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Monday, April 11, 2016

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Map: Part 1 Now at MormonInterpreter.com

"Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Map" is the tongue-in cheek title of my serious look at detailed criticisms of the Book of Mormon evidence from the Arabian Peninsula. The Interpreter (MormonInterpreter.com) kindly published it. Part 1 was out on Friday, and Part 2 will be published next Friday. The "Dream Map" theme is my take on the theories that claim Joseph Smith must have seen a high-end European map of Arabia that had the name "Nehhm" or "Nehem" on it. That scrap of information could have revealed the location of the Nihm tribe in Yemen, whose tribal lands are now considered to correspond with the place "Nahom" where Ishmael was buried in 1 Nephi 16:34. Not only is that region the perfect place--the right place--for Nahom, being nearly due west of the leading candidate for Bountiful on the east coast, the existence of that tribal name in the region in roughly the right time in antiquity has been confirmed by three amazing altars from a temple in ancient Marib bearing the NHM tribal name. It's almost as cool as finding a Mesoamerican inscription saying "Welcome to Zarahemla, home of the Nephites."

The details of what Joseph could have gleaned from the best maps of his day is covered in Part 2, but in Part 1 I point out that theories based upon a "Dream Map" or other theories with Joseph as fabricator fail to account for the crown jewels of the evidence, fail to explain how the maps or other resources could have guided the actual recorded path, and fail to explain why Joseph and his peers never tool advantage of the built-in evidence for the Book of Mormon that they allegedly created. If they used information from maps or books to build in evidence or "local color" for enhanced credibility, why was it never exploited? Why not arrange for someone to "discover" the Nahom evidence on a newly purchased map to support the Book of Mormon? When related evidence came out in other sources, it was highly touted in LDS publications. Why neglect the evidence from Arabia, unless Joseph and his peers had no idea it was there? The potential link to a real Nahom-related name on a map would not be noticed until 1978.

Writing this article was an enjoyable process of discovery for me. I feel that I discovered a few interesting things along the way that might not have been widely appreciated before. For example, one of the complaints about George Potter's excellent candidate for the River Laman and the Valley Lemuel (see photo below) is its lack of a mouth, though Nephi says it has one (1 Nephi 2:8). Objections have also been made to the term "fountain of the Red Sea," into which the River Laman "emptied" according to 1 Nephi 2:9. In response, here is an excerpt from Part 1 of the article (footnotes deleted):

Critics in the 1850s guffawed at describing the flow of the river as going into the "fountain of the Red Sea" and some continue to object to Nephi's term. One can argue that fountain can have a broader meaning than a spring or subterranean flow of some kind, but the other uses of "fountain" in the Book of Mormon point to similar concepts: a physical or figurative source of a flow such as a spring. The Hebrew word typically translated as "fountain" (Strong's H4599, mayan) has the meaning of a spring, and is also sometimes translated as spring or well, giving it a subterranean flavor. Interestingly, that more specific meaning may actually fit the physical reality Nephi experienced.

Potter and Wellington, in Lehi in the Wilderness, observe that "the river flows under a gravel bed for the last three-eights of a mile as it approaches the Gulf of Aqaba."  They observe that the river may have previously had much greater water flow, and that the canyon floor is believed to have risen since Lehi's day, so perhaps it flowed directly into the Red Sea when Nephi saw it. On the other hand, I wish to suggest that even through the river flow may have been greater and the elevation of the canyon somewhat lower, what if the river still disappeared beneath the rocks as it approached the Red Sea in Nephi's day? By disappearing into the rocks adjacent the Red Sea, the water is obviously not disappearing completely, but is flowing into the Red Sea through subterranean channels, joining the underground springs that feed the Red Sea. In other words, the River Laman is now, and possibly was in Nephi's day, literally flowing into the fountains that feed the Red Sea.

If the river disappeared near the coast in Nephi's day as it does now, arguably flowing into the "fountain of the Red Sea," then perhaps this would also explain Nephi's repeated use of the verb "empty" rather than "flow." The river "emptied into the Red Sea" (1 Nephi 2:8), and again Lehi "saw that the waters of the river emptied into the fountain of the Red Sea" (1 Nephi 2:9). Waters disappearing, descending into the earth, could well be described this way. Perhaps Potter's candidate for the River Laman fits the details of Nephi's description even better than he realized, although it is difficult to know if the behavior of the river around 600 BC would be similar to its behavior today.

 Another objection to the leading candidate for the River Laman is that it lacks a mouth flowing into the Red Sea, apparently contrary to 1 Nephi 2:8, which states that the river "emptied into the Red Sea; and the valley was in the borders near the mouth thereof." Chadwick emphasizes this repeatedly in his critique, claiming that without a mouth, we can rule this candidate out and be certain that Potter has been looking in the wrong place.  One definition of "mouth" is:
something that resembles a mouth especially in affording entrance or exit: as
a: the place where a stream enters a larger body of water,
b :  the surface opening of an underground cavity….
Another dictionary gives one definition for mouth as "the outfall at the lower end of a river or stream, where flowing water is discharged, as into a larger body of water."  If Nephi understood that the River Laman, as it sank into the ground, was flowing into the subterranean waters that feed the Red Sea, or the fountain of the Red Sea, then the place where that stream disappeared and entered a larger body of water (the subterranean fountain) would appropriately be called a mouth. The Book of Mormon does not say that the mouth directly contacted the Red Sea. It had a mouth and flowed into a fountain, the fountain of (meaning "belonging to" or "associated with," I would argue) the Red Sea, and thus "emptied into the Red Sea," via the fountain. This understanding resolves the primary argument Chadwick offers against this candidate, for the river does indeed have a mouth where it flows into a larger body of water. And, as noted above, it resolves the objection to calling the Red Sea a fountain, which is not necessarily what Nephi is saying. It is also consistent with the ancient concept of interconnected subterranean waters that feed rivers and oceans.
What I enjoyed most about writing the article was the need to dig more deeply into some of the best writings out there, especially Lehi and Sariah in Arabia by Warren Aston, his 2015 masterpiece. The DVD, Lehi in Arabia, also beautifully illustrates the wonder of Bountiful. Well worth the time to ponder! There are so many gems from Arabia that merit more reflection, more study, and more exploration (with the help of more funding, of course). 

130 comments:

James Anglin said...

"Almost as cool"? Well, really it's still a huge jump from Jewish wanderers hacking around Arabia to a Nephite civilization in the Americas. But I don't really take you to be denying that. A little hyperbole is allowed to mark the occasion of a publication.

I'll try to read your article before too long. My teaching semester is starting soon, so it may be a while before I can make any intelligent comments.

I do agree that your point about Mormon apologists ignoring Nahom until 1978 is a solid one. I wouldn't put it past Joseph Smith to grab "Nehem" from a technicolor map and put it into his fake ancient book for realistic flavor, but I admit that there would be nothing gained by that for Smith unless someone noticed it, and so it is (for the fraud theory) a bit odd that a master manipulator like Smith-according-to-fraud-theorists never found an opportunity to score the points from Nahom=Nehem.

One can argue that he might just have been too careful to prompt anyone to come forward waving the technicolor map, for fear of thereby prompting the suspicion that he himself had seen the map. An armchair fraudster's ideal con artist might be cool enough to make finesse plays like that and just let them go if no-one independently took the bait. But this strains credulity a bit for me. I don't think of Smith as a Platonic ideal of con artists, but as a rough-and-ready practical crook. So even just from reading this post, and not yet reading your article, I'm rethinking how I might account for Nehem, other than by a technicolor map.

I don't feel starved for other explanations, including simple coincidence (with only three letters). But you may well have succeeded in effectively shooting down the technicolor map theory — which is your article's specific goal. I don't have to be a Mormon to applaud progress in narrowing down likely explanations for the Book of Mormon by pushing previously plausible hypotheses down in probability. Or to applaud good work.

Christian Adams said...

Loved it!

Anonymous said...

Jeff, you did a fine, thorough job. In the course of your discussion you directly and indirectly demonstrated that RT was the one who overstated his position many times. We are accustomed to that approach by now. The critics, who accuse the apologists of bad apologetics, engage in bad counter-apologetics more often, on average, than the apologists. They frequently overstate positions using phrases like "simply impossible" when it is not impossible. Thus you did an excellent job of exposing two critics' faulty argumentation.

It was also enlightening to learn how biblical minimalists now simply transfer their assumptions, as if they are a given, to the BofM. Because they are ideologically dug in, no amount of evidence, even high-quality evidence, can change their minds. That is the case with RT and Jenkins, and also with Anglin. One must be willing to change one's mind based on the evidence. In the specific case of the BofM, if someone rejects that any text can come directly from God, then that person is ideologically dug in. The many, varied witnesses of the plates and of the dictation, the chiasmus, the obsolete English usage, Nahom, Bountiful, and many other pieces of evidence cannot sway them. Only a difficult, extremely unlikely naturalistic explanation is accepted. On that basis I am led to conclude that they either lack sound judgment and right reason or that they are set in their views because of prior assumptions and firm ideologies.

In an interaction I had with RT on the matter of the Mulekites' language being unintelligible to the Nephites', I found that RT would not admit that his position on the matter -- that unintelligibility was impossible in the textually indicated time -- was an extreme, unsupportable position. Even English has an example of relatively rapid language change from the end of the Old English period to the beginning of the Early Modern era. This change would have caused unintelligibility between an English speaker of the year 1100 and an English speaker of the year 1500. In the case of the Mulekites (Mulochites) and Nephites, their language would have diverged, and the Mulochites' language probably would have changed more. Unintelligibility in just over 400 years was possible, especially because both groups experienced migrations and disruptive events in the interim.

I noticed you did not use the Yale edition in your Shazer quote (now available at bookofmormoncentral.org). I counted at least three small differences (besides punctuation) in the passage. Also, you did well using dictionaries besides the OED, but older meaning is possible, and you may not get it using other dictionaries. Your arguments in these areas could have been richer had you used the OED. I also thought your initial response to Jenkins#1 -- ("Nahom is a remarkable find, far more than just a random place name, as discussed below.") -- needed some succinct substance right off the bat. Before stating that Nahom is remarkable, I thought you could have briefly specified three or four things that make it remarkable, right before indicating that it would be discussed more thoroughly later in the article. Cheers.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Thanks. I did consult the Oxford edition for many passages, actually, but didn't find anything that seemed interesting. But in doing so, I usually took the shortcut of consulting the Appendix at the end of the Yale Edition where "significant" changes are listed. Based on that, I didn't see a need to cite the OED, but perhaps I should have.

Yes, more substance to Jenkins #1 would have been good. That part was actually written last, in response to a reviewer request to deal directly with some of the further arguments from the two critics, so with all the "remarkable" content having already been discussed in what follows, I was afraid that it would make the paper even wordier and more redundant to again recite the gist of that evidence there. Perhaps another poor choice! Appreciate the helpful input to help me with future works.

The issue of Early Modern English, BTW, does crop up briefly in Part 2, with a cite to a recent Carmack paper. The work of another Carmack, a critic, is discussed in more detail also, for those scanning Part 2 who might be confused by multiple Carmacks coming from different angles.

Jeff Lindsay said...

James, your biases against Joseph are so strong, so heavy. You've made up your mind that he was a con man, a fraudster, and every action and every utterance, no matter how inspired or divine, will be seen through that dark and warped lens. Christ was depicted in the same way by early critics and some modern ones. He was a magician, a con man, a scurrilous lout deceiving the common people with magic who was such a threat to society that he had to be put down by the authorities, and yet his fellow fraudsters from the lower classes kept the deception up with the obviously fraudulent resurrection myth. Smart people said this, but they were dead wrong. The vastly inferior and imperfect Joseph was called as a prophet of God and the Book of Mormon is a powerful witness of that, no matter how much you dislike any specific thing from his life.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, are you saying the verifiable acts Smith are lies? Employing a seer stone for treasure digging, marrying other men's wives, fleeing town in the night after his bank failure, burning a critical newspaper press to the ground, inventing translations from Egyptian papyrus.
And these were not regretted failures of an imperfect man but were instead defended, promoted and excused as righteous. If you could ever lay down your own bias and look at Smith objectively you might see where others are coming from

Anonymous said...

"The vastly inferior and imperfect Joseph was called as a prophet of God and the Book of Mormon is a powerful witness of that, no matter how much you dislike any specific thing from his life."

So where do you draw the line in ignoring non-repentant character issues? Because I've never seen a list like Smith's. The unrepentant things he did mentioned in the post above has to at least give you some pause as to whether or not he can be trusted as a true prophet.

Anonymous said...

"Because I've never seen a list like Smith's."

This is an example of overstating things. Also, burning press to ground. From Wikipedia: "Fearing the newspaper would bring the countryside down on the Mormons, the Nauvoo city council declared the Expositor a public nuisance and ordered the Nauvoo Legion to destroy the press.[144] Smith, who feared another mob attack, supported the action, not realizing that suppression of the press would sooner incite an attack than libel would.[145]" Also, employing a seer stone for treasure digging should be culturally situated, and Smith's motivation and intent can be argued at length from both sides. Etc.

Each interested person needs to make a determination, based on reasonably impartial evidence, where they stand on these matters. Does the use of a seer stone for treasure digging preclude the receipt of a revealed text at a later time with the same seer stone? Do later questionable acts on the part of Smith mean that prior acts were not godly? Most things do not bring us close to being able to comfortably make definitive determinations. Biases play a large role. Believing one way or another is possible based on personal predilections. Everyone must rely on their own sound judgment in weighing evidence and coming to conclusions. This will ever be so as Smith is a polarizing figure.

flying fig said...

You're absolutely right, bias will always come into play.
All I can say is, I don't care if he wrote the BOM, if any man came to me and said he needed to marry my wife along with other men's wives, I'd be done. But that's just me

Jeff, would you give your wife to Smith?
Can any believing LDS here tell me they would? And for what purpose if you're a living, faithful LDS husband? Who would she be sealed to?

Just how far would you go for this man?

James Anglin said...

I suppose that my attitude may well look to Mormons like a heavy bias. To me it seems that the bias is on the other side.

There are things about the Book of Mormon that are interesting, and Joseph Smith was certainly a significant historical figure with a number of impressive positive traits. But if there were no Mormon church to tell me that Joseph Smith was a prophet and the Book of Mormon was divine revelation, it would never have occurred to me to suspect those things, just based on the available positive evidence. The positive evidence simply doesn't seem big enough to me, to warrant such a tremendous conclusion.

