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Calm

Tad Callister: A Case for the Book of Mormon

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Posted (edited)
50 minutes ago, Calm said:

For your reading pleasure:

https://www.fairmormon.org/conference/august-2019/a-case-for-the-book-of-mormon

Discuss as you will, I likely will not participate much so I don't see a focus other than the presentation itself.

Similar content to his Oct 2019 general conference talk and his book.

It's a good move by Elder Callister to continue to promote this topic.  It gives members enough to feel comfortable that a general authority has refuted all the common criticisms of the Book of Mormon while he avoids the really tough, problematic stuff.

Edited by rockpond
corrected his calling
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Was there a QA afterwards?

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10 minutes ago, rockpond said:

Similar content to his Oct 2019 general conference talk and his book.

It's a good move by Elder Callister to continue to promote this topic.  It gives members enough to feel comfortable that an apostle has refuted all the common criticisms of the Book of Mormon while he avoids the really tough, problematic stuff.

he was a Seventy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and Sunday School President

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8 minutes ago, Duncan said:

he was a Seventy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and Sunday School President

Thank you.  I meant gen authority, not apostle.  I've corrected my post.

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1 hour ago, Nevo said:

"For decades critics have placed their scholarly stethoscopes firmly against the Book of Mormon, anxiously listening for a 'striking clock'—something out of date, out of context—but with the passage of time, their stethoscopes have encountered a deafening silence."

This is comforting for members to hear but it couldn't be farther from the truth. I'm a bit surprised Brother Callister is still making this claim but I guess he doesn't spend much time on the internet.

Yeah that's not very helpful when apologists have discussed for quite a while the problematic (i.e. difficult to explain) parts. I think there are answers although I think we should be forthright that for some (metals in the right time and place) we have no evidence. Then there are the ones like horses that can be explained by semantic drift, which makes a lot of sense, but which aren't obvious to people who've not investigated it. Even with semantic drift for various animals and crops we have to explain how it lines up which is slightly less persuasive. (Say deer/elk that's semi-domesticated and traded; "horses" as spirit animals in battle rather than ridden, etc.)

While it might be what listeners want to be true, the evidence just isn't there to make that bold a claim. It's thus ultimately counterproductive (IMO) for apologetics to say things like that.

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20 minutes ago, clarkgoble said:

Yeah that's not very helpful when apologists have discussed for quite a while the problematic (i.e. difficult to explain) parts. I think there are answers although I think we should be forthright that for some (metals in the right time and place) we have no evidence. Then there are the ones like horses that can be explained by semantic drift, which makes a lot of sense, but which aren't obvious to people who've not investigated it. Even with semantic drift for various animals and crops we have to explain how it lines up which is slightly less persuasive. (Say deer/elk that's semi-domesticated and traded; "horses" as spirit animals in battle rather than ridden, etc.)

While it might be what listeners want to be true, the evidence just isn't there to make that bold a claim. It's thus ultimately counterproductive (IMO) for apologetics to say things like that.

Thanks for this. I think most LDS Defenders would agree, at least the well-informed people that are in the trenches of the current BOM historicity debates.

So, my question is why was Callister invited to FairMormon? Why does FairMormon promote his work by sharing on social media, doing podcast interview, etc? Why does Kirk Magleby give glowing endorsement in his FairMormon presentation? 

His stuff is closer to Heartlander style anti-intellectual than FairMormon style. Why cozy up to him so much? 

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Nothing much new there, but when you assemble it all together in a presentation like that it causes one to believe that the Book of Mormon might be for real.
Of course the critics use the same method of compiling tons of dirt (perceived dirt) and throwing it at you all at once (like the CES letter), which can also seem to be convincing to those with an ear to hear and seek for the bad stuff. 

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Posted (edited)
6 hours ago, rockpond said:

................ he avoids the really tough, problematic stuff.

Any specifics, or are you thinking in a general sense?  I see it as a very basic introduction to BofM apologetics.  Callister, a tax attorney by profession, isn't really qualified to dive in much deeper.

Also, although we frequently hear on this board that the internet is a huge reason for defections from the LDS faith, Rick Phillips of North Florida Univ finds that unconvincing:

Quote

Data suggest that changing demographics in Utah have diluted the state’s religious subculture, making it easier for less-committed Mormons to leave. I find limited support for the theory that encountering information critical of the church on the internet is a catalyst for defection. * * * *

I find limited evidence for the notion that information technology is a catalyst for defection — an explanation advanced by ex- and anti-Mormon activists (hereafter called “activists”) and journalists in Utah. I find more evidence that demographic change in Utah and the Intermountain West is eroding aspects of the Mormon subculture that have heretofore restrained less-committed church members from severing ties with the faith.  Phillips, “Demography and Information Technology Affect Religious Commitment among Latter-day Saints in Utah and the Intermountain West,” Journal of the Utah Academy of Sciences, Arts, & Letters, 95 (2018):317-318, online at https://www.academia.edu/38658746/Demography_and_Information_Technology_Affect_Religious_Commitment_among_Latter-day_Saints_in_Utah_and_the_Intermountain_West?email_work_card=view-paper .

