Jump to content

A brief discussion of Method


Benjamin McGuire

Recommended Posts

...

So, we then need to build up a list of criteria on which to base our selection of meaningful parallels.

I like the following (not developed by me).

OK we can start here --

1: Availability

Link to comment

And -- I think you have made a very good point. It is a affirmation that my own

status, as a pioneer and scout, should not be mistaken for the role of an experienced

pilot, who can predictably always bring his craft into safe moorings.

I must be demoted to seaman apprentice on the Titantic -- and nine out of ten of

the icebergs I think I spot, the Captain may dismiss as my mistakes. All I can do is

to spot what I feel are interesting linguistic oddities, and point them out.

When I overstep my rank's limits, and say the ship must be turned -- it is up to

Captains (like yourself) to choose whether to take a look or not.

I've seen you assert similar things on the board, but I don't know that it is a very good argument. I am all for experiment and trying out ideas, so if you are only really interested in that, fine. At the same time, if you could develop, or at least try to adhere to an already-established criteria to help guide your pointing finger do you believe your conclusions or suggestions would be better founded from the get go?

Link to comment

Dale writes:

If we must first prove that a certain writer had access to an earlier text, then establishing that proof will probably be impossible in many cases -- even if whole pages of the earlier source are reproduced in the later volume.
These criteria tend to work together (not independently). Arguments aren't made by showing how each criteria is solidly met (although if you can meet them all conclusively, there is a pretty good argument to be made). And in some ways, I think that you still are missing the process.

You provide parallels. Parallels are evidence of intertexuality. So you create an intertext. But intertextuality isn't all that interesting on its own. So we want to know more about the relationship other than that there is one. Clearly there is going to be a relationship between the Book of Mormon and View of the Hebrews. They were both published in the same language in relatively the same milieu. So our concerns are going to be whether or not we can establish something more specific than this and if there is a relationship, perhaps to see if we can determine the "direction" which that relationship takes.

For this first criteria, if we can show that it was possibly accessible, that goes a long way from not being possibly accessible. Joseph Smith (or the author of the Book of Mormon) couldn't borrow from Jules Verne, for example. This would eliminate the Book of Mormon being influenced by Verne. If we found a relationship between the two (an intertext), we could conclude quite reasonably that perhaps there is influence going the other direction. This would require more than availability, but, availability becomes one criteria we can use to establish more about an intertextual relationship. Not being able to demonstrate access in a evidentiary way isn't really all that important for the discussion unless we have narrowed it down to a point where such an argument is necesssary.

On one hand this is a valid point. On the other hand, if the repeated word-string is relatively unique, I say it takes on an importance all of its own. If the repeated word-string is "John was Prince of the realm," it is not so powerful as would be "John, Prince of the Realm dreamed each night of George Washington."
Right. There are two aspects of this actually. What you are arguing for here is a phrase with a specific meaning attached to it. In some cases, very general phrases are actually very good evidence. In scriptural writings, for example, short phrases which have a liturgical application (and thus a technical usage) can be quite compelling evidence.

Another kind of argument is hapex legomena - that is, a phrase which is unique within a body of literature or in a literary work. Grant Palmer attempts to use this argument a bit in his book An Insider's View (and not very well I might add). But, with hapex legomena, we don't have it used frequently - it is its rather unexpected appearance that makes us question its source (particularly if a text is wont to use something entirely different - and does so everywhere else). A good example of the hapex legomena in the Book of Mormon in a place where we really don't need the extra evidence is the occurrence of the word "stream" in 2 Nephi 21:15. Everywhere else in the Book of Mormon (without exception) the word used for a running body of water is "river". Unlike the D&C, there are no brooks, no rills, we only get rivers. This is a hapex legomena. Of course, 2 Nephi 21:15 is dependent on Isaiah, so this comes as no surprise.

But getting back to the actual criteria, it goes like this. You found a parallel between the Book of Mormon and a Quaker text (answer a clear conscience). If this is the only parallel between the two texts (or between the text and the body of literature we identify appropriately), then the odds of it actually being a borrowing drop considerably. An isolated parallel is much more likely to be coincidental - even if it seems to have some degree of uniqueness or complexity, or other features that would otherwise make it a rather favorable comparison. In fact, even in a quote, it becomes less likely that it is being taken directly from such a source and probably comes through an intermediary source (indicating a possible influence but not a dependence) or that the Quaker source perhaps is using an external source which is shared by the text we are considering. In that case, we have an intertextual relationship but no influence at all.

Then again, this argument can be turned on its head. I can reply that two early 19th century texts recounting the Cherry Vally Massacre in fictionalized form, could reasonably be presumed to contain numerous matching word-strings, used for almost precisely the same purposes, because essentially the same events and personalities are being described in each text. There are a limited way of saying "the chief's tomahawk split John's skull," in different phraseology. In any two works, written at about the same time, and describing similar events in the local vernacular, we might expect a certain amount of textual overlaps, even if the two writers worked independently, from different source material.
And there we have an intertext without influence. Or rather, the texts are talking about a common source or tradition. This is pretty common when we deal with literature that has common themes. The Book of Mormon has a lot of warfare in it - so it has a certain affinity to books that contain a lot of narratives about warfare. Does this indicate something beyond a shared language as a way expressing the same kinds of events? In some cases, you can go farther. The early chroniclers of the American Revolution stole from one another quite blatantly and admitted to it. And it is evident in lexical studies that this is the case. As you point out, what this means is that more care has to be taken to demonstrate dependence in these cases than in other instances. The fact that parallels (and even quite complex parallels) occur isn't necessarily as meaningful here in trying to define the relationship between texts.
It depends very much upon who those "contemporary" readers were. I would not expect 1830s Mormons (other than perhaps Orson Pratt) to have known that Helorum was an Italian place name and that Amulon was a noted French cleric. Even if two dozen anachronistic European names could be pointed out in the BoM text, I do not expect that my Mormon ancestors would have noticed -- or would have cared.

