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The DNA Issue again.

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38 minutes ago, Brant Gardner said:

With all due respect, my position is the result of a lot of careful thought about the nature of the translation process and the way in which the text reflects the time and overall culture in which it was created. 

I probably should have just refrained from commenting. I've read a bunch of your posts over the years and do not doubt that you have thought through your position.

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2 hours ago, Exiled said:

With all due respect, this just sounds like an ad hoc justification for why there are 19th century elements in the book. For me, I couldn't continue believing in what's merely possible.

I don't think I'd agree with the "merely possible" tag just because it doesn't fit your expectations. Were I translating it would I do such a loose translation? Would I put explanations in the body text rather than in a footnote? Would I do scripture quotes or paraphrases from the KJV to indicate a reference? Heck no. But I wasn't doing the translation. The idea of a loose or highly interpretive translation isn't novel. The midrash and pesher are both examples of interpretive treatments of scripture. In particular the types of translations in a targum offer a lot of parallels to what the Book of Mormon does. Admittedly the translations we have were just Hebrew to the related Aramaic. There's nothing akin to the heavily compressed nature of the gold plates and the unknown connection to Egyptian. We'd expect that to make things more interpretive and less like a normal translation that attempts to translate primarily at the word level though.

However given what we know of Targums, particularly from Qumran, I'm not sure the highly interpretive translation the Book of Mormon offers can be merely called "possible." I'm not saying it's likely without other evidence. (Thus the place of personal revelation for the believer) But it's certainly quite plausible even if the Targum and Pesher traditions are post-exilic and largely from the Roman era. Reading the Targum Pesudo-Jonathan is worth doing if only to see context for what the Book of Mormon does. (It's date is most likely after the main Roman era - as late as the 4th century.  But it is a very interesting example of the tradition) I'm not in the least saying Mormon follows the Qumran Targum in style - just that interpretive texts that blend commentary into the text is a valid Jewish interpretive tradition. The Targum Pseudo-Jonatham about doubles the size of the text it translates for instance.

I'd add that this Targum/Pesher effect is reflected not only in Nephi and Jacob's treatment of Isaiah but quite possibly in the very translation itself in terms of what Joseph was given by the mysterious translator.

Edited by clarkgoble
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55 minutes ago, clarkgoble said:

I don't think I'd agree with the "merely possible" tag just because it doesn't fit your expectations.

My expectations have nothing to do with it.  However, that makes for a good justification for belief. Non-belief can then be relegated to being caused by some built in bias. Obviously, if the faulty expectations weren't there all would be mormon, etc., etc.  It seems circular.  

Were there nephites or not? It seems highly probable that there were not.

What if I were arguing for scientology or a myriad of other religions? I am sure if I claim your rejection of the other religions was simply because of your tainted subjective expectations and your mormon social conditioning, you would immediately object and turn to objective experience as a justification as to why everyone should be mormon or at least why you are.

Even so, I agree that you believe that I am merely a victim of faulty expectations. Maybe I am just crazy to want evidence for nephites/lamanites like there is evidence of the past roman civilization. Roman existence seems highly probable while nephite/lamanite evidence seems merely possible to me. Roman dna didn't disappear like other dna aparently did. I just can't change my expectations there.

As for the text itself, I think it is aparently open to being interpreted in many different ways and anyone can put whatever framework they want onto the text in order to make it work. Choose one's own interpretation as long as one remains within the acceptable bounds of priesthood authority. Maybe there is some new and exciting, inventive way to interpret the text that no one has ever imagined?

Look, I'm tired. Maybe I will take a break from this site for a while. I love my mormon heritage, just don't believe the claims any more.

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5 hours ago, Brant Gardner said:

This all depends upon what they are talking about. If they were discussing a feast and failed to mention some unique foods (Mesoamerican tamales, for example), that would be surprising. However, if they never talked about eating, then there is no reason to be surprised at the absence of the mention of specific foods.

