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JarMan

Joseph Smith: The World's Greatest Guesser

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12 hours ago, Bernard Gui said:

It was never intended to be nor promoted as “great literature.” Mormon made that clear in his preface. It’s purpose is to testify of Christ. It does that spectacularly.

Perhaps literary critics find it wanting. Nevertheless it has greatness throughout. I just finished studying Jacob’s sermon found in 2 Nephi 6-10. A masterful religious discourse! Even as literature, it approaches greatness. It is one of many great discourses in the book. IMO it would be miraculous if Joseph mustered all that on his first try from his own inexperienced imagination. 

But 2 Nephi and those particular chapters you listed are very much Isaiah.

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On 5/8/2019 at 2:15 AM, 10THAmendment said:

We can expect to find that the theory that the Native Americans came from the Middle East was a common belief during the early 1800s. The entire premise of the BOM is not an original idea at all. Oliver Cowdery’s own pastor even wrote a book about it before the BOM. 

That’s why I say it is possible Joseph gained his knowledge about this kind of stuff in NY. 

For starters, try this by John Gee:  "The Wrong Type of Book"

https://publications.mi.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=1082&index=10

The theory that Native American came from the Middle east was one of several theories, but that is far from "the entire premise" of the Book of Mormon.  And if closely and carefully read, it turns out to be far more complex than that.  See Matt Roper's essential "Nephi's Neighbors"

https://publications.mi.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=1457&index=7

There is a lot in the Book of Mormon that Joseph, or anyone, could have picked up in NY, let alone the non-existent library in Harmony.  For instance, look at the Aston's In the Footsteps of Lehi, or my "Paradigms Regained", or any of hundreds of other pieces by a wide range of scholars with extensive training across numerous fields, available at the Maxwell Institute and Interpreter and other websites.

https://publications.mi.byu.edu/authors/#g

https://www.mormoninterpreter.com/authors/

Vogel's Indian Origins and the Book of Mormon is useful for showing the range of speculations, but not as useful for measuring the Book of Mormon against those explanations.  (I have reviewed Vogel at length on this).

Though not impressed by the statistical arguments in Friday's Interpreter essay, I did think it interesting and notable that Coe failed to see many significant correspondences to the Book of Mormon in his own work.  I've followed Coe's arguments over the years, since the 1973 Dialogue essay, the PBS interview, and the Dehlin interview.  As well informed and as important in his own field, he's not a significant Book of Mormon scholar.   It's been clear that he does not know the Book of Mormon well, and his criticisms were directed at 50s and 60s LDS pop-culture speculations about the text.

FWIW

Kevin Christensen

Canonsburg, PA

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36 minutes ago, Kevin Christensen said:

For starters, try this by John Gee:  "The Wrong Type of Book"

https://publications.mi.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=1082&index=10

The theory that Native American came from the Middle east was one of several theories, but that is far from "the entire premise" of the Book of Mormon.  And if closely and carefully read, it turns out to be far more complex than that.  See Matt Roper's essential "Nephi's Neighbors"

https://publications.mi.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=1457&index=7

There is a lot in the Book of Mormon that Joseph, or anyone, could have picked up in NY, let alone the non-existent library in Harmony.  For instance, look at the Aston's In the Footsteps of Lehi, or my "Paradigms Regained", or any of hundreds of other pieces by a wide range of scholars with extensive training across numerous fields, available at the Maxwell Institute and Interpreter and other websites.

https://publications.mi.byu.edu/authors/#g

https://www.mormoninterpreter.com/authors/

Vogel's Indian Origins and the Book of Mormon is useful for showing the range of speculations, but not as useful for measuring the Book of Mormon against those explanations.  (I have reviewed Vogel at length on this).

Though not impressed by the statistical arguments in Friday's Interpreter essay, I did think it interesting and notable that Coe failed to see many significant correspondences to the Book of Mormon in his own work.  I've followed Coe's arguments over the years, since the 1973 Dialogue essay, the PBS interview, and the Dehlin interview.  As well informed and as important in his own field, he's not a significant Book of Mormon scholar.   It's been clear that he does not know the Book of Mormon well, and his criticisms were directed at 50s and 60s LDS pop-culture speculations about the text.

FWIW

Kevin Christensen

Canonsburg, PA

For your belief in a historical BOM with divine involvement, Is it just that Joseph (or someone else) would need a lot of sources to write the BOM?  Is it that the complexity of the BOM is so vast that only God could oversee this text?  I am just wondering what keeps you driven in this realm.

For decades I've heard the laughter regarding the library needed to contain the texts that JS required to write the BOM.  I've also often read numerous imposed guidelines regarding the length of time it took for the production/translation of the BOM.  Apologists tried to contain the length of time JS had to translate the BOM and the sources available to JS.  Other constraints were widely accepted and imposed within the LDS community.  I have a difficult time understanding why these constraints exist, e.g. time to write, one author, limited resources, etc.  

Yet, to me, it's fair to speculate that JS, Sidney, whoever had ample time to produce the BOM.  They had ample access to resources, and some might say there's ample evidence the BOM relied on 18th century resources.    

There's a lot of wiggle room.

 

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1 hour ago, lostindc said:

For your belief in a historical BOM with divine involvement, Is it just that Joseph (or someone else) would need a lot of sources to write the BOM?  Is it that the complexity of the BOM is so vast that only God could oversee this text?  I am just wondering what keeps you driven in this realm.

For decades I've heard the laughter regarding the library needed to contain the texts that JS required to write the BOM.  I've also often read numerous imposed guidelines regarding the length of time it took for the production/translation of the BOM.  Apologists tried to contain the length of time JS had to translate the BOM and the sources available to JS.  Other constraints were widely accepted and imposed within the LDS community.  I have a difficult time understanding why these constraints exist, e.g. time to write, one author, limited resources, etc.  

Yet, to me, it's fair to speculate that JS, Sidney, whoever had ample time to produce the BOM.  They had ample access to resources, and some might say there's ample evidence the BOM relied on 18th century resources.    

There's a lot of wiggle room.

 

It's that no one could have written the Book of Mormon as it is.  And that to me, the complexity of the Book of Mormon, in comparison with the context that it claims for itself versus a range of counter explanations that I have carefully read over the past four decades, is best explained by it being what it claims to be.  There is no need to wonder what keeps me in the realm.  I have published 37 essays on the topic, and have read most of the material published via Maxwell Institute and Interpreter and various other places.