Calling a BoM character Helorum makes no particular sense, in terms of a Nephite some how being related to an ancient Greek city in Italy. Nor, does it make any particular sense that a 19th century writer would choose to call a Nephite by that name -- unless perhaps he needed a proper noun to match with Hel-aman, and Hel-orum was the first exotic name from his reading that came to mind.

But in a sense, what you are describing isn't dependence at all. If it was the first name to pop into his mind, then it's being included for reasons other than its appearance in another text - its more an accident than any kind of borrowing. He might just as well have made it up entirely - so finding a similar name doesn't really mean anything at all on its own. Unless other criteria are met (other names taken from the same source, etc.), there isn't anything to separate its occurrence in these two places from a pure coincidence from a name fabricated completely out of thin air.
This is a valid point, if we are speaking of commonly known texts. If I charge that some Shakespearean language was copied by Milton, at least we have texts wherein "others" might have "noticed the connection." If I am comparing Solomon Spalding's three-page draft letter at Oberlin College, to a chapter in the BoM, I would not expect others to have noticed the connection.

And, if I were citing a set of borrowings in Kim Il Sung's writings, surreptitiously taken fromSt. Augustine, I would not expect the contemporary North Koreans to admit noticing the connection,

People notice things for the first time, all the time. However, the argument gains weight from this criteria (remember they are all parts of the puzzle). I think though that in the hypothetical you mention, the argument takes a certain shape - and in these cases, where you are talking about obscure works, demonstrating access becomes far more significant (as you yourself know). So, where one criteria presents challenges, the others are used to keep the argument intact.
A valid point, if we leave out middle-men editors. Redacted texts and compiled texts have their own internal peculiarities. The final editor, who moves words around and abridges whole paragraphs, may unknowingly bring together textual borrowings in ways that they make little sense to subsequent readers.
However, this is where we make distinctions between influence and dependence and intertextuality. If there is a middleman, then clearly there isn't dependence between the two texts. Creating hypothetical texts has been done, but we generally have to be cautious about such approaches if we expect them to give us more than what we start with. Within Mormonism, this has been recognized as a problem within Mormon and Moroni's text - they draw in sources, and we are sometimes left wondering at the interpretation of the source.

Ben M.

Link to comment

I've seen you assert similar things on the board, but I don't know that it is a very good argument. I am all for experiment and trying out ideas, so if you are only really interested in that, fine. At the same time, if you could develop, or at least try to adhere to an already-established criteria to help guide your pointing finger do you believe your conclusions or suggestions would be better founded from the get go?

I have the feeling that any time I begin to state my most recent set of conclusions

with prefacing remarks of how the BoM is a 19th century text of multiple authorship,

I will draw hostile fire -- no matter how sound my study and analysis methodology.

If I were reporting that the Koran had textual problems, the Mormon audience would

probably yawn and add barely a word or two in agreement or disagreement. Other than

Islamic experts like DCP, probably nobody would even bother to fault my reporting.

But placing the BoM into the category of 19th century productions is just naturally

going to hit some sensitive nerves among the Mormons. At that point my methods are

addressed as an easy way to expose my motivations. And it's downhill from there.

I didn't use to have this problem, back before I left CoC -- back before I adopted

the Spalding-Rigdon authorship explanation as my personal profession. Back in those

earlier days, my work was largely dismissed as meaningless (no matter how many or

how few relevant facts I might assert). But I was seldom refuted.

Something changed when I left CoC. Suddenly I received a lot of feedback,

letting me know that I was no expert on these textual/historical matters -- and

that I had best leave the field to those better qualified to report on the subject.

Perhaps that is wisdom.

I sometimes get tired of spitting into the wind.

Uncle Dale

Link to comment

...

However, this is where we make distinctions between influence and dependence and intertextuality. If there

is a middleman, then clearly there isn't dependence between the two texts. Creating hypothetical texts has

been done, but we generally have to be cautious about such approaches if we expect them to give us more than

what we start with. Within Mormonism, this has been recognized as a problem within Mormon and Moroni's text -

they draw in sources, and we are sometimes left wondering at the interpretation of the source.

Ben M.

I have the feeling that this is the point we'll end up spending time talking about -- if this

stuff ever goes into the professional literature. For one thing, Mormons could argue that the BoM

speaks of Mormon as an editor, who in some instances is quoting, in other instances is paraphrasing,

and in other instances is commenting -- all in ostensibly an abbreviated fashion. From the LDS

point of view, this should make the BoM a difficult text to "word-print."

But the same basic problem crops up, when somebody postulates that the BoM is a 19th century

compilation, which passed through the hands of some final editor (say, perhaps, Joseph Smith).

Again, the word-printing difficulties arise -- but it could also be argued that the final

editor had no idea that he was working with plagiarized material; or who its authors were. In

this case the final editor (let's again call him Smith) may be passing along textual "influence,"

but he would not be passing along known textual "dependence."

