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Ryan Dahle

Why Not Engage the Evidence for Historicity?

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29 minutes ago, kllindley said:

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 coming to different conclusions. 

If that's the question, then I've already given one likely explanation.  People generally don't spend a lot of time and effort engaging and studying things they don't believe in. 

He might think that if people did engage and study the Book of Mormon they would be convinced of its historicity, but I haven't seen much evidence of that.  From what I've seen, the people who are most impressed by such depth of study generally already had a testimony, and the study only serves to confirm what they already believed.

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19 minutes ago, Ryan Dahle said:

 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.

 

The answer to that part of your question is that the evidences that impress you so much utterly fail to convince people from a scientific standpoint.  If the question of historicity is approached by someone who doesn't already have a testimony, then the question is quickly answered in the negative by many obvious indicators.

I'm going to go out on a limb and assume you are not a young-earth creationist (obviously correct me if I'm wrong).  Now, assuming that, I would ask what you would say if I told you that young-earth creationists insist their theory is totally backed by the science, and if you think it isn't, you just haven't studied it enough?

Book of Mormon "science" is the young-earth creationism of Ancient American history.   Regular people don't believe the claims of the book or invest their time in researching the many arguments put forth by believers for the same reason regular people don't spend all their time trying to study the arguments that humans and dinosaurs co-existed.

It should also be pointed out that most of the evidences you are probably so impressed by totally fail to actually address the concerns people have about The Book of Mormon.  For example, I've never once heard someone lose their testimony in The Book of Mormon because they believed it didn't have enough chiasmus, or that there weren't enough ancient Hebrew festivals represented in the book.  Most people lose their testimony (or fail to ever get one) because of the huge, massive problems with the book.  And an intricate analysis of Nephite weights and measures might fascinate some people, but it doesn't do anything to address the massive problems with the claims the book makes (including describing what are obviously coins in Alma 11).

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On 6/23/2018 at 1:31 AM, Rajah Manchou said:

From Theological Apostasy and the Role of Canonical Scripture: A Thematic Analysis of 1 Nephi 13–14:

The suggestive parallels between 2 Esdras 14 and 1 Nephi 13–14 could be explained in a number of ways:

  1. they could be coincidental;
  2. Nephi could have been given a prophetic glimpse of the future role of Ezra, as accurately described in 2 Esdras;
  3. Joseph Smith (or someone in his circle) could have read 2 Esdras in the King James Version of the Apocrypha and perhaps had access to commentary on its meaning through libraries and cultural knowledge; or
  4. the Book of Mormon could be viewed as a restoration of an ancient Christian apocryphal text, which itself made use of earlier Jewish sources.

Owen seems most interested in #4, that the Book of Mormon could be viewed as a "restoration of an ancient Christian apocryphal text, which itself made use of earlier Jewish sources." (As you know, this is my view as well.)
........................................................

I read through Owen's article again (forgot about the first time I read it back in 2014), and found my old notes on it.  I added many of his correlations to my BofM Critical Text database.  However, nearly all of his correlations or parallels are so obscure that it is obvious that he is reaching in his attempt to find strong parallels.  In fact he himself uses phrases like "curious references" "cryptically expressed" and "a bit mysterious" to describe those parallels.  Throughout the BofM, whenever we encounter references to the Bible, we normally have actual, recognizable quotations from the KJV.  So why don't we have it in the case of II Esdras (IV Ezra)?  Joseph's KJV Bible certainly included II Esdras as part of the Apocrypha.  He appears not to have used it, and that is why Owen must fudge to make it fit.  Worse yet, we now know that Joseph Smith had no hand in writing the BofM, that he simply read the EarlyModernEnglish BofM text to his scribes.  This throws another monkey wrench into the debate, and it is not clear to me how we can resolve that debate.

Another thing:  Owen makes some rather pedestrian and even silly assumptions about the nature of the obscure historical references in the BofM text:

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Only if there really was a historical family of Lehi that actually traveled to the Americas in the buildup of the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem; only if a historical Jew named Nephi really was granted a vision of Christopher Columbus, the Revolutionary War, the settlement of the British colonists in America, and their defeat of the Native American populations; and only if these populations really did contain the actual genetic remnants of the seed of the Lamanites—only then would there be a prevailing reason to favor this second option.

