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beastie

Zelph, the White Lamanite

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According to friendly witnesses, Joseph Smith made a number of statements about discovered skeletal remains and an arrowhead.  Assuming the witnesses were somewhat accurate in their recordings of the event, there are three possibilities about where JS got the information about the bones and the arrow:

1. By revelation.

2. It was his opinion.

3. He was fabricating the information.

You are, of course, assuming that your understanding of revelation is not only correct but shared by the world. From your description am I correct in understanding you to demand that revelation be a direct deposit of information from God that excludes the person receiving it? Do you understand it to be actual words? Is revelation exclusive from "opinion"? Does the recipient have his memory, understanding and language wiped clean as God deposits uncorrupted information in exact wording? You need to be more explicit or you are merely asking "do you beat your wife" questions.

I do not know of any logical reasons for giving the skeleton the name Zelph or saying its skin color was white. If one does not believe JS received the information by revelation, one must conclude that he was making the information up.

Only if you are an inerrantist. There usually are more than two dogmatic alternatives to life. I have no problem with somebody being named ""Zelph" and I have no more problem with the Kennewick Man being "white" than I would Zelph. I think it is actually a little unbecoming to be demanding that anyone's skin color must match expectations. Are we really going to get into deciding what shade a Native American's skin must be to be legitimate? I find that repugnant, frankly.

I have not seen the conclusions of Beasties own source questioned:

If the history of the church were to be revised today using modern historical standards, readers would be informed that Joseph Smith wrote nothing about the discovery of Zelph, and that the account of uncovering the skeleton in Pike County is based on the diaries of seven members of Zion's Camp, some of which were written long after the event took place. We would be assured that the members of Zion's Camp dug up a skeleton near the Illinois River in early June 1834. Equally sure is that Joseph Smith made statements about the deceased person and his historical setting. We would learn that it is unclear which statements attributed to him derived from his vision, as opposed to being implied or surmised either by him or by others.

1. JS wrote nothing about the discovery of Zelph.

2. Accounts of skeletons are from diaries of others.

3. JS certainly made statements about "Zelph" and his historical setting.

4. It is unclear which statements attributed to him derived from his vision, as opposed to being implied or surmised either by him or by others.

Now there is a lot that can be done with that...but claiming that JS himself claimed to have a vision is not one of them. The reason that Beastie is still refusing to admit that is because her purpose of undermining JS's credibility as a prophet relies on JS claiming to be speaking for the Lord.

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SOMIB's point is a good one. Given the type of specific biographical information about the encountered bones which the friendly witnesses report JS providing, he either received it by revelation or made it up. (That's why this episode raises different issues from, say, the Wentworth letter, btw.)

That's part of what makes quibbling over beastie's (or anyone else's) comment that JS "said" or "claimed" or "reported" that he received the specific information about Zelph "by revelation" so pointless. Good grief. If he didn't make it up, where else would he have received it? What is the "faithful" or "LDS apologetic" explanation of the origin of the information JS provided about Zelph, if it wasn't revelation? If there is none, then why should someone advancing that position quibble over the locution? Sure, it's more accurate to say that "the witnesses reported that JS received the information by revelation" than it is to say that "JS said he received the information by revelation." But unless someone is contesting the inference about what JS actually did say (represent) about the source of his information, what does it matter? Again, is there some substantive point being made in defense of JS?

Quite apart from that conceptual point, given the friendly and contemporaneous sources Brent quotes, I think any reasonable historian would conclude that JS reported to his associates that he received the information about Zelph by revelation. Is someone contesting that? If Juliann (or anyone else) wants to make an argument to the contrary, fine. Absent such an evidence-weighing historical argument, though, the fact that all the information about Zelph, and its reported origin, was written down by others (rather than written or dictated by JS himself) is quite pointless. Yes, we don't have JS's own account of the Zelph episode to compare, but how, if at all, does that undisputed fact undermine the historical inference that JS claimed to have received the Zelph information by revelation? Does the mere fact that he didn't mention Zelph in his letter to Emma somehow count as evidence against that inference? If anyone thinks so, they're welcome to make an argument.

Finally, if we conclude that JS did in fact claim to have received the Zelph information by revelation, beastie's question about where the "white" bit of information came from is quite interesting. I expect there are better and perhaps more systematic explanations on the apologetic side than have been offered here thus far. I have in mind here arguments, for example, about the nature of revelation. Seems to me these arguments work better if this particular revelation is construed along the lines of "inspiration" rather than, e.g., "open vision."