The negative side, on the other hand, does look big to me. If the Book of Mormon were as stunning a work as the Qu'ran is supposed to be to an Arabic speaker, and if Joseph Smith's life had otherwise combined all the best parts of Albert Einstein and Mother Teresa, then I might possibly react to his many polygamous marriages by reflecting on how all human beings are complex and flawed but God can use anyone. For just about anything short of Einstein-Teresa-and-Muhammed-rolled-into-one on the positive side, though, the polygamy is simply too big a negative for me to get past.

So my view of Joseph Smith does not seem to me to be heavily biased. I don't feel at all as though I am viewing inspired and divine actions or utterances through a dark or warped lens; I feel as though I'm just looking at them with eyes unbiased by a lifetime of faith in Joseph Smith. To me it seems, Jeff, that you are the one with strong and heavy bias. A distorting lens is a good metaphor, because I'm honestly baffled at how your perception seems to magnify positives and shrink negatives, compared with how I see the same things.

Whose lenses are really clear, and whose distorted? Who can say? It's hard to take the lenses off. The other person's perspective often seems biased. I'm not trying to tell anyone that they have to see things my way. I can only say how things look to me. One feature of how things look to me is that Mormons seem just as biased, in Smith's favor, as I seem biased against him, to them.

Everything Before Us said...
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Vance said...

I think, James, that you should stop and ponder something: All of the great prophets were, in their own way, revolutionary and counter cultural.

Consider Noah--his message certainly went against the culture. Abraham did not have an easy life, to say the least. Moses was an Egyptian Prince.... and his own people hated his message.
Jesus was not exactly welcomed as a unifier. Even Mohammed was driven out of Mecca.

Jesus, Noah, Moses: all demanded exceptional changes to society. Noah called for repentance, and his was a lonely lot. Moses demanded that the Israelites give up their golden calfs, their polytheistic society. Jesus demanded that people give up their hearts and change their behavior. Each had a very hard time.

Why Polygamy? Surely Joseph, who all the evidence clearly shows was no lecher out to get as many women as possible as the popular idea thinks, knew full well that polygamy was a very hard doctrine to swallow. All the accounts from the early brethren mention how hard it was.

But what it was was a refiner's fire. Those who survived turned out to be far stronger disciples. The Lord doesn't want lukewarm saints; Revelations teaches us that. I fear that the homosexual thing will become another polygamy: the church will experience great persecution over it. And indeed, we are seeing the same things starting now as when polygamy was around: how can the church not accept homosexuality; or same sex marriage. We are "Barbaric" and bigoted and clinging to outmoded views of morality, etc. The refiners fire is beginning, to see who will stay with the Lord and who will not.

Certainly the Church would have an easier life if it had not had polygamy, and certainly giving in on homosexuality would also make life easier.

But then, that's not the Lord's way, is it? He demands self sacrifice most of all; and putting HIs ways before our own ways, even when we disagree.

As for Joseph Smith: There have been many who claimed to speak with God; many still who do. Only Joseph introduced others to his angels; only Joseph had the audacity to put forth evidence. The Book of Mormon is the key stumbling block to dismissing Joseph as a fraud. It exists, and therefore it must be explained.

Whatever else, it is clear that the author of the Book of Mormon knew Israelite and Hebrew and the Bible intimately. This was no mere "winging it" after two reads of the Bible. Intimate knowledge was required.

Now we find out that intimate knowledge of Arabia was also required. The amount of "Joseph got this right" just in the first 5 chapters of the book is, we can see, staggering. Just finding an old map with "Nehem" on it wasn't enough.

At some point, the "Joseph got lucky again!" has to become unbelievable, doesn't it? Just how did he get so lucky that evidence keeps popping up to confirm his made up story?

Thus, we are faced with faith. Either we have faith that he was telling the truth, or we have to have faith that he could be so lucky and was able to dupe so many people with witnesses, etc. Both scenarios are fantastic, and beyond belief. I would posit that the Book of Mormon being a fraud is a scientific impossibility. And, of course, the whole Moroni story is also impossible, scientifically speaking.

And that is exactly the point. Each of us are faced with these two impossible explanations; and we have to choose one.

Vance said...

Flying Fig, it comes down to faith, doesn't it? Jesus demanded that Peter walk away from his prosperous fishing business. He demanded that the rich man sell everything he had and give it to the poor. He demanded that we give up our lives, if necessary. Giving up our wife would not be so hard as that, I think. He demanded Gideon attack the Philistines with less than 100 men.
He demanded that Israel put away the gods of Egypt. And they couldn't.

My wife is already sealed to another man.... her father. And her mother, And my two girls are sealed to me; at some point they will hopefully grow up and get married in the temple. Yet they will still be sealed to me. Will I lose them at that point? Not at all.

If suddenly the Lord required me to allow my wife to be sealed to Joseph, or President Monson-- does that divorce me? No. Joseph Smith once mentioned something about us all being sealed in the Celestial kingdom-- a great network of family. We talk about being sealed one of God's family members; with Jesus being our Father. That's more than just a nice phrase. If Jesus asked you for your wife, would you give her to Him? Assuming she's willing, of course.

If not, you are no Christian.

Besides, I would certainly ask for confirmation from the Holy Ghost before taking such a step. And if the Holy Ghost said yes, then who am I to defy the Lord? I'm not sure where you stand on defying Him, though.

flying fig said...

Thanks Vance,
While I sincerely appreciate your response I don't feel you're considering exactly what Smith was doing. While the case can be made that some of Smith's polyandrous marriages were only spiritual "sealings" reserved for the afterlife, (Only because there are no documents describing sex, but why would there be?) -There is also evidence presented by fairmormon.org that Smith actually engaged in sexual relationships with women still married to LDS men.

http://www.fairmormon.org/perspectives/fair-conferences/2012-fair-conference/2012-joseph-smiths-sexual-polyandry-and-the-emperors-new-clothes-on-closer-inspection-what-do-we-find

So I ask you Vance along with any other believing LDS husband:
If the existence of the BOM outweighs the non-repentant actions of a man as Jeff seems to believe, would go along with this particular situation?
My opinion is character counts when weighing the truthfulness of someone claiming to be called of God.

Everything Before Us said...

I can see this conversation is going to get really good really fast...

Everything Before Us said...

My wife is already sealed to another man.... her father.

Typical. So typical. Play fair, Vance. You know as well as we all do that this is NOT what we are talking about. We are talking about the kind of arrangement in which a Priesthood leader ask you to give him your wife as HIS WIFE. Not as another daughter. And then, like Brigham Young did in the case of Zina D. H. Young, proceeds to sleep with her and produce children, even though she already had a living husband with whom she already had children.

Then...she becomes the 3rd President of the Relief Society.


Everything Before Us said...
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Jeff Lindsay said...

As a reminder, this post is about the Book of Mormon and the Arabian Peninsula. Shocker for some of you, perhaps, but it is not about polygamy, a topic handled here many times before and on my LDSFAQ pages, and most recently in Meg Stout's Reluctant Polygamist. But it is not the topic here. Yes, one can reasonably ask if the divinity of the Book of Mormon erases things we might not like about Josrph or the Church. No. But understanding the real nature of the Book of Mormon gives us a framework for approaching controversies. If the book is clearly a fraud, that's one thing. If divine, then that should be carefully considered in our efforts to resolve what happened in other matters. But the persistent attempts to turn every post into ranting about the most controversial and poorly understood aspects of church history are unwelcome.

flying fig said...

Jeff, as with any apocryphal writings, I just don't see how one can determine the divinity of the BOM without simultaneously considering the source from whence it came. Without actual gold plates to examine, Joseph Smith is the sole person we must rely on.
It's almost as if you're asking an investigator to accept it at face value first and then use that belief to help sort out Smith's questionable past.
Is that truly being objective, or would you consider that somewhat biased on your part?

Vance said...

I will note that it is amazing how tolerant Jeff is to someone who is the living embodiment of an anti-mormon; and just as nasty as that word connotes.

To Flying Fig: Your question is a good one. Let us ask another one: What about a man who murdered someone? Would he be a good candidate for a prophet, or is that a fatal flaw? This man left his wife and married another woman, and then terrorized an entire country. He was involved in probably tens of thousands of deaths.

The man? Moses. He killed the Egyptian, he left his Egyptian wife and married Zipporah; he was involved in the plagues of Egypt and ultimately drowning the army. He also smote the earth to swallow "dissenters" and burned others with fire. He led his people to battle, conquering someone else's land.
Yet Moses is revered in Christianity, Jewish, and also Islamic societies. He is, in fact, the prototypical prophet.

Moses' character: wouldn't you decry him as a prophet? After all, the Ten commandments could have been chiseled in those 40 days Moses was on the mount.
Other prophets: one married a prostitute; on command from the Lord. Elisha summoned a bear to kill children. Elijah commanded people to execute the priests of Baal. He was taken to heaven in a whirlwind. One woman was honored for tricking a Philistine (I think) king to sleeping with her, then nailing his head to the ground while he slept.
Jesus Himself was accused of being a Sabbath breaker; a serious crime.
Solomon, David, many others had multiple wives. Boaz married Ruth; I believe he was married at the time. Was he dishonorable? Or was that marriage to Ruth held up as the right thing to do?

Point being: What we view as wrong is not necessarily wrong in the eyes of the Lord; and what we view as right is not necessarily so. Witness all those who now claim that homosexual behavior is right and being against it is wrong.

I am not the judge of Joseph Smith. Further, I'm sure he made mistakes, for which he must face God for; just as I will face God for my mistakes. But this I know: God has many ways that I no doubt would find strange. And He has clearly authorized polygamy in the past; at some point. Thus, how can I say that Joseph was morally wrong? Especially if he was in fact a prophet of God.

And that comes back to the Book of Mormon; which you must explain away if you say Joseph was no prophet. And you haven't explained it away. You are doing what Jeff said critics do: avoid the issue. Your post is a nice demonstration of "I don't like Joseph, therefore it is not possible for him to be right on anything." Fair enough: then how did he get such a detailed knowledge of Arabian peninsula geography? Answer that, please, before you go attacking Joseph Smith on stuff you don't like. I mean, I'm not foolish enough to believe you'll ever come around to the LDS view based on this stuff--we could find a "welcome to Zarahemla" sign with directions to Nephi's house and it would still be attacked by you-- but increasingly, you critics have nothing left but faith-- faith that somehow, somewhere, Joseph cheated. And you cannot explain how or where.

Vance said...

Oh, and your question is easy: The Book of Mormon stands or falls on its own merit. Either the Nephites were real... or they weren't. Jesus visited the Americas... or He did not. It doesn't matter whether the gold plates were translated by Joseph or the Smithsonian, or even Joseph Stalin--either the Nephites lived or they didn't.

Where Joseph Smith comes in is that the Book of Mormon was translated by the power of God; and thus it becomes the primary proof of Joseph Smith; of God speaking in our day; and even of the Bible.

Because if the Book of Mormon is true, then the Bible must be true; and Jesus is the Christ. Not the "oh, it's all mythical tales and superstitions of people long ago; like the Mysteries of Greece that we can smile at the foolish hobgoblins in Human past."

I really don't know why you guys fight against the Book of Mormon so much; if it's true then the Bible is conclusively proven, and we can conclude that Islam is wrong as well as the rest. Christ is Divine; and it's all true. Isn't that a wonderful thing? People who say Christ was just a nice teacher; or that the disciples stole His body, etc: all wrong. Why don't you try and consider what it actually means if the Book of Mormon is true, instead of trying to tear it down all the time?

Anonymous said...

Is it possible that none of this is true? That Joseph and others made it all up? Is that a possibility in your mind? Yes or no.

flying fig said...

"detailed knowledge" is a bit of an overstatement and Nahom=Nehem is hardly settling the issue. In fact the BOM is so unsettled Mormons themselves cannot even agree whether the narrative took place in upstate New York or Central America let alone mainstream historians.

But I don't reject the BOM simply because I dislike Joseph Smith. I reject it because I don't trust Smith as a true prophet based on his continual, willful actions. As well as BOM anachronisms, Biblical/theological/gospel contradictions, lack of historical/geographical/archeological evidence, lack of any reliable ancient documents, proven falsified LDS documents, unreliable translation process. The BOM itself is contradicted by the pearl of great price and the D&C concerning the nature of God, salvation and Christ.

James Anglin said...

@Vance:
It's true that many prophets offended people around them. For every such social offender who was later recognized as a prophet, however, how many offenders were there, who were never recognized as anything good? Whether or not Joseph Smith, Jr. was a real prophet, history has known very many charismatic leaders who certainly were not prophets, but were merely misguided rebels, criminals, or cult leaders.

What is the frame within which one looks at Joseph Smith? For Mormons, perhaps, it is a frame that includes only other prophets, who were offensive to their contemporaries, and even in God's eyes imperfect, but nonetheless used by God. To non-Mormons, however, the frame around Joseph Smith includes all kinds of people who were acclaimed as inspired leaders, but were actually nothing of the kind.

So for Mormons it may be inspiring to see how closely Smith resembles the other prophets who stand in the prophet frame, but non-Mormons are looking for something else. Looking at the swarm of non-prophets in our larger frame, outnumbering the prophets by far, we note that the non-prophets all do resemble the prophets, at least in some ways. So what we wonder about Joseph Smith is not how much he looks like a prophet, but how he stands out from the non-prophets.

bearyb said...

Flying Fig,

Considering your distrust of Joseph based on "willful actions" it would be interesting to hear your thoughts about the other ancient prophets Vance mentioned.

Also, the point is that Joseph didn't have detailed knowledge of the Arabian peninsula. But verifiable details were provided. The question is - how so?

James Anglin said...

I'll respect Jeff's request not to turn this thread into Polygamy XXXIV. Jeff's the host, and anyway it's a reasonable request. Polygamy is an important issue, but it doesn't have to be the only issue for discussion between Mormons and non-Mormons.

It may not be possible, however, to remove it completely from any such discussion. It's there in the background, as part of the frame within which most non-Mormons see all Mormon issues. The first time I ever heard about Mormonism was when I read the first Sherlock Holmes story, as a kid. I'm afraid I'm probably all too typical in that — Sherlock Holmes is better known than any real figure from Mormon history, and there's a Mormon backstory in his very first case. I think I probably assumed that the Mormon society of A Study in Scarlet was just something Conan Doyle invented for his story, and at least to some degree I was probably right about that. The shadow of polygamy is nonetheless long, and hard to dispel. I read about it as a child, in the bad guys' backstory, and it still makes me shudder. Rocks in Yemen don't do much against that kind of feeling. I can refrain from talking about it, but I can't expel it from the back of my mind.