The items in bold are unjustified assumptions -- assumptions not justified by the text (or history), which should more likely be interpreted in the broader context of the Spanish and British conquest and colonization of the New World, from Guatemala northward, and including the Mexican Revolution as much as the American Revolution.  In addition, the presence of the DNA of Manassite remnants should certainly be looked for -- particularly in ancient, skeletal finds.

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@Ryan Dahle,, this is why people stop engaging the evidence for historicity. No matter how much one might engage, there's only one right answer.

Not sure what Ryan's point is here.  I don't follow his logic.  Could you explain it to me, Ralph?

Edited by Robert F. Smith

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2 hours ago, cinepro said:

The answer to that part of your question is that the evidences that impress you so much utterly fail to convince people from a scientific standpoint.  If the question of historicity is approached by someone who doesn't already have a testimony, then the question is quickly answered in the negative by many obvious indicators.

On the contrary, Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish scholars have repeatedly treated the Book of Mormon with great respect, commenting positively on it, and even inviting Mormon scholars to participate with them in exploring Hebraic aspects of the BofM.  The late John A. Tvedtnes, for example, was repeatedly invited to speak on BofM linguistics at symposia on the Hebrew language in Jerusalem, and his contributions were even published by those Jews in beautiful hardbound volumes:

Tvedtnes, John A., “Hebrew Names in the Book of Mormon,” in G. Khan, et al., eds., Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics, 4 vols. (Brill, 2013), II:787-788, available online at http://referenceworks.brillonline.com/browse/encyclopedia-of-hebrew-language-and-linguistics.

Tvedtnes, John A., “Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon,” in G. Khan, et al., eds., Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics, 4 vols. (Brill, 2013), II:195-196, available online at http://referenceworks.brillonline.com/browse/encyclopedia-of-hebrew-language-and-linguistics.

Why was the late David Noel Freedman so impressed with the correlation with the name Mulek?  Could it be that standard, secular science prevailed in his  mind?

Smith, Robert F.  “New Information About Mulek, Son of the King,” FARMS Update, Feb 1984, reprinted in John W. Welch, ed., Reexploring the Book of Mormon: The F.A.R.M.S. Updates (Provo: FARMS/SLC: Deseret Book, 1992), 142-144. Online at https://publications.mi.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=1110&index=40 .

2 hours ago, cinepro said:

I'm going to go out on a limb and assume you are not a young-earth creationist (obviously correct me if I'm wrong).  Now, assuming that, I would ask what you would say if I told you that young-earth creationists insist their theory is totally backed by the science, and if you think it isn't, you just haven't studied it enough?

Book of Mormon "science" is the young-earth creationism of Ancient American history.   Regular people don't believe the claims of the book or invest their time in researching the many arguments put forth by believers for the same reason regular people don't spend all their time trying to study the arguments that humans and dinosaurs co-existed.

I am assuming that these "regular people" you speak of are not scientists or serious scholars of any kind, which is what makes them "regular people," unless I misunderstand you, cinepro.  I don't know of any actual "science" used to buttress the case made by young Earth creationists.  They flout science and scholarship both in geology as well as in reading and interpreting biblical Hebrew.  Perhaps you could find a better analogy.

2 hours ago, cinepro said:

It should also be pointed out that most of the evidences you are probably so impressed by totally fail to actually address the concerns people have about The Book of Mormon.  For example, I've never once heard someone lose their testimony in The Book of Mormon because they believed it didn't have enough chiasmus, or that there weren't enough ancient Hebrew festivals represented in the book.  Most people lose their testimony (or fail to ever get one) because of the huge, massive problems with the book.  And an intricate analysis of Nephite weights and measures might fascinate some people, but it doesn't do anything to address the massive problems with the claims the book makes (including describing what are obviously coins in Alma 11).