The next problem is that we have the text in translation. I am not one of those who holds to the divinely dictated translation method. I think Joseph had a part in the translation, and we shouldn't be surprised to find things in his translation that reference his understanding of certain topics (such as revival language). I suspect that there are some occasions where the flora and fauna are anachronisms of translation rather than being attributable to the original text. That isn't surprising. Early Spanish writers described native religion, but in European categories that took a long time to unravel to see how the native religion differed from the descriptions.

I can see that those are the kind of answers that could account for the kind of silence about aboriginal cultures that we have in the text. I guess what I have is a problem of scale. The Book of Mormon is a fairly long book, and such a consistent reticence about what would have been a huge fact of life in the writers' times seems like a huge fact itself.

As I've admitted, I don't know either the Book of Mormon or aboriginal American culture well enough to really say anything here. I certainly haven't thought hard about this stuff for years, as many people here have. My initial reaction, though, is: aren't you putting a bandaid onto a compound fracture, or stretching a handkerchief over a bed? It's a sheet, it's a bandage; but it's too small for this job.

The idea that ancient writers who were writing for a certain purpose might well omit things would explain the absence of aboriginal culture in any short text, but consistently avoiding significant mention over a text as long as the Book of Mormon is just too much for me to swallow. It ought to have been unavoidable for a lot more references to creep in, even just accidentally, if surrounding aboriginal cultures were a basic fact of Nephite life. And then Joseph Smith might have inadvertently disguised some references to aboriginal cultures by (I would say overly) free translation, but the basic concept of neighboring foreign cultures cannot have been alien to Smith, who knew there were French-speaking people not too far north from him, and so on. I don't see how he could have done such a nearly seamless job of excising aboriginal culture, in such a long book, unless he were deliberately trying to do just that—and why would he?

Edited by Physics Guy

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3 hours ago, Physics Guy said:

I can see that those are the kind of answers that could account for the kind of silence about aboriginal cultures that we have in the text. I guess what I have is a problem of scale. The Book of Mormon is a fairly long book, and such a consistent reticence about what would have been a huge fact of life in the writers' times seems like a huge fact itself.

The question is really only applicable at the beginning. After the text is on its way, "others" are an integral part of what goes on. The problem is that they are all identified as Lamanites. That is a generic term that began with Nephi, and is explained in Jacob 1:14. The word Lamanite became a collective comparable to "gentile." It isn't specific and covered a wide range of people. Once you understand that terminology, it isn't hard to see the implicit presence of the others from quite early in the text. We don't know quite how Lehi's family split up, but even if it were evenly divided in the split, it is hard to see how the Lamanites quickly become so much more numerous than the Nephites. So the answer to your conundrum is that you are correct that integration with others in the land should show up in the text, even if the first meeting account does not. The second point is that they do, but are camouflaged by the collective name of Lamanite.

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As I've admitted, I don't know either the Book of Mormon or aboriginal American culture well enough to really say anything here. I certainly haven't thought hard about this stuff for years, as many people here have. My initial reaction, though, is: aren't you putting a bandaid onto a compound fracture, or stretching a handkerchief over a bed? It's a sheet, it's a bandage; but it's too small for this job.

If you haven't kept up with the literature, I can understand why you would think this is a convenient solution. It really is more complicated than that. While there is no first contact description, the implicit presence of others occurs virtually from the beginning of the Nephite nation. Think about 2 Nephi 5:5-6. In verse 6 there are enough named people that you can identify pretty much all of the original party who went with Nephi or who stayed (not mentioned, but implicit in those known). Then, after accounting for virtually everyone we know about, the Lord warned to take "all those who would go." There aren't many ways to read that carefully that don't require "others."

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5 hours ago, Exiled said:

Were there nephites or not? It seems highly probable that there were not.. . . Maybe I am just crazy to want evidence for nephites/lamanites like there is evidence of the past roman civilization. Roman existence seems highly probable while nephite/lamanite evidence seems merely possible to me. Roman dna didn't disappear like other dna apparently did.