In that case we would meet with the difficulties imposed by a multi-layered "intertextuality"

(as you term it) -- which may have began as knowing plagiarism, but may not have ended as such.

Even if the modern LDS critic of the supposed 19th century production does not buy into any

of its evidence or conclusions, he can cite the difficulties imposed by these multiple facets,

to argue that textual examination can never lead to firm, viable conclusions.

All of this I realized long ago. I began in 1979 by advancing the possibility that a theory

for BoM origins could be based upon textual examination. After many years of pondering this

possibility, I'm led back to the probability that textual studies alone can supply little

more than footnotes to historical studies. That does not mean I now feel such examination

is useless -- but, lacking some reliable external evidence clearly supporting the texts,

the texts can do little to support unreliable external evidence.

At best, what I have put together to date may impress a few non-Mormons, that the Smith-alone

authorship theory is not so substantial as previously viewed. If that is all that people like

myself and Criddle accomplish, it will have no immediate and direct impact upon the LDS stance.

UD

Link to comment

I have the feeling that any time I begin to state my most recent set of conclusions

with prefacing remarks of how the BoM is a 19th century text of multiple authorship,

I will draw hostile fire -- no matter how sound my study and analysis methodology.

If I were reporting that the Koran had textual problems, the Mormon audience would

probably yawn and add barely a word or two in agreement or disagreement. Other than

Islamic experts like DCP, probably nobody would even bother to fault my reporting.

But placing the BoM into the category of 19th century productions is just naturally

going to hit some sensitive nerves among the Mormons. At that point my methods are

addressed as an easy way to expose my motivations. And it's downhill from there.

I didn't use to have this problem, back before I left CoC -- back before I adopted

the Spalding-Rigdon authorship explanation as my personal profession. Back in those

earlier days, my work was largely dismissed as meaningless (no matter how many or

how few relevant facts I might assert). But I was seldom refuted.

Something changed when I left CoC. Suddenly I received a lot of feedback,

letting me know that I was no expert on these textual/historical matters -- and

that I had best leave the field to those better qualified to report on the subject.

Perhaps that is wisdom.

I sometimes get tired of spitting into the wind.

Uncle Dale

Dale,

There is a problem inherent in what you are attempting to do. There are no middle grounds here. There are those who believe that the Book of Mormon is just what it claims for itself. And there are those who believe it is a book of fiction written by ________________ (just fill in the blank). I doubt that you can find a disinterested party with the qualifications to look at all of the data that has been generated concerning the Book of Mormon and its origins and draw any kind of reasoned conclusions about its authorship. If there really is such a disinterested person, he/she probably would not be interested in engaging in such a monumental task.

An atheist would hardly be disinterested, nor a muslim, nor a "mainstream" Christian, nor anyone else with an already determined position.

With any theory we have the impossible, possible, plausible, probable, and certainty. Maybe there are a couple of more stages that I did not think of (mabe different stages of probability), but basically with the Book of Mormon origin theories we can throw out for all practical purposes the two extremes and we are left with everything else in between. As far as apologetic scholarship is concerned, the LDS side does have more scholars qualified in different areas, such as linguistics, Egyptian, Hebrew, etc. who have published insights into different aspects of the Book of Mormon and who have effectively rebutted many of the criticisms and theories concerning the origins of the Book of Mormon.

Also, you have to look to your audience. Over on another board that can't be named, I would expect that your theories are received much more warmly and much less critically than here. I really do not know because I do not frequent any other board, mainly because I do not like confrontational style debates. There is enough of that here.

If you hope to persuade the believers, you must present evidence that goes beyond the possible and answers questions with plausibility or probability. Any theory other than the one that is proposed by Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon itself brings up so many more questions that the proponents of this or that theory do not even try to answer.

Glenn

Link to comment

Dale,

There is a problem inherent in what you are attempting to do. There are no middle grounds here. There are those who believe that the Book of Mormon is just what it claims for itself. And there are those who believe it is a book of fiction written by ________________ (just fill in the blank). I doubt that you can find a disinterested party with the qualifications to look at all of the data that has been generated concerning the Book of Mormon and its origins and draw any kind of reasoned conclusions about its authorship. If there really is such a disinterested person, he/she probably would not be interested in engaging in such a monumental task.

In most cases, I think you are correct. My wife has only a mild curiosity about

the topic -- even though she sees me devote a few hours a week to my studies.

Her opinion is that she does not know where the book came from, and would only

care if it impacted her personal life in some way. Still, because we cooperate,

she sometimes aids me in my research. Basically she does not care about the

outcome -- but wants to conduct the work properly, so as not to introduce errors.

My brother has a little more interest. He has read my reporting, but has not formed

any conclusions. He is mildly interested in the subject -- would probably get more

involved, if I asked him, and offered to pay for the time he contributed.

A better example can be found in Vernal Holley's wife, Deloris. She took an active

interest in her husband's investigations -- helped him at first as an observant

LDS; and later left the Church for a variety of reasons. In her case, the first

years of her helping on the research were as a disinterested assistant -- which

must have meant that her BoM testimony was not very strong.

As an RLDS I was never expected to bear a BoM testimony, so that didn't matter to

me. I started out as a somewhat disinterested investigator. Vernal Holley got me

started, but always seemed one step ahead of me in his willingness to discard the

old traditions of prior generations.