Although someone once included a caption referring to coinage in Alma 11, there was never any logical reason to do so.  The same sort of references in ancient Israel, Babylonia, and Egypt are seen by scholars as part of a system of weights & measures, not coins, which come later.  The "huge, massive problems" which are so frequently cited turn out on closer examination to be a lack of good information at best, and the elements of a lynch-mob mentality at worst.

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20 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Throughout the BofM, whenever we encounter references to the Bible, we normally have actual, recognizable quotations from the KJV.  So why don't we have it in the case of II Esdras (IV Ezra)?  Joseph's KJV Bible certainly included II Esdras as part of the Apocrypha.  He appears not to have used it, and that is why Owen must fudge to make it fit.  Worse yet, we now know that Joseph Smith had no hand in writing the BofM, that he simply read the Early Modern English BofM text to his scribes.  This throws another monkey wrench into the debate, and it is not clear to me how we can resolve that debate.

Owen is not declaring that Joseph Smith used the KJV or that he had a hand in writing the Book of Mormon. He's proposing that Joseph Smith "by means of divine inspiration and angelic assistance, have “restored” (with expansions reflective of his own nineteenth century setting) an ancient Christian apocryphal text—itself based on earlier Jewish apocalyptic sources—in the dictation of the Book of Mormon."

He's willing to look at the Book of Mormon as a divinely restored text, based on earlier Jewish sources that was dictated by Joseph Smith with angelic assistance. This is how the majority of Mormon scholars, and Mormons, view the text. Where is the fudging? Where is the monkey wrench?
 

20 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Another thing:  Owen makes some rather pedestrian and even silly assumptions about the nature of the obscure historical references in the BofM text:

Christopher Columbus, the Revolutionary War, the settlement of the British colonists in America, and their defeat of the Native American populations; and only if these populations really did contain the actual genetic remnants of the seed of the Lamanites

The items in bold are unjustified assumptions -- assumptions not justified by the text (or history), which should more likely be interpreted in the broader context of the Spanish and British conquest and colonization of the New World, from Guatemala northward, and including the Mexican Revolution as much as the American Revolution. 

Owen is interpreting the text the same way most LDS do, that Nephi saw a vision of (1) Christopher Columbus, (2) the Revolutionary War, (3) the settlement of the British colonists in America, and (4) their defeat of the Native American populations.

These aren't silly assumptions made by Paul Owen, they are almost universally accepted by believing members of the Church. I'm not following how Owen is being pedestrian for listing them. Although I agree with you that we should interpret these elements within their broader context, I'm usually informed this is wrong, and that the gentile was surely Columbus and the war was surely the Revolutionary War and the gentiles were the Puritans in the Colonies of America.

I've never heard that the Mexican Revolution should be included, so I wouldn't expect Owen, a non-member, to reach this conclusion without it first appearing in an LDS publication somewhere. Maybe it has?

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15 hours ago, Ryan Dahle said:

If you can find any 19th century text (not 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. ... 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.

If you say that nobody else in the early 19th century was writing texts in English with these kinds of highly repetitive stylistic quirks, then I'll accept that, at least for the sake of argument. But now why would that be? 

I don't want to put words in anyone else's mouth, but the only apologetic argument that I can imagine being based on the lack of repetitive phrasing in other 19th century writing is that mimicking the highly repetitive style of ancient Hebrew literature is somehow too hard to do unless you're an actual ancient Hebrew. But I just can't buy that. It doesn't look hard at all.

So if writing repetitively isn't hard, the obvious other reason why nobody else in the 19th century did it is ... that they just didn't want to write repetitively. I'm afraid I find this second explanation compelling.

Repetitive writing is primitive writing. It's oral culture in written form, but no audience after Gutenberg could stand to read such painfully repetitive stuff. The repetitiveness of the Book of Mormon is a big part of why Mark Twain made his famous comparison to chlorophorm. So no professional writer in the 19th century would write that way, even if they were otherwise aiming for a Biblical sound.

A man of limited education who was making things up while dictating might be an exception.

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15 hours ago, Ryan Dahle said:

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.

Wha?