The constraints come from paying close attention to the eye-witness accounts.  Richard Bushman noted this:

Quote

How these sources are used to retell the story of recovery varies greatly according to the inclinations of the teller. Mormon historians, for example, emphasize the rapidity of the translation. John Welch and Tim Rathbone estimate that there were sixty-three translating days available from Oliver Cowdery’s start as secretary on 7 April 1829 to the end of June when the title page was published in the Wayne Sentinel. That comes to eight pages of printed text a day4—a marvelous production rate for any writer and a stupendous one for an uneducated twenty-three-year-old who, according to his wife, could scarcely write a coherent letter.5 During the translation period, Joseph was hard-pressed to put food on the table. To avoid interruptions from hostile neighbors, he moved his entire household from Harmony, Pennsylvania, to Fayette, New York. Yet, through it all, he dictated the Book of Mormon text without hesitation day after day.

Unbelieving writers pass over this achievement, usually by simply acknowledging Joseph Smith’s genius ; one author has attributed the book to a freakish capacity for automatic writing.6 Secular historians pay less attention to the circumstances of translation, such as the production rate, and instead look for the sources of the book’s content. They play down the miraculous and play up the conventional material from Joseph’s own culture that they think shows up in the Book of Mormon. Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews (Poultney, Vermont, 1823), for example, is credited with supplying the main idea of Israelites migrating to the Western Hemisphere. Masonry and anti-Masonry, the Bible, local theological controversies, and Joseph Smith’s own family dynamics are all said to have played a part.7 Secular accounts thus attempt a cultural biography of Joseph Smith, scouring the intellectual landscape for possible sources of Book of Mormon ideas and speculating on how those sources might have made their way into Joseph Smith’s mind. Day-to-day happenings are neglected to make room for this wide-ranging search.

Mormon writers are more inclined to put the reports from people close to Joseph Smith into the story. Because the recovery of the Book of Mormon is a sacred story, every detail is relished. Mormons are interested in the futile efforts of Lucy Harris, Martin’s tempestuous wife, to see the plates, or in Emma’s father’s refusal to allow an object in his house that he was forbidden to look at. We love Emma Smith’s comment that she never saw the plates but “moved them from place to place on the table as it was necessary on doing my housework.”8 The way the divine work played on the lives of the various actors—perplexing, frustrating, thrilling, and enraging them—captures the Mormon imagination. These everyday details are beside the point for secular historians who want to run down the elusive sources of Book of Mormon ideas and not to make the protection of the plates, the gathering of converts, and the laborious work of translation seem too real. Most of the detailed sources were written by believers, and to follow them too closely infuses a narrative with their faith. Secular historians are, therefore, more inclined than Mormons to suppress source material from Joseph’s closest associates.

https://publications.mi.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=1099&index=3

There is a huge difference between considering the Book of Mormon as coming from one author (Joseph Smith or Rigdon or whomever, or Inspired fiction, or imaginative fiction) or a committee involved in a pious fraud, and a Book of Mormon that is what it says and therefore has a range of ancient authors and one inspired translator.

The issue is not that anyone can easily explain away the Book of Mormon.    To assert that "Joseph did it somehow" is good enough for many people.   I recently reviewed Ann Taves's attempt to do that in terms of spirit writing and self-hypnosis.  But for me the issue is whether those explanations are testable, accurate, comprehensive and coherent (that is, striking details, plus breath and depth and calling on a broad range of knowledge), fruitful (that is, as Kuhn puts it, does assuming a theory is authentic lead to discoveries that would never had emerged otherwise), simplicity and aesthetics (do we imagine Joseph and Ridgon a few months into confinement Liberty Jail, pondering their flock being violently driven from their Missouri homes, and saying to each other "Tell me again how much money we are going to make...") and future promise.   These criteria are the ones that Thomas Kuhn highlights in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions as being important because they are not completely "paradigm dependent". 

Taves's book depended heavily on a very questionable late text from Lucy Smith on Joseph's supposed imagination.  And her explanation of the Book of Mormon as an imaginative fiction accounts only for the bulk, not the content.  The only evidence that she mentions from the few remotely apologetic sources that she considered (Bushman's Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism and Givens's Mormon's Book) is chiasmus, which she did not bother to define or footnote.  She brought it up in comparison with  a PhD Shakespearean scholar''s ability to occasionally produce blank verse in A Course in Miracles.  She did not explain why Joseph did not need any training to produce the poetry in the Book of Mormon.  So her explanation, the way I measure things, in comparison with that I know, is not better, not as testable, not as accurate, not as comprehensive and coherent, not as fruitful, not as aesthetically simple and pleasing, not as promising.

The proper way to reduce wiggle room is to introduce effective and relevant constraints.  And the testability of the Book of Mormon offers a great many constraints, for those who are willing to consider them.

Quote

Here is how Taves defines the problem of the Book of Mormon:

Based on this reconstruction, a naturalistic account would need to explain (1) the rapid flow of words that were “known” but seemed like they were not their own; (2) their ability to control the process, specifically to stop and start and shift modalities; and (3) their execution of a complex overall plan without evident planning. (250)

Compare this description of what, in 1953, Hugh Nibley observed about the puzzle regarding the best way to investigate the claims of purportedly historical texts. The traditional non-LDS approach involves a very different set of rules than what Taves offers:

One of the best-established disciplines in the world is the critical examination of written texts to detect what in them is spurious and what is genuine. … [T]he rules given by Blass are all obvious enough on experience and reflection, but every one of them is a stumbling block to the superficial critic, and [Page 86]they have all been scrupulously avoided by those attacking the Book of Mormon.

To begin with, says Blass, “We have the document, and the name of its author; we must begin our examination by assuming the author indicated really wrote it.” You always begin by assuming the text is genuine. What critic of the Book of Mormon has ever done that?

…Thus while we can never prove absolutely that the Book is what it claims to be, we are justified at the outset in assuming that is it what it claims to be. If one assumes that it is true, its features at least become testable.37

Taves’s definition of what a naturalistic account needs to explain is notably different from what Blass described as the definitive test for purportedly ancient documents. This potential test of the Book of Mormon involves details only an eyewitness could have seen, details difficult to fake, particularly at length in a long historical document, and emphasizing comparisons with information unknown to anyone in Joseph Smith’s time.

https://www.mormoninterpreter.com/playing-to-an-audience-a-review-of-revelatory-events/

Margaret Barker's testing of the Book of Mormon is strikingly different from not only Taves, but every other skeptical approach I have read.

Quote

I am not a scholar of Mormon texts and traditions. I am a biblical scholar specializing in the Old Testament, and until some Mormon scholars made contact with me a few years ago, I would never have considered using Mormon texts and traditions as part of my work. Since that initial contact I have had many good and fruitful exchanges and have begun to look at these texts very closely. I am still, however, very much an amateur in this area. What I offer can only be the reactions of an Old Testament scholar: are the revelations to Joseph Smith consistent with the situation in Jerusalem in about 600 BCE? Do the revelations to Joseph Smith fit in that context, the reign of King Zedekiah, who is mentioned at the beginning of the First Book of Nephi, which begins in the “first year of the reign of Zedekiah” (1 Nephi 1:4)? Zedekiah was installed as king in Jerusalem in 597 BCE.4

A different test considered very different evidence and produced very different results.  So the question should be "which explanation is better?" with open consideration and discussion of "How should we measure better?"

