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History And Historicity In The Book Of Mormon---Gardner

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Posting this even before I get a chance  to read it (dinner bell just rang and I missed it conference time) .  That is how much I like you guys:

 

http://www.fairmormon.org/perspectives/fair-conferences/2015-fairmormon-conference/history-and-historicity-in-the-book-of-mormon

Yes, Brant's article here is very timely.  It not only provides insights from the Jenkins - Hamblin debate online, but also excerpts some important points made by Brant in his new book:  Brant A. Gardner, Traditions of the Fathers: The Book of Mormon as History (SLC: Kofford, 2015).

 

By the way, cal, it was delightful meeting you at the FAIRMORMON conference.  Thanks for disabusing me of some misinformation I had.  You have done me the honor of correcting me more than once here as well, and I am greatly in your debt.

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I'm not sure if Hamblin (and by extension other apologists) are being willfully obtuse on the subject of "evidences", but at the very least it appears to be a huge blind spot for them.  And I suspect much of Jenkins' frustration stems from the fact that it just isn't that hard to see his point.  And it's a good point. 

 

So allow me to explain it as best I can, not because I think any apologist will "get" it, but so those who are just learning about it (or who haven't followed the discussion) can perhaps get the gist of it.

 

Suppose in 1832, a shopkeeper named Theodore Brumley living in Boston, MA, publishes two books.

 

One of them tells the story of a Roman Legion that gets lost at sea and somehow finds its way to the New World, whereupon they engage in battles with the American Natives, similar to this story.

 

The second tells the story of a regiment from the American Civil war that made a more miraculous journey, this one back in time to ancient Rome, where they engaged in battle with Roman legions until they were wiped out (much like this story).

 

At the time of these books' publication, author Brumley prefaces them by explaining that he did not create these stories from whole-cloth, but instead they came to him in two very vivid dreams, in which he was shown these events by the spirit of Leonardo Da Vinci, and Da Vinci told him he must share these stories with the world because they really happened, but that knowledge had been lost.

 

Over time, these books amass a loyal following of believers who are convinced that Brumley's visions were real, and that these events did occur.  Most of their arguments are based on the incredible detail Brumley included in his works, and how those details match up with so much of what we know about those ancient times and places.  There are even things in those books that weren't known in the early 1830's.  Most historians remain unconvinced, to put it mildly.

 

Now, in 2015, imagine you are approached by someone who knows little of the Brumley books or The Book of Mormon.  They only know that they are three different "alternate histories" that were written in the early 1800s. 

 

Now, basing your argument solely on historical and archaeological evidence, how do you convince him that there is more evidence for the events in The Book of Mormon than for Brumley's books?

 

To put it simply, if the evidenciary arguments commonly put forth in support of the Book of Mormon are true, then there is no way to suggest that the Brumley books also didn't happen. 

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Now, basing your argument solely on historical and archaeological evidence, how do you convince him that there is more evidence for the events in The Book of Mormon than for Brumley's books?

Unfortunately, you have set an impossible goal. It is impossible to demonstrate the historicity of a text with only archaeological evidence (or history, when available). I'm sure you must have meant that the text in question has to be compared against the history and archaeology, and that can certainly be done.

 

As for that latter test, I do believe that there is evidence. However, just like any other historical case, it requires intermeshing evidence rather than single instances. Even the best single "proof" can be dismissed. However, when multiple non-coincidental convergences between time, text, place, and known history/anthropology/archaeology are marshalled, then the evidence rises above possible and becomes much stronger.

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Unfortunately, you have set an impossible goal. It is impossible to demonstrate the historicity of a text with only archaeological evidence (or history, when available). I'm sure you must have meant that the text in question has to be compared against the history and archaeology, and that can certainly be done.

 

As for that latter test, I do believe that there is evidence. However, just like any other historical case, it requires intermeshing evidence rather than single instances. Even the best single "proof" can be dismissed. However, when multiple non-coincidental convergences between time, text, place, and known history/anthropology/archaeology are marshalled, then the evidence rises above possible and becomes much stronger.