Naturalistic explanations may at some points postulate events that seem unlikely, or for which there is no available evidence, but nothing about the Book of Mormon is naturalistically impossible. And things like Joseph Smith being a genius, or all his Witnesses being crooks, aren't even all that unlikely. Maybe, what, one in a million? But even on Mormon accounting, genuine major prophets who receive plates from angels occur at only maybe one in a billion humans.

To say that Smith being one-in-a-million is so implausible that we should instead believe he was one-in-a-billion seems to me a strange argument. The "only God is plausible" appeal only works if you already consider Smith's prophethood much more plausible than anyone does, who isn't Mormon.

And I think this may be the main reason why people who doubt Mormonism don't take pro-Mormon evidence seriously. One doesn't have to weigh every grain of salt in the shaker to see that it doesn't add up to a ton, and it's similarly obvious even without much engagement that Mormon evidence is  nowhere near strong enough to support claims which, unless you're a firm Mormon believer, are extremely implausible.

Edited by Physics Guy
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5 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

On the contrary, Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish scholars have repeatedly treated the Book of Mormon with great respect, commenting positively on it, and even inviting Mormon scholars to participate with them in exploring Hebraic aspects of the BofM.  The late John A. Tvedtnes, for example, was repeatedly invited to speak on BofM linguistics at symposia on the Hebrew language in Jerusalem, and his contributions were even published by those Jews in beautiful hardbound volumes:

I think you've just summarized the argument against Ryan better than I ever could.

I'm assuming these Protestant, Catholic and Jewish scholars haven't subsequently converted to Mormonism en masse.  They "respect" the book, they engage the scholarship, and feel "positively" towards it.  Yet they are unconvinced.

If you could indulge us in a bit of of speculation, how do you think those scholars would respond if you asked them where they think Book of Mormon came from?  How are they able to so fully understand the Hebraisms yet remain doubtful of the Theory of Divine Origin?

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11 hours ago, Rajah Manchou said:

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. : )

I remember reading about some LDS Karen in a recent Church News story.

https://www.deseretnews.com/article/900019718/young-refugees-from-myanmar-taking-part-in-book-of-mormon-pageant.html

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Many of the refugees and their families came to Utah in 2007. While the children learned basic English, adults still struggle to speak the language. The Book of Mormon has not yet been translated into their native Karen or Karenni languages, although the LDS Church is in the process of translating the Book of Mormon into Burmese. The church has not published any literature in the Karen or Karenni languages

Sister Gui has a very good friend who is a from Burma. We will ask her what she knows about this. Or if she knows of sources there. This is interesting.

Edited by Bernard Gui

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10 hours ago, Ryan Dahle said:

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). 

You have very accurately described my experiences with the a number of people I know, including two sons and several nephews and nieces and the children of close friends, who have left the Church for these reasons. I once even invited a young adult son who was on his way out of the Church to read an apologetic book on his own and to do a road trip with me and attend a FAIR conference....just to see what answers there might be to his questions....but I was met with a shockingly hostile response. Others I know have experienced the same reaction with their family members. They don’t want to do that which could help resolve their issues. Thankfully his anger has abated over a period of time, and we are rebuilding our relationship, but he still will not consider anything that contradicts his negative view of the Church.

As a side note that probably is a very broad generalization, but it holds true for all those who have left that I know - the first thing they proudly jettisoned was the Word of Wisdom, especially alcohol or marijuana, some even saying, “If you really love me, come and have a drink or smoke a joint with me, or at least let me do it in your home.” Other friends have had this same conversation with their loved ones. It’s a mystery to me.

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7 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Worse yet, we now know that Joseph Smith had no hand in writing the BofM, that he simply read the EarlyModernEnglish BofM text to his scribes.  This throws another monkey wrench into the debate, and it is not clear to me how we can resolve that debate.

In what form did he read the text of an EMEBofM? Was it a written manuscript? Was it in his hat? Did it shine forth in the stones?

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5 hours ago, Bernard Gui said:

You have very accurately described my experiences with the a number of people I know, including two sons and several nephews and nieces and the children of close friends, who have left the Church for these reasons. I once even invited a young adult son who was on his way out of the Church to read an apologetic book on his own and to do a road trip with me and attend a FAIR conference....just to see what answers there might be to his questions....but I was met with a shockingly hostile response. Others I know have experienced the same reaction with their family members. They don’t want to do that which could help resolve their issues. Thankfully his anger has abated over a period of time, and we are rebuilding our relationship, but he still will not consider anything that contradicts his negative view of the Church.