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I guess I’ll have to repeat: ““Transparency ... is why FAIR says it is an apologetic organization rather than claiming we search for truth, openness and the American way.” I’m not sure one can expect “answers” from someone who professes this philosophy.

Yeah, right...I don't believe in being truthful. Dan, if your idea of good defense is to haul around an old quote from me....from which you have cleverly deleted what preceded and followed it that explains what "truth" means in the realm of the scholarship of religion in which you have zero training....you evidently do not have much else to go with. You can continue to be downright deceptive in what I have said, omit any and all information that would explain its meaning, or you can proceed with the topic instead of ad hominem. I'm betting the safest route will continue to be ad hominem.

All secondhand sources are suspect and inadmissible as evidence. This is not standard All secondhand sources are suspect and inadmissible as evidence. This is not standard historiographical methodology, especially in situations where there is multiple attestations. , especially in situations where there is multiple attestations.

Please produce one sentence where I have ever said that. And please produce a statement...any statement...from an expert who says that (as Addictio claims) that the distinction between a statement from the primary and the secondary is not important for any " standard historiographical methodology, especially in situations where there is multiple attestations."

This is really lame, guys...but it is amusing how many have come barrelling in to defend someone who will not even put the right words into the right mouths before jumping to conclusions.

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I'm not sure witnesses are good for an argument. Brent gives us several unimpeachable witnesses who said that Joseph had a vision, a revelation. But if we agree with Juiann, we're to assume these unimpeachable church leader witnesses were wrong, because there was no vision, no revelation.

However, several unimpeachable witnesses also said they saw the gold plates. So, by Juliann's argument, I guess we can assume those witnesses were wrong too.

Looks to me like if witnesses can be wrong in one instance (Zelph), then witnesses can be wrong in another (gold plates).

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But if we agree with Juiann, we're to assume these unimpeachable church leader witnesses were wrong, because there was no vision, no revelation.

Please produce any evidence whatsoever that I have ever said that.

However, several unimpeachable witnesses also said they saw the gold plates. So, by Juliann's argument, I guess we can assume those witnesses were wrong too.

Please produce any evidence whatsoever that I have ever said that.

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Finally, if we conclude that JS did in fact claim to have received the Zelph information by revelation, beastie's question about where the "white" bit of information came from is quite interesting. I expect there are better and perhaps more systematic explanations on the apologetic side than have been offered here thus far. I have in mind here arguments, for example, about the nature of revelation. Seems to me these arguments work better if this particular revelation is construed along the lines of "inspiration" rather than, e.g., "open vision."

I agree. I am sure that everyone would agree that JS had a revelation. But what "revelation" is and what the details were is murkier. That is where the investigation needs to begin but Beastie et.al., cannot seem to arrive at attributing the right words to the right people so I don't see much hope.

I also think that since white is shocking to no one except the critics the critics need to explain the shock value and to do that they need to come up with at least a rudimentary analysis of what this even meant to the characters involved. Without that I really don't know what is so shocking so as to address it. But I haven't seen that either.

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In debate there is the rule of charity, which I hope that Juliann will consider adopting:

It should be clear by now that good discussion in general and argumentation in particular impose an ethical requirement upon us. But there is also a good practical reason for being fair with one another’s arguments. If we create a straw man to attack, we not only will waste time and risk our intellectual integrity, we also will quite possibly fail to achieve the very goals the discussion was designed to serve. If we are really interested in the truth or the best answer to a problem, then we will want to evaluate the best version of any argument set forth in support of one of the options. Hence, if we don’t deal with the best version now, we will eventually have to do so, once an uncharitable version has been corrected by its author or others. We would do well, then, to be fair with it in the first place. (T. Eward Damer, Attacking Faulty Reasoning, 17)

Dan, your entire rant was a strawman and uncharitable to the point of ugliness and that has been your style since coming here. How can you lecture others with a straight face?

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But if we agree with Juiann, we're to assume these unimpeachable church leader witnesses were wrong, because there was no vision, no revelation.

Please produce any evidence whatsoever that I have ever said that.

Then are you now saying Joseph had a revelation wherein he claimed that the skeleton in question was a white Lamanite named Zelph? Or are you saying the witnesses were wrong, and Joseph had no such revelation?

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I agree. I am sure that everyone would agree that JS had a revelation. But what "revelation" is and what the details were is murkier.

Juliann, I think you just summed up Mormonism in one sentence.

