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Tad Callister: A Case for the Book of Mormon

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1 hour ago, blarsen said:

I’m surprised you give this forum and this subject any attention at all if “none of this strikes me as plausible history”.  I don’t understand your motivation.  Interesting . . . .

If you are looking for an echo chamber, this is the wrong forum for you...

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2 hours ago, SeekingUnderstanding said:

If you are looking for an echo chamber, this is the wrong forum for you...

Looking for an echo chamber?  You've certainly misread me.  I'm simply always surprised that someone would invest any energy whatsoever in disputing BoM issues in a forum consisting largely of believers and supporters of the book, if they don't believe it is an historical record.  I certainly wouldn't.  This forum is a relatively staid, regulated and academic on-line habitat from those I'm used to.  I personally love discussion, disputation and testing my beliefs and ideas against opposition.

Got anything you might add  to this sub-discussion between Nevo and myself?

Edited by blarsen

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3 hours ago, clarkgoble said:

While I think that ought be the default reading, we should note that semantic drift is a pretty common phenomena.

Granted, but are you aware of any nouns attached to classes or types of things, places people, etc., in the BoM that have undergone semantic drift?  With Nevo's help, I think I've established that 'cement' as used in Helaman 3 has not.  But are there any present in the BoM that have changed meaning or semantic nuance from say the 16th Century up to 1830 ?  Actually, 'brass' may be one of those, but can you think of any others??

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16 minutes ago, blarsen said:

Granted, but are you aware of any nouns attached to classes or types of things, places people, etc., in the BoM that have undergone semantic drift? 

Typically semantic drift is the explanation for anachronisms that seem pretty clearly established. Say the dates of bows in mesoamerica (not that mesoamerica is the only hypothesis), horses or the like. That doesn't explain everyone. As I've noted I think metal is the biggest issue in the Book of Mormon narrative, but if we're explaining other items I think that sematic drift makes a lot of sense. Further we know with the descriptions of Spaniards and indigenous peoples that such semantic drift actually took place making it very likely it occured for the Nephites as well.

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5 hours ago, blarsen said:

Looking for an echo chamber?  You've certainly misread me. 

My apologies, truly. It seemed an odd and out of place comment especially with the ellipsis at the end. 

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 I'm simply always surprised that someone would invest any energy whatsoever in disputing BoM issues in a forum consisting largely of believers and supporters of the book, if they don't believe it is an historical record.  I certainly wouldn't. 

If you have spent any amount of time on here, you’d know that believers of all types (including those who reject the historicity of the Book of Mormon) post on here all the time. In addition, former believers participate as well. Your negativity value judgment aside, from a human nature standpoint this is hardly surprising. It is difficult to separate ones life from Mormonism. Even if one leaves, it is rare not to have family, and friends inside the church. Coming here is a way of discussing issues that can’t be discussed with loved ones for many. I guess I am simply surprised that you are surprised by this. 

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This forum is a relatively staid, regulated and academic on-line habitat from those I'm used to.  I personally love discussion, disputation and testing my beliefs and ideas against opposition.

👍

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Got anything you might add  to this sub-discussion between Nevo and myself?

Only a reading suggestion for you and Elder Callister since you asked. Try: The Improbability Principle (why coincidences, miracles and rare events happen every day) by David Hand. 

Edited by SeekingUnderstanding
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11 hours ago, blarsen said:

Your idea that Joseph Smith wouldn’t know of buildings using cement alone is actually good evidence for the Book of Mormon, provided houses/structures built almost entirely of cement are found someplace in the ‘new world’.  These actually exist in Teotihuacan, and probably at other sites in the general area.  I’ve been there, and have seen palace/houses that give every appearance of being built entirely of cement, both floors and walls . . . . no sign of stones used, no sign of the cement being just a stucco veneer.

Well, to be fair, I was talking about cement (or lime) plaster on the walls, not "a stucco veneer." I've tried to corroborate your observations about Teotihuacan containing buildings constructed "almost entirely of cement," but so far I've been unsuccessful. I did, however, find this:

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Prior to A.D. 150, most of the construction at Teotihuacan concentrated on the grand pyramids along the main avenue, but during the end of the Miccaotli and the beginning of the Tlamimilolpa periods (A.D. 200–250) an era of urban renewal focusing on domestic architecture swept through the city. The domestic building campaign accelerated during the following period (Tlamimilolpa period, A.D. 225–350), when many of the approximately 2,000 apartment compounds were built (Cowgill 1997:155, 2003a:41). . . .

