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Ryan Dahle

Why Not Engage the Evidence for Historicity?

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1 hour ago, RevTestament said:

I think you have answered your question right there as to why critics or those thinking about leaving the Church have not engaged this evidence. It exists in a piecemeal fashion all over the place.  You, yourself say it has taken you some years to research and gather it. There is no good single source one can go to learn this evidence or balance it against opposing evidences. Opposing evidences are usually "a lack thereof, " so aren't really evidence at all. We have regulars on this board who air opinions like I believe Joseph made up the Book of Mormon. I don't believe they have really been through the massive amount of evidence which makes this belief almost an impossibility. It is not a book he sat down and made up. I think you are right that the amount of evidence against that is large. But it is not organized nor available in an easily accessible format. I think one reason for that is because it is published across a broad spectrum of publication formats in copyrighted articles and such, which I think is a barrier to its organization.  I assume you are doing something to publish some kind of organized format on these matters?

Yes, I work at Book of Mormon Central, and it is long term project. Anyone who wants to help identify, gather, and summarize evidences, I would love to have your help. 

Edited by Ryan Dahle
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21 hours ago, cinepro said:
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I'm saying that when it comes to the most scientifically probative category of evidences, the evidences in favor of faith are collectively better than the current competing arguments.

Unless you were being intentionally ironic when you typed out "evidences in favor of faith", I'm not sure we're even speaking the same language.

I think Ryan is saying something similar to what Daniel Peterson said in his "Why I Can't Manage to Disbelieve" essay (which we discussed at some length ont his board here).

Mockery and contempt ("I'm not sure we're even speaking the same language") don't advance the discussion.  I'm reminded of a portion of Dr. Peterson's essay:

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I want to suggest something like that in this case, that to me, the explanation of Joseph Smith is simple and elegant, and the alternative explanations just don’t work and they get more and more complex and it’s just too much for me, and so I’ve said sometimes that I simply don’t have the faith to disbelieve Joseph Smith’s story. I just can’t get there. I can’t do it. And I’ve tried. I’ve really tried to give it a serious look. I cannot put together hallucinatory explanations of the witnesses and stealing from Solomon Spaulding and stealing from Ethan Smith, and I’m just mentioning a few, and putting it all together. Joseph Smith, this incredibly learned young man who’s sitting there on the frontier.

...

I remember my friend Bill Hamblin once being in communication with a one-time, fairly prominent, ex-member critic of the Church and of the Book of Mormon. And he said, “Look, let’s assume for a moment that you’re right and that Joseph Smith did not have plates. Did he know that he didn’t have plates or did he think that he had the plates? In other words, was he a conscious deceiver, or was he in some sense mad?”

To which this critic responded: “I don’t have to lower myself to your simplistic little dichotomies.”

Well, see, I think it’s intellectually incumbent upon people like that to, come on, give us an answer to this. Otherwise it’s like guerrilla warfare. You attack and attack and attack, you always withdraw, you never defend territory. You never have to stake out your own explanation, which then will be subject to criticism and attack.

Well to me, that simple-minded little dichotomy that this person refused to give an answer to. or refused to take part in, is still a really important question. If Joseph Smith didn’t have the plates, did he know that he didn’t have plates, or did he think that he did?

Daniel Peterson and Bill Hamblin are addressing the evidence.  They are addressing the ramifications of divergent opinions about the origins of The Book of Mormon.  The LDS Church is that Joseph Smith was telling the truth.  That explanation, while audacious, is nevertheless "simple and elegant."  In contrast, alternative naturalistic explanations "just don't work and they get more and more complex," to the point of implausibility (and operating well beyond any notions of supporting evidence).  Dr. Peterson, noting this implausibility to a critic, got a response of "I don’t have to lower myself to your simplistic little dichotomies.”

Here's we're getting a response ("I'm not sure we're even speaking the same language") that is saying pretty much the same thing.  It's a refusal to address the evidence.  A refusal to explore and acknowledge the ramifications (and, frankly, the flaws) in the alternative naturalistic explanations for The Book of Mormon.  

Of course, the critics/opponents of the Church are not obligated to provide a coherent counter-explanation for The Book of Mormon.  But the point is, they have not been able to.  We're coming up on nearly 200 years since the original publication of the text, and yet when the chips are down, and when a well-informed person like Daniel Peterson (or Ryan Dahle) argues for the plausibility of the LDS position, we don't get reasoned responses and rebuttals.  We get glib sarcasm.  We get curt dismissals.  We get anything but an engagement of the evidence.

This is part of why Daniel Peterson "can't manage to disbelieve," and why he suggests to critics (correctly, in my view) that "it’s intellectually incumbent upon people like that to, come on, give us an answer to this. Otherwise it’s like guerrilla warfare. You attack and attack and attack, you always withdraw, you never defend territory. You never have to stake out your own explanation, which then will be subject to criticism and attack."

This is likely why Ryan Dahle seems to be suggesting, in the absence of a coherent counter-explanation re: historicity, "the evidences in favor of faith are collectively better than the current competing arguments."

This is likely why Daniel Peterson's trenchant assessment of the various competing (and contradictory) naturalistic explanations for The Book of Mormon merits some real consideration:

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The recent American Apocrypha further illustrates the apparent inability of Book of Mormon critics to agree on much of anything except that the Book of Mormon is false. Only a few months ago, in fact, one of the editors of American Apocrypha explicitly, huffily, and repeatedly refused to answer a simple question as to whether Joseph Smith believed that he possessed metal plates or knew that he did not-which seems the kind of question that any skeptic’s fundamental theory of Book of Mormon origins must answer very early on. He would not, he said, lower himself to thinking in such simple-minded categories.

His approach is manifest in the book he edited. While the authors all seem to agree, broadly, that Joseph Smith was the sole or principal author of the Book of Mormon, there are notable disagreements about the how and the why.

