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Where did the Book of Mormon come from?

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11 minutes ago, CA Steve said:

I have a priesthood lineage chart my father got for me when he ordained me an elder. It shows his name, then Harold B Lee's name, who ordained my dad an elder, then it goes back though Heber J Grant to George Q Cannon To Brigham Young to Joseph Smith to Peter, James and John, and then to Christ.  Based on this chart, I can trace my priesthood authority in only eight steps right to Christ. So while I agree with you on how the authority has been used differently in many ways since the restoration, the claim to the have that authority remains the same. You do not have to align yourself with any leader's opinion necessarily, but you do have to acknowledged that leader has the priesthood from God in a similar way my chart shows. If Joseph made up the Book of Mormon, it would cast a serious shadow of doubt on the rest of his claims, like those to have received the Melchizedek  Priesthood.

I can see how that chart is a powerful narrative around Mormon theology and claims of authority literally passed down from person to person.  Its a problematic theology from my vantage point as its very exclusive and tribalistic, and I've pointed out on other threads in the past the problems I have with the exclusive authority emphasis and why I think its more detrimental than productive.  

14 minutes ago, CA Steve said:

I agree the more one looks at Biblical criticism the more problematic it becomes to view those texts as actual history, and that I think that is as big or bigger a threat to Mormonism than a historical Book of Mormon. Obviously if certain stories in the Bible are just refashioned myths made out of older myths then what it is we are actually restoring? More myths? It's tough to base actual claims to God's authority on a myth.

Yes, many Mormon scholars have also made this observation.  I heard it again last week when I attended the Mormon Studies lectures at UVU.  The problem is that the church hasn't engaged with the scholarship institutionally.  I see a big gap in how we're moving forward and I mentioned this to Ben Spackman (one of the presenters) when I talked to him about how the church is approaching biblical studies.  They have no strategy.  At least with church history they have the JSP and the gospel topics essays.  When it comes to biblical studies you have a couple BYU professors and a few scholars like David Bokovoy who are writing books and trying to help bring awareness to the Mormon community, but you have no institutional engagement with modern biblical scholarship.  The members are stuck in early 19th century ideas about the bible in some cases and with respect to James Talmage, some early 20th century bad apologetic arguments that are completely out of date.  

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1 hour ago, hope_for_things said:

But why don't people ask the same questions about works by other historical figures.  Like the ones I listed, great scientific minds and great artists.  Why hold the BoM to a different standard by seeking to explain how Joseph could have produced it.  We know he did produce it, so why question how to these lengths that Mormons do and not do the same thing with other works produced by other figures in history?  

It is not the Mormons’ doing: the book itself explains how it was produced anciently, how it was to be produced and come forth in the latter times, and its central role for the completion of God’s work in the latter days. If the book contains these points and emphasizes them, and the soul is invigorated by contemplating such descriptions and promises, why not study them out? The book itself holds itself to the highest spiritual standard, which naturally invites challenge and critical assessment of its content and origin. Some do this faithful to its message, and some don’t (and so what? :))? And some are good at it and some aren't.

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5 minutes ago, CV75 said:

It is not the Mormons’ doing: the book itself explains how it was produced anciently, how it was to be produced and come forth in the latter times, and its central role for the completion of God’s work in the latter days. If the book contains these points and emphasizes them, and the soul is invigorated by contemplating such descriptions and promises, why not study them out? The book itself holds itself to the highest spiritual standard, which naturally invites challenge and critical assessment of its content and origin. Some do this faithful to its message, and some don’t (and so what? :))? And some are good at it and some aren't.

What the book says about its own origins isn't really evidence to explain the books origins.  That seems to be a circular argument to me.  The origin of the book is dictation by Joseph, which is how Joseph and his closest confidants explained the process.  This is an important point to emphasize I believe, that we know Joseph produced this text through dictation.  

Now if you want to start asking a separate question about what other factors may have influenced Joseph in this production.  Then you can get into speculation about God (I'm not sure how anyone could prove this through scholarly means, its solely in the realm of a faith claim.)  Was Joseph getting ideas from other sources, i.e. some ancient history written in another language, some 19th century works, some 17th century works, the KJV, Milton, Swedenborg, local preachers, etc.  These kinds of questions are all secondary in my view. 

