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jkwilliams

The State of the Evidence

How do you feel about evidence in favor of LDS truth-claims?  

77 members have voted

  1. 1. What best describes your assessment of evidence regarding LDS truth-claims

    • If I didn't have a testimony, I would not believe based on the evidence.
      18
    • The evidence leaves room for faith and belief, but on its own I don't find it compelling.
      33
    • On balance, the evidence is compelling in supporting LDS truth-claims.
      20
    • The evidence is overwhelming in favor of LDS truth-claims.
      6


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A few years ago, my stake president (a biology professor) gave an address in stake conference in which he invited those who were struggling based on issues of historicity and other LDS truth-claims to make an appointment with him so he could help resolve our concerns. I did so, and after discussing my issues, he made a curious statement, that if he didn't have a testimony, he would think the church's claims (the Book of Mormon, the Book of Abraham, and so on) were obvious frauds. I was a little shocked. He gave me the names of some "experts" (his words, and I corresponded with them. Two of them made similar statements to the effect that, absent a testimony, the truth-claims don't stand on their own.

I hadn't thought of this for a while, but yesterday, one of my LDS friends made essentially the same statement. I have no issue with that, as I am not in the business of evaluating the validity of anyone's testimony and/or personal revelation, but it made me wonder if this is a common sentiment. So, no, I am not opining on the evidence or on your testimony, but I am curious as to what you think. 

Edited by Nemesis
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If we're talking about evidence that can be examined by someone else, then I agree with them.  There's not really much evidence in support of any religion.  Having said that, i've had personal experiences that I consider evidence which support my belief system.  

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Picked number 2.  I am here on this board to find any concrete evidence..which is what is basically more discussed than anything else.  Faith, belief..and a lot  of guesswork.

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My answer is going to depend on the definition of "evidence". 

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Obviousness is not an existential quality that is like the speed of light, the same to all observers, but the product of a complex set of interactions between perspectives, background assumptions, available information, and interpretation.  And Kuhn observes that paradigm choice always involves which paradigm is "better" and deciding "which problems are more significant to have solved."  So when I run across something like McMurrin's famous dismissal of the Book of Mormon, or Coe's or Brodie, or the Tanner's or Dehlin, or Vogel or Metcalfe or whomever, I have to consider whether their paradigm is better, and how I go about deciding that compared to how they go about it, and if it happens that I can think of a great many bits of information that I consider significant and important that demonstrably do not weigh in their published arguments, I have to also consider whether their overall paradigm has much promise towards account for the things I know about and value they they do not place on the scale in building their picture and provides the scaffolding upon which the judgment is labeled obvious.

One thing that becomes obvious in this sort of exercise, is that we're not standing the same place, looking at the same evidence, and weighing in the same ways.  The differences make the difference.

Just saying.

Kevin Christensen

Canonsburg, PA

Edited by Kevin Christensen
typo

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31 minutes ago, jkwilliams said:

A few years ago, my stake president (a biology professor) gave an address in stake conference in which he invited those who were struggling based on issues of historicity and other LDS truth-claims to make an appointment with him so he could help resolve our concerns. I did so, and after discussing my issues, he made a curious statement, that if he didn't have a testimony, he would think the church's claims (the Book of Mormon, the Book of Abraham, and so on) were obvious frauds. I was a little shocked. He gave me the names of some "experts" (his words, and I corresponded with them. Two of them made similar statements to the effect that, absent a testimony, the truth-claims don't stand on their own.

I hadn't thought of this for a while, but yesterday, one of my LDS friends made essentially the same statement. I have no issue with that, as I am not in the business of evaluating the validity of anyone's testimony and/or personal revelation, but it made me wonder if this is a common sentiment. So, no, I am not opining on the evidence or on your testimony, but I am curious as to what you think. 

What is your definition of "evidence?"  

Thanks,

-Smac

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I suppose I mean "temporal" evidence, as opposed to spiritual evidence, which would be testimony and revelation. What counts as temporal evidence probably differs for each person, which is why I left it wide open.