Back-of-the-mind attitudes like that can be good and right, whether learned in childhood or later — otherwise no-one would bother trying to raise children with moral principles, or train moral habits as adults. Back-of-the-mind attitudes can also be stubborn prejudice and bias. As to which is which, opinions vary. To me it seems that Mormons are biased, and bring their own back-of-the-mind attitudes to every issue, even when they are not explicitly mentioned. Would most Mormons really see the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith the same way, if they had not learned as children to see them as scripture and prophet?

Background bias is not a special flaw in Mormons — or in me. Everyone does this. It is only easy to focus strictly on one issue, setting others aside, when everyone agrees about the other issues. When the disagreements on other issues are profound, then this just doesn't work. Frames and shadows are there, in the back of the mind; and this is true for everyone. And so basic opinions change slowly, as if by growth or erosion. I think people are just like that — whatever viewpoints they have.

Everything Before Us said...

I really don't know why you guys fight against the Book of Mormon so much; if it's true then the Bible is conclusively proven, and we can conclude that Islam is wrong as well as the rest. Christ is Divine; and it's all true. Isn't that a wonderful thing?

I find this to be a very good, thought-provoking question. It certainly forced me to think about it. Thanks, Vance.

I have very little issue with the doctrine of the Book of Mormon. But the Book of Mormon doesn't teach alot of Mormon doctrine. No eternal progression, no eternal family, no eternal marriage, no plurality of gods, no "God was once a man", no divinity of man. It's not there.

So there is the problem. These "advanced" doctrines present a theology of God that is not consistent with what is written in the Book of Mormon, and definitely not what is written in the Bible. In the Book of Mormon, the very Eternal God condescended to take on flesh. This Eternal God is unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity. The doctrine of Christ is to repent and be baptized, and anything more or less than this is of the Devil. That is what the Book of Mormon says. Yet later, Joseph Smith said that God was not God from all eternity, and that just being baptized isn't enough, but there are more things one must to do enter again into the glory of the Father.

It is a shame to have to place on the scrap heap those amazing doctrinal passages in the Book of Mormon. They are beautiful. But they, unfortunately, have been rejected by Joseph Smith's own later additions to the religion.

Just because it teaches correct Christian doctrine, that doesn't make it scripture. C. S. Lewis wrote correct Christian doctrines in a profound way, but his writings aren't scripture.

flying fig said...

@bearb
I think James summed it up nicely how many non-mormons view Smith compared to Biblical prophets. I just don't automatically place Smith among Moses and Elijah the way a Mormon would. As with any modern figure claiming new revelation, I place Smith under the same suspicion as a Jim Jones, David Koresh or any charismatic leader. And I'm sure you would do the same thing if I presented you some new prophet you were unfamiliar with, right?

To answer your question. I dont believe any BOM archeological evidence is conclusive, arguments can be made to accept it or not.
But I can make an educated assumption for fraud based on what we do know. It has been shown as Jeff has admitted in past posts, Smith must have used a KJV Bible during the BOM translation process to account for the unique errors and italicized words found only in the KJV. Consider also the fraud proven from the Egyptian papyrus and Smith's translation. Both lead to an educated assumption to BOM fraud.

My bias against Smith is supported

Everything Before Us said...

Many doctrines that Mormons like to hold up as evidence of Smith's prophetic ability (for instance the idea that all will eventually come out of hell and into heaven, or a "degree of glory") are not prophetic at all in light of the fact that some strains of Universalism were teaching the same thing. And Smith's grandfather was a Universalist.

The liberality of Mormon doctrine is easily explained by the Smith Family's exposure to Universalist thought.

In fact, Universalists were even debating the definition of "eternal punishment" and "eternal damnation." Gee....doesn't that sound familiar.

So, when Mormons say that critics are only operating on "faith" I have to laugh a little. Really? I don't think so. If you'd do the research, the evidence against the claims of Mormonism really pile up in so many different ways.

Everything Before Us said...

Therefore, even if the Mormon view of eternal damnation is correct, it isn't Mormon. It had already been formulated by a different sect of Christianity.

Vance said...

Everything: I wonder if you actually have read the Book of Mormon. Yes, Christ presents His gospel of faith, repentance, and baptism.... and then promptly introduces the Sacrament. He spends time quoting Malachi, then expounding it. And Mormon says he cannot tell us what Jesus expounded on Malachi for. Mormon tells us only the events and teachings of the 1st day of Christ's three day ministry. Clearly, Christ taught much much more than just faith, repentance and baptism. He did in the New Testament as well.

I would suggest that the LDS conception of God as a man is very much more Biblical than your Protestant God of a mystical cloud that isn't really there and is somehow one and three but not three and not one mishmash. And theosis, or the divine nature of mankind, runs all throughout the Bible.

And while some doctrine are not explicitly stated, they are certainly there when you look. Alma's discourse on the Melchizedek priesthood, for instance, is something that takes as a given the preexistence. And Alma's teachings on law and mercy contemplate the idea that God may cease to be God: clearly not an "Unchanging from all eternity" God.
Your problem, EverythingBeforeUs, is that you reject the entire concept of ordinances and priesthood; without which there can be no understanding of the gospel of Christ. Plus, you view God as a changeable and partial being, who hates pretty much everyone ever born. I asked you once why God made the Israelites endure the Law of Moses. You've never answered; except to say that the Law of Moses never had power to save (thus, of course, no Jew ever went to heaven). With that kind of understanding of God and Jesus, it's no wonder that the Book of Mormon as a book mostly written while the Law of Moses was in effect is beyond you.

Flying Fig: I think you are unaware of many things; not least of which is that any assumption that Joseph read from the Bible while quoting Isaiah has some very fundamental issues with it. Italicized words are not slavishly copied, and there are over 400 differences between the KJV text of Isaiah and the BofM text. Some of those differences come from Isaiah texts that are not in the KJV.
As for your "Papyrus proves Joseph was a fraud!" Really? Really? Perchance, do you think that you are the first to make that argument? It's been debunked numerous times. For one, the papyrus that the Book of Abraham was on is lost and presumably burned. But hey, if it's a fraud, surely you can tell us how Joseph managed to produce a text filled with details about Abraham that were only shown to be accurate decades later, from sources that no one in the world had access to when the book was produced. Simple question. Much like how did Joseph get the name Mahujah correct for Enoch; when that name surfaced in the Dead Sea scrolls. This should be easily explained by you, since it's all a self evident fraud.

Same thing for you, Everything: How did Joseph get details right that were only shown right decades later? Where there was no source in the known world at the time?

As for the whole "Joseph is no different than Koresh or Jim Jones!" bit: That is the crucial reason we have the Book of Mormon. Lot of people claim divine contact; true. No one else introduced others to the angels like Joseph. No one else produced--miraculously-- a scripture that has withstood the bitter barbs thrown by people like Everything for centuries now, and only gets stronger. And lets not forget the documented miracles that Joseph Smith performed or was involved in --the mass healing during the Nauvoo period; the pretty much universal visions like the Day of Pentecost around the Kirtland temple; the prophecies he made that were fulfilled (civil war).
Continued….

Vance said...


No, Joseph made lots of promises. And people actually experienced heavenly things for themselves! Many people--skeptical people; hardbitten, earthly, sober types -- experienced the angels, the visions; they heard the voice of God; they had the miracles and the gifts of the spirit. Joseph said: "Follow me, commit to the Lord, do what He commands, and you will experience wondrous things!" And the people did! That's what is missing from the Koreshs and Jim Jones of the world--Joseph invited people to see for themselves, and they did see for themselves--enough to die for it, many of them. And the promise is still made; and anyone can see for themselves. Joseph said that we can experience communication with God Himself for ourselves; get our own revelation--and people did. People still do. People put it to the test; and God fulfills His bargain.

That is why Mormonism has survived and thrived, despite all that you anti-Mormons try to throw at us. As Joseph said, "I have seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew God knew it, and I dare not deny it." Well, I may not have seen a vision yet, but I have felt God; and I cannot deny it. Nor can millions of others, and nor could my ancestors who when people like everythingbeforeus literally drove them out at gunpoint into a harsh winter still did not deny it; though it cost many of them their lives. They knew it was true, even if someone claimed that the indians were too stupid to use concrete like the Book of Mormon said. Sure enough, the critics were proven wrong. And they have been proven wrong, over and over and over, all throughout LDS history.

EverythingBeforeUs will no doubt mock and say that he experienced something saying the LDS church is not true; and that I should leave it and save myself from the delusion. What, and join his religion? Where I will never have a forever family; where the God he worships is capricious and hates 99 % of humanity? Where He lied to his followers all through the Bible, tricking them because all He really wants is faith and no more; and all that stuff about church, priesthood, and ordinances was all a lie? Where the God he worships is unknowable; unfeeling; and unapproachable; who only appeared as human to fool primitive idiots who didn't have the mental capacity to understand that God is just a metaphoric cloud without substance? I might as well worship Zeus, who in New Testament times was viewed almost like you view Jesus now: there but not there.

No thanks, you can keep your Greek Mysticism. I will worship the God of the Bible; the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob. The one who was resurrected and still has His body. The one who is a jealous God, fighting His people's battles. The one who demands that His people sacrifice and become like Him, so He can in fact make them like He is. The one who has not forgotten that He is a God of Justice as well as Mercy; and He will not let Mercy rob justice. The one who cares about humans enough to call a prophet; not the one who went to sleep 2000 years ago and can't be bothered to speak to His children.

You can believe he doesn't care enough to talk to us; but the God I worship loves us. And He loves you too, Everything. He has power to save the Jews of the olden days; the Saints in the meridian of time, and us today.

Everything Before Us said...

Vance...some things to think about.

I wonder if you actually have read the Book of Mormon.

Many times. Many times.

And Alma's teachings on law and mercy contemplate the idea that God may cease to be God: clearly not an "Unchanging from all eternity" God.

Moroni 8:18: “For I know that God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity.”

Plus, you view God as a changeable and partial being, who hates pretty much everyone ever born. I asked you once why God made the Israelites endure the Law of Moses.

Galatians 3:23-25: But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.

EverythingBeforeUs will no doubt mock and say that he experienced something saying the LDS church is not true; and that I should leave it and save myself from the delusion. What, and join his religion? Where I will never have a forever family;

It is the Mormon church that teaches you won’t be with your family, Vance. …..unless you join the Mormon church. Other Christians believe we will be with our loved ones in Heaven.

where the God he worships is capricious and hates 99 % of humanity?

For God so loved the world……

Where the God he worships is unknowable; unfeeling; and unapproachable;

This is eternal life…to know God. John 17:3

Let us therefore come boldy unto the throne of grace..Hebrews 4:16

(for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God. Hebrews 7:19.

I might as well worship Zeus, who in New Testament times was viewed almost like you view Jesus now: there but not there.

Actually, the Mormon version of God is more like Zeus than mine. Zeus was in form like a man, and he had a wife.

No thanks, you can keep your Greek Mysticism.

Here is some Greek mysticism for you. "In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God.” Find out what the world "logos" meant to the Greeks.

I will worship the God of the Bible; the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob. The one who was resurrected and still has His body.

The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is Yahweh (Jehovah). You believe Jehovah is Jesus Christ. Bruce R. McConkie says, “We worship the Father and him only and no one else. We do not worship the Son and we do not worship the Holy Ghost.” If you are worshipping Jesus, you are worshiping the wrong being as a Mormon.

The one who cares about humans enough to call a prophet; not the one who went to sleep 2000 years ago and can't be bothered to speak to His children.

In 1819, this God had been asleep for 1700 years, according to Mormon doctrine.

Vance said...

Stepping back a bit, consider: Technologically, the world has exploded with knowledge since America was founded. Joseph Smith was far closer to Isaiah technologically than he was to us. Why would God give the world so much secular knowledge and no new spiritual knowledge?

Further, the LDS church is a hybrid, it has been said, between Christianity and old school Judaism. One of the attacks on the Book of Mormon is how it Christianizes the Law of Moses. And as we've seen on these comments before, another one of the attacks is how Mormons cling to outmoded "laws and works" that Christ allegedly did away with. Of course, since Jesus is the God of the Old Testament as well as the New, and is unchangeable--wouldn't the actual reality be exactly that: a mix of Law of Moses theology as well as Paulian grace stuff? The Book of Mormon makes the Law of Moses understandable-- the "Why did God command them to do that?" question. At the same time, it is clear that the principles of the Law of Moses never went away. Sacrifice; atonement; ordinances; purification, obedience: all are just as much part of the Gospel of Christ as they were the Law of Moses.

For this is one of the crucial contributions of the Book of Mormon: The Law of Moses IS, in fact, the gospel of Christ. Your "It was all stolen from the Unitarians!" won't fly here, Everything. Jacob's discourses, Abinidi, King Benjamin: all radical reinterpretations of the Law of Moses compared to standard Christian views on the subject.

Even further: the Book of Mormon is, as some have said, the most documented evidence of the existence of the supernatural. The Bible? Old fables from some shepherds with nothing else to do. We in our scientific era are much more sophisticated than to believe all those old fables. But as I said above, the Book of Mormon proves the Bible as true; that God does indeed talk to man; and that He does exist. It's easy to dismiss the Bible as "They thought it was true; no doubt, but it is either myth grown in the retelling or just men who didn't know better. Nothing supernatural about it!" That's not the case with the Book of Mormon. It exists; and there is pretty powerful evidence of the supernatural involved in its creation. Witnesses; gold plates, angels; and internal evidence. It's clear that many don't accept it.... but it is evidence. There is no denying Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, and others lived; nor that they said they saw this. Contrast with those who claim Moses is made up: We Mormons have far more evidence for the Book of Mormon being a divinely commissioned work than the Jews do for Moses. I am much more comfortable debating the Atheist brigades, or the Islamists, because I don't have to prove the Bible is true. No, I can discuss the Book of Mormon and it's far stronger evidence; and it proves the Bible for me. More importantly, it proves that Jesus is in fact who He said He was; not some prophet or great thinker. It is Another Witness of Jesus Christ; and in today's world it is a vital thing.

Vance said...

I shake my head, Everything. You used to be LDS; you know you are lying and distorting our beliefs. You know it! And you know you are quoting scriptures that you don't believe; for you don't believe you can know God. Not if you believe the Nicene creed, you don't.

And that is the main reason we Mormons are not Christians, right? We don't follow the Nicene Creed. You do. And you have, several times here at Jeff's site, stated that ordinances are worthless and always were. And the LDS doctrine of forever families is one that every other Christian church rejects. You know that; you reject it yourself. After all, it involves Temples. And we all know you think Temples were and are straight from Satan himself. It's why you apostatized. Newsflash: outside of LDS temple marriages, everyone else is married until "death do us part." No one except possibly the Pope even claims the power to seal on heaven and earth.