FWIW

Kevin Christensen

Canonsburg, PA

Edited by Kevin Christensen
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4 hours ago, clarkgoble said:

for apologists to make a better case I think they need to make these arguments more objective

I think this paper was an attempt to put it into more objective terms, turn it into a number crunching kind of thing.  Problem is choosing the probabilities seems pretty subjective to me (granted I just read the beginning) as it isn't as straightforward as a typical example of "how many marbles in a bag are red?".  If so, then it remains fundamentally subjective.

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3 hours ago, hope_for_things said:

I don't know of any studies like that.  I also don't know of any scholarly studies that dig deeply into the apologetic arguments of other religious groups and their sacred texts.  There is a reason for this, and the reason is not because the apologetic arguments are substantive.  I'll let you try to figure out the reason.  Oh, its also not because of Satan.  

General Christian apologetics certainly have been engaged with critically. I'm surprised you'd say this. Heck Ehrman regularly engages with apologetics at his blog.

If you mean non-Christian groups, part of it is because other religions are too often simply dismissed as unimportant in the academy. i.e. there's a certain element of racism in the neglect. The second element is simply that most non-Christian religions don't have the historical elements as key that Judaism and Christianity do. Islam is an interesting middle ground, but again you have the problem of racism and few Muslims being in the west until recently. But in the last two decades Islamaphobia has been such an issue that you have pretty strong reasons to not engage with apologetics. (Not to mention the Salman Rusdie effect - why court violence for something you don't even care about?)

I've heard that if you go to Asian cultures that there is more clash between apologists and scholars, but I'll admit that I just don't know enough there to say much. Part of the problem in the west is that the forms of those religions that tend to take hold are the less literalist or fundamentalist versions. So variants of Zen Buddhism are pretty popular in the west or at least versions of Hinduism or Buddhism that don't take the myths too seriously except as allegories. Go to Asia though and things are a bit different.

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1 minute ago, Calm said:

I think this paper was an attempt to put it into more objective terms, turn it into a number crunching kind of thing.  Problem is choosing the probabilities seems pretty subjective to me (granted I just read the beginning) as it isn't as straightforward as a typical example of "how many marbles in a bag are red?".  If so, then it remains fundamentally subjective.

The problem is that it just misapplies the Bayesian methods. (IMO) Ideally Bayesian approaches deal with a narrow set of features and repeated investigation to those features. In this case it's iterating over a variety of features and being choosey about what features it includes or excludes, which more or less completely undermines the approach. That's not to say people don't loosely apply Bayesian methods. In that way it becomes a weak form of machine learning akin to a neural network.  Heck, I've written methods like that. However in those cases the "garbage in - garbage out" problem appears. Your training data completely determines your conclusions. That problem isn't engaged with that I can see.

I think one can definitely cast an argument based upon parallels unlikely to be knowable by Joseph. But one has to engage with the arguments for and against for each parallel IMO. This is just dressing up in a facade of objectivity what is actually just a somewhat arbitrary subjective judgment. They'd have been better off just going through the most unlikely cases and using those to explain why Joseph is implausible as author. I'll fully admit I don't find it plausible that he wrote it. It seems plausible to most people only because the only other serious alternatives seem even less plausible.

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5 minutes ago, clarkgoble said:

The problem is that it just misapplies the Bayesian methods. (IMO) Ideally Bayesian approaches deal with a narrow set of features and repeated investigation to those features. In this case it's iterating over a variety of features and being choosey about what features it includes or excludes, which more or less completely undermines the approach. That's not to say people don't loosely apply Bayesian methods. In that way it becomes a weak form of machine learning akin to a neural network.  Heck, I've written methods like that. However in those cases the "garbage in - garbage out" problem appears. Your training data completely determines your conclusions. That problem isn't engaged with that I can see.

I think one can definitely cast an argument based upon parallels unlikely to be knowable by Joseph. But one has to engage with the arguments for and against for each parallel IMO. This is just dressing up in a facade of objectivity what is actually just a somewhat arbitrary subjective judgment. They'd have been better off just going through the most unlikely cases and using those to explain why Joseph is implausible as author. I'll fully admit I don't find it plausible that he wrote it. It seems plausible to most people only because the only other serious alternatives seem even less plausible.

Appreciate your summary.  I am not that well versed in Bayesian applications and was wondering if my view was too simplistic.

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21 hours ago, Glenn101 said:

I believe that you are responding to an argument that no one is really making i.e. that the Book of Mormon is great literature or that it is of a miraculous construction. The ideas are about the complexity of the Book of Mormon, names, story lines, person shifts, the curious case of Early Modern English, chiasmus (some of which may be very good Hebrew literature), etc.

Glenn

When you're a hammer everything looks like a nail. I'm not saying this in a negative way, as we all tend to do it from time to time. Particularly this idea from Muehlstein is troubling:

Quote

And so I start out with an assumption that the Book of Abraham and the Book of Mormon and anything else that we get from the restored gospel is true, therefore, any evidence I find I will try and fit into that paradigm. I don’t feel that I need to defend that paradigm, I feel that I want to understand the evidence that I find within that paradigm because to me it’s a given that it’s true. 

https://www.fairmormon.org/conference/august-2014/book-abraham-unnoticed-assumptions

So when it comes to chiasmus, hebrewisms, language correlations, EModE, and this paper, it's hard for an outsider to take seriously. 

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2 hours ago, lostindc said:

But 2 Nephi and those particular chapters you listed are very much Isaiah.

But isn't it interesting that Isaiah's teaching are so seamlessly employed both as longer quotes (with changes) with explanations and in words and phrases that underscore Jacob's teaching? To me this indicates an incredible familiarity and mastery of Isaiah's words. I wonder how Joseph Smith or whoever wrote the BoM gained this ability. The reason for this is explicitly explained by both Jacob and Nephi as they intentionally likened Isaiah to their people in their instructions because they were also of the House of Israel.

But this sermon is far more than just a rehash of Isaiah. Using the Isaiah texts as his jumping off point, Jacob ranges through the entirety of the gospel of Jesus Christ from pre-mortal life, the council in heaven, the creation, prophetic authority, the Law of Moses, the covenanted past and future of the Jews and the Lehites, the coming of the Messiah, the role of Satan, the First and Second Deaths, repentance and baptism, the importance of enduring to the end,  Paradise and Hell, the End Times and the Second Coming of Jesus, the Resurrection and Final Judgement of all the family of Adam, salvation of the faithful in the Kingdom of God, the justice and mercy of God, condemnation of those who deny Him, knowledge and accountability, the roles of learning and wisdom, humility, the perils of riches and pride, the fate those who have not received the Law or the Gospel, the Two Ways of Life and Death, the symbolism of blood on garments,  the name of the Savior (Christ), the evil of priestcraft, the consequences that will fall on those who crucified the Christ, the role of the Gentiles in restoring the Jews and the Lehites, and all this while calling his people to repentance and encouraging them to move ahead in faith and hope........and on and on and on.

