Jump to content

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

Bill Hamblin

Maximalists vs. Minimalists

Recommended Posts

All language has a range of meaning. All texts require interpretation. I believe there are two fundamental schools of BOM interpretation that I call Maximalists and Minimalists.

By Maximalist I refer to interpretations of the BOM which understand words and texts to refer to the largest and broadest possible range of meaning. The Hemispheric geography is the classic example, but the same mindset is used to interpret almost everything in the BOM. Thus, if a horse is mentioned one in a text, all Nephites in all periods of Nephite history must have had many, many horses. Furthermore, the horses must have been ridden just like those of the 19th century (even if the text does not mention horse riding); if one metal sword is mentioned, all Nephite swords in all periods of history must be metal swords; then for the BOM to be true there must furthermore be thousands of steel saber-armed cavalry, even though no horse is even mentioned in any combat narrative.

The Minimalist school interprets the text by assuming the narrowest interpretation consistent with the text. This plays out in both the LGT and the interpretation of swords as macahuitls, etc.

Now logically speaking, for the BOM to be historical all that is required is that the Minimalists are right. If there really were Nephites, but they only lived in a part of Mesoamerica and fought with macahuitls, then the BOM is still true no matter how many Mormons (and anti-Mormons) might have interpreted it as hemispheric.

Interestingly, as far as I can tell, although there were pro-Mormon Maximalists in the past, now all Mormons arguing here are Minimalists, while (as far as I can tell) all anti-Mormons arguing here are Maximalists. Furthermore, the anti-Mormons consistently insist that pro-Mormons must prove Maximalists claims. If Mormons fail to sustain Maximalists interpretations of the text (which they actually don

Share this post


Link to post
there must furthermore be thousands of steel saber-armed cavalry, even though no horse is even mentioned in any combat narrative.

LOL, which is kinda silly as an assumption when fairly long into the BOM timeline men are showing up for battle with little more than a loin-cloth for body armor. One should quickly get the idea that resources for most people described in the book were very limited, regardless of the words used.

Share this post


Link to post

This thread needs to be renamed to, "Honey, I shrunk the Book of Mormon!"

Share this post


Link to post
This thread needs to be renamed to, "Honey, I shrunk the Book of Mormon!"

How about, Honey, I popped Mr. Shades's Balloon!?

Mr. Shades insists that the most na

Share this post


Link to post

Is "Nother" a word? I kind of like that one? It sounds very "Utahish."

How many "nother" wives do you have?

Do you attend that "nother" university up on the hill?

The Book of Mormon: "Nother" Testament of Jesus Christ

I wonder if I could work this into one of my briefs and get away with it? Heck, based on some of the brief I've read, I could probably write it in French and no one would notice. (But that's "nother" story!).

C.I.

Share this post


Link to post

The trouble that I've had reading about the lgt is that it's not clear to me how much of it is a better understanding of the text in relation to actual history and how much of it is an attempt to simply open the possibilities for the book of mormon to be historical. What I mean is that the minimalist view allows a lot of freedom to make any word in the book of mormon mean almost anything other than what it means to readers like me who grew up with I think is the traditional view. I've been reading a book called echoes and evidences and while I enjoy it, sometimes theories seem too convenient, like if you applied the approach to any proposition, you could make the argument that it's not disprovable. I'm very new to all this, but I would have to say that I think I fall somewhere between being a minimalist and a maximalist. I think we shouldn't be afraid of some words or descriptions that don't fit the time period. Maybe we'll find steel or horses one day.

Share this post


Link to post

Good point, Bill. I think this is a useful distinction to understand some of what goes on in pro/anti debates.

(This is similar, I think, in some ways to the distinction Shades tried to make between 'internet' and 'chapel' mormons. Minimalist thought prevails among the members here, and maximalist ideas seem dominant in the members I know from 'real life'. I guess you are mostly refering to the Book of Mormon in your distinction, but it is similar to the fundamentalist/liberal difference juliann sometimes mentions.)