I still find it odd that these same kinds of questions aren't asked of the works by Einstein, or Michelangelo.  Why don't we study what influencing factors helped them produce their works?  Why not do a detailed analysis of Mark Twain's Huck Finn to determine what other texts may have influenced his writing, and what parallels can be found.  It just seems to me that much of the efforts around doing this with the BoM are an effort to prove something for bragging rights of sorts, and this kind of work doesn't have a whole lot of pragmatic value for mankind.  Throw out the exclusivity claims of Mormonism, and we could save a ton of time and effort on all these kinds of studies, and perhaps just focus on the meaning of the text rather than this obsession with how it was produced by Joseph Smith.  Joseph produced it, now lets see if there is anything valuable about the message in the text.  

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1 hour ago, hope_for_things said:

Then God is highly inconsistent and contradictory.  

Inconsistency and contradictions are clearly there.  Whether those faults are god's or someone else's is up to individual interpretation. 

Phaedrus 

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1 minute ago, phaedrus ut said:

Inconsistency and contradictions are clearly there.  Whether those faults are god's or someone else's is up to individual interpretation. 

Phaedrus 

You said God was the author, so if those inconsistencies and contradictions are present then isn't the author responsible for them?  

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3 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Why, for example, is the text in Early Modern English, a language unknown to Joseph Smith?  Joseph may have dictated it to his scribes, but someone else translated it centuries before Joseph.  How's that for a riddle?  So, where did the BofM ultimately come from?  Any good ideas?

I've heard William Tyndale and Milton mentioned as possible translators of original text into Early Modern English, but I can't see that. I favor one of the "holy men ye know not of" mentioned in D & C 49: 19-21. I believe there are such men on the earth today, that there were such men in the time of JS, and there were such men centuries before JS when Early Modern English was the common language in Britain.

Edited by bdouglas

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2 minutes ago, hope_for_things said:

What the book says about its own origins isn't really evidence to explain the books origins.  That seems to be a circular argument to me.  The origin of the book is dictation by Joseph, which is how Joseph and his closest confidants explained the process.  This is an important point to emphasize I believe, that we know Joseph produced this text through dictation.  

Now if you want to start asking a separate question about what other factors may have influenced Joseph in this production.  Then you can get into speculation about God (I'm not sure how anyone could prove this through scholarly means, its solely in the realm of a faith claim.)  Was Joseph getting ideas from other sources, i.e. some ancient history written in another language, some 19th century works, some 17th century works, the KJV, Milton, Swedenborg, local preachers, etc.  These kinds of questions are all secondary in my view. 

I still find it odd that these same kinds of questions aren't asked of the works by Einstein, or Michelangelo.  Why don't we study what influencing factors helped them produce their works?  Why not do a detailed analysis of Mark Twain's Huck Finn to determine what other texts may have influenced his writing, and what parallels can be found.  It just seems to me that much of the efforts around doing this with the BoM are an effort to prove something for bragging rights of sorts, and this kind of work doesn't have a whole lot of pragmatic value for mankind.  Throw out the exclusivity claims of Mormonism, and we could save a ton of time and effort on all these kinds of studies, and perhaps just focus on the meaning of the text rather than this obsession with how it was produced by Joseph Smith.  Joseph produced it, now lets see if there is anything valuable about the message in the text.  

Einstein et al, never claimed to have received any of their material from an angel.

You cannot reduce the Book of Mormon origin story to mere dictation by Joseph. There are years of stories leading up to when it was published, many of which include divine help, about obtaining, moving and hiding gold plates, working with other people to translate them, people witnessing they saw them, the Anthon transcript and so on. All of which are part and parcel to the origin of the Book of Mormon. None of which is comparable to Einstein or Twain's work

Einstein's work was the result of his education, genius, hard work, and culture and his story is well known. Multiple people worked with him as he produced his papers and when he published them, no one was claiming that someone of his education and background could not write such a paper, they may not of agreed with him, but they did not question his ability to write it or the back story of how it was produced.