The compounds were only one-story high, but inside was a maze of rooms and patios where much of Teotihuacan’s population slept, cooked, and went about their daily activities. Individual apartments within the compounds generally consist of several rooms fronted by porticos that surround a central patio (Cowgill 2003a:41). Larger apartments may also have a cluster of additional rooms and smaller patios, and the various arrangements suggest that compounds sheltered two or more households. Smaller apartment compounds may have held 12 to 20 people, and larger ones 60 to 100 individuals. Thus, at its height, Teotihuacan may have had a population
of roughly 125,000. Surroundings could be quite lavish, with lime-plastered walls and murals covering almost every surface, or modest homes whose residents resorted to painting on mud-plastered walls.

============

The La Ventilla 1992–1993 project exposed several neighboring compounds with extraordinarily divergent status levels. In close proximity to more-elite apartment compounds with stone walls and lime plaster, archaeologists found compounds with less costly construction materials and, surprisingly, murals painted on mud plaster. In these low-status structures, the residents sometimes reserved the precious lime plaster for their small central patio with its attendant altar (Cabrera,
personal communication 1993). This same pattern holds for the fringes of Teotihuacan: excavations 10 km from the site revealed that some individuals lived in structures with plaster floors while their neighbors had to do without plastered surfaces (Charlton et al. 2003).

— Annabeth Headrick, The Teotihuacan Trinity: The Sociopolitical Structure of an Ancient Mesoamerican City (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2007), 5–7, 66.

And this:

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Excavations and documentary sources make it clear that nonelite houses also varied in terms of construction. In general there appears to have been little difference between urban and rural housing for most commoners, although urban settings appear to exhibit a wider range of living standards, as expressed in house size and construction  materials.

Excavated houses in central Mexico were made of adobe or wattle and daub, were set at ground level or on low platforms, and had floors of packed earth sometimes covered with gravel or (more rarely) a lime plaster (Evans 1988: 33; Smith 1999: 145, 146). Roofs were perhaps pole and beam in the Basin of Mexico (Evans 1988: 33) and thatch in the warmer Morelos valley (Smith 2003d: 134). These are generalizations, and construction materials and styles varied depending on environmental conditions, available materials, cultural traditions, and probably a dash of personal preference. For instance, Sahagún (book 11, 271–275; illus. 893–918) describes and illustrates twenty-three types of commoner houses, distinguishing them mainly by construction materials (e.g., reeds, wood, stone, or adobe), shape (e.g., squat, round, small, or narrow), and quality.

— Frances F. Berdan, Aztec Archaeology and Ethnohistory (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 65.

And this: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0278416516000222

Anyway, to return to my original point. I don't dispute that cement (or lime plaster, to be more precise) was used in ancient Mesoamerica. I just don't think it's strong evidence for the Book of Mormon. I think it would have been entirely natural for Joseph Smith to have supposed that an advanced civilization that originated in the Old World would have known about cement (whether or not he was familiar with the likes of Priest, Morse, and Humboldt).

So why am I on this board spending time on this subject? Because I think there are too many "uncontested slam dunks" in LDS apologetics ;)

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17 hours ago, blarsen said:

I'm simply always surprised that someone would invest any energy whatsoever in disputing BoM issues in a forum consisting largely of believers and supporters of the book, if they don't believe it is an historical record

I think what you may actually be surprised about is how many here fit this description and I see that number growing among the members from my experience.

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"George Stuart, a leading Maya scholar who worked for National Geographic for almost 40 years, did an interview in 2011 on National Geographic Live.  In the course of his interview, he made the following revealing comment:  “And we hardly know anything, really about the Maya [believed to have existed during a portion of Book of Mormon times].  You know, there’s almost 6000 archaeological sites and we’ve dug at forty of them.”[9]  That is less than 1%. "

He needs to update a bit. Its far worse than that with the LIDAR technology. 

"The LiDAR mapping detected more than 60,000 previously unknown structures in total, from unknown pyramids, palace structures, terraced fields, roadways, defensive walls and towers, and houses. Archaeologists are realizing that the ancient population centers they’ve spent decades studying are much bigger than they speculated. "  http://www.ancientpages.com/2018/02/03/lidar-technology-reveals-secrets-of-ancient-maya-civilization/

It says " The survey of encompassed Several major Maya sites, including the largest at Tikal, and El Zotz have been surveyed and these sites cover the area of 2,100-square kilometers."  That really is a small portion of central America.  I wonder what would be found if they scanned the entire central America area what they would find.