Edited by jkwilliams

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10 minutes ago, Kevin Christensen said:

Obviousness is not an existential quality that is like the speed of light, the same to all observers, but the product of a complex set of interactions between perspectives, background assumptions, available information, and interpretation.  And Kuhn observes that paradigm choice always involves which paradigm is "better" and deciding "which problems are more significant to have solved."  So when I run across something like McMurrin's famous dismissal of the Book of Mormon, or Coe's or Brodie, or the Tanner's or Dehlin, or Vogel or Metcalfe or whomever, I have to consider whether their paradigm is better, and how I go about deciding that compared to how they go about it, and if if happens that I can think of a great many bits of information that I consider significant and important that demonstrably do not weigh in their published arguments, I have to also consider whether their overall paradigm has much promise towards account for the things I know about and value they they do not place on the scale in building their picture and provides the scaffolding upon which the judgment is labeled obvious.

One thing that becomes obvious in this sort of exercise, is that we're not standing the same place, looking at the same evidence, and weighing in the same ways.  The differences make the difference.

Just saying.

Kevin Christensen

Canonsburg, PA

No argument here, Kevin. Like I said, I'm not opining on the obviousness of anything, just wondering if what I heard is common or not. I was surprised to hear it from more than one person, especially when the stake president used the words "obvious fraud."

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Who, in their so-called "right mind," and especially of a personality inclined toward giving priority to the five (six?) physical senses alone would believe on the so-called "evidence" available (whether by his own or another person's observation or experience, or by theory or logic) that there is a God, and a Son of God born of a mortal woman who died and came back to life three days later? Every other LDS belief flows from that.

Edited by CV75

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It's a tough question because it feels loaded.  Even with a testimony accepting polygamy or the priesthood ban as anything other than men guessing at God and getting carried away is, in my mind, near impossible.  Accepting Jesus being the Christ is also near impossible unless you have some spiritual reason to believe it.  If you didn't have a spiritual reason to accept the Savior, then what would you have?  Beats me.  The bible would seem to be even more fictitious then it does to me now.

But there are believing members dont' who feel compelled to think the BoM nor the BoA are historical as is claimed.  So one could have a testimony, as we say, and still not accept the truth claim that the BoM is writings of ancient Nephites. 

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9 minutes ago, jkwilliams said:

I suppose I mean "temporal" evidence, as opposed to spiritual evidence, which would be testimony and revelation. What counts as temporal evidence probably differs for each person, which is why I left it wide open.

So I am guessing temporal evidence does not include how the restored gospel lines up with the Bible scriptures or blessings that we receive by living the gospel, right?

If you are only asking for physical or historical evidence then I am afraid there isn't much to back up any religion. Most religions are not based on physical evidence, otherwise they would not be a religion.

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7 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

It's a tough question because it feels loaded.  Even with a testimony accepting polygamy or the priesthood ban as anything other than men guessing at God and getting carried away is, in my mind, near impossible.  Accepting Jesus being the Christ is also near impossible unless you have some spiritual reason to believe it.  If you didn't have a spiritual reason to accept the Savior, then what would you have?  Beats me.  The bible would seem to be even more fictitious then it does to me now.

But there are believing members dont' who feel compelled to think the BoM nor the BoA are historical as is claimed.  So one could have a testimony, as we say, and still not accept the truth claim that the BoM is writings of ancient Nephites. 

Not meant to be loaded. I worded it the way I did because of the way it was said to me.

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6 minutes ago, JAHS said:

So I am guessing temporal evidence does not include how the restored gospel lines up with the Bible scriptures or blessings that we receive by living the gospel, right?

If you are only asking for physical or historical evidence then I am afraid there isn't much to back up any religion. Most religions are not based on physical evidence, otherwise they would not be a religion.

I left it open ended, so include what you wish.

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I believe the purpose of life is to reconcile the spiritual reality of the self with a physical existence.  This reconciliation demands that the spiritual self, the unseen spirit of humanity, overcomes or becomes primary to the gnawing passions of the corporal being.  This process is done within the demands of faith - faith in a God we do not see and in the blindness of our own physical eyes of the spiritual realm.

It is easy to doubt and to demand that if I cannot see it then it cannot exist.  This perspective is anathema to a path of faith and many choose to walk this it.  

I do not attempt to prove the existence of God by observing the functioning of cells in through a electron microscope or any of the other superior microscopes available today.  Nor am I bothered by a western hemisphere where so little is know about its history relative to the history of the other side of the world.  

I believe that faith and reason are eternal companions rather than separate paths.  It is the only path that is "whole" to me because it values and recognizes the intelligence of man while maintaining the humility to acknowledge God.  