I've asked you numerous times how the Law of Moses with it's ordinances and priesthoods and sacrifices and temples could possibly be a schoolmaster leading to your view of the New Testament: Just believe and it's all groovy, Man! No ordinances; no priesthood, no church required! Baptism, the Sacrament? Nice but meaningless ceremonies! With faith, you are saved and don't have to do anything else to get to heaven! Once saved, always saved! And sin has no more real consequence; it won't affect your salvation once you are saved!

The Law of Moses cannot possibly lead to such a set of doctrines. And when I've pressed you, you have admitted these are in fact your doctrines.The Law of Moses would lead towards the direct opposite. And you've never explained how the Law of Moses would lead to your views.

I would suggest checking out the views of the Greeks as to what Zeus was at the time of the New Testament. They said all that stuff about Zeus having a wife and body was all primitive Greek's understanding, when really Zeus had no body or passions.... he was Platonic, after all.

For a former Mormon, trotting out a Bruce R. McConkie quote to twist is pretty revealing. You have no shame in distorting our beliefs to suit your agenda, do you? You know very well what Elder McConkie meant, and you know very well the LDS doctrine on this matter. That you choose to lie about it reveals much about you. You display no intellectual honesty at all.

But hey, it appears you are denying that Jesus is Jehovah. Are you a Jehovah's Witness now as well? The vast majority of the Christian world also believes that Jesus and Jehovah are the same; are they wrong too?

Vance said...

To others, it may seem a bit harsh that I accuse EverythingBeforeUs of worshipping a cruel, heartless God. After all, as he cites, "For God So loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son..."

But look closer, and you will see: The only way to heaven is by having Faith in Jesus. And since Everything rejects the LDS doctrines of proxy salvation work and temples; indeed ordinances in general, the question arises: what about those who never heard the name Jesus? Which is probably 95% or more of humanity ever born.

Well, the answer according to Everything is: Too bad, so sad. Enjoy your eternity in hell!
And what makes it particularly cruel is that Everything has said that the Law of Moses never had the power to save anyone. So when the Lord spoke to Moses and set up all those sacrifices, rituals, and so forth: they were all an exercise in futility. Those who thought they were winning favor with God, or that their sins were forgiven, were all wrong. Jehovah was just playing a trick on them, for 1500 odd years or so, until Jesus came and revealed the real truth: that all you have to do is believe in Jesus and you are saved. But only if you do it during your life on earth. If you never hear of Jesus, like the vast majority of humans? Sorry. Enjoy Satan! Especially all you faithful Jews who lived the Law of Moses: you in particular no doubt were surprised to find out it was all for nothing.

So in reality, the saying should be "For God so loved the world that He sent His son to offer salvation to about 3 to 5 % of them, the lucky ones who happen to hear of Him. Everyone else will experience eternal torment even though it's not their fault. Sorry."

Personally, I strongly reject any notion of a God who would do such a thing. Why such a being would be called merciful and loving, or even Just, is beyond me. Yet that is what Everything Before Us believes.

Is it any wonder that Jesus told Joseph that the creeds of the world were an abomination unto Him; with doctrines like that?

Everything Before Us said...

Vance, you accuse me of lying and distorting your beliefs. But seriously...read what you have written again. ...the answer according to Everything is: Too bad, so sad. Enjoy your eternity in hell.

You are telling us more about your own misconceptions of Christian doctrine, fed to you by your church, then you are about my beliefs. Stop embarrassing yourself.

Everything Before Us said...

And we all know you think Temples were and are straight from Satan himself. It's why you apostatized. Newsflash: outside of LDS temple marriages, everyone else is married until "death do us part." No one except possibly the Pope even claims the power to seal on heaven and earth.

Jesus said there is no marriage in Heaven, but those who attain that state live like the angels. We will be with our loved ones, Vance. The “family” units of today will broaden into one big family in Heaven. We will be with our loved ones. We won’t be divided up into family units. Mormons first create the problem (can’t be with families in Heaven) and then they offer the solution to this problem (join us). Your church is the ONLY church that creates this problem and then offers the solution, but you must be willing to pay 10% of your income for life. Nice business model.

I've asked you numerous times how the Law of Moses with its ordinances and priesthoods and sacrifices and temples could possibly be a schoolmaster leading to your view of the New Testament:

I’m sorry, Vance. The Bible says so. Galatians 3. Take it up with Galatians. Then, in Hebrews, it says that this old covenant of priesthood and temple works is obsolete and is ready to vanish away. Your contention, Vance, is not with me but with Biblical doctrine. If you can’t reconcile what you believe with what the Bible says, maybe you don’t believe what the Bible says.

And you've never explained how the Law of Moses would lead to your views.

It doesn’t lead to my views. That is why I am not a Mormon. Read Hebrews again. Hebrews 8:12-13: “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more. In that He says, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.”
Again…you contend not with me, but with the Bible.

I would suggest checking out the views of the Greeks as to what Zeus was at the time of the New Testament. They said all that stuff about Zeus having a wife and body was all primitive Greek's understanding, when really Zeus had no body or passions.... he was Platonic, after all.

Okay…now you are getting somewhere. So, my view of God comes from a later Platonic understanding of Zeus, and your view of God comes from the primitive understanding? I can live with that.

Do you realize that the “logos” or “Word” as used in John 1:1 is a Greek philosophical idea? Did you know that? Do you therefore reject John 1?

How come when Hugh Nibley finds a vague reference to Mormon temple rites in ancient Egypt, the land and symbol of all that was evil and wicked for the Children of Israel, Mormons like you will jump on it as evidence that you are right. But when a pagan philosophical idea gives some strength to Christian theology, you use it as a sign that Christian theology is apostate?

For a former Mormon, trotting out a Bruce R. McConkie quote to twist is pretty revealing. You have no shame in distorting our beliefs to suit your agenda, do you? You know very well what Elder McConkie meant, and you know very well the LDS doctrine on this matter. That you choose to lie about it reveals much about you. You display no intellectual honesty at all. But hey, it appears you are denying that Jesus is Jehovah. Are you a Jehovah's Witness now as well? The vast majority of the Christian world also believes that Jesus and Jehovah are the same; are they wrong too?

Jehovah is the name of the one triune God. The Father is Jehovah. Jesus is Jehovah, the Spirit is Jehovah. Therefore, when the Hebrews were worshiping Jehovah, they were worshiping the Father. They just were not yet fully aware of God’s triune nature.

I like you Vance…you are feisty. Bruce R. McConkie was one of the 12 Apostles. That is a rather important job. Why should my referencing McConkie be a problem? He was authoritative, right?

Anonymous said...

I hope you'll come back here to reread what you've written when it all comes crumbling down, Vance.

bearyb said...

...even if the Mormon view of eternal damnation is correct, it isn't Mormon.

Huh? I suppose you meant here that it isn't "uniquely" Mormon. I would agree with that. But so what? Unless you interpret Joseph's phrase "they were all wrong" from JSH as meaning that he held the opinion that none of the other churches had ANY truth in them (with which I would disagree), does it really matter if there is some overlap? The Church does not claim to be the ONLY source of ALL truth.

And our claiming a belief doesn't necessarily make it uniquely ours. Part of what Jeff does on this blog is try to show evidences that many of our current beliefs were held anciently, for example.

bearyb said...

As with any modern figure claiming new revelation, I place Smith under the same suspicion as a Jim Jones, David Koresh or any charismatic leader. And I'm sure you would do the same thing if I presented you some new prophet you were unfamiliar with, right?

It depends on the "prophet's" message.

Those you mentioned would have been (were, actually, by most) easily dismissed. That's not to say that popularity is what makes a prophet. Prophets are usually quite unpopular.

A careful study of the scriptures will reveal certain patterns in the messages of those generally regarded as prophets. So that's the first test: Does the message fit the pattern?

Another test could be time. What happens over time to the prophet and/or those who follow him? Sometimes it takes a while to see what kind of fruit is borne.

So many concentrate so much on the warning about false prophets that they can't fathom that perhaps there might be some true ones. I often wonder about those who will witness the two prophets spoken of in Revelation who will be slain in Jerusalem, and how many of them will be aware of the prophecy concerning them, and its fulfillment.

bearyb said...

I dont believe any BOM archeological evidence is conclusive, arguments can be made to accept it or not.

True. That is why we have such lively discussions here.

But I can make an educated assumption for fraud based on what we do know.

That oft quoted phrase "He that seeketh, findeth" works in all kinds of directions, doesn't it?

My bias against Smith is supported

If your "proven" fraud claims actually were conclusively so, how do you explain the continued faithful membership of those aware of such claims?

Besides, surely you must be aware that there are opposing points of view, just as yours concerning the aforementioned archeological evidence.

What makes yours more correct?

bearyb said...

Wait... EBU wasn't just proof-texting in his response to Vance, was he...? :)

Everything Before Us said...

Bearyb.

Oh, please. What do you want me to do? Transcribe the whole Bible so as to be free of the accusation of proof-texting?

Everything Before Us said...

Bearyb


Prove your position without picking and choosing a few selected verses. Go for it.

Everything Before Us said...

Go for it. Show me the doctrine of eternal marriage in the Bible. No proof-texting, Bearyb.

Mormography said...

Mormanity, your biases against James Strange are so strong, so heavy. You've made up your mind that he was a con man, a fraudster, and every action and every utterance, no matter how inspired or divine, will be seen through that dark and warped lens. Christ was depicted in the same way by early critics and some modern ones. He was a magician, a con man, a scurrilous lout deceiving the common people with magic who was such a threat to society that he had to be put down by the authorities, and yet his fellow fraudsters from the lower classes kept the deception up with the obviously fraudulent resurrection myth. Smart people said this, but they were dead wrong. The vastly inferior and imperfect James Strange was called as a prophet of God and the Voree Record is a powerful witness of that, no matter how much you dislike any specific thing from his life.

Steph said...

Ebu,
Vance does ask a question that I have waited for you to answer for some time. That of you worshipping a God who is seen as capricious. I mean, I have seen estimates that there has been 110 billion people live on this earth and if we are being generous in saying that 30 billion of them knew anything of Christ, what of the rest of them? Are they condemned to hell for not having accepted him through no fault of their own? And if so, would that not then make God capricious?

Steph said...

Ebu,
Vance does ask a question that I have waited for you to answer for some time. That of you worshipping a God who is seen as capricious. I mean, I have seen estimates that there has been 110 billion people live on this earth and if we are being generous in saying that 30 billion of them knew anything of Christ, what of the rest of them? Are they condemned to hell for not having accepted him through no fault of their own? And if so, would that not then make God capricious?

flying fig said...

Hi Steph,
Greater question. The Bible has an answer.
Romans1 says that through creation God reveals Himself to every living soul. I believe God will know their hearts on how they've acknowledged Him in return.
"that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

flying fig said...

Bearby,
"If your "proven" fraud claims actually were conclusively so, how do you explain the continued faithful membership of those aware of such claims?"

If my experience in speaking to my LDS friends, co-workers and neighbors is anything similar to the general LDS population, I'd say most are unaware of their church history and questionable acts of church fathers.

Everything Before Us said...

Steph

Flying Fig gave you the Biblical answer to that question. I like it. Paul, in Romans, then continues to say that even though God's invisible attributes, his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, human beings have suppressed that knowledge, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into the image of corruptible man.

I believe that this is precisely what Mormonism has done. The Mormon God, while perfect in all attributes now, is said to have once been a corruptible man who worked out his own salvation just as we are now.

So, right now there are estimated to be approximately 4 to 5 million active Mormons. 15 million on the books. 4 to 5 million active. Lets say that even just a fraction of those achieve exaltation. 1 million exalted men with their wives. Just from our planet alone, 1 million new Gods have entered the universe. 1 million new Gods to begin the work of creating new planets and populating them with new spirit offspring. Just from our Earth.

Let's say from each of those planets 1 million more men achieve exaltation and become Gods. 1 million new Gods each from 1 million planets. Do you even know what that number is? That's one billion new Gods. 1 Billion new Gods just from the second generation that sprung forth just from our earth.

Now...I know that the cosmos is said to be without end, but seriously? Abraham said he saw worlds without number, so 1 billion Gods in the universe is nothing! A drop in the bucket. Mormonism acknowledges an infinite number of Gods. It blows the mind. It is inconceivable. We cannot even imagine such a scenario, but there it is. This is Mormonism.

It is utterly ludicrous. And Vance is concerned about the capricious God of Christianity?

Vance needs to be concerned about how he is going to reconcile Isaiah 43:10 with the rest of his doctrine, "...before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me."

There is no God before YHWH. There will be no God after YHWH.

I know this is probably very disappointing to Vance, who along with his wife, is looking forward to the day he is becomes a God, just as he was promised in the temple.





Everything Before Us said...

Steph

But that is probably not a satisfying answer. God does his own work. Paul is right...human beings already have been given all they need to learn of the true God. God has provided that. They may not know Christ by name, but that doesn't mean that they do not know Christ in spirit. The Christian walk is simple: Love one another. That is the fulfillment of ALL THE LAW! When one fulfills the law...one is justified. Justification comes through obeying law. Love one another is the law. It is as simple as that.

I learned of a wealthy photographer who had all he could ever want in this life. I forget his name. I think he worked in Hollywood. He was on a photoshoot in a third-world country, and he saw absolute poverty and devastation. He couldn't handle it. His heart was changed (born again) without even realizing it was Christ working inside of him. He went home, gave up his posh lifestyle, and now he lives amongst the poor helping them with the means that he has.

He never got down on his knees and said, "I believe, praise Jesus!" But did he have to? His actions reflected the changed Christian heart.

We all are without excuse. It has to be this way. If it is not this way, then the worst possible thing we could be doing is missionary service! If the world is not condemned in its present state because of ignorance, then missionary work is the Devil's work, because we'd be spreading accountability where there is none, and we'd be damning the majority of the human race.

Mormons claim that those without law will be covered in full under the Atonement of Christ. Okay...then what the heck are the Mormon missionaries doing going forth to bring them law?

We, all of us, are without excuse. Therefore we go and preach the word of God, because God can use us to do his work.

And, even without our help, God is constantly at work on the hearts of men and women in his own way. Those who do not suppress the knowledge of the true God that has already been placed in their hearts and minds will be safe. I am not worried about this. I do not believe they need to pray the sinner's prayer. You can know Christ without knowing Christ. We have what we need inside of us to know God. If we don't know God, it is because we are suppressing it.

I know a lot of Mormons who are suppressing this knowledge, because of their faith and devotion in the work of a man, Joseph Smith. On the other hand, I do suspect there are many Mormons who, while believing the lies of Joseph Smith, do know the true God. They are in a state of confusion. We all are to one degree or another. None of us yet see clearly.