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Outstanding replies for the most part.  So nice to encounter people willing to engage.  I'll need a time window to reply . . . for anybody interested.  My focus has been in the political arena in recent years (~20+).

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20 hours ago, blarsen said:

Looking for an echo chamber?  You've certainly misread me.  I'm simply always surprised that someone would invest any energy whatsoever in disputing BoM issues in a forum consisting largely of believers and supporters of the book, if they don't believe it is an historical record.  I certainly wouldn't.  This forum is a relatively staid, regulated and academic on-line habitat from those I'm used to.  I personally love discussion, disputation and testing my beliefs and ideas against opposition.

Got anything you might add  to this sub-discussion between Nevo and myself?

FWIW, to me it cannot in principle be proven to be "the word of God" either way. That's true of the Bible and all other scriptures as well.

So their historicity is completely irrelevant.

It's like worrying whether or not Shakespeare "really" wrote the plays. The plays stand or fall based on their own Merit. That's true of all texts.

Who cares?

The only way you can find out if something is "the word of God" for you is to ask him yourself.

And of course that's what Moroni tells us.

I'm a simple guy. Those are simple instructions. That's what I believe.

I believed it before I found the church.

That's why I joined. What other Church tells you that ?

Why people in the church can't see that and live by its simplicity is totally beyond my comprehension.

I have never understood it.

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11 hours ago, Nevo said:

Like you, I enjoy testing my ideas—"proving contraries" as it were. As the philosopher Charles Taylor put it in The Secular Age, describing the plight of thoughtful religious people in the modern era: "We live in a condition where we cannot help but be aware that there are a number of different construals, views which intelligent, reasonably undeluded people, of good will, can and do disagree on. We cannot help looking over our shoulder from time to time, looking sideways, living our faith also in a condition of doubt and uncertainty." I live my doubt that way too. I come here to "look over my shoulder."

I find the Book of Mormon a fascinating puzzle. On the one hand, it seems an obvious fiction. Case in point: the parallel narratives of the Nephites and Jaredites. As I've said before, what are the odds that two different migrations to the promised land would produce societies of millions of people destroyed by "secret combinations" down to the last man on the very same hill? And that their histories would both be recorded on gold plates and require decoding by means of a special rock? It's preposterous. Yet at the same time, the book is remarkably complex and doctrinally rich. And we're just now starting to discover the depth and sophistication of its interactions with the Bible. It seems way beyond Joseph's capacity to write, yet I can see no more plausible candidate.

But I hesitate to call it a hoax because I've seen its power to change lives. People were converted by the Book of Mormon before ever meeting Joseph Smith, and then left everything to embrace the Restoration it heralded (Brigham Young and Parley P. Pratt being two noteworthy examples). Oliver Cowdery gave a year's wages to support it before he'd even seen it, wrote the manuscript in longhand (twice!), and then walked to the edge of the United States, in the dead of winter, to deliver its message to the "Lamanites." William McLellin, dubbed an "arch apostate" for his attacks on Joseph Smith and the Church, said at the end of his life: "I have set to my seal that the Book of Mormon is a true, divine record and it will require more evidence than I have ever seen to shake me relative to its purity.... When a man goes at the Book of Mormon, he touches the apple of my eye. He fights against truth--against purity--against light." Since then millions of people all over the world have come to regard it sacred, authoritative scripture. What inspires such devotion? Even I, skeptic that I am, find myself drawn to its teachings, "which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him" (Moroni 7:13).

Great post, let me grab a couple of sentences out of there.  I quoted the whole post above to provide context for the sections I am taking OUT of context.

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I find the Book of Mormon a fascinating puzzle. On the one hand, it seems an obvious fiction......And we're just now starting to discover the depth and sophistication of its interactions with the Bible. It seems way beyond Joseph's capacity to write, yet I can see no more plausible candidate.

Agreed!  

So in my opinion I think we need to look at whether or not it matters if it IS "fiction" because acknowledged fiction - Tolstoy and Shakespeare for example- also contain rich truths for humanity without pretending to be "more" than fiction.

And as you say, if it IS "fiction"- how could it come from Joseph Smith?  And yes I agree that the story of its origins is "preposterous" which in a sense, as Robert F Smith has I think shown, https://www.fairmormon.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/PREPOSTEROUS-BOOK-OF-MORMON.pdf the notion that it is "preposterous" can be seen actually as an evidence of its authenticity!