Edwin Firmage’s essay, for example, depicts Joseph Smith as a rather cunning and deliberate fraud, making it all up on the fly, with major plot elements seemingly created on the basis of virtually sudden whims, resulting in serious inconsistencies in the book itself. Susan Staker also offers a Joseph Smith who creates the Book of Mormon rapidly, on the basis of swiftly mutating ideas whose evolution-driven by his own changing circumstances-is apparent within the text itself. George D. Smith partially seems to agree. He uses a highly debatable reading of B. H. Roberts to argue, indirectly, that Joseph drew upon Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews in order to compose the Book of Mormon-a method that seems to demand more careful plotting than Firmage and Staker allow. David Wright, in what is by far the most academically rigorous essay in the book, likewise posits a careful and wholly conscious Joseph Smith, but one who, in this instance, bases at least a substantial part of his Book of Mormon on a close but misguided reading of King James Isaiah. Dan Vogel’s second essay presents Joseph as composing an anti-Masonic tract, attuned to the controversy that ensued upon the murder of Captain William Morgan in 1826. He is every bit as confident in this assertion as Eber D. Howe was in his earlier explanation, according to which Solomon Spalding, who died in 1816, was said by Howe, who heard it from Doctor Philastus Hurlbut, who claimed to have heard it from Spalding’s widow nearly two decades after Spalding’s death, that Spalding didn’t like Freemasonry. Howe concluded that this explains the Book of Mormon’s references to the Gadianton Robbers and other “secret combinations.”32

All of these depictions of the Book of Mormon as a work of fiction directly collide with the testimony of the Three and Eight Witnesses. Accordingly, they must be destroyed. So, in his first essay in American Apocrypha, although Dan Vogel grants their honesty, he seeks (rather desperately, in my opinion) to explain them away. Their experiences were merely subjective, internal, hallucinatory. Joseph Smith was a hypnotist. A very fortunate one in the fact that, although only a relatively small proportion of the general populace is susceptible to hypnosis, all of his Witnesses were easy marks. But perhaps, Vogel suggests, Joseph also created some tin plates with which to dazzle the yokels. (The invocation of this secondary prop may indicate that Vogel himself, to his credit, is not entirely persuaded by his “subjective hallucination” thesis.) But once we’ve posited a previously unnoticed Custom Design Metal Foundry under Joseph’s management, it also needs to produce the breastplate seen by various witnesses, as well as the brass plates, the Urim and Thummim, the Sword of Laban, and the Liahona. One wonders how many skilled metallurgists and craftsmen were available in the area at the time, and what the local wage scale was.

But then we read Scott Dunn’s essay, according to which Joseph Smith created the Book of Mormon by a process of automatic writing. It just flowed out of him. Joseph was dissociative but sincere, and Dunn vigorously denies that “conscious fraud” was involved. In fact, the dictation process was probably scarcely “conscious” at all, in any normal sense of the word.

If Dunn is right, Firmage and Vogel are wrong. Mutually contradictory accounts are not mutually reinforcing. Quite the contrary. They weaken each other.

Imagine a murder case in which one witness for the prosecution definitively states that he clearly saw the defendant, Mr. John Jones, who was wearing his characteristic Stetson cowboy hat, empty a six-shooter into the head of the victim, Miss Roberta Smith, at point-blank range, as she stood by the hot dog stand on the beach. A second prosecution witness declares that he saw the defendant, Mrs. Joanna Jones, striding briskly out of the twenty-seventh floor restaurant where the murder took place, with a fashionable black beret on her head. The prosecution’s forensic pathologist, meanwhile, announces his expert verdict that, from the marks on Mr. Robert Smith’s throat, the victim died of strangulation.

With evidence of that character, the prosecution wouldn’t even bother to seek an indictment, and could never even in its remotest fantasies dream of conviction.

See also here (also by Dr. Peterson) (emphasis added):

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The most serious contemporary criticisms of the Book of Mormon and of Mormonism more broadly tend to come not from self-proclaimed orthodox (i.e., usually Evangelical) Christians, but from self-identified atheistic materialists or naturalists. The Utah-based historian Dale Morgan, largely forgotten today but still much admired in certain small contemporary circles, wrote a 1945 letter to the believing Latter-day Saint historian Juanita Brooks. In it, he identifies the fundamental issue with unusual candor:

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With my point of view on God, I am incapable of accepting the claims of Joseph Smith and the Mormons, be they however so convincing. If God does not exist, how can Joseph Smith’s story have any possible validity? I will look everywhere for explanations except to the ONE explanation that is the position of the church.15

In Risen Indeed, Stephen Davis remarks that 

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believers point to something of an embarrassment in the position of those who do not believe in the resurrection: their inability to offer an acceptable alternative explanation of the known facts surrounding the resurrection of Jesus. The old nineteenth-century rationalistic explanations (hallucination, swoon theory, stolen body, wrong tomb, etc.) all seem to collapse of their own weight once spelled out, and no strong new theory has emerged as the consensus of scholars who deny that the resurrection occurred.16

A similar situation obtains, in my judgment, with regard to the Book of Mormon and certain other elements of the Restoration. While, for instance, this or that aspect of the Book of Mormon can, hypothetically, be accounted for by means of something within Joseph Smith’s early nineteenth-century information environment, a fully comprehensive counterexplanation for Joseph’s claims remains promised but manifestly unprovided. Critics have disagreed over the nearly two centuries since the First Vision about whether Joseph was brilliant or stupid, whether he was sincerely hallucinating or cunningly conscious of his fraud, whether he concocted the Book of Mormon alone or with co-conspirators (their own identity either hotly debated or completely unknown), whether he was a cynical atheist or a pious fraud defending Christianity, and so forth.

This is why I have arrived at a similar conclusion to that of Dr. Peterson and Ryan Dahle:

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And so people affirmatively asserting fraud as an explanation are excused from any obligation to substantiate their theories?  I don't think that's right.

In the law, "fraud" is perhaps the single most difficult civil claim to present and prove in court.  I have lost count of the number of times I have successfully defeated a fraud claim without ever having gone to trial.  My conservative estimate would be well over one hundred separate cases.  Not a one of them has made it to trial.  Not one.  The explanation for this is not that I am the best attorney in the world (would that I was), but that . . . fraud claims are just really, really hard to prove up.  There are nine elements of the claim, each of which must be proved by "clear and convincing" evidence (considerably more than the "preponderance" standard of evidence that pertains to most civil claims).  ...

Now, that is not to say that fraud does not happen.  Sure it does.  But if someone wants to assert a fraud claim in court, they need to have evidence to back it up, otherwise the claim gets tossed out on its ear.

Similarly, there is certainly room for people of education and intellect to not accept the LDS Church's explanations for the Book of Mormon.  However, to the extent these folks want to both reject the Book of Mormon and present an alternative explanation for how it came to be, well, I just haven't seen much in the way of a viable theory.  So fraud claims as to the Book of Mormon end up being difficult to prove as well.

For me, the absence of a coherent, reasonable, countervailing explanation for The Book of Mormon is quite interesting.  This was a favorite theme of Hugh Nibley (see here for some quotes).  Try as they might, critics and dissidents simply cannot formulate a coherent alternative explanation for where the text came from.  Joseph Smith could not have done it.  Conspiracy theories about Joseph Smith collaborating with unknown others don't work, either.  It is very interesting to me that we are coming up on 200 years of critical scrutiny of The Book of Mormon, and yet nobody has been able to present a coherent explanation that accounts for the existence of the text, the complexity and internal consistency of the narrative, the extremely short time period in which it was "written," the textual evidences that were simply unknown/unknowable to Joseph Smith and his fellows (Nahom/Bountiful is an excellent example of this), the reality of the Gold Plates and the testimony of the witnesses, and so on. 

