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Posts posted by DonBradley

  1. 21 hours ago, Calm said:

    Thank you, Don.  I figured you were most likely intelligently taking your time to response rather than at a loss.  Others who listened interpreted your response in that way, you were not going to respond until you were ready rather than you couldn’t respond.  They said Reel and RFM were not the most ‘cordial’ in their pressure/invitation.  It was kind of you to show up and interact with them after you had politely declined and they wouldn’t let it respectfully go, to still give their criticism a serious treatment after that. 

    I need stuff in writing to process it, so hoping if podcast you have a transcript available.

    Thank you, Calm! 

    I actually thought Bill and RFM were quite cordial during the show, particularly RFM, who made quite a point to praise my work. Bill was a little hard-sell in getting me to call in and pressing his questions, but I think that was understandable. My only disappointment was with how Bill chose to spin our interaction in his written description of the show afterward. Oh well. 

    Given that I had a cold and was definitely not prepared to go on air, it's good to know that I came across okay. I appreciate you letting me know.


  2. 4 hours ago, InCognitus said:

    First I wanted to say that I was hoping you would pop in to comment on this thread because of your research in this area.  Thank you for your comments. 

    Regarding the bolded part above, I can understand that Joseph Smith's use of the GAEL for translation demonstrates that he had some degree of confidence in the work put into the creation of the GAEL, but does his use of it necessarily prove that Joseph participated in its creation?  I'm just trying to look at this logically.  I use tools created by other people all the time without having participated in the creation of those tools.  Certainly his use of the GAEL could mean that Joseph participated in the process, but I don't think it demonstrates that he did so absolutely, unless there is something else that I'm missing.  Is there something I'm missing?


    Good question.

    My first thought is to ask, what is at stake in Joseph's participation in the creation of the GAEL that would not also be at stake in his participation in the EA?

    Joseph wrote "Egyptian Alphabet, circa Early July–circa November 1835–A" by his own hand, demonstrating his involvement in the EA project. Given that the methodology of the GAEL and the EA appear to be largely the same, and that their contents overlap and intertwine, whatever is at stake in Joseph's participation in the GAEL is also at stake in his participation in the EA--which is demonstrable. So unless we are going to throw Joseph out for participating in the creation of the EA, it makes little sense to worry about his apparent participation in the creation of the GAEL. Nothing is at stake in the one that was not already at stake in the other, and few of us appear to have left the church simply because Joseph's hand appears in the EA.

    But that just gets at what is (or is not) at stake in Joseph's participation in producing the GAEL. What are the evidences that he actually did participate?

    Here are a few. (By the way, for the full arguments on the below and documentation, see Don Bradley and Mark Ashurst-McGee, "'President Joseph Has Translated a Portion': Joseph Smith and the Mistranslation of the Kinderhook Plates," in Producing Ancient Scripture: Joseph Smith's Translation Projects in the Development of Mormon Christianity (University of Utah Press, 2020). 

    First, the conjecture that the Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language in the handwriting of Joseph Smith's scribes was a creation of those scribes has always been a poor explanation. Given Joseph's status as the translator of the Book of Mormon and Book of Abraham, he is the default translator for related works, particularly when the others involved in the related work were his scribes, and writing things down for him is, by definition, what his scribes are tasked to do. And Joseph's clear participation in the EA project further suggests his participation in the closely related GAEL. These considerations collectively make Joseph's participation in the GAEL project the default working hypothesis, which can then be strengthened or weakened by further lines of evidence.

    Second, Joseph's use of the GAEL to translate from the Kinderhook plates indicates that he gave credence to it and raises the question of why he gave credence to it. It is unclear why Joseph would have given the GAEL sufficient credence to use it as a translation tool if it were simply composed by W. W. Phelps and Warren Parrish, but it is clear why he would have given it such credence if he had been involved in working it out and it therefore represented his thinking. We all, axiomatically, believe our own beliefs, but those of others, not so much--at least not without good reason. 

