Discussions of Book of Mormon issues and evidences, plus other topics related to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Monday, April 25, 2016

A Thought on Book of Mormon Origins

The full significance of Martin Harris's visit to Charles Anthon has been diminished in the way Latter-day Saints typically retell the story. A consequence of that visit was an apparent fulfillment of prophecy in Isaiah 29 when the learned scholar, Charles Anthon, declared that he could not "read a sealed book," after initially giving a favorable report to Martin Harris about the apparent ancient nature of the characters copied off the gold plates. We have since focused on the trip as fulfilling a prophecy and satisfying Martin Harris's doubts. But the real purpose of the lengthy journey to New York City and other stops was to find someone who could translated text. Significantly, at this time, Joseph did not yet know what language the plates were written in. Harris was not looking for a translator of Egyptian or reformed Egyptian (only European scholars could have provided any hope of translation from Egyptian at that time) or even some version of Hebrew. He may have been looking for experts in Native American languages.

A valuable resource on the details of Martin Harris's journey and its purpose is found in Michael Hubbard Mackay's chapter, '"Git Them Translated': Translating the Characters on the Gold Plates," in Approaching Antiquity: Joseph Smith and the Ancient World, ed. Lincoln H. Blumell, Matthew J. Grey, and Andrew H. Hedges (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2015), 83-116. This chapter has kindly been made available by the author at Academia.edu, but please buy the book (one of my most treasured recent acquisitions, loaded with great material).

Mackay's chapter needs to be read in combination with his new book, Michael Hubbard MacKay and Gerrit J. Dirkmaat, From Darkness unto Light, particularly chapter 3, which adds further details pointing to Joseph's initial desire to find a translator and showing that Joseph did not know what the characters were until he got information as a result of Harris's journey that suggested a connection with ancient Old World languages (specifically, his brother William Smith said that it was through Harris that Joseph would first learn that the script was some form of degenerate Hebrew mixed with Egyptian).

The more we learn about the details of the origins of the Book of Mormon and the translation process, the more we see a young, uneducated man discovering step by step what the treasure was that he had before him. He did not begin with a scheme to create something allegedly in an ancient Egyptian script that the would translate by the power of God. His initial desire was to find someone to do the translation, and he did not have any idea what language the script was. He would later learn that he had to translate, and during the translation he would learn that they were written in reformed Egyptian. This is not the fruit of a carefully worked out scheme, but more and more looks exactly like the kind of thing he and his witnesses testified of: an unlearned man doing something extraordinary with a genuine ancient text, miraculously preserved and miraculously translated.


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James Anglin said...

I'm falling behind in my reading for your course, here, Jeff. So I'll just use this comment to ask some questions that are probably already answered in your references. If they are, I can read them eventually, but maybe you could give me a quick sketch of what kinds of things I'll then find.

How much do we know about who initiated Harris's mission to Anthon? Why didn't Smith go himself? Is there any chance that the earnest intention was really Harris's, and Smith simply went along with Harris's plan? That would of course fit with a theory that has only Harris being sincere. On such a theory, Smith might have felt he had no choice but to endorse Harris's trip, and supply some "caractors" to show to Anthon, because to beg off would have risked alienating Harris as a key supporter.

Unfortunately it may be impossible to settle these questions decisively, because it's about motivations and who-said-what-when, and people's memories about that kind of detail become unreliable after the passage of time. But I'd be interested to know how much we know about this point.

Anthony said...

One thing that always bothered me about Harris's version of the story is that Anthon is supposed to have told Harris "the translation was correct, more so than any he had before seen translated from the Egyptian." The problem, of course, is that Charles Anthon wouldn't know whether any translation from Egyptian is correct or not. The Rosetta stone had only recently been translated in Europe. So would he have said that to Martin Harris? This is enough to cast some doubt on Harris's version of the story, but to add to it, Harris alleged that Samuel Mitchell confirmed what Anthon had said. So according to Harris, two American scholars independently confirmed something that they wouldn't have been able to confirm. I don't know whose idea it originally was to show the "caractors" to Anthon, but Martin Harris seems at least to be credulous and easily confused, or at most a charlatan in his own right.

Allen Ford said...

Anthony, this will ultimately be a he said / she said matter, but we do know that Harris didn't abandon the project, and he put up a significant amount of money. So Anthon and Mitchill didn't manage to dissuade him. Either Harris was content with what he discovered, or Smith's power of persuasion with words was greater. Probably the former since Harris didn't rely on mere words, but checked things, like the weight of the plates in the glass box, and the seer stone that Smith used. And Harris's witness statements are substantial and not easily overlooked. They can be dismissed only if one his ideologically predisposed to dismiss them.

Everything Before Us said...

...Harris didn't rely on words, but checked things, like the weight of the plates in the glass box, and the seer stone that Smith used

Right...because as long as we can be sure a glass box is filled with something heavy, we can be sure it contains exactly what Smith says it contains. And because Smith can read words out of one rick, and not another, he is therefore definitely trustworthy. After all, it is common knowledge in the scientific community that only certain rocks produce scripture.

Everything Before Us said...

rick = rock

Everything Before Us said...

Moral of the Story:

Harris's "checks and balances" were of a sufficient strength to appease what little skepticism he may have had without having to give up the abundance of simple credulity he, for some reason, needed to retain. In other words, he was a very good Mormon.

James Anglin said...

I still haven't read the article, but by way of lowering expectations in advance: as a skeptic I may well be less convinced than any Mormon would be, simply because we come with different expectations.

If I were to come to the account of Harris's trip with Joseph Smith framed in my mind as a strong candidate (at least) for prophethood, I might well be quite impressed by a few points of evidence that lined up well with Smith's really having been a prophet. In examining those points, I would feel that I had subjected Smith's claim to a couple of probing spot-checks, and that his claim had stood up well. I might well therefore consider that I had exercised due diligence in testing his claims, and was thereby well entitled to believe them.

Coming to the same evidence as a skeptic, however, I would take much less account of the few checks that Smith's claim seemed to pass well, and be more concerned with all the checks that could not be done. The reason for this different attitude would be that, in my mind, the possibility that Smith was deceptive cannot be ignored.

I expect a stage magician to show me clearly that he has nothing up his sleeves — when the rabbit is in his hat. I don't presume that he's honest, and then consider my faith confirmed by the way one particular kind of deception (his sleeves) has been ruled out. Instead I notice how cagey he's being about that hat. The proof of empty sleeves counts for practically nothing with me, because the guy who decided that it was the sleeves that would be carefully investigated was the magician himself.

So, as Everything points out, believers and skeptics may draw different conclusions from partial evidence. A willing believer might weigh a box that is supposed to hold golden plates, find it impressively heavy, and consider this partial confirmation of the golden plates claim to be a substantial piece of weight on the evidentiary scales. A skeptic may attach no weight at all to that same weighing of a sealed box, because providing a heavy box which one may not open is exactly the kind of thing that a con man would do. "Nothing up my sleeves; not an empty box."

The believer may well complain to the skeptic, "You're not taking the evidence seriously." But the skeptic can just as well say to the believer, "You're not taking seriously the possibility of deception."

Wally said...

I don't have time to go into it here, but the account of Martin's visit to Charles Anthon is riddled with inconsistencies and is somewhat problematic. The fact that Joseph was dictating this account from memory after Martin had already separated himself from the Church may have something to do with the unexplainables in the story.

Anthony said...

Anthony, this will ultimately be a he said / she said matter,

Notice that I never refer to anything said by Anthon or Mitchell. I identify the problems with Martin Harris's story. One doesn't even need to hear Anthon's side of it to have serious doubts. So it's not he said/she said.

And Harris's witness statements are substantial and not easily overlooked.

I'm not dismissing Harris's statements. I'm showing how they don't make sense in light of the fact that neither Mitchell nor Anthon would have the capacity to determine if the translations by Joseph were correct or not. So, this raises the possibility that Harris was confused, gullible, or dishonest. Possibly a little of each.

and he put up a significant amount of money.
I'm going to assume that you know somebody who has been involved in a multi level marketing scheme. The fact that somebody is willing to put a lot of money into something doesn't necessarily mean that the business opportunity is well supported by evidence. Wishful thinking enables people to suspend common sense.

They can be dismissed only if one his ideologically predisposed to dismiss them.

On the contrary, Harris's statements can be accepted with confidence only if one is ideologically predisposed to do so.

Allen Ford said...

Who cares that you didn't reference what Harris, Anthon, and Mitchill might have said. Their various statements are a matter of public record. Harris's witness statements are different from his characters statement. You conflated them to advantage your ideologically driven argument. Harris put up money without expecting a monetary return after meeting with Anthon and Mitchill, people who weren't promoting a scheme; so it wasn't like MLM. Harris's witness statements about the dictation and about the plates are supported by many other similar statements by other bona-fide witnesses.

Anthony said...

My mistake, suord. I thought you were responding to my comment when you said that it's a case of "he said/she said," when my comment had nothing to do with what anybody but Harris said. "He said/she said" refers to at least two different witnesses. Since you don't care that I wasn't referencing more than one witness, I guess you were arguing with some straw man.

Harris's witness statements are different from his characters statement. You conflated them

Hmm. Not sure what you're referring to here. I'm simply addressing Harris's claim that Anthon and Mitchell confirmed that the "caractors" were translated correctly, something they weren't able to do.

to advantage your ideologically driven argument.

I used to believe the way you do. I changed my mind based on reason and evidence. Of the two of us, I'm the one who is more willing to abandon ideology when confronted with evidence.

Harris put up money without expecting a monetary return

Not according to his wife.

so it wasn't like MLM.

The reference to MLM was simply to show that people don't always put up money for rational reasons. You can't use willingness to donate money as evidence for rational behavior. Often money is donated because people want something to be true despite poor evidence.

Anonymous said...

A fool and his money are soon parted.

Anonymous said...

The recollections and affidavits of Lucy Harris were enough to convince me that the whole of the Mormon enterprise began as a money making scheme. Heap all the extraordinary claims on top of each other, the people who were closest eventually disavowed Joseph and his nonsense.

Anonymous said...

After reading that sample chapter I was, as I have been before with many secular articles, amazed at what passes as "scholarship" in some academic publications. It seemed that over half of the work was speculation as to whom Harris "may" have visited if he had in fact gone to Philadelphia (this is therefore double speculation).

The most interesting bit of information is how underwhelming qualified were the two experts Harris sought out. This is not information I was aware of previously.

Another interesting thing that stood out to me that hadn't before was Harris' description of his conversation with Anthon after supposedly receiving Anthon's certificate of authenticity. How awkward and contrived was that conversation? It's almost as if it was invented after the fact so it better fit the prophecy, but we know that would never happen.

Anonymous said...

Bushman in Rough Stone Rolling alludes to this but never comes out and says it.

James Anglin said...

Hum. I have now read the excerpted chapter of Mackay's book, and I'm afraid I somewhat agree with Anonymous 12:21. The chapter is so inconclusive that I have quite a hard time boiling anything out of it. Harris went on a long trip around New England, but we don't know much about what he did. Supposedly he was trying to find scholars who could translate Smith's glyphs, or at least recognize what language they might represent.

He was clearly at sea in the world of scholarship. Otherwise he would have known that the reasonable thing for him to do was to send a few dozen letters to recognized scholars. Since there was no Google then, he would first have had to find someone who could tell him who these scholars were, and how to reach them. Before that he would probably have had to find someone else who could tell him where to find a guy who knew about scholars. Indeed he might have had to follow several links in a chain like that.

But it could all have been done by post, and that would surely have been cheaper and faster. Harris himself couldn't ride any faster than the mail went, and he could only ride to one place, whereas he could send letters simultaneously to many places. Instead of this, though, Harris went on a tour. That's a cock-a-mamie approach to the problem, and to me it suggests a man who was looking for a personal adventure meeting local big shots; not a man who was efficiently pursuing a serious problem in translation.

James Anglin said...

Has anyone here seen the comparison of the Anthon "caractors" to Tironian shorthand? That's a set of abbreviated symbols used since Roman times, and potentially available to Joseph Smith, yet still obscure enough that a minor provincial expert like Anthon might not have known them.

I've seen one side-by-side comparison of the "caractors" to Tironian symbols that looked pretty compelling, but it was on a pretty anti-Mormon site, and the Tironian symbols in the comparison seemed to have been drawn by the page's author. He might have exaggerated their similarity. The table of symbols I found in the Wikipedia article on Tironian shorthand didn't look quite the same. On the other hand Tironian shorthand was in use for nearly two thousand years, and probably had lots of variants.

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen the comparison with Tironian, but when I looked at them, I could see several cursive letters that we use in written English. There are also some Greek letters. One of the Greek is a lambda, which occurs as lower case in one copy of the caractors and as upper case in another copy published by the church in 1844.

The most striking thing about the caractors is how poorly adapted they are for engraving on metal plates. Most of them are made up of smoothly curved line segments. I would expect that letters adapted for engraving on plates would consist of primarily straight lines. One of the caractors would even need its own special tool to put onto a metal plate: the filled in square.

Anonymous said...

The hope was that the cost of printing the Book of Mormon would be more than made up by future sales. I would imagine at least part of the purpose of Harris' journey was to gauge interest in the book and possibly drum up interest. His choice of experts makes more sense in light of this.

Allen Ford said...

This matter ends up being inconclusive. It's good fodder for endless speculation. The witnesses, on the other hand, are much stronger and much closer to being conclusive. There are many of them -- some witnessed the dictation, some were informal witnesses of the plates. They never disavowed their witness of the plates or the dictation when they had ample opportunity and motivation to do so.

Lucy Harris is anything but reliable. She easily could have been the one who stole and destroyed the 116 pages. Suppose she was, or facilitated it. What a cruel, vandalizing act. What a loser. She was, like this latest Anonymous, a serial attacker.

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

Anonymous 9:26.

Yes...by their fruits we will know them. But we only will pick the ripe fruit. If it is rotten, we don't count it. The history is too fuzzy. We can't be sure what the historical or social context was at the time that fruit was on the tree.

James Anglin said...

I don't know about the curving characters being so bad for writing on metal. Metal isn't stone, where you have to hit just right to make a mark but not shatter. You can scratch a curve in soft metal, and gold is soft.

It's hard for me to believe that a whole writing system could really evolve just for writing on gold, though. Maybe the script could have been developed originally for use on wax? Or soft wood or bark?

On the one hand it still does seem that straight marks are just easier to make when you're basically cutting instead of painting. On the other hand Chinese characters are mostly straight lines, despite being made with brush and ink; cuneiform is all straight lines despite being made in soft clay; and Mayan glyphs that are all round and curvy are carved all over in stone.

It's not so easy to say what kinds of script are likely or unlikely for golden plates.

Allen Ford said...

James, the plates were probably mainly copper, with some gold -- a copper-gold alloy. Weak acid treatments on this alloy create a surface useful for engraving and make the alloy look more golden. You can read about it if you're interested. Look up tumbaga.

Anonymous said...

Alas! If only it were as easy to expunge national and international news stories.

So go back to counting the angels dancing on the heads of pins while your church officials and institutions victimize victims rather than address the truth that Momron boys rape Mormon girls in Mormon schools and the schools are more invested in keeping the stories from leaking out than addressing them. Which is say that they handle it pretty much like this blog does.

Anonymous said...

To be clear, suord, the plates didn't actually exist, so your point is moot.

James Anglin said...

@Anonymous 9:16 —

Jeff Lindsay doesn't run BYU. I don't think it helps anyone to bring this up as comment on a blog post about the journey of Martin Harris in 1828.

James Anglin said...

I don't really believe the golden plates existed, either. But I'm here to try to understand Mormon thinking, so I'm interested in following Mormon assumptions for the sake of argument. I really want to learn how Mormons think through the details of what it would actually mean for their beliefs to be true, because my interest is in how basic world views deal with the details of reality.

I'm not a metallurgist, but plates of copper-gold alloy would still be pretty soft, as metals go, I would think. How deeply would the plates have to be etched? If just a scratch would do, then curved characters probably wouldn't be so hard.

On the other hand, if you google "ancient writings on metal plates" you get (almost only) Mormon sites which show pictures of various archaeological artifacts, with writing in Hebrew or Etruscan or Korean. The characters involved do all seem to be pretty linear and angular, without curvy glyphs. The letters look to be stamped pretty deeply in the metal, not just scratched on the surface. So maybe Anonymous 7:44 has a point.

(And these metallic documents also all seem to be texts whose lengths are a tiny fraction of the Book of Mormon's. So there are several confirmed historical precedents for ancient writings on metal, but a record as long as the Book of Mormon seems completely unprecedented. Perhaps Nephi & co. really did need something like shorthand to tell such a long story.)

suord said...

The many, varied witnesses of the plates were mostly solid citizens. Besides the well-known formal witnesses, there are at least Mary Whitmer (shown the plates), Emma Hale Smith (moved the plates), and William Smith (felt the plates). James, take a look at Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses by Anderson. To my mind, denying the existence of the plates after studying the historical record (in particular recorded statements) must flow from a predisposition to do so or from prejudice or from a firmly opposed ideology.

James Anglin said...

Wow. Any neutral observer would have to believe that Smith got plates from an angel, because a dozen-odd "mostly solid citizens" attested (to varying degrees) that he had them? That's an attitude that simply boggles me.

How many solid citizens in history have been bamboozled by frauds? How many previously honest people have stooped to abetting frauds? Obviously, millions. How many true witnesses have been blessed to bear testimony to divine revelations? Even faithful believers would have to say, dozens at most, in all of history. So just why should a non-Mormon like me be so sure that this handful of Mormon witnesses are in the latter group, instead of one or other of the former?

Everything Before Us said...

James, I don't know how you stay so patient. Most likely it is because of your life-long detachment from the pseudo-reality within which believing Mormons live. Having been under the delusion myself throughout my childhood, adolescence, and the majority of my adult years, it is hard for me to "play nice."

It is truly a fantastic delusion one is living under if one believes that the story of an angel with golden plates makes perfect sense and should be readily apparent to any neutral, agenda-free person.

This isn't how it works. Not in the real world. God rewards faith. I am not sure he rewards gullibility.

James Anglin said...

The recorded statements in support of Smith's plates actually seem quite problematic to me.

To "damn someone with faint praise" is to make everyone think they're terrible, not by saying bad things about them, but by saying only very mildly positive things about them, under circumstances in which you would be expected to say the best that you could. When the best man only says that the groom has clean shoes, the bride might want to think twice.

To me the various witness statements for Joseph Smith's golden plates seem to discredit them with faint support. There is far too little concrete detail about them. If I had ever handled miraculous plates, I'd be telling the whole world just how heavy and shiny and cold to the touch they were; how worn at the edges, how paper-thin but stiff; and how they were covered from edge to edge in tiny letters, without any margins. You couldn't get me to shut up about all those details.

The witness statements to the Book of Mormon that I've seen are not much like that.

suord said...

You've got to read many different accounts, James, before you can reasonably make a determination. If you read just anti-Mormon accounts, or just pro-Mormon accounts, you're not going to get the full picture. I just read an anti-Mormon account, full of little errors that skew the view. I just read a pro-Mormon account that doesn't give the full picture. Read widely and from both sides.

B. Overview of the three witnesses:
1. Most of the witnesses are related by blood. (wrong)
2. The three witnesses were all of questionable character. (inaccurate)

For #1, I think both 3 and 8 were meant. The 3 witnesses were not related by blood. The 8 witnesses comprised 3 blood lines. For #2, there are various non-Mormon sources that clearly say otherwise. A cherry-picked quote from Joseph Smith is used to support this view, a quote I haven't checked. No doubt we could find another quote of Smith's that would say opposing things. And of course this particular critic would typically attack most things Smith said. Pretty lame stuff.

Everything Before Us said...

Forgetting the divisions into 3 and 8, we have the following:

Whitmers: Christian, Jacob, David, Peter, John, Hiram (by marriage)

Smiths(and distant relative): Cowdery, Hyrum, Joseph Sr., Samuel

Others: Martin Harris.

Come on! Suord.

Everything Before Us said...

Hiram Page was married to a Whitmer girl. Sure..not a blood relative. But come on...

Everything Before Us said...