I say let the text stand on its own merits!  Do you have a testimony?  Go with it !

There are great works of fiction that express important truths about the human condition- AND are expressly stated from the beginning to BE fiction.  Tolstoy comes readily to mind, as does Shakespeare.

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Since then millions of people all over the world have come to regard it sacred, authoritative scripture. What inspires such devotion? Even I, skeptic that I am, find myself drawn to its teachings, "which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him" (Moroni 7:13).

For me then, no further evidence is required.  It does what it is supposed to do!  Would I discount its wisdom it WAS "fiction"?

The evidence to me alone - some of which you mentioned shows me that it is certainly NOT "fiction" in any conventional sense, and so as a good philosophical Pragmatist, I see the difference between "scripture" and "fiction", considering the nature of parables as well, to be in this case a distinction without much of a difference, and therefore no difference at all.

I feel no need to "look over my shoulder" on this issue, because paraphrasing a wise man, I cannot be disillusioned "because I was never illusioned in the first place".

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On 8/27/2019 at 5:26 PM, clarkgoble said:

Typically semantic drift is the explanation for anachronisms that seem pretty clearly established. Say the dates of bows in mesoamerica (not that mesoamerica is the only hypothesis), horses or the like. That doesn't explain everyone. As I've noted I think metal is the biggest issue in the Book of Mormon narrative, but if we're explaining other items I think that sematic drift makes a lot of sense. Further we know with the descriptions of Spaniards and indigenous peoples that such semantic drift actually took place making it very likely it occured for the Nephites as well.

My contention is that semantic drift involving nouns describing classes or types of things, places people, etc., or members of those classes, is all but absent in the BoM.  Another example of this is the listing of metals used by the Nephites (Helaman 11:3, 8).  They are what they are, w/possible exception of the use of the term brass in place of bronze.  And ziff is ziff, whatever that may be.  The Nephite word was selected because the 'translation process' could not come up with an equivalent English word.

I.e., cement is cement, not mud wattle or adobe, etc.  Cattle are cattle, not buffalo/bison as the Heartlanders want us to believe.  Elephants are elephants, the possibility of which is greatly enhanced by the finding of mammoth remains on Wrangel Island dating to circa 2,000 BC and on St. Paul Island dating to 3,600 BC.  The assertion that mammoths died out on the mainland thousands of years before is unfounded, except for the apparent fact that none dating much later have been found . . . yet.

And the lack of metals in the Mesoamerican region?  Certainly the deposits are there.  There is an 'ancient' iron smelter in NW Guatemala I'm aware of that has been worked up, but is waiting on RC dating when funds become available to determine if it is pre-Columbian .

There is also compelling evidence that Hyksos/Phoenicians had a lot of impact on the Olmec, etc., civilization (ref. Exodus Lost by S. C. Compton, 2010; and an earlier book, Fair Gods and Stone Faces by Constance Erwin, 1963).  After all, the Phoenicians were colonizing areas in West Africa from an early age, and undoubtedly got caught up in the Westerlies in the region off the Canaries, enabling them to discover and even colonize/influnce these latitudes in the Americas.  How did the Mulekites make it over here, and why did they name a particular river, the Sidon?  The existence of these westerlies is also evidence for Mesoamerica being the likely locale for Book of Mormon geography.  Why bring this up?  The Hyksos/Phoenicians undoubtedly had metals, including bronze, tin, iron, etc.  It is simply a matter of waiting for the evidence to be found for these metals.

For actual researchers, it's nice to foster multiple hypotheses, but in order to test them, you have to settle on the best current fit and go with it.

Edited by blarsen

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On 8/28/2019 at 8:53 AM, ALarson said:

I think what you may actually be surprised about is how many here fit this description and I see that number growing among the members from my experience.

Actually, despite being surprised as Nevo's interest, nothing really surprises me.  Been around the block too many times.  My comment  did elicit a good response from Nevo, to which I'll reply to later.  That is what I was really after.  And his response was a rational, understandable one, from my point of view.  His astonishment at the Book of Mormon is well founded.

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On 8/27/2019 at 8:55 PM, SeekingUnderstanding said:

My apologies, truly. It seemed an odd and out of place comment especially with the ellipsis at the end. 