But God does his work. What fools we are to think that anybody else's salvation is dependent upon us.

Anonymous said...

flying fig: wrt the BofM and the KJB. You again have repeated bad anti-Mormon research. AFAIK, no one has made a true study of the critical text in relation to Isaiah. Vance has mentioned 400 or so differences -- there are actually 800+ differences in word and phrases between the two, some which are substantive. Italics account for only about one-fifth of the differences. These BofM passages would not have been produced by copying the KJB or even a simple editing of Isaiah -- not even the chaptering of the Bible is followed (which you probably didn't know). The current LDS text looks much more like Isaiah than the dictation because there has been convergence from extensive subsequent editing. Please refrain from misinforming before you do a thorough, dispassionate study of the matter based on the Yale edition.

flying fig said...

The fact that there is a single italicized word in the BOM that also occurs in the KJV proves Smith used the KJV as a source text. How else could you explain it? Jeff himself admits it's a difficult issue to deal with. Look it up on fairmormon, they're not sure how it happened unless Smith used a bible or God himself gave the words to him

Vance said...

Flying Fig: The Isaiah passages in the Book of Mormon present a quandary for all sides. It's clearly not a copy of the KJV; that has been abundantly shown. The italicized words in the KJV: what are they? They are words the translators put into the text to make it read easier in English; since a straight translation is hard to read.

Why couldn't the same thing have happened in the Book of Mormon to make it intelligible English? Besides, Flying Fig: the burden is on you to prove, conclusively, that Joseph Smith had access to the originals and other documents that allowed him to go far, far beyond the KJV and get Isaiah text that simply isn't there in the KJV but is there elsewhere. How?

I like watching EBU deny the New Testament and the Lord; such as he has done here. Jesus said "Except a man be born of the water and the spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven." That means baptism. You cannot go to heaven without being baptized. Your "God doesn't care, he will save the good people" is utterly anti-biblical. Everyone must have faith in Christ, repent, and be baptized, at minimum, to qualify for the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus left us no weasel or wiggle room. And He commanded us to send missionaries; why if missionaries doom mankind? Your argument is sheer nonsense; and is nothing more than what the devil wants. Because under your theology, it is best to murder all Christians everywhere and burn all Bibles, so everyone can go to heaven. That way, no one will become accountable by mistakingly hearing the name "Jesus."

Whose doctrine does that sound like: "Better to destroy Jesus's followers and burn the Bibles, else people might not be saved!" That's the devils doctrine.

Yes, people have the Light of Christ, or their conscience. That is not sufficient for salvation. The fact you even make that argument demonstrates theological bankruptcy.

Tell me, why did Jesus come to earth if He could have just gone to the Moon and suffered for us all there? Then we'd all be ok, under this "God saves all good people without requirements!" bit. Why did Paul spend his whole life preaching Jesus?

Loving one another is not the law, EBU. Rather, it is not the complete law. It is a nice summary, but it is not the law.

And "those without the law" are those who are incapable of knowing right and wrong; such as children and some disabled adults, like my uncle who has severe mental issues due to german measles. He is without law; for he is incapable of obeying or disobeying.

You are preaching heresy if you claim that you can get to heaven without baptism. Jesus and all the early apostles were very, very clear on the subject. This requirement is universal. Not even Jesus could go to heaven without baptism; since He was a mortal man at the time.

And this has always been understood; thus the practice of infant baptism evolved to try to save those who died as children. This is no "Mormon innovation" as doctrine.

Of course, EBU thinks ordinances are silly and idiotic and pointless, so why Jesus would require such a thing is beyond him. Right, EBU? What's the point of baptism? Why did Jesus get baptized; in fact what was John the Baptist thinking he was doing by preaching baptism? What's the point? Why did Peter tell people to get baptized when God was going to save them by looking on their hearts?

Honestly, your complete rejection of baptism, the sacrament, anointing with oil for the sick (why on earth do that, it won't do anything, right) demonstrates the utter apostasy of Protestants who say "faith alone, brother! Nothing more is required!" Such a doctrine is totally alien to Jesus and the apostles.

continued....

Vance said...


I'm not sure what version of God you follow, but it surely isn't the Jesus of the Bible, who started His ministry getting baptized by John, and finished His ministry by introducing the sacrament or Eucharist while performing another ordinance: the feast of the Passover. The same Jesus who commanded Peter and the boys to preach repentance and baptism. Why, if all it takes to be saved is just some vague do gooder stuff?

Yes, it is necessary to do good. God judges us on works. But He demands ordinances too: both before Christ as well as after His life and death and resurrection. Baptism is required of all who are capable of right and wrong. This is why the early church proselytized so heavily: for souls are not saved except when they are baptized. Baptism alone is not enough, of course, faith is required too, but neither faith alone or works are sufficient: both are required.

Your rejection of ordinances makes a mockery of Jesus's entire ministry. It is completely unbiblical, and of course is a doctrine that delights the devil to no end. "Just say you are saved, baby! It's ok!"

Proxy salvation is the foundation of the gospel, EBU. Christ did what we could not do. And in turn, we do for others what they cannot do for themselves. Apparently, that idea repulses you. How dare we help another human get to heaven!

Of course, you could explain why Christ commanded His disciples to baptize people. What’s the point, if it’s all so unnecessary? Is it just make work; kind of like the Law of Moses was according to you?

Weird how Jehovah and Jesus both commanded their disciples to perform ordinances when they do nothing, have no impact, and certainly are unnecessary. Wonder why the Lord would do that; when an ordinance such as the sacrifices in the Law of Moses did nothing, and why would Jesus introduce the Sacrament and command people to be Baptized; surely Jesus knows that those things are pointless. Right, EBU? All God really requires is that you occasionally do good stuff; not even believe in Jesus. You can get to heaven via another name! Jesus is not required to get to heaven!

That’s you and Flying Fig. And you accuse Mormons of not being Christian; I suppose if being a Christian means eliminating Christ from the salvation process you may have a point. We Mormons certainly believe that no man gets to heaven without Christ. Apparently that makes us unchristian.

flying fig said...

I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. GAL2:21

flying fig said...

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? May it never be! Romans 6:1. There's no free pass

Everything Before Us said...

I need to revise my words. I said "justification comes through obeying law." I should've said that one method of justification is to obey the law. Of course, no one can do it perfectly. But it is still an option. Because we can't do it, we are saved/justified through faith.

But what I mean is that Christ is the principle of love in this cold heartless universe. If you love, you know Christ. You are living the Christian life. If you love, you are expressing saving faith, Christian faith. God is love, remember.

Our works don't justify us, because we'd need to be perfect for that to happen. But faith without works is dead, and in that sense, our love justifies us. It is a sign of our saving faith. Faith in God.

The Bible says that we are without excuse and we have what we need to know God. And the Bible says that those who know God will be brought to a knowledge of the Christ. That is God's work. Even C. S. Lewis operated in this way in Mere Christianity. He first makes the case for God. He then proceeds to show us why the Christian way is the way.

We all can know God. We seek God, we will be led to Christ. To the way of love.

Vance said...

Look, it's simple. Christ said no one gets to heaven without Him; and He also commanded Baptism and so forth. He was quite clear.

But that of course leaves EBU and the rest in the awkward position that Christ essentially damned the vast majority of humanity that has ever lived; since very few people have ever heard of Christ.

Thus, they are arguing that Christ didn't really mean it; you can get in fact to heaven without believing in Christ. But that then begs the question: What's the point of Christ, then? And the gospel, and apostles and baptism and so forth? If it's all unnecessary, why does it exist?

Either Christ is important and mandatory, or He is not. Either way leads to uncomfortable things like "Learning about Christ really is bad, because then you are damned!"

In fact, the only Christian group that does not have this problem is the LDS church and the temples, and the doctrine of proxy salvation and salvation for the Dead. It fulfills both requirements: Everyone, no matter what, has the opportunity to hear about Jesus, have faith, and also fulfill the legal requirements such as baptism. No one will be left out. God can demand faith in Christ from everyone and it is still fair. The person born in the amazon jungle in 600 BC will hear of Christ and be able to have faith.

Plus, it gives a reason for the Millennium: a thousand years to provide salvation to all the hundreds of millions who never heard of Christ on this earth.

God is Just; and merciful. LDS temple work proves it. God has laws that everyone must meet... and therefore, He gave everyone a chance to meet it.

Sadly, EBU: you reject proxy salvation, salvation for the dead, and preaching the gospel to those in prison as Peter put it. Without the doctrine of salvation for the dead, it means that God either cannot require faith in Christ for salvation (and if Christ is not necessary as you posit above, then how and why are you a Christian?) Or if He does require faith in Christ for salvation, He must doom the majority of mankind who never had a chance.

You pick. Either one makes God rather capricious and He has played a cruel trick on at least some of humankind.

flying fig said...

For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in ALL THINGS which are written in the book of the law to do them.

11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.

12 And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.

13 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:

Gal3

Vance said...

Flying Fig and EBU: It's a simple question. Must someone be baptized to gain entrance to heaven? Must he be born again, both faith and through water? All these scriptures really don't answer whether you are rejecting the concept of ordinances as necessary or not. Answer plainly, please.

These quotations are implying that you think ordinances are worthless; and baptism is meaningless.

Everything Before Us said...

I like watching EBU deny the New Testament and the Lord; such as he has done here. Jesus said "Except a man be born of the water and the spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven." That means baptism. You cannot go to heaven without being baptized. Your "God doesn't care, he will save the good people" is utterly anti-biblical. Everyone must have faith in Christ, repent, and be baptized, at minimum, to qualify for the Kingdom of Heaven.

You are wrong Vance. You are preaching doctrine contrary to Mormonism. The “Kingdom of Heaven” is any degree of glory (see the heading for D&C 76.) You do not need baptism to enter a degree of glory. You need baptism for exaltation. All ordinances are for Celestial glory, Vance. So, according to Mormon doctrine, yes…God will save the good people. D&C 76 says God saves all. Everyone. God saves everyone. D&C 76 says so. All except sons of perdition. Exaltation is a different story, but God saves all.

Jesus left us no weasel or wiggle room. And He commanded us to send missionaries; why if missionaries doom mankind?

You obviously aren’t following my argument. He sends missionaries because all mankind IS ALREADY DOOMED! You believe that mankind is not doomed until they are accountable. So you need to figure out the logic here. Not me. Why are you sending missionaries to unaccountable people?

Your argument is sheer nonsense; and is nothing more than what the devil wants. Because under your theology, it is best to murder all Christians everywhere and burn all Bibles, so everyone can go to heaven. That way, no one will become accountable by mistakingly hearing the name "Jesus."

No, Vance. That is your doctrine. Logically speaking, if little children are saved in Celestial glory if they die before they are 8, it would be better that they die young. The same would be said for all who are not accountable.

Loving one another is not the law, EBU. Rather, it is not the complete law. It is a nice summary, but it is not the law.

Oh Vance….

You are preaching heresy if you claim that you can get to heaven without baptism. Jesus and all the early apostles were very, very clear on the subject. This requirement is universal. Not even Jesus could go to heaven without baptism; since He was a mortal man at the time.

What?! I thought you believed Jesus was God. And yet, he couldn’t go to Heaven without being dunked into a little bit of his own creation? Wow….Tell me….just how is Jesus God in Mormon theology?

Your rejection of ordinances makes a mockery of Jesus's entire ministry.

No…your insistence on ordinances makes a mockery of Jesus’s death. Read Galatians. Paul says that to people like you, Jesus died in vain.

Proxy salvation is the foundation of the gospel, EBU.

Really, the FOUNDATION of the Gospel? It isn’t Jesus Christ’s atonement? The foundation of the Gospel is being dunked in water in place of dead people? Is that what you believe? Even when Jesus said, Let the dead buried the dead? The foundation of the Gospel is your practices which border on necromancy?

Christ did what we could not do. And in turn, we do for others what they cannot do for themselves. Apparently, that idea repulses you. How dare we help another human get to heaven!

Jesus alone is the way to Heaven. Not you Vance. Calm down there, Tiger.

That’s you and Flying Fig. And you accuse Mormons of not being Christian; I suppose if being a Christian means eliminating Christ from the salvation process you may have a point. We Mormons certainly believe that no man gets to heaven without Christ. Apparently that makes us unchristian.

Vance, you have replaced Christ from the salvation process. Someday you will see this. And that is going to be a wonderful day for you. Then, you’ll be able to give up the burden and give it to Christ. Keep going, brother.

Anonymous said...

ff: "God himself gave the words to him". Correct. Jeff is not an expert in these matters. Skousen is and has maintained this position for about 20 years.

flying fig said...

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law? Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ALL THE LAW and the Prophets hang on these two commandments"

That's it Vance, simple in concept, a lifetime of commitment to follow. No man made rules, special clothes to wear, dietary restrictions, nothing. It's a matter of the heart.

Rather than a capricious God, could it be Romans 1:19 works because Christ finished the law and we are no longer bound to it?

flying fig said...

If you and Skousen want to believe God gave the same KJV italicized words to Smith in the BOM rather than the theory Smith simply copied them from the KJV, that's fine with me. :-)

Everything Before Us said...

Rather than a capricious God, could it be Romans 1:19 works because Christ finished the law and we are no longer bound to it?

Thanks, Flying Fig. Beautifully put, and something very deep to contemplate.

Vance said...

EBU: we are talking about you and your views; not Mormon theology. There's no Celestial, Terrestrial, or telestial kingdom; there's only heaven and hell in your world view. I'm pretty sure of that.
Given that, is baptism required to get to heaven? Not in Mormon theology, in yours.

Jesus had to be baptized because He is a God of law. The law applies to Him as much as it does anyone else. Laws of nature; laws of science; laws of religious. God cannot be unjust; He cannot save that which does not qualify for salvation. No unclean thing can inherit the Kingdom of God; and God cannot make exceptions. Every human born on earth that is accountable must be baptized. Even Jesus. The other part of baptism, regarding forgiveness, applied to Jesus too... except He had no sin that needed washing away; so it was impotent.

Jesus followed the Law. He is the Author of it, yes, but even He must follow it... else it is no law. And how could we have faith in a God who is not bound by law to do what He said? Is it not law that Christ's blood can save? I must be able to trust in the Lord; He is bound by His promise.

That, of course, is the entire reason for ordinances: to bind not only the human, but also to bind God. God cannot break His word. Once He makes a promise, He no longer has power to break it, except on condition when the other side fails to live up to their bargain. Malachi teaches us that.