Maybe a better comparison would be Ellen G White and her works.

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5 minutes ago, hope_for_things said:

What the book says about its own origins isn't really evidence to explain the books origins.  That seems to be a circular argument to me.  The origin of the book is dictation by Joseph, which is how Joseph and his closest confidants explained the process.  This is an important point to emphasize I believe, that we know Joseph produced this text through dictation.  

Now if you want to start asking a separate question about what other factors may have influenced Joseph in this production.  Then you can get into speculation about God (I'm not sure how anyone could prove this through scholarly means, its solely in the realm of a faith claim.)  Was Joseph getting ideas from other sources, i.e. some ancient history written in another language, some 19th century works, some 17th century works, the KJV, Milton, Swedenborg, local preachers, etc.  These kinds of questions are all secondary in my view. 

I still find it odd that these same kinds of questions aren't asked of the works by Einstein, or Michelangelo.  Why don't we study what influencing factors helped them produce their works?  Why not do a detailed analysis of Mark Twain's Huck Finn to determine what other texts may have influenced his writing, and what parallels can be found.  It just seems to me that much of the efforts around doing this with the BoM are an effort to prove something for bragging rights of sorts, and this kind of work doesn't have a whole lot of pragmatic value for mankind.  Throw out the exclusivity claims of Mormonism, and we could save a ton of time and effort on all these kinds of studies, and perhaps just focus on the meaning of the text rather than this obsession with how it was produced by Joseph Smith.  Joseph produced it, now lets see if there is anything valuable about the message in the text.  

I don't take your OP to be about the books origins, but primarily about the high standard its origins are held to, whatever those origins are perceived to be. This standard is both self-imposed within the actual text and dawn out of readers who are intrigued by its contents, promises, claims, etc. Related to this is, why do those who spend so much time with the Book of Mormon (whether pro or con) spend so much time with it? And, why are some interested in its production and some not? Some people really like the history of printing presses and various writing methods throughout the ages into modern times. People are free to delve into any aspect of it, and they do. To overlook or disregard the message about its origin and production as stated in the text is to miss a larger message arising from its wonderful integration and weaving into the tapestry of many other messages. 

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3 hours ago, hope_for_things said:

I honestly don't think the witnesses tell us much about the actual process.  Some speculate that he saw actual words on a stone, others don't.  The only really solid reliable thing we know is that the dictation came from Joseph.  I don't see any reason to conclude from the witness statements that feelings, voices, and "other means" weren't part of that process in Joseph's mind.  Oral tradition, other texts, these too could easily have been involved.    

The doubt that should be cast it seems is on the traditional narrative that more open and honest history has refuted.  The means of translation were through the use of seer stone in a hat and open plates were not used as part of the dictation.  

I listed the "Seer Stone" in my comments. I do not speak of the "Three or Eight Witnesses" only, but of Emma who translated for him from the plates. Emma who handled the plates, Joseph's sister who saw them. Emma was with him when he  went to receive them for the Angel Moroni. Hyrum who also witnessed the translation process and Joseph's many revelations. Oliver Cowdrey and others who saw Jesus Christ in the Kitland Temple, who along with Martin Harrris saw visions, received. The Aronic Priesthood at the hands of John the Baptist, later ordained by Peter, James and John. In 1843 or 44, when Hyrum finally convinced Joseph to put D&C132 into print, and was about to retrieve the U&T so Joseph could do so, but Joseph said he did not need it. Hyrum who died at his brother's side because of the many miracles he witnessed, of translations, visions, healings, and other wonders. The Book of Mormon may be the most visible token upon which the Church founded, but only a fraction of the many peripheral wonders upon which our Faith is founded and based.