Pretty remarkable, I think. 

 

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15 minutes ago, Bernard Gui said:

But isn't it interesting that Isaiah's teaching are so seamlessly employed both as longer quotes (with changes) with explanations and in words and phrases that underscore Jacob's teaching? To me this indicates an incredible familiarity and mastery of Isaiah's words. I wonder how Joseph Smith or whoever wrote the BoM gained this ability. The reason for this is explicitly explained by both Jacob and Nephi as they intentionally likened Isaiah to their people in their instructions because they were also of the House of Israel.

But this sermon is far more than just a rehash of Isaiah. Using the Isaiah texts as his jumping off point, Jacob ranges through the entirety of the gospel of Jesus Christ from pre-mortal life, the council in heaven, the creation, prophetic authority, the Law of Moses, the covenanted past and future of the Jews and the Lehites, the coming of the Messiah, the role of Satan, the First and Second Deaths, repentance and baptism, the importance of enduring to the end,  Paradise and Hell, the End Times and the Second Coming of Jesus, the Resurrection and Final Judgement of all the family of Adam, salvation of the faithful in the Kingdom of God, the justice and mercy of God, condemnation of those who deny Him, knowledge and accountability, the roles of learning and wisdom, humility, the perils of riches and pride, the fate those who have not received the Law or the Gospel, the Two Ways of Life and Death, the symbolism of blood on garments,  the name of the Savior (Christ), the evil of priestcraft, the consequences that will fall on those who crucified the Christ, the role of the Gentiles in restoring the Jews and the Lehites, and all this while calling his people to repentance and encouraging them to move ahead in faith and hope........and on and on and on.

Pretty remarkable, I think. 

 

I just don't view 2 Nephi in the same way you do.  

I see an attempt to weave commentary and fictional events into the words of Isaiah and build more to the story, like a spinoff.  I don't see any notable complexity to think divinity is involved.  Worse, I see anachronisms and other issues surrounding the use of Isaiah, but most here have likely read the arguments for and against Isaiah in the BOM (this is where "seemlessly" doesn't exist for me in 2 Nephi).

  

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2 hours ago, Kevin Christensen said:

It's that no one could have written the Book of Mormon as it is.  And that to me, the complexity of the Book of Mormon, in comparison with the context that it claims for itself versus a range of counter explanations that I have carefully read over the past four decades, is best explained by it being what it claims to be.  There is no need to wonder what keeps me in the realm.  I have published 37 essays on the topic, and have read most of the material published via Maxwell Institute and Interpreter and various other places.

The constraints come from paying close attention to the eye-witness accounts.  Richard Bushman noted this:

https://publications.mi.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=1099&index=3

There is a huge difference between considering the Book of Mormon as coming from one author (Joseph Smith or Rigdon or whomever, or Inspired fiction, or imaginative fiction) or a committee involved in a pious fraud, and a Book of Mormon that is what it says and therefore has a range of ancient authors and one inspired translator.

The issue is not that anyone can easily explain away the Book of Mormon.    To assert that "Joseph did it somehow" is good enough for many people.   I recently reviewed Ann Taves's attempt to do that in terms of spirit writing and self-hypnosis.  But for me the issue is whether those explanations are testable, accurate, comprehensive and coherent (that is, striking details, plus breath and depth and calling on a broad range of knowledge), fruitful (that is, as Kuhn puts it, does assuming a theory is authentic lead to discoveries that would never had emerged otherwise), simplicity and aesthetics (do we imagine Joseph and Ridgon a few months into confinement Liberty Jail, pondering their flock being violently driven from their Missouri homes, and saying to each other "Tell me again how much money we are going to make...") and future promise.   These criteria are the ones that Thomas Kuhn highlights in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions as being important because they are not completely "paradigm dependent". 

Taves's book depended heavily on a very questionable late text from Lucy Smith on Joseph's supposed imagination.  And her explanation of the Book of Mormon as an imaginative fiction accounts only for the bulk, not the content.  The only evidence that she mentions from the few remotely apologetic sources that she considered (Bushman's Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism and Givens's Mormon's Book) is chiasmus, which she did not bother to define or footnote.  She brought it up in comparison with  a PhD Shakespearean scholar''s ability to occasionally produce blank verse in A Course in Miracles.  She did not explain why Joseph did not need any training to produce the poetry in the Book of Mormon.  So her explanation, the way I measure things, in comparison with that I know, is not better, not as testable, not as accurate, not as comprehensive and coherent, not as fruitful, not as aesthetically simple and pleasing, not as promising.

The proper way to reduce wiggle room is to introduce effective and relevant constraints.  And the testability of the Book of Mormon offers a great many constraints, for those who are willing to consider them.

https://www.mormoninterpreter.com/playing-to-an-audience-a-review-of-revelatory-events/

Margaret Barker's testing of the Book of Mormon is strikingly different from not only Taves, but every other skeptical approach I have read.

A different test considered very different evidence and produced very different results.  So the question should be "which explanation is better?" with open consideration and discussion of "How should we measure better?"

FWIW

Kevin Christensen

Canonsburg, PA

  

The lack of one's ability to replicate doesn't mean the BOM is true, especially when it comes to a book.  The BOM is perceived complex by some and not complex by others.  Fine writers from that era such as Mark Twain were less impressed.

You ask how we should measure better, I imagine not limiting the constraints.   In the first sentence of the Bushman article you posted, he starts by limiting the time to produce the BOM by only allowing 6.5 years for the BOM authorship.  That's plenty of time to write the BOM, but that's not the point, it's dismissive of other possibilities.  The possibilities are much more vast than allowed by many apologists.  I grew up believing that JS had to work incredibly long hours to translate the BOM in a short period of time using the U&T and now we see that plenty of possibilities existed outside of that narrative.  We see that time wasn't so limited, resources readily available, character issues already surrounded JS et al., amongst a bunch of other phenomena.

I would think that it's easier to disqualify the BOM based on anachronism, plagiarism, etc., than it's easier to throw our hands up and say this is a book from God, a true account.  

It gets even easier to disqualify the BOM when you encounter troubling history, especially with JS, but that's for another day.

We're from the same stake, at least that was my childhood stake.  As a youngster I would sit with Clark Rogers and other really bright individuals from that stake and discuss these topics.  I always lived in the idea that the timelines and resources that the apologists outlined were hard and fast.  I lived in the idea that the witness accounts were credible with no doubts surrounding these accounts.  I lived with so many other constraints to help make the BOM a true text.  When I began lifting the false constraints and allowing for questions, it became easier to discount the BOM.