 

Edited by Robert F. Smith
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2 hours ago, JAHS said:

Nothing much new there, but when you assemble it all together in a presentation like that it causes one to believe that the Book of Mormon might be for real.
Of course the critics use the same method of compiling tons of dirt (perceived dirt) and throwing it at you all at once (like the CES letter), which can also seem to be convincing to those with an ear to hear and seek for the bad stuff. 

The very same scenario plays out in the Evangelical apologetic world.  Same ole, same ole.

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2 hours ago, churchistrue said:

Thanks for this. I think most LDS Defenders would agree, at least the well-informed people that are in the trenches of the current BOM historicity debates.

So, my question is why was Callister invited to FairMormon? Why does FairMormon promote his work by sharing on social media, doing podcast interview, etc? Why does Kirk Magleby give glowing endorsement in his FairMormon presentation? 

His stuff is closer to Heartlander style anti-intellectual than FairMormon style. Why cozy up to him so much? 

I don't see the problem, or the harm.  Callister has presented something at the introductory level, for the unwashed masses.  His is not some grandiloquent piece designed to slay all the dragons, and we should not expect it to.  I always hear complaints that "the Church didn't tell me this in a timely fashion," etc.  Well, here it is in easily digestible form for the simple-minded.  Moreover, I see nothing anti-intellectual about it.  Why do you find it embarrassing?

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16 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

I don't see the problem, or the harm.  Callister has presented something at the introductory level, for the unwashed masses.  His is not some grandiloquent piece designed to slay all the dragons, and we should not expect it to.  I always hear complaints that "the Church didn't tell me this in a timely fashion," etc.  Well, here it is in easily digestible form for the simple-minded.  Moreover, I see nothing anti-intellectual about it.  Why do you find it embarrassing?

I think there is harm in misrepresenting issues and making facile arguments and indulging in cheap point-scoring. This is exactly the sort of thing that gives apologetics a bad name. Callister's presentation is the mirror image of the CES Letter, but with even less depth and rigor.

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4 hours ago, Nevo said:

I'm a bit surprised Brother Callister is still making this claim but I guess he doesn't spend much time on the internet.

Smart guy.

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1 hour ago, Nevo said:

I think there is harm in misrepresenting issues and making facile arguments and indulging in cheap point-scoring. This is exactly the sort of thing that gives apologetics a bad name. Callister's presentation is the mirror image of the CES Letter, but with even less depth and rigor.

Wherein did Callister mislead or use false arguments?  Sounds more like he is damned if he does, and he is damned if he don't.  At least he didn't deliberately lie, as in the CES Letter -- which lacks both depth and rigor.

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4 hours ago, clarkgoble said:

Yeah that's not very helpful when apologists have discussed for quite a while the problematic (i.e. difficult to explain) parts. I think there are answers although I think we should be forthright that for some (metals in the right time and place) we have no evidence. Then there are the ones like horses that can be explained by semantic drift, which makes a lot of sense, but which aren't obvious to people who've not investigated it. Even with semantic drift for various animals and crops we have to explain how it lines up which is slightly less persuasive. (Say deer/elk that's semi-domesticated and traded; "horses" as spirit animals in battle rather than ridden, etc.)

While it might be what listeners want to be true, the evidence just isn't there to make that bold a claim. It's thus ultimately counterproductive (IMO) for apologetics to say things like that.

What always strikes me in these discussions is the fact that the anachronisms or problems with the Bible are far more numerous and difficult than anything in the BofM, and that the results for many Evangelical scholars is to dispense with the faith -- which contains the seeds of its own destruction, and the death of God.  In the case of Bart Ehrman, however, I was a bit surprised to hear him say that it wasn't the anachronisms which led him to atheism, but rather the untenable philosophical-theological basis of Christianity.  I do agree with him that those problems (particularly theodicy) are the most critical of the normative Judeo-Christian tradition.  Literary anachronisms are normal and fully understandable, and present no significant problem for the believer.

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Methinks the thread title is off by just a "Tad."  Mods???

Sorry. :huh:

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9 hours ago, Duncan said:

he was a Seventy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and Sunday School President

 

9 hours ago, rockpond said:

Thank you.  I meant gen authority, not apostle.  I've corrected my post.