There is also my witness, that is no less valuable than any other. I remember the first time I read Mosiah 1-5, because I too had "no more desire to do evil, but to do good continually". I too was converted, and transformed by these words. I too am a witness of the Book of Mormon, and one day in the "Eternities", my name will be added to it's list of witnesseses. 39 years ago, a member asked me "if I like to read", as I replied yes, she gave me my first copy. I was so overcome by the Spirit of God, that I could barley ask in a whisper to ask,; "what is this"? That very night, I was converted to the Gospel, without even knowing what that term meant. As I read all through that night, the Spirit of God rested upon me, causing me to look around the room many times knowing I was not alone! In fact the same Spirit that accompanied me all my life while reading the Bible, was with me that night. I cannot deny it, for to do so would cost me my very soul, and I am not selling my soul to Satan today, or any other! Hope some of this helps. 

Edited by Bill "Papa" Lee
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2 hours ago, hope_for_things said:

I kind of wonder if people aren't creating unnecessary riddles like the one you mentioned on the EModE studies.  I question whether there is actually anything productive we can learn from a study like that.  Its a book in the style that Joseph dictated it, and whether or not it sounds like 17th or 19th century English doesn't seem to be that pertinent when it comes to the messages found in the book.  

It strikes me that these kinds of studies are like studying the smile in the Mona Lisa.  The nuances keep getting deeper and deeper, yet I'm not sure its all that interesting.  Humans are pretty good at imagining meaning from all kinds of meaningless and ordinary things.  We are good at seeing patterns in noise, but I think this gets fairly useless for society.  

???

There's no such thing as a "meaningless [or] ordinary thing[]." Mankind imbues as primary as well as second nature all phenomena with meaning. Otherwise everything he experiences is a chaotic jumble.

We, even as infants, create cosmos out of chaos. The ordinary is only ordinary because we've previously imposed a name and a context upon it. The creative process we go through is a freakin' miracle. You do poorly to mock my or anybody else's miraculous achievements.

And just because someone creates deeper and multilayered and novel meaning out of your mundanities doesn't make them stupid or you wise.

Maybe you're the creatively retarded one, not them.

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1 hour ago, hope_for_things said:

Joseph produced it, now lets see if there is anything valuable about the message in the text.  

Well, that would depend on where he got the message. That's probably why the question will be asked time and time again.

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2 hours ago, phaedrus ut said:

The way I see it the Book of Mormon, The Book of Abraham, the D&C and the Inspired Version of the Bible all have the same author. Some people see that as Joseph Smith and others see it as god. ....... 

I'd like to see a stylometric analysis on all those works.

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57 minutes ago, bdouglas said:

I've heard William Tyndale and Milton mentioned as possible translators of original text into Early Modern English, but I can't see that. I favor one of the "holy men ye know not of" mentioned in D & C 49: 19-21. I believe there are such men on the earth today, that there were such men in the time of JS, and there were such men centuries before JS when Early Modern English was the common language in Britain.

One guy on this board believes that it was Hugo Grotius, but it may even have been Dr. John Dee.

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1 minute ago, Rajah Manchou said:

Well, that would depend on where he got the message. That's probably why the question will be asked time and time again.

I understand what HFT is trying to get at here. He finds value in the Book of Mormon and does not want to discard that simply because there are problems with other aspects of the story. It is a nice sentiment.

 

But is someone walks up to me and offers me $500.00; I think my first reaction would be to ask why? Maybe there are times when looking in the mouth of a gift horse is necessary?

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2 hours ago, Tacenda said:

https://www.lds.org/ensign/2015/10/joseph-the-seer?lang=eng In this link you will see a picture at the bottom that shows the blanket between the scribe and he.

The trouble with Earl Jones' nice artwork is that he was not a witness.

200x129.jpg

Actual witness, David Whitmer, stated in Dec 15, 1885:

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The translation commenced in the Whitmer home and a blanket was used only to prevent visitors from seeing the work – the entire household (Oliver, Emma, et al.) viewed the work of translation firsthand: Thus, the blanket divided the room as a portiere for privacy only.  The plates were there.  The translation took about 8 months.  The scribes included Emma, Oliver, Christian Whitmer, et al.    (col. 3)
Prayer preceded each session of translation.  The scribes sat at the table opposite Smith and worked in shifts.  Those not writing would sit casually about the room.   “The Book of Mormon,” The Chicago Tribune, Dec 17, 1885, p. 3, cols. 3-5; cf. Millennial Star, 48:36.