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3. How did he know the person was white? Is there any way JS could determine skin color from the skeletal remains?

Joseph, from the skeletal remains, ascertained that Zelph had two left feet. Thus the conclusion of Zelph's whiteness.

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addictio said,

"Seems to me these arguments work better if this particular revelation is construed along the lines of "inspiration" rather than, e.g., "open vision.""

one of the things that make this revelation interesting though is the amount of detail. while it might be an apologetic convenience to have merely inspired words, that are yet subject to a fallible human component, how do you pull that off with this kind of detail?

one gets inspired that some time in the future, something catastrophic will happen. or inpspired that the discovered bones are evidence of a great BOM battle. but how does one merely get inspired that these particular bones come from a guy who's name was zelph, who had a friend name onondagus, and who was wounded in battle in this particular way? i'm sorry, but that's either direct revelation akin to an open vision, or JS making it up. i'm open to suggestions though.

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sidewinder said:

one gets inspired that some time in the future, something catastrophic will happen. or inpspired that the discovered bones are evidence of a great BOM battle. but how does one merely get inspired that these particular bones come from a guy who's name was zelph, who had a friend name onondagus, and who was wounded in battle in this particular way? i'm sorry, but that's either direct revelation akin to an open vision, or JS making it up. i'm open to suggestions though.

Yeah, and actually the quotes provided by Vogel from Godfrey and Roper suggest they are assuming a "vision" occurred, not just an inspired utterance. That seems to be the view most consistent with the witness reports. But if so, how does one interpret the possibility G&R also rather cryptically suggest: that some of the information reported by JS was, or may have been, something that he himself (rather than the witnesses) merely "implied or surmised"? It's one thing to suggest that the witnesses' preconceptions about a hemispheric geography may have shaped their reports of what JS said (in some unspecified way). Leaving that witness-shaping issue aside, though, how would JS's own preconceptions or assumptions about the scope of BoM geography explain, for example, the kind of detailed facts (about "Zelph" and "Onandagus") that you point out? Are these something JS received by visionary revelation, or merely, uhm, somehow "surmised"?

In any event, solely on the basis of a suggestion that JS may have "surmised" some of the content of his statements to the witnesses it's difficult to make out a reasoned apologetic position. I'm not sure what the "at best" summary of that kind of suggestion is. Anyone else is welcome to try. At worst -- or at least over toward the "worser" end of the spectrum -- perhaps it amounts to something like this: "JS's own preconceptions about the spatial scope of BoM geography must have affected or contributed to his reported statements in the Zelph episode. I can't tell you which statements were the result of his own preconceptions and which resulted from the visionary experience. Nevertheless, because we can't be sure which is which, or the extent to which some witness-reported assertion was the product of one or the other, we can't use the Zelph episode as a reliable guide to the scope of BoM geography."

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3. How did he know the person was white?  Is there any way JS could determine skin color from the skeletal remains?

Joseph, from the skeletal remains, ascertained that Zelph had two left feet. Thus the conclusion of Zelph's whiteness.

:P I'm dyin' here.

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Here's another apologetic suggestion: JS was using the term "whiteness" to denote "righteousness" like the new, PC, BoM. So Zelph wasn't physically white, he was just super righteous. :P

Dan's summary very closely mirrors my own experience of this thread. A mountain made out of a molehill, in order to divert attention from the real mountain. Whether that is purposeful or not, I have no idea.

Juliann chastized Dan with:

Dan, your entire rant was a strawman and uncharitable to the point of ugliness and that has been your style since coming here. How can you lecture others with a straight face?

Juliann - I honestly think you have no idea how your own style of posting comes across to those whom you attack. I suggest reading your own posts from the viewpoint of the other now and then. Maybe then your own face will blush when you make statements such as the above.

Back to the topic -

I do agree that this path inevitably leads to the reliability of revelation. But it seems to me that all roads in Mormonism lead to that point. If JS cannot discern between genuine revelations and his own opinions and musing in one matter, why would he be able to do so in another? And why would any of us?

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Juliann - I honestly think you have no idea how your own style of posting comes across to those whom you attack. I suggest reading your own posts from the viewpoint of the other now and then. Maybe then your own face will blush when you make statements such as the above.

:P Heeeerreee we go again. Did I ever make any claim that I was a fairy princess? Ever?

Are you ever going to get it, Seven? I don't care what you think about my "style". What you think would never me blush. But wagging my keyboard at someone else for doing nothing more than I was doing might. I think the word is "hypocrite" or something.