 

 

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On 5/9/2019 at 3:48 AM, Physics Guy said:

So far all I've seen are Mormon apologists asserting that the Book of Mormon is too complex for Smith to have composed it, and all I can do is shrug, because I just don't have that impression at all, to the point where I really just have no idea where the apologists are getting this idea that their Book would have been so hard for Smith to write. The only complexity I can see in it is the kind of complexity that is quite easy to make up, because it comes from rambling away without a clear plan. That's just my own subjective impression, but until "complexity" gets pinned down in specific terms, competing subjective impressions is all that there is, here.

If someone were to be specific about exactly what objective features were supposed to have been hard for someone like Smith to have composed, then one could go and look at other texts by other writers and see how often those objective features have been achieved. One wouldn't even have to have the problem of comparing gifted/educated/professional writers with an unschooled farm hand, because these days there are web sites that get writing posted by all kinds of amateur authors. Amazon also lets people self-publish at $0.99 a book, so with a modest budget one could simply buy a large pool of finished unprofessional writing for comparison. It would be modern writing, but we're presumably not talking about comparisons of spelling and dialect. Crafting an intricate plot full of diverse characters should not come any more easily to the average person today than it did in the past.

It might not be so hard to find out exactly where the Book of Mormon would lie on the spectrum of amateur writing, if it were considered as an amateur work of fiction. If it were totally off the usual charts for numerous objective features, that might be a strong argument that Smith didn't just compose it himself. It would be important to formulate the objective features in a way that even non-Mormons found reasonable, however. If one ended up effectively defining "complex" to mean "exactly like the Book of Mormon" then of course no other works would be so "complex".

I have no interest whatever in undertaking this myself, but there seem to be quite a few Mormons working hard to convince non-Mormons about their faith. This might be a good project for some of them, because it would turn an old subjective argument into something more convincing—or, if the results turned out to be disappointing, they would at least let Mormon apologists know that they should drop an unconvincing argument and concentrate on better ones.

I have an interest in undertaking this myself. Attached is a paper I have posted previously on this board but with revisions and additions. (Apologies to those who have seen it before). It is an objective look at a parallelistic form that occurs many times in the Book of Mormon. I believe it is an objective example of the complexity of the text. I hope the formatting of the original is preserved because I have carefully worked it out. Feel free to shrug.

 

AN INTERESTING PARALLELISTIC FORM IN THE BOOK OF MORMON

            Anadiploid chains, stair step, and climax are related rhetorical forms that appear in the Bible. They are types of gradated parallelism in which words or phrases are placed in a ladder-like order, leading the reader carefully and methodically from point to point until a culminating conclusion or climax is reached. In this study, words or phrases that create the stairstep are bolded and the conclusion they lead to is bolded and italicized.

             Paul's use of gradated parallelism building from the suffering endured by Christians to the ecstatic reception of God’s love illustrates the effectiveness of this structure [see Gideon O. Burton, "Silva Rhetoricae" (rhetoric.byu.edu)].

Romans 5:3-5 (NIV) 

But we also rejoice in our 

sufferings, because we know that 

suffering produces 

perseverance; 

Perseverance, 

character; and 

character, 

hope. And 

hope does not disappoint us, 

because God has poured out his love into our hearts 

by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. 

Another example from the Apostle Peter:

  2 Peter 1:2-8

Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:

Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

 And beside this, giving all diligence,

add to your faith 

virtue; and to

virtue

knowledge; and to 

knowledge 

temperance; and to

temperance 

patience; and to

patience

godliness; and to

godliness: 

brotherly kindness; and to

brotherly kindness 

charityFor if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.         

            Gradated parallelism is also found in the Book of Mormon.  Using Donald Parry’s Poetic Parallelisms in the The Book of Mormon: The Complete Text Reformatted (Maxwell Institute, 2007), I have identified at least twenty-five such passages. 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. I believe the Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon are interesting because they reveal Nephite literary devices and thought patterns. They should be studied for the purpose of understanding Nephite thought, rather than attempting to discover similarities with ancient Hebrew writing. There can be no doubt they occur frequently in the Book of Mormon. That fact alone is worth consideration in itself. 

            The form anadiplosis, stair step, or climax most often occurs in passages that deal with the plan of salvation and the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Some even allude to material that LDS readers would recognize as temple knowledge.

              Lehi was the first to use this form. Since later writers also used it (Nephi, King Benjamin, Alma, Mormon, and Moroni in particular), one might assume it had become imbedded in the Nephite teaching system from the writings in the Brass Plates; however, that it may have originated in the Old World is less intriguing than the fact that throughout their history, Nephite prophets clearly  used it as an effective rhetorical or didactic device when they taught the Plan of Salvation.

            Here is my list of climactic anadiploid chains in the Book of Mormon: 

1.    1 NEPHI 10:11                      LEHI (BY NEPHI) TO LAMAN AND  LEMUEL 

2.    1 NEPHI 12: 19 - 13:5          NEPHI IN VISION SHOWN TO HIM BY AN ANGEL

3.    1 NEPHI 15: 13-20               NEPHI TO LAMAN AND LEMUEL 

4.    1 NEPHI 15:33-35                NEPHI TO LAMAN AND LEMUEL 

5.    1 NEPHI 19:2-5                     NEPHI TO READER 

6.    1 NEPHI 22:9-12                   NEPHI TO LAMAN AND LEMUEL 

7.    2 NEPHI 1:13                        LEHI TO LAMAN AND LEMUEL 

8.    2 NEPHI 9:6-9                       JACOB TO HIS PEOPLE 

9.    2 NEPHI 9:25-26                  JACOB TO HIS PEOPLE 

10. 2 NEPHI 25:4-5                     NEPHI COMMENTS ON ISAIAH TO HIS PEOPLE 

11. 2 NEPHI 31:2-3                     NEPHI TO HIS BELOVED BRETHREN 

12. MOSIAH 2:17-19                  KING BENJAMIN TO HIS PEOPLE 

13. ALMA 5:37-38                       ALMA TO PEOPLE OF ZARAHEMLA 

14. ALMA 13:22                          ALMA TO ZEEZROM 

15. ALMA 32: 11-14                    ALMA TO THE POOR ON THE HILL ONIDAH

16. ALMA 41:13-14                     ALMA TO CORIANTON 

17. ALMA 42:17-20                     ALMA TO CORIANTON 

18. ALMA 42:23                          ALMA TO CORIANTON 

19. ALMA 61:8                             PAHORAN TO MORONI 

20. HELAMAN 5:6-8                   HELAMAN TO HIS SONS 

21. MORMON 9:11-13                MORMON TO UNBELIEVERS 

22. ETHER 3: 15                         JESUS TO BROTHER OF JARED 

23. MORONI 8:25-26                  MORMON TO MORONI 

24. MORONI 10:20-23                MORONI TO THE LAMANITES 

25. MORONI 10:32-34                MORONI TO LAMANITES 

 An examination of these examples reveals some common characteristics: 

·     All examples except one make a significant doctrinal statement.