Your God is not bound. You have no confidence in Him keeping His promises. But then, you do not even consider law necessary; for I think you've admitted there is no such thing as sin (rather, there is no consequence for committing sin; so sin really doesn't exist).

In fact, that's the real question, is it not? Does sin exist and does it keep us from God? Is there law, or is there no law?

Without law, there is no punishment and no need for Christ. You and Flying Fig's analysis of the requirements to get to heaven above completely ignore the consequences of sin. The reason Christ is required to save is because sin keeps us all from heaven. Where there is sin, or a knowing violation of the law as understood by the person, then there is penalty. This is all explained by Alma, by the way. Christ did not eliminate sin; He did not give everyone a free pass by repealing the law. He only provided the way to allow Him to pay the penalty, if you follow His rules.

Proxy salvation is the heart of the gospel: Christ's atonement is Him satisfying justice as proxy for us. That we can also provide proxy work is allowing us to partake of Christ's nature and help others. It helps us be charitable.

continued....

Vance said...



I think that's your real problem: you reject the concept of law and punishment. Jesus never repealed law; He never eliminated punishment for breaking the law. The law WILL be enforced, if violated. Jesus offers to satisfy the demands of Justice, but in exchange we must follow Him. This is the heart of it all. And ordinances are how we satisfy that covenant. They are how we access the enabling power of Christ's atonement. We bind ourselves to Christ via covenants and ordinances. Each ordinance we participate in, each covenant we make with the Savior; allows us to draw on His power, for He is in a covenant relationship with us.

We are actors in our salvation, EBU. We are not passive lumps that Christ picks and chooses over; we must participate in our own exaltation. Yes, Christ provides the path; but each of us must walk that path. Christ wants us to be like Him and like the Father. We must decide to press forward on that Path. CS Lewis recognized that; Christ intends to make us like He is.

If your goal is to be a bump on the log; I suppose you don't need ordinances. But if you want to claim all the privileges and blessings that God wishes to extend to you, you must reach out. You must commit, covenant, and obey. You must have faith, but work your own way down that path. Be a disciple, not a follower. You must obtain the power of God to work His work. Become a partner with God; be faithful in a few things so He can make you ruler over many things. And ordinances are the keys of this process. It is through ordinances that God entrusts you with a few things; so you can demonstrate you are faithful; so that God can make you ruler over many things.

If you refuse to commit to even be baptized, how can God make you a King or a Priest of the Most High God? If you are not even willing to commit to follow the Christ; how can you call on Him with faith to rescue you? Just as marriage requires a definite starting point; our marriage to Christ where we can rely on Him and--this is important -- He can call us His own must have a starting point.

Both you and Flying Fig reject ordinances. Thereby you declare yourself heretic. It is not just a matter of the heart.

Baptism was crucial; and Simon Magus tried to buy the power to give the Holy Ghost. What did Simon try to purchase? You cannot erase baptism as a requirement, else you deny the entire New Testament. Why did Jesus introduce the Sacrament? What made a man an apostle, and another man not? What was special about the apostles, or the seventy, or a bishop or elder? Why have any of them if all you need is “a matter of the heart?”

Neither of you two have deigned to answer why there were ordinances in the New Testament church after Jesus was resurrected. Clearly they thought it was vital. And they knew Jesus personally. Why did they insist on baptism; on anointing with oil; on the sacrament? Why did they focus so much on those things, if they don’t matter?

Your faith is not biblically sound without recognition of the vital importance of the ordinances. God never, ever revoked the necessity of ordinances. Paul didn’t either. Or Peter.

One wonders why you reject them; and more importantly, when did God tell you that baptism was no longer required to get to heaven.

There is no point in discussion with people who reject Jesus, Peter, and Paul's consistent and clear call for ordinances to be performed and obeyed. If you are capable of reading the Bible and totally missing that.... then you have no business criticizing others for reading the whole Bible, not just a few chapters of Paul (and not other chapters of Paul) and calling that the entire gospel.

Everything Before Us said...

Jesus followed the Law. He is the Author of it, yes, but even He must follow it... else it is no law. And how could we have faith in a God who is not bound by law to do what He said? Is it not law that Christ's blood can save? I must be able to trust in the Lord; He is bound by His promise

At what point in time did Jesus author the law? And before he authored it, what law was he following?

Everything Before Us said...

Vance...C. S. Lewis was a good Anglican Trinitarian. If he can say things about our becoming like Christ, and remain a Trinitarian rather than convert to Mormonism, maybe there is something he understood that you do not yet understand about what it means to become like Christ.

Everything Before Us said...

One wonders why you reject them; and more importantly, when did God tell you that baptism was no longer required to get to heaven.

Sorry...I can't remember the date. But it was during the Summer of 2014.

Daniel said...

THIS IS HILARIOUS! Not the article. The comments are hilarious. It's amazing to me how few commenters can actually discuss the Interpreter article. It's just a flame war, instead.

Great job, Jeff! I'm a big fan of your work, and your rebuttal here is well done and a priceless asset to those defending the faith.

Vance said...

So EBU claims to be a prophet of God now. I'm sure he'll say he was jesting, but I don't think so: he has claimed revelation in the past. Of course, no one else has had prophetic knowledge of God since John the Revelator. Right?

It's no wonder he attacks Joseph Smith. What I wonder is why FlyingFig appears to accept EBU's claim of prophetic knowledge. The Law, EBU, was at minimum enacted before Adam and Eve. And the only thing we know about prior to that is that the penalty for not following the Father and open rebellion was being cast out of heaven. But Baptism, the sacrament; the Law of Moses etc was all finalized long before Adam and Eve, I am sure.

As for CS Lewis; I don't think he ever really met the LDS church much. And I know his views were rather controversial for traditional Angelican theology. After all, you guys reject theosis, or the deification of man. Lewis accepted it. I'm pretty sure you would say he was wrong.

CS Lewis is far more in line with LDS thought than you think; there's a reason he is the most quoted non LDS person from the prophets and apostles.

I note, EBU, that you still cannot answer whether Baptism is a requirement for salvation or not. One would start to think you are ducking the question. I am beginning to think you won't answer, because you know you'll lose.

Daniel, I think it's funny too. I started out defending Jeff and this article. Yet FlyingFig and EBU have run in terror from it; ignoring it completely, and trying to bash the Book of Mormon on other grounds before admitting they think Jesus was wrong when He required covenants and ordinances. So now they are on record as denying most of the gospel of Christ.

When you can get critics to admit they deny basic principles of Christ's gospel, it's worth the detour.

As an FYI, Jeff published part II at the Interpreter, and it is quite good. Thanks for it!

Everything Before Us said...

Vance, which came first: the Law or God?

If God came before the Law, what governed his existence before the law?

If the law came first, where was God at the time?

flying fig said...

Vance
Can you please show me where Jesus or the apostles are administering Temple ordnances as taking place today. Endowment, baptism of the dead, sealings. Show me where they're handing out temple recommend cards and performing tithing settlements.

Vance said...

The law that governs us here on Earth came after God, obviously. Before the law, it was whatever other Law existed; all we know of it was that obedience to God was still necessary. Satan broke that law, and was tossed out of heaven.

The Law has obviously changed at some point; the Law of Moses morphed into Jesus's law. And before the Law of Moses, Abraham obeyed yet another law, though similar to the Law of Moses.

Vance said...

Tithing, or the law of consecration: recall Peter smiting the couple for withholding their goods? Yep. Cost Annias, I think it was, his life for disobeying it and lying to the Holy Ghost. Incidentally, it is the main proof text for the Holy Ghost being God.

Paul mentions in 1st Corinthians about baptism for the dead. Surely you must recall that.

Show me the temple they had access to and controlled who entered and exited; before you demand that I demonstrate temple recommends and so forth.

But Peter does mention the work of the Lord in redeeming the dead in 2nd Peter.

But that's not the point, really: You guys claim ordinances are irrelevant, not required, and unimportant. Baptism is abundantly testified of. You claim it's all a mistake, you prove why baptism is not required. The onus is on you, not me to demonstrate all the ordinances. What ordinances are there, you reject. And you offer no reason why except EBU's "God told me ordinances were not required, going against all Biblical evidence!"

The question isn't whether the Bible mentions the endowment or not; when you attack all the ordinances it does mention. Once you admit some ordinances are valid, then we can quibble over which ones. But you a priori reject them all, regardless of their demonstration in the Bible.

So you tell me: Why do you refuse to answer whether Baptism is really required by the Lord? This is your time to prove you are not apostate.

flying fig said...

"Tithing, or the law of consecration: recall Peter smiting the couple for withholding their goods? Yep. Cost Annias, I think it was, his life for disobeying it and lying to the Holy Ghost."
Invalid. They did not die for not paying tithes. Read 2Cor 9:7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

"Paul mentions in 1st Corinthians about baptism for the dead. Surely you must recall that"
Invalid. Paul neither condemns nor endorses this practice, he mentions it.

"But Peter does mention the work of the Lord in redeeming the dead in 2nd Peter."
Invalid. Open to interpretation. Systematic theologian Millard Erickson counted 180 different possible interpretations for this passage.

"The question isn't whether the Bible mentions the endowment or not"
Of course, Vance. because it's not.

"Why do you refuse to answer whether Baptism is really required by the Lord?"

Salvation is by divine grace through faith alone (Romans 3:22, 24, 25, 26, 28, 30; 4:5; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; Philippians 3:9,
If water baptism were necessary for salvation, we would expect to find it stressed whenever the gospel is presented in Scripture. That is not the case. Peter mentioned baptism in his sermon on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38). However, in his sermon from Solomon's portico in the Temple (Acts 3:12-26), Peter makes no reference to baptism, but links forgiveness of sin to repentance (3:19). If baptism is necessary for the forgiveness of sin, why didn't Peter say so in Acts 3?

Paul never made water baptism any part of his gospel invitations. In 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, Paul gives a concise summary of the gospel message he preached. There is no mention of baptism. In 1 Corinthians 1:17, Paul states that "Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel," thus clearly differentiating the gospel from baptism.

The Bible also gives us an example of people who were saved before being baptized. In Acts 10:44-48, Cornelius and those with him were converted through Peter's message.

What about those who are those who were saved apart from baptism. The penitent woman (Luke 7:37-50), the paralytic man (Matthew 9:2), the publican (Luke 18:13-14), and the thief on the cross (Luke 23:39-43) all experienced forgiveness of sins apart from baptism. For that matter, we have no record of the apostles' being baptized, yet Jesus pronounced them clean of their sins

John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name
Ephesians 1:7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace
Ephesians 2:8–10 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Luke 23 “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”

Two ordinances: baptism and the Lord's Supper are both Symbolic but as seen above are not required for salvation(Acts 2:38-42). baptism by immersion (Acts 8:36-39) is the testimony of a believer showing his faith in the crucified, buried, and risen Savior, and his union with Him in death to sin and resurrection to a new life (Romans 6:1-11). It is also a SIGN of fellowship and identification with the visible Body of Christ (Acts 2:41-42).

The Lord's Supper is the commemoration and proclamation of His death until He comes(1 Corinthians 11:28-32). The elements of Communion are only representative of the flesh and blood of Christ, the Lord's Supper is nevertheless an actual communion with the risen Christ who indwells every believer, and so is present, fellowshipping with His people (1 Corinthians 10:16).

Anonymous said...

Yes, things often devolve into a flying fig and ebu biblical debate.
Another aside...
Fig, if you accept the KJV copying view with integrity, then you must accept that Joseph Smith would have needed several versions of the Bible to provide the Isaiah passages and other parts of the Book of Mormon. There is at least one Coverdale Isaiah reading, as you should know since you have asserted an opinion on this matter as if you were reliably informed. (But I doubt that you are sufficiently informed by facts and substance, merely by a particular baleful ideology.) There is also other Coverdale language elsewhere in the BofM, which I wouldn't expect you to know, since few do. There are some 1611 readings in the Isaiah passages, besides all the 1769 readings. I know that's inconvenient -- but there it is. There are other readings that correspond to other early biblical versions. Yet the six bona-fide witnesses of the dictation did not mention that JSJr consulted a Bible during the dictation, let alone that he consulted a handful of Bibles, which would have been required based on clear, concrete textual evidence. Your hypothesis fails, although your ideology requires you to maintain it against the evidence.

flying fig said...

So between the Coverdale, 1611, 1769 and other earlier biblical readings found in the BOM, your position is God did it? Really?

Is God really transmitting italicized words and translation errors? Is this a likely explanation? Why would He do this?

Or could it be fraud was involved and the "six bona-fide witnesses" may not be telling the truth?

Everything Before Us said...

Vance, you said God is bound by law. Did the law come first or did God? If the law that God is bound by came first, who wrote that law? And why is that law-writer not God?

Anonymous said...

flying fig: Here you distract, because your position is extremely weak and vulnerable. You lamely ask why. The dictation witnesses -- one never a Mormon, others who became disaffected and had multiple reasons to expose fraud but never did -- said that Smith saw words. They thought it was God. Smith and Cowdery thought it was God. Complexly interwoven KJV language throughout the BofM indicates expert authorship almost certainly way beyond Smith's 1829 abilities. It shows an intimate familiarity with KJV language, so the italicized words position ends up being stupid, and it doesn't account for 80% of the changes anyway. You now refuse to admit God could be intimately familiar with KJV language, which he inspired. Almost every single "translation error" is merely stipulated to be an error by naive anti-Mormons who are ideologically dug in, as you are.

So your position is that JSJr referred to various biblical versions during his dictation, even though some of those would have been very difficult for him to acquire, and for which there is no evidence that he ever did acquire them. I think the reasonable can see your position for what it is.

flying fig said...

Anon 9:28 Insults and name calling only reveal your true colors.


"FairMormon does not take a position that God revealed 1769 KJV errors to Joseph, nor does FairMormon "concede" that Joseph copied KJV text over to the Book of Mormon. What FairMormon does do is acknowledge that there is scholarship that supports EITHER position. There is a difference of opinion among LDS scholars on the issue of "tight" versus "loose" translation, and the question is not settled. Some LDS scholars believe that Joseph copied Biblical passages over to the Book of Mormon, despite the lack of evidence that Joseph ever consulted any books during the translation process. Other scholars take the position that when Joseph reached a Biblical passage in the translation, that God, in most cases, simply gave him the ability to quote the verse as it existed in the currently available Bible. In addition, not all of the Biblical passages quoted in the Book of Mormon are identical to the versions quoted in the King James Bible - 54 percent of them were modified."

Fairmormon admits there are even Mormon scholars who agree with my "stupid" position.

flying fig said...

And why do you think even LDS scholars would agree that Smith simply copied from other sources?
Could it be thay also realize how unlikely it would be for God to transmit errors?