I think the point Ryan is making merits some attention.  As I previously noted here:

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Angels giving plates of Gold to one person and that person using stones and or a thing called the Urim and Thummim to translate the book from some unknown language are fantastical claims and not events that are common nor really able to be demonstrated with much evidence. 

True enough.  There are facets of the Church's explanation as to the origins of The Book of Mormon that are essentially matters of faith.

But then we have the testimonial evidence of the Three Witnesses.  And the Eight.  And the character of those men.  And their behavior subsequent to being estranged from Joseph Smith (and hence would be very motivated to disavow the "fantastical claims" you mention, yet they did not).  And then there are the textual evidences.  Lots of them.  And the complexity of the text.  And the internal chronological and geographic consistency.  And the short time frame in which the text was produced.

The ironic thing, really, is that as contemptuous as you are about the quantum of evidence in favor of the LDS Church's position on the origins of The Book of Mormon (you suggest that it is not supported by even "a simple low level bar of plausibility"), the alternative theories proposed by the critics are apparently even less plausible, so much so that folks like Cinepro (and, I suspect, you) will not commit to any of them or present theories of your making.  At least the Mormons are taking the field.  At least they are engaging in assessment of the evidence and defending their position based on it.  Folks like you, on the other hand, are throwing their hands up in the air and insisting that the origins of the text are . . . well, you have no explanation...

This, in the end, is the point of this thread.  The Mormons are engaging the evidence, both pro and con.  The critics, OTOH, are not providing much in the way of a candid and coherent assessment of the evidence pertaining to The Book of Mormon.

I fully acknowledge that accepting The Book of Mormon is eventually and fundamentally an exercise in faith.  But we must build on that.  Elder Holland put it well:

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My testimony to you tonight is that the gospel is infallibly true and that a variety of infallible proofs supporting that assertion will continue to come until Jesus descends as the ultimate infallible truth of all. Our testimonies aren’t dependent on evidence—we still need that spiritual confirmation in the heart of which we have spoken—but not to seek for and not to acknowledge intellectual, documentable support for our belief when it is available is to needlessly limit an otherwise incomparably strong theological position and deny us a unique, persuasive vocabulary in the latter-day arena of religious investigation and sectarian debate. Thus armed with so much evidence of the kind we have celebrated here tonight, we ought to be more assertive than we sometimes are in defending our testimony of truth.

To that point I mention that while we were living and serving in England, I became fond of the writing of the English cleric Austin Farrer. Speaking of the contribution made by C. S. Lewis specifically and of Christian apologists generally, Farrer said: “Though argument does not create conviction, lack of it destroys belief. What seems to be proved may not be embraced; but what no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish.”[10]

...

[10] Austin Farrer, “The Christian Apologist,” in Light on C.S. Lewis, ed. Jocelyn Gibb (1965), 26.

Thanks,

-Smac

Edited by smac97
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24 minutes ago, smac97 said:

The Mormons are engaging the evidence, both pro and con.

Which Mormons are doing this and where are they doing it? Where is this considered, even-handed weighing of the evidence taking place? Certainly not on apologetic sites. Grant Hardy is one of the only Mormons I've ever seen do this.

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2 hours ago, Ryan Dahle said:

For instance, this example of gradation from (1 Nephi 15) is quite noteworthy (altered slightly from Parry's version):

I don't find repetitive phrasing to be strong evidence for historicity. To me it just sounds like how a stump preacher would talk. When you're reciting aloud, after all, repetition is wonderful. It gives you time to think of what to say next.

I found Wunderli's take on Alma 36 pretty convincing. I'm sorry, but there it is. I've read it. I've thought about it. This just doesn't look as impressive to me as it does to you.

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27 minutes ago, Nevo said:
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The Mormons are engaging the evidence, both pro and con.  

Which Mormons are doing this and where are they doing it?

I'm not sure what you mean.  Surely you are familiar with FARMS?  FAIR?  Mormon Interpreter?  FROB?  JBMS?  Maxwell Institute?  Jeff Lindsay?  Daniel Peterson?  Bill Hamblin?  Hugh Nibley?  Lou Midgley?  

The "Find Answers" portion of FAIR's website, FROB, Daniel Peterson, Mormon Interpreter, and Jeff Lindsay all immediately come to mind as to LDS folks who are "engaging the evidence, both pro and con."

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Where is this considered, even-handed weighing of the evidence taking place?

Where did I say "even-handed" (as in "impartial")?  CFR, if you please.

I am not claiming that.  LDS authors and scholars are decidedly partisan on this issue.  We aren't claiming to be neutral.  We are advocating for a particular position on The Book of Mormon.

But if you are looking for "considered" weighing of the evidence, see above.

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Certainly not on apologetic sites. Grant Hardy is one of the only Mormons I've ever seen do this.

You are not accurately stating my position.  I am not suggesting that Mormons are neutral on this issue.  As I said in my previous post:

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The ironic thing, really, is that as contemptuous as you are about the quantum of evidence in favor of the LDS Church's position on the origins of The Book of Mormon (you suggest that it is not supported by even "a simple low level bar of plausibility"), the alternative theories proposed by the critics are apparently even less plausible, so much so that folks like Cinepro (and, I suspect, you) will not commit to any of them or present theories of your making.  At least the Mormons are taking the field.  At least they are engaging in assessment of the evidence and defending their position based on it.  Folks like you, on the other hand, are throwing their hands up in the air and insisting that the origins of the text are . . . well, you have no explanation...

Thanks,

-Smac

Edited by smac97
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11 minutes ago, smac97 said:

I am not claiming that.  LDS authors and scholars are decidedly partisan on this issue.

Okay, fair enough. I just reflexively read "engaging the evidence" to mean "to take seriously; to give due consideration to." I stand corrected.

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On 6/22/2018 at 9:58 AM, Ryan Dahle said:

There are numerous lines of evidence in favor of the historicity of LDS restoration texts that critics are essentially not willing to engage with, or have attempted to engage with and have come up way short. In my appraisal, the evidence that is most often ignored is often some of the best.  

Here are just 10 samples of lines of evidence that fit this description well:

1.       the comprehensive argument for Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon

. . .