The problem, of course, is that one can draw any number of convergences between any known historical era and a proposed history. What some people consider "non-coincidental" may not be.

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Unfortunately, you have set an impossible goal. It is impossible to demonstrate the historicity of a text with only archaeological evidence (or history, when available). I'm sure you must have meant that the text in question has to be compared against the history and archaeology, and that can certainly be done.

 

As for that latter test, I do believe that there is evidence. However, just like any other historical case, it requires intermeshing evidence rather than single instances. Even the best single "proof" can be dismissed. However, when multiple non-coincidental convergences between time, text, place, and known history/anthropology/archaeology are marshalled, then the evidence rises above possible and becomes much stronger.

 

 

I think that many of the testimonies of the Book of Mormon, and many of the evidences for the Book of Mormon, rest on a single very shaky foundation:

 

Specifically, the beliefs people have about the likelihood of something being a coincidence.

 

Any time you hear someone support their belief in The Book of Mormon with a statement that starts with "What are the odds...?"  or "How could XXXXXXXX be a coincidence?" or "How could an uneducated farm boy know XXXXXXXX?", you know people have reached the bottom rung of Book of Mormon defense and belief.  Because they are resting part of their belief on their own ignorance.

 

The reason these kinds of "evidences" are so weak is because no one has any idea what the limits of coincidence in the universe can be.  Or, in the words of Oscar Hammerstein, "Impossible things are happening every day."  So no matter how unlikely something is to be a coincidence, it isn't "evidence" that something happened.

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I think that many of the testimonies of the Book of Mormon, and many of the evidences for the Book of Mormon, rest on a single very shaky foundation:

 

Specifically, the beliefs people have about the likelihood of something being a coincidence.

 

Any time you hear someone support their belief in The Book of Mormon with a statement that starts with "What are the odds...?"  or "How could XXXXXXXX be a coincidence?" or "How could an uneducated farm boy know XXXXXXXX?", you know people have reached the bottom rung of Book of Mormon defense and belief.  Because they are resting part of their belief on their own ignorance.

 

The reason these kinds of "evidences" are so weak is because no one has any idea what the limits of coincidence in the universe can be.  Or, in the words of Oscar Hammerstein, "Impossible things are happening every day."  So no matter how unlikely something is to be a coincidence, it isn't "evidence" that something happened.

11 men testify of seeing and handling the resurrected Savior. 11 men testify of seeing and handling the plates...and then those 3 stubborn testimonies of the three special witnesses. You certainly can't discount one group and believe the other. I dunno, but when you look at the evidences with the testimony of the witnesses as your base, they seem less like a coincidence.

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The problem, of course, is that one can draw any number of convergences between any known historical era and a proposed history. What some people consider "non-coincidental" may not be.

The only way to answer the question is to examine the data. Boards aren't the place for the kind of complex discussion required--but I have done that elsewhere.

 

The key is time and place. When the text indicates that a certain action takes place, and the events that would produce that action only occur in that place around that time, you have a single pretty solid convergence. Of course, one of those could still be coincidence, so more of the same are required.

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I think that many of the testimonies of the Book of Mormon, and many of the evidences for the Book of Mormon, rest on a single very shaky foundation:

 

Specifically, the beliefs people have about the likelihood of something being a coincidence.

 

Any time you hear someone support their belief in The Book of Mormon with a statement that starts with "What are the odds...?"  or "How could XXXXXXXX be a coincidence?" or "How could an uneducated farm boy know XXXXXXXX?", you know people have reached the bottom rung of Book of Mormon defense and belief.  Because they are resting part of their belief on their own ignorance.

 

The reason these kinds of "evidences" are so weak is because no one has any idea what the limits of coincidence in the universe can be.  Or, in the words of Oscar Hammerstein, "Impossible things are happening every day."  So no matter how unlikely something is to be a coincidence, it isn't "evidence" that something happened.

Surely you know that this doesn't describe anything I have written?

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The only way to answer the question is to examine the data. Boards aren't the place for the kind of complex discussion required--but I have done that elsewhere.

 

The key is time and place. When the text indicates that a certain action takes place, and the events that would produce that action only occur in that place around that time, you have a single pretty solid convergence. Of course, one of those could still be coincidence, so more of the same are required.