I do agree that this path inevitably leads to the reliability of revelation. But it seems to me that all roads in Mormonism lead to that point. If JS cannot discern between genuine revelations and his own opinions and musing in one matter, why would he be able to do so in another? And why would any of us?

I suppose this is the answer to why the white stuff matters? You could have said this (and do at every opportunity) without having to drag up the Zelph stuff again. Why go to all that trouble to just say what we all know you think anyway?

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one of the things that make this revelation interesting though is the amount of detail. while it might be an apologetic convenience to have merely inspired words, that are yet subject to a fallible human component, how do you pull that off with this kind of detail?

Again, what is the detail? Is Beastie's source incorrect in saying the only consistent detail is a "white lamanite"? I see a lot of conclusions but I just don't see the analysis of the variants. I think it would be profitable to do that before deciding what was going on.

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perhaps it amounts to something like this: "JS's own preconceptions about the spatial scope of BoM geography must have affected or contributed to his reported statements in the Zelph episode.  I can't tell you which statements were the result of his own preconceptions and which resulted from the visionary experience. Nevertheless, because we can't be sure which is which, or the extent to which some witness-reported assertion was the product of one or the other, we can't use the Zelph episode as a reliable guide to the scope of BoM geography."

Thank you for a well thought out response to a sticky issue.

My concerns: I'd need to know more about JS's concept of revelation to even begin. Did he describe several instances? Did they differ? In what way? How did others describe them? Did they agree? And so on... It often seems that the model of revelation has become the 10 Commandments...words are written in stone by the hand of God. Is there any evidence for that in all situations? If not....how does the process work? Is JS hearing things? Seeing things? Does he receive impressions that he does have to interpret?

All of the following and more are appropriate within the realm of "revelation".

Contemporary systems, in my opinion, may be divided into five major classes according to their central vision of how and where revelation occurs.

1. Revelation as Doctrine. . .

2. Revelation as History. . . .

3. Revelation as Inner Experience. . .

4. Revelation as Dialectical Presence. . .

5. Revelation as New Awareness. . .

Avery Dulles, S.J., Models of Revelation, 2nd ed. (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1992),

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Your "point" strikes me—and, evidently, several others—as inconsequential. You exhibit no mastery of the sources. Still, you seek to school others in their interpretive shortcomings.

Your latest reply simply accentuates your misapplication of methodological and theological concerns:

Whatever. Now that you have that out of your system let's take a look at your quote.

Jesuit theologian Avery Dulles—whom you cite above with approval—warned that it "would be superficial and irresponsible" to propose a theology of revelation that "use one model [of revelation] in dealing with one problem, other models for other problems" (A. Dulles, S.J., Models of Revelation [Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1983], 125; the 1992 edition of Dulles' book is a reprint of the 1983 ed. with a new preface).

Brent, this is exactly what I just said. Let's go over it again. I asked for you (and other critics) to choose a number. No. 1? No. 2? No. 5? Which one? That was not plural. Here it is again:

This is why I think it is the responsibility of the critic to stand up and declare where s/he lands. If it is #1 does that invalidate someone who holds to #5? Does one or another position automatically make one an "apologist"?

The inability to switch your number doesn't hurt my position at all Brent. It limits you to one definition. In other words, you just helped me out with that quote. :P I can't believe that I am actually having to say this but, yes... if you are going to talk about prophecy you do have to provide a definition.

On the contrary, apologists own the task of coherently defining a model of revelation that can account for Joseph Smith's misguided revelation about Zelph yet also account for Joseph's precise revelation of the BoMor that, according to some apologists, is so exact that it actually preserves the place names (e.g., Nahom) and syntax (e.g., chiasmus) of its alleged ancient authors. (Is this point truly lost on you?)

I can understand why you are quickly throwing in everything but the kitchen sink but let's stick with the thread's topic. "Apologists" from what I can tell (from Beastie's source) are stating that the Zelph issue is inconclusive. That is why I asked for an analysis (see above questions) instead of more pronouncements. That you offer only ad hominem is a satisfactory indication that you will not give the necessary analysis. That ends this particular topic it for us, Brent.

So if you want to call JS a false prophet you have the obligation to tell us where he failed and why based on some sort of criteria or you are no different than any other street corner Bible thumper.

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This thread cracks me up.

Juliann simply asks beastie for corroboration of her (beastie's) assertion, beastie refuses to self-correct her assertion, and it's Juliann is the one making the mountain out of a mole hill?