There are probably a few scholars like Mario dePillis and Jann Shipps, who have no

vested interest in whether the BoM is an ancient document or not. But, you are no

doubt correct -- such capable potential investigators must be few and far between.

With any theory we have the impossible, possible, plausible, probable, and certainty.

Maybe there are a couple of more stages that I did not think of (mabe different stages

of probability), but basically with the Book of Mormon origin theories we can throw out

for all practical purposes the two extremes and we are left with everything else in between.

I've met a few people who simply don't care. Mike Marquardt comes to mind. He is an

accomplished student of early Mormonism, but seems to have zero interest in where

the material in the book came from. He now and then cites some parallels with pre-1830

texts -- but I have the feeling that somebody could prove him wrong, on several counts,

and he would admit any mistakes he might have made.

As far as apologetic scholarship is concerned, the LDS side does have more scholars qualified

in different areas, such as linguistics, Egyptian, Hebrew, etc. who have published insights

into different aspects of the Book of Mormon and who have effectively rebutted many of the criticisms and theories concerning the origins of the Book of Mormon.

"Effectively" in whose estimation? Remove all faithful LDS observers as obviously prejudiced,

and who do you have left to make that assessment? Perhaps some of the members of the John

Whitmer Historical Association? We might submit all the LDS apologetics to those people for

an assessment. Certainly there are experts there who are qualified to cast a vote. But I

doubt that they would agree strongly with your statement.

Also, you have to look to your audience. Over on another board that can't be named, I would

expect that your theories are received much more warmly and much less critically than here.

Well, there are always the Brodieites to be contended with -- who say that advocates for

multiple 19th century BoM authorship are just "muddying the waters" of historical re-creation.

"Less critically received" ??? -- perhaps so, but also received with a different sort of

non-interest ---- as in: "Don't talk to me about that stuff. I'm still trying to forget it!"

There is also the problem that they can't make me discard my self-identification as a

Latter Day Saint. Were I to deny my baptism and accuse Jesus of being a fraud, I'd probably

get a much, much better reception. As it is, I get just as much refutation for holding

onto part of Latter Day Saintism "over there," as I get for discarding part of it "over here."

I really do not know because I do not frequent any other board, mainly because I do not like confrontational style debates. There is enough of that here.

Usually doesn't bother me -- unless somebody advocates something clearly unjust, such as

bringing back slavery, or some such off-the-wall notions.

If you hope to persuade the believers, you must present evidence that goes beyond the possible

and answers questions with plausibility or probability. Any theory other than the one that is

proposed by Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon itself brings up so many more questions that

the proponents of this or that theory do not even try to answer.

Glenn

I think that if the "believers" are to be "persuaded," then that influence must come

from the topmost leadership, and not from folks like me.

That's what happened among the RLDS. Going all the way back to Emma Smith, her second

husband, her kids and her close Smith relatives, nobody was a strong supporter of the BoM;

and fewer still of the BoA. It was the D&C that those Smiths promoted. As a result, there

were born and raised Smith family members who were elevated into positions of authority

who never did bear a testimony of the BoM. W. Wallace Smith was evidently the first RLDS

President to totally reject the book's antiquity -- but Frederick M. Smith before him was

a luke-warm defender of its role as a "second witness." In later years the leadership

drifted farther and farther away from the concept of a 19th century testimony, until today

I'd say none of them have it.

Their development along these lines did not much affect the pre-WWII generation, but it has

had a profound effect upon the post-WWII Reorganized Saints (whether in CoC or in independent

branches).

I've seen how to "persuade the believers;" and when effective, such persuasion has nothing

to do with the sort of studies I'm involved in. In the 1950s the RLDS leadership quietly

adopted Fawn Brodie's explanations (privately) and haven't bothered to think about it since.

If anybody knows of any LDS members (other than Craig Criddle) that I have influenced BEFORE

they left the Church, please let me know. I think the total number is somewhere near zero.

Which is probably why you never see a Mormon web-site that attacks me personally. The

apologists just naturally sense that I'm innocuous and my message is benign.

UD

.

Link to comment

...this is why lexical parallels themselves are generally considered very weak.

In the recent post, Dale used

Link to comment

Hi Dale, I have been listening to Craig Criddle's talk. You gives you good praise. His talk is interesting. Mosiah, Alma and Ether he called the "hot spots" Spalding was found in some spots and not in others.Tried to find JSmith and found nothing. In Book of Commandents according to Criddle's new research there are attributed to Rigdon (40 chapters)Little of JS Amazing!!!!!

Link to comment

Hi Dale, I have been listening to Craig Criddle's talk. You gives you good praise. His talk is interesting. Mosiah, Alma and Ether he called the "hot spots" Spalding was found in some spots and not in others.Tried to find JSmith and found nothing. In Book of Commandents according to Criddle's new research there are attributed to Rigdon (40 chapters)Little of JS Amazing!!!!!

Craig is probing the limits of our current textual knowledge,

when it comes to source criticism of the "restoration scriptures."

Since he is still in the exploration and discovery stage, some of

his conclusions will necessarily have to be modified (even dropped)

eventually. Critics like our own Ben will make sure of that.

On the other hand, I look at Craig's current work with admiration

and excitement. I wonder where it all will lead.