As a side note that probably is a very broad generalization, but it holds true for all those who have left that I know - the first thing they proudly jettisoned was the Word of Wisdom, especially alcohol or marijuana, some even saying, “If you really love me, come and have a drink or smoke a joint with me, or at least let me do it in your home.” Other friends have had this same conversation with their loved ones. It’s a mystery to me.

I lost a friendship with a guy over this. He lost his faith but we (a group of LDS, some active and some not, and some non LDS) continued to invite him to stuff. All he could talk about was how much he was drinking and kept asking if he could bring beer when we got together. Not only did no one else ever drink at that activity (including those who drank regularly) the activity was really not compatible with drinking. He kept asking to bring booze when we asked him to come. We said no and he kept asking. When he would come he would talk endlessly about all his drinking experiences like a stereotypical college student. We stopped inviting him. To this day I have no idea why he seemed obsessed with shoving his drinking into our faces. No one was offended by it. It was just boring.

Edited by The Nehor
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12 hours ago, cinepro said:

If that's the question, then I've already given one likely explanation.  People generally don't spend a lot of time and effort engaging and studying things they don't believe in. 

He might think that if people did engage and study the Book of Mormon they would be convinced of its historicity, but I haven't seen much evidence of that.  From what I've seen, the people who are most impressed by such depth of study generally already had a testimony, and the study only serves to confirm what they already believed.

Which is what we do with many things.

Changed your political party recently?

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On 6/23/2018 at 3:18 PM, Physics Guy said:

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.

I am curious as to what metrics are involved in gauging events which are attributed to divine intervention.

I am also curious as to what you think of A) the text of The Book of Mormon, and B) the statements of the witnesses.  These, in my view, are "extant evidence."  We can disagree about whether they are sufficient evidence, to be sure.  But the probative weight of evidence is a separate question from the existence of said evidence.

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The problem for Mormon apologists is, two-hundred-year-old frauds would tend to be like that.

So would two-thousand-year-old frauds.

How many billions of people have professed belief in the Resurrected Jesus Christ?  A person skeptical of Christian belief in that event could just as easily say: "It is indeed hard to think of a theory that explains the resurrection of Jesus Christ without anything being involved that is a priori improbable, or without postulating events for which there is no extant evidence."  Or: The problem for Christians is that two-thousand-year-old frauds (the 'Stolen Body Hypothesis') would tend to be like that."  How would you respond to that?

This would seem to be a comparable problem for Catholic/Protestant apologists (any, indeed, for all Christians).  Do you concur?

But it doesn't even end there.  Atheism is likewise susceptible to this line of reasoning.  Atheism posits the affirmative denial of the existence of God.  Their position is predicated on denying the existence of X, when they have no factual/evidentiary basis for that denial.  It seems profoundly ironic for Atheists to deride theists for exercising faith that God exists, when Atheists only exist by exercising faith that God does not exist.  Where's the "extant evidence" for the foundational claim of Atheism?

And so it goes.  We're all exercising faith in one way or another.  We all "see through a glass, darkly" (1 Cor. 13:12).  So this isn't really a "problem for Mormon apologists."  It's a human problem for all of us.

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They'd be based on tricks that people don't expect, and crucial evidence would have been hidden.

This pre-supposes fraud.  What if there were no "tricks?"  What if "crucial evidence" has been lost, rather than "hidden?"

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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.

I don't think there is parity here.  The point being raised here is that critics are failing to "engage the evidence for historicity."  The Mormons are, the critics are not.

If you are positing a "solid [naturalistic] explanation for The Book of Mormon," I can accept that.  But I'd like to see what that explanation is.  I'd like to see if it withstands scrutiny.  I'd like to see if it comports with the "extant evidence" (principally the text and the Witness statements).

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Yes, that does make "fraud did it" nearly as unfalsifiable as "God did it".