10.   stylometric analysis (and no, the Holmes and Jockers studies do not count as valid counterarguments)

Have you considered that these two lines of evidence seem to be in some tension? See, e.g., this exchange from a few years back between Chris Smith ("CaliforniaKid") and Bruce Schaalje: http://mormon*****.***/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=28402

Smith commented: "Of all the word print studies that have been done on the Book of Mormon, [John Hilton's] was the most exhaustively controlled and used the most generally reliable method. However, the Hilton study still has some pretty significant problems. For one thing, some of the 'non-contextual' words it relies upon are words that would not have been present in Hebrew. For another thing, the Book of Mormon imitates the syntax of the KJV Bible, so any method that relies on syntax is pretty much dead on arrival." In another post, he added: "If Welch and others are correct that the Book of Mormon includes highly complex and deliberate poetic structures such as chiasmus, these sorts of structures seem very likely to alter the structure of the Book of Mormon's syntax.

To which Schaalje replied: "Your point about Hebrew is good point. Hilton’s word pattern ratios do not likely correspond directly to any Hebrew structures. That doesn’t change the conclusion that there were multiple authors, but does raise hard questions about how translation relates to all of this."

Thoughts?

Edited by Nevo

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It is indeed hard to think of a theory that explains the Book of Mormon without anything being involved that is a priori improbable, or without postulating events for which there is no extant evidence.

The problem for Mormon apologists is, two-hundred-year-old frauds would tend to be like that. They'd be based on tricks that people don't expect, and crucial evidence would have been hidden. As some apologists like to point out, Mesoamerican jungles are hard on ruins and relics, so we shouldn't expect to have found Zarahemla by now. Well, that edge cuts both ways. Religious con artists are slick. We shouldn't expect to have found a solid explanation for the Book of Mormon by now.

Yes, that does make "fraud did it" nearly as unfalsifiable as "God did it". The difference is, though, that we've seen lots of cases of religious fraud over the centuries. Angels with plates, not so much.

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1 hour ago, Nevo said:

Have you considered that these two lines of evidence seem to be in some tension? See, e.g., this exchange from a few years back between Chris Smith ("CaliforniaKid") and Bruce Schaalje: http://mormon*****.***/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=28402

If that is Shades' board, direct links are censored ( I am guessing in part to avoid board wars as happened early on, possibly also just to annoy them :P ).The best way, therefore, for anyone to find the discussion is likely to search on a sentence from the quote you posted.

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4 hours ago, Physics Guy said:

I don't find repetitive phrasing to be strong evidence for historicity. To me it just sounds like how a stump preacher would talk. When you're reciting aloud, after all, repetition is wonderful. It gives you time to think of what to say next.

I found Wunderli's take on Alma 36 pretty convincing. I'm sorry, but there it is. I've read it. I've thought about it. This just doesn't look as impressive to me as it does to you.

Well, I'll tell you what. If you can find any 19th century text (no a translation of an ancient text) that has a similar suite of well-established Hebrew structures and which are used at a comparative frequency as they are in the Book of Mormon, I think I would take your assessment more seriously. Until then, the idea that stump preachers or pseudo-biblical texts or other claimed revelations or virtually any other 19th century text, has comparable features is completely unsubstantiated conjecture. I have read through a number of pseudo-biblical texts, for instance, and haven't found anything even remotely comparable to the Book of Mormon.

As for Alma 36, we'll just have to agree to disagree. I'll side with Welch and Freedman and you can side with Wunderli. 

Edited by Ryan Dahle

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1 hour ago, cinepro said:

I am the first to agree that the theory "God did it" is the most satisfactory theory when it comes to explaining the origin of the Book of Mormon.  Every question that could ever be asked about the Book can be fully and completely answered by the theory that "God did it."  What about the steel swords?  "God did it."  What about the horses?  "God did it."

There is simply no other theory that could have the power to fully explain every aspect of the Book of Mormon.  It is a perfect theory.  I think we all agree on that.  But for whatever reason, there is enough in the story of how the book came to be, and the text of the book itself, that leads plenty of people to believe that God didn't do it (in spite of whatever feelings they may or may not get when they read it).

It may bug the heck out of believers that people don't have to believe their theory if it doesn't hold up, and they don't have to present an alternate theory in order to not believe the original claim.  That's not some special pleading for critics of Mormonism.  That just how the world works.

Unfortunately, I think it's not so much that the "God did it" explanation can be used in many instances. It's that for many lines of evidence that is currently the only plausible explanation. Maybe other plausible explanations will come to light in the future. But right now, naturalistic explanations miserably fail to explain large portions of the data.

I'm not bothered that people choose not to believe this theory. Most people, probably you included, don't even understand it (as you admitted before). But judging by the typical response from critics (i.e. exmormon reddit forum), there are lots of people who are quite bothered that many Latter-day Saints are still totally committed to their religion's fundamental truth claims.  

 

 

 

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There are the compact chiastic passages to consider in Mosiah 3, 5, Alma 41, and Helaman 6. 

The pseudo-biblical texts are a good control.  Are there examples of that kind of chiasmus in pseudo-biblical texts?  I haven't seen them; maybe someone else has.

If chiasmus isn't present in those texts, then it wasn't automatic for Joseph Smith, and the level of usage in the Book of Mormon was at a minimum a high poetic achievement.

His "save it were" usage was also, if you will, poetic. I know of three before the Book of Mormon—pretty obscure usage. Can anyone find more?

There were many philological milestones in Joseph Smith's 1829 dictation.

Edited by champatsch
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1 hour ago, aussieguy55 said:

Why don't Fair  interview Michael Coe?

We take it from the faith side. We don’t pretend to be impartial 

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sorry. it posted twice for some reason.

Edited by Bernard Gui

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On 6/22/2018 at 9:58 AM, Ryan Dahle said:

These, and many more lines of evidence, are only sparsely addressed by critics, if at all.

Considering the general approach of the OP, I don’t want to derail, but simply point out two items that support your point. Of course, these don’t prove the BoM is true, as you point out, but they are part of a body of evidence that adds up in the big picture.

 1.  I am working my way once again very slowly through Donald Perry’s 2007 edition of Poetic Parallels in The Book of Mormon. Has anyone written a rebuttal to this? It caught my interest in 1992 with the first FARMS iteration,The Book of Mormon Text Reformatted According to Parallelistic Patterns, which copy is now dog-eared and held together with duct tape. These are my go-to versions of the BoM for reading and study. It would be wonderful to combine this with Skousen’s new work.

 The sheer variety and quantity of parallelistic forms in the BoM is formidable. There is nothing comparable in any of Joseph Smith‘s other writings, and, in my opinion, it would be an daunting task considering his abilities at the time. One form in particular that stands out to me is stair-step parallelism, climax, or anadiplosis. By using matching pairs of words, the writer builds a stairway of concepts that leads to an important conclusion. 