That is a question worth answering. Of course, the problem is in knowing how to answer it. What kind of evidence is possible? Let's start with things that are not possible, beginning with your example of the Romans. What about Roman DNA? I don't know that there is any. There is DNA from the entire peninsula, and migration and integration have blended it even further. Is it possible to locate specifically Roman DNA? Our only hope is through DNA in the bones, but even that is likely to give you large regional information and not specific Roman. We tend to have some unreasonable expectations of what DNA does. There are a lot of people finally understanding this when they get their own personal DNA. You have siblings with very different DNA "histories."

Next, is it really a surprise that Lehi DNA would disappear? Not according to DNA scientists. Even Simon Southerton who uses DNA against the Book of Mormon admitted that DNA isn't an issue if a small original population mixed in to a much larger existing population. The one thing DNA does for Book of Mormon studies is declare that the idea that Book of Mormon peoples populated the entire hemisphere is untenable. That was a position that lasted a long time in the church. I heard it myself as a youth. Scholars knew it was wrong long before the DNA issue came up. 

What else about Roman archaeology is an incorrect model (and I could use most of the ancient world on the Eastern Hemisphere)? The Romans were a massively dominant culture. I know that the assumption about the Nephites is that they were extremely important, but that is a problem of ancient texts. Internally, there is no evidence for it, and quite a bit to suggest that they were a smaller polity among larger ones. Next, the survival of documents. We just don't have the documentary history in the New World that exists from the  Old World. Until the Maya glyphs were translated (going back only to the 70s), we had nothing. The only texts that we had were those that were carved. The San Bartolo murals proved that writing was earlier, but it was painted--and most of it lost. So we have a problem of understanding a lot of history because we don't have the texts.

In the Old World, we know where specific cities were located because there is a continuation of both the place through history, and documentary support. We don't have that in the New World. Most of the names we know for Mesoamerican sites are modern designations. We now know a handful, but not nearly a full set of names. 

So, from what we can't find, is there anything that we can find?

Yes. We have the Book of Mormon, which is a long text. It has descriptions of the movement of peoples through time and space. It has descriptions of how they acted. None of it is explicit, but it can be compared to what we now know (based on archaeology and linguistics--mostly after the 1970s) . With that comparative base, but Book of Mormon fits extremely well into a known location at the correct time periods. Early kingship in the Book of Mormon aligns with the beginnings of kingship in Maya regions. The timing of the diaspora from the city of Nephi to the city of Zarahemla fits with a known invasion, and the evidence of connections between the plausible locations. It also fits with the descriptions of the types of differences between Nephite and Zarahemlaite peoples. 

There really is a lot of good evidence. It just isn't what most people think of when they think of archaeology. That is understandable because most people don't study much archaeology, and particularly the issues of how archaeology aligns with texts (it isn't a direct correlation).

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Even so, I agree that you believe that I am merely a victim of faulty expectations. I just can't change my expectations there.

I suspect that you "can't change" because you see things that you believe make it difficult to change your expectations. Perhaps modify expectations is a better phrase. The problem isn't that we have to abandon reason to believe the Book of Mormon. We have to have expectations that are appropriate to the historical situation and the nature of the available evidence. Since finding the proverbial "Nephi slept here" sign becomes incredibly difficult with the problems of preserving writing in that area of the world, it is an unreasonable expectation that we find the sign with writing on it. However, it is reasonable--more than reasonable--to expect that a text written in a time and culture should reflect both the times and the culture.

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As for the text itself, I think it is apparently open to being interpreted in many different ways and anyone can put whatever framework they want onto the text in order to make it work. Choose one's own interpretation as long as one remains within the acceptable bounds of priesthood authority. Maybe there is some new and exciting, inventive way to interpret the text that no one has ever imagined?

There are certainly many frameworks that have been used to explain the Book of Mormon. I doubt that there is anything new under the sun with regards to approaches the the text. Personally, I think one that is grounded in the same principles that one would use to compare any text against history is the one to pursue. Let me give the simple and obvious description. We have hypotheses that the Book of Mormon that it took place on the west coast of South America. Most of them require that the Amazon basin be underwater at a time when archaeology knows that people were there. That is a pretty easy disqualification.