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

·     There is only one example in historical narratives (Alma 61:8).

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

·     Eight illuminate the Plan of Salvation in logical sequence.

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

       Nephite prophets often used this structure in their communications to underscore important points with “problem” listeners such as Laman, Lemuel, Zeezrom, Corianton, unbelievers, and the Lamanites. For example, Alma’s instructions to his wayward son Corianton include this sequential review of the process by which men are saved from the justice of God by the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Bringing men back into the presence of God at the end of their lives suggests they were there before they were born, or the pre-mortal existence in LDS theology.

Alma 42:23

...if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed. 

But God would cease to be God. 

God ceaseth not to be God,  and

mercy claimeth the penitent, and 

mercy cometh because of 

the atonement; And the

atonement bringeth to pass 

the resurrection of the dead; the

the resurrection of the dead bringeth back men into the 

presence of God; and thus they are restored into 

his presence, 

to be judged according to their works, 

according to the law and justice. 

            On other occasions, prophets and the Lord himself employ climax to teach important basic or new knowledge to eager learners such as Benjamin’s people, the brother of Jared, and the young boy Moroni. For example, soon after he was called to the ministry, Moroni received a letter of instructions from his father Mormon. Part of Mormon's instruction was this 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. 

         Pahoran’s letter to General Moroni (Alma 61:8) is the only example of a  non-doctrinal climactic form; however, Pahoran was communicating critical information that would dispel any suspicion in Moroni’s mind that Pahoran was a traitor. It was vital for Moroni to understand exactly what the situation was back home, so in his persuasive letter Pahoran included a climactic recital of the plans of the enemy king.           

Alma 61:8

They [Nephite traitors] have got possession of the land, or the city, of Zarahemla,

and they have appointed a

king over them; and he hath written unto the

king of the Lamanites, in the which he hath joined an

alliance with him; in the which

alliance he hath agreed to

maintain the city of Zarahemla, which

maintenance he supposeth will enable the Lamanites to conquer the remainder of the land...

            These examples may indicate that anadiplosis and climax were part of the Nephite educational process and language tradition. Training in Semitic parallelistic rhetoric is further indicated by the appearance of dozens of other types of parallelistic patterns used by prophets throughout the text of the Book of Mormon. Donald Parry has identified over one thousand uses of these patterns (“Index of Poetic Forms,” Parry, ibid., 565-567). The following five Book of Mormon examples of gradated parallelism teach important doctrines.  They foretell the restoration of men back into the presence of God. If man is restored and brought back into the presence of God, then the doctrine of the pre-earthly existence is clearly taught in the Book of Mormon. I have included some context to show how the parallelism was used by the prophet in his instructions.

Alma 42:11-23  (Including context and parallel forms in the preceding text).

In this discourse Alma explains to his wayward son Corianton how God is a God of law, justice, repentance, and mercy.

…if it were not for the plan of redemption, (laying it aside) 

as soon as they were dead their souls were miserable, 

being cut off from the presence of the Lord.

And now, there was no means to reclaim men from this fallen state, 

which man had brought upon himself because of his own disobedience;

Therefore, according to justice, 

     the plan of redemption could not be brought about, 

           only on conditions of repentance of  men

                in this probationary state, 

                yea, this preparatory state;

         for except it were for these conditions, 

     mercy could not take effect except it should destroy

 the work of justice.     [chiasmus]

Now the work of justice could not be destroyed;  if so, God would cease to be God.

And thus we see that all mankind were fallen, 

     and they were in the grasp of justice; 

     yea, the justice of God, 

which consigned them forever to be cut off from his presence. [chiasmus]

And now, the plan of mercy could not be brought about 

     except an atonement should be made; 

     therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, 

to bring about the plan of mercy, [chiasmus]

to appease the demands of justice, 

that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also.

Now, repentance could not come unto men except there were a punishment, 

     which also was eternal as the life of the soul should be, affixed opposite to the plan of happiness, 

     which was as eternal also as the life of the soul. Now, how could a man 

repent except he should 

sin? How could he 

sin if there was no 

law? How could there be a 

law save there was a 

punishment? Now, there was a 

punishment affixed, and a just

     law given, which brought remorse of conscience unto man. Now, if there was

     no law given—if a man murdered he should die—would he be 

afraid he would die if he should murder? And also, if there was

     no law given against sin men would not be 

afraid to sin. And if there was 

     no law given, if men sinned what could justice do, or mercy either,  for they would have no claim upon the creature? But there is a 

     law given, and a 

punishment affixed, and a 

     repentance granted; which 

     repentance 

     mercy claimeth; otherwise, 

     justice claimeth the creature and executeth the 

     law, and the 

     law inflicteth the 

punishment; if not so, the works of 

     justice would be destroyed, and 

God would cease to be God. But 

God ceaseth not to be God, and

mercy claimeth the penitent, and

mercy cometh because of the

atonement; and the

atonement bringeth to pass 

the resurrection of the dead; and

the resurrection of the dead

bringeth back men into the presence of God; and thus they are

restored into his presence, 

to be judged according to their works, 

according to the law and justice. 

           As his life was coming to a violent end, Mormon speaks to future unbelievers, warning them that one day they will appear before Jesus, whom they had denied.

Mormon 9:11-13

And now, if ye have imagined up unto yourselves a god who doth vary, 

and in whom there is shadow of changing, 

then have ye imagined up unto yourselves a god who is not a God of miracles.

But behold, I will show unto you a God of miracles, 

even the God of Abraham, 

and the God of Isaac, 

and the God of Jacob; 

and it is that same God who created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are.

Behold, he created 

Adam,  and by 

Adam came 

the fall of man. And because of the 

fall of man came

Jesus Christ, even the Father and the Son; and because of 

Jesus Christ came

the redemption of man. And because of 

the redemption of man, which came by Jesus Christ, 

they are brought back into the presence of the Lord;

            Again, realizing his impending death, the prophet Mormon wrote a letter of instructions to his son Moroni who was also facing a violent end of his life in the final war with the Lamanites. We usually ascribe more importance to the words of a dying man. What did Mormon think was important to tell his son? Again, the laws of justice and mercy are explained by a prophet using the a climactic instructional sequence.

Moroni 8:25-26

For repentance is unto them that are under condemnation and under the curse of a broken law. 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.

        Speaking to his family and friends, Nephi’s brother Jacob teaches them why they are observing the Law of Moses and what happens to people who do not have the Law.

