Jump to content

â??either On The One Hand Or On The Otherâ?�


DonBradley

Recommended Posts

â??The Book of Mormon claims to be a divinely inspired record, written by a succession of prophets who inhabited ancient America.â?¦ This book must be either true or false. If true, it is one of the most important messages ever sent from God to manâ?¦ If false, it is one of the most cunning, wicked, bold, deep-laid impositions ever palmed upon the worldâ?¦. The nature of the message in the Book of Mormon is such, that if true, no one can possibly be saved and reject it; if false, no one can possibly be saved and receive it. Therefore, every soul in all the world is equally interested in ascertaining its truth or falsity.â?

â??Orson Pratt

From the early days of Mormondom, Latter-day Saint authors have presented their audience with a stark dichotomy: the Book of Mormon is either exactly what it purports to beâ??an ancient record translated by divine power, or it is a deliberate fraud.

While I think there is more room for complexity and scholarly dialogue across faith boundaries than do many of these authors, I have come to embrace, at least in part, the dichotomy they present as one inherent in the claims of the book and its professed translator.

The Book of Mormon is a wedge, separating those who have faith in its own explanation for its existence from those who explain it as a product of either pious or self-serving fraud. Indeed, the book characterizes itself as a divider:

â??â?¦I will work a great and a marvelous work among the children of men; a work which shall be everlasting, either on the one hand or on the other; either to the convincing of them unto peace and life eternal, or unto the deliverance of them to the hardness of their hearts and the blindness of their minds, unto their being brought down into captivity, and also unto destruction, both temporally and spiritually, according to the captivity of the Devilâ?¦â?

This message of the Book of Mormon, and of the LDS authors alluded to, is theologicalâ??that faith in the book is a matter of salvation and that the book must be either divine or diabolical. My point, however, is not theological. Iâ??m not going to argue that if false, the Book of Mormon is â??a wicked imposition.â? Nor will I argue that the use of deception in the creation of the book would preempt the value of its message or the possibility that God (assuming he exists) could use it to bring about his purposes. Although I do see difficulties in maintaining religious faith in a work so produced, it seems to me that persons who profess to see the hand of God in earthquakes, fires, tempests, the sinking of cities, and other such catastrophic â??acts of Godâ? should perhaps not be too quick to dismiss the possible presence of that hand in more mundane, and perhaps benign, human acts of deception. But ultimately, questions of the validity of religion that has used fraud belong in the domain of theology, while the questions that engage me are historical: How was the Book of Mormon created? What were the purposes and motives behind its creation? If Joseph Smith is taken as its author, should he be seen as utterly sincere, or measurably deceptive?

Some (such as the historian Robert Remini) prefer to avoid the issue of truth versus fraud, while others seek a middle ground. Scott Dunn, for instance, has advanced the position that Joseph Smith was a sincerely mistaken â??automatic writer.â? Some have suggested that Joseph merely thought he obtained plates and received the divine translation thereof. And others seem to take the position that Joseph Smith was sincere because God instructed him to make the claims he did and author the Book of Mormon. While middle-ground positions like these are possible, in my view they are inherently unstable and difficult to maintainâ??logically, psychologically, and institutionally.

The logical difficulty of the Book of Mormon middle ground arises from Joseph Smithâ??s use of tangible evidence for his claims. He provided for others to heft a cloth-wrapped object he claimed was the set of ancient plates from which he translated the Book of Mormon. If the object was such a set of ancient plates, then his claims to supernatural guidance seem very strong indeed. The finding of such an object in the New World, and particularly in North America, and on a hill otherwise bereft of archaeological materials, is unprecedented. And the fact that his claim to divine guidance to the object long precedes his claim to have obtained it preempts the explanation that he fortuitously found a valuable artifact and only later theologized its discovery.

If, on the other hand, the object Joseph Smith wrapped in a cloth and represented as the golden plates heâ??d found was not what he claimed, then he used this object to deceive those he allowed to heft it and was thusâ??to that extentâ??guilty of fraud.