Now there's some pretty solid parity.  "Fraud did it" is just as unsatisfying as "God did it."

The problem, though, is that the Mormons aren't just saying "God did it."  Again, 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. 

In contrast, the critics have pretty much gone with "fraud did it" as their explanation.  But their explanations of that fraud are all over the place.  Conscious, deliberate fraud?  Pious fraud?  Joseph-Smith-acted-alone fraud?  Joseph-Smith-conspired-with-others fraud?  What about the plates?  Did they exist?  Or were they a figment of imagination?  If they existed, were they authentically ancient, or fabricated by Joseph Smith or a co-conspirator?  If they were fabricated, who fabricated them?   Daniel Peterson does a very good job of juxtaposing these various contradictory theories:

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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.

I think that's a pretty solid point.

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The difference is, though, that we've seen lots of cases of religious fraud over the centuries. Angels with plates, not so much.

By that reasoning, all religious claims must be rejected.  Jesus Christ as a savior?  Seen that plenty of times.

Edited by smac97
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1 hour ago, smac97 said:

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.

Daniel Peterson makes a good point here. But now imagine a murder case in which one witness for the prosecution definitively states that Miss Roberta Smith was indeed murdered by John Jones, at point blank range, as she stood by the hot dog stand on the beach in upstate New York. A second witness breaks out in laughter, for there are no beaches in upstate New York, how absurd! Besides, John Jones is not the suspects real name; some of the finest professors in the state have determined that his true identity is Juan Javier, a horse jockey from Guatemala (gasp!) and he was nowhere near New York at the time. Numerous witnesses confirm that he was well over 2000 miles from the scene of the murder! But then, a third witness (who can no longer bite his tongue) reveals that Juan Javier is not a Guatemalan horse jockey at all, he's a Peruvian silk weaver (whaa?) and those horses are not horses, they are...

OK, i'll stop there, I think you get the point. Which body of evidence for historicity should one engage?

Edited by Rajah Manchou

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16 minutes ago, Rajah Manchou said:

Daniel Peterson makes a good point here. But now imagine a murder case in which one witness for the prosecution definitively states that Miss Roberta Smith was indeed murdered by John Jones, at point blank range, as she stood by the hot dog stand on the beach in upstate New York.

Okay.

16 minutes ago, Rajah Manchou said:

A second witness breaks out in laughter, for there are no beaches in upstate New York, how absurd!

Have you ever heard of Ontario Beach State Park?  Here's a picture:

ontario-beach-park-beach.jpg

Moreover, is the person you are referencing claiming to be a percipient witness to the murder?

16 minutes ago, Rajah Manchou said:

Besides, John Jones is not the suspects real name; some of the finest professors in the state have determined that his true identity is Juan Javier, a horse jockey from Guatemala (gasp!) and he was nowhere near New York at the time.

How did they determine that?  

16 minutes ago, Rajah Manchou said:

Numerous witnesses confirm that he was well over 2000 miles from the scene of the murder!

Okay.  So we have conflicting witness accounts regarding the whereabouts of the suspect.

16 minutes ago, Rajah Manchou said:

But then, a third witness (who can no longer bite his tongue) reveals that Juan Javier is not a Guatemalan horse jockey at all, he's a Peruvian silk weaver (whaa?) and those horses are not horses, they are...

OK, i'll stop there, I think you get the point.

Actually no, I don't.

Who are the "witnesses" above supposed to be analogized to re: The Book of Mormon?

16 minutes ago, Rajah Manchou said:

Which body of evidence for historicity should one engage?

Ah.  So you are juxtaposting the "Heartland Model" with the "Mesoamerican Model" for The Book of Mormon and suggesting that the existence of the one weakens the other.  Is that your point?

Thanks,

-Smac

 

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1 hour ago, smac97 said:

[The inherent implausibility of miracles compared to fraud] would seem to be a comparable problem for Catholic/Protestant apologists (any, indeed, for all Christians).  Do you concur?

I concur. 