Here is a slide from near the end of his talk -- from the point

where he mentions the most recent input of Matt Jockers, in his

isolation of a provisional "Joseph Smith word-print." This too

may have to be adjusted. But at least the Stanford team is now

experimenting with the possibility of adding Smith's voice to their

textual analysis:

CC2--53.gif

More later --

Uncle Dale

Link to comment

Hi Dale, I have been listening to Craig Criddle's talk. You gives you good praise. His talk is interesting. Mosiah, Alma and Ether he called the "hot spots" Spalding was found in some spots and not in others.Tried to find JSmith and found nothing. In Book of Commandents according to Criddle's new research there are attributed to Rigdon (40 chapters)Little of JS Amazing!!!!!

What is amazing is that when Joseph Smith asked Nancy Rigdon to be sealed to him, and Nancy had a negative reaction as did her father, Sidney did not come clean with the fraud, if it were all a fraud. That would have been the time to do so or at least tell his daughter about the fraud and his role in it. But alas, he didn't. Why? Most likely it was because he was not in on the fraud or that there was a fraud. However, if he would have come clean with the fraud if there were a fraud, there would probably be no lds church today. It all would have went up in smoke.

Link to comment

Craig is probing the limits of our current textual knowledge,

when it comes to source criticism of the "restoration scriptures."

Since he is still in the exploration and discovery stage, some of

his conclusions will necessarily have to be modified (even dropped)

eventually. Critics like our own Ben will make sure of that.

More later --

Uncle Dale

If the book of mormon is ever proven a fraud, it will perhaps be one of strangist frauds ever committed when one considers the witnesses, their wives, and Jospeh and Sidney. Quite unbelievable. And when one thinks of JS attempting to be sealed to Rigdon's daughter, that would have to be gutsy to be sure since Sidney would have been in on the fraud and had a negative reaction to the proposal as did Nancy.

I have to say that human nature would have given a different picture if it all were a fraud. I still believe that someone would have fessed up for whatever reason. To have all remain silent seems to contradict human nature. And to have Joseph and his brother Hyrum go to their death for such a fraud is a sign of lunacy, if it were a fraud.

Link to comment

...

if it were a fraud.

There are many, many purported "scriptures" extant in the world -- some of which

supported long-lived religions which have since disappeared from the face of the

earth. Other religions with scriptures have dwindled down to tiny groups, but

their holy books still occupy space on our library shelves. We have already

mentioned the Shakers -- who today reads their scriptures? The Zoroastrians may

have a somewhat larger community, but their ancient holy writings are little read.

Who reads the Kosmon Bible today? Or the revelations of Jemima Wilkinson?

Even James J. Strang's "latter day scriptures" were largely forgotten within

a decade of his death.

Probably, if we stacked up all these sundry "scriptures" in a pile by my desk,

they would break through my ceiling and spill out over the roof.

They cannot all be authentic.

In numerous instances, people have been accused of manufacturing scriptures,

by means that seem very unlikely, for pious, God-fearing people.

Care to explain this ongoing phenomenon?

UD

Link to comment

There are many, many purported "scriptures" extant in the world -- some of which

supported long-lived religions which have since disappeared from the face of the

earth. Other religions with scriptures have dwindled down to tiny groups, but

their holy books still occupy space on our library shelves. We have already

mentioned the Shakers -- who today reads their scriptures? The Zoroastrians may

have a somewhat larger community, but their ancient holy writings are little read.

Who reads the Kosmon Bible today? Or the revelations of Jemima Wilkinson?

Even James J. Strang's "latter day scriptures" were largely forgotten within

a decade of his death.

Probably, if we stacked up all these sundry "scriptures" in a pile by my desk,

they would break through my ceiling and spill out over the roof.

They cannot all be authentic.

In numerous instances, people have been accused of manufacturing scriptures,

by means that seem very unlikely, for pious, God-fearing people.

Care to explain this ongoing phenomenon?

UD

By authentic, do you mean authentic revelations from God? Those tomes were/are authentic scriptures for those who believe in them. Their provenance is hardly in question as to who authored most of them. The only really pertinent question: Are those scriptures written by those inspired of God to do so?

Glenn

Link to comment

By authentic, do you mean authentic revelations from God? Those tomes were/are authentic scriptures for those who believe in them. Their provenance is hardly in question as to who authored most of them. The only really pertinent question: Are those scriptures written by those inspired of God to do so?

Glenn

Well, I suppose that in most cases, the "scriptures" professed by various

religionists have been more or less contemporary with their great leaders

or originators. In that way, at least, the Koran has more in common with

the D&C than it does with the Book of Mormon.

To find a more exact parallel with the Book of Mormon we would have to

search out a religion which promoted scriptures where were not contemporary,

or, at least were asserted not to be contemporary.

The Book of Daniel comes to mind, with the pious Jews of Hellenistic times.

In fact, a people called "saints," well before Christian times. The book

was allegedly written by the ancient Daniel, and the sealed up, to come

forth in the last days. For the Book of Daniel, at least, we have two

questions facing us -- Is it a valid revelation and is it authentic?

We do not have the book found in the temple at the beginning of Josiah's

reign. Supposedly it read something like the canonical Deuteronomy -- or

at least was a version of the Mosaic Law, discarded for generations, which

came forth in the "Restoration" of the one true religion. If we had that

work of scripture now before us, the questions would be revelation/authenticity.

Like I said earlier -- they can't all be authentic, in the sense that they

can't all have been contemporary Divine revelations. We should seek some

explanation of why they were written, if they were not what they purported

to be.