If you have spent any amount of time on here, you’d know that believers of all types (including those who reject the historicity of the Book of Mormon) post on here all the time. In addition, former believers participate as well. Your negativity value judgment aside, from a human nature standpoint this is hardly surprising. It is difficult to separate ones life from Mormonism. Even if one leaves, it is rare not to have family, and friends inside the church. Coming here is a way of discussing issues that can’t be discussed with loved ones for many. I guess I am simply surprised that you are surprised by this. 

👍

Only a reading suggestion for you and Elder Callister since you asked. Try: The Improbability Principle (why coincidences, miracles and rare events happen every day) by David Hand. 

The ellipses are probably a clear indication that I too have apparently slipped down the dark hole of semantic drift, but also that Nevo’s motivation was an open-ended issue in my mind.

And yes, I’ve been a member of this forum for a few years but haven’t spent much time here, and no, I don’t recall that I’ve run into many people who though they disbelieve the claims of the BoM, retain enough puzzlement and even astonishment over it to still regard it worthy of investigation and cogitation.

Coincidences, miracles and rare events do happen every day, but not normally to the same person.

Regarding the ‘coincidences’ and improbable coherences, etc., of the BoM, especially in the light of how it was dictated in an ‘uninterupted’ stream (i.e., relatively no editing; picking right up where JS left off, etc.), there are simply too many of them to attribute to chance alone imho.  And in so far as these coincidences and piled up instances of coherence, etc., are relatively independent of one another, yet are exhibited in the same book, their improbabilities multiply together to being almost infinitely improbable that a relative uneducated farm boy could have come up with it.

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1 hour ago, blarsen said:

Coincidences, miracles and rare events do happen every day, but not normally to the same person.

That's true but only because for that person those things are normal, and not miracles,  coincidences and rare events.

They are everyday events.

I still cannot understand why all the wisdom and spiritual insight and lessons we can learn from The Book of Mormon are dependent on its historicity.

To me that is like looking for the actual residence of Ivan, one of the Brothers Karamazov, to make the book worth reading. Though its origins of the BOM maybe the most puzzling issue, we read it for its wisdom, don't we?

Perhaps that's the biggest tragedy of all.

Perhaps those who are so concerned about its historicity miss its entire purpose.

And if that wisdom is not there then why bother worrying about its historicity?  It's a useless fraud

Either way it seems a rather useless activity to me.

Edited by mfbukowski

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On 8/28/2019 at 12:05 PM, mfbukowski said:

FWIW, to me it cannot in principle be proven to be "the word of God" either way. That's true of the Bible and all other scriptures as well.

So their historicity is completely irrelevant.

It's like worrying whether or not Shakespeare "really" wrote the plays. The plays stand or fall based on their own Merit. That's true of all texts.

Who cares?

The only way you can find out if something is "the word of God" for you is to ask him yourself.

And of course that's what Moroni tells us.

I'm a simple guy. Those are simple instructions. That's what I believe.

I believed it before I found the church.

That's why I joined. What other Church tells you that ?

Why people in the church can't see that and live by its simplicity is totally beyond my comprehension.

I have never understood it.

Understanding it is simple.  I thought you were a simple man?  If someone asks God and feels good about it, it may be that the person might not really think that the spirit told him/her anything.  Indeed this person might conclude that that feeling comes with many things and it hardly means all these things are scripture or that scripture is anything more than fictional writing with inspired thoughts here and there.  It seems more practical to me to take any good out of the writings of the BoM and throw out the nonsense and move on.  Move on to other inspiring content.  Let's go and build ourselves, not get ourselves stuck on something.  

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On 8/27/2019 at 10:47 PM, Nevo said:

Well, to be fair, I was talking about cement (or lime) plaster on the walls, not "a stucco veneer." I've tried to corroborate your observations about Teotihuacan containing buildings constructed "almost entirely of cement," but so far I've been unsuccessful. I did, however, find this:

And this:

And this: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0278416516000222

Anyway, to return to my original point. I don't dispute that cement (or lime plaster, to be more precise) was used in ancient Mesoamerica. I just don't think it's strong evidence for the Book of Mormon. I think it would have been entirely natural for Joseph Smith to have supposed that an advanced civilization that originated in the Old World would have known about cement (whether or not he was familiar with the likes of Priest, Morse, and Humboldt).

So why am I on this board spending time on this subject? Because I think there are too many "uncontested slam dunks" in LDS apologetics ;)

All of this is interesting, but again, my direct experience at Teotihuacan was that the floors/walls were cement. I’ve lived in the Bay Area, the land of the stucco house, for a good part of my life, and have lived in houses employing plaster on wooden laths, as well.  But the word that entered my mind in Teotihuacan as I was experiencing the construction materials, was:  cement.  Very hard and durable, which had lasted upwards of 2,000 years exposed to the elements.