This is not a diverse crowd. These people, except for the dupe Harris, were all in on this. If I tell you there is leprechaun in a box in my basement, and then I produce 8 men who have also seen the leprechaun, and these 8 men are two of my brothers, my father, a distant cousin, and five other men who are of the same family which happens to be good friends with my family, and one man is a husband to a woman from the friendly family, and then there is a dupe who says he saw the leprechaun too, but whose wife absolutely doesn't believe a word he says about it....do you think I have made my case sufficiently that there is a leprechaun in my basement?

Anonymous said...

If you could produce a pot o' gold it would help your case :^)

Everything Before Us said...

I am not sure which anonymous you are, so I am not sure how to take your comment. If you are the believing anonymous, then I assume you are saying that the Book of Mormon is to the golden plates as a pot of gold is to a leprechaun in my basement.

Fine. If I produce a pot of gold, will you then believe I have a leprechaun in my basement, even if I do not permit you to see the leprechaun?

Get my point?

Proving the angel with the plates by showing me a book is like proving I've got a leprechaun in my basement by showing you a pot of gold.

Anonymous said...

It was a joke.

Anonymous said...

Hi Everything Before Us,

I suppose you have documents proving that all the witnesses were in on this or are we supposed to believe your leprechaun?


Anonymous said...

And remember that Harris was the only one who didn't get to see the angel and plates when they all prayed together because of his unbelief. He didn't get to "see" them until later in a one-on-one session with Joseph.

Anonymous said...

If you read the whole Martin Harris entry at Wikipedia you'll get a view of things from both sides, although the pro-Mormon side comes in mostly at the very end. If you stop reading halfway or two-thirds of the way through, you'll miss it and get the doubtful view emphasized.

Anonymous said...

I just had a thought. Why not a rubbing? You want to replicate a bunch of caractors exactly and correctly and you have in front of you a metal plate with said caractors engraved into them. Why not take a pencil & piece of paper and go to town? Much easier and more accurate that copying.

Vance said...

Everything is fulfilling a prophecy, of course: having left the church, he is unable to leave it alone.

What he carefully fails to mention is, of course, the inconvenient truth to his "They were all in on the fraud!!!!!!" position: most of the witnesses left the church or otherwise fell out with Joseph Smith. Yet none of them denied or otherwise repudiated their witness.

So, presumably for money, all of these witnesses cobbled together a plan to hoodwink people by pushing the "false prophet Joseph." They must have been mercenary, right?

Yet when the plan went south, and they fell out with Joseph, not a one of these mercenary people sold Joseph down the river and raked in the cash from publishing a "tell all" about Joseph and that fraud. And was there money to be made? Ask Hilburt.

So, Everything: the witnesses were all fraudsters, out to bilk a bunch of fools from their cash, right? Why didn't they sell Joseph down the river once he cut them off from the good life of being persecuted by people like you?

As for a money making scheme... Joseph sure picked a hard one, didn't he? Getting tarred and feathered and jailed and tortured by people like EBU is a mighty high price to pay for the privilege of having to move every couple of years with EBU's "tolerant and loving" brand of Christians trying to kill him and his people.

James: that is a question your "The plates didn't exist" position has to deal with. These witnesses went to their graves insisting they saw and in some cases handled the plates. Were they all charlatans? Or did Joseph really show them something?

Don't forget: Martin Harris poured thousands of dollars into the early church. Why? Did he expect to make money? He lost his shirt, for the most part. His marriage was severely strained (seriously: his wife conspired to destroy a huge chunk of the Book of Mormon. That can't have been conducive to marital harmony). Why did Martin do this? The trips to Charles Anton clearly reassured him; something must have happened to have made a shrewd farmer like Harris commit so much to this "obvious" fraud.

Harris went from prosperous farmer to dying as a charity case. Hardly a life path a fraudster would have chosen, isn't it?

Vance said...

Another question: Why, in this "It's all a fraud among several dozen people!" scenario EBU is putting forth: Why Joseph? Surely, if we need a leader, a prophet: practically anyone else would make more sense. Harris, for instance: prosperous, levelheaded. People trust him. Oliver Cowdrey, the educated one. Surely he makes more sense as the translator; as the prophet. In fact, his writings betray a clear level of skill over Joseph. Why not Cowdery as the frontman? One of the Whitmers--David Whitmer was a fairly accomplished person as well. Even Hyrum Smith would have been a better choice than Joseph--he of the uneducated, backwoods country bumpkin. Yet clearly Joseph was the leader, not just a figurehead. So why would all of these much better candidates put forth Joseph Smith as their central figure in this amazingly complicated plot? And then defer to him, even after falling out with Joseph later on?

Lest we forget, it is only the anti-mormons like EBU who claim the witnesses were all foul, dishonest knaves, engaged in a gross conspiracy. During their lifetime, people like David Whitmer were widely regarded for their honor, honesty, and integrity. And they never denied their witness of the gold plates.

EBU's version seems pretty.... unlikely. Almost impossible. Related to the truth as an inverse relationship. But then, he does think that God deliberately lied to the Jews and sold them a bill of goods for thousands of years, damning them for eternity on purpose; and happily sends the vast majority of humanity to hell through no fault of their own.

Which begs the question, EBU: Why don't you believe God appeared to Joseph, just as Joseph said? After all, you believe God appeared to Moses and gave the Jews the Law of Moses and told them that sacrifices according to the law would cleanse them from sin... and that God was lying to the Jews when He said that (Since ordinances never ever had any power, and only if you believe in Jesus are you saved. Ergo, the Jews are all doomed). If God can and did lie to the Jews, why wouldn't He appear to Joseph and do the same? In fact, since God apparently likes a great cosmic joke like the Law of Moses and its supposed salutatory power through sacrifices, why on earth do you think that God wouldn't do something like the gold plates? Clearly, according to you, He likes fooling people. So why do you fight against Joseph and his story? Surely your God would be tickled pink to do something like appear to Joseph and plant the gold plates, just to create a religion that dooms its adherents when they think they are saved.

After all, that's what your God did to the Jews. Why not the Mormons too? There you go: Joseph did see God, did have the plates, did translate them; and was a prophet just like Moses. Indeed, just like Moses: a true spokesman for God who repeated what God said and taught him. And in your view, God was lying through His metaphorical teeth to Moses, and also to Joseph, and most other prophets in the Old Testament, and people like Peter in the New. Only a couple of times through Paul was God telling the truth, as it turns out...... Right?

James Anglin said...

The betting seems to be that Harris was a dupe, not a fraud. The way he went about investigating the caractors seems more naive than shrewd, to me.

Were all the others dupes, though? I don't know. Even if they all were at first, it seems unlikely that they'd have stayed duped after falling out with Joseph Jr. So, yeah, it's a real question, why they didn't go crying more loudly that he was a fraud. (I've read claims that some of them did in fact repudiate him at some point; but apparently not very aggressively.)

First of all I would say that even if we couldn't find any plausible explanation for their relative silence, this little puzzle of human nature would be far from enough to compel belief in golden plates. Folks can be funny. To be unable to account for all the actions of people in another time and place is not so very surprising. Any neutral observer would swallow that familiar kind of mystery long before swallowing golden plates from an angel.

Secondly, though, I think the argument from the outcast witnesses' continuing silence seems to be based on a false premise. Just because a one-time believer or confederate had lost faith in Joseph Smith would not mean that they would have tried to discredit him publicly.

What publisher would have printed a book or newspaper story about Smith being a fraud? Almost everybody in his time already thought he was a fraud, if they had even heard of him. Selling a story to confirm this would have been like trying to sell "Dog Bites Postman." Even if some reckless publisher could have been found for a tell-all, it could hardly have made much money. Moreover, the outcast witnesses were living among their potential audience. They knew quite well how little anyone would have cared about their story.

The advantages of keeping quiet, on the other hand, would have been just as obvious. It would avoid publicizing the witnesses' own earlier gullibility or deceitfulness. And it would leave the door open for future benefits from association with the Mormon church, if something ever happened to Joseph Smith.

James Anglin said...

Why Joseph?

The standard version of the fraud theory is that Joseph was the ringleader from the beginning, because he was the clever and creative one. If the fraud involved a group, the group did not select him as a figurehead. He assembled the group.

suord said...

James, you betray a lack of background by "What publisher would have printed a book or newspaper story about Smith being a fraud?"

Everything Before Us said...

Sorry, Vance. I'm not taking your bait. You clearly haven't listened to a word I've written to you for the past several months. So....have fun.

Jeff Lindsay said...

James, I'm not sure there is a standard theory of fraud for Joseph except that somehow, he must have played a big role and somehow must have had good help (e.g., access to advanced maps, books, someone with the money and skills to make tin plates to pass off as his metal plates, etc., because he didn't even have enough money to buy a box to put the plates in once received). I would love to see the critics spell out a standard theory of fraud that can accommodate what both LDS and non-LDS witnesses tell us about the plates and the translation process, and explain how he crafted, for example, the account of Lehi's Trail, among many other things. Give us a standard theory to work with, please, that is more than a nebulous yearning for Smith to have been the author/mastermind/accomplice/apprentice/dupe/tool of Satan or whatever. Tell us how it was done in a way that plausibly accommodates the data. Then we can examine the new Standard Theory with more rigor.

Jeff Lindsay said...

James, there are many details we have the witnesses about the plates. Emma describes the rustling sound they made. Others give consistent and plausible dimensions, mass, etc., and we have the D-shaped rings that bind them. They were hefted, seen, beard, moved, touched, both under normal and miraculous conditions. The plates were real.

flying fig said...

Seems to me the plates were not even necessary. The angel provided not only the plates but also special instruments to read them. But what did Smith do? He used his old treasure digging stone in a hat to see words appear in the dark. I guess the stone was all he really needed.

Anonymous said...

Gold made a "rustling" sound?

James Anglin said...

By "standard theory" I don't mean that there is one complete explanation that everyone prefers. I just mean that the default assumption of skeptics is that Joseph Smith was the principal figure in whatever went down, because however unimpressive his qualifications were, he was smarter and more creative than the others. He's the guy that got famous and wound up in charge, after all. So the question, "Why Joseph?" doesn't seem to make sense.

As an exercise in historical reconstruction it would indeed be interesting to construct a single theory that could smoothly account for every piece of evidence we have about the Book of Mormon. This is probably not possible, however, because the available evidence contradicts itself in places, and so any conceivable theory would have to pick some pieces of evidence to be "accounted for" as lies, mistakes, or distortions.

Most historical reconstruction is like that to some extent. The actors who were closest to the events are often the people who had the strongest vested interest in presenting them in a particular light. Reconstructing historical fraud is bound to be even more like that. You're always going to have a choice of alternative theories, each of which agrees to different extents with different parts of the evidence.

To count this fact as a kind of evidence against fraud theories in general, however, is to presume that all of history was honest. Fraud does happen, and the nature of fraud is to defy unique historical explanation.

From an apologetic point of view, rather than historical, the situation is entirely different. Not even the most implausible fluke of deception is going to be more unlikely than the a priori few-times-in-world-history likelihood of a genuine prophet.

James Anglin said...

The question of detailed description of the golden plates is important, Jeff. Just how much can be said on this? The Testimonies of the Three and Eight witnesses are short on detail, and I would have thought that in these statements the Book of Mormon would be taking its best shot. Hence my impression that they discredit with faint support.

To be candid, what most worries me personally about the descriptions I've read is that they sound to me like the kind of description which an anxious courtier would give for the Emperor's New Clothes. "Very fine! Definitely real! Exquisite style!" But nothing like, "Red-and-white satin in inch-wide vertical stripes, with an ermine collar." Because when the Emperor is actually naked, it takes a lot more nerve to say the second kind of thing; most people would be hoping to get away with the first.

Is it possible to collect all the detailed descriptions available, and compare them? Perhaps the total picture is not as sparse as I think.

Is there detail, like detailed description of a plate's surface, that could not be guessed just from the box that supposedly contained the plates? Because if someone were making up something to say about plates they really couldn't see, they would probably use the box as a guide, consciously or not.

Do descriptions agree on enough detail to construct a clear picture of what the plates were like?

James Anglin said...

Another thought.

One person who is supposed to have gotten a really good look at the plates is Joseph Smith. Did he ever publish a detailed description of them?

James Anglin said...


If tons of people back then had been keenly interested in the Book of Mormon, and if they would all have been surprised to learn that it was faked, then that would seem to me to mean that a large fraction of New England had converted to Mormonism. Since in fact this mass conversion didn't happen, I conclude that most of the public already presumed that the Book was just another fake, and had no interest in it, if they had even heard of it. Hence the market for a tell-all book would have been negligible, and obviously so to anyone living at the time.

Feel free to give argument or evidence against that argument. Just telling me that it betrays my lack of background makes me think that it's an unanswerable point.

Steven said...

Yes James, the evidence is pretty strong that plates did exist, and that they were kept in a cloth (where the shape could be seen and felt) and/or in a box. That doesn't speak to the source of the plates, but it does seem some sort of plates existed.

Everything Before Us said...

Actually, Vance...I'll bite.

Vance says, "After all, you believe God appeared to Moses and gave the Jews the Law of Moses and told them that sacrifices according to the law would cleanse them from sin... and that God was lying to the Jews when He said that (Since ordinances never ever had any power, and only if you believe in Jesus are you saved."

Again, Vance is not contending with my beliefs, but with the Bible.

Hebrews 10:1-4, "For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never...make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshippers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had a consciousness of sins? But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins."

Vance, if you have a problem with so much Biblical doctrine, you need to really ask yourself why you continue to take your Bible with you to church each Sunday.

Ryan said...

My two cents- James, there were plenty of anti-mormon works published in Joseph Smith's day, often written by or referring to disaffected Mormons. The 1834 "Mormonism Unveiled," for example, which got something of an inside scoop from Ezra Booth. Seems there was some market for that sort of thing. Yet the witnesses, though disaffected, never did give out a similar scoop. They affirmed until death what they had seen.

Anonymous said...

If the witnesses were as upstanding and well respected as is the claim, there is more to be gained by remaining silent. By admitting it was a fraud they are either admitting 1) they were duped, or 2) they were in on the fraud. Neither is ideal for an individual who has concern for his reputation or standing in the community. Staying quiet raises the fewest questions and brings the least attention.

Zerabp said...

The one problem with your statement Anon 3:16 is that they did not remain quiet. On the contrary they were very vocal publicly and privately (personal Journals) on what they had seen. Considering their personal Journals were you know for their personal thoughts feelings and motives, it makes it a bit more difficult to try to impugn them based on there desire to be seen a certain way by the community. Also when honor is in question being duped removes the dishonor so they have no reason not to say "I was duped." as contrary to your insinuation that would have raised their standing as honest men in the eyes of the world around them.

In other words they could only benefit from saying they were tricked, they could not benefit from holding to their conviction of what they claimed unless it was accurate. When your dying words are as the dying words of Martin Harris with as clear cut language as he used at that time, it makes it far more difficult to impugn him or the others as unreliable witnesses.

Everything Before Us said...

If David Whitmer is such an upright and honest man, then we need to take all of his words quite seriously, not just the words he spoke that supports your position.

“... neither did I ever hear of such a thing as an angel ordaining them [Joseph Smith, Jr. and Oliver Cowdery] until I got into Ohio about the year 1834 – or later.... Oliver stated to me in Joseph's presence that they had baptized each other seeking by that to fulfill the command. And after our arrival at father's sometime in June 1829, Joseph ordained Oliver to be an Elder, and Oliver ordained Joseph to be an Elder in the Church of Christ.... I do not believe that John the Baptist ever ordained Joseph and Oliver as stated and believed by the same.” - David Whitmer

If Martin Harris is such a reliable person, we need to wonder about his constant changing from one religion to another. He left Mormonism and testified of the truthfulness of the Shakers. He even joined with James Strang eventually, who claimed Smith had appointed him the rightful successor. Strang also "translated" his own ancient record, which Martin Harris believed in.

No...the witnesses aren't reliable.

Not one single relative of Joseph Smith accompanied Brigham Young to the West, nor did many of the witnesses.

Anonymous said...

Since when is being duped by an impostor an honorable thing? Wouldn't it at the very least call into question your judgement?

Also, please provide us with examples of the vocality of those witnesses who didn't remain connected with the church.

James Anglin said...


That's true, a newspaper publisher named Eber Howe published Mormonism Unvailed [sic] in 1834. The frontispiece can be seen online in many places, and it notes that the book was self-published. According to Wikipedia, Howe was a publisher by trade. The Wikipedia article says that Howe got interested in Mormonism when his wife and daughters joined the Mormon church — though this detail is currently flagged with "citation needed". It suggests that Howe's motivations may have been personal rather than profit-driven. He probably still didn't want to run an actual loss, and might rather have liked some reward for all the work he put into writing the book. It's not clear to me, though, that the venture was lucrative.

Otherwise all I can find is a Wikipedia statement that four anti-Mormon "pamphlets" were published in 1838. These seem to have been vitriolic tracts published from religious motivations, not money-making efforts. Were there really others?

If not, then it may have been a coincidence that the only full anti-Mormon book published in Smith's lifetime was self-published by a newspaper owner with a personal interest in Mormonism; but I can't say that I'm convinced, on the evidence, that there was an obvious ready market in 1840s New England for anti-Mormon exposé. So did the Book of Mormon witnesses all pass up an obvious opportunity to get rich or famous by recanting their testimony in print? That would seem to me to be speculation at best.

James Anglin said...

The other thing about witnesses recanting is: just how much would they have had to say? Most skeptics don't think that the whole crop of Book of Mormon witnesses were active conspirators who knew where bodies were buried. The default idea is that most of them just went along with the others, perhaps after having been pressured or duped in some way. So even if they later changed their minds, they wouldn't have had much to say about it.

"I foolishly went along with my family/friends, and let them have my name on that statement; now I wish I hadn't." That's not much of a book.

suord said...

Anglin, there's lots more than that. You need to do some study to verify it. I'm sure Jeff can enlighten you. Why don't you read some recent academic treatments by Mormons and check sourcing notes.

Ryan said...

James, my problem with your entire thesis is that it seems to suppose that most people just thought, "oh there go those silly Mormons," and that was the extent of the anti-Mormon sentiment of the time. If people were so indifferent to the movement, I have to wonder what incited stuff like the Haun's Mill massacre, various tarrings and featherings, etc. Critics may contend that those actions were justified, or at least that the Mormons started it, or whatever, but it is clear that there were a lot of people who hated Mormons at that time. This is also reflected in the anti-Mormon literature of the time, of which Mormonism Unvailed was simply one of the more prominent works. Whether or not those works made a lot of money, I don't know. What I do know is there was quite a bit out there. I also know that, in the case of Mormonism Unvailed, Howe paid money for the Hurlbut affidavits. Sounds to me like people at least thought there could be some money to be made. I hesitate to post other works here, in the interest of respecting the "no anti-mormon links" thing, but I suspect you can find them for yourself if you look.

Additionally, to your point that no one was paying attention to the church because most of new england wasn't converted, I will bring up that by 1844, the total membership was at just under 25,000. Most of New England? No. But a pretty large group all the same, and a very fast-growing one.

Everything Before Us said...

Any group of people that numbers 25,000, and which has received a green light from the State to head up their own standing army, and whose leader is running for President of the United States is going to create some enemies. And it has nothing to do with the "truth" that they may possess.

Vance said...

I'll note to EBU that he basically has admitted my point: in his theology, God lied to the Jews. And not just a little one: God lied to them on the most fundamental issue of all; i.e. how to be forgiven of your sins and return to live with God. You can claim I'm arguing against the Bible all you want, EBU, but that's the cold hard truth: your God mislead the Jews. He told the Jews that if they performed these sacrifices; under the proper priesthood authority (that of Aaron), that their sins would be forgiven.

And you, EBU, say that God lied to them. That salvation is not possible and never was through the Law of Moses. Thus, you must insist that Moses, Abraham, Elijah, etc are not saved. (which, of course, begs the question: what happened to Elijah; who was taken to heaven? He fell out of the Chariot or something on the way?)

I've asked you several times to explain how a Jew under the law of Moses could be saved, and you've never, ever answered. Except to say that Salvation was never available through the law of Moses and ordinances. I guess that's an answer: "Sorry, you are totally screwed! Enjoy hell!"

But that's not what God told the Israelites, is it? He promised them salvation if they followed Him. And now you claim it was never available to them at all.

You once told me to wake up and leave this "deluded church" and I suppose join yours. And worship a being who lied for 4,000 years on how to gain forgiveness of sins? That's your God, EBU.