Elizabeth Ann Whitmer (Cowdery) was age 14 and personally observed the dictation:

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Richmond, Ray Co., Mo. Feb 15th 1870

        I cheerfully certify that I was familiar with the manner of Joseph Smith’s translating the book of Mormon.  He translated the most of it at my Father’s house.  And I often sat by and saw and heard them translate and write for hours together.  Joseph never had a curtain drawn between him and his scribe while he was translating.  He would place the director in his hat, and then place his face in his hat, so as to exclude the light, and then [lacuna       ] <to his scribe the words (he said) as they appeared before him> [remainder of letter has been lost]  Copy only available in Dr. McLellan letter to “My Dear Friends,” from Independence, Mo., Feb 1870 (RLDS Archives, P13 f191) .

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Also, Joseph had years that he could come up with a lot of the Book of Mormon.

I have yet to find anyone who knew Joseph at that time who believed that he was capable of doing so.  Even his wife considered him only semi-literate.  Then we have the problem of the actual contents of the BofM -- there are simply too many facts that he gets right that he couldn't possibly have known in 1829.  There is a limit to just guessing and getting it right.

Edited by Robert F. Smith
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1 hour ago, CA Steve said:

Einstein et al, never claimed to have received any of their material from an angel.

You cannot reduce the Book of Mormon origin story to mere dictation by Joseph. There are years of stories leading up to when it was published, many of which include divine help, about obtaining, moving and hiding gold plates, working with other people to translate them, people witnessing they saw them, the Anthon transcript and so on. All of which are part and parcel to the origin of the Book of Mormon. None of which is comparable to Einstein or Twain's work

Einstein's work was the result of his education, genius, hard work, and culture and his story is well known. Multiple people worked with him as he produced his papers and when he published them, no one was claiming that someone of his education and background could not write such a paper, they may not of agreed with him, but they did not question his ability to write it or the back story of how it was produced.

Maybe a better comparison would be Ellen G White and her works.

Many composers attribute their musical inspiration to revelation from God.

 Your  example in the OP...Beethoven. His  magnum opus, the Ninth Symphony, came at the end of a life of constant training, study, reworking ideas, practicing, trial and error, erasures, rewrites, and the experience gained from composing 8 earlier symphonies and hundreds of other works. His first composition was not an earth-shaker. Comparing him with Joseph, whose magnum opus was his first work, is untenable. Same for Mozart, Bach, Prokofiev, Coltrane, Gershwin, Lennon, John Williams, take your pick.

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2 hours ago, hope_for_things said:

Can you explain an example of how people are wondering about the works produced by others in the same way as they are questioning the BoM production?   

I just read one, about the Ezourvedam.

Ezourvedam: A French Veda of the Eighteenth Century

This is an interesting example because it lays out the arguments scholars make as they try to identify the 18th century author(s) of a supposedly ancient set of scriptures. Many of the arguments sound familiar.

"The Ezourvedam, used by Voltaire among others, as sourcebook for the most ancient of religions, was thereupon found to have been a fraud. Actually it was composed by a Christian the text shows him to have been a French Jesuit missionary, who did not necessarily know Sanskrit in order to convert Hindus to Christianity. The controversy surrounding the spurious Veda continues, involving a number of scholars and missionaries particularly in the question of whether or not the Veda was composed in Sanskrit or French. In tracing the history of the Ezourvedam Ludo Rocher adds a number of points, one being that the text was definitely first written in French with a view to a later Sanskrit translation or, more likely, to one of several modern Indian vernaculars."

Edited by Rajah Manchou

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4 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Calm and methodical basic research has taught us a lot about the BofM, and one does not have to be a believer in order to do that research.  And you are correct to say that "Joseph Smith dictated the content of the BoM to some scribes."  However, much of the rest is not so "clear and straightforward."  True, one can do minute textual studies, and analyze the genre and structure of every part of the English text -- just the way it is done to the Bible.  Yet, at the end of the day, basic research has left many of us baffled.