    Third, the eye-witness account of Joseph comparing the Kinderhook plates to the GAEL says, of Joseph's engagement with the characters on those plates, "He compared them, in my presence, with his Egyptian alphabet…and they are evidently the same characters. He therefore will be able to decipher them." (To read the original letter, as published in the New York Herald, see column 3, here.) The author of this letter, Nauvoo judge Sylvester Emmons, as a non-Mormon mistakenly connected this "Egyptian alphabet" with the Book of Mormon rather than the lesser known Book of Abraham, but it is evidently a reference to the GAEL, which bears the title "Egyptian Alphabet" on its spine and is identifiably the source of Joseph's translation of the Kinderhook plates character known in the GAEL as "ho-e-oop-hah." A key phrase to observe here from Emmons regarding the GAEL is that the letter identifies the GAEL as "his Egyptian Alphabet," suggesting that Joseph represented himself as the one who had derived the GAEL's contents.

    So, bringing together all these lines of evidence that Joseph took part in producing the GAEL, we find that 1) Joseph was the default translator for the church and on the Egyptian papyri, 2) Joseph demonstrably participated in the GAEL's parallel and overlapping project, the EA, 3) the GAEL is recorded by the hand of Joseph's scribes, whose duty as scribes (what it meant for them to be his scribes) was to record text for Joseph, 4) while Joseph would have presumably believed what was in the GAEL if he helped produce it, there is no obvious reason for him to have relied on it if it were the sole product of his scribes, 5) yet Joseph does rely on it to translate from the Kinderhook plates, with 6) an eye-witness reporting him representing it as "his Egyptian alphabet." 

    Could one hold that Joseph Smith did not participate in the creation of the GAEL? Certainly, but only if one wants to bet on side of probably being wrong on the issue even though nothing new is at stake on it that wasn't already at stake in the issue of EA, and that wasn't already laid to rest with the issue of the EA when that text was found to be written out in Joseph's hand.


  3. 2 hours ago, Saint Bonaventure said:

    Just having read this thread, a little outsider perspective:

    • This Book of Abraham business reminds me a little of the problems historians have when they don't have an original, or satisfactory, artifact. The Edict of Milan is an example, and there are many, many other possible examples.
    • The LDS apologists would probably prefer to have stronger arguments. Apologists have to argue like this sometimes, but reading through this thread it seems like LDS apologists will continually move the Book of Abraham goal posts away unless an unquestionable document is found in Joseph Smith Jr.'s handwriting that says "This is the Book of Abraham" and that includes an image by image translation that exactly matches LDS scripture. I sense more obfuscation than clarification.
    • Critics do seem eager to declare the Book of Abraham a "fate accompli" as a fraud. They insinuate that smart people need to agree with them, wade into matters wherein they don't demonstrate expert knowledge, and use word choices that are loaded with pathos and personal disparagement of LDS folks, Joseph Smith, etc. Again, I'm not impressed.

    I can't imagine that LDS missionaries want to get into discussions of these matters. 


    St. B,

    I find your outsider perspective fascinating and illuminating. Thanks!

    Not being a regular here these days, I'm curious what religious tradition you have from--apparently Roman Catholicism?


  4. 16 hours ago, jkwilliams said:

    Just out of curiosity, how does one distinguish between a secular translation and a nonsecular one?

    Hey John!

    Good question.

    A "secular" process is used here in contrast with a revelatory process.

    As a starting pointing in distinguishing the two it may help here to identify an example of a process that would clearly be revelatory and an example of a process that would clearly not be revelatory.

    If, for instance, I report that God had shown me by vision how Joseph Smith translated from the Kinderhook plates, then I think we could agree that I'm figuring this out through a revelatory process.

    If, on the other hand, I report (as is the case) that I compared the characters on the Kinderhook plates with those in the GAEL to identify how Joseph Smith translated from the Kinderhook plates, then I think we could agree that I'm figuring this out through a non-revelatory process.

    Clear so far?


  5. I know I'm getting on here to offer my two cents on the question in the OP rather late. I don't think the statements in 2 Kings would rule out the Lehi narrative because 1) statements to the effect that "all" of a certain group were killed/enslaved/exiled, etc. are rarely accurate and 2) 2 Kings itself would not have been written at the time of the events but after the Exile and probably still later, after the Return.