As for your quote from Paul, it's easy: yes, blood of animals does not save by itself. If it did, then a sacrifice to Baal would have worked... but it didn't. Or every time you ate dinner. NO, You had to have proper priesthood authority, authorized of God, and as well God has to accept your animal sacrifice. Which He stopped doing when Jesus died, thus making all animal sacrifices ineffective. But before that? Well, Jesus fully participated in the Passover meal; and in all other ordinances of the Law of Moses. And while the faith involved was minimal in Old Testament times, you still had to have Faith in the Lord Jehovah for your sacrifice to work.

But maybe I'm treating you wrong. You tell me: For the average faithful Israelite in, say, the tribe of Benjamin, circa 300 BC: 1) did they have any hope of heaven? 2) How did their sins get forgiven/ or how were they justified (if at all)? 3) Did said Jew have any chance of getting the same reward as a Christian does? 4) Was there any power in the Law of Moses at all, or was it just window dressing; a placebo, if you will?

If not: then how is God not a liar? How is He not a respecter of persons? You guys always go on about "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son", but under your theology as I understand it, God doesn't particularly care about roughly 90% of the world, since they never had a chance. In particular, God must hate the Jews, since He did show up, perform miracles, and give them a religion... but it was based, according to you, on a lie.

If, however, the Law of Moses actually meant something, and indeed did have power to save souls through the system of sacrifices: why would God just eliminate ordinances completely? Why would He set up a Priesthood, only to eliminate it and the concept entirely later on?

I trust that you can resolve some of these practical issues your "Works and Ordinances are total baloney, worthless ceremonies that have no value at all, other than maybe as a teaching tool!" position causes.

Ryan said...

For our purposes here, I'm not saying the numbers do support truth claims. I'm only saying the claim that people weren't interested in proving the church false is itself a bogus claim.

Ryan said...

Let me rephrase that- I would never say that numbers of adherents support (or refute) truth claims. Again, I am only highlighting that there was clear opposition to the church and interest in bringing it down, which James seems to either be unaware of or deny. Given the general upstanding character that James tends to show in these comments sections, I'll assume it's the former.

Anonymous said...


With the Nauvoo Militia that you are talking about, that militia was granted by the Nauvoo Charter. The Charter was granted by the state of Illinois. Nauvoo was not unique in that it had it's own charter, other cities in Illinois also had charters. As far as I know, Joseph Smith acted legally within the charter granted to the city of Nauvoo by the state of Illinois. So, enemies of the Mormons should have addressed their concerns to the state.

Nauvoo, at its peak, rivaled the largest city in Illinois at the time. A city called Chicago which also had its own charter.

As for running for president, why not? The top contenders in this year's race make me sick but it doesn't warrant assassination of any kind.


Everything Before Us said...

The Law of Moses, and its accompanying rituals, were all foreshadows of the New Covenant. They were designed to point to Christ. The law is a schoolmaster to bring people to Christ. Without the New Covenant, there would be nothing in the Law itself that could save anyone.

A new covenant. The old one is replaced by the new one.

Joseph Smith, brilliant mind that he was, decided that if he wanted to make a name for himself, he'd need to come up with 'newer' covenant. So he did. The New and Everlasting Covenant.

You can see how Smith set himself up as another Christ, the mediator of yet a bigger and better covenant.

Remember that seminary lesson when we were taught that a testator must die to seal the words of his testimony? I was taught that in seminary when we covered Carthage.

Well,...that is actually a terrible misreading of the words of Paul, who said that a will has no effect until the person who wrote the will dies. Thus, Jesus's death was necessary to implement the will, the new covenant.

So, to use those words in connection with the death of Joseph Smith sets Smith up as the mediator of a new covenant, a new will. The new and everlasting covenant.

And this same theme is found in the idea that "no man has done more for the salvation of mankind than Joseph Smith..." and Joseph Smith even bragged that he was better than Jesus because even Jesus couldn't keep a church together. And who was it that said that no man is getting to Heaven without Smith's permission?

So, with this kind of language floating around about Joseph Smith, I'd be very concerned as a Mormon that I might actually be worshipping this guy, rather than, as I was taught to say, just "revering" him.

Everything Before Us said...


But for some reason, the State of Illinois allowed Smith to make himself the Lieutenant General. No other leader of any other militia in the state was given the permission for that high of a rank.

When Smith mobilized the Legion, destroyed the printing press, and implemented Marshall law, he did so contrary to the charter, which mandated that the legion never act in a manner contrary to state and federal law. That is why Smith was arrested for treason.

Smith was also trying to convince the feds to make him a highly-ranked soldier in the United States military so that he could lead expeditions into the West to help settle it.

And all the while, he had his Council of 50, a governing body with the duty of ushering in God's millennial political government.

Now...that all begins to sound a little suspicious, if you ask me. A man in charge of the largest army in his state, seeking even more military power in the U.S. Army, with a governing body in place to take over the reigns of government in the name of God, running for president?

But he wasn't assassinated because of that.

Vance said...

EBU, you have completely dodged my question, and come up with something totally irrelevant. Plus, your answers bring up more questions: Exactly how did the Law of Moses point to Christ. if Christ's gospel (in your view, "have faith and do nothing and be saved, Brother!" is completely and totally different than the Law? Sure seems like if the way of Christ is faith alone that a Law of ordinances and performances and sacrifices and demands on the people to live and keep commandments.. is a poor schoolmaster.

As it happens, I agree that without Christ, the Law of Moses means nothing. The power of the Law of Moses to cover sins and so forth comes directly from He who gave that Law: even Jesus. But you argue that the Law of Moses did not and could not save anyone; thus showing you make God a liar.

Your ridiculous tangent about Mormons worshipping Joseph Smith is beneath you. Did the Jews worship Moses? Of course not. They worshipped the Being who revealed Himself through Moses. Just as we worship that same Being, whom you have corrupted into oblivion. Joseph Smith is another Moses; that is all: a great man, a great prophet, the head of a dispensation, but no more than that.

I see that you are forgetting the truths you once knew, before you apostatized. Well, either you've forgotten, which is more charitable than the other option: you are twisting our doctrine on purpose. Which is it, I wonder? It ill behooves an alleged follower of Christ to twist and distort the doctrines of another, in order to attack them. Yet you do it constantly. I do hope it is due to a faulty memory.

Let me ask you: Do you think that Joseph Smith was murdered... or were those people who killed him in cold blood in the right?
And was Governor Boggs right to issue an extermination order, EBU? From your comments, I genuinely wonder how far you'd go to rid the world of your former faith.

James Anglin said...

I admit I don't actually know much about how many anti-Mormon books were being bought at the time when defecting witnesses might have been thinking of cashing in.

But that's sort of my point. I've heard the argument several times, that the witnesses must all have retained belief in Smith's plates, because otherwise they would surely have sought publicity. That might perhaps follow, if this were all happening today. But it's really not clear to me that a recanting witness in 1840 or so would have been likely to publish, because it's not clear to me that it would have seemed worthwhile. Before YouTube, it wasn't so easy to monetize whistleblowing.

The claim of the golden plates is a priori very implausible, at least to non-Mormons. The witness statements themselves also seem suspiciously vague, and it's suspicious that they were made collectively instead of independently. Given all that, the argument from witness silence has a lot of weight to carry. It needs to be backed up a lot, for me, before it'll be up to supporting that burden. It's not enough to just say, "They would surely have published."

Anonymous said...


I am not sure what you are getting at with your comment about "suspicious" so you will have to spell it out.

Yes, the state granted the rank to Joseph Smith.

The Nauvoo city council voted the press libelous which allowed them the authority to destroy the paper. Where they went wrong was the destruction of the press. The owners of the press could have sued for damages for the actual destruction of the equipment.

The charter allowed for the militia which could have been in control of the US government, the state, or the mayor of the city. Joseph petitioned the government to send out troops to Nauvoo to protect the Mormons, not to send out the troops to settle the west nor so that Joseph could command more troops. When the US government did not want to send out troops to protect the Mormons, Joseph wanted to take matters into his own hands by running for president. Joseph mobilized the militia under martial law because of civil disturbances to keep order resulting from the destruction of the press. When Joseph was arrested, he did not mobilize the militia any more.

You are jumping the gun a bit about your treason statement. He was charged but not convicted of treason. The treason charge was: "calling out the [Nauvoo] Legion to resist the force under the command of the Governor." Although I could not find reference to such a force that the Nauvoo Legion was resisting.

You are correct, he was not assassinated because of running for president. My point was that regardless of how popular or unpopular, it doesn't warrant assassination. Unless, of course, you are Hitler.

Can we invoke Godwin's Law now? ;)


flying fig said...

Hi Vance,

I understand your point about the Jews obeying the OT Law to be made righteous. And I'm not saying I have this all figured out yet. But I want to ask you a sincere question to get your viewpoint on this. How do you understand Galatians 3 from an LDS perspective? I'm not trying to argue, I'm sincerely interested in your view of this passage

"You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?[a] 4 Have you experienced[b] so much in vain—if it really was in vain? 5 So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? 6 So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

7 Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. 8 Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” 9 So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” 11 Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”[h] 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

The Law and the Promise
15 Brothers and sisters, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. 16 The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,”[i] meaning one person, who is Christ. 17 What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. 18 For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.

19 Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator. 20 A mediator, however, implies more than one party; but God is one.

21 Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. 22 But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

Children of God
23 Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.

26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Everything Before Us said...

I am glad Vance is here. But for those of you who have never been Mormons, I can assure you that the majority of members I have associated with in my life do not behave the way Vance does. He has accused me of being the type of person who would tar and feather Joseph Smith; he is suggesting that I would support an extermination order against the Mormons; and he accuses me of misrepresenting Mormon doctrine to attack it, when all along he has constantly put words in my own mouth, telling me how I believe in a lying God who damns everyone to Hell, and totally distorting the "faith-alone" viewpoint of salvation. He can't explain how he, himself, interprets the New Testament doctrine, because his is an Old Testament religion. The Old Testament makes sense to him, because as a Mormon, he finds more support for his practices and beliefs there than he does in the New Testament.

There are temples in the Old Testament. There aren't in the new. There are High Priests in the Old Testament. In the new, the High Priest is Jesus. There are prophets like unto Moses in the Old Testament. In the new, as prophesied by Jeremiah, the law is now written in our hearts and minds, and we have no need for anyone to teach us.

If Vance had read Hebrews, he'd know this stuff. But he hasn't, at least not without it being interpreted for him by his church. So, the Old Testament is his guidebook. Because he can understand the religion there.

Flying Fig...most likely this will be the first time Vance has read Galatians in an English language that he can actually understand. Most likely, it will be the first time he has seen just how plainly the Gospel message is taught within the New Testament. As a Mormon, he has all of his life been told that the Gospel message is in the Bible, but it isn't very clear, that it is only clear in the Book of Mormon. This is the messaging he has received all his life, assuming he is a life-long member. But I am eagerly waiting for Vance to respond to Flying Fig's Galatians quote. I would love to hear Vance finally explain how he deals with New Testament doctrine. All he seems to do is rail against it.

Now, I must go...I am meeting with my Congressman today to lobby for an extermination order against my local ward members.

Everything Before Us said...

Do you think that Joseph Smith was murdered... or were those people who killed him in cold blood in the right? And was Governor Boggs right to issue an extermination order, EBU? From your comments, I genuinely wonder how far you'd go to rid the world of your former faith.

Yes, Joseph Smith was murdered. It was an act of unlawful violence. It should not have happened. Governor Boggs was not right to issue an extermination order. It is an obvious violation of any sense of morality (and that is an understatement), not to mention utterly unconstitutional.

Vance said...

It's a complex question, Fig. I will address Galatians in a bit. First, EBU. I fail to see how I have misrepresented any of your beliefs. I just have read your statements and asked questions--that you have refused to answer. You have stated that Ordinances and the Law of Moses never had or have power to save. And Salvation only comes through Jesus, right? I think we all agree on that. So where does that leave the faithful Jew whom God promised forgiveness of sins if they followed the law of Moses--the law He gave them? You've never answered that, after multiple attempts on my part to get you to answer it. But either you are wrong and the Law of Moses did have power to save souls, or God lied to the Israelites when He told them He would forgive their sins if they followed the Law (rather, if they performed the sacrifices on the Day of Atonement). There's really no other choice there, EBU. Either the ordinances of the Law of Moses had the power to save souls... or God lied. I know which side I come down on, but you've refused to answer which one you come down on. I don't know how I'm misrepresenting you at all. Please, inform me.

I also don't know how I am distorting the "faith alone" salvation. Either it means what it says --works are not required, nor does God punish the saved person for sin-- or it's not "faith alone." I've asked if you can get to heaven without baptism, or to be more precise can you be exalted without baptism, and you have said yes. I've asked if you must repent of your sins before being saved, and you have said no, since repentance is a work. Only believe and you are saved. Either that is just that, or it's faith+ works. Simple binary choice there. Either commandments and ordinances actually mean something, or they do not.

You have consistently held that we are saved by faith alone, EBU. When I point out the logical conclusions of that view, you protest that I am misrepresenting you. How? I've pressed you on whether once saved, always saved, and I believe you finally admitted that a person can be saved and then fall from that salvation. But that destroys faith alone, for it turns it into "Faith plus don't do XXXXX thing and you are saved." And once we go that far, why not baptism or more?


Vance said...

As for your accusation that I am turning your God into a monster; I fail to see how I am doing that, versus following your doctrine to its conclusions. Earlier, I pressed you and Flying Fig on salvation for those who never had the chance to hear of Jesus. Both of you really had no answers; with I think the suggestion that they can be saved without Jesus. Which, of course, destroys Christianity; after all the fundamental tenet is that the only way to heaven is through Christ; and His atonement. There is no other way other than Jesus. You reject salvation for the dead; and embrace original sin. The consequence? Everyone is doomed, and Christ's salvation is only available for the select few who had a chance in this life. The rest of humanity is out of luck. This is not just my interpretation; this is a standard argument made by many against regular Christianity (indeed, against religion in general). And I agree: no one goes to heaven without faith in Christ. Yet without the temple and salvation work for the dead, you cannot satisfy all the requirements: 1) men are judged according to this life (i.e. this life has to have meaning; God won't ignore what went on here;) 2) The only way to heaven is via faith in Jesus and following him and 3) God is a just God, and everyone has a chance to choose for themselves.

Your doctrine cannot satisfy all three conditions. You pick which one is to be broken. Whichever one you choose, it makes God into something monstrous. If the first, then why are we here and why undergo all this pain and suffering for nothing down here? Does God enjoy the misery we see, if the wicked are not punished and the righteous not rewarded? That's monstrous. If the second, then what's the point of Jesus and the last 2000 years? There is no gospel if Christ is irrelevant to whether we make it back to heaven. And as Christians that is a Monstrous idea. If the third... well, that's the position you've taken. And that means God is picking and choosing winners; and the vast majority of humanity is doomed through no fault of their own. Also monstrous.

If I'm misinterpreting you, then feel free to explain how I'm reading your doctrine and its consequences wrong.

Vance said...

And now, for Galatians.

First we have to realize that Peter mentions that Paul is easily distorted. Second, we must always remember that Paul talks a lot about grace and faith… and in other places, he talks about obedience and stuff like “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phillipians).

So what, then, does this chapter mean? Let’s look at the first big thing: Abraham was taught the gospel. Clearly, that means the Gospel of Christ; as opposed to the Law of Moses. Yet Abraham offered sacrifices; even though he had the gospel of Christ. Why, if the gospel of Christ is “faith alone” did Abraham offer sacrifices? This predated the law of Moses, after all. We see the answer: when Abraham offered Issac, the Lord substituted a ram and then covenanted with Abraham. He made a promise to Abraham.

We must remember that the Law of Moses was not the first option for the Lord for the Israelites. They did not want to come into the presence of the Lord; they asked Moses to intercede for them. They wanted to be commanded in all things. So the Lord obliged. He gave them the Law of Moses. And it was very onerous. It commanded the Israelites down to the nitty gritty; the law plus the Torah or interpretations of the Law. The Law was a schoolmaster, to instill obedience. The Israelites were hard hearted, eager to go after foreign gods and foreign ways. They needed a harsh taskmaster (after all, they were slaves in the beginning. Not exactly a self reliant people).

So the Law of Moses commanded. And it commanded more. Who could possibly obey it all 100% of the time? One man did, Jesus of Nazareth. Anyone else? Nope.

Thus, violations of the law happened to everyone. And what was the consequence of breaking the law? You became unclean, if nothing else. And you had to be purified, for no unclean thing can inherit the Kingdom of God. How were you purified under the law? Indeed, how were you cleansed from sin prior to the Law of Moses? Via animal sacrifice.

But Galatians, Paul says that the blood of an animal cannot cleanse anyone. And he’s right… no matter how much I kill a firstborn lamb, I’m not getting any forgiveness of sin. When the priests of Baal sacrificed their bulloch, it did nothing for them.

The Law of Moses was of no more worth than the worship of Baal without the Atonement. Sacrificing a lamb is worthless without the power of Christ to make it effective.

The point of the Law of Moses was to teach people how to make and keep covenants with God. These covenants, bind ourselves to God and also bind God to us. God covenanted with Israel that He would accept their sacrifices, if made in the way He ordained and under His authorized servants; and in exchange He would make them clean again from their violations of the Law. Under the Law, no one is justified, for we all break the Law.

The Law of Moses is not different than the Gospel of Christ. It IS the Gospel of Christ. Sure, some of the details have changed a bit, but the principles are there. Abraham covenanted with God, and was blessed. Moses covenanted with God, and was blessed. His people covenanted with God, and when they kept their covenants, they were blessed. And when they didn’t keep the Law, they were cursed.

You Protestants fundamental misunderstanding is that Jesus revoked the Law. He did not; He fulfilled the law… and made higher demands on His followers. The Sermon on the Mount is much, much harder to keep than the Law of Moses. Indeed, Jesus points that out. Thou shalt not commit adultery, said Moses. Jesus said “not only no adultery, but not even lust after a woman.” Jesus brought the inward law. Moses was all about the outward “thou shalt nots.” Jesus demanded the heart as well.

When Paul talks about living by faith, rather than the law, it is this: the Law was there to remind us of our duties. It was a strict taskmaster. But you could keep the Law and not be converted to the Lord.

Continued ….

Vance said...

When you live by faith, however, the law ceases to be a problem. You keep the law because you are converted to the Lord; you have no more desires to sin. You no longer need the strict schoolmaster to punish you the instant you set one foot wrong, for you are a disciple. That means you keep the commandments because you want to, not because there is the Law.

But the law was never revoked; God never took away the concept of sin and punishment. He never took away ordinances. Paul points out that people are baptized into Christ.

Consider: Paul says that the Law of Moses was added because of transgression. So when it was ended, the principles that preexisted the Law of Moses: were they ended? Of course not. Abraham, Noah, Jacob, all of them offered sacrifices. Abraham paid tithes. All of them made covenants with God. All of them underwent severe trials of faith. There was priesthood (Melchezidek, Moses inflicting the plagues on Egypt). All of this prior to the Law of Moses. Did Jesus end all of that too? Of course not.

The principles of the gospel were there; faith in the Lord. Sacrifice. Covenant. Atonement. Peter says that Moses baptized the Israelites in the Red sea. The ancients sacrificed to the Lord for salvation; Moses and the Law formalized it a bit. They offered the first fruits of the field, the firstlings of the flock. They laid their sacrifices on the altar. Jesus changed the form of the ordinance from the passover and day of atonement sacrifices to the sacrament; but the principle is still there: instead of the tearing of the flesh of the animal, we tear the bread representing Christ’s body. Instead of shedding blood; we drink of the cup representing the blood of Christ. Baptism did not change; John the Baptist baptized before Christ died and Peter and Paul baptized afterwards, and Peter talks about Moses baptizing as well.

All of these ordinances were there for making covenants with God. That is the entire point of them. We covenant with God, and in return He covenants with us. We must make that choice to draw closer to God. We must exercise faith; we make those promises and in return voluntarily subject ourselves to God’s laws; with the corresponding punishments for violating our covenants. But in exchange, we gain access to more of God’s power; more of His blessings.

The Law of Moses is all about making and keeping covenants with God. And the Gospel of Christ does not change that. It removed some of the “schoolmaster” parts of the Law; with a focus on gaining faith. Why? Because faith is where the real power is. With faith, we gain the power to keep our covenants. We gain the power to defeat the prince of this world. We gain the faith to become saints of God. To become heirs of the Promise. But it is only a Promise; it is not guaranteed until we fulfill our end.