Why, for example, is the text in Early Modern English, a language unknown to Joseph Smith?  Joseph may have dictated it to his scribes, but someone else translated it centuries before Joseph.  How's that for a riddle?  So, where did the BofM ultimately come from?  Any good ideas?

Anyone look at John Bunyan? Pilgrim’s Progress was the most widely read book other than the Bible at the time.

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3 hours ago, hope_for_things said:

I would say most critics of the BoM think it is full of holes.  EModE hasn't moved any needles in the critical scholarship from what I've read.  The idea that Joseph couldn't have done it, yet he did do it, doesn't make sense to me.  Joseph dictated it, he did it, we have no evidence that is credible to suggest otherwise. 

"Joseph dictated it, he did it, we have no evidence that is credible to suggest otherwise."  I guess you missed the fact that I agreed with you on that.  Yes, he dictated it.  Of course he did.  We have plenty of witnesses to the fact.  You're beating a dead horse.   :beatdeadhorse:

You have also missed the fact that significant basic research was done, the conclusion of which was completely unexpected, and which would surprise Joseph himself, if he were here to discuss it.  No one has to accept the conclusion on Early Modern English, and it goes against my own detailed translation theory from years past.  I really don't have a replacement for it either, but I am not going to reject or ignore legitimate research data simply because it does not fit my apriori notions.  That applies not only to the fine research of Carmack and Skousen, but also the factual analysis of the contents of the BofM for and against historicity.

You say that "most critics of the BoM think it is full of holes."  Yet most critics are not scholars, seldom know anything about ancient history, and have no idea how to evaluate something like the BofM.  I have yet to read a satisfactory article or book which actually deals with the BofM with serious scholarship which calls into question its authenticity -- unless it is Rob Bowman's doctoral dissertation.

Quote

Trying to find complexities and then say Joseph couldn't possibly have created it because he wasn't smart enough, just don't make sense to me. 

Robert, many other writers have produced texts of similar complexity without training.  I'm wondering if you've read through Richard Van Wagoner's Natural Born Seer and the appendix section that compares the BoM to other texts of similar complexity that have been produced through dictation or automatic writing or other similar methods.  Its quite interesting.  Also, I liked Ann Taves Revelatory Events and the A Course in Miracles creation which had some interesting parallels.  I don't find these arguments that others haven't done what Joseph did credible, because they have and there are examples to compare.  

I knew Richard, and he was an audiologist who took a strong interest in historical research, but (like Fawn Brodie) he was not a trained historian.  The magical production of entire books through automatic writing is certainly a real phenomenon, but inevitably the people you are talking about were at least literate.  Joseph was not.  That has nothing to do with smarts or IQ.  Joseph may even have been a genius who learned quickly, but that doesn't get us past the reality that he simply could not have come up with the substantive content of the BofM.  That is a matter of scientific fact.

Here is an excerpt from a book I wrote many years ago, a copy of which I sent to Richard.

Quote

Automatic writing or hypergraphia, is characterized by an irresistible urge to write – often including the hearing of voices outside one’s head, sometimes interpreted as religious experience.  Robert Louis Stevenson induced the state with cocaine while writing Dr. Jekel and Mr. Hyde, and Edgar Allen Poe took similar measures, but most writers have come by the experience naturally (Dostoevsky).  Hypergraphia seems to originate in the pre-frontal lobe of the brain, and can be accompanied by bi-polar disorder and hallucinations.  Alice Flaherty has reversed this explanation of the phenomenon and theorized that this may be the mode by which “authentic religious” experience comes. 

Whatever the case, Daniel Wegner maintains that such activities carry no more than the impression or illusion of conscious will.  According to Wegner, such an illusion masks any true understanding of hypnosis, automatic writing, Ouija Board spellings, facilitated communication, spirit possession, trance channeling, and dissociative identity disorder.  Walter F. Prince and Scott Dunn have each thought an illusion of this sort a reasonable approach to the writings of both Joseph Smith and Patience Worth, but in so saying they have overlooked a host of crucial matters which I have mentioned herein – matters which remain a powerful and fearsome lion in their path (particularly with respect to Joseph Smith Jr).