His claim is thus either true or fraudulent. He almost certainly could not have been mistaken in making it. Only a truly delusional subject could mistake a stone, old book, or stack of boards for a set of ancient gold plates heâ??d unearthed, and innocently pass off the former as the latter over a period of nearly two years. But Joseph Smithâ??s efficient functioning in everyday life demonstrates that he was almost certainly not a victim of psychotic delusion.

Furthermore, to have acquired an object that so readily could be passed off as the plates, Joseph would have had to carefully search for or construct such an object according to precise specifications of size, shape, weight, texture, and structure. Such a deception could not have been carried out unwittingly. It could only have been deliberate.

It is therefore logically difficult to maintain that Joseph Smith was wrong yet entirely honest.

The dubious logical coherence of the middle ground between revealed history and deliberate fraud engenders the psychological difficulty of standing that middle ground. Because the ahistoricity of the Book of Mormon and the honesty of Joseph Smith are logically dissonant, their simultaneous presence in the same mind tends to be psychologically dissonant as well. And this dissonance state is difficult to maintain. It pushes one to reject one claim or the other. This I know from personal experience, having tried to maintain, in succession, a few different middle-ground positions on the book.

This and other psychological difficulties of braving the middle ground contribute significantly to the institutional problems of such a position. Adopting a middle-ground position on the Book of Mormon is potentially very disruptive and threatening to those communities or institutions built upon it.

On the one hand, the rumors of the LDS churchâ??s apocalyptic demise should it adopt such a position are probably exaggerated. Rabbinic Judaism survived the Reform, which jettisoned the literal truth of the Hebrew Bible. Adventism survived â??the Great Disappointmentâ? of Christâ??s non-appearance in 1844. And the Jehovahâ??s Witnesses have survived numerous failures of fundamental prophecy. Similarly, Mormonism would almost certainly survive the shift to an ahistorical Book of Mormon. But it would not likely survive undiminished.

While religions do survive dramatic shifts of fundamental belief, it is probably crucial to the thriving of the LDS church, including its high rates of growth and attendance, that the church continue to maintain the historicity of the Book of Mormon. A complex rationale for how the Book of Mormon is scriptural, although fictional and â??translatedâ? from gold plates that are likely fictional as well would be difficult to sell.

The experience of the church formerly known as Reorganized illustrates this. The Community of Christ, which has given up promoting a historical Book of Mormon, is foundering, uncertain of its direction, and losing members to breakaway congregations that still maintain traditional beliefs. Admittedly, this cannot all be attributed to a shift of perspective on the Book of Mormon. The RLDS church was never as strong as the LDS and has recently been led by Protestant-trained leadership, a leadership that tried to Protestantize and liberalize the church rapidly and without having the general membership â??on boardâ? for this transformation.

Still, the LDS church is likely to undergo significant stress and unwanted change if it adopts belief in an ahistorical Book of Mormon.

Retooling the missionary program for such a Book of Mormon would make it awkward. The book would be presented as fictional, or equivocallyâ??as possibly historical, possibly fictional, but the investigator would soon discover that the book presents its narrative as literal truth and its narrators as very real persons, whom they will meet at the judgment bar. The investigator would also discover that its putative translator, Joseph Smith, claimed to have obtained the book in the most tangible of forms, metallic platesâ??from one of the bookâ??s own character-narrators! Explaining this to everyoneâ??s satisfaction would be a good trick. Many investigators would be confused, and a number of new converts would no doubt come in as â??fundamentalists,â? affirming the historicity that their new church rejects.

Latter-day Saints would also confront the logical and psychological dissonance described above. Questions of why to believe in the first place would likely loom large: â??Why trust a fictional book or a prophet who used fraud?â? â??If Joseph Smith used fraud in this instance, where else might he have used it?â?

The nature of LDS belief would be challenged, and perhaps dramatically changed. â??If the Book of Mormon isnâ??t literal,â? some might ask, â??what else isnâ??t literal either?â? Biblical prophecy? The Second Coming? The resurrection? The restoration of the priesthood? The power of the priesthood? The requirement for everyone to receive the ordinances? And if these were doubted, commitment to missionary work and temple work would flag.