And you have to ask:  what exactly are the authors you cite talking about when they mention “lime plaster”?

Once again, you have Hyman’s testimony that he was testing “concrete, stucoo and mortar”.  And his letter I cited mentions that his dispute with Margain, was not over whether they were both dealing with cement, but the type of cement, which Hyman determined from direct analysis, was non-hydraulic cement

 I collected a comprehensive number of concrete, stucco, and mortar samples from many important sites throughout Mexico and Central America including about a dozen representative specimens at Teotihuacan. These were subjected to load tests, chemical, petrographic, x-ray diffraction, and other analyses. Hydraulic cements would have exhibited the presence of the complex calcium/magnesium silicates and aluminates (Taylor 1964, Bk 2, Appendix 1) but these were conspicuously absent. Not a single sample possessed a trace of hydraulic cement. All cements proved to be pure or nearly pure calcium carbonate. Extreme hardness and durability of the finished concrete slab or stucco had been accomplished by purity of cement, incredible skill in proportioning and mixing with the aggregates and, in some cases, by the use of additives and surface hardeners.”

I’ll personally go with folks who have done both their own sampling and analyses, and still feel that coupled with Mesoamerican models that identify the region of their study as being in proximity to, or actually identified with, the land of Desolation (where cement was reported to having been used in house/building construction), you’ve got your slam dunk.

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On 8/29/2019 at 12:43 PM, blarsen said:

After all, the Phoenicians were colonizing areas in West Africa from an early age, and undoubtedly got caught up in the westerlies in the region off the Canaries, enabling them to discover and even colonize/influnce these latitudes in the Americas.  How did the Mulekites make it over here, and why did they name a particular river, the Sidon?  The existence of these westerlies is also evidence for Mesoamerica being the likely locale for Book of Mormon geography.  Why bring this up?  The Hyksos/Phoenicians undoubtedly had metals, including bronze, tin, iron, etc.  It is simply a matter of waiting for the evidence to be found for these metals.

For actual researchers, it's nice to foster multiple hypotheses, but in order to test them, you have to settle on the best current fit and go with it.

Correction:  for "westerlies" substitute:  "westward directed trade winds"

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On 8/30/2019 at 1:43 AM, blarsen said:

I.e., cement is cement, not mud wattle or adobe, etc.  Cattle are cattle, not buffalo/bison as the Heartlanders want us to believe.  Elephants are elephants, the possibility of which is greatly enhanced by the finding of mammoth remains on Wrangel Island dating to circa 2,000 BC and on St. Paul Island dating to 3,600 BC.  The assertion that mammoths died out on the mainland thousands of years before is unfounded, except for the apparent fact that none dating much later have been found . . . yet.

Elephants in the Book of Mormon are said to have been useful to the Jaredites. It's an important distinction.

I highly doubt that the mammoths of Wrangel Island were held in captivity and used for agriculture, war or transportation. There's nothing that would support the claim that wild mammoths were useful to Mesoamericans in any way at all. First of all, you are talking about two completely different climates. A woolly mammoth from an island in the Arctic Sea isn't going to be very useful to an Olmec in tropical Mexico. Its like saying that because saber tooth tiger bones were found in California, the Inuits of Greenland might have domesticated cats. And even if the Jaredites were able to tame these strange (and dangerous) beasts within the first few centuries of their arrival in a new climate, it would be unlikely that they would have killed off a useful beast of burden within a few hundred years.

Taming of wild elephants is a very very difficult thing and there's only one region that had the capacity for domestic elephant handling in 2500 BC. Even today, only elephas maximus is gentle enough. The mention in the Book of Mormon of elephants being useful to a Bronze Age civilization sets the narrative to a very specific part of the world. If you're looking for a historical Book of Mormon, the mention of domestic elephants constrains us to India and Southeast Asia. There's simply no way around this.

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1 hour ago, Rajah Manchou said:

Elephants in the Book of Mormon are said to have been useful to the Jaredites. It's an important distinction.