The Law interposed the system of onerous commandments between us and the true source: Jesus. Yet the Law only worked because of Jesus. It had no power to save souls were it not for Jesus accepting those sacrifices or those ordinances as valid. He provided the saving power in the ordinances, just as He always does. When He died, He no longer accepted the Law of Moses as valid; and those performances became the same as a sacrifice to Baal: worthless in terms of your sins being forgiven. Thus, when Paul wrote Galatians, the Law and its ordinances were indeed dead: it provided nothing; it could not save; for the power of salvation had been removed and instead the power of God was in a new set of ordinances that were now valid.

Continued... (yes, this is almost over)

Vance said...

No, the Law was done when Paul wrote Galatians. The principles behind the Law? They were never repealed. Faith, Repentance, covenanting with God, ordinances approved of God to help you receive forgiveness of your sins; and Obedience? Those principles will remain on earth until the end. These principles predated Moses; they were implemented in the Law of Moses; and Christ’s gospel also has them. His redemptive power has always been accessed the same way: faith in Him enough to make covenants with Him through His authorized servants; and then keeping those covenants. When you make and keep covenants with God through ordinances, when you increase your faith in Christ and access His enabling power to overcome the world; when you become a new creature in Christ; and have no more disposition to do evil but to do good; then you are working out your salvation with fear and trembling as Paul says.

This is God’s pattern. Jacob did it: be faithful in a few things and then make greater and greater covenants, as well as receive greater and greater rewards. Abraham did it. Joshua was led by faith. Gideon had to have faith in the Lord to defeat the Philistines. Peter had great faith indeed… but he still had to walk on the water. And Jesus helped his unbelief. Making and keeping covenants with God allows your faith to grow.

Keeping our covenants is what the Law was designed to teach us. It was designed to teach us to have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; to rely on His merits, His mercy, and His mighty arm to save. The whole history of the Israelites is their keeping their covenants with God and being blessed… or breaking their covenant with God and being deserted. Yet God’s hand is still outstretched; He is still mighty to save.

The Law of Moses was designed to lead us to salvation… but while the details changed after Christ’s resurrection, the principles did not. And we see how those principles of faith, obedience, sacrifice, and covenant were still in effect during the Apostles time. We see the Priesthood of God at work. We see the authorized ordinances performed. True, some were different in form than in the Old testament, but nevertheless the ordinances were there, and were required. We see the miracles, the Power of God.

One more post next....

Vance said...

How can anyone read the New Testament and what they actually did and think that ordinances and obedience are no longer required? That the Priesthood of God was outdated? That sacrifice was obsolete? Animal sacrifice as an ordinance was obsoleted in favor of the Sacrament or communion, but the principle of sacrifice was never repealed. The early saints were required to sacrifice their own lives for the Lord all too often.

Obedience? Pauls epistles are, many of them, written to congregations rebuking them for sins they are committing. Paul was clearly not “once saved you are always saved”

Ordinances to make covenants? On the day of Pentecost, when those who felt the Spirit asked what they should do, Peter told them to repent and be baptized. Why? Stephen of the Seventy immediately baptized the Eunuch. This put people immediately on the path to salvation.

So yes, Flying Fig: The Law of Moses was fulfilled by Jesus, but the principles of the gospel and how you receive salvation have never changed from the beginning. From Adam on, the only way to heaven is by having faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repenting of your sins, and making and keeping covenants by obeying God’s commandments. Whether expressed in the Law of Moses or in the gospel of Christ, these principles are the foundation of all true religion; and they will never change. By doing this, you become more and more like Him, our true exemplar, until with His help and mercy and grace, we are fully heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ; having been made perfect in Him. This has always been the plan, and this has always been the path, even in the days of the Law of Moses.

Paul in Galatians was pointing out how there was no more power for salvation in the Law of Moses; and that it was dead. But his other epistles make it clear that just because the Law was fulfilled does not mean that the principles underlying the Law were gone too, They remain in full effect. And God still requires faith, repentance, making and keeping covenants; and enduring to the end, just as He has throughout all of history.

Hope this helps! Others can chime in if he feels I’ve gone off the path some.

Everything Before Us said...

I've asked if you must repent of your sins before being saved, and you have said no, since repentance is a work.

You've never asked any such thing. And I've never said any such thing.

Repentance is the change of heart, the "born again" moment. Repentance is not making a checklist of everything bad you do and saying, "God, I'm sorry" each night before bed.

You really have a hard time listening, Vance. You get so frustrated because you do not listen to what I am saying. You think you know what I am saying. We've had far too many conversations here to try to piece it all together now. Ask me five questions that you claim I've never answered, and I'll answer them.

And when I do...listen.

Everything Before Us said...

Vance, you make a strong case for you interpretation of Galatians, but you start off with a faulty assumption. Abraham was not taught the "Gospel of Christ." Certainly not the Gospel as defined by Mormonism, the fullness of which is all the ordinances necessary to bring us into our exaltation. Abraham didn't even know God's true identity, which was only revealed first to Moses. And secondly, Paul states (Colossians 1:25-27) that the mystery of the word of God was not revealed in the past.

"Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.…"

So, if you start with a faulty understanding of Abraham, you easily fall into error in understanding the rest of it.

You have this very Mormon-y idea regarding covenants. It is simply not a Biblical idea. Not your concept of it.

And even within your own doctrine you have some serious issues about covenants that you need to address. More on that below:

Everything Before Us said...

You believe in this idea of being "born in the covenant?" Children born to endowed/sealed parents do not have to be sealed to their parents. But what does that even mean?

What benefit does the child gain from being born in the covenant? He can't be baptized, and thus enter into covenant until he is 8. And until he is 8, regardless of whether he is born under and outside the covenant, he is bound for the Celestial kingdom through the power of the Atonement?

So, really...what covenant is the kid born under? He has to make the covenants when he grows up for himself.

Paul, in Romans, says that circumcision was the sign of the covenant God made with Abraham. But circumcision wasn't the saving covenant. It was a sign of that. Abraham was justified as righteous before he was even circumcised. Paul's words.

And he goes on to say that those who aren't circumcised are righteous when they live the law even though they don't have the law. So it isn't the covenant itself that justifies, but the faith and righteous that is justifying. In fact, Paul says that those who are circumcised, it counts for nothing if they don't follow the law their circumcision places them under covenant to obey. But those who aren't under covenant to obey, when they do obey, they are justified.

Baptism is the sign of the new covenant. The sign of the covenant. NOT the covenant itself. The covenant is not made AT baptism. It is made before, through the faith of the individual in the name of the Son. Likewise, those under the covenant evidenced by the sign of baptism, are only saved through their faith, which is what brought them under the covenant to begin with.

So, what do you do with this? Don't Paul's words apply to Mormons, the "people of the covenant?" If you, who are under covenant, dont' have faith, but I, who am outside the covenant, do have faith, am I not justified while you are unjustified?

Paul is totally rocking the boat. He is forcing a major paradigm shift. So many people fail to shift along with him, and so they become the very people who he is addressing in the beginning of Romans, people puffed up with pride in their "covenantal" status, but who totally miss the mark.

Actually if you continue to follow Pau's logic, he goes on to say that it doesn't matter if you are under the law or not under the law, Christ has come and has shut us all up. We are all sinners. Those under the covenant and those who are not.

Everything Before Us said...

Vance, you have spent a lot of time fighting against basic New Testament doctrine, and you've made no attempt to understand it. You have only fought against it, and then you have made false and distorted interpretations of it so you have more to fight against. I would recommend you forget all that you've been taught. Get an NIV Bible. Start in John and read through Revelations. Stop coming here and defending your doctrine until you learn just how different your doctrine really is from what you find in the Bible.

Everything Before Us said...

In my opinion, saying chidren are "born under the covenant" is just a way of getting around having to accommodate parents who need sealing ordinances every time they have a baby. Can imagine the traffic jam! So, how do we avoid that? Oh...let's just say that if Mom and Dad are sealed, the kids are okay. Until they are 8, of course. And then 12. And then 19. And then again when they finally get married. They okay until they are 8. But then, they are not okay again, and again, and again, and again. So many "new covenants." Funny...the Bible only speaks of one new covenant. Mormons make more and more covenants throughout their life.

That is because Mormonism is a Masonic/Kabbalistic ascent past angelic guardians who keep watch at the throne of God.

Anonymous said...


Born in the covenant isn't exactly like you describe it. Probably is a convenient way to avoid getting sealed all the time in the temple. But it just means that the child is sealed to the parents. That's it. Once in the Celestial Kingdom (only baptism required to enter by the way), then the parents have claim on the child to be together as a family.


Pops said...

One of the puzzling aspects of the debate here is the attempt to decide what historical series of events is "most likely". Of course, that isn't the purpose of history. History is the study of what really happened, regardless of how likely or unlikely it might be. History is replete with things that don't seem likely, hence the saying, "Truth is stranger than fiction."

To say that Joseph Smith didn't have the plates because it was "unlikely" has very little value in determining the truth of the proposition. Evidence is what matters. There is plenty of evidence that Smith did have plates of some kind. I'm still waiting for any evidence that he didn't. Martin Harris' trip to find a translator counts as evidence for the proposition.

James Anglin said...

Historians would love to study what really happened; but they can't. The available evidence is too inconclusive. With only partial evidence available, all we can do is estimate probabilities. That's not a retreat from truth. That's facing the basic truth that we have insufficient evidence.

To find one little thing which could be consistent with a big conclusion, and thereupon decide that the big conclusion must be "what really happened" no matter how unlikely it seems, is not thinking like a historian. It's thinking like Chicken Little, who felt something land on his head, and deduced that the sky was falling. The skeptic says, "I suspect you were hit by an acorn." Then Chicken Little will say, "That's just speculation. You have no evidence that I was not hit by sky."

Pops said...

Bad analogy. There's no (other) evidence of the sky falling.

What many are laboring at is a way to appear open-minded without the inconvenience of actually being open-minded. False open mindedness allows the conclusion to come first, and all subsequent "scholarly inquiry" consists of fitting available evidence to the conclusion. Hence the puzzling over whether the witnesses to the plates were duped or in on some kind of deception. The glaringly obvious problem is that there is no evidence of a pattern of deception. So perhaps Chicken Little is an apt analogy, except in assuming who is playing the role of Chicken Little.

Here's a challenge. Create a table with all the first-hand evidence for a deception on one side, and all the first-hand evidence that things happened the way Joseph Smith described them on the other side. ("First-hand" is important, because these things easily devolve into nothing more than hearsay.) Remember, you're going to be open-minded, so it isn't acceptable to put statements by Joseph Smith or the witnesses on the deception side unless you can find actual statements to that effect -- "I was deceived", or "I helped in the deception". Go through all the documents collected by the Joseph Smith Papers project and see how much evidence there is for a deception. Comb through the journals of everyone who was personally acquainted with Joseph Smith and do likewise. Study all the volumes of History of the Church. Don't forget to add in the witness of millions of people who have laboriously evaluated the truth of Smith's claims in their own lives. The real problem you'll have is discovering any first-hand evidence of any kind of deception.

I've watched this phenomenon of faux open-mindedness in the lives of people close to me, and it's fascinating in a macabre way. When I originally became acquainted with C. Terry Warner's theory of self-deception as the root of human dysfunction I was skeptical, but you guys are winning me over to that line of thought.

James Anglin said...

So to be open-minded means to consider it equally likely, other things being equal, that Joseph Smith got golden plates from an angel, and that he faked something? Being open-minded means counting evidence for each of those alternatives equally?

If so, then your open-mindedness seems to me to be an extreme pro-Mormon bias. You're entitled to any bias you wish, if you admit what it is, and call it personal faith. I would trust my family even against considerable evidence, because I am biased towards them. I don't think I'm wrong or stupid to do that, either. Faith is a virtue.

But if you want to call it scientific reason, when you give Joseph Smith's angel story a level playing field, then I don't think you're really taking the problem seriously. How would you proceed, if Joseph Smith were asking you to invest a million dollars in his venture? Would you really just line up the available evidence equally, as if his story made as much sense as anything else?

If so, then what will you do when the next person asks you for money? If you apply the same standards to everyone, that you want to apply to Joseph Smith, then you will be forking over an awful lot of money — to some pretty shady characters. Because it's a lot easier than you seem to recognize to produce frauds that leave little evidence.

James Anglin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James Anglin said...

Personally, if Smith were asking me for money to invest in his golden plates venture, I would certainly not just look at how many people signed a statement supporting him, look for signed statements opposing him, and give him the cash if A were greater than B. Instead, you know, I'd probably ask to see the plates myself. And if he then said, "Well, the angel took them away again," I think I'd show him the door, no matter how many signed statements he had.

That's what I'd do if it were my savings at stake. Would you really do differently?

Would you feel compelled to give him money for plates from an angel, because he had statements and there were none against him, and so not giving him money would be closed-minded?

Vance said...

EBU only has his own word that Abraham was not taught the Gospel. Galatians itself refutes that. Your whole theology collapses if Christ was known and taught before He came. Peter talks about it as well; that the gospel preexisted Christ's earthly ministry.

And guess what? The evidence has piled up massively that the Gospel of Jesus was known long before he came. The Dead Sea Scrolls have shown us that most of the Gospel was known and taught. Was Jesus a ripoff artist, or did the Lord actually care enough about all people, even those before He came, to reveal the principles of the Gospel to them?

You mistake some things regarding covenants, EBU. The Abrahamic Covenant is not, in fact, the same as the basic gospel covenant of following Christ. Circumcision is not the same as baptism; after all, baptism was practiced by the Israelites. Witness the laver of water in the temple on the back of the oxen.

The answer to your question about the baptized person without faith is this: They are not justified either. Nor is the unbaptized person. You are right; faith is necessary. And no one has ever, ever said otherwise. Ordinances have no power without the faith of the individual; nor are they valid if performed without valid authority. But they are, nevertheless, still required. You cannot escape that. Call it a "sign" of the covenant if you wish; the fact is, it is the legal event that both God and Man point to and say the actual agreement was made here. Your "it started before!" is nonsense. Consider the marriage covenant: were you married before the ceremony? You may well have made the commitment to your spouse... but you were not married in anyones eyes until the ceremony and the officiator pronouncing you man and wife. Only at that point does the obligations, privileges and blessings, both legal and all others, spring. The day before, even the hour before the ceremony--you are not married. Despite all your feelings, faith, commitments, etc: you are not married until you follow the proscribed procedure, whatever it may be.

In the eyes of the Law, you are not married until the "I pronounce you man and wife" and the officiator signs the certificate. In the eyes of God, you are not married until then either; if you have sex with the girl an hour before the ceremony, it is fornication. After the ceremony? It's authorized and allowed. Or are you going to argue that your status as a married person just sort of appears one day, without a ceremony, and that God accepts the "I Love you!" as a marriage commitment? Then can a person change their mind, and back out of the marriage before making the commitment? Get cold feet? Or are they married without their knowledge and suddenly have to seek a divorce because they fell in love?


Vance said...

You tell me, EBU. Tell me how in your world where covenants and ordinances are irrelevant: when does God recognize a marriage? Or does He? Is marriage another thing the Lord did away with in His apparent quest to repudiate everything He had done before? There are three partners in a marriage: the husband, the wife, and the Lord. When do their blessings, obligations, and responsibilities arise? Or do you reject the concept of "Living in sin" as well?

A child born in the covenant is sealed to his parents; not to anyone else. Yes, it is provisional; that person still has to qualify on their own for heaven. And when they grow up, they do indeed start their own family. Of course, I don't believe you think we will have our family in heaven (rather, we'll be alone) so I question: why do you care? Your idea of heaven is walking with Jesus, alone with Him, as I understand Protestant theology. In fact, since you used to be LDS and have now apostatized, I must assume you don’t even want to be with your family forever. You consciously chose to reject the possibility. One thing is sure: if you yourself are married, it is until death do you part, for that is all the power the officiator has. Peter had the power to bind in heaven as well as on earth; but that power is gone now, right? No marriage on earth is valid in heaven unless someone with the power to bind in heaven actually does so. Too bad you reject the idea that Elijah brought that power back.

I find it rich you are telling me to stop coming here and go read the Bible so I can see the error of my ways. Have you actually looked at the name of this blog, and who owns it? You are the one intruding. You are the apostate from the faith; you are the one who totally ignored (again) my questions. But let me assign you your own reading homework. Forget all your Protestant and Greek mythology; and read the New Testament again. And tell me how Jesus is somehow the same as God the Father as well as the Holy Ghost. Tell me how the Trinity as you believe it (no body, no parts, no passion, all in one mystical cloud that is there and not there at the same time--standard Nicene Creed): tell me how just reading the New Testament alone supports that stuff. Everyone knows the traditional concept of the Trinity is not found in the Bible. The Bible's god is anthropomorphic. Jesus prays to His Father, and His Father answers back; John sees the Lord in Revelations and guess what? He's not a mysterious cloud.

Still, we've already established that you believe God lied to the Jews (I've asked you to refute that numerous times, and you haven't. You ignore my request and only complain I’m twisting your theology. But you refuse to explain how I’m doing that. I must conclude you cannot refute it). What's another lie then? Right? The Jews and the apostles were all primitive idiots, so God had to show up in human form to fool them. It was only after God stopped coming that humans became intelligent enough to understand that God is nothing like He appears and acts in the Bible. I believe that is the standard explanation.

In any case, this has gone on long enough, and way off topic. Mr. Anglin has some interesting questions as well, and he is actually respectful and I believe approaching this with an open mind. Since two or three times now, EBU, you have refused to answer my questions I hardly expect you to start now.

Vance said...

So James: This is not a scientific endeavor we are engaged in. History is not scientific; in the sense that it cannot be repeated. Did Hera and Aphrodite intervene at the battle of Troy? We cannot prove that at all. Many ancient Greeks believed it. Were they wrong? I think so; since I don't believe Hera and Aphrodite exist. But I cannot prove them wrong. Did God intervene at the battle of Jericho? I think so; but again how would that be proven?

Was Jesus resurrected? All we have, scientifically, is statements of witnesses. We know, scientifically speaking, that when something dies, it does not come back to life. Or at least we've never seen it happen in a laboratory. So was Jesus resurrected? Interesting question. Did the witnesses lie, tell the truth, or were they mislead or tricked?

Joseph Smith also produced witnesses; who also stayed true to their witness throughout their life. His witnesses went farther than the witnesses of Jesus' resurrection: even when they fled Joseph, they still stayed true to their witness.

But you are asking for proof. Would I invest a million dollars in Joseph if he came? Well, lots of people did... and lots more didn't. Ultimately it comes down to each person. Do you have faith?

I'll never be able to "Prove" that Joseph saw God. I'll never be able to prove that the Nephites existed, though I can advance evidence. More evidence comes along all the time; probably because the world is sinking farther into evil.

But until God comes Himself in fire and glory; there will never be irrefutable proof of Jesus; or of Joseph. God wants us to have faith; to get our answer from Him.

If you want to absolutely know, James, you have to get confirmation from God Himself. You yourself have to experience the divine. I cannot prove Jesus; only He can do that. All we can do is tell you the way; you have to walk the path yourself.

Your question about investing a million dollars: why did hard bitten New Englanders, even thousands and tens of thousands of Englanders even-- were they all dumb? They fully committed to the point of uprooting their lives and walking across a wilderness; dying along the way. Why? What made them do it? I guarantee it wasn't the statements of the witnesses. The statements of the witnesses may have played a part in the initial bit, but it is this: the members experienced a connection with the divine for themselves. They asked God, and He answered. If God answers... well, then yes, I would invest a million dollars. Wouldn't you?

In a slightly ironic twist to this thread, I am talking about the need for faith. People didn't just take Joseph's word. We aren't all gullible idiots, James. Mormons have a reputation for intelligence; we are more educated than most.

Why did the members remain faithful in the face of relentless persecution, James? When the mobs show up and are hauling out people to tar and feather them; when they come at midnight with guns in winter and order you to leave your home or leave the church: you have to have mighty faith to leave your home yet again. Consider Issac Morley. He was driven from New York, from Kirkland, from Missouri, and from Nauvoo. He spent most of his life being driven out of places. You think he was a fool, taken in by a con artist, who himself was driven out and tarred and feathered, jailed, and ultimately murdered? Or did he have something more, something that isn't scientific?