See W. F. Prince, "Psychological Tests for the Authorship of the Book of Mormon," American Journal of Psychology, 27 (1917), 373-389; Prince in Scientific American, 134 (July 1926), 22; and Scott Dunn, "Spirit Writing: Another Look at the Book of Mormon," Sunstone, 10/6 (June 1985), 16-26; Dunn, “Automaticity and the Dictation of the Book of Mormon,” in D. Vogel & B. Metcalfe, eds., American Apocrypha (2002), 17-46 – reviewed by Richard Williams in FARMS Review, 19/1 (2007), 23-29; cf. Robert A. Rees, “The Book of Mormon and Automatic Writing,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, 15/1 (2006), 4-17.

 

Edited by Robert F. Smith
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1 hour ago, CA Steve said:

Einstein et al, never claimed to have received any of their material from an angel.

You cannot reduce the Book of Mormon origin story to mere dictation by Joseph. There are years of stories leading up to when it was published, many of which include divine help, about obtaining, moving and hiding gold plates, working with other people to translate them, people witnessing they saw them, the Anthon transcript and so on. All of which are part and parcel to the origin of the Book of Mormon. None of which is comparable to Einstein or Twain's work

Einstein's work was the result of his education, genius, hard work, and culture and his story is well known. Multiple people worked with him as he produced his papers and when he published them, no one was claiming that someone of his education and background could not write such a paper, they may not of agreed with him, but they did not question his ability to write it or the back story of how it was produced.

Maybe a better comparison would be Ellen G White and her works.

It’s fine to make the comparison between White or Mohammed or Swedenborg.  I think most people start with the assumption that those individuals produced their works.  I’m not really aware of studies that try to prove that White didn’t produce her works, or that White wasn’t the source of what she produced.  That’s how I see the Joseph Smith comparison differently.  So many people involved in Mormonism seem focused on trying to prove that Joseph didn’t produce the BoM, rather than starting with the assumption that he did.  

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37 minutes ago, Bernard Gui said:

Anyone look at John Bunyan? Pilgrim’s Progress was the most widely read book other than the Bible at the time.

True.  It was a best-seller, although it was not more common that the Book of Common Prayer.  However, what is your point here, Bernard?

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1 hour ago, CV75 said:

I don't take your OP to be about the books origins, but primarily about the high standard its origins are held to, whatever those origins are perceived to be. This standard is both self-imposed within the actual text and dawn out of readers who are intrigued by its contents, promises, claims, etc. Related to this is, why do those who spend so much time with the Book of Mormon (whether pro or con) spend so much time with it? And, why are some interested in its production and some not? Some people really like the history of printing presses and various writing methods throughout the ages into modern times. People are free to delve into any aspect of it, and they do. To overlook or disregard the message about its origin and production as stated in the text is to miss a larger message arising from its wonderful integration and weaving into the tapestry of many other messages. 

The value of the BoM from my vantage point lies precisely with respect to its ability to enrich the human experience and teach truths, beauty and goodness.  It’s origin is Joseph Smith.  Whether there are other parallels or not, how Joseph produced it, is much less important in my eyes.  Those can be interesting questions, but can also distract from the content of the BoM.  I don’t just assume that all studies are of equal value.  If I were to prioritize and rank what I think is most important it would be the practical impact and value of the BoM on enriching the human endeavor.  

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5 hours ago, CA Steve said:

As Mormon's we are big on authority claims. We claim that what we are doing through the priesthood is binding beyond this life, We claim that President Nelson is authorized to speak for God here on earth. We claim that we are the only ones who have the authority to baptize people into God's church even if those people are already dead. We claim the authority to seal families together forever.

I am perfectly fine with those who want to approach the Book of Mormon as a pseudepigrapical text  but I think that approach impacts those claims of authority to act in God's name. 

Additionally I don't think the impact of scriptural historicity on LDS claims to authority is limited to the Book of Mormon & PofGP, though that is most often discussed. I think that the historicity of the Pentateuch has as much of or a greater impact on those claims. If the stories we know from the Bible about the Biblical patriarchs  are not at least mostly true, it undermines the whole foundation, in my mind. If Abraham was a myth that pretty much does away with the whole authority claim for us, does it not?