Brant, I sincerely believe you have made as good a case for the Book of Mormon as is possible.

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I think that many of the testimonies of the Book of Mormon, and many of the evidences for the Book of Mormon, rest on a single very shaky foundation:

Specifically, the beliefs people have about the likelihood of something being a coincidence.

Any time you hear someone support their belief in The Book of Mormon with a statement that starts with "What are the odds...?" or "How could XXXXXXXX be a coincidence?" or "How could an uneducated farm boy know XXXXXXXX?", you know people have reached the bottom rung of Book of Mormon defense and belief. Because they are resting part of their belief on their own ignorance.

The reason these kinds of "evidences" are so weak is because no one has any idea what the limits of coincidence in the universe can be. Or, in the words of Oscar Hammerstein, "Impossible things are happening every day." So no matter how unlikely something is to be a coincidence, it isn't "evidence" that something happened.

I believe you misunderstand. How does someone who receives a sure spiritual witness of the Book of Mormon's divine authenticity explain to someone who hasn't received the same witness why and how he knows the Book of Mormon is true? It's like trying to explain to a man totally blind from birth what the color azure blue looks like. When those who have a testimony of the Spirit that the Book of Mormon is the word of God try to explain the spiritual dynamic that produced and sustains that spiritual knowledge, they realize they're now faceed with Paul's conundrum: which is that unless someone has been enlightened by the Spirit of God, it's impossible to explain to that that person, to any degree of fleshly satisfaction, what it's like to be enlightened by the Spirit.

So what do those who possess a testimony of the Spirit do? They resort to trying to explain the workings of the Spirit in some sort of rational way so that the spiritually unenlightenec might catch a glimpse as to why the enlightened know the Book of Mormon is true, and they do so with arguments like, "I know an uneducated farm boy could not have produced that magnificent, holy book without God's help." So don't confuse attempts at rational explanations to help the unenlightenec understand a rreasonable case can be made that the Book of Mormon may very well be true, with precisely how the enlightened actually KNOW by the revelations of the Spirit that the Book of Mormon is true.

Edited by Bobbieaware

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I think that many of the testimonies of the Book of Mormon, and many of the evidences for the Book of Mormon, rest on a single very shaky foundation:

 

Specifically, the beliefs people have about the likelihood of something being a coincidence.

Where and from whom do you derive this notion of isolated "coincidence" being given strong evidentiary value even by the hoi polloi?  Are ordinary people really that ignorant?  And does that form the primary basis of both anti- and pro-Mormon palaver?  How about the arguments put forth on this board?  Do any distinguish themselves as convincing to you, or are they all of a piece?

 

Any time you hear someone support their belief in The Book of Mormon with a statement that starts with "What are the odds...?"  or "How could XXXXXXXX be a coincidence?" or "How could an uneducated farm boy know XXXXXXXX?", you know people have reached the bottom rung of Book of Mormon defense and belief.  Because they are resting part of their belief on their own ignorance.

Reminds me of Archibald Sayce insisting that people should not make their own ignorance the measure of reality -- in his Higher Criticism and the Verdict of the Monuments -- which is what often happens when apologists and polemicists set out to criticize or to "explain" things.  That is, the principle works both ways, and is fully applicable to those who make snap judgments on whether a claim seems to them to be plausible (statistically likely) or implausible (statistically unlikely).

 

The reason these kinds of "evidences" are so weak is because no one has any idea what the limits of coincidence in the universe can be.

Here you sound very much like Bill Hamblin complaining that we cannot know anything for sure -- at least not by any secular, historical measure.  Do you agree with him?  And is it true that we cannot know anything because we do not know "what the limits of coincidence in the universe can be"?  Should jurors take that principle to heart, and, if so, would we ever get a verdict?  Could we ever assert the "preponderance of evidence"?  Those who employ the Bayesian Theory of likelihood probably believe that your judgment is incorrect.

 

Or, in the words of Oscar Hammerstein, "Impossible things are happening every day."  So no matter how unlikely something is to be a coincidence, it isn't "evidence" that something happened.