If you approach this looking for a solid “scientific” answer you will never find it--one way or the other. There's too much evidence to ignore that it's true. Yet, as you point out, the angel and gold plates sounds... iffy. There's only one way to ultimately know, James: and that is to have God Himself tell you. Because I guarantee you one thing: if tomorrow we found a "welcome to Zarahemla" sign, it would still be attacked, somehow. You know that. Heck, we found Nahom, and has the world converted to the Church? Nope.

Everything Before Us said...

Vance...as for baptism being a sign of a covenant ALREADY MADE, see Mosiah 18:10:" Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?"

Baptism is a witness that a covenant as already been entered into. Notice the past tense.

So, even your Book of Mormon doctrine teaches this. But this is not the way most members think of baptism. They think of it as a ritual that forges the covenant. This is not doctrinal.

Everything Before Us said...

You consciously chose to reject the possibility. One thing is sure: if you yourself are married, it is until death do you part, for that is all the power the officiator has. Peter had the power to bind in heaven as well as on earth; but that power is gone now, right? No marriage on earth is valid in heaven unless someone with the power to bind in heaven actually does so. Too bad you reject the idea that Elijah brought that power back.

Peter's power to bind on earth and heaven is misunderstood by Mormons. It is not referring to a sealing power. Look it up.

If Elijah did bring the sealing power "back," then he did so in 1836, as Joseph Smith claimed. But Joseph Smith also claimed that he was commanded to take additional wives as early as 1834. So...tell me....just what kind of marriage would that have been in 1834? It was illegal civilly to marry more than one woman. And he didn't yet have sealing keys, so these marriages wouldn't have been eternal marriage, either. There is a name for this type of marriage...it's called adultery.

By the way,...did you know that after Joseph Smith got the sealing keys, he waited six years until he finally was sealed to Emma! Six years! And in the meantime, he married over a dozen other women.

The reason he waited so long was because the sealing power was really just a justification to have additional wives. And that had to be kept secret, even from Emma, who for obvious reasons might have a problem with it. So, it took him six years before he was finally sealed to his only legal wife.

That's your prophet. Whattaguy!

Everything Before Us said...

Your question about investing a million dollars: why did hard bitten New Englanders, even thousands and tens of thousands of Englanders even-- were they all dumb? They fully committed to the point of uprooting their lives and walking across a wilderness; dying along the way. Why? What made them do it?

How many billions of Muslims are there, Vance? How many thousands were willing to die for the cause in its earliest years when it was spreading like wild-fire across the Middle East and Northern Africa?

Were they all dumb?

Sincere belief is not evidence of truth.

James Anglin said...


I have no doubt that many Mormons are intelligent. Alas, intelligent people can be duped, and often have been, even by quite crude frauds. Intelligent people who are highly motivated to believe something can be very ingenious at talking themselves into belief. I believe that one ought to recognize this and appreciate it.

If your position is, "I feel that God has revealed this to me, and I believe it," then I can respect that. Everyone has to decide for themselves. Ultimately you place your life as a bet. We each get one chip, and no-one can tell anyone else where to lay it. But when you say, "There's too much evidence to ignore that it's true," then I really think you're kidding yourself.

It's not about incontestable proof. No-one has that, for anything. To suggest that I'm insisting on absolute proof is to build a straw man. To me, the evidence in favor of Mormonism isn't even strong enough for a wise investment of venture capital. That's a much lower standard of evidence than absolute proof. To me, the Book of Mormon still doesn't make it.

Furthermore, I'm really not even sure that Mormons would invest money on comparable evidence. Look at the problem in the hard-nosed frame of mind of an investor, instead of with the eye of an apologist trying to justify faith. Is the evidence really that strong?

I wouldn't say that there's too much evidence against Mormonism for any intelligent person to believe in it. But unless you come to the evidence with a heavy bias in favor of Mormonism, then in no way is the evidence compelling. In particular the fact that there are many believing and intelligent Mormons is not at all compelling. There are a heck of a lot more intelligent believers in things that contradict Mormonism. If this was a vote, Mormonism lost.

And I hope that comparing NHM to "Welcome to Zarahemla" is hyperbole. If you don't realize the night-and-day difference between them, as Book of Mormon evidence, then you're really kidding yourself.

Everything Before Us said...

There's only one way to ultimately know, James: and that is to have God Himself tell you.

And if God tells you the opposite, James, you just didn't pray hard enough. Keep praying. Someday, God will tell you its true. That is the only right answer, after all.

Seriously, though. You better watch out, James. Vance has already determined that you are open-minded, which in Mormon Missionary Jargon means you are convertible. And now...it looks like Vance is pulling out all his MTC training on you.

You might be a Mormon within a fortnight!

Vance said...

James, I think you aren't understanding the actual evidence.

Compare Joseph Smith with Mary Baker Eddy. Who? That's right, who? She claimed to be Jesus reincarnated, but her sect has vanished. She had no evidence either.

The evidence for Joseph's remarkable claims is the Book of Mormon, mostly (there's others, such as miraculous events--healings, and the like), but the main evidence is the Book of Mormon. First and foremost, it exists. It requires an explanation. There are only three: 1) it's a translation, like Joseph said, performed in a miraculous way and by the gift and power of God. 2) It's a clever fraud. 3) It's again miraculous, only inspired by the devil.

Those are the only three choices. It must be one of those three. 1 and 3 clearly are adequate explanations for everything about the book. If either 1 or 3 is the truth, then there is no problems--the witnesses did indeed see the plates, the angels are true, Joseph wasn't a liar, and so forth.

But if you don't accept the supernatural explanations, then you must go with option 2: it's a fraud. And once you start with option 2, then you have things to explain away. This post by Jeff is about the witnesses. Under the fraud argument, you have to explain the witnesses. You have to explain the content of the book itself (dealing with Chiasmus, etc). How could any fraudster write such a book? That's the requirement for option 2: everything must be explainable as a fraud, somehow. There is tons of things that require significant knowledge; that stuff must be available for the fraud theory to have any credence.

I think you are failing to recognize the NHM evidence. It's not just NHM, it's finding it exactly where Joseph said it was; with a name that is plausible for the context. It's like this: Finding an ancient city named Zarahemla would mean pretty much nothing for the Book of Mormon if it was found in northern Finland, for instance. But if it was found in Guatemala? That would be far more interesting. Same with NHM. It's not just the name, it's the location, the meaning, and the difficulty in coming up with that bullseye.

And that's the thing: Once is happenstance--Joseph got lucky with NHM, ok. Twice is coincidence: stuff like cement that was ridiculed at the time but now a direct bullseye for Mexican ruins. Third time? Stuff like complex chiasmus; hebraic poetry; ancient covenantal patterns, and other things demonstrating ancient writing that was not known when Joseph "wrote" the book? Military actions that fit exactly into ancient Maya warfare and not the Indians Joseph was familiar with.

These things at some point cease to be lucky guesses. How many times does Joseph have to get lucky before we must conclude it's not luck? It's a special fraudster that writes a book that has glaring holes according to the best science of the time... and those holes are filled in as more and more evidence is discovered. That's a dang good fraud there, to take advantage of things not even known yet. The Option 2: fraud story requires a heck of a lot of faith too, James. It requires an absolute genius in ancient Hebrew language, poetry, theology, technology, the Law of Moses, and on and on. It requires expert geographical knowledge of ancient Arabia. It requires sound knowledge of ancient Maya society. It requires very high theological skill. It requires fantastic editorial control; and the type of world building only the very best fiction authors in history have achieved. It requires producing an English work that sounds better and flows easier when it is translated into Hebrew.

And all of this with an unschooled country backwoods boy. Now, how plausible is all of that? Not too likely. How plausible is it with anyone in 1829?

Vance said...

As for EBU: I shall not be nice or polite; you are here to insult and defame anyway. So you deserve this.

EBU, are you ever capable of answering questions?

1) You have never answered whether God lied to the Jews when He promised them that He would accept their sacrifices and cleanse them from sin.

2) I asked you when a marriage is valid: when you just "feel the love" or whether it requires the ceremony. Again, you ignore it and go off on a rant.

3) I asked you to follow your own advice and read the New Testament and demonstrate the Nicean Creedal Trinity. Again, nothing.

4) I asked you to demonstrate how God can 1) give everyone a chance at salvation 2) require that Jesus is the only way to heaven and 3) Also judge everyone for their actions on earth. Without, mind you, that evil doctrine according to you of temple work and salvation for the dead. You have notably failed to attempt this.

5) You have failed to answer why the New Testament is filled with ordinances when you argue they are irrelevant and unimportant and totally unnecessary.

Instead, you dodge and weave and try to smear people. I cite you your comment at 5:59, where you claim to have never dodged a question.

Guess we see the truth of that.

You claim that Joseph broke the law: let me ask. Did Moses break the law when he drowned all those Egyptians? Murder was against the law, after all. And Moses sure killed a lot of people. Or was it ok because God commanded it?

As for your claim that the LDS church ignores the covenant of baptism.... you are smoking something. We talk about the baptismal covenant all. the. time. But there is no such thing as a baptismal covenant, right? This is your theology now. Baptism is all nonsense! All it takes is faith alone! And covenanting with God is heresy, because that would mean more than just believe and be saved! You cannot put *gasp* works as a requirement!

Why, that would mean that God... actually expects something of us! And we cannot have that! The Bible clearly shows that God doesn't care what people do, right? That commandment bit... totally a lie, again!

Just because Peter and Jesus said baptism was necessary; hey that's just another one of those lies God likes to put out, right? We all know that Paul said faith alone, baby!


Vance said...

I take this tone because you have a bunch of arrogance coming here and insulting our faith, and you are full of condescension. You mock, you smear, and in fine, you act like one of the Pharisee's and Sadducees. Why Jeff allows you to stay when your entire purpose is to demean the Church and insult its beliefs, its members, and its doctrine is beyond me. You have no interest in learning; only in being a snake in the grass to attempt to seduce people away from following the Lord and keeping His commandments. Your creed is, as the Lord said, an abomination. As many Protestant scholars have reluctantly admitted, your faith alone stuff was vigorously condemned as a vile heresy by the early Church. And you have the gall to tell me to abandon following the Lord? Please. You may apostatize all you wish; but do not expect the rest of us to follow your belief that God repealed the necessity of keeping the commandments and becoming like Him. You can settle for lesser rewards, but I intend on trying to be faithful and following Christ. I reject your claim that God went silent 2000 years ago. I reject your implication that God doesn't care about most of humanity; That He fooled the Jews; that He only spoke to the Apostles and then shut up because He had nothing else to say. Or else He died again, or fell asleep; who could tell the difference in your faith?

Your doctrine is of a God that does not love all of humanity. I reject that; the God I worship loves all men and has provided all men a way to be saved, if they choose it-- all men, including those before Christ as well as after. Including people who never had a chance to hear of Him in this life. Your God condemns them. The God I worship communicates with His children, not leaving them to blow about with every wind of doctrine and imported Greek philosophical nonsense. Your God is a literal contradiction by definition--the Creeds say so. My God is my Father in Heaven; and He does care about me. Your God is impossible to know; my God is the Jesus who said that life eternal is to know God. I testify of a risen Jesus; one who came back to life and is still alive; still has a body. He did not discard it once He left the credulous apostles. The Holy Ghost is just that: a personage of spirit; and has no physical body. Your God? Who the heck knows? There is no room for Jesus to have a body in your religion, for that would make Him separate and distinct.

I worship a Being who is anxious to make me like Him; who provides covenants and ordinances; who entrusts parts of His power to people He chooses. I worship a Being who wants me to be His heir, and a joint heir along with Christ. Your God? He puts barriers; he doesn't care enough to require anything of you. Follow him or not, he doesn't care if you obey him--or her. Is your god even male? But no matter: Once saved, always saved! So commit sin; indulge in the flesh--God will still save you! Just believe! And do what you want! There's no penalty for sin, there's no commandments anymore, once you are saved, so no worries, live it up! God won’t punish you, because if He did, that means works are required-- and God hates works!


Vance said...

That God, the one you worship EBU, is many things. But it is not the God revealed in the Bible. It is not the God to whom Jesus prayed to. It is not the God that Peter, James and John followed. That God provided a way for us to become like Jesus; not a path that requires nothing of us. The God revealed in the Bible is a living, dynamic Being who works and cares for His people on earth; saving them with the power of His mighty arm when all else has failed. Your god can’t be bothered anymore; never speaks, doesn’t do miracles; doesn’t do anything. If he did, why, that would be heresy since the canon is closed and there is no priesthood of God on the earth, and the councils declared that the age of miracles was over.

No, thank you. I will worship the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob; the Lord Jehovah, who is Jesus Christ in the flesh. I will worship God, the Eternal Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, who is one God. They have revealed themselves throughout time; over and over. From Adam to Enoch to Noah and Abraham; Moses and Malachi, to Peter, James and John; and now with Joseph Smith and Thomas Monson, the Gospel has been the same: Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, then the ordinances: Baptism, and the sacrament for forgiveness of sins. Covenanting with God, and He in turn forgives sin and makes you like Him. This has always been the gospel; it has always been the path of the True and Living God. He it is whom I worship. But this is not your god. Your god changes the requirements for salvation; your god is a partial god; a changeable being; a god who loves some and despises others. A god who has no power today or if he does, keeps it hidden. A god who is indifferent; who rewards all men the same regardless of their faithfulness.

No, EBU: you have your god, but I worship the God of Truth. I worship the Lord and Savior, even Jesus Christ in the flesh--today, still, in the flesh. Your god, the god of mysticism and of philosophers; of contradictions and indifference? You keep that god. That god has no power to save souls, for he is as real as Zeus. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

And I'm sorry, Jeff, for taking this tone towards EBU. But sometimes you have to be bold and tell it like it is. I will be civil in the future.

flying fig said...

Thank you for your reply Vance, I appreciate your view.

"Earlier, I pressed you and Flying Fig on salvation for those who never had the chance to hear of Jesus. Both of you really had no answers"

God provides a way to seek and believe in Him no matter where we are.
Romans 1:20 For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

How were people were saved in the Old Testament? Same way they are saved any time, by faith in God's revelation. You say, "Did they have to believe in the death of Christ, the resurrection of Christ and the Second Coming?" Of course not; they had to believe as much as God had revealed. At any point in time, a man was required to believe all that God said. If a man was living in the time of Adam, God hadn't said too much. He had to believe all that God had revealed. If the man was living later on, in the time of Moses, God began to say some more things and man had to believe all that God revealed. And if a man lives post-New Testament, we have to believe all that God revealed, up through the fullness of salvation as seen in Jesus Christ.

So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Here Paul is quoting Genesis 15:6 Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness. Why would Genesis or Paul stop there if there were more to it?

The law wasn't even given when Abraham was alive. How, then, was God saving people from the very beginning? How? By faith.

"How was Abraham saved?" God made him a promise and he believed it. He didn't have to believe in everything about the Lord Jesus Christ and everything about the cross. He just had to believe God to the point of God's revelation, and God declared him righteous. It’s very clear.

Paul repeats this in Romans;
"And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness." 4Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor, but as what is due. 5But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness, 6just as David also speaks of the blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works: 7"Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. 8"Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account," (Rom. 4:3-8).

Over and over The Bible tells us that Abraham was justified by faith (see Rom. 5:1 and Eph. 2:8-9). That is, his faith is reckoned as righteousness, v. 4 above. They were saved by faith in the Messiah in whom they were trusting. Only, for them it was a trust in the FUTURE Messiah. They knew He was coming as had been prophesied.

God did not change how He saved people in the New Testament. It has always been by faith. In the case of the OT people, they looked ahead in time to the Messiah. We look back to Him and see the cross.

God required animal sacrifices to provide a temporary covering of sins and to foreshadow the perfect and complete sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Leviticus 4:35, 5:10). Animal sacrifice are found throughout Scripture because “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22).

flying fig said...

But trust me Vance, I am not one who says all you need to do is believe and then go on living your life.
Belief is how we are saved, but the evidence of that salvation comes through living the commands of God.

The evidence of salvation is difficult; the commands of Jesus are difficult. But keeping these commands are the fruit of salvation, evidence of genuine salvation, but never a means to.

flying fig said...

What are these commands? I just don’t see biblical evidence that they are the ordinances of the LDS Church. Some of the commands of Jesus include:
• Matt. 26:40-41, "And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? 41 “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
• Mark 8:34, "And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”
(Matthew 4:17).
-Follow Him
(Matthew 4:19).
-Let your light shine
(Matthew 5:16).
-Be reconciled
(Matthew 5:23–24).
-Don't Lust
(Matthew 5:27–30).
-Make no oaths
(Matthew 5:34, 37).
-Don't resist evil with evil
(Matthew 5:39-42).
-Love and pray for your enemies
(Matthew 5:44–46).
-Be perfect (in love)
(Matthew 5:48).
-Seek God's Kingdom first
(Matthew 6:33).
-Don't Judge
(Matthew 7:1).
-Don't give what is holy to dogs
(Matthew 7:6).
-Treat people as you want to be treated
(Matthew 7:12).
-Enter (Heaven) through the narrow gate
(Matthew 7:13-14).
-Beware of false prophets
(Matthew 7:15–16).
-Follow Jesus
(Matthew 8:22).
-Ask God to send out workers
(Matthew 9:37–38).
-Don't fear those who can kill the body
(Matthew 10:28).
-Come to Jesus for rest
(Matthew 11:28).
-Confront brothers in private first
(Matthew 18:15–17).
-Forgive Seven times Seventy
(Matthew 18:21–22).
-Render to Caesar what is Caesar's
(Matthew 22:21).
-Love God
(Matthew 22:37–38).
-Love your Neighbor
(Matthew 22:39).
-Partake of Communion
(Matthew 26:26–27).
-Keep guard against sin
(Matthew 26:41).
-Make Disciples
(Matthew 28:19-20).
-Preach the Gospel
(Mark 16:15).
-Be on guard against greed
(Luke 12:15).
-Invite the poor
(Luke 14:12–14).
-Love one another
(John 13:34).
(John 15:12).
(John 15:17).

Everything Before Us said...

Look Vance...I get a little lost from time to time on these threads. And you throw a lot out in just one post. And you post a lot. If I miss something...well....it happens. But let me address you nicely-numbered list. This is what I need. My OCD really appreciates the orderliness of it.

1) You have never answered whether God lied to the Jews when He promised them that He would accept their sacrifices and cleanse them from sin.

I never said God lied to the Jews. That is your own distortion of what I have said. And you have harped on it repeatedly. The rituals were foreshadows of the salvation that would come. Where the Jews saved by carrying out the rituals? No. Did the rituals point them symbolically to salvation? Yes. Read Psalm 51. The most beautiful and heart-wrenching Psalm there is.

2) I asked you when a marriage is valid: when you just "feel the love" or whether it requires the ceremony. Again, you ignore it and go off on a rant.

A marriage is valid when a marriage is performed. But a marriage and a baptism are two different things, Vance. In all of Christianity, marriage and baptism are two different types of things. Only in Mormonism is marriage a Priesthood ordinance required for eternal life.

Let me ask you this to hit home my point. At what point does the can of green beans on the market shelf become your property? When you commit to buy it by putting it in your cart? Or when you go through the ritual of paying for it? Of course it becomes your property when you pay for it.

So..that scenario also proves your point about baptism, doesn't it? It does. It is actually a wonderful metaphor, really. So...why didn't you choose that scenario? Or one like it? That scenario would also have driven home your point that baptism seals the covenant.

You didn't use that scenario because in your doctrine, buying a can of green beans isn't a Priesthood ordinance. So you chose a Priesthood ordinances to support your case. But I don't believe marriage is a priesthood ordinance.

I showed you in the Book of Mormon how baptism is a sign of a covenant already made. You are know not only contending with NT doctrine, but even BoM doctrine! You amaze me, Vance.

Next questions answered in the next post.

Everything Before Us said...

3) I asked you to follow your own advice and read the New Testament and demonstrate the Nicean Creedal Trinity. Again, nothing.

I don't remember you doing that. But here goes.

The Trinitarian Formula is as follows: 1) There is one God. 2) The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are all God. 3) The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are not the same person.

You need to believe in all three of those to believe in the Trinity. Each one of these points is easily backed up by Biblical scripture. There are plenty of online resources to help you with this, Vance. Find and employ them.