Examples of gradated parallelism span the entire history of the Nephites and include a variety of speakers, from Lehi to Moroni, but there are none from Lamanite or Jaredite prophets or writers.  How can this be explained? While it is possible that they are a one-off occurrence - or that Joseph Smith was faking a Hebraic poetic style he intuited by reading a couple of Bible examples or some of the classical writers, or that it was just dumb luck or a toss of the dice given so many pages of text, or that as a young man he structured his thoughts in this manner because that is the way everyone in New England spoke and wrote at the time, or that his father or a minister of a local church taught him how to do it, or that Martin Harris, Sidney Rigdon, or Oliver Cowdery picked it up somewhere and introduced it to him before he translated the book - since their usage appears to be frequent, methodical, and intentional, it is unlikely that serendipity on the part of Joseph Smith can account for them.  If the Book of Mormon is a translation of an ancient document, it is reasonable to conclude that literate Nephites such as Nephi, Jacob, Alma, Benjamin, Mormon and Moroni used it in their teaching style, especially when the topic was the plan of salvation, because this was a common means of Lehite rhetorical expression. Whatever one thinks of Joseph Smith, these are an extraordinary accomplishment.

 ·      All 25 examples except one make a significant doctrinal statement. 

·      These 24 examples are used as a teaching tool when something important needs to be communicated in a plain and easy to understand manner. 

·      None is copied from the Bible. 

·      Each example appears in an address or letter from a prophet or leader. 

·      Each example is in various prophets’ own words, not in editorial comments written by Mormon. 

·      There are no examples in historical narratives. 

·      Seven of the examples occur in discussions that include Abraham or the Abrahamic covenant.

·      Eight illuminate the Plan of Salvation in logical sequences. 

·      Several teach the LDS doctrine of pre-mortal existence

·      At least four include teachings that faithful LDS will recognize as information learned in the temple. 

 For example, soon after he was called to the ministry, Moroni received instruction from his father Mormon in the form of a letter. Part of Mormon's instruction was this beautiful example of anadiplosis in which he gives a precise step-by-step outline of the process of salvation: 

 Moroni 8:25-26 

And the first fruits of repentance is  baptism; and baptism cometh by faith

unto the fulfilling the commandments; and the fulfilling the commandments bringeth 

remission of sins; And the remission of sins bringeth 

meekness, and lowliness of heart; and because of meekness and lowliness of heart 

cometh the visitation of  the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope 

and perfect love, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer, 

until the end shall come, when all the saints shall dwell with God

 

2. If the Book of Mormon, a work about Native Americans, is the product of an inexperienced early 19thcentury American writer based on his general knowledge and life experiences, one would expect it to be full of the words that are commonly found in contemporary writers’ stories about or histories of native peoples in the American Plains and Northeast. Instead, there is a surprising lack of those words. For example, bison, beaver, deer, eagle, raven, medicine, lodge, tipi, furs, feathers, moccasin, tomahawk, beads, wampum, fishing, hatchet, braves or warriors, red or copper skin, war dance/song, drums, counting coup, corn, tobacco, ceremonial fires, etc. Even references to scalping, face paint, and tribes do not fit in the context of contemporary writings about Native Americans.

Edited by Bernard Gui
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On 6/22/2018 at 9:58 AM, Ryan Dahle said:

 

I guess I want to hear from some of you—who have chosen to not seriously engage these evidences—explain why you have made this choice, especially in light of my analysis above. And I am being sincere here. I don’t want to rehash each of these issues and prove I am right. I just genuinely want to understand your rationale.

I don't see how historicity of a document shows my sins are actually forgiven by one man's death, or how a historical Book of Mormon can be trusted any more than the Zoroastrian Avesta to tell me the "facts" about the nature of God, and so I see historicity as irrelevant. 

There are tons of historic scriptures, the question is how we know any of them are right.

 

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19 hours ago, Nevo said:

....................................

Personally, I am more of a mind with Richard Bushman, who many years ago described how he became less and less impressed with such evidences over time. Eventually he came to the conclusion that "there was no proving religion to anyone; belief came by other means, by hearing testimonies or by individual pursuit or by the grace of God. . . . I no longer think that people can be compelled to believe by any form of reasoning, whether from the scripture or from historical evidence. They will believe if it is in their natures to believe."

This is the same sort of recognition common among scholars that "proving" miracles is folly.  Evangelicals like Josh McDowell have tried hard to "prove" the historicity of ancient miracles, but their arguments (no matter how sophisticated) always beg the question.  Historical evidence simply cannot prove the Resurrection, nor the Exodus.  They are matters of faith.  Was there a guy named Jesus in the first century A.D.?  Of course, and historians generally agree that there was a Wunderrebbe of that kind around then.  But we cannot establish with certainty what he said or what he did.  We have stories written down long after he was dead, but we don't know how accurate they might be.  We do not know what he thought of himself, whether he even claimed to be the Son of God, or whether this was merely attributed to him by others.  Some claim that Christianity as we know it was a construct by St Paul -- his interpretation of Jesus.  Discussion of the possible authenticity of the Book of Mormon is a very different matter.

19 hours ago, Nevo said:

I have studied many of the arguments for and against the historicity of the Book of Mormon and, ultimately, I'd say it's a wash. Both sides have their strengths and weaknesses. I am not persuaded that the Book of Mormon is an ancient record, but neither can I completely rule out the possibility. Logically, if Jesus actually rose from the dead, then angels and gold plates are not out of the question.

Good point, but no cigar.  The entire nature of the question of the authenticity of the BofM is upended by the very nature of the book.  Due to the circumstances of its coming forth, it is first of all impossible that the BofM could be authentic, and it is also absurd in the extreme to consider it authentic via the same failed means used by Josh McDowell to prove the authenticity of the Bible.  Why?

Because we already know for a fact that the ancient world described by the Bible actually existed in real time, and that contemporary documents and artifacts actually establish many of the historical events described in the Bible. -- not the miracles, but the ordinary, secular historical events.  And we know how the Bible was transmitted down through time to our day by being copied by scribes and then published with printing presses.  No mystery there.  We have no such continuity with the Book of Mormon, and we do not even have the original languages used.  So how must we approach the BofM question?

We can only examine the book itself and the actual artifacts which accompanied it (the Caractors Transcript, for example), and that examination must proceed the same way any questioned document is examined -- by professionals applying their specialized knowledge of the ancient world, literature, and linguistics.  Can this "prove" the Book of Mormon?  Scholars do not deal in "proof," so of course not, but it does provide rational bases for argument this way or that.  In other words, only by closely examining the realia can we hope to make any advances in understanding the actual nature of the BofM.  That is not to denigrate faith, but only to say that a testimony is not transferrable, and that your faith that the BofM is authentic is fine for you, but does in no way establish its bona fides for others.