Then we have a document that is called the Histoyre du Mechique. It purports to be a French translation of a Spanish document from a very early Spanish father, which is otherwise lost. Is it? The analysis suggests that it is. Of course, in that case, we are dealing with French and Spanish so there isn't a huge disconnect in the meanings behind the vocabulary, so the translation is deemed fairly good. Still, the way it was supported as historical was by careful comparison of what it said against other sources. There are things in it that are not in the other sources, but there were enough similarities and correspondence with the purported time and place to accept it for what it said it was.

There are methods that can be applied. We simply have to use those appropriate to the type of evidence we have and not expect evidence that close examination tells us should not be there. For example, there is a complaint that we don't find Mesoamerican Christianity. The very simply question for that conclusion is how one might know. All of the iconographic clues that allow us to see Christianity come from a completely different time and culture--and were borrowed from different cultures at different times. If there were a Mesoamerican Christianity, what should it look like so we would know if we found it? The answer to that is that it is virtually unknowable. The complaint against that aspect of the Book of Mormon is based on incorrect assumptions.

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25 minutes ago, Brant Gardner said:

The word Lamanite became a collective comparable to "gentile." It isn't specific and covered a wide range of people. Once you understand that terminology, it isn't hard to see the implicit presence of the others from quite early in the text.

Limhi's Party traveled from the Land of Nephi to Desolation and found nothing but the rusted swords, breastplates, golden plates and dry bones of the Jaredites. They mentioned no others: no Nephites, no Lamanites, no Jaredites, no Mulekites. No Maya.

Had they been following the Grijalva and Usamacinta Rivers, they would surely have run into somebody.

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10 hours ago, Brant Gardner said:

The best beginning source is Gordon C. Thomasson, "What's in a Name? Book of Mormon Language, Names, and [Metonymic] Naming."  See here. Thomasson will give you the basic argument you are looking for. What I have found is that the extent of metonymic naming is much greater than Thomasson has noted--and is quite important to the text.

Could you give us a notion of what you mean here?

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57 minutes ago, Rajah Manchou said:

Limhi's Party traveled from the Land of Nephi to Desolation and found nothing but the rusted swords, breastplates, golden plates and dry bones of the Jaredites. They mentioned no others: no Nephites, no Lamanites, no Jaredites, no Mulekites. No Maya.

Had they been following the Grijalva and Usamacinta Rivers, they would surely have run into somebody.

Since they were looking for some one with the power to help, why would they mention little hamlet or village that could not help and did not speak their language?

For what they reported that they saw compared to what a journey along the Usamacinta in search of a Zarahemla on the Grijalva would show, try Larry Porter here:

https://www.fairmormon.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/2008-Larry-Poulsen.pdf

FWIW

Kevin Christensen

Canonsburg, PA

 

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1 hour ago, Rajah Manchou said:

Limhi's Party traveled from the Land of Nephi to Desolation and found nothing but the rusted swords, breastplates, golden plates and dry bones of the Jaredites. They mentioned no others: no Nephites, no Lamanites, no Jaredites, no Mulekites. No Maya.

Had they been following the Grijalva and Usamacinta Rivers, they would surely have run into somebody.

Relevant point here Rajah. They would have mentioned some survivors at this point. The point of the text is that they found no one there except dry bones. Mesoamerica was the most densely  populated area of the Americas at the time. My guess is you'd be hard pressed to find any area which would remain desolate or devoid of people for any significant time - maybe up in Mexico we could expect a land of dry bones. As archaeologists have found, the jungle in Mesoamerica reclaims everything rather quickly.

Nevertheless, I don't believe the Jaredites totally went extinct. I believe their culture went extinct. Some women and children probably survived in fringe areas. Even the Neanderthals live on in the DNA of modern populations. I can't think of a people who went completely extinct. To find that you have to go back before Homo Sapiens. Man has been very successful at continuingly spreading.