I think the perception that Maximalist thought dominates the general membership is at least part of why it is difficult for some to accept the Minimalist line of thought as valid. I'm sure no one has hard data on this kind of thing, but it is my perception that maximalism prevails in almost every non-internet discussion of both the BoM and other issues. (I imagine this is NOT everyone's experience, especially Daniel Peterson's and Bill's.)

Of course, even if most members are maximalist in their approach to the BoM, that doesn't say much about whether they are right. I also get the impression that the more informed members are more likely to be minimalist, unless they are also 'fundamentalist', and have trouble separating (past) authorities maximalist statements from actual revelation.

(I'm not deriding those who have trouble making the separation, by the way. I understand that it can be a difficult issue.)

Share this post


Link to post

AndyOne:

I think we shouldn't be afraid of some words or descriptions that don't fit the time period. Maybe we'll find steel or horses one day.

Of course that is true. Secular historians and archaeologists are very familiar with the caution required in dealing with our understanding of the past. However, the idea that the only thing the Limited Geography Theory does is open a possible explanation for potentially anomalous steel or horses ignores the vast majority of the work done on (and with) the LGT. The reason you read the Book of Mormon closely for historical data is to learn more about the real people behind it - not to see if you can explain away horses. The positive work in linking the Book of Mormon to a historical framework provides a place in which possible exceptions may be understood. Those correlations stand on their own, however, and are sufficiently significant that whatever "horse" means it has a context into which it fits that accurately represents a real time and place.

Share this post


Link to post

> Is "Nother" a word? I kind of like that one? It sounds very "Utahish."

==Nah. It's "Tatooinish," as is evident in the script from Star Wars:

LUKE: Yes, sir. I think those new droids are going to work out fine. In fact, I, uh, was also thinking about our agreement about my staying on another season. And if these new droids do work out, I want to transmit my application to the Academy this year.

Owen's face becomes a scowl, although he tries to suppress it.

OWEN: You mean the next semester before harvest?

LUKE: Sure, there're more than enough droids.

OWEN: Harvest is when I need you the most. Only one more season. This year we'll make enough on the harvest so I'll be able to hire some more hands. And then you can go to the Academy next year.

Luke continues to toy with his food, not looking at his uncle.

OWEN: You must understand I need you here, Luke.

LUKE: But it's a whole 'nother year.

OWEN: Look, it's only one more season.

Share this post


Link to post

This is an excellant thread. Distribution of ground (which i don't mean as a pun [given the LGT discussion], but just as the constraints on what arguments may be accessed) is a necessary prerequisite to making progress in any debate. I really hope the critics take this up seriously. The choices are of course to say that their arguments don't rely on maximalist views or to show that the minimalist understanding is implausbile. I think this dichotomy may offer some good explanatory leverage here.

Share this post


Link to post

So, would a belief that the Book of Mormon never took place at all be a maximalist approach, or are they just one stop ahead of the minimalists?

Share this post


Link to post
Is "Nother" a word? I kind of like that one? It sounds very "Utahish."

Until reading Dr. P's post, I'd never seen the word, only heard it. And I hear it often. "That's a whole nother issue", etc.

I've heard it said often - by different kinds of people with different backgrounds.

Anyone know the story?

Wunna

Share this post


Link to post
So, would a belief that the Book of Mormon never took place at all be a maximalist approach, or are they just one stop ahead of the minimalists?

IMO, the maximalist position takes two basic forms:

1) People who hold to the traditional view, which does not fit with what the BoM actually says, or misinterpretations of what the BoM says.

2) People who should know better, after reading the evidence, yet continue to view such things as the Panama Canal as "the narrow neck". If you add "neck" to "narrow", it just has to be the Panama Canal. Talk about presumptions. Then add that to Joseph's "naive" view of geography and history to come up with this traditional view. But wait, he could produce the BoM, right? He was no illiterate, right? So he was both a genius and a fool at the same time. Very convenient.

Share this post


Link to post
So, would a belief that the Book of Mormon never took place at all be a maximalist approach, or are they just one stop ahead of the minimalists?