If we choose to give a pass to Deuteronomy, Daniel and the Book of Mormon,

that does not diminish the envisioned stack of pseudo-scripture by my desk,

that reaches up past my ceiling.

Perhaps why-me can shed some light on why these many frauds were written,

accepted, and used as Divine revelation in so many far-flung cultures,

times and places.

My guess is that he'll simply say the Great and Abominable Church fabricated

them all -- and duped Muslims into believing the Koran, etc. etc. etc.

UD

Link to comment

There are many, many purported "scriptures" extant in the world -- some of which

supported long-lived religions which have since disappeared from the face of the

earth. Other religions with scriptures have dwindled down to tiny groups, but

their holy books still occupy space on our library shelves. We have already

mentioned the Shakers -- who today reads their scriptures? The Zoroastrians may

have a somewhat larger community, but their ancient holy writings are little read.

Who reads the Kosmon Bible today? Or the revelations of Jemima Wilkinson?

Even James J. Strang's "latter day scriptures" were largely forgotten within

a decade of his death.

Probably, if we stacked up all these sundry "scriptures" in a pile by my desk,

they would break through my ceiling and spill out over the roof.

They cannot all be authentic.

In numerous instances, people have been accused of manufacturing scriptures,

by means that seem very unlikely, for pious, God-fearing people.

Care to explain this ongoing phenomenon?

UD

The mystery of mormonism is in its beginnings. This is the mystery. It is not all the doctrine that the crtics throw its way because of this or that discourse. It is in the beginnings of the mormon church when a group of guys got to together to create a book out of plates or from their minds.

But with all the people involved and with all the suffering that this project entailed, I just can't see how they all kept their mouths shut about it, if it were all a fraud. This is the mystery. And this is why I brought up Sidney and Nancy. That would have been the time to expose the fraud when Joseph asked Nancy to be sealed to him. And of course we have the problem as to whether Nancy knew of her possible father's involvement or not. And if not why would sidney keep her in the dark? This is the mystery if it is ever proven that sidney wrote the book etc.

Not to mention the other mysteries that can be found in the beginnings of the mormon church which would include people keeping their mouths shut about it, if it were a fraud. With all the people involved, this 'fraud' would be voted the lest likely to succeed. And yet, it has succeeded quite well, if it is a fraud.

Link to comment

The mystery of mormonism...has succeeded quite well, if it is a fraud.

Whether or not the Mormon scriptures are a fraud, you appear to agree that

numerous other religions have manufactured fake scriptures and imposed

those purportedly sacred writings upon their devotees.

Perhaps the volumes of fake scripture ever fabricated run into the hundreds.

The number of phony religions imposed upon credulous humans run into the

dozens, if not the hundreds also.

But -- out of all that fraud and priestcraft, we can single out one instance

which was pure and perfect -- untouched by Lucifer or the Great & Abominable

Church. This one instance is the latter day scriptures, including the pure

(but unfinished) Joseph Smith Translation of the Old and New Testaments, and

various other holy records and writings.

These alone, out of the great number of faulty, phony or fraudulent holy writings

ever imposed upon humanity are trustworthy. They preserve and promulgate the

"fulness of the everlasting gospel."

There is no chance that they contain any fraud, because 13 million living LDS,

and many hundreds of thousands of deceased LDS have borne God-given testimony

that the are true.

Doubt all other purported scriptures, for they may indeed be frauds. People

are prone to easily believe in such fakes. But Mormonism is different. It is true.

Does that just about sum things up?

UD

Link to comment

Whether or not the Mormon scriptures are a fraud, you appear to agree that

numerous other religions have manufactured fake scriptures and imposed

those purportedly sacred writings upon their devotees.

Perhaps the volumes of fake scripture ever fabricated run into the hundreds.

The number of phony religions imposed upon credulous humans run into the

dozens, if not the hundreds also.

But -- out of all that fraud and priestcraft, we can single out one instance

which was pure and perfect -- untouched by Lucifer or the Great & Abominable

Church. This one instance is the latter day scriptures, including the pure

(but unfinished) Joseph Smith Translation of the Old and New Testaments, and

various other holy records and writings.

These alone, out of the great number of faulty, phony or fraudulent holy writings

ever imposed upon humanity are trustworthy. They preserve and promulgate the

"fulness of the everlasting gospel."

There is no chance that they contain any fraud, because 13 million living LDS,

and many hundreds of thousands of deceased LDS have borne God-given testimony

that the are true.

Doubt all other purported scriptures, for they may indeed be frauds. People

are prone to easily believe in such fakes. But Mormonism is different. It is true.

Does that just about sum things up?

UD

Dale, I am answering for myself here, not anyone else. I would not characterize the scriptures of other religions as frauds. But the issue of whether they are a fraud is irrelevant to my belief in the Book of Mormon. I knew it to be true long before I head of any critics and their fantasies. The Church of Jesus Christ is different, because it is true.

Glenn

Link to comment

I don't mean to belabor this particular point, but I think your assessment

of "very weak" is wrong here. I reproduced a selection of fifty-one words

in the exact same order they occur within the confines of half a page of

the current LDS BoM text, between Mosiah 8:10 and Mosiah 8:17.

Fifty-one words, occurring within seven BoM verses -- and I asked if they

would in any way be considered significant, should we happen to find them

on a single page of an old, pre-1830 Ethan Smith manuscript.