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24 minutes ago, Kevin Christensen said:

Since they were looking for some one with the power to help, why would they mention little hamlet or village that could not help and did not speak their language?

Why would we need to assume little hamlets or villages? The text doesn't say there were others, why must we assume there were?

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16 minutes ago, Rajah Manchou said:

Why would we need to assume little hamlets or villages? The text doesn't say there were others, why must we assume there were?

Why must we assume that Mormon, in abridging the records he has, based on what he thinks is most important should tell us what we think is important?  And why assume that Limhi's explorers would have told us everything that Charles Darwin would have reported.  The important thing is that they thought they had found Zarahemla and were wrong and that Poulson accounts for what they actually did report.

FWIW

Kevin Christensen 

Canonsburg, PA

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2 minutes ago, Kevin Christensen said:

Why must we assume that Mormon, in abridging the records he has, based on what he thinks is most important should tell us what we think is important? 

I don't think it is important, because I don't subscribe to a model that needs to explain the presence of millions of Mayans that seemed to be hiding behind the trees every time a Nephite shows up.

The only reason finding others in the Book of Mormon would be necessary is if your model is set in a place where others are inconveniently everywhere.

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1 hour ago, RevTestament said:

Mesoamerica was the most densely populated area of the Americas at the time. My guess is you'd be hard pressed to find any area which would remain desolate or devoid of people for any significant time - maybe up in Mexico we could expect a land of dry bones.

There was a lot of excitement around the LIDAR finds in Guatemala, and that does demonstrate that the critics were wrong about things like highways and fortifications. But the discovery of 10-15 million Maya poses new problems.

Edited by Rajah Manchou

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2 hours ago, Brant Gardner said:

Next, is it really a surprise that Lehi DNA would disappear? Not according to DNA scientists. Even Simon Southerton who uses DNA against the Book of Mormon admitted that DNA isn't an issue if a small original population mixed in to a much larger existing population. The one thing DNA does for Book of Mormon studies is declare that the idea that Book of Mormon peoples populated the entire hemisphere is untenable. That was a position that lasted a long time in the church. I heard it myself as a youth. Scholars knew it was wrong long before the DNA issue came up. 

 

Hi Brant,

 

I always enjoy your comments.

Admittedly I have not carefully examined what Simon has had to say about this issue but my understanding is that he now thinks it is entirely possible to detect the intrusion of a small foreign populations DNA into a larger one. Over a decade ago he made this statement:

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In 600 BC there were probably several million American Indians living in the Americas. If a small group of Israelites, say less than thirty, entered such a massive native population, it would be very hard to detect their genes today.

 But more recently he holds this view:

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Let's suspend disbelief for a moment and consider that the apologist are on to something, and all the prophets have been misguided. Lehi and his small band colonize a restricted region of the Americas. The Book of Mormon records that  Lehi's descendants multiplied exceedingly and spread upon the face of the land. Their Middle Eastern nuclear DNA would have spread, over the last 3,000 years, throughout adjacent populations like a drop of ink in a bucket of water. At the very least their genes would have spread over many hundreds of kilometres. It would be exceedingly unlikely that their genomic DNA would go extinct and scientists exploring the genomes of Native Americans would stumble on it if it was there.

See his blog here.

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2 hours ago, Rajah Manchou said:

Limhi's Party traveled from the Land of Nephi to Desolation and found nothing but the rusted swords, breastplates, golden plates and dry bones of the Jaredites. They mentioned no others: no Nephites, no Lamanites, no Jaredites, no Mulekites. No Maya.

Had they been following the Grijalva and Usamacinta Rivers, they would surely have run into somebody.

If I drive on a 10 hour trip, and come upon a massive car wreck, I usually don't tell about it by leading with all of the cars that entered and exited the road while I drove. The Book of Mormon is not a documentary of everything that happened, whether it was interesting or not. In fact, it is a highly selected telling. We have the telling about finding the Jaredites at least three times. We have it from Mormon, not the original discoverers. Mormon is building a case that real destructiveness can be traced back to the Jaredites (if we didn't have the book of Ether and the story of the brother of Jared, they would be known as really bad guys based on Mormon alone).