I highly doubt that the mammoths of Wrangel Island were held in captivity and used for agriculture, war or transportation. There's nothing that would support the claim that wild mammoths were useful to Mesoamericans in any way at all. First of all, you are talking about two completely different climates. A woolly mammoth from an island in the Arctic Sea isn't going to be very useful to an Olmec in tropical Mexico. Its like saying that because saber tooth tiger bones were found in California, the Inuits of Greenland might have domesticated cats. And even if the Jaredites were able to tame these strange (and dangerous) beasts within the first few centuries of their arrival in a new climate, it would be unlikely that they would have killed off a useful beast of burden within a few hundred years.

Taming of wild elephants is a very very difficult thing and there's only one region that had the capacity for domestic elephant handling in 2500 BC. Even today, only elephas maximus is gentle enough. The mention in the Book of Mormon of elephants being useful to a Bronze Age civilization sets the narrative to a very specific part of the world. If you're looking for a historical Book of Mormon, the mention of domestic elephants constrains us to India and Southeast Asia. There's simply no way around this.

Mammoths were found in the Phoenix area, Chandler and Gilbert, which would indicate a different climate than the current hot and dry deserts of the Southwest.

https://www.csmonitor.com/1997/0916/091697.home.home.1.html

http://www.eastvalleytribune.com/news/ice-age-mammoth-found-by-builders-in-gilbert/article_1aca8499-eecc-54dd-91ba-8848e15e6580.html

A Mammoth was found near Snowmass village, in the Colorado Rockies. Maybe the Jaredites used them as a ski lift, to get up on the slopes.

https://www.denverpost.com/2010/10/18/woolly-mammoth-bones-found-near-snowmass-village-called-significant-find/

If The Book of Mormon is built upon the foundation of the Order Proboscidea, then North America sounds reasonable.

But if built upon a foundation of Apostles and Prophets, the Apostle Oliver Cowdery stated that the final Jaredite and Nephite battles occurred at the Hill Cumorah in New York. He called it a “fact.”

https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1834-1836/90

 

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On 8/22/2019 at 10:41 AM, clarkgoble said:

Aren't the brass plates from Buchanan's sermon much later though? Just glancing at The Star in the East(I've not read the whole thing obviously) There certainly are some interesting bits though.

With the publication of The Star in the East, there was uncertainty about the provenance and dating of the brass and copper plates of the Cochin Jews. Anyone reading Buchanan's account in 1809 could have easily drawn the conclusion that the brass plates were inscribed in Palmyrene Hebrew and carried across the sea by Israelites around 600 BC. 

We can be certain that the account of Indian Israelites and their brass plates circulated widely in the decades previous to the publication of the Book of Mormon. The Star in the East was popular enough that it directly inspired the first generation of American missionaries to set sail from Salem, Massachusetts to India and Burma in 1812. These missionaries were self-described followers of Oliver Cowdery's great-uncle Nathanael Emmons. Among these missionaries was Levi Spaulding, a nephew of Solomon Spaulding and a classmate of Hiram Smith in Hanover between 1811 and 1815. 

On 8/22/2019 at 10:41 AM, clarkgoble said:

The claim is that the writings on the brass plates are old, but not earlier than the rabbinical era. He later dates some brass plates brought in 490 AD. However the original colony is possibly from the Babylonian era. "That these [Jews from Rajapoor in India] are a remnant of the Jews of the first dispersion at the Babylonian captivity seems highly probable."

He also makes a claim for them being from the northern Kingdom. "...certain of these tribes do not call themselves Jews but Beni-Israel or Israelites; for the name Jew is derived from Judah; whereas ancestors of these tribes were not subject to the kings of Judah, but to the kings of Israel. They have, in most places, the book of the Law, the book of Job and the Palms; but know little of the prophets."

So this is definitely evidence for knowledge of extended texts on metal and a neat find I wasn't aware of. However that doesn't mean the anti-Mormons were aware of it.

I wonder if any of these brass plates are still extant. I know there was a few people from Israel still accessing some of these communities in Israel and China convinced they were the lost tribes. So far as I know there aren't positive artifacts examined and dated by scientists. 

There are dozens if not hundreds of extant inscribed brass/copper plates in the region. The accounts of the Cochin brass plates are unique in that they describe the script on the plates and other texts circulating among the Jews as Palmyra Hebrew and some of these texts have been verified as Biblical pseudepigrapha dating to the Book of Mormon time period.

There's ongoing controversy around the provenance and fate of Buchanan's 1806 brass plates.