Anonymous said...

Jeff, good job with the second part. Your coverage was extensive. You showed that RT made a bald assertion about the dating of the Exodus story, dishonestly presenting it as established fact, in order to attack the Book of Mormon. This is similar to what flying fig does with italicized words and translation errors. He follows others' lead and stipulates KJV errors as a given, and stipulates that the inclusion of KJV italics can mean only one thing for the BofM, and then uses it to attack the BofM.

Since you're not abreast of current scholarship, flying fig, and don't make the effort to keep up, as Jeff does, let me try to help you in that regard.

Gardner, the chief current proponent of a loose translation theory of the BofM -- ideas into words -- contributes to FairMormon content. Thus FairMormon is strongly biased towards his position, even though it is shown to be weak by recent scholarship. As you should know, since at least 1998 Skousen has espoused a tight translation theory -- word for word delivery of the text, which agrees with dictation witnesses. Skousen has been the only one to study earlier and later English in relation to the BofM, incorporating that scholarship throughout his ATV (2004-2009). Gardner has made little attempt to be informed in that way. He generally relies on various pronouncements of past writers -- both Mormons and anti-Mormons -- taking their assertions to be accurate without verification. Sadly, though Gardner is disciplined in following a certain methodology, it is faulty. Some of his thinking is less than clear, or at least the presentation is difficult. It is obvious that past scholars didn't attempt to study earlier English beyond King James English. Interestingly, had they looked closely at other Bibles, they would have found some of the bad grammar.

Skousen began with obsolete vocabulary, then he began to look at some of the questionable grammar, finding matching in the OED. He had found other usage from the past, making a note of some of it in his ATV. Then Carmack independently consulted the OED and found other BofM usage, expanding that approach to various domains of syntax, using larger databases. Unfortunately for Gardner, his position is now greatly in doubt because of huge amounts of textual evidence that support Skousen's position. Eventually the long-held position (since at least B.H. Roberts) of loose control will be abandoned. It has taken till now because there had to be precisely searchable databases of earlier English, and there had to be a critical text. Both of these weren't available till 2013. [cont'd]

Anonymous said...

In view of this, the above FairMormon passage rests on shaky ground. Recent scholarship has overturned the premises. The above quotation needs a complete rewrite, but it will probably take a few years before FairMormon does it.

As for the stupid italics argument, you present yourself as sufficiently informed, as someone who's done research into the matter or knows it really well. But it is very likely that you haven't done the required hard research and that you don't know the matter well. All biblical italics research completed prior to the publication of the Yale edition must be completely redone to have any validity. You've given no indication that you've done it, and I haven't seen any anti-Mormon that's done it yet. So on that basis you necessarily don't know what you're talking about. Yet you have no compunction in presenting your opinions like they're based in fact and reality. And since you're engaged in tearing down others' faith, a doubtful cause, you had certainly better step up your game and get to work.

Finally, your position is obliged to be one where Smith had a stack of hard-to-acquire Bibles that he referred to in Fayette, and probably also in Harmony, when he was dictating at a good clip. Biblical chaptering was ignored, nearly a thousand changes were made to KJV readings, and some readings involved obsolete usage of earlier English that is not found in the King James Bible. All of this makes your favored position extremely unlikely from an objective standpoint. You think it is a point of weakness for the BofM, but it is actually another point in favor of divine origins.

flying fig said...

Anon 11:24

It's been noted before:

I know it must be nice for Mormon believers to think that Skousen and Carmack are these sturdy champions of linguistic expertise who are defending the faith in ways that no non-expert unbelievers have a right to challenge. But as Orbiting Kolob keeps emphasizing, if they're such great champion linguists, why don't they publish in peer-reviewed linguistics journals? If they did that, it would strengthen their case for the Book of Mormon enormously. The fact that they haven't done that suggests strongly that they can't do that, because very few expert linguists would be at all impressed by their results.

NO Peer review, no respect

flying fig said...

You disagree with the fairmormon statement so I guess it's a settled issue. Thanks for clearing it all up

flying fig said...

Does Smith have a history of fraud prior to BOM? Yes. Are there accounts of fraud after BOM? Yes.
It's it possible fraud could have taken place in the production of the BOM? Yes

bearyb said...

Prove your position without picking and choosing a few selected verses. Go for it.

The point I have made before is that I can "prove" my position without selecting any biblical verses. But that wouldn't really be proof to you, would it?

bearyb said...

If my experience in speaking to my LDS friends, co-workers and neighbors is anything similar to the general LDS population, I'd say most are unaware of their church history and questionable acts of church fathers

I am aware of that, which is why I included the phrase "aware of such claims" in my question - which was not answered.

flying fig said...

Well I can't answer for anyone else with any level of certainty, but the few I've encountered who were aware of such claims have either been encouraged to "put it on the shelf" or have simply stated "none of it matters, I know the church is true, because it's true" at which point there's no further reason to discuss

bearyb said...

None of us yet see clearly.

Which is why I find it amazing that EBU has already figured out a mathematical extrapolation on the number of Gods produced through a "second generation" of exaltation, when none of us has very much information on any of the processes involved or their possible outcomes. Sure, I understand where his implications come from, but we really don't know a whole lot about it yet.

I try to keep in mind that we are encumbered by mortal, finite thinking while trying to grasp eternal concepts. There is a whole lot we can't possibly understand. It only makes sense to withhold some judgment until we are given all the facts, and until then it should be satisfactory to be as Nephi who said "nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted."

But we each have to head in some direction during our mortal journey. I have chosen this one because, taking everything I know so far into account, it makes the most sense to me.

bearyb said...

The comments are hilarious. It's amazing to me how few commenters can actually discuss the Interpreter article. It's just a flame war, instead.

Agreed. And no progress made on either side.

I value Jeff's efforts to make known these facts from far away places and times. Are they conclusive proof? Probably not. But they do enhance and augment the case for the claims of the Book of Mormon (it is unreasonable to argue otherwise), and I am edified.

Everything Before Us said...

I have chosen this one because, taking everything I know so far into account, it makes the most sense to me.

What is it about the other options that don't make enough sense to you?

Anonymous said...

You disagree with the fairmormon statement so I guess it's a settled issue.

No, fig, Skousen disagrees with the position so it is highly doubtful. As mentioned, Gardner is a valued contributor to FairMormon materials so FairMormon is biased towards Gardner's position even though it is has been shown to be much less likely by recent research. Objectively speaking, whose opinion on BofM translation should we give greater weight? Gardner's or Skousen's? Gardner doesn't have a doctorate in linguistics, didn't direct a BofM critical text project for 30 years, and doesn't have intimate knowledge of the manuscripts and printed editions. Skousen has a doctorate in linguistics, has carried out the BofM critical text project for nearly 30 years, and has expert knowledge of the two manuscripts and 20 printed editions. (BTW fig, non-Mormons have given high marks to the critical text work.)

bearyb said...

What is it about the other options that don't make enough sense to you?

They do not provide as complete a picture of all aspects for which there is evidence.

bearyb said...

@flying fig

Does Smith have a history of fraud prior to BOM? Yes. Are there accounts of fraud after BOM? Yes.
It's it possible fraud could have taken place in the production of the BOM? Yes


Has flying fig ever made a mistake before? Sure. Is it possible he will make a mistake again? Likely. Could he be mistaken now? Yes.

NO Peer review, no respect

All Anon is saying is that before someone speaks as though he has expert knowledge, he should have expert knowledge.

He encourages you to seek it on your own. Why should you have to wait for peer review?

Everything Before Us said...

Has flying fig ever made a mistake before? Sure. Is it possible he will make a mistake again? Likely. Could he be mistaken now? Yes

Has the church ever made a mistake before? Sure.

Is it is possible that the church will make a mistake again? Yes.

Could the church be mistaken now? Absolutely not. Stay on the boat.

bearyb said...

Was that fun, EBU?

Still keeping up with conference, I see...

bearyb said...

...And I was hoping you were going to respond to the more substantive claim in response to your question. But, whatever.

James Anglin said...

I have only read a few pages of Jeff's article, up to where he lists the arguments of Philip Jenkins. Many of Jeff's responses are "see below", but a few points struck me.

Jenkins did wonder whether perhaps NHM occurred every five miles in Arabia; evidently in fact it does not. But Jenkins's point about coincidence is still valid even if there is only one instance of NHM: it's still just three letters. You wouldn't have to be lucky to find Nahom by chance. If you make up a vaguely Semitic-sounding name with three consonants, you'd have to be quite unlucky for nothing to turn up anywhere in the whole Middle East that's as close to it as NHM is to Nahom.

If this NHM site otherwise fits the Book of Mormon account amazingly well, then maybe that changes things at least somewhat; but the coincidence of name alone is in itself just not very impressive. That's Jenkins's point.

And it seems to me that if the fit between the Book and the NHM site were so uniquely perfect, apart from the name match, then why weren't Mormon apologists wringing their hands before the NHM inscription was found, about how the only possible site for Nephi's Nahom unfortunately had no evidence linking it to the name Nahom? Instead it seems to me that we only started hearing about how perfect this site is after the NHM letters had turned up. I'm inclined to suspect that, whatever the parallels may be between this site and Nephi's story, they aren't really compelling enough to be compelling without the NHM. But I'll wait to see Jeff's "see below".

James Anglin said...

The point by Jenkins which Jeff lists as number 8 is, "The map evidence makes it virtually certain that Smith encountered and appropriated [a reference to Nahom], and added the name as local color in the Book of Mormon." Jeff replies firstly that the "virtual certainty" is really speculation without evidence. He then raises his interesting counter-point, that neither Smith nor any Mormon apologist before 1978 ever drew attention to the impressive accuracy of Nahom. So if the name were a detail cribbed from a map to support a fake, then its support was never used. What kind of con artist goes to the trouble of adding that kind of detail, and then never even tries to claim the points for it?

One thing occurred to me: what if Smith had only seen the map briefly, years before? Maybe he met a traveler in a tavern who had a copy of the map in a borrowed book, and got a glimpse of it, and one name stuck in his mind. Maybe the name merged with "Nahum" in his memory and it came out "Nahom".

In such a case Smith would have been far too uncertain about his vague memory to try to claim it was impressively accurate. And in fact a "Nahom — Nehhm" correspondence might not have been close enough to impress contemporaries who were naive enough about ancient languages to think that Elias and Elijah were two separate prophets. Finally Smith might not have bothered much about buttressing belief in the Arabian part of Nephi's story, when the bulk of the Book of Mormon is set (somewhere!) in the Americas, much closer to home for his contemporary audience. Even impressive evidence for a detail that is only peripheral can do more harm than good to one's credibility, because it highlights the lack of evidence on the major points.

James Anglin said...

Maybe he met a traveler, maybe a name stuck in his mind; maybe, maybe. This is indeed speculation. I have no evidence. If you start from the premise that Smith was a prophet, or even just a strong candidate to be considered a prophet, then my "maybe he saw" is by no means a case that must compel you to change your mind.

To a non-Mormon, though, it seems that the chance that Joseph Smith, Jr. got revelations from God must a priori be somewhere below one in a billion, because there have been very few real prophets in all history. The chance that he could have gotten a glimpse of an old map at one time in his life may not be high, but no way is it as low as one in a billion. It's maybe, what — one in ten? One in a hundred? It's much higher than the chance that he could have traveled himself in secret to a library that had the map, to pore over it carefully on purpose — and that chance isn't really so insanely low, either.

To say that there is no evidence for these speculations, and so we should all believe in the miracle of the golden plates, is saying that because a one-in-a-hundred chance seems unlikely, we should all believe in a one-in-a-billion chance instead. A technicolor map might be unlikely, but it is really more unlikely than an angel?

Stephen said...

Yes, James, very low odds for any book to be rec'd directly from God. Let's stipulate 1 in a 100 billion. I compare that with the exceedingly low probability of the human production of the content and form of the book. I put that, conservatively speaking, south of 1 in a quintillion.

Everything Before Us said...

Stephen..

Seriously. You think it is more likely that Joseph Smith received that book from God than that a human being produced it?

Aleister Crowley, famed Satanist/occultist wrote The Book of the Law. Here is what he said about it. "Certain very serious questions have arisen with regard to the method by which this Book was obtained. I do not refer to those doubts—real or pretended—which hostility engenders, for all such are dispelled by study of the text; no forger could have prepared so complex a set of numerical and literal puzzles..."

Here is what was said about it by others: "It really makes little difference in the long run whether The Book of the Law was dictated to [Crowley] by a preterhuman intelligence named Aiwass or whether it stemmed from the creative deeps of Aleister Crowley. The book was written. And he became the mouthpiece for the Zeitgeist, accurately expressing the intrinsic nature of our time as no one else has done to date."

Doesn't this all have such a familiar sound to it? "There are questions about how the Book of Mormon came about. All questions are dispelled by a study of the text itself....It doesn't matter how the Book of Mormon was received by Smith, it accurately expresses the Gospel message."

James Anglin said...

If you really think the odds of human production of the Book of Mormon are less than one in a quintillion, Stephen, then you should believe that it is divinely revealed. That's the conclusion I'd share with you, if I shared your premise. And so, to this extent, we agree on reasoning.

I can't get the numbers nearly so low myself.

There are jokes about how primitive people are supposed to count fish. "One fish, two fish, another fish, another fish ...". When probabilities go below a certain level, one is really just counting "unlikely, really unlikely, really unlikely ...". One in a quintillion is definitely past this point, but to be honest so is one in a billion.

But sometimes even numbers as low as one in a quintillion really are reached by rational arithmetic. And then sometimes they can change quite suddenly, if one or two premises realign. I'm curious how you get to such a low number for your probability.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Everything, Crowley's book does sound familiar. Remember the story of Korihor in the Book of Mormon, who received the feel-good, anything goes message of liberation from Satan as an angel of light? Crowley's supposedly impressive book (according to him!) delivers the amazingly lofty message of "Do what thou wilt". Yep, the new liberating doctrine is just the same old message of anything goes, do what you want, be selfish and nasty and it's all good. Crowley claims to have written his book of 3 chapters in 3 one-hour periods. But without support from witnesses and other evidence, how do we know it didn't just take 30 minutes?

The fact that he embeds Egyptian lore (which he had been studying for years) and some Kabbalah concepts (also studied for years) to give some strange text that matches his own style of related works is not terribly interesting. It's hard to see why it would take as long as 3 hours to compose. But if it is miraculous, the source should be clear. "There are no rules. Do what you want!" No question that this is not doctrine from the true and living God.