  6. On 12/13/2020 at 10:23 PM, Hamba Tuhan said:

    We have a Jewish-American member in our stake (baptised in my old ward) who sounds exactly like Don in accent and intonation. Interesting. I should probably share this with him.

    Wow! That is wild. I have always looked kind of Jewish, especially when I let my hair get long enough to bring out its natural curl, but my only connection genetically to Jewishness is that my kids have Jewish ancestry (through their Mom's side). So, ironically, one of my sons was chosen to be part of the church's New Testament video series because he looks so Jewish, but his Jewish look came from the non-Jewish side of his family - mine! So it's fascinating to hear that I sound like someone Jewish you know.

  7. On 12/15/2020 at 3:18 PM, why me said:

    I just remember Don being in the church and then out of the church and then back in the church. His re-conversion helped many people, I believe. It was back when history was the main reason for people leaving the LDS church. Don's book helped many understand an aspect of church history more clearly and challenged the critic narrative. It was a wonderful celebration when Don returned.

    Aww, thanks, whyme. I was overwhelmed by the welcome I received right here on this board, or, actually, it's predecessor. Over 200 people posted to welcome me back. It moved me to tears. I will never forget that.


  8. On 12/15/2020 at 3:55 PM, Ahab said:

    The concept of a "favorite" article of clothing seems like an alien concept to some women.  Obviously you have discovered that Don has a "favorite" interview shirt.  Just accept that it is his favorite and maybe try to find him another one like it.

    edited to add:  I also noticed Don has a different hair style than he did the last time I saw him, so apparently he hasn't settled on a favorite hair style, yet.

    Not a favorite item of clothing, but decidedly a favorite color😊

    About the hair - oh, that's changed--I've definitely found a favorite hairstyle! I've never been one for keeping up with the latest trends, so it's fortuitous for me that the '20s (1920s) style exemplified by Tommy Shelby in "Peaky Blinders" happens to be popular in the century-later '20s as well. I suspect I'll probably still wear this cut when it goes out of style so I'll go from trendy to old-fashioned without changing a thing, by not changing a thing!

    BTW, I am sitting here laughing about my clothes and hair as topics of online conversation. I've never felt more like Lady Gaga! 😆


  9. On 12/13/2020 at 3:30 PM, Peppermint Patty said:

    It was a great interview. Thanks Smac. I haven’t read Don’s book yet but I plan on it. I’ve only heard good things about it.

    My only complaint is that Don is wearing the same shirt he wears in the Witness film trailer.

    Don, please PM me your address and I will send you a couple of different interview shirts. 🙂

    Peppermint Patty,

    That is hilarious! And made all the more ironic that I am wearing the very shirt you see me in in this video right now! 

    You have quite the eye (and memory!) for clothing styles. So you can certainly send me shirts! 

    But on checking the Witnesses trailer I found that while the shirts I wore for these two interviews have the same cut, the shirt I wore for Witnesses filming is a different one than I wore for this podcast. The first one is a cotton shirt that has a Daniel Cremieux logo just below where the camera cuts off while the second is actually a long-sleeved Champion athletic shirt.

    I'm not sure why I ended up wearing such similar shirts, but my guess is that it's because green is my best color and maybe both times I was trying to avoid either a short-sleeved shirt or a button-up shirt. That would only leave two options from my current wardrobe, which I shall henceforth dub "Witnesses" and "Saints Unscripted." 🙃

    Maybe I need to enlarge the set of styles I wear for these occasions. Are green robes an in thing these days?  😉 



  10. 5 hours ago, JAHS said:

    My response to both of you is that I agree there are other good reasons for paying tithing, but  what I meant by what I said is that in my opinion the number 1 reason for paying tithing is because I love God and want to obey His commandments, including the law of tithing. That way if the money is used for reasons I might not agree with I will not be disappointed nor will I withhold my tithing because of it.  With everything else that is going on in my life I can't be concerned about what the church does with what I donate. I have to trust the church leaders and God, at least for this one thing.   It works for me.  