It is not without reason that many LDS leaders and apologists fear that adoption of an ahistorical Book of Mormon lies at the top of a very slippery slope.

That said, the results would probably not be uniformly negative. Adopting an ahistorical view of the Book of Mormon would, for instance, almost certainly result in a greater ecumenism and an expansion of existing humanitarian programs. But it would open a floodgate when the results of doing so are not entirely predictable and could threaten articles of faith almost no present-day Latter-day Saint would want to see discarded.

I think the leaders and professional apologists of the church see these things, and see clearly. For this reason, those who promote the Book of Mormon as 19th-century scripture are likely to continue to meet strong resistance.

To shift from the institutional to the personal, my own experience bears out, at least for me, the difficulty and awkwardness of making oneâ??s stand on the middle ground. My own gradual accommodation of the evidence for 19th-century elements in the Book of Mormon was never meant to be unfaithful: it was meant to be apologetic. I saw myself as reformulating my beliefs in such a way as to both adapt to the new evidence and maintain my faith. But in the process, the content of my faith changedâ??and shrank. And it was not till near the end of this erosion of my belief that I saw it as an erosion of belief.

At the end of the process, I was somewhere I could never have anticipated at the start. The foundation had been pulled out from under my spiritual worldâ??a loss I still struggle to replace.

Even now, as a nonbeliever in the historicity of the Book of Mormon, I want to find inspiration in it and the rest of Mormonism. And I would prefer to see Joseph Smith as fully honest and sincere. Lacking that, I would at least like to see him as motivated for the welfare of othersâ??a pious fraud. But a wish is not a factâ??I should view Joseph Smith in one of these ways not merely if I want to, but only if I perceive the evidence as supporting that view. Sadly, I do not.

Having concluded from my weighing of the evidence available to me that the Book of Mormon was not an ancient historical text, it was only a matter of time before I concluded also that Joseph Smith fraudulently passed off some mundane object as the Book of Mormon plates. And I have more recently become aware of what isâ??for meâ??compelling evidence that his motives were probably not pious, but, rather, self-serving.

I wonâ??t delve into that perceived evidence now. (But if I continue to hold this view, Iâ??ll write out my reasons for it another time.) Iâ??m not absolute on itâ??I canâ??t claim to be that far into Joseph Smithâ??s head. Although I tentatively hold the view that Joseph Smith was likely a self-serving fraud, Iâ??m still exploring possible motivations on his part, and I would hope to find in the Book of Mormon and Mormonism the expression of Joseph Smithâ??s own spiritual convictions.

A question that has nagged at me in my research into the origins of the Book of Mormon, and nags the more insistently on the view that Joseph Smith was a self-interested fraud, is, â??Whence the spiritual power of the Book of Mormon?â? There is no question that it possesses this power, and has deeply impacted, and even transformed, myriad lives.

Whence the spiritual power of the Book of Mormon?

The believer has a ready answer for this. For the secular scholar, it is a puzzle sufficiently difficult that none appear to have addressed it.

Don Bradley

_______________________________________________________________________

Posted at my new blog:

http://mormonorigins.wordpress.com/

Rights reserved per blog copyright.

Link to comment

â??The Book of Mormon claims to be a divinely inspired record, written by a succession of prophets who inhabited ancient America.â?¦ This book must be either true or false. If true, it is one of the most important messages ever sent from God to manâ?¦ If false, it is one of the most cunning, wicked, bold, deep-laid impositions ever palmed upon the worldâ?¦. The nature of the message in the Book of Mormon is such, that if true, no one can possibly be saved and reject it; if false, no one can possibly be saved and receive it. Therefore, every soul in all the world is equally interested in ascertaining its truth or falsity.â?