I do not believe in Jesus because I see his cross, or walk in the same trail he walked.  I believe in Christ because I came to know him.  I don't believe in Joseph Smith as a prophet or in the Book of Mormon as scripture because I "know" they existed, but because I also came to know them.  

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45 minutes ago, Kevin Christensen said:

Obviousness is not an existential quality that is like the speed of light, the same to all observers, but the product of a complex set of interactions between perspectives, background assumptions, available information, and interpretation.  And Kuhn observes that paradigm choice always involves which paradigm is "better" and deciding "which problems are more significant to have solved."  So when I run across something like McMurrin's famous dismissal of the Book of Mormon, or Coe's or Brodie, or the Tanner's or Dehlin, or Vogel or Metcalfe or whomever, I have to consider whether their paradigm is better, and how I go about deciding that compared to how they go about it, and if if happens that I can think of a great many bits of information that I consider significant and important that demonstrably do not weigh in their published arguments, I have to also consider whether their overall paradigm has much promise towards account for the things I know about and value they they do not place on the scale in building their picture and provides the scaffolding upon which the judgment is labeled obvious.

One thing that becomes obvious in this sort of exercise, is that we're not standing the same place, looking at the same evidence, and weighing in the same ways.  The differences make the difference.

Just saying.

Kevin Christensen

Canonsburg, PA

What evidence are you looking at as opposed to Dan Vogel or the others you cite above? How do you weigh it differently? Are you assuming you see and weigh the evidence differently because they arrive at different conclusions than you do?

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4 minutes ago, James Tunney said:

What evidence are you looking at as opposed to Dan Vogel or the others you cite above? How do you weigh it differently? Are you assuming you see and weigh the evidence differently because they arrive at different conclusions than you do?

It seems to me that what my stake president and others were saying is that, based on the paradigm they use to evaluate most evidence (whatever that paradigm might be), they find the evidence in favor of the restoration wanting, but their testimony outweighs that considerably. I don't have a problem with that, just thought it was interesting.

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24 minutes ago, James Tunney said:

What evidence are you looking at as opposed to Dan Vogel or the others you cite above? How do you weigh it differently? Are you assuming you see and weigh the evidence differently because they arrive at different conclusions than you do?

Try this: "Paradigms Crossed", which for me was the culmination of 20 years pondering.

http://publications.mi.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=1436&index=8

Best,

Kevin Christensen

Canonsburg, PA

 

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I'm currently listening to "Of Faith and Reason: 80 evidences supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith" by Michael Ash.  I'm no expert, so if anyone has read the book and takes issue with his claims you'd have to point them out to me.  The evidence is by no means an undisputed "slam dunk" in favor of the church, but it provides for me at least, an intellectual reason to believe.  I don't understand how anyone can say there's absolutely no evidence at all.  There are in my mind, a few evidences that should make every honest skeptic of the church sit back and scratch their heads.  

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1 hour ago, jkwilliams said:

It seems to me that what my stake president and others were saying is that, based on the paradigm they use to evaluate most evidence (whatever that paradigm might be), they find the evidence in favor of the restoration wanting, but their testimony outweighs that considerably. I don't have a problem with that, just thought it was interesting.

My brother has a similar way to view it.  He says the history doesn't matter to him so he won't even engage in it because it is a waste of time to do so.  His testimony like those you cite takes precedence. He is in the stake presidency in his stake and I wonder if that is a new apologetic being used?

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1 hour ago, jkwilliams said:

It seems to me that what my stake president and others were saying is that, based on the paradigm they use to evaluate most evidence (whatever that paradigm might be), they find the evidence in favor of the restoration wanting, but their testimony outweighs that considerably. I don't have a problem with that, just thought it was interesting.

 

16 minutes ago, James Tunney said:

My brother has a similar way to view it.  He says the history doesn't matter to him so he won't even engage in it because it is a waste of time to do so.  His testimony like those you cite takes precedence. He is in the stake presidency in his stake and I wonder if that is a new apologetic being used?


This is interesting.  I don't find the history to be a waste of time at all.
But testimony has to be more important.  There is nothing in Church history that shakes my testimony even in the slightest (that comes from other challenges I have).  And there are others who cannot take the history and keep their testimonies.
 