4) I asked you to demonstrate how God can 1) give everyone a chance at salvation 2) require that Jesus is the only way to heaven and 3) Also judge everyone for their actions on earth. Without, mind you, that evil doctrine according to you of temple work and salvation for the dead. You have notably failed to attempt this.

Flying fig already answered this.

5) You have failed to answer why the New Testament is filled with ordinances when you argue they are irrelevant and unimportant and totally unnecessary.

It is not "filled with ordinances." In fact, the word "ordinance" in the New Testament does not even mean what you think it means. In 1 Corinthians 11:2, Paul tells the Corinthians to "keep the ordinances." This is the Greek word is "paradoseis." It means "traditions." You are stumbling over the archaic language of the KJV, Vance. And what "traditions" does Paul mention? Some confusing and highly debatable practices about covering one's head when praying, and the Lord's Supper.

Why doesn't he talk about the endowment? The eternal marriage ordinance, Vance? Because they didn't exist!

What!? Do you think a dastardly Medieval scribe rubbed his hands together devilishly and cackled as he erased the endowment from Corinthians 11? Is that what happened? Paul was a Mormon through and through, and those horrible scribes just erased all that to make him look like a good Catholic boy?

Crazy....Just crazy!

Everything Before Us said...

Is your god even male?

Now...Vance...we are getting to the heart of the matter. The heart of what really concerns you, aren't we? Of all the blasphemies, the worse of all is that the ultimate authority and ruler of all things is not a man, but something else.

You are a Mormon...not doubt about that. Long live the patriarchy. To infinity and beyond for the guys, right?

James Anglin said...

I have not heard that Mary Baker Eddy claimed to be Jesus, Vance. She launched Christian Science, and it did pretty well for a while. They still have some huge buildings in Boston. As I understand it, they were basically about faith healing. They made claims about how disease could be healed by faith and prayer, not about historical events. Many people claimed to experience such healing. So Christian Science had evidence, too.

It's obvious that everything about the Book of Mormon could have been faked: it's just a book, and human beings can write books. It contains no words that human lips could not utter. So the only question is how likely one considers it, that Joseph Smith (or some collaborator) could have come up with the content of the Book by himself. There have been many cases in history of human beings producing texts that people like them do not normally write. The most famous is, of course, the Qu'ran; but it is just the most famous one.

In my opinion, Mormons are simply far too quick to decide that Smith could not have done things, because the conclusion that he absolutely couldn't is too much desired. For example, Smith could definitely have met some guy in a tavern one time, who had a map of Arabia, at which Smith got a glance, and remembered a name. The scenario is admittedly unlikely, a priori; and there is no evidence at all that it happened, as far as I know. But it is certainly possible.

And this is not a game. There is no rule that everything has to be supported by evidence, because there is no rule in the laws of physics to say that every fraud must leave a documentary trace for later seekers to find. There is no rule that the fraud hypothesis has to account for every detail in a way that makes each detail inevitable. There is no rule that only likely scenarios can be considered; unlikely flukes are allowed. The Mormon scenario of divine revelation is the most unlikely of all, a priori, after all; and it leaves the least evidence. Angels don't sign affidavits.

How likely is it that Joseph Smith saw a map in a tavern, or one of his friends saw such a map, or he went to a library to consult a map and successfully hid the journey from history, or he merely got lucky with a random guess, or the current reconstruction of the NHM site as this perfect fit turns out on closer inspection to look like a sharpshooter fallacy?

Add up all those chances. The total may still, for the sake of argument, be rather small. But is it smaller than one-in-ten-billion? For my money, no way; not even close.

It's the same way, to me, with all the evidence I've seen. Mormon apologists say, "No way could any human being construct such a chiasmus!" But when I look, and see how the chiasmus is identified, and think about how people write, the chance that Smith could indeed have made up these passages seems only modestly low.

Mormons seem to me to be evaluating their evidence through enormous lenses, multiplying everything Pro, and shrinking everything Con. One might think, "Well, of course, I may be a bit biased. Who isn't? But I have so much evidence; it can't all be bias." I'm afraid that I think that it can. That's how smart people get conned.

James Anglin said...

Another point about evidence is that there's a fallacy opposite to the Texas sharpshooter. Maybe we can call it the New York Sharpshooter.

You find a barn with a whole bunch of targets that were actually there before anyone shot at them, and now there's a bullet hole in each bullseye. The fallacy is to compute the probability of this scenario by assuming that each shot was fired at random. Since there are many targets, you find a very low probability; it could easily be one in many billions. You conclude that the barn is a miracle.

But in this part of New York State, let us say, one farmer in a hundred is a remarkable marksman. So the most likely explanation of the barn is not a one-in-billions miracle, but only the one-in-a-hundred chance that this farmer was a sharpshooter who aimed on purpose at every bullseye, and hit it.

The fallacy is to treat every case as independent, so that their individually low probabilities multiply together into something insanely small; when in fact they are correlated. One moderately unlikely circumstance could account for them all. The barn is not actually one-in-billions surprising; only one-in-a-hundred.

The scenario of Joseph Smith being a clever con artist is like the New York Sharpshooter. It might be unlikely, a priori; but if it were true, it would explain all at once a large number of details that could essentially never occur by independent random chance.

Everything Before Us said...

4) I asked you to demonstrate how God can 1) give everyone a chance at salvation 2) require that Jesus is the only way to heaven and 3) Also judge everyone for their actions on earth. Without, mind you, that evil doctrine according to you of temple work and salvation for the dead. You have notably failed to attempt this.

More on this...in Gospel Doctrine class once, the teacher asked, "Why does God command us to build temples." A student (now the bishop) spoke up and said, "Because God knows that is the only way to get his children back."

That is a rather weak, impotent God. He needs his human children who are stranded here on earth to build multi-million dollar buildings bedecked with the most luxurious finery so they can engage in religious rituals in order to get them all back?

James Anglin said...

Then, even if you like the pile of evidence you can make, there's the disturbing pattern of what evidence is missing. The positive evidence that I've seen is all quite circumstantial. This pattern resembles that one, a parallel here, an odd coincidence there. But if the Book of Mormon really happened, there should be ruined cities and museums full of artifacts, inscriptions that look like the "caractors", and big, smoking-gun things like that.

We can argue over the taste of the chips and salsa, but there are no tacos. No-one even claims there are. No-one even seems to be apologizing for their absence; just making excuses. Well, okay. I can nibble the chips and say the salsa is watery. But a lot of my reaction has nothing to do with the salsa. I'm thinking, "Where are the tacos? What's up with this place?"

flying fig said...

Vance said: "your god is a partial god; a changeable being"

A changeable being? Tell me Vance, how long has your mormon heavenly Father been God? From before time existed? Or did he change from a man into a god? Are you sure this is the God of the Bible?

Everything Before Us said...

No, thank you. I will worship the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob; the Lord Jehovah, who is Jesus Christ in the flesh. I will worship God, the Eternal Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, who is one God.

Do you really worship the Son? Bruce R. McConkie says you don't. My mission president told me that I don't. He told me I worship the Father. Not the Son. I worship the Father, through the Son. But I don't worship the Son.

Do you worship Jehovah and the Father as two separate Gods? Or as one God? Do you worship the Holy Ghost as God?

Everything Before Us said...

"They have revealed themselves throughout time; over and over. From Adam to Enoch to Noah and Abraham; Moses and Malachi"

No...God didn't reveal himself fully until Moses. In Exodus, only then does God reveal his identity as Jehovah. He does so the first time to Moses. He tells Moses he is doing so for the first time.

Everything Before Us said...

Vance, we can go around and around like this forever. But I don't want to do it on Jeff's site anymore. Find me on Facebook. Seriously. My name is John Cline. I currently have a profile picture that is an old-style painting of an English gentleman. Look me up. We can message back and forth like crazy, and you can lay into me as hard as you want.

Anonymous said...

Seems to be some inconsistency:

And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.

Maybe he was just trying to make Moses feel special ("I bet you say that to all the prophets").

Anonymous said...

I would say that rather than demonstrating that he is a weak god, this example demonstrates he is a demanding god who has high expectations for the behavior of his children.

If temples aren't meant to be special places why did God command the Old Testament peoples to build them to such high standards? Why did Christ himself defend the temple from unrighteous money changers? Why are you judging Mormons for making their places of highest worship beautiful and inviting? They are not meant to be a display of wealth, but a demonstration of respect for what they see as a house of God?

Pops said...

Joseph Smith, nor any of his associates, ever gave any indication that the Book of Mormon was a fraud. You could not reasonably expect to win a court case against them in that matter on the basis of anything they ever said or did. You may not like the book, you may hate Joseph, and you may think they're all a pack of liars. Fine. But there is no evidence in their statements or behavior to justify a finding of fraud, except through conjecture, hearsay, innuendo, or outright fabrication. To the contrary, there is a vast array of statements supporting the divine origin of the Book of Mormon. One of the outcomes of the Joseph Smith Papers project, for example, is that it verifies there is not one shred of evidence in support of the fraud charge.

I can accept someone choosing to abandon Mormonism. I believe that we all have the inalienable right to worship how, where, or what we may. What I object to is the pretense of credible evidence of fraud, especially when it is done with a fake posture of intellectual rigor and open-mindedness.

I think Vance got it right: the Book of Mormon is either a fraud or it is inspired. I can't find any evidence of fraud. So the question devolves to this: was it inspired of God or someone else? Listen to a session of General Conference, and then you pick. By their fruits ye may know them.

Anonymous said...

If the Book of Mormon is a fraud, then from the perspective of Joseph Smith and company it is a perfect fraud, meaning that nobody ever has or ever will find evidence of the commission of fraud. The best anyone has come up with is conjecture, hearsay, innuendo, and lies.

If you decide that the Book of Mormon is a fraud, you personally bear the responsibility of that decision. You can't lay it at the feet of Joseph Smith.

Anonymous said...

One of the reasons for the success of the fraud is the lack of of original evidence. We have no plates and the only first-hand accounts we have of the process are from those with a vested interest in the success of the fraud, or those who may have been duped.

We do have the text of the Book of Mormon to go by. Many of us who have experience analyzing the historical context of literature see a 19th century text with 19th century themes, and plenty of influence from the Bible in both direct quotations and verbiage. We also know that Joseph spent at least 5 years thinking about, and telling stories from the Book of Mormon world before actually dictating the Book.

This evidence can then be combined with examples of other "translations" either attemped or completed by Smith, ie the Kinderhook plates and the Book of Abraham. We know the Kinderhook plates were a fraud, and luckily for the church there is no remaining public evidence of Joseph's attempted translation. That does leave the Book of Abraham, which was supposed to be a translation by the prophet of real Egyptian hieroglyphics. We actually have most of the remains of that original as well as the Prophet's attempts at creating a sort of guide to Egyptian characters. Guess how that went?

Everything Before Us said...

Anonymous 9:56.

Abraham knew God. But Abraham didn't know God as (YHWH)Jehovah. This was revealed first to Moses.

Everything Before Us said...

I think Vance got it right: the Book of Mormon is either a fraud or it is inspired. I can't find any evidence of fraud. So the question devolves to this: was it inspired of God or someone else? Listen to a session of General Conference, and then you pick. By their fruits ye may know them.

If the Book of Mormon is a fraud, then from the perspective of Joseph Smith and company it is a perfect fraud, meaning that nobody ever has or ever will find evidence of the commission of fraud. The best anyone has come up with is conjecture, hearsay, innuendo, and lies.

If you decide that the Book of Mormon is a fraud, you personally bear the responsibility of that decision. You can't lay it at the feet of Joseph Smith.

You can't find any evidence of fraud? Seriously? He used the same seerstone to produce the Book of Mormon that he used to convince people he could find buried treasure. He never found any buried treasure.

Of course one can't find any evidence of fraud when one rejects all the evidence of fraud as NOT being evidence of fraud.

Mormonism is so much more than General Conference. It's fruits are found in many far-flung places. If it weren't for Joseph Smith, a man named Warren Jeffs would never exist. If it weren't for Joseph Smith, Elizabeth Smart would never have been kidnapped. If it weren't for Joseph Smith, the Lafferty Brothers would never have murdered that woman and her infant daughter.

Joseph Smith's polygamy, and subsequent leaders who wrote and preached about it, have inspired many heinous crimes. There is an adulterous spirit within Mormonism thanks to Smith's polygamy. I personally know of one woman who married her precious RM, but then watched as her precious RM began receiving spiritual revelation that he was to take additional wives. I personally know of a mission president who convinced some of his sister missionaries through the power of personal revelation that after the mission, they were to be his plural wives. This stuff happens frequently, and it is a direct result of the adulterous spirit that has been in Mormonism almost from the beginning.

That, too, is the fruit of Mormonism. Polygamy would be practically non-existent in the United States if it had not been for Joseph Smith.

Anonymous said...


You realize that you are blaming Joseph Smith for Warren Jeffs' actions? Does this even remotely sound right? It is like blaming Jesus Christ for the Crusades. You realize that the individual alone is to blame for his crimes, right?

You really think polygamy would be non-existent in the US if it weren't for the Mormons? There are more polygamists who are Evangelical Christians than there are from the Mormons.

In other words, this stuff happens all the time whether there are Mormons or not. Men cheat on their wives, people suffer from delusions. And the adulterous spirit is in the perpetrators and not in the Church.


Vance said...

EBU blames Elizabeth Smart on Joseph Smith. Wow.

You are unhinged, man. But hey, I guess I can blame Jeffrey Dahmer on your faith. Good to know. Maybe you'll take credit for Hitler too? He wasn't a Catholic or Mormon, that's for sure.

Or maybe these evil people would have been evil regardless, and just seized on whatever they could?

I forget: for you, evil doesn't matter once someone's been saved. They get a free pass. Curious how that never applies to Mormons though. I wonder why people like you say "All you have to do is have faith in Jesus and you are saved, Brother! Except for Mormons. They don't get salvation, no matter what. For them, the requirement is 'abandon Jesus, abandon their faith, reject the idea that God wants them to do good things, reject the idea that God loves them enough to call a prophet today, burn their temple clothing, and in short, fully deny God.' Only then, maybe, can they possibly gain an opportunity to be saved!"

Still, I don't feel too bad. Catholics have the same problem. Somehow, it's not enough for Catholics and Mormons to have faith in Christ. only Protestants can slide by just having faith in Christ to be saved. Catholics and Mormons have to apostatize and deny they ever had faith in Christ before. Just believe in Jesus to be saved? Nonsense. If that was the case, then Catholics along with Mormons wouldn't be tarred and feathered by our Protestant friends. Quite literally, I might add, in some cases.

flying fig said...

@Vance "only Protestants can slide by just having faith in Christ to be saved"

You clearly don't understand the gospel of Christ or are just grossly misrepresenting Christianity. As I have pointed out, belief in Christ is how we are saved but keeping the commandments of Christ (as I've posted above) is the evidence of genuine salvation

Everything Before Us said...

Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped by Brian David Mitchell. Brian David Mitchell believed himself to be the "one mighty and strong" (see D&C) that would restore the divinely-led kingdom of Israel to the world in preparation for the 2nd Coming. He claimed to be receiving revelation to take an additional seven wives. He was reading the writings of different Mormon scholars and prophets. He abducted Elizabeth Smart in an attempt to fulfill this command he believed he had received.

Jeffrey Dahmer was not committing his atrocious acts after studying and being inspired by the writings of Martin Luther or John Calvin.

From wikipedia: "According to Daniel Petersen, a scholar of religion, including Mormon studies, Mitchell's revelations were "logical," falling within the traditions of breakaway Mormon groups.[14] The name Mitchell/Immanuel gave his proposed group was the Church of Jesus Christ and the Sanctified and the Last Days. As later described by psychologist Richard DeMier, these revelations said Mitchell would at one point come to battle the Anti-Christ, with Barzee becoming the "Mother of Zion," with her being able to conceive a male child, despite her having had a hysterectomy, which future child would in turn become the Davidic king in his own right.[18] Later, forensic investigator Richard Forbes characterized Mitchell's behaviors and writings as controlling, similar in this manner to those engaged in by other criminals Forbes had researched such as Ervil LeBaron and Charles Manson.[19] Soon Mitchell came to be frequently seen wearing robes around Salt Lake City and begging for money, something he called "ministering to unbelievers." Then, in following the revelations, he came to approach women to voluntarily become polygamists wives with him and Barzee, but was unsuccessful.[17] The first was a single mother in Salt Lake City and the second was Julia Atkinson, approximately 21 years of age, a young woman who had formerly been a member of the Kingston polygamist clan[20][21] in Davis County, Utah. Being unsuccessful in both attempts, Mitchell then received a new revelation in which, according to testimony from Barzee,[22] he was commanded to forcibly take Mormon girls between the ages of 10 and 14 to become his polygamous wives.[23] This new revelation was then supplemented by another one where he was commanded to forcibly take a 14-year-old to become his first polygamous wife, of a total of 350 wives (seven times seven wives plus one,[24] again times seven) that the revelation told Mitchell to take.[22]"

Brian David Mitchell was mentally ill. But he was also steeped in the polygamist heritage of the LDS Church.

Everything Before Us said...

flying fig said...
@Vance "only Protestants can slide by just having faith in Christ to be saved"

You clearly don't understand the gospel of Christ or are just grossly misrepresenting Christianity. As I have pointed out, belief in Christ is how we are saved but keeping the commandments of Christ (as I've posted above) is the evidence of genuine salvation

Both. Vance doesn't understand the gospel of Christ, and he is grossly misrepresenting Christianity.

As a Mormon, he has been taught how wrong traditional Christianity is. He is just parroting back what he has heard all his life in church. And most likely he has read A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, by Richards, and Articles of Faith, by Talmage, both of which represents Mormonism as it was when I grew up, and both of which seek to prove the Mormon message by showing how wrong the rest of Christianity is.

Vance....visit me on Facebook. John Cline. Look for the painting of the respectable English gent. We'll take this discussion off Jeff's site.

Everything Before Us said...

Vance, I am sure there are many Mormons who are saved and who will inherit eternal life. However, as a Mormon, you do not believe there is one single Christian who will inherit eternal life unless that Christian is baptized by a Mormon, and receives all other necessary Mormon ordinances.

Vance said...

EBU: why are you here? I mean, at Mormanity? It's clear you want to insult the LDS church; its members, and that you despise us. You gratuitously started blaming Joseph Smith and the current LDS church for Warren Jeffs, for Brian David Mitchell, and you mock us all the time.

You and Flying Fig do not understand your own doctrine. Faith alone means just that: no need for commandments. If you believe that the commandments must need to be obeyed, then it's not faith alone.

That's the question: can you be saved without obeying the commandments? Or must you do what Christ commanded in order to be saved? Every time, you say, "No, it's faith alone!" So. Man has faith; is "saved." Becomes a pastor; raises money for orphans. He then goes out and cheats on his wife and then kills her when she catches him and his floozy in flagrante delecto. He then dies in a shootout with the cops. His last words: "Praise Jesus!" Is he Heaven bound?

From all I can tell, you guys would say he most certainly goes to heaven. He had faith. And God cannot require him to not commit adultery; to not murder, etc. If God did, then it's not just faith alone.

And you cannot use the copout of "well, his failure to keep the commandments shows he didn't have saving faith!" What utter bull: under that scenario how does anyone have saving faith? If he makes it to the end without violating a commandment? Your faith is saving faith as long as you keep the commandments? While I agree with that statement, it sure sounds like faith alone is dependent on whether you follow God's commandments. An idea which you and Fig rail against.

Here's the question for Fig: is that "evidence of faith" required? You and EBU have consistently claimed that faith alone is how you are saved; so why don't you man up and accept that you have repealed the idea of commandments? You say I distort Christianity; I do no such thing. It is you and your side that says faith alone saves. That second word: alone; it must mean that anything else is irrelevant. Keeping the commandments or doing something else is optional. It must be optional, or else "alone" is not right. You cannot add other requirements such as "do no sin" or else it's not faith alone.

A man with faith in Jesus can do whatever he wants and he is still saved; else it's not faith "alone." It's that simple. None of this "we must have evidences of your faith!" Why? If you have to demonstrate your faith to get to heaven, it's not faith alone. It's faith plus those demonstrations that get you there.

So you tell me: is it faith alone that saves? In which case, sin all you want, brother! Just have faith in Jesus, and you are fine! Or is it faith plus works, or evidences if you want to call it? In which case, you and the LDS church agree.