Atomistic analysis of "coincidence" is not likely of much value.  It is rather professional and systematic groupings of coincidences which ought to catch our attention.

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Brant, I sincerely believe you have made as good a case for the Book of Mormon as is possible.

But is it good enough?

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But is it good enough?

No it is not. Only revelation from God can settle the issue. And why anyone who knows and understands Mormonism (I'm not specifically speaking of you) would think there's anything other than revelation that can establish the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon, especially when its writers say revelation is the only way to know, is beyond me. Those who are looking for some way other than revelation to know for a surety the Book of Mormon is true are embarking on a course that's sure to be a supreme exercise in frustration. The best the so-called empirical evidences being set forth can do is offer some possible encouragement, and that's it; but there is no way beyond revelation from God to know for sure. God has established the rules for gaining a testimony of the Book of Mormon through his servant Moroni, as set forth in Moroni chapter 10: Therein Moroni promises that those with living faith, a sincere heart. real intent and a willingness to read and ponder the book's contents, can KNOW the Book of Mormon IS true, not just receive some encouragement that it might be true.

Edited by Bobbieaware

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No it is not. Only revelation from God can settle the issue. And why anyone who knows and understands Mormonism (I'm not specifically speaking of you) would think there's anything other than revelation that can establish the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon, especially when its writers say revelation is the only way to know, is beyond me. Those who are looking for some way other than revelation to know for a surety the Bool of Mormon is true are embarking on a course that's sure to be a supreme exercise in frustration. The best the so-called empirical evidences being set forth can do is offer some possible encouragement, and that's it; but there is no way beyond revelation from God to know for sure.

You specifically inject the phrases "for a surety" and "for sure," when most people with strong testimonies may fall somewhat short of that grand notion of certainty.  Instead, many people grew up believing that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and that the Book of Mormon is an authentic holy book containing a real history.  If they choose to accept the scholarship of a Hugh Nibley or a Mark Wright, along with various gradations of spiritual testimony, what's that to you?  Why do you condemn them?

 

God has established the rules for gaining a testimony of the Book of Mormon through his servant Moroni, as set forth in Moroni chapter 10: Therein Moroni promises that those with living faith, a sincere heart. real intent and a willingness to read and ponder the book's contents, can KNOW the Book of Mormon IS true, not just offer some encouragement that it might be true.

Your version of the rules seems a bit narrower than God's.  Have you forgotten Alma 32?  In fact, just as there were both Liahona and Iron Rod, there is more than one way in which to obtain a testimony, including the mixing of logic and inspiration, i.e., the secular and the sacred can buttress one another.  And in Mormon theology that is a given.

 

But as a practical matter, as Elder Neal A. Maxwell used to note by quoting Austin Farrer:
 
Though argument does not create conviction, lack of it destroys belief. What seems to be proved may not be embraced; but what no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish. (Austin Farrer on C. S. Lewis)
 
That is why organizations such as FARMS and FAIRMORMON can play such a useful role.  Not that they have all the answers, but that they keep  the discussion going on so as to allow a high level playing field.  That gives all parties time to reflect.

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You specifically inject the phrases "for a surety" and "for sure," when most people with strong testimonies may fall somewhat short of that grand notion of certainty. Instead, many people grew up believing that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and that the Book of Mormon is an authentic holy book containing a real history. If they choose to accept the scholarship of a Hugh Nibley or a Mark Wright, along with various gradations of spiritual testimony, what's that to you? Why do you condemn them?

Your version of the rules seems a bit narrower than God's. Have you forgotten Alma 32? In fact, just as there were both Liahona and Iron Rod, there is more than one way in which to obtain a testimony, including the mixing of logic and inspiration, i.e., the secular and the sacred can buttress one another. And in Mormon theology that is a given.

But as a practical matter, as Elder Neal A. Maxwell used to note by quoting Austin Farrer:

Though argument does not create conviction, lack of it destroys belief. What seems to be proved may not be embraced; but what no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish. (Austin Farrer on C. S. Lewis)

That is why organizations such as FARMS and FAIRMORMON can play such a useful role. Not that they have all the answers, but that they keep the discussion going on so as to allow a high level playing field. That gives all parties time to reflect.