2 Nephi 9: 25-26

Wherefore, he [God] has 

given a law, and where there is no

no law given, there is 

no punishment. And where there is 

no punishment there is 

no condemnation. And where there is 

no condemnation the mercies of the Holy One of Israel  have claim upon thembecause of 

the atonement. For they are delivered by the power of him. For 

the atonement satisfieth the demands of his justice upon all those who have not the law given to them, that 

they are delivered from that awful monster, death, and hell, and the devil, and the lake of fire and brimstone which is endless torment. And 

they are restored to that God who gave them breath,

which is the Holy One of Israel.

          The prophet Alma directs these instructions to poor Nephites who had been shunned and excluded from their churches by their rich oppressors. He gives them a message of hope explaining how their poverty could actually bring them great blessings.

ALMA 32: 12-17

It is well that ye are cast out of your synagogues -that ye may be humble, and 

that ye may learn wisdom; for it is necessary 

that ye should learn wisdom; for it is because 

ye are cast out,

that ye are despised of your brethren because of your exceeding poverty, 

that ye are brought to a lowliness of heart; for ye are necessarily 

brought to be humble. And now, because ye are 

compelled to be humble blessed are ye; for a man sometimes if he is 

compelled to be humble, seeketh 

repentance; and now surely, whosever 

repenteth shall 

find mercy; and he that 

findeth mercy

and endureth to the end

the same shall be saved.

         Gradated parallelism is just one of many forms identified in by Donald Parry. In fact, He identified over a thousand examples of parallelisms from the first page to the last page of the Book of Mormon (“Index of Poetic kForms by Scripture Reference,” Parry, ibid., 569-578). It may be possible that Joseph Smith faked this Hebraic poetic style, that he intuited it by reading some passages in the Bible or some classic writers, that it was 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 his peers in New England spoke and wrote at the time, 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, or that someone else who knew this wrote the book. But its frequent usage appears to be methodical, purposeful, and intentional. It is unlikely that serendipity or duplicity on the part of Joseph Smith can account for it.  If the Book of Mormon is a translation of an ancient document, it is not unreasonable to conclude that literate Nephites such as Lehi, 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 Nephite rhetorical expression. In any case, whatever one thinks, these are remarkably precise and concise expositions of gospel principals and attest to the complexity of the text of the Book of Mormon.

PS. An interesting correlated project would be to look for this form in Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews (those parts that do not quote scriptures).

 

 

Edited by Bernard Gui
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I feel like too many people are attached to a false dichotomy. The two choices seem to be that either the Book of Mormon is what it says it is or else Joseph Smith made it up. There are many other choices that, for some reason, people don't want to explore.

On a spiritual level I accept the Book of Mormon for what it claims to be. But on a physical level I believe there is always a naturalistic explanation for everything that occurs. So I look at the Book of Mormon and say to myself, We have this book here. Where did it come from? Somebody created these words. Everything in the book reflects the thoughts of some actual person who lived and died like every other person.

From the broadest perspective possible we have to consider every person who ever lived before 1829 as a possible candidate. This includes Joseph, of course, but also billions of other people. We can quickly eliminate a lot of people. Let's start with the bible in the Book of Mormon and be really conservative. We can exclude as candidates everyone who lived before, let's say, the 3rd century. They wouldn't have the necessary biblical knowledge to produce the Book of Mormon. So now our pool of possible candidates is everyone who lived between 200 and 1829. Our candidates had to have lived within the sphere of influence of the bible so we will need to exclude people who lived in lands un-contacted by outsiders. This probably means the entire western hemisphere, much of Oceania, and parts of Asia and Africa up until Renaissance times or later. Our net is getting smaller but it is still very large and includes millions, possibly billions. I won't play out the whole scenario but without a lot of effort you can continue to shrink the candidate pool based on the contents of the Book of Mormon. At some point you'll have to exclude everyone pre-reformation since the doctrine of the Book of Mormon obviously includes a lot of reformed doctrine. This leaves a pool of people who lived between, say, 1500 and 1829. Now, with a high probability, we can eliminate orthodox Catholics and non-Christians. On the issue of infant baptism we can now eliminate most of the Protestant world, as well. Factor in Arminianism and we can now, with a high degree of certainty, bump up the date to about 1600.

On simple doctrinal issues alone this leaves us with a pool of people who lived since about 1600. But it's a very small portion of the Christian world from here that fits the appropriate criteria. The thing is, though, that the beginning date cannot be moved very far forward from 1600. I would argue that we could move it to the 16-teens without much trouble and possibly as late as the 1630's, but no later. This leaves us with roughly 200 years of history in which our candidate had to have lived. As large a range as this is, we can eliminate a lot of the Christian world, namely almost all Catholics, Calvinists, and Lutherans. At this point we have probably narrowed our candidate pool down to less than a hundred thousand people. The more we shrink our pool the less certain we can be that we've inadvertently eliminated the correct person, but a hundred thousand people is still too large to be meaningful. At some point we have to start eliminating people based on their abilities. Our candidate had to either have been very well educated in the bible and various other issues or else a religious savant. Our candidate pool is probably down to less than a thousand people at this point, with a mix of something like 99% or more well-educated and 1% or less savant. It puzzles me why so many people want to believe the Joseph-as-savant story. To me it seems much more likely that a well-educated person existing sometime in the 200 years or so before the Book of Mormon wrote it. 

The whole point of this lengthy digression is that the paper under discussion did not test against this hypothesis. It sets up a false dichotomy. Either Joseph wrote it or else the Book of Mormon is historical. My take is that people in both the apologetic and critical camps need to start using a little more imagination.

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Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, hope_for_things said:

Clearly the value of the BoM text is in the way humans relate to it.  But the Interpreter article is not talking about the meaning of the text, its attempting to prove the statistical likelihood of all these parallels that the author thinks are significant, in essence to prove the historical accuracy of the text.  Thats an entirely different argument.  

Your finding 2 Nephi 6-10 to be masterful, is like someone finding a work of art to be awe inspiring.  Its great, but it doesn't tell us anything about historicity.  

Ditto for the complaint that literary critics find it wanting. So what?

Historicity is not the issue I am discussing. Complexity is. 

Edited by Bernard Gui

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, lostindc said:

I just don't view 2 Nephi in the same way you do.  

I see an attempt to weave commentary and fictional events into the words of Isaiah and build more to the story, like a spinoff.  I don't see any notable complexity to think divinity is involved.  Worse, I see anachronisms and other issues surrounding the use of Isaiah, but most here have likely read the arguments for and against Isaiah in the BOM (this is where "seemlessly" doesn't exist for me in 2 Nephi).

  

Sorry for the typo...."seamlessly" is the word, and Jacob and Nephi do weave Isaiah seamlessly into their sermons. We see it differently, of course. How do you see 2 Nephi 6-11?