The very Christ-centric Book of Mormon, on the other hand, is powerfully directed to just the opposite goal and proclaims that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Messiah, and that it is only through Him, accepting Him and repenting of our sins, that we can return to God. This is not the message that Satan is trying to promulgate, unless you believe in a very different Satan. Maybe I need to inquire about this?

James Anglin said...

I think Everything Before Us was just pointing out that it has been claimed for other books besides the Book of Mormon that their contents alone are in some way superhuman. Crowley's claim seems to have been based on tricky textual and numerical patterns woven (I'm sure, by him) into his text. The content of the Book of Mormon is certainly very different from that of Crowley's Book of the Law, but the apologetic Mormon claims based on anachronistic grammar, which (it is asserted) no human could produce, are a similar kind of argument for superhuman origin to the argument Crowley made.

Just because a set of claims are all similar in form doesn't mean that all are false; pretenders all claim to be king, but so does the real king. So it's no kind of proof against the Book of Mormon, if similar arguments have also been made for other books. I just think it's important to realize that judgements about just how superhuman a text really is can be very subjective. What looks utterly superhuman to a proponent may well seem to a non-proponent to be quite obviously within the grasp of human art.

Stephen said...

James, what odds do you give the Nahom - Arabia complex of evidence in the BofM that fits Arabian geography? Of course, whatever those odds are, they are dwarfed by the 1 in 100 billion odds of receiving a text from God. It is only when other concrete evidence from the BofM is added that one can reasonably overcome such long odds. Several short chiastic passages provide further concrete evidence. They are extremely likely to have been intentional; it is highly unlikely JS knew about chiasmus or could have subconsciously imitated it so brilliantly. (He might have read one of two books in English that had a rudimentary treatment of chiasmus (by another name) buried in their pages.) It's another low probability, concrete textual fact. Again, in isolation chiasmus is overcome by the long odds of receiving a text from the Lord. From there one goes to obsolete vocabulary. There are many candidates, dozens of them. Semantics is complex, and no one can derive or be sure of lost meaning and usage from current meaning. There are strong candidates which support the weaker candidates. A fairly large number of cases were unlikely to have been used by a modern American English speaker. The array of obsolete usage found in the BofM, taken together, is extremely unlikely. This category of concrete textual evidence by itself can approach or even surpass the 1 in 100 billion mark. From there one goes to systematic syntactic usage that is patently different from the KJV and from modern English. From all this, it is possible, even reasonable, to achieve extremely long odds, like 1 in Avogadro's number type odds.

James Anglin said...

Perhaps.

But if your very low probability is the product of a large number of only moderately low probabilities, most of which are repeated instances of a few basic kinds of case, then the very small probability might adjust itself dramatically if you were to re-evaluate just how moderately low those moderately low probabilities were.

Simple considerations can sometimes do that, for instance if one replaces a model of random speech (very unlikely to reproduce pre-KJV grammar) with a model of deliberate but imperfect imitation of archaic styles (suddenly quite likely to do that). Or if one considers that a person can recognize chiasmus as sounding Biblical, without being able to articulate exactly what it is that sounds so Biblical (the abc...cba pattern). Just as grammar is largely unconscious, stylistic mimicry can also be unconscious. One does it, despite not being able to explain exactly what one has done.

Assessing probability is also prone to the Texas Sharpshooter fallacy. The odds of any human being producing exactly the Book of Mormon are certainly extremely low. But so are the odds of any human being producing this comment of mine here, exactly. The odds of any human being producing a comment pretty much like this one, on the other hand, are not nearly so low. Taking this leeway into account can multiply low probabilities by enormous factors, completely changing the conclusion. So it's not really reasonable to treat the arbitrary selection of one human fraud, out of zillions of possible human frauds, as evidence against human fraud. That's painting a bullseye around the spot where the bullet happened to land.

I'm not saying this all means you're wrong. I think it means that your probability estimates may be highly subjective, to the degree where an equally reasonable person might make an estimate that differed from yours by many powers of ten.

bearyb said...

And it seems to me that if the fit between the Book and the NHM site were so uniquely perfect, apart from the name match, then why weren't Mormon apologists wringing their hands before the NHM inscription was found, about how the only possible site for Nephi's Nahom unfortunately had no evidence linking it to the name Nahom?

I don't know that there had ever been only one possible site identified as the location of Nahom before the inscriptions were found. As far as I know (though I'm no expert), such a location was only generally guessed at based on time and directional hints in the BoM text. That the inscriptions were found and date to the time of the narrative is what pinpoints the location, not the other way around.

There should be much more for apologists to be "wringing their hands" over, if that's what they are wont to do. Again, I'm no expert, but I don't feel anyone is worried whether any particular archaeolgical verifcations supporting the BoM are found or not. But why not look for them? If some are found, great. If some are never found, so what?

I'm sure that for some, producing the golden plates themselves would never be sufficient "proof" of the claims of Joseph Smith. They are, after all, only "things." Some of the discussion here proves to me that there would always be some alternate theory or explanations about origins or implications.

We would do well to remember the real purpose of why the Book was made available, which is clearly stated on its title page, and elsewhere in the text.

bearyb said...

Aleister Crowley, famed Satanist/occultist wrote The Book of the Law.
...
I think Everything Before Us was just pointing out that it has been claimed for other books besides the Book of Mormon that their contents alone are in some way superhuman.

The Book of Mormon narrative recognizes that God is not the only source of "superhuman" information. The Korihor story is one example. Also, in the story of the Gaddianton Robbers, the source of their system of "secret combinations," and their restoration after the group was destroyed and then interest was later rekindled in them was reported to have been superhuman.

The Bible also illustrates the real influence satan can have on men, begining at the Garden of Eden.

James Anglin said...

I don't really believe in a personal devil. To me, "Satan" is just a personification of temptation. If any books are in any sense inspired by Satan, I'd agree that Crowley's works are likely among them; except that it's probably giving Crowley too much credit for writing that was really just dumb.

My point about the location of Nahom is that there seems to be some danger of circularity. Three letters on a rock could just be coincidence EXCEPT that this particular location fits so perfectly with Nephi's journey. But then on the other hand the fit isn't really so unambiguous EXCEPT for the decisive clue of NHM. That's kind of how it sounds to me. What am I missing? If it's in the rest of Jeff's article, then I'll get to it eventually. If it's not, I'd be grateful for a pointer here.

It could be that both the location and the NHM thing are separately plausible but not decisive, and the point is just that the two things together tend to support each other, so that the total picture is more persuasive. That's reasonable; but one shouldn't exaggerate how compelling it is.

It would be very different if readers of Nephi had really gone out on a limb and said, "Man, the pointers from the text to this one particular spot are just so unambiguous, that if this isn't Nephi's Nahom, then we really don't see how one can take Nephi seriously as history in any way." And if then, after that clear consensus had been published and widely discussed, somebody turned up NHM at that exact spot, with no chance that it was a fake ... why, that would have been pretty impressive.

Mutually supporting arguments for the site and three-letter inscription are something, but they're not nearly as dramatic as that scenario would have been. So in claiming this NHM site as archaeological evidence, it's important not to try to steal the laurels of the really dramatic scenario, when the actual case is only the more modest one.

Anonymous said...

Well, that's something we might discover for ourselves on the other side. Is there a being Satan, or not? Mormons think there is, and that Satan wishes people to think there is no such being. According to Mormon theology, Satan wanted equality of outcome for the human race. He was a radical egalitarian, akin to certain totalitarian ideologies. God knew Satan's goal to be evil, not consonant with eternal principles. Interestingly, large numbers of humans now embrace the "lofty ideal" of radical egalitarianism -- for which there must be increasing control and intervention by centralized governments in all domains. We now reject classical liberal tenets of the Enlightenment. When laudable intentions go awry, it's time for more control and intervention. And so it goes, till individual liberty, free will, extraordinary acts are a thing of the past -- and good riddance to them. People must not only be equal before the law, the gov't must grow ever larger in order to continually work toward equality of outcome for all. Regulation can give us homogenization.

Stephen said...

Nahom is the pivot, as Jeff has explained, of a complex of related, fortuitous, identifiable convergences: to the north a stream flowing into the Gulf of Aqaba, travel SSE behind coastal mountains, and Shazer; to the east a specified turn in that direction, skirting the empty quarter, entering a wadi that leads to a delta that is unexpectedly uninhabited and fertile, with many attributes required by the text.

James' and others' response: "Nothing of any striking import here, folks, move along."

flying fig said...

I just don't see how this NHM proves the entire text when there are so many other problematic issues that must be ignored.
But again, I guess it just depends on which camp of bias you reside.
Reminds me of watching the OJ trail. Everything they presented was so clear to his guilt, but my mother saw it all that he was so obviously innocent.

Everything Before Us said...

If the plates were found, we'd have the obvious problem of how we deal with Smith's claim that the plates were taken back up by an angel.

Beside that, though, I think it would be perfectly reasonable for all doubters to still demand some evidence that these are indeed Smith's plates.

If the plates are found, and it is shown that they date to 600 CE, then I'll certainly embrace the Book of Mormon again. Part of me would like to do that, because I do have a long personal history with that book, and there are things there that I do love.

So I don't think it is unreasonable to think that doubters can be swayed.

However, the purpose of the Book is written on the title page, as bearyb states. And that then forces the issue into doctrinal matters. I've said it many times here, the current LDS Church does not follow its own Book of Mormon. It throws millions of dollars into his churches, which is preached against in the Book of Mormon. It rejects the doctrine of Christ as spelled out in the Book of Mormon, adding more to it, which is expressly forbidden in no uncertain terms.

If the Book of Mormon were proven true, I would still have to reject the current LDS church especially because the BoM was proven true.

bearyb said...

So in claiming this NHM site as archaeological evidence, it's important not to try to steal the laurels of the really dramatic scenario, when the actual case is only the more modest one.

So a more dramatic scenario would be more compelling?

Actually, since you brought it up, I find the more modest scenario more compelling, if that is the word you want to use. It fits the pattern in the scriptures of how God normally speaks to man - not in a fire, earthquake or whirlwind, but in a still, small voice, or by "small and simple means."

James Anglin said...

Yeah, I can see that, actually. A slam-dunk fit with archaeological evidence might be more of a "miraculous sign" than God generally seems to supply, and so in that sense it might be a bit out of character. After all, there's no evidence at all (so far) for the great Nephite civilizations in the Americas, which are much more important to the Book of Mormon than the details of how it all began in the Middle East. So it would be strange for God to have preserved smoking-gun evidence about a small detail and left the main events entirely up to faith.

In fact, if I became convinced that Nephi's Arabian journey had to have been historically accurate, it probably wouldn't convince me that the whole Book of Mormon was accurate. I might well find it most likely that Smith had somehow found or heard a real ancient account of an Arabian journey, and then invented all the subsequent happenings in the Americas.

By the same token, though, if Nephi's Arabian journey should somehow all fall apart, with details of the text that just could not be reconciled to geography or archaeology, I wouldn't blame Mormons for just shrugging it off as a minor detail. Maybe a lot of years had passed before the Arabian journey made it onto golden plates, and details got garbled. Or maybe confirming details have just been lost over centuries. Archaeology can never be an exact science. These are plausible enough excuses, to me.

So the Book of Mormon was never really going to stand or fall on Nephi's Arabian journey, as far as I'm concerned.

bearyb said...

If the plates were found, we'd have the obvious problem of how we deal with Smith's claim that the plates were taken back up by an angel.

Obvious problem? Why wouldn't an angel given charge over the plates be able to produce them again?

If the Book of Mormon were proven true, I would still have to reject the current LDS church especially because the BoM was proven true.

A strange position, especially since the Church puts existential importance on its claims concerning the Book. If you are referring to the substantial passage in 3 Nephi 27, perhaps you should read the entire chapter, or at least through verse 29.

I suppose one could "proof-text" such a position as yours out of some BoM passages, but there are many other passages that speak of more information available than was written, not to mention the rather large portion of the plates that we do not yet have access to.

I wonder how the world will react if/when we are given the records that surely must exist that were kept by the "other" other sheep, mentioned at the beginning of 3 Nephi 16...

bearyb said...

@ James:

It is obviously uncertain how many things would have to fall into place to convince any one person. Some are unimpressed even by "slam-dunk, miraculous signs." Nathanael questioned Philip's assessment that Jesus was the Christ with the inquisitive "Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?" All Nathanael had to do was go and meet Him to be convinced, but many - though amazed - still had nothing good to say about Him even after they saw Him perform miracles.

Alma speaks very matter-of-factly in Alma 30:44 that "all things denote there is a God." Still, many aren't convinced of even that basic premise.

bearyb said...

If Nephi's Arabian journey should somehow all fall apart, with details of the text that just could not be reconciled to geography or archaeology, I wouldn't blame Mormons for just shrugging it off as a minor detail.

Actually, the trend seems to be in the opposite direction.

I will say that, since I believe the BoM to be true, and since it contains some hints of place and time that might be verifiable through serious, unbiased research and interpretation, I expect the trend to continue to be one that supports the Book. So, if something is found that would seem to make it "all fall apart," I would tend toward patience and the need for further research. If it's true, it's true, and the evidence should bear that out.

What might really satisfy you are the other plates that were mentioned upon which were written things of a more historical nature. But, alas, we haven't been told what ever happened to them.

James Anglin said...

Indeed.

And in fact nobody can refute the "brain-in-a-jar" scenario, according to which we (those few of us who actually exist, that is!) are merely brains kept in jars and fed stimuli, so that we subjectively experience whatever we seem to experience, but nothing at all of it is real.

Nothing is certain. Everybody is just doing their best to guess which possibility is most likely to be closest to the truth.

bearyb said...

Jacob refuted it (Jacob 4:13 in the BoM), and Jesus Christ (through Joseph Smith as recorded in D&C 93:24), but I guess you'd have to start with belief and faith first.

bearyb said...

I think it would be perfectly reasonable for all doubters to still demand some evidence that these are indeed Smith's plates.

John 20:29 "Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed."

bearyb said...

Oh, btw James,

I just inadvertently clicked on your screen name and it showed me your profile listing. I know K-Town! My father was stationed with all of us for three years in Spangdahlem. We went to high school in Bitburg. Kaiserslautern was our church Stake Center. My brother and I even rode from our house to there one time on our bicycles (Over 100 clicks - whew!). Good memories...

James Anglin said...

Ha! Sometimes the world seems small enough that no journey is impossible.

I believe I did once visit some kind of LDS church near here. It was for a conference of some kind on international adoption, so it had nothing to do with the church as such, and at the time I knew too little about Mormonism to even think about looking around the building. Now, I don't remember where the place was.

I'm still trying to find time to read Jeff's article and think more about Nephi's journey. It may take a while, though.