I think this would be far stronger than a "very weak" set of textual parallels.

The section of text they are taken from, is the exact section that David

Persuitte reproduced, as bearing a striking resemblance to a certain part

of Ethan Smith's published writings, telling of early 19th century

mound-builder artifacts reported from Ohio -- including a contemporary

comparison of the discovery to Ezekiel's valley of "dry bones" -- a term

which actually occurs immediately before the first word-string in my

offering of excerpts.

I think that if fifty-one roughly similar words (in order) could be

found in both a manuscript and half a page from the Bible, we might

logically suppose that there were some relationship between the two

texts. But, for some reason, this conclusion is resisted for the BoM?

Here is my previously posted set of excerpts from Mosiah 8:

breastplates which are large

is able to interpret the language

these records should be translated

they will give us a knowledge

I am desirous to know

all records that are of ancient date

the same is called a seer

commanded to do these things

gift from God

things which are past

If these fifty-one words indeed constitute a "very weak" correspondence

between the two texts I described in my previous example, then what number

of BoM words, reproduced in exact order in a hitherto unknown old manuscript

WOULD be worth of our attention? 151? -- 251? -- or perhaps 351?

Obviously our respective notions of what a "very weak" parallel might

be, between the BoM and some other pre-1830 text, are markedly different.

UD

Is there a response from LDS about this correspondence? All I see here is a bearing of testimony. A testimony is a good thing to have, no doubt, but why me and glenn seem to use it as a means for not engaging the specifics of your research. Also, is there a link to any of your pages that expands on these correspondences? thanks/G

Link to comment

There are many, many purported "scriptures" extant in the world -- some of which

supported long-lived religions which have since disappeared from the face of the

earth. Other religions with scriptures have dwindled down to tiny groups, but

their holy books still occupy space on our library shelves. We have already

mentioned the Shakers -- who today reads their scriptures? The Zoroastrians may

have a somewhat larger community, but their ancient holy writings are little read.

Who reads the Kosmon Bible today? Or the revelations of Jemima Wilkinson?

Even James J. Strang's "latter day scriptures" were largely forgotten within

a decade of his death.

Probably, if we stacked up all these sundry "scriptures" in a pile by my desk,

they would break through my ceiling and spill out over the roof.

They cannot all be authentic.

In numerous instances, people have been accused of manufacturing scriptures,

by means that seem very unlikely, for pious, God-fearing people.

Care to explain this ongoing phenomenon?

UD

Have you read Richard L. Anderson's essay comparing 3 Nephi to various modern imitation gospels? It's on my top 10 list for Book of Mormon Scholarship, available for free on the FARMS website. There is also a relevant chapter in Nibley's The World and the Prophets on the topic of Letters from Heaven that occasionally showed up. There are some similarities between the letters that Nibley describes and Anderson's observations on the telling differences between the Book of Mormon and other modern gospels.

Over 10 years ago, I ran across Martin Gardner's book on The Urantia Mystery, and reviewed it for the LDS Literature list. Now there is an example of how a committee produces scripture (the Urantia Book, published around 1956), and virtually nothing else. They took several decades to do it. While they began with by interviewing a trance personality (who refused to be identified during his lifetime), they also incorporated several things actually written by the prime committee member, on grounds that they submitted those writings to the trance personality for approval. While Gardner at a couple of points compares it to the Book of Mormon, I find the contrasts most immediately visible and enlightening. It's very odd, esoteric, filled with obsuse language and ideas, easily datable, falls behind science from the moment of its publication, contradicts the New Testament, etc. The kinds of plagiarisms that Gardner observes are far more blatant and complex than anything I've seen attributed to Joseph Smith.

And regarding the 51 roughly similar words in order, I'd like to see the section of the Book of Mormon to which they compare. Could you make a case that they are more impressive, say, than parallel between 1 Nephi and the Narrative of Zosimus? Definition is (by definition) a combination of like and unlike. I've read both Ethan Smith and the Spaulding ms. They both struck me as obviously unlike the Book of Mormon in the ways that matter most. The parallels I've seen strike me as rather ordinary (wars, swords, battlefields, mounds, etc.) given how common parallels are in literature.

Kevin Christensen

Pittsburgh, PA

Link to comment

Is there a response from LDS about this correspondence?

Be careful here, not to misunderstand my posting. What I did was to present a hypothetical

case to Ben, in which a hypothetical pre-1830 manuscript is discovered with fifty-one words

on a single one of its pages, all of which fifty-one words are also present, in the exact

same order, on a single page in the Book of Mormon.

I was not trying to present Ben with a concrete example of textual borrowing. Rather, I was

attempting to determine his standard for evaluating two texts which had a measurable

relationship to each other, in terms of shared words and word order.

Ben looked at my hypothetical case of textual correspondence, and pointed to one segment

of the parallel occurrence of phraseology in the two sources, calling it a weak parallel.

Since he did not comment otherwise, on my hypothetical example, I assume he meant "weak"

to stand as his measurement of the entire example.

All I see here is a bearing of testimony. A testimony is a good thing to have, no doubt,

but why me and glenn seem to use it as a means for not engaging the specifics of your research.

In Ben's responses, he relies upon his training and experiences in statistical probability;

so his input is valuable.I study it carefully.