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2 minutes ago, CA Steve said:

I always enjoy your comments.

Admittedly I have not carefully examined what Simon has had to say about this issue but my understanding is that he now thinks it is entirely possible to detect the intrusion of a small foreign populations DNA into a larger one. Over a decade ago he made this statement:

 But more recently he holds this view:

 

Thanks for the info. I don't follow him, so I wasn't aware of his newer opinion. I must say that I am not surprised. His earlier comment made his basic position untenable, and it was taken down from the location where it had been posted pretty quickly. Now we just have the statement that it should have still been there. The problem, of course, is that there is no data behind it. There are lots of reasons for why DNA doesn't continue, even without the major dilution effect. The preservation is much more interesting and unusual. 

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2 hours ago, USU78 said:

Could you give us a notion of what you mean here?

Names don't always mean personal identification. They can be narrative identifications (also well known in biblical studies). The writer gives the "name" of a person that has more to do with their narrative function than what their mama called them. For example, Thomasson talks about the value of an ezrom, and then we have Zeezrom. We have an antion--then Antionum. I have seen it in a lot more cases. Mormon uses two different types of names to designate "bad guys." One is a name with an mlk root (Amlici/Amliki, Amaleki). He also points to Jaredite names as really bad guys. The mlk-names are Nephite apostates and cause trouble by joining with Lamanites and variously causing problems for Nephites. Jaredite names link to secret combinations.

There is a problem with Amlicites/Amalikites in the Book of Mormon. Skousen showed that the spelling difference masks a similar pronunciation. Therefore, he suggested that they were the same people--except that Benjamin ? (forgot his last name) has a very convincing argument that they can't be the same. How can you have two different people with the same name? Probably not in the real world, but definitely in the literary world Mormon was creating. They both fit the bill and were identified as Nephite apostates. We see the same thing with Nehor and the order of the Nehors--which existed before there was a Nehor to name them for.

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8 minutes ago, Brant Gardner said:

Thanks for the info. I don't follow him, so I wasn't aware of his newer opinion. I must say that I am not surprised. His earlier comment made his basic position untenable, and it was taken down from the location where it had been posted pretty quickly. Now we just have the statement that it should have still been there. The problem, of course, is that there is no data behind it. There are lots of reasons for why DNA doesn't continue, even without the major dilution effect. The preservation is much more interesting and unusual. 

Well it has been over 10 years since the first statement. I would expect that advances in the field might be the reason he thinks differently now. I frequently hear the dilution effect as a reason we cannot detect Nephit DNA now, but how does that work when testing the DNA from remains that are from or close to the Book of Mormon time frames? 

Edited by CA Steve

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1 hour ago, RevTestament said:

They would have mentioned some survivors at this point.

It certainly seems, from our perspective, that they should have. However, that is only true if you begin with the hypothesis that the Book of Mormon really isn't what it says it is. If we think it should be a detailed documentary of everything we think they should have said, then the Book of Mormon will clearly fail that test.

However, if we take the text from its own perspective, everything changes. Historians have to deal with the reasons why texts were written, and ancient documents have very different reasons to be. Even texts that purport to be historical have an agenda (something even modern writers really cannot avoid--some selection of events always occurs and that necessarily creates some type of distortion). 

In this case, we have the report about third hand, and given to us from someone who was condensing the story. For a putative transmission story, you have an original oral report that may or may not have been written down. Then, years later, it is told (no indication that it was read) to Ammon. Ammon then later writes it down. Alma gets the information from Ammon's record and writes it. Mormon selects what Alma wrote (and may or may not have edited it). Assuming that information about probably unsurprising "others" along the way was in the original, is it really surprising that it might not end up on Mormon's account after that long line of storytelling?