    Despite what people may say about themselves, everyone does this to a great extent - chooses who they are going to trust, who they are going to rely on. Even secular humanists do. No one can master every branch of science for himself or herself and prove to their own satisfaction that the things scientists of specialties consider settled findings really are settled findings.

    As you say, life is busy--there's so much going on. I think it's perfectly reasonable to trust the church's leaders when it comes to finances--particularly when they have done much to earn that trust! 

    It's also quite understandable to me that people with greater interest and/or acumen in finances would give greater scrutiny to church finances.


  11. 5 hours ago, JAHS said:

    The difference is that I don't care what the amount is. People who do care are not paying tithing for the right reason. I have done what I have promised God I would do by paying it. 

    Oh, I don't agree with that at all. That assumes that morality is just a matter of abstract obligations and has nothing to do with consequences. I believe paying tithing is a good thing---that's not what I'm objecting to in what you say.

    I'm objecting to the moral logic you're appealing to--one in which actual consequences for human lives are inconsequential and all that matters is obediently keeping rules and honestly keeping promises. We see the ultimate fruits of that kind of logic in the story of Jephthah and his daughter in the Hebrew Bible, where keeping a promise was more important than love or consequences to human beings. Read that story and see if promise-keeping without regard to consequences--what you say you believe in above--is actually the moral logic you ultimately advocate and live by. When push comes to shove, I don't believe you that keeping promises without regard to consequences is really what you believe in, even if you fall back on that position rhetorically here.

    Mortal life under the veil requires us to learn to make difficult moral choices, as God does. If everything was really supposed to be simple black-and-white, it's-always-obvious-what-the-simple-right-thing-to-do-is, then God made a mistake in putting the veil there and forcing us to make judgments in complex and unclear situations.

    Using such moral judgment, at least one of the reasons for paying tithing is the good the church will do with it (note reasons, plural - it's silly to say there is only one true reason to pay tithing - there are lots of them).


  12. On 12/16/2019 at 4:06 PM, Sanpitch said:

    I've always had a feeling that the members of the church of Jesus Christ (what is the name now) have very limited back up sources to prove their convictions.  Most everything of a scripture nature comes from Joseph Smith.  There are tons of writings dealing with the faith but limited solid sources.  The source members may claim are feelings from the spirit.  My fanatical JW wife and her associates can usually point to the bible to back up any of their beliefs.  What do the church members have that is really solid other than Joseph Smith's writings and claims?  The D&C, Book of Mormon and the Pearl of Great Price all came mostly from Joseph Smith and the PofGP has been, to my mind a complete fraud.

    But as one post earlies on this board said, if Joseph Smith was a fraud, it's all a fraud.

    The church also uses the Bible. There are revelations for which Oliver Cowdery was a co-revelator (e.g., D&C 20) and for which Sidney Rigdon was a co-revelator (e.g. D&C 76). The correctness of the Book of Mormon's translation was attested by the Three Witnesses, who heard the voice of God testify to them that it was translated correctly. And no member of the church is expected to believe the scriptures revealed through Joseph Smith based on his say-so, as most churches expect their members to believe what the Bible says simply because it says it. Rather, Latter-day Saints are asked to find out by revelation to themselves if these books are legitimate. That takes the burden of revelation ultimately off of Joseph Smith's shoulders and puts it on the shoulders of every single member of the church.





  13. 12 hours ago, smac97 said:

    I've been thinking lately about some remarks that various leaders of the Church have made that can be construed as a sort of all-or-nothing approach to the Restored Gospel.  Some of these have previously been collected by Tacenda here (emphases added):

    I think I understand the sentiment underlying these statements.  They are intended to dissuade us from taking a superficial or wishy-washy or indifferent approach to the Restored Gospel.

    However, these days we have the Internet, and with it comes immediate and at-your-fingertips access to any and every opinion under the sun.  Also accessible are "Big Lists" (as Jeff Lindsay put it) that itemize controversies involving, and errors and mis-steps made by, past and present members of the Church (particularly its leaders).  Jeremy Runnells' "Letter to a CES Director" is perhaps the most well-known example of this.  Bill Reel is another example.