I'm a Christian, but I think a person would be a fool to waste any time "engaging the evidence" that Jesus rose from the dead, unless they were already persuaded on other grounds that the Resurrection was plausible. If they are not already so persuaded, thinking carefully about whatever evidence there could possibly be for the Resurrection would be like carefully weighing every grain of salt in the salt shaker, to be sure that the shakerful weighs less than a ton. So it makes no sense at all to complain or reproach over non-Christians not "engaging the evidence".

Edited by Physics Guy

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4 hours ago, Bernard Gui said:

As a side note that probably is a very broad generalization, but it holds true for all those who have left that I know - the first thing they proudly jettisoned was the Word of Wisdom, especially alcohol or marijuana, some even saying, “If you really love me, come and have a drink or smoke a joint with me, or at least let me do it in your home.” Other friends have had this same conversation with their loved ones. It’s a mystery to me.

I think this is more likely to happen with younger former members than older, though some older may feel they have been deprived or have friends who socialize over coffee or drinks and they see no reason now not to do so.  The older ones are much less likely to overdo it though.

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"If you really love me, come and have a drink or smoke a joint with me, or at least let me do it in your home.” 

Most likely a test to feel safe and not rejected themselves since they know they have disappointed.  They want to feel important in your life, more important than rules.  It is not a fair or kind test, but fear of loss often doesn't lead to those. ( I am not saying one must give into those kinds of tests)

Edited by Calm
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On 6/22/2018 at 5:56 PM, Ryan Dahle said:

Are you saying that you have seriously studied a good portion of the apologetic material related to the historicity of LDS Restoration texts? I suspect if I gave you a comprehensive list of the books and articles that I think are essential reading on the topic that you would have read a very small portion of it. I don't know for sure, I'm just basing this on past conversations and comments you have made about such topics in the past.

Yes, I’ve studied a lot in the past five years, way more than I studied as an orthodox member.  I probably have read many of the things you have.  Perhaps I should put a list together of things I think would be important reading from my vantage point.  

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I’ll chime in as a current unorthodox member. My faith transition from believing in the historicity of JS’ translations not believing their historicity occurred amidst reading JBMS, Interpreter, Dialogue, Bushman, FAIR, etc. I was reading a lot and I was very heavy into it. I was a highly motivated and spiritual member. Slowly over years as I investigated issue after issue I came to the belief that the texts are not historical.

I will admit to likely being part of a smaller group than those who don’t investigate the evidence and arguments.

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14 hours ago, Rajah Manchou said:

Owen is not declaring that Joseph Smith used the KJV or that he had a hand in writing the Book of Mormon. He's proposing that Joseph Smith "by means of divine inspiration and angelic assistance, have “restored” (with expansions reflective of his own nineteenth century setting) an ancient Christian apocryphal text—itself based on earlier Jewish apocalyptic sources—in the dictation of the Book of Mormon."

He's willing to look at the Book of Mormon as a divinely restored text, based on earlier Jewish sources that was dictated by Joseph Smith with angelic assistance. This is how the majority of Mormon scholars, and Mormons, view the text. Where is the fudging? Where is the monkey wrench?

The fudging was in finding correlations with the text of II Esdras, which are obscure at best, and he himself uses language which appears to recognize that lack of clear connection.  He provided several explanations for the phenomenon which he fails to adequately demonstrate.  I am taking into account all those theoretical explanations, while at the same time pointing out the lack of any 19th century content in the EarlyModernEnglish text.  These are fundamental problems which you yourself recognize.

14 hours ago, Rajah Manchou said:

Owen is interpreting the text the same way most LDS do, that Nephi saw a vision of (1) Christopher Columbus, (2) the Revolutionary War, (3) the settlement of the British colonists in America, and (4) their defeat of the Native American populations.

These aren't silly assumptions made by Paul Owen, they are almost universally accepted by believing members of the Church. I'm not following how Owen is being pedestrian for listing them. Although I agree with you that we should interpret these elements within their broader context, I'm usually informed this is wrong, and that the gentile was surely Columbus and the war was surely the Revolutionary War and the gentiles were the Puritans in the Colonies of America.

I've never heard that the Mexican Revolution should be included, so I wouldn't expect Owen, a non-member, to reach this conclusion without it first appearing in an LDS publication somewhere. Maybe it has?