Once a serious examination of the BofM has been made, it is then possible to estimate whether the preponderance of evidence is for it or against it.  Via simple Bayesian statistics, it is impossible that the BofM could have a preponderance of evidence in its favor.  That could not make rational sense owing to the way in which it came forth.  Thus, if there is a preponderance of evidence in its favor, then it not only verifies itself, but, by logical extension, it also verifies the Bible.  That is the argument (with specific examples) which I have made in my “The Preposterous Book of Mormon: A Singular Advantage,” lecture, August 8, 2014, at the annual FAIRMORMON Conference, Provo, Utah, online at  http://www.fairmormon.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/PREPOSTEROUS-BOOK-OF-MORMON.pdf .

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9 hours ago, cinepro said:
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Of course, the critics/opponents of the Church are not obligated to provide a coherent counter-explanation for The Book of Mormon.  But the point is, they have not been able to.  We're coming up on nearly 200 years since the original publication of the text, and yet when the chips are down, and when a well-informed person like Daniel Peterson (or Ryan Dahle) argues for the plausibility of the LDS position, we don't get reasoned responses and rebuttals.  We get glib sarcasm.  We get curt dismissals.  We get anything but an engagement of the evidence.

I understand the appeal of this line of thinking, but it is an intellectual dead end.  Those who don't believe the Book of Mormon is historical simply don't have any responsibility or incumbency to present a counter-theory. 

As a general rule, I agree with you.  However, I think those who have "present[ed] a counter-theory," or who affirmativey seek out and argue with Latter-day Saints about the truth claims of their faith, do have an obligation to defend such counter-theories.   As Daniel Peterson put it:

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I remember my friend Bill Hamblin once being in communication with a one-time, fairly prominent, ex-member critic of the Church and of the Book of Mormon. And he said, “Look, let’s assume for a moment that you’re right and that Joseph Smith did not have plates. Did he know that he didn’t have plates or did he think that he had the plates? In other words, was he a conscious deceiver, or was he in some sense mad?”

To which this critic responded: “I don’t have to lower myself to your simplistic little dichotomies.”

Well, see, I think it’s intellectually incumbent upon people like that to, come on, give us an answer to this. Otherwise it’s like guerrilla warfare. You attack and attack and attack, you always withdraw, you never defend territory. You never have to stake out your own explanation, which then will be subject to criticism and attack.

I think that's right.  Folks who critique the Church's claims about the origins of The Book of Mormon are certainly welcome to do so.  But if they fail, for varying reasons, to provide a plausible alternative explanation, then the "Dale Morgan" approach ("I will look everywhere for explanations except to the ONE explanation that is the position of the church"), then have at it.  But that approach is rather dogmatic.  It's not reasoned.  It's not based on the evidence at hand.

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I don't believe in any of the supernatural claims of L. Ron Hubbard and his book "Dianetics."  Can I fully explain the source of his teachings and the book beyond simply not believing his claims about thetans and engrams?  No.  Does this mean the case for L. Ron Hubbard is much stronger than the case against him?

No.  You raise a fair point here.  I suppose the difference is that Ron Hubbard's claims are not, in any conceivable sense, testable.  We just have to take his word, or not.

In contrast, the text of The Book of Mormon, in my view, deserves some scrutiny.  An explanation as to where it came from.  An explanation as to so many of its features that align with it having ancient semitic origins.  The testimonies of the Witnesses also deserve scrutiny.

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I don't believe Rose Curran was actually receiving revelation from an ancient spirit named Patience Worth when she dictated the ancient history of "A Sorry Tale."  Can I present an alternate explanation for how an uneducated house wife was able to dictate a 650 page history of ancient Jerusalem?  No, I can't, other than to say I am not convinced that it was a supernatural origin.

So when someone says that they still don't believe Joseph Smith was channeling ancient Mormon and Moroni when dictating The Book of Mormon, even if they can't provide a fully explanatory alternate explanation, I'm willing to cut them the slack.  Because that's what I've done with so many other books that claim supernatural origin.

I'm willing to cut them plenty of slack.  I fully recognize that the claims of The Book of Mormon are rather bold.  Joseph Smith conceded as much

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Joseph Smith, the Mormon prophet, was little understood by the people of the nineteenth century and may be even more of an enigma to those who live at the end of the twentieth. “No man knows my history,” he said once. “I cannot tell it: I shall never undertake it. I don’t blame any one for not believing my history. If I had not experienced what I have, I would not have believed it myself” (History of the Church, 6:317).

I don't fault people who choose not to believe in The Book of Mormon.  It takes a strong measure of faith and effort to buy into the narrative presented by the Church.  There are all sorts of reasons why a person may not want to do that.

But I think the emphasis is not on these people.  These people are on the outside looking it.  These people are, if we are to be candid, often operating mostly from positions of ignorance.  They haven't staked out a position on The Book of Mormon, and have no obligation to.  

Instead, the emphasis here is on people who do have reason to stake out a position on The Book of Mormon.  Daniel Peterson's essay is aptly titled "Why I Can't Manage to Disbelieve."  The critics are simply doing a very, very poor job of presenting arguments to people like Daniel Peterson, perhaps one of the most knowledgeable persons in the world regarding The Book of Mormon.  The key point, though, is that Dr. P's position, while grounded in faith, is also very heavily steeped in scholarly scrutiny of the text of The Book of Mormon, and of the evidences pertaining to its origins.  His study of The Book of Mormon includes evaluating alternative (naturalistic) explanations for it.  He has been doing this for years.  And his informed assessment is that the critics - who, by definition, have staked out positions on The Book of Mormon - are doing a very, very poor job of presenting a coherent position on The Book of Mormon.

Discussions about The Book of Mormon are often adversarial.  That is, there are competing incompatible explanations for it.  John Q. Public, being indifferent to this issue generally, can certainly be excused from providing an expalantion for The Book of Mormon.  But I don't think the same can be said for people who are invested in this issue, such that they have staked out a position on it contrary to that of the LDS Church.  That's fine.  But once that is done, once that position is staked out, that position should be scrutinized at least as much as the position it is arrayed against (the Church's).  But that's not happening.  Instead, we get the same motif, over and over and over, illustrated by Dr. Peterson above ("I think it’s intellectually incumbent upon people like that to, come on, give us an answer to this. Otherwise it’s like guerrilla warfare. You attack and attack and attack, you always withdraw, you never defend territory. You never have to stake out your own explanation, which then will be subject to criticism and attack.").

I think that's right.  The critics, of course, are free to disagree.  They are free to refuse to defend or explain their own position or the reasoning/evidence they used to get to it.  But doesn't that speak rather strongly to the weakness of that position, when its own creators won't (or can't) defend it?  