Unfortunately it was difficult to see that this was all that was going on due to the verbosity of beastie's non-answers to Juliann's simple question. It was not Juliann trying to make an argument about the likelihood of JS saying it was a revelation or others saying he said it was. This is typical of beastie's M.O. which is why I suspect Juliann asked the question (that she most probably knew the answer to) in the first place:

- Overwhelm them with lots and lots of words;

- answer question that they didn't ask;

- don

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Juliann simply asks beastie for corroboration of her (beastie's) assertion, beastie refuses to self-correct her assertion, and it's Juliann is the one making the mountain out of a mole hill?

Have you actually read the thread, Quinn, or are you simply doing your normal routine? Defend Juliann at all costs?

Juliann isn't asking me for corroboration, she's criticizing me for not being excruciatingly accurate in my summary of the situation by not saying "seven friendly contemporary sources agree that JS identified the bones as belonging to a white Lamanite named Zelph, information received via revelation" instead of saying "JS stated that Zelph was a white Lamanite". She has never stated that she disregards those sources, did you notice that? She dances around that question. Rather, she just wants me to spell out what is obvious from the linked article as well as my citations from that article. That has become the issue of this thread for her, not the real issue of the thread, and, as with other threads I've been on with her, she manages to derail the thread with that detail.

Beastie did that to Brant on another recent thread that died a painful death because it couldn't be tolerated one page, er post, longer

Actually, it died because Juliann did the exact same thing there as she did here. She does not focus on the actual topic, but rather criticizes the way I phrase something. Look, this is an internet board, and I'm not going to spend hours laboring on each post spelling out each excruciating detail over and over. I'm going to assume people who are interested enough to read it will be interested enough to read my citations and the linked article. If that is too much to ask, then I don't care what those particular lazy people conclude.

If you believe that Juliann has actually focused on the topic, then can you explain just what her position is on it? Does she accept the multiple friendly sources that agree upon a couple of details, the ones I focused on here, or not? Does she think they made it up or misremembered, coincidentally all making up or misremembering the same detail? Does she think JS never claimed the information was a revelation, or that he never said Zelph was white? Perhaps you can be Juliann's translator, because all I can figure out from her comments is that she thinks I should have said "seven friendly contemporary sources agree that JS identified the bones as belonging to a white Lamanite named Zelph, information received via revelation" instead of saying "JS stated that Zelph was a white Lamanite", and that she thinks critics have the burden of defining revelation.

Ok, here's how I define revelation: the thoughts in someone's head that, for some reason, he/she attributes as coming from God in some fashion clear enough to attribute those same ideas to God.

Now either JS believed he got the idea Zelph was a white lamanite from God, or he just made it all up on the spot. Which is it?

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This thread is making me laugh!!! :P

I keep thinking that eventually someone is going to answer Beastie's question but it seems nearly impossible to phrase the question in a way that will actually be answered.

How about this...

"Seven friendly contemporary sources agree that JS identified the bones as belonging to a white Lamanite named Zelph, information received via revelation,

(Revelation being the thoughts in someone's head that, for some reason, he/she attributes as coming from God in some fashion clear enough to attribute those same ideas to God)." (cutting and pasting Beastie's comments).

So, IYO, did JS believe he got the idea Zelph was a white lamanite from God?

Or, IYO, did JS believe that the information he shared with others regarding the idea that Zelph was a white lamanite, came through revelation, (Revelation being the thoughts in someone's head that, for some reason, he/she attributes as coming from God in some fashion clear enough to attribute those same ideas to God)."

And...

Quoting Brent, how do apologists, "account for Joseph Smith's misguided revelation about Zelph yet also account for Joseph's precise revelation of the BoMor that, according to some apologists, is so exact that it actually preserves the place names (e.g., Nahom) and syntax (e.g., chiasmus) of its alleged ancient authors."

I'm not holding my breath but I hope this works...

<_<

~dancer~

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I'm not holding my breath but I hope this works...

I feel your pain. I have been asking questions for pages.

1. What is the significance of using white in that era? Was it typical for the times? Was it typical for its users? Was it a racial designation? Was it a social designation? Was it both?

2. What did JS call a "revelation"? How did he identify it? How did he describe it? How did witnesses describe it? Did the process differ in time or place?

I know it is fun to come to message boards and demand that your targets dance when you shoot at their feet but sometimes they won't. Bummer, eh?

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