    I wonder if we are seeing a glitch in the truth-seeking process envisioned by the leaders of the Church (as quoted above).  I think they contemplated that someone investigating/evaluating the merits of the claims of the LDS Church would give those claims a fair hearing.  This would, I think, include the basics we have all been taught: read the Book of Mormon and other scriptures, "study {them} out" (per D&C 9:7-9), pray about them with "real intent" and with faith and effort (as contemplated in Moroni 10:3-5, 2 Nephi 31:13, James 1:6, and so on), nurture the beginnings of faith through obedience and service to others (per Alma 32, Mosiah 3 and 4, etc.).  The anticipated result would include impressions and promptings of the Spirit, followed by further study and effort and obedience.  This cyclical effort would then result build up, shall we say, "spiritual momentum" that at once makes the journey in life more manageable, and also keeps us moving forward despite difficulties and obstacles.

    I think the above quotes from General Authorities were given to us in response to some of us becoming perhaps a bit inattentive, even halfhearted, in the fostering and maintaining of our faith and devotion.  Apparently some were even adopting what Elder Holland called a "bizarre middle ground" (I think he may have had in mind the "Inspired Fiction" or comparable have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too alternative explanations for the Book of Mormon and the Restoration).

    However, what has been happening lately is, as noted above, a "glitch."  Members of the Church are encountering "Big List"-type compendia, and then take an all-or-nothing approach to the Gospel, but one that I do not think was contemplated by the Brethren.  That is, they are running into stuff described by Jeff Lindsay here:

    Another challenge is that some folks, having encountered these "Big Lists," can end up adopting a variant of the "Nirvana Fallacy."  This fallacy is described here:

    My sense is that some members of the Church are harboring idealized, unrealistic expectations about the Church, and its leaders and members, and its history.  This is the "perfect" part of Voltaire's maxim. 

    Then these folks encounter "big lists" and other online resources that distill and summarize all sorts of controversies, errors, shortcomings, etc. by members and leaders of the Church.  Such compilations are full of cheap shots presented for shock value.  Presentism.  Facile criticism.  Misrepresentation by omission and distortion.  A determined effort to keep these topics decontextualized and sensationalized.  Sarcasm.  No effort to study or meaningfully understand.  And intermingled with them are some legitimate criticisms. 

    These summaries of the Church are, understandably, difficult or impossible to reconcile with the Church's narrative about itself, which has long tended toward an idealized presentation (though the Church's publication of Saints, Vol. 1: The Standard of Truth is signaling some real change on this issue).

    Some members, then, end up facing seemingly irreconcilable options

    • Option A: the Church is essentially good and decent and ordained of God (as claimed by the Church), or
    • Option B: the Church is essentially flawed and corrupt, and even evil (as claimed by authors of the above-referenced "big lists").

    These members can, and often do, grapple with these issues in secret.  Maybe they don't want to "rock the boat" (in the ward, amongst family members, etc.).  Maybe they don't want to disappoint family members and friends.  Maybe they struggle in secret out of fear.  Maybe they feel overwhelmed and anxious at the prospect of their Latter-day Saint "worldview" being challenged or upended.  This can be a particularly potent factor in their decision-making process, as such secrecy tends to isolate the individual from other members, and also tends to lead the individual to hostile sources, who are at liberty to characterize the Church in the worst ways possible.  

    Working out a response to these feelings, and to these "big list" challenges to our beliefs, can be daunting.  Consider this anecdote from Jeff Lindsay:

    What Jeff calls "the fallacy of quantity versus quality" seems like a relative of the "Nirvana Fallacy."  Either the Church is "true" (pristinely correct and perfect in all respects, including every past and present decision, policy, actions, etc. made by the leaders and members of the Church) or else it is a fraud.  And if a fraud, it's monstrous.  If it's a fraud, it "ought to be harmed" (per J. Reuben Clark).  If it's a fraud, we are perpetuating it (per Pres. Hinckley).