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5 minutes ago, CA Steve said:

Well it has been over 10 years since the first statement. I would expect that advances in the field might be the reason he thinks differently now. I frequently hear the dilution effect as a reason we cannot detect Nephit DNA now, but how does that work when testing the DNA from remains that are from or close to the Book of Mormon time frames? 

There has been a lot of advancement in DNA in the last 10 years. I'm very much inexpert, but I know an expert (that both makes me cool and knowledgeable, of course). I assume that you have seen the results of the Iceland DNA studies where fully half of the original inhabitants' DNA didn't survive in the descendants? As I said, survival is the most surprising fact.

Now, what about finding DNA from populations around Book of Mormon times? That is a problem of selection and location. Let's say we have a large sample of skeletons from 400 BC, but they come from over 100 miles from where we think the Book of Mormon took place? If there is no ANE DNA, what does that mean? While there are large movements of population over time, the reality of most real lives during most of pre-modern history is that people didn't travel more than a day or two walking distance from their home during their entire lives. If there is a survival of ANE DNA, you not only have to hit the right time periods, but probably a bulls-eye on a specific city. The longer the Book of Mormon goes on, the less uniqueness--so you wouldn't expect a more dense sample until you approached say 600-400 BC in the city of Nephi. Then, you have to get lucky and find the slight markers from among the larger population. On top of that, you would have to recognize it as different. As several scientists have pointed out, we don't even know what we are looking for.

There has recently been a find of a mummified remain that was identified as Caucasian rather than Asian. We have the Kennewick man as well as evidence that there was a population that didn't fit the DNA that has survived. So losing DNA is hardly surprising. We could actually expect that those early populations would have stayed together much longer than the Lehites--but their DNA didn't survive.

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1 hour ago, RevTestament said:

My guess is you'd be hard pressed to find any area which would remain desolate or devoid of people for any significant time - maybe up in Mexico we could expect a land of dry bones. As archaeologists have found, the jungle in Mesoamerica reclaims everything rather quickly.

Actually, the Mirador Basin was incredibly heavily populated--then deserted and pretty much never repopulated. One of the things that we forget is that we find lots of ancient cities--from lots of different time periods. Sometimes people came and lived in them later, but frequently they were abandoned. This happened during lots of different time periods. So finding the remains of a city that had been depopulated wouldn't have been that hard.

As for the dry bones, it depends upon how literally you want to take the text. Since that is an English expression, and the Book of Mormon wasn't written in English, I don't feel any compunction to take every statement at its most literal meaning.

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9 hours ago, Exiled said:

My expectations have nothing to do with it.  However, that makes for a good justification for belief. Non-belief can then be relegated to being caused by some built in bias. Obviously, if the faulty expectations weren't there all would be mormon, etc., etc.  It seems circular.  

Were there nephites or not? It seems highly probable that there were not.

What if I were arguing for scientology or a myriad of other religions? I am sure if I claim your rejection of the other religions was simply because of your tainted subjective expectations and your mormon social conditioning, you would immediately object and turn to objective experience as a justification as to why everyone should be mormon or at least why you are.

Even so, I agree that you believe that I am merely a victim of faulty expectations. Maybe I am just crazy to want evidence for nephites/lamanites like there is evidence of the past roman civilization. Roman existence seems highly probable while nephite/lamanite evidence seems merely possible to me. Roman dna didn't disappear like other dna aparently did. I just can't change my expectations there.

As for the text itself, I think it is aparently open to being interpreted in many different ways and anyone can put whatever framework they want onto the text in order to make it work. Choose one's own interpretation as long as one remains within the acceptable bounds of priesthood authority. Maybe there is some new and exciting, inventive way to interpret the text that no one has ever imagined?

Look, I'm tired. Maybe I will take a break from this site for a while. I love my mormon heritage, just don't believe the claims any more.

Just a couple thoughts on this.  I have great respect for thoughtful people like Brant that engage with the issues, and don't shy away from them.  His approach is refreshing and I think deserves some credit because of how much he's willing to critique some of the more traditional apologetic responses that were much less intellectually sound.  