I don't grossly misrepresent Protestant Christianity. Recall, Martin Luther wanted to rip James out of the Bible. He said the Sermon on the Mount was from the devil. You guys genuinely believe that it's faith alone that saves? Then you must accept the fact that you've repealed the concept of sin and consequences entirely.

If you have problems with that, then you don't believe "faith alone is all that is needed to be saved!"

Anonymous said...


Yes, people with delusions can act delusionally regardless of the kind of upbringing. Brian Mitchell latched on to a phrase "one mighty and strong" that rang in his delusion. If it wasn't that phrase, there would have been another phrase. If you ever meet someone that suffers from delusional disorder, you will realize that their framework doesn't matter because the delusions aren't real. One could have easily gone into Doctrine and Covenants section 85 and pointed out the Brian Mitchell how he could not have possibly been the "one mighty and strong" simply by the fact that he had zero influence on the Church. When dealing with delusional people, all rational thinking is thrown out.

They can claim to be the "one mighty and strong" or the Buddha or the second coming of Christ. It is their mental illness and not their religion. You do understand this, correct? It is not Joseph Smith's fault, not the Buddha's fault, not Jesus Christ's fault. It is their own.


Everything Before Us said...

Okay Vance, one last time. Try really hard to follow me. Step outside your paradigms, and try to see inside a different one.

You said, "You and Flying Fig do not understand your own doctrine. Faith alone means just that: no need for commandments. If you believe that the commandments must need to be obeyed, then it's not faith alone.."

Faith alone for salvation. That doesn't mean that the commandments can be disobeyed. It means that obedience itself does not save. Obedience is a sign of saving faith.

Did you catch all that? Because it seems like you are really trying hard to not understand this.

Vance...if obedience is required for eternal life, then it has to be perfect obedience. No one can achieve this. Are you perfectly obedient? No? Of course not. Neither am I. But in your system, you are damned because of it. Because your system is, at best, a faith+works system.

Faith is the saving principle in a grace-based salvation. Obedience is the saving principle in a law-based salvation.

You can't mix the two systems. Hebrews 11:6. "And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work."

At best, you are trying to mix the two systems. Paul says you can't do it. And to the Galatians, he says that if you try to do it, you have fallen from grace. Thus, you are left with only your works-based salvation.

Which means, Vance....you need to be perfectly obedience. Ready...set....go. Don't mess up!

Anonymous said...

Anon 800a:

The person who knows the text better than anyone else, Skousen, sees a Reformation text with Reformation themes. Furthermore, he sees a book full of archaic vocabulary that wasn't used in Joseph Smith's time and isn't in the King James Bible. Also, he sees a book full of language that is old but which is not biblical in nature. The linguistic evidence is much stronger than literary thematic evidence, and the linguistic evidence argues strongly that JSJr was not the author.

suord said...

ebu, you know that Mormons think everyone will receive authorized ordinances, and so everyone will be equal before the law.

flying fig said...

“can you be saved without obeying the commandments?”
Based on what the Bible says, I believe so.
Luke 23 tells of the thief on the cross, at the end of his life, Christ saw his heart, the genuine belief and assured him he was saved. That’s the beauty of grace, if it’s true, genuine repentance, it doesn’t matter the number of our sins and no matter if we, or the world, think our sins are minor or extreme, it is never too late to repent and accept the free gift of salvation (Ephesians 2:8–9; Revelation 22:17). And as long as someone still has a mind and the will to choose life over death (Hebrews 9:27), it is not too late to proclaim the gospel.
The other amazing thing about grace. God knows the heart. If I get struck by a bus and killed I don’t have to worry if I happened have fallen into a sin the moment before. God knows if I there was a struggle with that sin or if I was intentionally sinning with no guilt or shame. Paul speaks of the war we’re battling daily with the flesh. But I know that the Holy Spirit lives in me because of that daily struggle. I don’t have to keep working, performing religious tasks, worrying to find out in the afterlife if I did enough to be saved or not. I can know right now that I am! Knowing that I have security that God has saved me, and in return there is a transformation happening in my life where I am becoming more and more like Christ, following His commandments the best I can because He has saved me
That’s the difference between someone who will intentionally sin thinking he can just pray “I believe” at the end of his life and slip in. God is not mocked. He knows the heart.
“Here's the question for Fig: is that "evidence of faith" required?”
Again, it’s a matter of the heart. God knows your heart. I can do all kinds of works in Christ’s name and without genuine faith it will get me nowhere. At the same time if someone genuinely accepts Christ as their savior and is immediately killed, I believe God sees the heart and will not cast them away

Everything Before Us said...

Well said Flying Fig. The gospel of grace is a scandal to those who want their own righteousness, rather than Christ's righteousness.

Everything Before Us said...

Flying fig brings out some good points. God knows the heart. A grace-based salvation makes God the judge. But a works-based salvation, like Mormonism, requires a human judge, like a bishop, to sit as a judge in Israel, to determine worthiness.

This is why grace-based salvation is not popular with totalitarian religions. It means human beings lose all power and authority to control other people's lives. This is at the heart of Christ's true message. And this is why he was so harsh with the Pharisees.

Vance said...

Well, EBU and Fig: you can try to walk up to Jesus and tell Him that His commandments don't mean anything; not really. And that sin doesn't matter, since you won't be punished for it.

You've pretty much both admitted that. If you commit adultery, God won't punish you for it, as long as you have faith. Of course, that's not what remotely what Jesus said (in fact, Jesus never mentions grace at all!), but Paul said Grace, not works. Surely that's what Paul meant, after all.

So you go ahead and believe that sin doesn't matter because there's no punishment. I will go ahead and believe that God meant what He said about following Him. You may follow your interpretation of Paul; but don't call those of us who focus on Peter (and also the other writings of Paul, the ones you never cite; the ones where he talks about reaping what you sow and so forth) unchristian.

Your religion paves the way for sin. Enjoy it! When the day comes that God judges you on your works, and you find out that in fact works and keeping God's commandments are required, you cannot say you were not warned.

Everything Before Us said...

Jesus never mentions grace at all!

Jesus never mentions eternal marriage at all.

But Jesus does talk about grace. He might not use the word, but he talks about it.

John 3:17 "For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved."

John 12:47 "If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world."

Everything Before Us said...

Paul would say, Vance, that your religion paves the way for sin, because it can't shut up about it!

Romans 7:7-8 "Well then, am I suggesting that the law of God is sinful? Of course not! In fact, it was the law that showed me my sin. I would never have known that coveting is wrong if the law had not said, “You must not covet.” But sin used this command to arouse all kinds of covetous desires within me!"

Everything Before Us said...

Vance, someday what Flying Fig and I are saying to you is going to finally click. It'll suddenly make sense. And it will be like looking into the brightness of a noonday sun, whereas before you were staring through a thick fog on a dark night.

It'll be a great day for you. I'll be here to celebrate with you. Seriously.

No...look me up on Facebook, darn it! John Cline. Find me. I am an ordinary guy. I teach art at a rural community college on the high plains. I'm married. Three daughters. I am going to go home in 4 minutes and steam so rice to go along with the homemade beef stew in the crock pot. I've got two dogs. I don't like either one of them, but my wife and kids do. And I am wondering how I am going to get rid of the weeds in my front yard.

So see? Harmless. Find me. My facebook friends are boring as can be. You'd be great. I'd love the fire you bring to conversations. I have Mormon facebook friends and non-Mormon facebook friends, and yes even apostate facebook friends. I am one of four kids. Mom, Dad, Sister adn two brothers...all still active Mormons. My Mom is die-hard. Dad a former bishop.

flying fig said...

@Vance, I'm sorry you're still missing the point

-Grace is a free gift that saves us:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — NOT BY WORKS, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2)

-Once saved we then strive to be more and more like Christ:
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

-Grace is not a license to sin:
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? (Gal 6)

-But when we do, we can be forgiven:
If we claim to be WITHOUT sin, we DECEIVE ourselves and the truth is NOT in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will FORGIVE us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John)

When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her,“Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” (John 8)

Everything Before Us said...

flying fig,

I am not sure if you are a former Mormon, but you might be interested to know that Mormon apostle Dallin Oaks made a point to show that Jesus technically didn't forgive the woman in adultery. To be forgiven, she still needed to work through the proper Priesthood channels.

So....that's Mormonism for you. How inspiring!

flying fig said...

I am not, but since moving to Utah I've become quite interested in this faith.

It's incredibly fascinating the similarities to the Judaizers of the NT. The legalism Jesus and the apostles were arguing against seems all to familiar here.

What I find most interesting is why Jesus would not only fail to mention proper Priesthood channels to this woman, but why would Christ and the disciples all fail to mention anything about the ordinances and principles that pertain to the exaltation in the celestial kingdom as found in LDS theology?

And I'm not mocking. What is the actual answer from the LDS view? Was it erased from ancient Biblical documents? Wouldn't we see something this important all over the Bible?

Everything Before Us said...

I have heard two views.

1. It was erased from the ancient Biblical documents.
2. These ordinances were only revealed to us in the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times, which began in 1820, with Joseph Smith.

The second view is probably not the majority view, but those Mormons who are aware of Biblical scholarship and the reliability of the Biblical manuscripts probably prefer it. The problem with it is, of course, that it makes Joseph Smith the mediator of a "newer" covenant: the New and Everlasting Covenant. Moses, Jesus, Joseph Smith. The three mediators of God's covenants.

It find the second view to be quite blasphemous.

Anonymous said...

So what does archaic English vocabulary have to do with the authenticity of the Book of Mormon? What's the explanation of the phenomenon? I just watched Skousen's lecture on this phenomenon and the examples he provides are what seem to me to be "idiotisms," which would be someone misusing a word or using a word that they think is the one smart people would use (or Biblical people would use) but which are incorrect in the context. Skousen claims that these are evidence of ancient text, but my question is to what end? The BoM has never claimed to have any connection to 15th century England. Why would 16th century uses of words do anything but demonstrate that Smith was uneducated and tha Skousen is good at using the OED to look up words.

Anonymous said...

Sorry. . . 15th = 16th. Not proofreading well.

Anonymous said...

#3 Would be that they were practiced anciently but, because they are considered so sacred, the rites and practices were never spelled out in print--they were passed down by word-of-mouth only. One theory I've heard is that the temple ceremonies are so similar to Masonic rites because the Masons actually still had a form of them that was passed on from Christ's time.

Anonymous said...

Three 19th century American themes off the top of my head:

1). America is a promised land held back for the righteous

2). The American Indians were descended from the Hebrews (many believed they were the lost tribes of Israel).

3). Fear of secret societies. Ever hear of the anti-masonic party? Pretty popular in Joseph's younger years.

James Anglin said...

It seems to me that Mormon apologists sometimes like to insist upon evidence instead of excuses and speculation. Sure, Joseph Smith might in principle have seen a map of Arabia once; but that's just speculation, so you can't discount NHM. Where is the evidence that Smith ever saw a map? Sure, a con man would not be expected to leave such evidence; but that's just an excuse.

Other times, however, speculation and excuses are no problem. Sure, the language of the Book of Mormon sounds awfully fake at first hearing; but we have alternative theories to account for why it reads like King James Version on steroids, so this supposed piece of evidence for fraud doesn't count. And there are no ruined cities; but they shouldn't be expected. The jungle covered them.

The fact is that both sides are lacking in evidence, and make excuses for its absence. Both sides present what each considers to be significant circumstantial evidence, for which the other side offers speculative explanations. If Mormons want to insist on hard evidence, with no excuses accepted, then fine: no-one has any right to call Joseph Smith a con man. But then no-one has any right to call him a prophet, either. Those who live by the sword also die by the sword.

I don't think the "no speculation" standard is really tenable for anything. Even getting up out of bed is an act of faith, at least for me. So for me it's only normal to deal with excuses and speculations. The questions remain, for both sides here: Are the excuses for missing evidence believable, or unconvincing? Are the speculations plausible, or contrived?

And, finally: after all the excuses and speculations have been weighed and evaluated, is the duly discounted weight of evidence really sufficient to support a conclusion as big as the one being claimed? Here, to my way of thinking, is the big Mormon weakness. The Mormon claim is something so big that it needs a lot of support.

Anonymous said...

Here's Skousen's Reformation list from a March 2015 lecture:
Burning heretics at the stake
Judgment before the bar of God
Secret combinations
Tyndale vs More debates
No infant or child baptism
Piety in living and worship
The eucharist (the bread and wine)
No private confession or penance
Trinitarian views preached
Church and state

Anonymous said...

"Why would 16th century uses of words do anything but demonstrate that Smith was uneducated and tha Skousen is good at using the OED to look up words."

Because if you use 50 words with old meanings appropriately it doesn't indicate you're uneducated, just that someone who might think that way has questionable judgment.

Everything Before Us said...

#3 Would be that they were practiced anciently but, because they are considered so sacred, the rites and practices were never spelled out in print--they were passed down by word-of-mouth only. One theory I've heard is that the temple ceremonies are so similar to Masonic rites because the Masons actually still had a form of them that was passed on from Christ's time

Yes...this is also a possibility. I am more inclined however to believe that the Masons didn't get them from Christ, but from the Pagan Mystery rites of the ancient world. Masonic lore of the 19th Century taught that God taught Freemasonry to Adam, and Adam passed it down to Seth, etc. Sounds like the same stuff Mormons teach about Priesthood.

George Oliver published a book in the very early 19th Century called Antiquities of Freemasonry, which lays out this history of Masonry. He uses language that would be very familiar to a Mormon's understanding of the history of Priesthood. Here is a list of other similar themes in this book.

Apostasy occurred when the pure masonry was perverted

Inspired prophets brought about dispensations by restoring pure masonry through “revealed truth”

Masonry existed before the creation of the earth

Many worlds created for the “residence of intelligent beings.”

“Pre-existent worlds...sons of God.”

“There existed also another order of beings before the world was created...expelled from the society of heaven for disobedience.”

“The angels who kept their first estate.”

“advancing to celestial perfection.”

“eternal life and ever-increasing happiness... and man would assuredly become equally powerful with God himself.”

“signs and tokens”

“sacred assemblies”

“the power of the priesthood”

“until we arrive at a perfect knowledge of the truth.”

“celestial and terrestrial bodies”

“taught that the gods they worshipped had been mere mortals like themselves.”

“...state of happiness or misery, to be determined by the deeds done in this probationary state.”

“the union of Judah and Israel by joining together two sticks.”

“square and compass point out the sacred source of his faith and the rectitude of his practice.”

“Joseph gave them the right hand of fellowship.”

Jethro gave Moses his “education for the priesthood.”

God gave Moses a “new sign and token.”

Referring to the true name of God: “He is called Elohim.”

“The darkness was so thick and palpable that artificial lights could not penetrate it...for the space of three days.”

“Fine twined linen.”

Everything Before Us said...

Now...we can say that God's pure truth can be found in many places, and that is why George Oliver's book contains this truth. But if so, why isn't George Oliver considered a prophet of the Restoration, when his book contains so many elements so essential to the unique doctrine and theology of Mormonism?

Frankly, I think it is far more likely Joseph Smith, with a father and a brother who were Masons, was influenced by these Masonic ideas, even long before he, himself, was initiated.

Anonymous said...

ebu, I appreciate your hard work on this matter, but you're going to have a difficult time making your arguments more conclusive than the witnesses, the chiasmus, the Nahom complex, the obsolete vocabulary, the obsolete grammar. All that substantial evidence constitutes an extremely high hurdle to overcome and it points directly to a divine translation. The evidence you work with doesn't come close to being as concrete or convincing as those items. While I don't expect you to change your mind, I hope it leads you to silently tolerate the position your extended family holds.

Anonymous said...

Why do "obsolete" grammar and vocabulary point to a divine translation? I don't see the connection between a text "translated" in the 19th century that was supposedly written ending by 421AD and English language constructions from th 16th century. What's the connection and why is it important?

Anonymous said...

This seems to be further evidence of 19th century themes surfacing in the Book of Mormon

Anonymous said...

Oh wait, none of that was in the book.

James Anglin said...

Anonymous 5:59 lists "the witnesses, the chiasmus, the Nahom complex, the obsolete vocabulary, [and] the obsolete grammar" as the substantial evidence for the Book of Mormon being a divine translation of ancient texts.

So are those five items now the batting order for the Book of Mormon team? They happen to be the only arguments that I remember right now. Are they also the ones that Mormons remember?

Everything Before Us said...

This seems to be further evidence of 19th century themes surfacing in the Book of Mormon. Oh wait, none of that was in the book.

Right...themes from Antiquities of Freemasonry aren't in the Book of Mormon, which is in itself evidence that:

1. Joseph Smith greatly changed course after the publication of the Book of Mormon, and began to introduce more Masonic/occultic ideas into the religion.

2. Someone else was responsible for the Book of Mormon's doctrine, and this someone else became less influential in the direction of Mormonism as the years passed, allowing Smith to introduce more Masonic/occultic ideas into the religion.

Whatever view we take, the enormous gap between BoM doctrine and theology and current LDS doctrine and theology poses some serious questions.

1. When Mormons talk about the "plain and precious" (a 19th century expression) truth that has been lost from the Bible, they are usually referring to those vital doctrines of eternal family, eternal progression, etc,, that are not in the Bible. The Book of Mormon was supposed to restore the lost plain and precious truth. But these doctrines are not in the BoM either. So, exactly what "plain and precious" truth does the BoM restore?

2. If the "witnesses, the chiasmus, the Nahom complex, the obsolete vocabulary and grammar" are sufficient evidence for the BoM as a divine book, why did the LDS church so soon depart from the simple gospel message of the BoM? Seriously, how in the world can the polygamist church under the tyrannical hand of Brigham Young, who was pulling from the tithing coffers to enrich himself, represent in any way the kind of church described in the BoM? And how can the church today, which is building office buildings, cities, shopping malls, apartment complexes, and operating radio stations, newspapers, and hunting preserves be built upon the BoM?

Anonymous said...

ebu: "When Mormons talk about the "plain and precious" (a 19th century expression) truth that has been lost from the Bible,"

Well, a Baptist preacher from Bristol is known to have used that particular phrase in the 1650s. So once again you have overstated the position, acting in this case as an overzealous apologist. Of course, the reason you consider the phrase to be a 19c expression stems from your ideology and the fact that there were more books published in each passing decade after the English civil war period, and that printing became better and clearer, so OCR'ing is better, and that there is more digitization, etc. Furthermore, phrases usually have more time depth than people think. Simple phrases like "plain and precious" with a couple of conjoined adjectives are not as strong evidence for the authorship question as syntax is -- verb agreement patterns, phrase structure, etc. (of which hath been spoken). Moreover, the mutually supportive obsolete vocabulary is extremely strong evidence because of the complexity of word meaning and its unpredictability in changing over time.

Anglin: those five items are in chronological order of occurrence. Of course the witnesses are first, Welch noticed and began to research BofM chiasmus in the 1960s, the Nahom complex (north and east of the pivot) was first recognized in the late 1970s, Skousen first considered obsolete meaning in the 1990s as part of the critical text project, and he began to consider extrabiblical obsolete grammar in the 2000s in his 6-part ATV. Carmack expanded this research recently, and there it is at the moment. Others would add other items to the list, no doubt, but these seem to be the most concrete to me. Cheers.

ebu et al: On 19c thematic lists and 16c Reformation lists. This is an area where inconclusive argumentation vis-a-vis BofM authorship can continue indefinitely. If you wish to engage in that, if it's of interest to you, then by all means engage in it. But in these soft areas you're mistaken if you think you're making headway on the question of whether JSJr was the author of the BofM or the re-transmitter of revealed words.

Everything Before Us said...

It doesn't matter how far back in time "plain and precious" goes. It was being used in 19th Century Christian literature. It might go back to the 1650's. It might go back to the 1560's. It might date back to 1400. It doesn't matter. It is an English construction that was at some point used for the first time, and most likely, thanks to the nice alliteration, it caught on. It is an uniquely English expression because of the unique way the "P" sounds repeat.

It wouldn't work in French. In fact, it doesn't. "Plain and precious things" becomes "ces choses claires at precieuses." And most likely, assuming that the BoM is Hebrew written in an Egyptian script, we wouldn't expect to find the same poetic quality that we find in the English "plain and precious."

So, at the very least, an English expression that was being used at the time found its way into the English Book of Mormon. Whether you like it or not, that IS evidence of 19th Century origins.