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I am the first to agree that the theory "God did it" is the most satisfactory theory when it comes to explaining the origin of the Book of Mormon.  Every question that could ever be asked about the Book can be fully and completely answered by the theory that "God did it."  What about the steel swords?  "God did it."  What about the horses?  "God did it."

C'mon.  Look at the scholarship and literature and arguments being presented by FARMS, FAIR, Mormon Interpreter, FROB, JBMS, the Maxwell Institute, Jeff Lindsay, Daniel Peterson, Bill Hamblin, Hugh Nibley, and all the rest.  They aren't just coming up with glib, conclusory "God did it" explanations.  They are engaging in substantive research.  They are providing reasoned explanations.  They are evaluating evidences.  You are not fairly or accurately characterizing what is going on here. 

I'm reminded here of the back-and-forth discussion many years ago between Paul Owen, an evangelical scholar, and John Weldon.  Owen, with another evangelical academic, Carl Mosser, had previously written a very blunt assessment of how evangelicals were responding to the claims of the LDS Church and scholarship being generated by LDS writings in support of those claims: Mormon Apologetic Scholarship and Evangelical Neglect: Losing the Battle and Not Knowing It?   Here are the five main conclusions Mosser and Owen reached in their paper:

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The first is that there are, contrary to popular evangelical perceptions, legitimate Mormon scholars. We use the term scholar in its formal sense of "intellectual, erudite; skilled in intellectual investigation; trained in ancient languages." Broadly, Mormon scholarship can be divided in to four categories: traditional, neo-orthodox, liberal and cultural. We are referring to the largest and most influential of the four categories-traditional Mormon scholars.
...
The second conclusion we have come to is that Mormon scholars and apologists (not all apologists are scholars) have, with varying degrees of success, answered most of the usual evangelical criticisms. Often these answers adequately diffuse particular (minor) criticisms. When the criticism has not been diffused the issue has usually been made much more complex.
...
A third conclusion we have come to is that currently there are, as far as we are aware, no books from an evangelical perspective that responsibly interact with contemporary LDS scholarly and apologetic writing.
...
Our fourth conclusion is that at the academic level evangelicals are losing the debate with the Mormons. We are losing the battle and do not know it. In recent years the sophistication and erudition of LDS apologetics has risen considerably while evangelical responses have not.
...
Finally, our fifth conclusion is that most involved in the counter-cult movement lack the skills and training necessary to answer Mormon scholarly apologetic. The need is great for trained evangelical biblical scholars, theologians, philosophers and historians to examine and answer the growing body of literature produced by traditional LDS scholars and apologists.

Subsequent to the publication of this paper, an evangelical critic of the LDS Church, John Weldon, wrote a response to it, and Paul Owen then wrote a response to Mr. Weldon.  Although both parties were on the "same side" (both are evangelicals, both are critical of the claims of the LDS Church), they had substantially different ideas as to the merits of LDS scholarship.  I am sort of seeing this same divergence of opinion here.

For example, Mr. Owen wrote this:

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I note at the beginning of appendix 1 that Mr. Weldon writes: "The Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) publishes literature in defense of Mormonism, especially the Book of Mormon ." This statement is a factual error, not in terms of what is stated, but what goes conspicuously unstated. As Carl Mosser and I have extensively documented, FARMS does far more than simply defend the Book of Mormon: They are actively engaged in "Ancient Research." They are not FMS; they are FARMS. Why is this important? Because, by ignoring FARMS involvement in the wider field of academic historical research, Mr. Weldon hides from his readers (most of whom probably have little exposure to FARMS) the fact that many of the scholars associated with this organization are respected experts in fields directly pertinent to LDS apologetic claims; fields such as Second Temple Judaism, Ancient Near Eastern literature, the Dead Sea Scrolls and Egyptology. By contrast, no researcher currently involved in apologetic responses to LDS scholarship has any acknowledged expertise in such areas. THIS IS A BIG PROBLEM, WHICH IS NOT GOING TO GO AWAY, NO MATTER HOW LONG WE HIDE OUR HEADS IN THE SAND. How on earth can our pastors, most of whom have at best a M.Div. level seminary training, be expected to give their flocks substantive replies to the FARMS literature which is increasingly being used in LDS proselytizing activities? How can our laypeople successfully convince their Mormon friends of the superior plausibility of the truth claims of orthodox Christianity when our researchers in the apologetics community have no better arguments to offer than: FARMS scholarship is obviously wrong, because we already know Mormonism is a false religion? Put yourself in the Mormon's shoes. Would you find that to be a convincing argument?

And here:

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The heart of the problem is Mr. Weldon's refusal to seriously engage LDS scholarship; and this comes to the surface again under the heading Needless Concerns . Brother Weldon tells us: "But at another level, the alleged new evidence for Mormonism isn't impressive--and it never will be when it comes to defending the truth claims of Mormonism." The intellectual narrow-mindedness displayed here is astounding. Of course, such evidence will fail to convince Brother Weldon; but it sure does seem impressive to folks in the LDS Church! In case Brother Weldon has forgotten, THEY are the ones that we Christians are supposed to be talking to. THEY are the ones who need to be shown why FARMS scholarship does not establish the historical and theological truth claims of the Mormon religion. And they are sure as shootin' going to find FARMS scholarship a lot more "impressive" than the frighteningly lame argument: "In a similar fashion, Mormonism is so clearly false on doctrinal grounds, one need not worry their scholarship could ever prove much of anything." My goodness, does Brother Weldon realize how utterly pathetic that must sound to a Mormon's ears? Does he care?!

LDS scholarship about The Book of Mormon is addressing all sorts of substantive issues.  Nahom.  Writing on metal plates.  Etymological issues ("Alma" as an ancient Semitic male name, Mulek, Nephi, etc.).  Hebraisms.  Chiasmus.  The descriptions of ancient olive cultivation in Jacob 5.  Royal Skousen's critical text project.  And on and on and on.

Nowhere will you find LDS scholars shrugging their shoulders and simply saying "God did it."

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There is simply no other theory that could have the power to fully explain every aspect of the Book of Mormon.  It is a perfect theory. 

Strawman, I think.  

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I think we all agree on that.  But for whatever reason, there is enough in the story of how the book came to be, and the text of the book itself, that leads plenty of people to believe that God didn't do it (in spite of whatever feelings they may or may not get when they read it).

That much is true.  There's quite a bit to discuss about the "whatever reason{s}" referenced here.

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It may bug the heck out of believers that people don't have to believe their theory if it doesn't hold up,

LDS scholarship continues to get short shrift.  From John Weldon 20 years ago.  And today from many other people.