That said, I don't agree with the arguments for the BoM being historical from an actual evidence perspective.  I think that claims for an ancient BoM generally start with a faith proposition.  That faith proposition is similar to a belief that Jesus was physically resurrected.  Faith in these religious ideas is held somewhere deeper than where empirical evidence alone can penetrate.  And the more time I've had on this journey of life and my radically changing perspectives, the more I can appreciate and respect the journeys of others.

My orientation is different, I don't believe in the supernatural anymore, so all the evidence for a 19th century Joseph Smith authored BoM continues to confirm my orientation for a natural production.  Someone who does believe in the supernatural and believes the BoM is an ancient record, they similarly see all kinds of evidence to confirm their orientation.  Now that doesn't make both sides intellectually equally rigorous or relevant or factually accurate.  But it does show how people operate psychologically.  

The thing I try to learn from this, is to not get too comfortable with my assumptions and I try to be willing to change my orientation toward things as I receive more information, instead of getting stuck in a rut.  If, for example, compelling evidence is someday found to suggest that the supernatural world does exist, then I would need to reorient my overarching ideas about how this new information changes my perceptions of the universe.  

Can scholars prove the BoM was rooted in an actual ancient civilization?  Yes, if they can find actual evidence that stands up to peer review and scientific scrutiny.  So far, nothing has been found that does this.  It would be a game changer for Mormons everywhere, but its never happened, and as I expressed earlier with my disbelief in the supernatural, I personally believe it never will.  

 

 

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10 hours ago, Exiled said:

My expectations have nothing to do with it.  However, that makes for a good justification for belief. Non-belief can then be relegated to being caused by some built in bias. Obviously, if the faulty expectations weren't there all would be mormon, etc., etc.  It seems circular.  

Hermeneutics is inherently a circular type of logic. The feedback converges on readings.

But I fully agree there's no positive public evidence for Nephites and without that the most rational belief is to think it's all fraudulent. If that's all you're saying that's fine. Religious believers believe because they feel there's private evidence. However that then changes how they look at the public evidence.

My point about expectations was much more about expectations about ancient texts, not this larger issue. My experience is that people assume texts function more like contemporary texts when they just don't. But I'm certainly not saying there's enough in the text of the Book of Mormon to make someone believe it's authentic independent of that spiritual confirmation. Further, as I've conceded numerous times, there are problems in the text that thus far have no good answers such as claims of metal use before evidence of the rise of such things.

53 minutes ago, hope_for_things said:

That said, I don't agree with the arguments for the BoM being historical from an actual evidence perspective.  I think that claims for an ancient BoM generally start with a faith proposition. 

I think apologists are pretty up front about that.

2 hours ago, Rajah Manchou said:

Why would we need to assume little hamlets or villages? The text doesn't say there were others, why must we assume there were?

Shouldn't we just say we don't know on the basis of the text? Anything else is an argument from silence. Critics say the text should describe others, yet this ignores some pretty good counter-arguments. Mainly that "others" would have been designated Lamanites whether they were related to the Lamanites or not. Second that the history of the arrival was on the 116 pages and lost. 1 Nephi - Jacob are primarily religious sermons/peshers not history so we shouldn't expect much history on them. The texts after the 116 pages are from 400 years later when Lamanite has come to mean anyone non-Nephite. So just in terms of the text the argument for why silence is significant seems pretty weak.

Edited by clarkgoble
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37 minutes ago, clarkgoble said:
1 hour ago, hope_for_things said:

That said, I don't agree with the arguments for the BoM being historical from an actual evidence perspective.  I think that claims for an ancient BoM generally start with a faith proposition. 

I think apologists are pretty up front about that.

I think this often gets lost in translation for many apologists, especially the old guard. They may say their position on the BoM is grounded in their beliefs as a disclaimer of sorts.  But then they frequently transition into trying to use scholarly tools to prove religious claims in a more academic sense.  

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