Why would complexity be a requisite for divine involvement or even an indication of such? The complexity of the book is observable, but that is not evidence of its divine provenance. The question is was Joseph Smith capable of writing it. IMO, given what we know about him (and he has been thoroughly scrutinized) he was not capable of writing it at the time it was translated.  As evidence, I cite the interweaving of Isaiah and other prophets effortlessly and often unobtrusively in the narrative. I would submit that very few people know the Old Testament well enough to do this without a whole lot of serious study and effort. No one who knew him at the time would attribute that ability to him. Many even called him an illiterate dunce. I believe neither illiterate dunce ror a covert genius Joseph wrote Jacob's sermon. Not to mention King Benjamin's sermon, nor Alma's letters to his sons, nor the exposition on the gospel at the end of 2 Nephi, etc.

Edited by Bernard Gui
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8 hours ago, hope_for_things said:

I don't know of any studies like that.  I also don't know of any scholarly studies that dig deeply into the apologetic arguments of other religious groups and their sacred texts.  There is a reason for this, and the reason is not because the apologetic arguments are substantive.  I'll let you try to figure out the reason.  Oh, its also not because of Satan.  

If you have not delved into the apologetic arguments of other religions and you do not know of any scholarly studies that have delved into the apologetic arguments of other religions how can you know that those arguments are not substantive?

Glenn

 

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3 hours ago, SeekingUnderstanding said:

When you're a hammer everything looks like a nail. I'm not saying this in a negative way, as we all tend to do it from time to time. Particularly this idea from Muehlstein is troubling:

https://www.fairmormon.org/conference/august-2014/book-abraham-unnoticed-assumptions

I agree that we need to check our biases when dealing with scholarly work on anything, including religious texts, etc.

3 hours ago, SeekingUnderstanding said:

So when it comes to chiasmus, hebrewisms, language correlations, EModE, and this paper, it's hard for an outsider to take seriously. 

Wouldn't it be a more scholarly approach to show where they are wrong rather than dismissing them because a scholar admits his bias?

Glenn

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Posted (edited)
10 minutes ago, Glenn101 said:

I agree that we need to check our biases when dealing with scholarly work on anything, including religious texts, etc.

Wouldn't it be a more scholarly approach to show where they are wrong rather than dismissing them because a scholar admits his bias?

Glenn

There’s a difference between having bias and working backwards from your conclusion. 

Edit: This study is case in point. The authors start with a conclusion, then cherry pick data and twist it in a way that supports their conclusion. 

Edited by SeekingUnderstanding

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2 hours ago, lostindc said:

I would think that it's easier to disqualify the BOM based on anachronism, plagiarism, etc., than it's easier to throw our hands up and say this is a book from God, a true account.  

You are conflating two different things that LDS scholars are trying not to. Anachronisms have a way of disappearing as time passes and more research is done. (Not found does not mean did not exist.) What plagiarism are you speaking about? But those are the standard replies by people that cannot account for the elements in the Book of Mormon which were alien to Joseph's environment.

Glenn

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10 minutes ago, SeekingUnderstanding said:

There’s a difference between having bias and working backwards from your conclusion. 

Edit: This study is case in point. The authors start with a conclusion, then cherry pick data and twist it in a way that supports their conclusion. 

If that is the case, just show them how they got it wrong.

Glenn

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18 minutes ago, Glenn101 said:

If that is the case, just show them how they got it wrong.

Glenn

Have you read this thread?

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Posted (edited)

There are many different religious texts:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_text

The oldest of which come from the Hindu tradition... Some say Jesus' lost years were spent in India...   I wonder, if we all studied - equally - all of the religious texts with the same fervor... if we attended religious services from multiple religious groups growing up, not being encouraged to attend one over the other, what our opinions of each group would evolve to...

Edited by changed

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4 hours ago, JarMan said:

I feel like too many people are attached to a false dichotomy. The two choices seem to be that either the Book of Mormon is what it says it is or else Joseph Smith made it up. There are many other choices that, for some reason, people don't want to explore.

On a spiritual level I accept the Book of Mormon for what it claims to be. But on a physical level I believe there is always a naturalistic explanation for everything that occurs. So I look at the Book of Mormon and say to myself, We have this book here. Where did it come from? Somebody created these words. Everything in the book reflects the thoughts of some actual person who lived and died like every other person.

From the broadest perspective possible we have to consider every person who ever lived before 1829 as a possible candidate. This includes Joseph, of course, but also billions of other people. We can quickly eliminate a lot of people. Let's start with the bible in the Book of Mormon and be really conservative. We can exclude as candidates everyone who lived before, let's say, the 3rd century. They wouldn't have the necessary biblical knowledge to produce the Book of Mormon. So now our pool of possible candidates is everyone who lived between 200 and 1829. Our candidates had to have lived within the sphere of influence of the bible so we will need to exclude people who lived in lands un-contacted by outsiders. This probably means the entire western hemisphere, much of Oceania, and parts of Asia and Africa up until Renaissance times or later. Our net is getting smaller but it is still very large and includes millions, possibly billions. I won't play out the whole scenario but without a lot of effort you can continue to shrink the candidate pool based on the contents of the Book of Mormon. At some point you'll have to exclude everyone pre-reformation since the doctrine of the Book of Mormon obviously includes a lot of reformed doctrine. This leaves a pool of people who lived between, say, 1500 and 1829. Now, with a high probability, we can eliminate orthodox Catholics and non-Christians. On the issue of infant baptism we can now eliminate most of the Protestant world, as well. Factor in Arminianism and we can now, with a high degree of certainty, bump up the date to about 1600.

On simple doctrinal issues alone this leaves us with a pool of people who lived since about 1600. But it's a very small portion of the Christian world from here that fits the appropriate criteria. The thing is, though, that the beginning date cannot be moved very far forward from 1600. I would argue that we could move it to the 16-teens without much trouble and possibly as late as the 1630's, but no later. This leaves us with roughly 200 years of history in which our candidate had to have lived. As large a range as this is, we can eliminate a lot of the Christian world, namely almost all Catholics, Calvinists, and Lutherans. At this point we have probably narrowed our candidate pool down to less than a hundred thousand people. The more we shrink our pool the less certain we can be that we've inadvertently eliminated the correct person, but a hundred thousand people is still too large to be meaningful. At some point we have to start eliminating people based on their abilities. Our candidate had to either have been very well educated in the bible and various other issues or else a religious savant. Our candidate pool is probably down to less than a thousand people at this point, with a mix of something like 99% or more well-educated and 1% or less savant. It puzzles me why so many people want to believe the Joseph-as-savant story. To me it seems much more likely that a well-educated person existing sometime in the 200 years or so before the Book of Mormon wrote it. 

The whole point of this lengthy digression is that the paper under discussion did not test against this hypothesis. It sets up a false dichotomy. Either Joseph wrote it or else the Book of Mormon is historical. My take is that people in both the apologetic and critical camps need to start using a little more imagination.

Are you a Rigdon Spaulding guy? 

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