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1 hour ago, Kevin Christensen said:

Try this: "Paradigms Crossed", which for me was the culmination of 20 years pondering.

http://publications.mi.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=1436&index=8

Best,

Kevin Christensen

Canonsburg, PA

 

Thank you. I've started reading it.  One question, though, how is trying to convince someone to change their paradigm different from gas-lighting? Intent?  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaslighting

I assume you have good motives, however, but at a certain point if it's dark, the light isn't shining?  Or do you believe that perspective is always at work and whether or not the light shines depends on one's point of view in all cases, some cases?

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On 6/27/2016 at 6:02 PM, James Tunney said:

Thank you. I've started reading it.  One question, though, how is trying to convince someone to change their paradigm different from gas-lighting? Intent?  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaslighting

I assume you have good motives, however, but at a certain point if it's dark, the light isn't shining?  Or do you believe that perspective is always at work and whether or not the light shines depends on one's point of view in all cases, some cases?

Keep reading my essay, and the differences between gaslighting and paradigm testing should be obvious.

Take the climactic speech from the 1992 film, My Cousin Vinny.  A witness whose family own a garage and knew all about cars gives her take on a crime scene photo of tire marks in a parking lot that everyone else had already looked at, but she brings in expertise that they did not have.

Quote

Mona Lisa Vito: The car that made these two, equal-length tire marks had positraction. You can't make those marks without positraction, which was not available on the '64 Buick Skylark!
Vinny Gambini: And why not? What is positraction?
Mona Lisa Vito: It's a limited slip differential which distributes power equally to both the right and left tires. The '64 Skylark had a regular differential, which, anyone who's been stuck in the mud in Alabama knows, you step on the gas, one tire spins, the other tire does nothing.
Juror #1: That's right.
Vinny Gambini: Is that it?
Mona Lisa Vito: No, there's more! You see? When the left tire mark goes up on the curb and the right tire mark stays flat and even? Well, the '64 Skylark had a solid rear axle, so when the left tire would go up on the curb, the right tire would tilt out and ride along its edge. But that didn't happen here. The tire mark stayed flat and even. This car had an independent rear suspension. Now, in the '60s, there were only two other cars made in America that had positraction, and independent rear suspension, and enough power to make these marks. One was the Corvette, which could never be confused with the Buick Skylark. The other had the same body length, height, width, weight, wheel base, and wheel track as the '64 Skylark, and that was the 1963 Pontiac Tempest.
Vinny Gambini: And because both cars were made by GM, were both cars available in metallic mint green paint?
Mona Lisa Vito: They were!

So is that Gaslighting?  Or is she making a case that what she sees is testable, accurate in its key predictions, comprehensive and coherent, fruitful, simple and beautiful and more promising?  Can you see the difference?

At a certain point, if it is dark, your perspective should change.  Subjectivity, selectivity, temporality, and contextualization all matter all the time.  It may seem dark because it's a dark moonless night, or you're in a basement, or a sewage tunnel or cave, or you've got your blankets twisted around your head.  Perspective is always at work.  So a big part of Perry Scheme of Cognitive and Ethical Growth has to do with a person's self awareness about the implications of their own perspective.

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/22100469/Perry Scheme.pdf

FWIW

Kevin Christensen

Bethel Park, PA

Edited by Kevin Christensen
typo, as usual

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1 hour ago, Kevin Christensen said:

At a certain point, if it is dark, your perspective should change.  

(1) If I didn't have a testimony, I would not believe based on the evidence. = 21%
(2) The evidence leaves room for faith and belief, but on its own I don't find it compelling. = 47%
(3) On balance, the evidence is compelling in supporting LDS truth-claims. = 26%
(4) The evidence is overwhelming in favor of LDS truth-claims. = 5%


If the majority of LDS were to answer #1 and #2, would that be a hint that maybe its time to change perspectives?

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There is a recording of Warren Jeffs from jail admitting he was a fraud and not a prophet.

His church didn't believe him. Despite the "evidence" of his own testimony the people still find enough reason to have faith.

I think this is a stark example of what we all face. If I'm considering the Book of Abraham translation based on Joseph's claims and what experts now largely agree on, I'd conclude that the BoA isn't what Joseph claimed it to be. But there is always room for faith.

The problem comes in when the overwhelming totality of "evidence" seems to contradict a deeply held belief. Should one hold on to the belief that Warren Jeffs is a prophet or is there a point at which FLDS members should consider an alternative?

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I don't think there is any real evidence to support ideas that some people believe to be important (historicity of the Book of Mormon, Book of Abraham, etc). I don't consider these to be important points, though. 

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