    This, for me, goes some way toward explaining the following progression:

    1. John Q. grows up a member of the Church, attends Church meetings (Sunday services, Seminary, etc.), observes the expected behaviors (pays tithing, attends the temple, serves in callings, goes on mission, marries in the temple), and generally lives in accordance with the teachings of the Church (observes the Law of Chastity, keeps the Word of Wisdom, etc.).
    2. John Q. for varying reasons, starts to have questions about his faith.  He goes online, and is inundated with "big lists" and other high-shock-value characterizations and criticisms of the Chuch.  John Q. is discombobulated by this information, and becomes more so by finding out that some of it is objectively true.  This is often done in secret.
    3. John Q. begins to harbor some real doubts and suspicions and resentments.  Against the Church, and its leaders, and perhaps against some or all of its membership.  These feelings are also often held in secret.  These feelings are augmented by feelings of betrayal, even anger ("Why didn't the Church / my parents / my friends tell me about this?").
    4. John Q. may nevertheless continue to try and find some way of reconciling this new perspective with his continued membership and activity in the Church.  He may listen at General Conference, and may continue some outward observances, and may continue to pray.  
    5. John Q. hits some sort of breaking point.  He may just make the decision on his own, or he may hear about some sort of straw-that-broke-the-camel's-back event.  However it happens, John Q. pivots from an I-believe-this-is-true to None-of-this-is-real-or-true worldview.
    6. John Q. may not feel content to simply walk away from a lifetime in the Church.  An explanation has to be given.  Fault must be allocated.  Hence he develops a Why-I-Left exit narrative.  He may even write it down.  He may even send it out to loved ones, or even publish it to the world (such as on Facebook).  This adversarial approach creates friction and difficulty with family members and friends who remain in the Church (and who may feel blindsided by such developments).

    So what do we do in such circumstances?  Well, here are a few thoughts:

    First, we need to acknowledge that we have invited scrutiny of the claims of the Church.  Consequently, we need to accommodate the possibility of members of the Church coming to a conclusion that those claims are not what they claim to be.  We need to allow that.  Reasonable minds can disagree about all sorts of things, including important things.  We should also consider that "either the Church is true, or it is a fraud"-type statements can be compelling, but also risky, and those who have presented them likely did not contemplate the "glitch" described above.

    Second, we also need to understand and respect the strong feelings and emotions that can arise when people become disaffected from the Church (or are heading down that path).  We need to reach out and communicate.  We need to let them give voice to their thoughts and concerns.

    Third, we need to adopt more realistic, and less idealized, approaches and perspectives to each other, including past and present leaders of the Church.  However, such a process necessarily requires patience and forgiveness, and context and understanding.  Mormon told us: "Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing."  (Mormon 8:35.)  Let us consider that when we consider the following counsel he gave us in the next chapter: "Condemn me not because of mine imperfection, neither my father, because of his imperfection, neither them who have written before him; but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been."  (Mormon 9:31.)

    Fourth, we need to be having more discussions with loved ones.  With those within our stewardship.  We need to feel safe in expressing concerns and questions.  We need to dispel the secrecy and often precedes or accompanies faith crises, and foster candor and openness.  We need to do such things with tact and decorum and respect, pertaining to both the feelings of the individual and the sanctity of the subject matter.  We need to do all we can to help people give the Church and its message a fair hearing.

    Fifth, we need to be more informed.  We need to do real research and real study of the Restored Gospel.  We need to sort out what we believe, and why we believe it.  We need to "be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear."  (1 Peter 3:15.)  I also think we need to differentiate our approach to the object of our faith (Jesus Christ), and, well everything else.  I think Davis Bitton's essay is very helpful on this point: I Don’t Have a Testimony of the History of the Church.  We should also examine where we stand individually.  A useful framework for such introspection is set forth in a book published last year by Elder Bruce and Sister Marie Hafen, Faith is Not Blind, summarized here:




    Instantly one of my favorite posts I've ever read. 

    Thank you,  Smac!


  14. 10 hours ago, why me said:

    I have a lot of respect for Don. I remember him as an apologist and then an anti. And then he came back to the fold and as done marvelous work for the defense of the lds church. I am grateful that he came back to the fold and most likely brought back many with him with the work that he has done.

    Aw thanks, WhyMe. 😃

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