We don't know who our leadership is/who's-who among our leadership, but we'll be damned if that stops is from criticizing 'em! ;):huh:

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6 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Any specifics, or are you thinking in a general sense?  I see it as a very basic introduction to BofM apologetics.  Callister, a tax attorney by profession, isn't really qualified to dive in much deeper.

For example, he discussed anachronisms, but only the ones he has answers to.  Those anachronisms that are tougher to answer sufficiently, get left out of his comments.

In that sense, Elder Callister’s address is a lot like the gospel topics essays:. Not meant as an answer to all the criticisms but just enough to inoculate those who haven’t previously delved into the issues. 

Quote

Also, although we frequently hear on this board that the internet is a huge reason for defections from the LDS faith, Rick Phillips of North Florida Univ finds that unconvincing:

Nothing here to make me find Rick Phillips convincing.  I don’t blame “the internet”, but I would characterize a leading problem for the church as “easy access to information”.   The idea that it’s “changing demographics which make it easier to leave” rings hollow because I know a lot of people who have left and not a single one of them did so because it was easy.  (Spoiler: it wasn’t, and still isn’t.). 

In any case, I respect you so I wanted to reply to that quote but don’t want to say too much since it is off topic for the thread.  If Phillips has some data to support his conclusion, perhaps you could open a new thread with it. 

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6 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Wherein did Callister mislead or use false arguments? 

Callister implies that the idea that ancient people wrote on metal plates was viewed as anachronistic in Joseph Smith's day. It wasn't. He also suggests that the discovery of "numerous metal plates containing ancient writings" during the 20th century has become "a witness of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon." Not so. Quite the opposite, in fact. As Ryan Thomas has recently demonstrated, "comparison of documented practices of metal epigraphy from throughout the ancient Near East/eastern Mediterranean show that the Book of Mormon tradition of writing extensive literary compositions on metal for archival purposes was conspicuously outside the norm, without historical precedent or parallel."

Callister's assertion that "the Book of Mormon revealed a correct usage of the name of Alma"--proving that Joseph was "either inspired once again or a very, very lucky guesser"--is another outdated argument that doesn't hold up to scrutiny, as noted here: http://mormon*****.***/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=49737. The upshot of that thread is that there is no evidence for Alma as a genuine Hebrew name (although it was used as a male name in Joseph Smith's day).

I think Callister's barley and cement evidences are also weak, but I'm off to work now so that will have to wait.

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8 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

What always strikes me in these discussions is the fact that the anachronisms or problems with the Bible are far more numerous and difficult than anything in the BofM, and that the results for many Evangelical scholars is to dispense with the faith -- which contains the seeds of its own destruction, and the death of God. 

I think that's right and is an issue when the debate is between conservative Evangelicals/Protestants and the Church. However these days that's become more and more rare. Further (at least in my experience) self-identifying Evangelicals seem to not care about theology much so they don't care about these sorts of inconsistencies. (Again recognizing the problem with the label Evangelical since there's a different sort of Evangelical who self-identifies as such and is focused on Biblical knowledge, scholarship and theology)

The problem is that most debate these days and certainly most losses aren't to Protestantism but to the Nones. So most of the people making those criticisms tend to be deeply distrustful of the Bible as well.

8 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

In the case of Bart Ehrman, however, I was a bit surprised to hear him say that it wasn't the anachronisms which led him to atheism, but rather the untenable philosophical-theological basis of Christianity.  I do agree with him that those problems (particularly theodicy) are the most critical of the normative Judeo-Christian tradition.  Literary anachronisms are normal and fully understandable, and present no significant problem for the believer.

I can actually understand that. The theology of the Trinity and the two natures of Christ is pretty problematic (IMO) even when you move to a more platonic ontology. There's some inherent tensions between the god of Athens and the god of Jerusalem. Whereas for someone not caught up in Protestant "literalism" the fact there are errors or flaws in the Bible or people writing history centuries later isn't a big deal. 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Nevo said:

Callister implies that the idea that ancient people wrote on metal plates was viewed as anachronistic in Joseph Smith's day. It wasn't.

Depends upon what group you're talking about. Certainly among folk traditions it was believed. Among the more educated elites it was accepted as well. However it was a point of contention somewhat.

It's actually funny that Richard Burton's treatese on California and Mormons discusses the issue. He's trying to defend the Mormons but makes obvious errors (actually using the Kinderhook plates as a defense!) But by and large you're right and this was a point that critics soon conceded even if it would pop up in anti-Mormon materials occasionally. 

I'm not sure how Callister came to the view that this was unusual. My sense is he picked it up from Nibley's Since Cumorah - "...it is only too easy to forget that nothing in the coming forth of the Book of Mormon excited louder howls of derision than the fantastic idea of a sacred history being written on gold plates and then buried in the ground." I think Nibley was focusing more on the burying than the idea of writing on metal. I also suspect Nibley was more biased towards early 20th century anti-Mormon materials. 