I am addressing Owen's article as a piece of scholarship, not as a pedestrian regurgitation of what the average Mormon believes. I am unconcerned with majority opinion (vox populi vox Dei?), and am very surprised that you would defend him on that basis.  You will also note that I did not bold the name of Cristobal Colon.  That was deliberate.

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8 hours ago, Bernard Gui said:

In what form did he read the text of an EMEBofM? Was it a written manuscript? Was it in his hat? Did it shine forth in the stones?

Joseph's most immediate witnesses agree that the words appeared in bright English letters on his stone in the hat.  Skousen argues that we can even delimit how many words were normally read off to the scribe at one time, then the next phrase, etc.

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4 hours ago, Physics Guy said:

I concur. 

I'm a Christian, but I think a person would be a fool to waste any time "engaging the evidence" that Jesus rose from the dead, unless they were already persuaded on other grounds that the Resurrection was plausible.

But isn't that what Latter-day Saints are doing?  Looking at "evidence" to buttress (not supplant) faith?  Being "already persuaded on other grounds" as to the truthfulness of The Restoration?

I think there may be a bit more of a need for this exercise for Latter-day Saints than for other Christians.  "Evidence" pertaining to the resurrection is just not forthcoming.  It happened, or purportudly happened, two thousand years ago.  Accepting the reality of it is pretty much purely an exercise in faith, simply because there is no "evidence" to engage.

Things are a bit different for The Book of Mormon.  It was published two hundred years ago.  It's much closer to us in space and time.  We have the translated text of The Book of Mormon, and the statements from the Witnesses, and plenty of information about the Witnesses.  These things are, to some extent, testable.  They are "evidence."  Certainly not unequivocal evidence, but the closer we get to establishing The Book of Mormon as historical, the closer we get to establishing its spiritual claims.  Consider the Bible, and how it is situated differently from The Book of Mormon.  Skeptics aren't persuaded that the Bible's historical pedigree or archaeological finds, like the Pool of Siloam that was discovered a few years ago.  Such discoveries still don't really "move the needs" regarding the religious truth claims of the Bible because because such discoveries are discernible and explainable without looking to God for an explanation.  We already know that the Bible is "ancient," so evidence corroborating that isn't that big a deal.  We can also discern the historical pedigree and/or archaeological verification of The Odyssey, the Epic of Gilgamesh, etc., but doing so doesn't lend credence to any claims of divinity associated with those texts.  As one fellow put it to me years ago: "The only thing all those ancient bible sites prove is {that} the Bible is a really old fraud."

In contrast, The Book of Mormon is differently situated from the Bible.  There is a built-in gap in its historical transmission, consisting of some 1,400 years from when Moroni buried the plates to 1823, when the plates were re-discovered by Joseph Smith, Jr.  This “transmission gap” effectively precludes a naturalistic explanation of the text’s antiquity.   Consequently, if we someday discover persuasive archaeological or other evidence for the antiquity of The Book of Mormon, such evidence would have a far more persuasive impact on the veracity of the book's truth claims than would archaeological evidence for the Bible impact that book's truth claims.  Put another way, the antiquity and truth claims of The Book of Mormon are intertwined, such that evidence of the former may  simultaneously be evidence of the latter.

So that, I think, is perhaps why LDS scholars are attempting (with some real success, in my  view) to place The Book of Mormon in an ancient historical context.  Evidence of historicity can become evidence of divinity.  Not definitive evidence, mind you.  Not proof.  But evidence nonetheless.  Evidence that can be used to strengthen our faith.

Quote

If they are not already so persuaded, thinking carefully about whatever evidence there could possibly be for the Resurrection would be like carefully weighing every grain of salt in the salt shaker, to be sure that the shakerful weighs less than a ton. So it makes no sense at all to complain or reproach over non-Christians not "engaging the evidence".

I concur.  Because for biblical claims, it's largely a futile endeavor.  But my point is that the situation is a bit different for Latter-day Saints "engaging the evidence" as to The Book of Mormon.

Thanks,

-Smac

Edited by smac97
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