So yes I believe that historical accuracy for Mormonism is very important.

A fair-minded assessment, but where does that leave us?  How are we to deal responsibly with such issues?  Is it even possible?

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3 hours ago, hope_for_things said:

Robert, many other writers have produced texts of similar complexity without training.  I'm wondering if you've read through Richard Van Wagoner's Natural Born Seer and the appendix section that compares the BoM to other texts of similar complexity that have been produced through dictation or automatic writing or other similar methods.  Its quite interesting.  Also, I liked Ann Taves Revelatory Events and the A Course in Miracles creation which had some interesting parallels.  I don't find these arguments that others haven't done what Joseph did credible, because they have and there are examples to compare.  

Do you really think you can compare the BOM to A Course In Miracles? A Course in Miracles is, from beginning to end, New Age claptrap. If I were to spend six months immersing myself in New Age thinking, I could have written it. As for Ann Taves——it's inspirational writing (same as A Course In Miracles). Nothing like BOM. For example, the 600 references to georgraphy in the BOM. Whole books could, and have, been written about BOM geography (most recently "Mormon's Codex"). Somebody could write a whole book about the different migrations in the BOM. Somebody could write an entire book about the different languages in the BOM, not only "reformed Egyptian" but what happened to the language as the centuries wore on. Somebody could write a whole book about the different plates, the source material for the narrative. Somebody could write a book about the different voices (28, at last count) in the BOM. And so on and so on.

There are no "texts of similar complexity" out there that can be reasonably compared to the BOM, and there is no naturalistic explanation for it (such as Van Wagoner posits) that makes any sense, that doesn't require huge stretches to swallow ("stretchers", as Huck Finn would call them).

Edited by bdouglas
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1 hour ago, Bill "Papa" Lee said:

I listed the "Seer Stone" in my comments. I do not speak of the "Three or Eight Witnesses" only, but of Emma who translated for him from the plates. Emma who handled the plates, Joseph's sister who saw them. Emma was with him when he  went to receive them for the Angel Moroni. Hyrum who also witnessed the translation process and Joseph's many revelations. Oliver Cowdrey and others who saw Jesus Christ in the Kitland Temple, who along with Martin Harrris saw visions, received. The Aronic Priesthood at the hands of John the Baptist, later ordained by Peter, James and John. In 1843 or 44, when Hyrum finally convinced Joseph to put D&C132 into print, and was about to retrieve the U&T so Joseph could do so, but Joseph said he did not need it. Hyrum who died at his brother's side because of the many miracles he witnessed, of translations, visions, healings, and other wonders. The Book of Mormon may be the most visible token upon which the Church founded, but only a fraction of the many peripheral wonders upon which our Faith is founded and based.

The problem is you’re conflating all these distinctly different events to support your narrative concept of how to view church at large. 

1 hour ago, Bill "Papa" Lee said:

There is also my witness, that is no less valuable than any other. I remember the first time I read Mosiah 1-5, because I too had "no more desire to do evil, but to do good continually". I too was converted, and transformed by these words. I too am a witness of the Book of Mormon, and one day in the "Eternities", my name will be added to it's list of witnesseses. 39 years ago, a member asked me "if I like to read", as I replied yes, she gave me my first copy. I was so overcome by the Spirit of God, that I could barley ask in a whisper, "what is this"? That very night, I was converted to the Gospel, without even knowing what the term meant. As I read all through that night, the Spirit of God rested upon me, causing me to look around the room many times knowing I was not alone! In fact the same Spirit that accompanied me all my life while reading the Bible, was with me that night. I cannot deny it, for to do so whorls cost me my very soul, and I am not selling my soul to Satan today, or any other! Hope some of this helps. 

It’s fine to have a personal testimony and perspective about the BoM and the church.  I’m not here to try and change your perspective, I just have a different one.  Also, I don’t see any of your personal testimony beliefs to be continent upon the BoM being something other than a production by Joseph Smith.  Both positions are as compatible as I heard Steven Peck recently comment on how he believes that Evolution is compatible with Mormonism.  

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