I believe this would be the Nihilist approach. But once again Cinepro demonstrates that he doesn't understand what is going on.

Everyone I have encountered here arguing for an ahistorical BOM (including Cinepro) do so based on the presupposition that for the BOM to be historical the Maximalist interpretation must be proven correct. Hence, although they reject historicity, they attempt to force the believers to prove that the Maximalist interpretation is true, even though the believers in historicity are Minimalists. Hence they are making Maximalist arguments AGAINST the BOM.

Share this post


Link to post
2) People who should know better, after reading the evidence, yet continue to view such things as the Panama Canal as "the narrow neck". If you add "neck" to "narrow", it just has to be the Panama Canal. Talk about presumptions. Then add that to Joseph's "naive" view of geography and history to come up with this traditional view. But wait, he could produce the BoM, right? He was no illiterate, right? So he was both a genius and a fool at the same time. Very convenient.

Ray, are you including the many, many faithful Church members over the years who have been (mistakenly) taught that Book of Mormon events encompassed the entire hemisphere and believed those teachings in your appraisal? Or just doubters?

Share this post


Link to post

"The Minimalist school interprets the text by assuming the narrowest interpretation consistent with the text..""

And how does it play out in sunday school when everyone reads the the text according to the "Maximalist" school?

Or do the "textual layers" only affect the parts that can be easily falsified, and not discourses on doctrine and so forth?

Share this post


Link to post
"The Minimalist school interprets the text by assuming the narrowest interpretation consistent with the text..""

And how does it play out in sunday school when everyone reads the the text according to the "Maximalist" school?

Or do the "textual layers" only affect the parts that can be easily falsified, and not discourses on doctrine and so forth?

In my ward it plays just fine, since no one that I'm aware of really cares about the topic that much.

You keep forgetting that we aren't fundamentalists and we simply aren't bound with the tethers the maximalists (see fundamentalists) wish to bind us with.

C.I.

Share this post


Link to post
2) People who should know better, after reading the evidence, yet continue to view such things as the Panama Canal as "the narrow neck". If you add "neck" to "narrow", it just has to be the Panama Canal. Talk about presumptions. Then add that to Joseph's "naive" view of geography and history to come up with this traditional view. But wait, he could produce the BoM, right? He was no illiterate, right? So he was both a genius and a fool at the same time. Very convenient.

Ray, are you including the many, many faithful Church members over the years who have been (mistakenly) taught that Book of Mormon events encompassed the entire hemisphere and believed those teachings in your appraisal? Or just doubters?

Cinepro, I mentioned before one of my first institute teachers in 1975, one of the most devoted Latter-day Saints I ever met, cue in hand, explaining to us on a blackboard the "narrow neck" as the Panama Canal.

In later years, as a seminary teacher, and after having actually read the evidence, I recall that he changed his position. Remember, it was not until c.1985 that many of us had to, perhaps for the first time, really think about what we believed.

If you study the evidence carefully, it is the only conclusion you can come to, unless you believe that God wiped out all evidence of two civilisations in the NY area. That is not the case with Mesoamerica.

On the other hand, if I thought there was no evidence at all, I'd be very worried about what I believe. I have nothing absolute to go on, no more than you, but I see what I class as compelling evidences, but far from any proof.

Share this post


Link to post
"The Minimalist school interprets the text by assuming the narrowest interpretation consistent with the text..""

And how does it play out in sunday school when everyone reads the the text according to the "Maximalist" school?

I teach the Gospel Doctrine class in my ward, and, although it isn't a regular theme, I've made no secret of my views on Book of Mormon geography and related matters. Nobody has objected. Not even once. So, at least from my perspective (which includes teaching Gospel Doctrine classes in California, Israel, Egypt, and in several different Utah wards, as well as eight years on the Church's Gospel Doctrine writing committee), it seems to play out quite well.