More seeing phantoms between the lines. Perhaps you missed my central point: I said the evidences thus far gathered can offer possible encouragement. And please note, nowhere did I in any way condemn nor negate the benefits of those gathered evidences and the encouragement and enlightenment received thereby. In fact, I have looked favorably on Nibley's work throughout the years and own and prize several of his works such as Since Cumorah, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri, Abraham in Egypt and other of his works. But my central point is that the only way we can know for a surety if the Book of Mormon is true is through revelation from the Holy Ghost, as per Moroni's challenge. If you have a problem with Moroni's method for coming to know the Book of Mormon is true, take it up with him in the resurrection.

Edited by Bobbieaware

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No it is not. Only revelation from God can settle the issue. And why anyone who knows and understands Mormonism (I'm not specifically speaking of you) would think there's anything other than revelation that can establish the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon, especially when its writers say revelation is the only way to know, is beyond me. Those who are looking for some way other than revelation to know for a surety the Book of Mormon is true are embarking on a course that's sure to be a supreme exercise in frustration. The best the so-called empirical evidences being set forth can do is offer some possible encouragement, and that's it; but there is no way beyond revelation from God to know for sure. God has established the rules for gaining a testimony of the Book of Mormon through his servant Moroni, as set forth in Moroni chapter 10: Therein Moroni promises that those with living faith, a sincere heart. real intent and a willingness to read and ponder the book's contents, can KNOW the Book of Mormon IS true, not just receive some encouragement that it might be true.

 

This reminds me that on one of Bill Hamblin's posts in his exchanges with Philip Jenkins, Hamblin noted that if the Book of Mormon were to be accepted historically that means that historians would have to deal with the book's divine claims. That a) it is a testimony of Jesus Christ and b) that its records were delivered to Joseph Smith by an angel of God. How do historians quantify these truth claims? you're correct that it is only the Holy Spirit which provide a truth affirmation of the Book of Mormon.

 

NOTE: I am not opposed at all to studying the Book of Mormon's history. If anything it places the Book of Mormon's narrative on solid ground by which I can relate better to its stories and more aptly apply their purpose into my life. Studying its history also requires a thorough understanding of its text. One can never go wrong delving into its texts. Finally, studying the Book of Mormon's historicity it's just plain fascinating 

Edited by Darren10

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Brant Gardner;

 

I was tempted to make this a separate thread here but since you are already participating on this thread I thought I'd ask you directly. In your article, you wrote:

 

 

 Anything on as perishable medium simply didn’t survive (either naturally or by escaping Spanish zealous destruction).

 

I was thrilled to read this as I have been quite curious as to how much history has been destroyed by the Spanish conquerors. I am sure there's no way to really quantify that but surely much, a significant amount in fact, of Meso and Southamerican history "went up in smoke", if you will. Are there any authors you are aware of that have reported on this topic?

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I was thrilled to read this as I have been quite curious as to how much history has been destroyed by the Spanish conquerors. I am sure there's no way to really quantify that but surely much, a significant amount in fact, of Meso and Southamerican history "went up in smoke", if you will. Are there any authors you are aware of that have reported on this topic?

The documented case is Diego de Landa, who gathered all of the Maya codices he could and burned them. He is also, ironically, the one who preserved what would become the key to translating the Maya glyphs.

 

As for lost history, Aztec history records that one of their priests also destroyed books as he was establishing the "new" history of his people. All of that is after the Maya were writing on stone. Prior to that time, the murals at San Bartolo tell us that they painted temple texts, but there is only the one that remains (so far).

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The documented case is Diego de Landa, who gathered all of the Maya codices he could and burned them. He is also, ironically, the one who preserved what would become the key to translating the Maya glyphs.

 

As for lost history, Aztec history records that one of their priests also destroyed books as he was establishing the "new" history of his people. All of that is after the Maya were writing on stone. Prior to that time, the murals at San Bartolo tell us that they painted temple texts, but there is only the one that remains (so far).