â??Orson Pratt

Yes, Believers and critics create this dichtotomy. The dichtomomy is artificial and unneccesary IMO, and I would disagree with Orson Pratt. If the book were divinely inspired, then yes, it would be one of the most important books and messages from God reaffirming the necessity and reality of a savior. However, HOWEVER, if the book is false, there is another option than that of the book being, as Orson Pratt hyperbolized; "if false, it is one of the most cunning, wicked, bold, deep laid impositions ever palmed upon the world.

Really, what would be so wicked or bad about the book just not being true"? Obviously this world has oodles of myths and religious belief systems that are affirmed to be false, so what is another wrong belief going to hurt any? :P The book could be an imposter and still be benign and harmless.

Actually, there is also another possibility. The book could be ahistorical and not factual at all, and yet contain all sorts of human wisdom that betters the lives of those who read the book. "The richest man in Babylon" by George Clason isn't a true story about a middleastern merchant, but it helped me to start a life where I dedicated 10% of my income to savings, and now I am almost financially independent (well that and having my own business!)

Link to comment

Really, what would be so wicked or bad about the book just not being true"? Obviously this world has oodles of myths and religious belief systems that are affirmed to be false, so what is another wrong belief going to hurt any? :P The book could be an imposter and still be benign and harmless.

The only thing wicked about the book is if you believe the Bible to be a record of God's dealings with His people, and that Jesus is the Christ and only through him is salvation. Then, anything that would take away from that knowledge, and certainly a false book and a wrong belief would, results in the ruination of some of His children. And that would be wicked and evil.

Link to comment

A question that has nagged at me in my research into the origins of the Book of Mormon, and nags

the more insistently on the view that Joseph Smith was a self-interested fraud, is, â??Whence the

spiritual power of the Book of Mormon?â? There is no question that it possesses this power, and has

deeply impacted, and even transformed, myriad lives.

Whence the spiritual power of the Book of Mormon?

Whence the spiritual power of the Koran?

Whence the spiritual power of the Bhagavad Gita?

Whence the spiritual power of the Diamond Sutra?

I'll say one thing for Mormons -- they are so totally preoccupied with themselves that they are

generally unaware of the true spirituality of other religions. To most Mormons, these things can be

denied by deduction -- rather like a physicist calculating that a dragonfly could never possibly fly.

Any TRANSFORMING power in human words printed on paper comes not from the physical literary

artifact of a "book," but rather from the re-connecting of humanity with the Divine (with or without it).

A counterfeit $100 bill can do wonders -- feed the poor -- shelter the homeless -- give hope to a

discouraged person -- even save a life. All rather wonderful, so long as the fraud remain undetected.

But a bogus banknote is still a counterfeit, despite all of what I just said about its wonderful uses.

Uncle Dale

Link to comment

And bogus bills in circulation in an economy can bring the whole economy down, Uncle Dale. Hmmm. Sounds like a parallel with a bogus work of "scripture."

Link to comment

And bogus bills in circulation in an economy can bring the whole economy down, Uncle Dale.

Hmmm. Sounds like a parallel with a bogus work of "scripture."

So can real bills, if a government prints more of them than an economy can sustain.

Money is nothing. Human trust is something. God's power is everything.

IMHO

UD

Link to comment

A counterfeit $100 bill can do wonders -- feed the poor -- shelter the homeless -- give hope to a

discouraged person -- even save a life. All rather wonderful, so long as the fraud remain undetected.

But a bogus banknote is still a counterfeit, despite all of what I just said about its wonderful uses.

Uncle Dale

Well spoken Dale. Just because I've concluded against the historicity of the BOM doesn't require me to condem the book or it's author as evil. I've made a similar conclusion against the Biblial accounts of Noah, and Adam but that doesn't keep me from enjoying the Pentateuch as a rich religious text.

It's often called the false dilemma or fallacy of the excluded middle. Critics and apologist like such black and white statements because it bolsters their arguement by having a small target.

Phaedrus

Link to comment

I found several subtle flaws in the OP, like the suggestion that the witnesses only saw something covered with a cloth.

And in my opinion, it really doesn't matter if the misrepresentation was deliberate or not.