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15 hours ago, stemelbow said:

Understanding it is simple.  I thought you were a simple man?  If someone asks God and feels good about it, it may be that the person might not really think that the spirit told him/her anything.  Indeed this person might conclude that that feeling comes with many things and it hardly means all these things are scripture or that scripture is anything more than fictional writing with inspired thoughts here and there.  It seems more practical to me to take any good out of the writings of the BoM and throw out the nonsense and move on.  Move on to other inspiring content.  Let's go and build ourselves, not get ourselves stuck on something.  

We all build our own meaning from matter unorganized.

Because there is no objective testable truth for any of it, whichever you pick could give your life meaning 

I may disagree with you but I have no stronger an argument than you do

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On 8/28/2019 at 12:41 AM, Nevo said:

I find the Book of Mormon a fascinating puzzle. On the one hand, it seems an obvious fiction. Case in point: the parallel narratives of the Nephites and Jaredites. As I've said before, what are the odds that two different migrations to the promised land would produce societies of millions of people destroyed by "secret combinations" down to the last man on the very same hill? And that their histories would both be recorded on gold plates and require decoding by means of a special rock? It's preposterous. Yet at the same time, the book is remarkably complex and doctrinally rich. And we're just now starting to discover the depth and sophistication of its interactions with the Bible. It seems way beyond Joseph's capacity to write, yet I can see no more plausible candidate.

At least you seem to be on the cusp of belief in the Book of Mormon.  Your skeptical take mirrors my earlier, and even now, intermittent attitude toward the book.   But I think the evidence for the truth of the book overtakes the reasons for rejecting it . . . and this includes it historicity.  And my evidence consists to some degree of a spiritual witness.

The loss of 230,000 Nephite combatants in their last battle, especially in one day, used to seem improbable to me, especially a battle employing hand-to-hand combat.  However, if you do a close read of the passage that describes the aftermath of the battle and remove one key comma, you realize it does not say the battle took place in one day.

You may recall the 2nd Punic War battle between the Carthaginians under Hannibal at Cannae when an estimated 50-70,000 Romans lost their lives in a single day.  So 230,000 Nephites is a possibility if you consider the actual last battle could have taken place over many days.

I know an archaeologist who has surveyed the Tuxla mountain locale where many Mesoamerican model supporters think the actual Hill Cumorah is located.  He has identified what he called massive en echelon fortifications in this area and says the ground is littered w/artifact debris from two different cultural complexes, one normally identified with regions to the south, and one coming more from the west to north west.  I don’t know if he has published on this, however.

And the idea that two ancient civilizations used divination stones doesn’t bother me much at all.  Such devices were used and known among many ancient cultures and included mirrors, crystals, stones, arrows, etc.  I was visiting the Spiro Mound complex in Oklahoma and they had on display myriad perfectly formed quartz crystals, and the caption indicated they were used for divination purposes, for instance.

I hope you are able to stick with the attitude that the Book of Mormon has some unique, commanding aspects and qualities.

 

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Posted (edited)
On 8/29/2019 at 4:55 PM, mfbukowski said:

That's true but only because for that person those things are normal, and not miracles,  coincidences and rare events.

They are everyday events.

I still cannot understand why all the wisdom and spiritual insight and lessons we can learn from The Book of Mormon are dependent on its historicity.

To me that is like looking for the actual residence of Ivan, one of the Brothers Karamazov, to make the book worth reading. Though its origins of the BOM maybe the most puzzling issue, we read it for its wisdom, don't we?

Perhaps that's the biggest tragedy of all.

Perhaps those who are so concerned about its historicity miss its entire purpose.

And if that wisdom is not there then why bother worrying about its historicity?  It's a useless fraud

Either way it seems a rather useless activity to me.

For me, and I would say for most people, what I regard as miracles or very unusual coincidences, is precisely because they aren’t everyday events.  So you lost me on this one.

Again, for me, and I think most people, I would discount a book that made such persistent claims to be true and real history, and yet was not.  Doesn’t matter what gems I might find inside the book.  I would be inclined to discount even these.

Its like, I don’t much care for telemarketing, but especially can’t stand telemarketers who spoof phones numbers as being their own numbers when they aren’t.  Why?  Because they are approaching me right off the bat with a lie.  Doesn’t matter how good the product may be they want to sell me.

Dostoevsky was one of my favorite authors, but he never presumed to put over on his readers that they were reading genuine biography.

Historicity is very important because it underscores the truth of what is written in the book.  Also, establishing a reasonable case for the historicity of the book will go a long way towards encouraging people who would never give it even a side glance, a reason for taking it seriously.

Edited by blarsen
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