I think the problem is not really that the LDS position on The Book of Mormon "doesn't hold up."  I think the problem is that it's often not being given a fair shake.  The LDS theory requires faith.  And effort.  And time.  And changed behavior.  It requires a lot.  It's quite understandable that many people don't want to be bothered with altering their lives in such dramatic ways.  

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and they don't have to present an alternate theory in order to not believe the original claim. 

I agree that "they" (meaning everyday Joes) have no such obligation.  But I think the critics do, particularly the critics who have staked out a position on The Book of Mormon, and then refuse to explain or defend that position.

Thanks,

-Smac

Edited by smac97
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20 hours ago, Rajah Manchou said:

Last year I went to a village in Burma and was shown a text that, in 1836, was revealed by an angel in a white robe to a Karen prophet who was fasting and meditating on a hill. The text is said to be taken from the lost Golden Book of the Karen people, which supposedly dates back to antiquity when their ancestors migrated from the Middle East. The text is still there in the village, untranslated. 

This is the leader of their church telling me the story of the angel who revealed the golden book: https://cloudup.com/cDegyEc0Pij

Q: How do we respond to this if Mormons weren't involved in the discovery at all?
A: Almost every Mormon I have told about this experience assumes it must have been a fiction written by a 19th century villager.

Or, 

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2 Nephi 29: 

11 For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them; for out of the books which shall be written I will judge the world, every man according to their works, according to that which is written.

12 For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it.

 

Edited by Bernard Gui
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19 minutes ago, Bernard Gui said:

Or, 

12 For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it.

That's kinda what I've been thinking. Also been thinking it could be the third witness to the Bible and the Book of Mormon, the record of the lost tribes.

"The splendid Book of Mormon advises that a third scriptural witness is yet to come from the lost tribes....We do not know when and how this will occur, but we are safe in assuming that the third book will have the same fundamental focus as the Book of Mormon- 'that...their seed [too]...may be brought to a knowledge of me, their Redeemer'. If there is a title page in that third set of sacred records, it is not likely to differ in purpose from the title page in the Book of Mormon, except for its focus on still other peoples who likewise received a personal visit from the resurrected Jesus." - Neal A. Maxwell

"Lost books are among the treasures yet to come forth. Over twenty of these are mentioned in the existing scriptures. Perhaps most startling and voluminous will be the records of the lost tribes of Israel. We would not even know of the impending third witness for Christ except through the precious Book of Mormon, the second witness for Christ! This third set of sacred records will thus complete a triad of truth. Then, just as the Perfect Shepherd has said, 'My word also shall be gathered in one' (v. 14). There will be 'one fold and one shepherd' - Neal A. Maxwell

In my opinion, finding the third witness is the only way to demonstrate the historicity of the Bible and the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon says as much: 2 Ne 29:12

Anybody here able/willing to help me get this book translated? If nobody interested here in LDS circles, I guess I'll have to call up Dan Brown. : )

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4 hours ago, cinepro said:

hope I'm not repeating myself, but since you said you want to understand how people can study these things (even in depth) and still not believe the Theory of Divine Origin for The Book of Mormon, I'll just point this out

I don't think that was his question. His question seemed to be: why don't more people who reject Mormon truth claims about historicity actually engage and study in depth the evidence pertaining to historicity?  It seems like he is perfectly content with people who do comibg to different conclusions. 

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3 hours ago, cinepro said:

I hope I'm not repeating myself, but since you said you want to understand how people can study these things (even in depth) and still not believe the Theory of Divine Origin for The Book of Mormon, I'll just point this out.

It's entirely possible, and even likely, that if the Book of Mormon has a 19th Century origin, it is a one-of-a-kind, never before seen, never since seen, amazing book.  It could be the most unique, amazing, unexplainable feat of writing ever seen, but that still would not compel a supernatural explanation.

Actually, what you said I am trying to understand is not what I am trying to understand. I fully expect that many people will disagree, even when they have all the same information at hand. My purpose is to try to figure out the most common reasons that individuals, especially when they are in the throes of an initial faith crisis,  don't seriously engage with the many lines of evidences uncovered by legitimate LDS scholars which support the historicity of our Restoration texts--an issue that is more scientifically testable than any other when it comes to intellectually (rather than spiritually) evaluating the truth claims of the Restoration.

I have invited a number of people in this situation to engage with this research, and none of them showed much if any interest. Aside from increased spiritual searching, the logical thing to do, for those who are in this situation and value their testimonies and are trying to deal with critical arguments that undermine them, would be to look at evidences which counteract these arguments. And if they wanted to be fair about it all, they would intensely investigate all the major lines of evidence from both sides before ever choosing to reinterpret the spiritual experiences that undergird their testimony. In other words, this is a long court case and they would let the evidence fully play out before reaching a life-altering, faith-shattering, and often (though thankfully not always) relationship-severing conclusion. 

But this isn't how most people approach the issue. The new critical information induces a sense of fear, betrayal, and often anger. I think it is these feelings--especially betrayal and a lack of trust--that cause people to quickly accept the inaccurate caricature of LDS apologetic research which is trumpeted by the critics. They are already feeling distrustful, and so they never really engage.

Why wast your time reading "pseudo-scholarship" right? Especially when other smart people out there have surely read it all and aren't impressed by it. This stuff isn't published an mainstream journals. It's all just like UFO and Big foot. And so on and so forth, from people who for the most part  haven't seriously engaged it themselves. 

If apologetic research is interacted with by the person in the faith crisis, it is usually related to "defensive," rather than "offensive" apologetics. They read a few things from FairMormon, MormonThink, the CES Letter, ect., and then feel like they have sufficiently sampled what is there. And then the journey is all into the labrynth of moral issues, and usually doesn't ever swing back very far into the more scientifically testable questions.

Obviously, that is a lot of generalizations and certainly not everyone fits the mold, but that is my best theory so far as to how this process typically plays out and why people don't seriously engage the research at a period in their faith journey when it might help them the most and when it makes a lot of sense for them to do so.   

As for the uniqueness or impressiveness of the Book of Mormon and its ability to compel belief, I'm not sure why you are bringing this up. My position isn't that the evidences compel belief or that they should compel belief. My position is that the evidences are collectively better than the competing evidences in this area, and that this area is the most probative, scientific avenue of research. Someone who hates the church's stance on homosexuality, for example, may not care if the apologetic case for historicity provides the best holistic argument available. We all prioritize what types of evidences are most important to us. I'm trying to figure out why people aren't prioritizing the lines of evidence I discussed in the OP at a time in their lives when it would seem very wise to do so (at least from the perspective of someone who values his or her testimony and wonders if there are legitimate intellectual reasons to hold on to their faith). 

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