Any misrepresentation is a distortion of truth, so it prevents some from knowing the truth.

Link to comment

DonBradley:

Excellent article. But I see one flaw in your argument. The claim that the plates were somehow covered by a cloth seems dubious from the testimony of the Eight Witnesses.

"That Joseph Smith, Jun., the translator of this work, has shown unto us the plates of which hath been spoken, which have the appearance of gold; and as many of the leaves as the said Smith has translated we did handle with our hands; and we also saw the engravings thereon, all of which has the appearance of ancient work, and of curious workmanship."

Link to comment

Well spoken Dale. Just because I've concluded against the historicity of the BOM doesn't require me to condem the book or it's author as evil. I've made a similar conclusion against the Biblial accounts of Noah, and Adam but that doesn't keep me from enjoying the Pentateuch as a rich religious text.

It's often called the false dilemma or fallacy of the excluded middle. Critics and apologist like such black and white statements because it bolsters their arguement by having a small target.

Phaedrus

Of course, you could look at it as most people do "How To Win Friends and Influence People." Some nice ideas. But nothing which has to do with salvation or any doctrine of the eternities. Live the Golden Rule because it is nice. But don't even consider Heaven. That is settling for crumbs from the rich man's table. I'd rather be at the banquet, myself.

Link to comment

I will mention 3 other flaws, since I said I saw several, to let you know what I saw wrong with the OP.

... the idea that you (anyone) can know a truth by simply becoming a scholar.

... and that apologetics can help anyone know what is true.

... and that any idea of disproving what anyone says is something we can do at any time.

In a nutshell, I suppose this can be condensed to one point:

Only with God can we know what is true.

Link to comment

Hi,

I appreciate the responses. My aim isn't to exclude the theological middle ground, as, admittedly, Orson Pratt was trying to do. I see possibilities there, but I'm not a theologian--not even of the armchair variety anymore--and would prefer to leave that exploration to others. What I'm arguing should be excluded is the historical middle-ground between seer who locates a genuine artifact and the fraud, pious or otherwise, who uses deception to make people think he has plates.

BTW, I wasn't saying that the Eight Witnesses saw the plates covered with a cloth. Rather, I was referring to the unofficial witnesses of the plates--the entire Smith family, Lucy Harris, Isaac Hale, and others who were allowed to "heft" the alleged plates while they were wrapped up.

What the Eight Witnesses experienced is a different issue, and not what I'm addressing. Obviously, if they did handle uncovered golden, ancient-appearing plates, this would constitute evidence that Joseph Smith's claims were true. But that is another discussion. My point here was just that if Joseph Smith didn't have plates, he took measures to deceive others into thinking he did, and was therefore, to that extent, using fraud.

So, I don't see any way around the prophet-or-fraud dichotomy. Even a pious fraud is, by definition, a kind of fraud. And so the resulting book must be either true--i.e., what it claims to be--or be based at least in some measure, on deliberate fraud.

Don

Link to comment

Of course, you could look at it as most people do "How To Win Friends and Influence People." Some nice ideas. But nothing which has to do with salvation or any doctrine of the eternities. Live the Golden Rule because it is nice. But don't even consider Heaven. That is settling for crumbs from the rich man's table. I'd rather be at the banquet, myself.

Let me give you an example, and see how you will respond.

When I was in seminary a professor there recounted how he had been with a dying woman in her

final hours. A close relative was also there --- and the relative of the dying lady kept telling her that

she needed to repent and accept the gospel. Finally that relative told the poor woman a wonderful

story about heavenly visions and direct revelation from God. Before she died the lady did indeed

repent and was given a "sprinkling" baptism by the very reverend professor who became my teacher.

Sometime after the lady's passing, the professor had an opportunity to again speak with the relative,

and asked about the visions, revelations, etc. The relative then admitted to "making up the whole story."

The professor asked his class (me included) whether the dying woman's repentance and baptism were

of any effect? --- since she had been so heavily influenced by a false religious testimony.