This isn't, of itself, a problem, though. Because it is a translation. Of course English words are going to show up. But this isn't just a case of English words showing up. This is a case of an English idiom showing up.

That is a different kind of beast. Idioms may have counterparts in different languages, but not always. Idioms are generally untranslatable. For instance, the Japanese idiom "wabi-sabi." There is no English translation. If this showed up in a book being translated into English, there would be no way of fully capturing the full meaning of "wabi-sabi" in as succinct and tidy a way. You'd need at least a sentence to describe it.

The appearance of "plain and precious" in the Book of Mormon is just one of many such issues. There are many other phrases and expressions that are also in 19th Century Christian literature. Many others. I've documented and listed them here before.

We'd have to assume that the Nephites were teaching the same things that 19th Century Protestants were teaching in the U.K. and the U.S.

It's is utterly ridiculous. And this problem is actually only compounded by the fact that there are obsolete English grammatical constructions.

English idioms. English phrases found in English Christian 19th Century discourse. Obsolete English grammatical constructions. What the heck! The Book of Mormon seems more like it came out of English speaking cultures. Not Semitic cultures living in the Ancient Americas.

Come on....you accuse me of pooh-poohing the chiasmus and NHM. But you apparently really cannot see what seems like an obvious problem for you case.

I will never take the obsolete English grammar seriously until someone can tell me the significance of this. Sure... it may show that Smith couldn't have authored it. But it definitely doesn't help the case that it is a book written by ancient Jews. Surely you can see that.

But please,...Sure...Smith couldn't have written it. But tell me how the obsolete English is to make me believe it was written by ancient American cultures? That is what I am waiting to find out.

James Anglin said...

I'm still unable to see why these "obsolete" words and constructions really couldn't have been written by Smith. I think that Mormon apologists have just snatched hopefully at the word "obsolete" without looking hard at what it actually means. In fact I'm pretty sure that "obsolete" just means that a word or construction has come to be considered old-fashioned, such that hardly anybody ever uses it any more when they're talking normally. I'm pretty sure it does not mean that all memory of the word or construction has been erased from people's minds. Old books are still on the shelves, and people still read them. People can speak old-fashioned when they choose.

I admit I'm not a linguist. But I know quite a lot of linguists, because I'm married to a linguistics professor. My expectations about linguistic facts have often turned out to be wrong, but my expectations about what questions are important in linguistics have a good track record. So even if I'm wrong about what linguistic obsolescence means, I'm really pretty sure that I'm at least right that it's an important question, and not just something one can glibly brush off.

Is it not just unusual to produce obsolete constructions, but downright impossible?

When I see Mormon apologists taking that question seriously, instead of brushing it away as fast as they can, then maybe I'll be more impressed by their obsolescence arguments.

Anonymous said...

James, you need to read the evidence Skousen has presented. Take counsel in Alma 37:37. Now it reads "counsel with the Lord". It originally read "counsel the Lord". There's another one like it in Alma 39:10. The OED has three examples, from Wycliff in the 1380s to an Anglican bishop John Hooper in the 1540s. He wrote "Moses..counselled the Lord". The meaning died out sometime after that, probably within decades, so the OED labeled it obsolete, probably in the late 1800s, and they're generally conservative in their judgments. Almost certainly not old-fashioned but dead and forgotten. There are many similar cases in the BofM, dozens of them, each one unique but involving a declaration of obsolescence of meaning/usage by the OED. The dozens of possible instances support each other. If you want to think that JSJr was a philologist, you can. Or if you want to think they were part of a conservative dialect he spoke and that he produced dozens of them but no one else ever did, you can. If you want to think that the OED was wrong about obsolescence in 50 or so cases with large gaps in attestation, the last ones being the BofM, you can. Again, read some of Skousen's writings when you have a chance. It's not worth your time to make judgments without study.

Anonymous said...

What about those of us who have made judgements after study? You seem to dismiss us just as easily as being ignorant because our judgments don't agree with your conclusions.

One of Skousen's examples of obsolete grammar that stood out to me was the use of "casting stones and arrows." Skousen's claim is that one doesn't cast arrows in modern speech but could cast arrows in 16th century usage. This would be a strong argument if the phrase was solely "they did cast arrows at their enemies." It's pretty obvious, however that casting stones is very biblical language. The arrows part is an afterthought, or rather secondary to the stones. If one were dictating, it is quite easy to see how arrows could be attached to the verb usage of stones rather than taking the time to slow down to give arrows their own correct verb usage. Observe everyday speech. This sort of thing happens frequently. To me there is stronger evidence here for incorrect usage (or possibly verbal usage vs prosal usage) than there is of ancient, obsolete usage.

Pretty much all of Skousen's examples are easily explainable like this. He sees them as examples of an ancient work (whose ancientness isn't tied to any claims previously thought or made about the Book of Mormon). I see them as evidence that 1) the Book of Mormon was dictated, and 2) the dictator oftentimes made mistakes in language indicative of his level of formal education.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1019, many of skousen's examples aren't explainable like this. cast arrows is a biblical one that isn't a strong one. that's apparently your approach. focus on the weak ones and dismiss the strong ones. there are many strong ones. skousen hasn't published many of them. carmack recently published a preliminary list that is still missing itms. but if, depart, belove (active-voice verb), etc. are strong and not easily explainable and aren't biblical. scatter and choice aren't biblical

James Anglin said...

This is why Skousen and Cormack really have to publish in mainstream linguistics journals, and present their work at mainstream, secular conferences.

There is no good reason why they couldn't. Mainstream interest is broad; and mainstream academia prides itself on being broad-minded. If the analysis is sound, the Mormon context will absolutely not be any bar to publication. Even if several papers were published, that would be very far short of anything like a proof of Book of Mormon authenticity — so by no means would secular journals be reluctant to publish papers that tended to support the Book of Mormon. On the contrary, a secular journal would rather pique itself on having published a Mormon paper — if it really passed muster — as proof of just how broad-minded and academically neutral the journal was.

But passing muster isn't so easy. Major figures in the field will not bow to Skousen's claims to authority; they'll be perfectly ready to call BS on any overblown claims. What does the OED really mean by "obsolete"? To me, a mere physicist, the OED is an authority. But there are plenty of people out there who could have written the OED entries, and are fully qualified to debate them.

What do those people say about Skousen and Carmack? We haven't heard from them. Why not?

Everything Before Us said...


I agree. The Book of Mormon is a fairly significant work in the history of religion in the United States. From that perspective, Skousen's and Carmack's work would be of great interest to many historians. Scholars who specialize in religious history, linguistics, American history, anthropologists, etc. All of these people would find this research of great interest.

This is all entirely separate and distinct from apologetics. If there truly is obsolete English grammar in the Book of Mormon, the analysis of this grammar would would very important to our understanding of the evolution of the English language.

The problem is that neither Skousen nor Carmack (correct me if I am wrong) are doing this research purely from a historical point-of-view. They are engaging in it as an act of apologetics, as a means of providing evidence for that which cannot be determine empirically. Of course, there is no respectable periodical that would touch that. But if they reworked their thesis, I think they could find a lot of interest.

I don't know why they don't do this. There are a lot of people out there with expertise that could be brought to the table. If they fire the first shot, there could be a response from others with a variety of different talents, training, credentials, and expertise. Alternative views could be brought forward. Certain points could be elaborated on.

If they really are on to something here with the EModE research, this is the most responsible and most logical next step.

James Anglin said...

I think that's right. And I'm afraid that the longer they go on proclaiming obsolete words and grammar only to in-house Mormon audiences, the more non-Mormons like me are going to conclude that their claims don't really hold water.

We don't doubt them just because we don't want to accept the Book of Mormon. Everything Skousen and Cormack say could be true, and there would still remain plenty of reasons not to accept the Book of Mormon. We non-Mormons could easily afford to let this one go.

We don't doubt them just because we worship peer review, either. We doubt them because their claims sound outlandish; they go against common sense. Common sense says that it's easy enough to imitate old-fashioned language. Claims that Joseph Smith couldn't possibly have produced language like the Book of Mormon go against common sense.

Common sense can be wrong, of course. And expert knowledge can confirm that. But to confirm that common sense is totally wrong in this case, we really need some independent expert verdicts. So these particular claims really need peer review. The longer they go on without it, the further their credibility slips.

Anonymous said...

Two interesting quotes from Carmack's "Nonstandard" Book of Mormon Grammar:

"There is now clear and convincing evidence that the BofM is, in large part, an independent, structurally sound EModE text."

"In large part." Shouldn't it be either/or if you are making an argument that its nonstandard-ness is standard? You shouldn't be picking and choosing if you want your argument to hold any weight. He spent an awful lot of ink to come to the conclusion that only part of the book conforms with EModE. Also, where do you go when your grammar fails to meet the standards of the day? A time period in which there was no standard.

A second, interesting quote from Carmack's essay:

The presence of these impersonal verb phrases in the BofM is an indication of the historical range of the book’s language.

He's really making lemonade out of lemons here. It reminds me of when my wife and I managed apartments. We were instructed to, rather than saying an apartment was small, sell it as "a real step saver." "Historical range of the language" can be translated to "I am picking whatever time period best fits the argument I'm trying to make." I will assure you brethren that is one of the most correct translations you will ever find.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1112's presumption is great. S/he doesnt know earlier English as well as Skousen or Carmack, doesn't know the form of the earliest text as well as Skousen or Carmack, yet is confident in making inaccurate assertions. Shades of yesteryear. Get and study Grammatical Variation, published in April. Enjoy.

Anonymous said...

Ass u me

James Anglin said...

@Anon. 4:48 —

Advancing a scholarly thesis is like building a house. It has to stay snug and solid through all winds and storms.

Not everyone can build like that. It's a demanding trade. It's so demanding, in fact, that few practitioners are perfect. Lots of windows are drafty. Many a roof springs a leak.

It doesn't take a master builder to notice water dripping from the ceiling. And it's not a good builder who tells a wet tenant, "You can't complain about my roof until you've studied my trade."

Anonymous said...

Okay, lemonade, it's your turn to demonstrate some specific knowledge on the subject beyond vague assertions.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:18

I've pointed out two specific examples of flaws in the overall argument of Carmack's work. Before that, I have also pointed out specific examples of flaws in the argument of Skousen's assertions. All you've been able to respond with is "you don't know what you're talking about." Time to up your game and stop assuming that because one doesn't agree with your point of view, one is under-educated or uninformed.

Anglin--very well put. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Anon 618, your input was so meager that I guess I didn't think you would consider it to be substantive. Check out the list in this article by Carmack http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/joseph-smith-read-the-words/. I also heard in an April presentation from Skousen that many more words and phrases will be analyzed in a 2017 critical text publication.

Everything Before Us said...

Again, for just about the hundredth time, besides proving that Joseph Smith didn't write the Book of Mormon, what conclusion am I expected to draw from the fact that there is early modern English constructions in the Book of Mormon? What is the point!? This is so exasperating!

Joseph Smith didn't write it. Okay. Fine. What is Skousen's and Carmack's theories about why these obsolete English expressions are in the book? What is the point?!

Anonymous said...

Here's someone's take on it, which I don't necessarily subscribe to: The most probable reason for the Lord having done this is for internal confirming evidence that no one of the Nineteenth Century could possibly have written the Book of Mormon. “Signs follow those who believe.” (D&C 63:9)

Another speculative view is that early modern English was a fully formed, expressive, stable, respected language that harmonized with all the King James language.

Another speculative view is that the Lord had it translated into English and other languages at various points in time, and that it was partially updated periodically, leaving vestiges of earlier translation stages. Then, when the Lord decided in his own due time that the time and place had arrived for human delivery, it was accomplished.


Everything Before Us said...

If God wanted to give some evidence that the book wasn't the product of the 19th Century, he could've provided the same kind of historical/archaeological evidence like that which is in great abundance for the Bible, a truly authentic ancient document.

Strange it is that the scriptural record of the Messiah's actual life on earth apparently does not require the same level of magical belief that the Nephite's record requires. The record of Christ's life is in a book for which numerous manuscripts exist. And the places and events of which can be historically and archaeologically verified.

The primary evidence that Joseph Smith was actually a prophet of God, and not a fraud, in other words, the Book of Mormon itself, requires of us a different level of faith and trust. Some might say that this is the mysterious working of God. I say it more closely resembles the pattern of a fraud.

Anonymous said...

Whatever. You asked for speculation and you got it and then condemned it. Speculation isn't terribly interesting. You do know that your attacking views, when it comes to the BofM, are not terribly interesting either and speculative as well. Like when you find a 19c phrase, don't look for it in the 17c, and declare it to be evidence of 19c origins. Pretty weak stuff, ebu.

Everything Before Us said...

Anon 3:02

You misunderstand my research into the 19th century phrases. It doesn't matter to me exactly when the phrase is coined. The fact that it is still in usage in Christian writing in the 19th Century is all that is important. Especially when the phrase isn't just a phrase, but a particular Christian doctrine that didn't have existence until European theologians constructed it, as is the case with the Satisfaction Theory of Atonement, which was developed by Medieval theologians.

That fact that the BoM prophets speak of "satisfying the demands of justice" is practically all the proof necessary to disprove the Book of Mormon as an ancient Jewish record. This is not Biblical. It is an interpretation of the New Testament atonement doctrine developed by St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Anselm of Canterbury. This should not be showing up in a Jewish document prior to the Middle Ages.

You choose to ignore the point that I am making. When I ask for the point behind Skousen's and Carmack's theories, I don't ever hear any, except those which still require me to believe in a trickster God who likes to intentionally make the road of faith particularly challenging.

Anonymous said...

Suppose "satisfying the demands of justice" conveys an eternal truth in a particularly powerful way. The Lord could have inspired others at different times with the same truth. Alternately, even it was absolutely developed later, as you say, it still would be appropriate in a loose translation carried out by the Lord if it was true, whether or not it roughly tracked what had been said in BofM times.

It's a shame, ebu, that you are such a negative personality. Trickster God?! You cannot be serious. The road to faith made particularly challenging?! Totally lame. Life ain't easy and it is challenging, but I suspect that it's your personality or hangups that make things seem like God made it intentionally beyond someone's ability to handle. Good night and good luck.

Anonymous said...

:^) I think the last time I heard that argument was in grade school. Thanks for reminding me.

Everything Before Us said...

anon 8:15

You have to be more specific. I have no idea to whom or what you are referring.

Anon 6:03

Yes..trickster God. "Here are two commandments. You can't keep one without breaking the other. And Satan is going to come along and tempt you to break the commandment I gave you on threat of death, but which I really want you to break."

And yes..life is hard. Because of the Fall, which Mormons think was a good thing. It is really hard. Which is why I really hope God doesn't intentionally make the path back to him extra hard by devising schemes whereby our faith will be especially tested.

James Anglin said...

Satisfaction theories of the Atonement were a medieval development, as Everything says. So to a neutral observer it seems like a problem, at least at first thought, that a supposedly ancient text contains this anachronistic concept. The supposed Nephite authors should not have thought in those terms, whereas Joseph Smith might well not have been able to help thinking in them.

Mormon apologists can then try to explain away the apparent anachronism, by raising hypothetical scenarios within which either the divine translation, or the divine inspiration of the original authors, might have introduced a concept that would otherwise have been ahead of its time. These scenarios of divine inspiration can't help but be vague, because no-one can say exactly what God would have done, or how or why God would have done it. It's just a matter of raising a hypothetical possibility which could in principle have been the case, consistent with Mormon assumptions about the Book of Mormon.

In particular there is no positive evidence to support these hypothetical speculations about what God might have done to the text. In fact it's inherently unlikely that there ever even could be evidence. If God chose to inspire some Nephite writer with concepts that later struck Augustine, God probably would not have carved "I inspired this guy with medieval theology" on any mountain just to tip off posterity about how it went down.

And that's all fine. If you believe in God, and take the possibility of divine inspiration seriously, then explanations involving divine inspiration are of course on the table. They tend not to be testable; them's the breaks.

The only beef I have is when Mormon apologists explain away negative evidence with hypothetical scenarios in this way, and then turn around and complain that skeptics are always explaining away positive evidence for the Book of Mormon with mere speculations about a hypothetical act of fraud for which there is no explicit evidence. So no matter how long the list of negative evidence may be, none of it counts at all, if Mormon apologists have been able to construct speculative explanations for each point; and yet critics are to be rebuked for responding to positive evidence with nothing but speculative explanations.

This is having your cake and eating it, too; it's the pot calling the kettle black. Whatever else you do, however you end up weighing positive and negative evidence, you can't use such a blatant double standard. Either accept that skeptical fraud scenarios count as answers to apologetic arguments, or else accept that a problematic issue in the Book of Mormon remains a problem even when you can explain it with a miracle.

Anonymous said...

William Smith's words about the plates:

"I was permitted to lift them as they lay in a pillow case; but not to see them, as it was contrary to the commands he had received. They weighed about sixty pounds according to my best judgment. They were not quite as large as this Bible. ... One could easily tell that they were not stone, hewn out to deceive, or even a block of wood. Being a mixture of gold and copper, they were much heavier than stone, and very much heavier than wood."


Many other witness statements available there. Many would stand up in a court of law.

Anonymous said...

James, hard, technical aspects of the text tell us that no 19c author could have written the BofM. Opposing that is thematic evidence that appears to be anachronistic. So the book wasn't authored by a 19c person but it has themes that aren't attested till later in the Christian era. But wait, the book centers on a splinter group that had prophets who received eternal truths from God. So one cannot say, as ebu would like to, that apparently anachronistic material in the text was impossible and proves something definitive. The hard textual evidence is extremely strong, and the thematic evidence is weak.

Everything Before Us said...

hard, technical aspects of the text tell us that no 19c author could have written the BofM. Opposing that is thematic evidence that appears to be anachronistic. So the book wasn't authored by a 19c person but it has themes that aren't attested till later in the Christian era. But wait, the book centers on a splinter group that had prophets who received eternal truths from God. So one cannot say, as ebu would like to, that apparently anachronistic material in the text was impossible and proves something definitive. The hard textual evidence is extremely strong, and the thematic evidence is weak.

It is a shame that you do not see all the many problems with this paragraph, yet present it here as if it a strong argument.

You always need to be careful to claim that something could not have been done (in this case...no 19th Century author could've written it).

Amazing things happen. And they aren't miraculous. But just because Joseph Smith couldn't have written the book doesn't mean therefore that God did it. If you stop short, you might miss some very important information.

And of course, if God can reveal Medieval doctrine to ancient Americans, one could still always pose an equally supernatural explanation: demonic activity. (He was looking into a peep stone, you know...an activity that I guarantee you the current leadership would frown upon, if the average Joe-member was engaging in it.)

The Book of Mormon is quite a Christian book. But what it leads a person into is a church that espouses doctrines that contradict the Book of Mormon, and Christian doctrines. Thus, from one perspective, the BoM can easily appear as bait to trap someone into an organization that soon departs from its Christian origins.

I suppose if God can inspire Nephites to write Medieval doctrine, then Satan could inspire Joseph Smith to write chiasmus.

Anonymous said...

ebu: "You always need to be careful to claim that something could not have been done".

That is of course what you frequently do, ebu.

Another interesting item to consider is that JSJr dictated an exceedingly complex book without any prior history, as Robert Rees has pointed out. There were no prior writings that led to and enabled Smith to issue his masterpiece. It came out of the blue, again pointing to the divine.

James Anglin said...

What "hard, technical aspects" prove that the Book of Mormon could not have been written in the 19th century? Physically, obviously, it was. 19th century hands and pens had no trouble in forming its letters.

The only "hard, technical" details that I have seen have seemed to me to rest on clearly dubious assumptions about the limits of human creativity in language use. Stanford Carmack, for instance, seems to believe that people literally cannot use outdated words or grammatical constructions. This strikes me as not "hard" or "technical", but merely wishful thinking.

I am not a linguist. So maybe the way things "strike me" is just wrong. Stanford Carmack has a PhD from a decent school in a somewhat relevant field. Maybe he knows better than me.

Alas, though, plenty of people with PhDs have written garbage. Indeed there are few ideas so mad or stupid that one cannot find a single PhD of some sort, somewhere in the world, who will endorse them. If the "hard, technical" proof that the Book of Mormon is not 19th century boils down to the un-reviewed assertions of a few eccentric scholars, then this isn't really "hard, technical" evidence at all.

Anonymous said...

And we now have 200 posts.


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