Brant,

 

Is there any information about what was on the stuff that was destroyed or do we just know that it existed and was destroyed?

 

Thanks

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Brant,

 

Is there any information about what was on the stuff that was destroyed or do we just know that it existed and was destroyed?

 

Thanks

There are texts that describe Iztcoatl's changing history. Of course, they wouldn't say he destroyed anything, but that is a favorable source looking backwards. Modern scholars assume that there was a pretty large destruction at the time.

 

Diego de Landa's destruction is documented.

 

For much of the rest, the problem is reasoned from the climate that "eats" perishable materials. There are traces of paint on many sculptures that indicates that they were painted, and there is evidence that all of the gleaming white temples we see were also brightly painted--probably more red than white. Almost all of the paint is gone (and when some places didn't use as hard a stone, the stone images and texts are also worn away).

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There are texts that describe Iztcoatl's changing history. Of course, they wouldn't say he destroyed anything, but that is a favorable source looking backwards. Modern scholars assume that there was a pretty large destruction at the time.

 

Diego de Landa's destruction is documented.

 

For much of the rest, the problem is reasoned from the climate that "eats" perishable materials. There are traces of paint on many sculptures that indicates that they were painted, and there is evidence that all of the gleaming white temples we see were also brightly painted--probably more red than white. Almost all of the paint is gone (and when some places didn't use as hard a stone, the stone images and texts are also worn away).

Do we have any information as to what was on the texts that were destroyed?

 

If not, I do not see what conclusions can be drawn from such information beyond the fact that they were destroyed.

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More seeing phantoms between the lines. Perhaps you missed my central point: I said the evidences thus far gathered can offer possible encouragement. And please note, nowhere did I in any way condemn nor negate the benefits of those gathered evidences and the encouragement and enlightenment received thereby. In fact, I have looked favorably on Nibley's work throughout the years and own and prize several of his works such as Since Cumorah, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri, Abraham in Egypt and other of his works. But my central point is that the only way we can know for a surety if the Book of Mormon is true is through revelation from the Holy Ghost, as per Moroni's challenge. If you have a problem with Moroni's method for coming to know the Book of Mormon is true, take it up with him in the resurrection.

So you discount entirely Alma 32?

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      Therefore if the truth is not manifested, the reason is as plain as the nose on your face: One or more of the prerequisites were not met.  There is no alternate possibility.  "It’s very simple"—as President Trump is fond of saying in his press conferences.
      5 possible ways to fail, and only 5.  So here is a question:  With LDS Church growth stalling and 70+% of millennials going inactive/leaving the LDS Church by age 20 (courtesy of Mormonleaks), which of the 5 do you think represents the greatest challenge?  Or are they all equally challenging?  Or do you think it's some combination of them that present difficulty?
      And while we’re on the question, how exactly does one go about achieving the last three prerequisites?  Would any LDS seriously admonish an investigator to read the Bible first in order to attain “faith in Christ” prior to attempting the Book of Mormon?
      --Erik
      _____________________________________________
      For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.
      --H.L. Mencken
    • By hope_for_things
      Where did the Book of Mormon come from.  I constantly hear this idea argued from both apologetic and critical sides.  All in an attempt to explain how Joseph could have produced the Book of Mormon.  Yet, when it comes right down to it, both sides should be able to agree on some pretty basic historical facts from the evidence.  
      Joseph Smith dictated the content of the BoM to some scribes Nearly everyone should be able to agree on that statement, and I think that really explains it in a nutshell.  I was thinking about other figures in history that are revered for things they produced.  Newton, Einstein, Beethoven, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, etc.  Do anyone else spend so much time asking where they came up with their masterpiece works?  Where did Einstein get that amazing theory of relativity?  Where did Michelangelo get that amazing statue of David.  How could they have possibly produced these things?  Where did they come from?  
      I think we spend so much time looking for evidence, trying to find parallels, seeking to understand where the BoM came from, that we are missing the answer right in front of our faces and we should all be able to agree on.  The BoM came from Joseph Smith.  This is the clear and straightforward answer that both believers and nonbelievers should be able to agree on, and its the simple answer to a highly debated question.  
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