A Mormon might say that the false testimony was not only wrong, but unnecessary -- since the lady

would be given another opportunity to "accept the gospel" beyond the veil. A Mormon would also say

that a sprinkling baptism would have no useful effect, (even if performed by an LDS Elder).

However, most of the seminarians in my class felt that even false testimony can help bring a sinner to

the gospel, and it was the sincerity of that sinner's repentance that mattered most; not the false words.

Your thoughts?

UD

.

Link to comment

So, I don't see any way around the prophet-or-fraud dichotomy. Even a pious fraud is, by definition, a kind of fraud. And so the resulting book must be either true--i.e., what it claims to be--or be based at least in some measure, on deliberate fraud.

What do you see as the difference between what you just said, in your statement I quoted, and what Orson Pratt once said that someone quoted?

Are you thinking he was acknowledging that fact only as a theologian?

I think he saw that using logic alone.

It is either true or not true... it's either truth or a fraud.

And only with God can anyone know it is true.

... without God's assurance we won't know it is true.

It is true, but we can't know that without God's assurance.

Link to comment

Uncle Dale,

I would ask what she really had accepted?

Our Lord often made up stories to share true gospel principles. They're called parables.

And they work. :P

One thing's for sure. I don't think the church would survive a move from historical to a "good religous book" as easy as you think. For one, if this every happened I would be turning my recommend in as well as many others I know.

That's basically what happened to many in the RLDS community.

Ask Uncle Dale how he felt about that. <_<

Link to comment

My thoughts, Uncle Dale? That the false testimony would really have no benefit or detriment. A deathbed conversion is of little value. Only the Lord knows whether or not the "repentance" was sincere, of course. However, the person would have had no opportunity to make restitution. But baptism by sprinkling by one who did not have the authority to do even that in the Lord's name would have been of no worth.

The only temporary benefit would have been to the person who thought he had saved a person, and any family who would have felt better about their loved one having repented and not being sent to hell.

then the person who did the lying would have to repent of that. And if he felt so good about what he did, he probably wouldn't repent, and then he is much worse off. No unclean thing can enter the kingdom of God and God cannot look upon the least degree of sin with any allowance. Or does the seminarian not believe in the Bible?

Link to comment

One thing's for sure. I don't think the church would survive a move from historical to a "good religous book" as easy as you think. For one, if this every happened I would be turning my recommend in as well as many others I know.

Well, for one thing, you're caricaturing what would probably happen in such a case. The Book of Mormon would gradually come to be seen as scriptural fiction--like an allegory. I know there would be theological and, for a great many, personal problems with this; but to think that the church would not survive ignores a great deal of data from the history of religions. Greek religion didn't vanish when Mount Olympus was seen as just an ordinary mountain, and the Iliad was seen as metaphor. And there are millions of Reform Jews who don't believe God ever gave the Torah, etc., etc. I'm not saying this kind of change will happen in Mormonism, only that if it did, the faith would almost certainly survive--but it would probably be greatly changed, as would the community based on it.

Don

What do you see as the difference between what you just said, in your statement I quoted, and what Orson Pratt once said that someone quoted?

Are you thinking he was acknowledging that fact only as a theologian?

I think he saw that using logic alone.

It is either true or not true... it's either truth or a fraud.

He was using logic to draw a conclusion that was both historical and theological, while I am limiting my conclusion to the historical. I see the point of his implicit theological argument, but I'm not certain that God, if he exists, would damn people for an honest mistake in accepting such a book, and I'm also not sure God could never possibly work through human moral weaknesses as well as through our strengths. I don't think even religionists can really claim to understand God's ways well enough to draw such conclusions. In fact, I think the scriptures of the monotheistic faiths positively rule out our ability to understand God's ways.

Don

Link to comment

Well put, Don. I have characterized my position (close to Dan Vogel's pious fraud model) as a "middle" ground, but that is probably only true in that it falls between two extremes. If you plot the spectrum along a seesaw, I think you're right: the middle is inherently unstable and probably incoherent. The seesaw will tip one direction or the other.