Share this post


Link to post

the beauty in the minimalist approach is that it can't be disproven, whereas the maximalist approach can largely be refuted based on the current body of archaeological, documentary, genetic and other evidence. so the outside observer has to ask "are the apologists currently promoting the minimalist approach because there is evidence to support it, or because it is simply an approach which will be nearly impossible to completely refute?" not that the apologists don't believe the LGT, but that it is the only way that they could possibly justify the historicity of the BOM in light of the physical evidence.

as everyone knows it comes down to the faith of the individual. those that believe that JS was a divinely appointed prophet believe that there must have been nephites and lamanites, and so in spite of the general consensus on what the ancient americas were like there must exist a logical explanation to it all. the non-believer will likely take the naturalistic approach and say that JS, w/ or w/o the help of someone else, made the whole thing up, and the current body of evidence backs me up.

Share this post


Link to post
"The Minimalist school interprets the text by assuming the narrowest interpretation consistent with the text..""

And how does it play out in sunday school when everyone reads the the text according to the "Maximalist" school?

Back when I was in grade school, my teacher taught me about a great big, really cool looking dinosaur called a "brontosaurus". I've since learned that there is no such animal and never was. The "brontosaurus" was a mistake made by an archaeologist who put the wrong skull with the wrong body. But how many people still believe in the brontosaurus? For a very long time pretty much everybody did. Then, eventually, the mistake became common knowledge among those who cared about such things. Now, many many years after realizing the mistake, the US education system has been removing mention of the brontosaurus from school.

So, what does it mean that there were still many people ignorant of the brontosaurus mistake for so many years? Does that mean that there is no such thing as dinosaurs?

I'm just not sure what it's supposed to mean that many LDS still believe that Nephites were alone on the continent. All it really means to me is that they haven't cared enough to look into the matter all that closely. Not surprising really, since relatively few people care enough about archaeology or history to study them in their free time.

Share this post


Link to post
So, what does it mean that there were still many people ignorant of the brontosaurus mistake for so many years? Does that mean that there is no such thing as dinosaurs?

Yes! You can't pull the wool over our eyes any longer! All those fossils were fabricated by a collaboration between the US Government, Smithsonian Institute, and the LDS Church. The LDS Church wanted something like this to happen so then they could say "see the Book of Mormon is possible." All those Smithsonian statements about the Book of Mormon are just diversions. We know how the US Gov't works.

Share this post


Link to post
the beauty in the minimalist approach is that it can't be disproven, whereas the maximalist approach can largely be refuted based on the current body of archaeological, documentary, genetic and other evidence. so the outside observer has to ask "are the apologists currently promoting the minimalist approach because there is evidence to support it, or because it is simply an approach which will be nearly impossible to completely refute?"

Fortunately, that question can be easily answered. The Limited Geography Theory has been around since decades before Crick and Watson deciphered the structure of DNA, and, really, since before the rise of serious Mesoamerican archaeology -- that is, prior to the arrival of "the current body of archaeological, documentary, genetic and other evidence." Moreover, advocates of the theory have laid out the textual grounds for their position, so that there is no reason to invoke mysterious extraneous factors or hidden secret agendas to account for their holding it.

Share this post


Link to post
the beauty in the minimalist approach is that it can't be disproven, whereas the maximalist approach can largely be refuted based on the current body of archaeological, documentary, genetic and other evidence. so the outside observer has to ask "are the apologists currently promoting the minimalist approach because there is evidence to support it, or because it is simply an approach which will be nearly impossible to completely refute?"

Fortunately, that question can be easily answered. The Limited Geography Theory has been around since decades before Crick and Watson deciphered the structure of DNA, and, really, since before the rise of serious Mesoamerican archaeology -- that is, prior to the arrival of "the current body of archaeological, documentary, genetic and other evidence." Moreover, advocates of the theory have laid out the textual grounds for their position, so that there is no reason to invoke mysterious extraneous factors or hidden secret agendas to account for their holding it.

That's not the answer we were looking for. You've got to stop doing that. Really now. Please?

Share this post


Link to post
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...