To your other points I think it's a bit trickier. There's lots of examples of writing on metal, but no long codices or even metallic scroll like plates such as both the brass plates and gold plates appear to be. 

4 hours ago, rockpond said:

Nothing here to make me find Rick Phillips convincing.  I don’t blame “the internet”, but I would characterize a leading problem for the church as “easy access to information”.   The idea that it’s “changing demographics which make it easier to leave” rings hollow because I know a lot of people who have left and not a single one of them did so because it was easy.  (Spoiler: it wasn’t, and still isn’t.). 

The idea, which I'm very persuaded by, is that in the late 90's and naughts you had a lot of nominal religous people. (Here by nominal meaning in name only but not really having strong belief) They typically weren't terribly active but when asked would self-identify with the religion of their parent. So they said they were baptist, or Mormon or whatever, but the connection was arguably in name only. As social pressure to identify dried up, and as the internet enabled broader communities rather than just your local geographic one, then nominal religious people no longer felt the need to identify with the religion. The beliefs and practices didn't really change, just the name did. 

I think the evidence is fairly strong that during that period most of the rise of the Nones was due to this nominal factor. Now I think that's changing the past years - particularly with Millennials. There's been a big social shift that is significantly affecting practice. And the more nominal members already shifted out somewhat. (It's important to always remeber that the statistics are aggregates so particular individuals are shifting in and out of the various categories)

While I don't doubt there are members who leave for intellectual reasons, I rather suspect that in aggregate that's the minority. While there's a few reasons to be skeptical of her data, Jana Reiss' Next Mormons seems to show this as well. The issues why Millennials are leaving tends to be social and political not doctirnal or historical. It's issues of conformity, LGBT political issues, women's rights issues, etc. That in turn is primarily due to a very rapid social change in the US.

Edited by clarkgoble
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4 minutes ago, clarkgoble said:

The idea, which I'm very persuaded by, is that in the late 90's and naughts you had a lot of nominal religous people. (Here by nominal meaning in name only but not really having strong belief) They typically weren't terribly active but when asked would self-identify with the religion of their parent. So they said they were baptist, or Mormon or whatever, but the connection was arguably in name only. As social pressure to identify dried up, and as the internet enabled broader communities rather than just your local geographic one, then nominal religious people no longer felt the need to identify with the religion. The beliefs and practices didn't really change, just the name did. 

I think the evidence is fairly strong that during that period most of the rise of the Nones was due to this nominal factor. Now I think that's changing the past years - particularly with Millennials. There's been a big social shift that is significantly affecting practice. And the more nominal members already shifted out somewhat. (It's important to always remeber that the statistics are aggregates so particular individuals are shifting in and out of the various categories)

While I don't doubt there are members who leave for intellectual reasons, I rather suspect that in aggregate that's the minority. While there's a few reasons to be skeptical of her data, Jana Reiss' Next Mormons seems to show this as well. The issues why Millennials are leaving tends to be social and political not doctirnal or historical. It's issues of conformity, LGBT political issues, women's rights issues, etc. That in turn is primarily due to a very rapid social change in the US.

So many of the people I know who have left the church (or lost traditional belief while still maintaining activity) do not fit this description.  I know staunch defenders of the faith who have left.  The Elders Quorum President who was diligently striving to help a member of his quorum through a "crisis of faith" when he discovered things he couldn't reconcile.  I know couples who were so strong in the church, both RM's, baptizing their kids and teaching them the gospel -- they left.  Our local institute director left the church a few years ago (he was actually the institute director when he resigned his membership).  He and his wife were also EFY directors.  My current ward roster has a former bishop, high priests, and even a guy who was published in the Ensign all on our unofficial "do not contact" list.

Yeah... there are "Nones" and millienials who just don't feel a draw to religion and they are leaving the church.  But there are others who are/were as faithful as they come.

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1 minute ago, rockpond said:

So many of the people I know who have left the church (or lost traditional belief while still maintaining activity) do not fit this description.  I know staunch defenders of the faith who have left. 

Right, but we shouldn't extrapolate from our experiences to the aggregate of millions. I don't doubt in the least your experiences but one should be careful assuming that's why most leave.

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9 minutes ago, clarkgoble said:

Right, but we shouldn't extrapolate from our experiences to the aggregate of millions. I don't doubt in the least your experiences but one should be careful assuming that's why most leave.

I don't have data so I try to avoid saying why most leave.

I added my response to your because I think it is important to remember that "most" may also not fit the description you provided.

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