Still, let us not discount the rich variety of positions available on either side of the balance point. I don't have any problem believing in Joseph's basic sincerity, even when acknowledging that it must have been leavened with at least occasional deceit. My experience with people is that very few of us are wholly honest or entirely rascals. Furthermore, I don't believe that taking inner experiences and attributing them to external, supernatural causes necessarily makes a person delusional to the point of dysfunction. My best reconstruction of Joseph's inner life persuades me that he really believed he talked with God, and I have known too many high-functioning people with the same idea to dismiss them as pathological.

Yes, I consider the Book of Mormon a fraud, but I still think that Joseph Smith sincerely believed it was true.

Link to comment

Hi Alf,

I agree--if Joseph Smith is seen as using fraud, there is still a great deal of room for interpretation of his exact motives. There can be degrees of sincerity combined with degrees of fraud. It doesn't have to be absolute.

What it seems to me probably does have to be absolute is that Joseph Smith found plates or he purposely deceived others into thinking he did. He wrapped up something in that cloth, and presented it to others as the plates, in order to show them that he had the plates. If this object was not the plates, and he knew this, then, by definition, he used deception and was--at least to that extent--a conscious fraud.

My conclusion that if not correct or conniving he would have to be using fraud applies only to his claim to have the plates wrapped up in that cloth. I cannot find it credible that someone not in the grip of something like psychosis could locate or create an object tailored to be passed of as a book of metal plates, and not consciously know that he was doing so. Unless he both searched for the object and wrapped it up while sleep-walking, and never dared look at it, he knew what he was doing. That he may have done it for the welfare of others, to save them from false doctrine and lead them to accept Jesus, and may have even believed that God wanted him to do this is entirely possible. But he would still have used conscious deception.

I think we are driven, logically, to the conclusion that he either found plates or deliberately presented some prop as the plates, placing a measurable degree of fraud at or near the foundation of his prophetic career. And I think this is problematic, both theologically, for those who accept it, and historically. I don't think historians have fully wrestled with the historical implications of this.

Don

Link to comment

FWIW, Alf, I've explored the pious fraud model quite a bit. It's certainly a coherent model, and potentially explains a great deal. But I'm not sure it's the best explanation. I think we should also take seriously the possibility that Joseph Smith had more self-interested ends in mind in pursuing a religious vocation. He certainly would not have been the first. This, however, raises questions of it own regarding the spiritual power the Book of Mormon and other LDS revelations have had for a great, great many.

Joseph Smith, as Brent Metcalfe, once said, has left us with a fascinating puzzle.

Don

Link to comment

Uncle Dale,

I would ask what she really had accepted?

Our Lord often made up stories to share true gospel principles. They're called parables.

And they work. :P

That's basically what happened to many in the RLDS community.

Ask Uncle Dale how he felt about that. <_<

I can tell you that it was a very gradual shift and that it happened so slowly and so "out of sight" that

two of three generations of RLDS grew up, not realizing that the doctrine was changing on them.

Actually, it was not the doctrine itself that changed, but it was placed into a new context, in which most

of the old Restoration teachings were made more and more optional and more and more symbolic.

We can go back into the 1880s and 1890s and find very "Mormon" examples of testimonies given by

the topmost leaders ---> "I know thus church is true and led by a true prophet with true latter day scriptures."

Then we can go into the 1980s and 1990s and find testimonies that are all about Jesus and nothing about

"the one true church" or "the keys to the final dispensation." In 100 years time, everything was changed.

I did not mind the shift in emphasis/perspective so much as I minded the secrecy and paternalism

with which it was carried out, by two or three generations of the "royal" Smith family.

Then again, members of that family seem to have always been rather secretive and paternalistic.

UD

.

Link to comment

Or does the seminarian not believe in the Bible?

Actually, we had one Unitarian in grad school who did not believe a word of it. He generally did

not show up for the morning chapel services and evening vespers, as I recall.

UD

Link to comment

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...