we are to be able to read his greatness.
The reality is, the more he tries to show how special and smart he is, way more intelligent than Mormons, he is showing how little he knows, how he does not understand the Scriptures or LDS beliefs. He has taken a page from a well known anti Mormon that I won't name.

Hypocrisy at its finest.

Others have been blocked and criticized and chastised for less on this site.... So much for respectful dialogue. And yes, it is butchery!

Sidney Nar said...

My first question is, did I really read all 150+ comments? Don't I have anything better to do?

I do have a question for everythingbeforeus. You said "Quantum...someday, you'll regret typing what you have typed." I'm curious why you say that. I ask because quantum is my friend.

everythingbeforeus said...


I'd love to know the name of that "anti-Mormon" you mentioned. Always looking for my soul-mate.

I was a Mormon for 38 years. I was a good one, too. Did everything just like I was taught.

So, I know Mormon doctrine.

But why don't you address the stuff I have written about the nature of God? Do you or do you not believe that God was once a man? When I wrote that, was I misrepresenting your doctrine? If so, correct me.

And if God was indeed a man who lived on a planet as Smith taught, who created that planet and who put him on it?

I think I know Mormon doctrine quite well. But this is what I run into all the time when I start to drill down and really engage with Mormons about their beliefs. They want to run from their beliefs. They are embarrassed by them. And so, they lash out at me, and call me (or imply that I am) arrogant. And they give up and drop out of the discussion.

So,..please, explain to me exactly what you believe about the nature of God. I'll take your word for it, but don't think that I won't have some follow-up questions in return. I spent many long years trying to make this all make sense. And this was while I was a firm believer it in. Any uncomfortable question I may ask you, ...I guarantee you that I have already asked it of myself, and I have come up short. So, help me out. Make sense of it, please.

everythingbeforeus said...

Sidney Nar,

Well,... read what Quantum said to me. He said this: "there is no way we, or God Himself, could possibly explain anything relating to the divine to you. You have not the humility to consider plain words. Well did Jesus say, "Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." and "ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things." There is no answer or explanation we, or anybody else, could possibly give that would help you see that there is a truth beyond the "truth" you already "know". We cannot answer your questions and accusations, not because there is no answer, but because you have already decided what the answer is, and that we are wrong. Until you have a modicum of humility there is nothing anyone can say that will possibly explain any question you ask."

Do you want to know something? Change a few words here and there and this is very close to something a Christian could have just as easily said to me when I was a firm believing Mormon missionary. Word-for-word, this could be used by a Born-Again Christian against the very close-minded (theologically-speaking) mindset that is so common amongst Mormons.

I was a Mormon for 38 years. I was right. I was so doggone right! It was so amazingly and obviously true! And nothing could say anything at all to me. Nothing. At. All. Until God spoke to me.

Now, I have to eat a heckuva lot of my words. I said some very stupid things as a Mormon. So,...if Quantum ever finds himself where I am now...I wish him well. And I said what I said to let him now that others have been there, too, looking back over their life and feeling really foolish for the misplaced confidence with which they once spoke.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Everything, this blog post is not about the Trinity. It's not about your personal definitions of occult. It's not about Adam-God. I'm frustrated with the numerous tangents you like to explore that really don't relate to the topic at hand. Please don't dominate the conversation, especially with off-topic threads.

I suggest you give it a break and allow others to engage in conversation. I'm trying to be generous and open here, but I don't think you understand how frustrating your efforts are to me and other readers. I genuinely trust and hope you didn't understand that all along, but hope you will now. Please tone it down a bit.

Ben Britton said...

James, If you have time, I'd read some other discussions on the shared material between Moses and the various Enoch literature. When you get down to the nitty gritty there is a fair amount of material shared between Moses and Enoch 2, 3 and the two Enoch related texts discovered in the Dead Sea Scrolls (the book of giants, and another I can't remember) that has no parallel in Enoch 1. It's definitely worth exploring at some point.

Anonymous said...


everythingbeforeus...you say stupid things now.

Past time for a ban on this person.