In the cases of Glenn and why-me, there responses are far less useful. They provide me with

no information relevant to comparing texts. Essentially they say I have not convinced them

that I'm talking about anything remotely convincing -- and, that even if I could convince

a Mormon that my textual comparisons were in any way significant, Mormons will continue to

respond that they do not (or cannot) believe any of my conclusions are possible.

And -- of course not. If I were to convince an Orthodox Jew that the "Books of Moses"

were not written by Moses, he would be cut off from his religion the moment he voiced

his agreement with me. If I could convince a faithful Muslim that the Koran is largely

based upon plagiarisms and demonstrably "false revelations," he would be cut off from

his religion the moment he agreed with me. And on, and on.

So long as the person I am conversing with retains the title of observant LDS, he MUST

disagree with my conclusions, and he MUST express great skepticism about my motivations

and methodology. In some cases, the observant LDS will prematurely conclude that I must

be a tool of Satan, purposely working to destroy the latter day work, because I know full

well that the Book of Mormon is God's truth, but am still leading people to deny that truth.

Also, is there a link to any of your pages that expands on these correspondences? thanks/G

The Ethan Smith hypothetical case I presented to Ben was based upon David Persuitte's

comparison of a small section of Ethan's View of the Hebrews with the Mosiah passage.

Persuitte's Joseph Smith and the Origins of the Book of Mormon is partly available

on-line at the Google Books web-site. In 1954 G. T. Harrison published a fanciful book

called Mormons are Peculiar People. in which he speculated that Ethan Smith had

written a fictional story about Israelite Indians, which was later revamped into the

Book of Mormon by Jpseph Smith. Mr. Harrison's volume is also available on Google Books.

Harrison based his fanciful speculation upon an actual 1887 report, from Ethan Smith's

grandson -- alleging that Ethan Smith's unpublished fictional story formed the basis for

the Book of Mormon. Persuitte was familiar with this 1887 report and included it in his

appendix. Its original publication is reproduced on my web-site, here:

http://www.sidneyrigdon.com/dbroadhu/OH/miscoh05.htm#042487

While I suppose it is possible that the description of "Jaredite ruins" given in Mosiah

somehow depended upon reporting from Ethan Smith's published books (1823,1825) I do not

think this could be proved by textual analysis. Persuitte compares Ethan's reporting to

the narrative in Mosiah, but does not present conclusive evidence of textual borrowing.

So ---- from all of this, what are we to conclude?

That even 51 words from a page in Mosiah, occurring in some pre-1830

source, in the exact same word order, would be rejected by Mormons as

a "weak" textual correspondence, unworthy of further study.

If I agreed with the LDS, in resorting to these sorts of standards, I would have obviously

ended my research decades ago. Giving up any hope of ever getting past "weak," to an

agreement on "strong" instances of textual matches. If a Mormon admits to a "strong"

match, he would probably cease to be a Mormon, the moment he voiced that conclusion.

Uncle Dale

Link to comment

The mystery of mormonism is in its beginnings. This is the mystery. It is not all the doctrine that the crtics throw its way because of this or that discourse. It is in the beginnings of the mormon church when a group of guys got to together to create a book out of plates or from their minds.

But with all the people involved and with all the suffering that this project entailed, I just can't see how they all kept their mouths shut about it, if it were all a fraud. This is the mystery. And this is why I brought up Sidney and Nancy. That would have been the time to expose the fraud when Joseph asked Nancy to be sealed to him. And of course we have the problem as to whether Nancy knew of her possible father's involvement or not. And if not why would sidney keep her in the dark? This is the mystery if it is ever proven that sidney wrote the book etc.

Not to mention the other mysteries that can be found in the beginnings of the mormon church which would include people keeping their mouths shut about it, if it were a fraud. With all the people involved, this 'fraud' would be voted the lest likely to succeed. And yet, it has succeeded quite well, if it is a fraud.

It is a mystery. I hope we'll get a clearer picture over time. I think we will. The word print stuff I think will become more and more of a science and less of an art, and eventually I think it might be the thing that cracks the case.

As for how the conspiracy could ever be kept quiet, I recently have been thinking about the quote where Oliver Cowdery on his deathbed encouraged David Whitmer not to deny his testimony of his plates witnessing. (correct me if I have the context wrong) From the LDS perspective it can be faith affirming, showing these men never gave up their testimony of BOM even when losing testimony of Joseph. From the skeptical perspective it can be viewed as OC recommitting Whitmer to the conspiracy (we've come so far don't blow it now). That kind of reading gives insight into how important OC and SR might have believed the BOM was. In other words, maybe they believed the BOM doctrine was God's will and it would still flood the earth and convert the world to what they believed was true doctrine, despite their belief that Joseph mucked it up for a while.

Link to comment

Have you read Richard L. Anderson's essay comparing 3 Nephi to various modern imitation gospels?

...

Yes, I have. It is an important piece of writing, because Anderson discusses a

seldom addressed topic -- that of putting words into the mouth of Jesus Christ

and passing off the results as Jesus' true communications.

I've long been interested in how this sort of thing has been done in the past,

and how successful those attempts at mimicking Jesus' voice have been. In the

very early years of Christianity there were some attempts to do this -- none

of which made it into the Christian canon.

The first major success in getting readers to accept words falsely attributed

to Jesus occurs in Milton's Paradise Lost, where he presents heavenly

scenes in which God the Father and God the Son discuss the sin of Adam, the

need for an atonement, etc. This is clearly fiction -- but somehow Milton got

away with publishing the purported, hitherto unknown words of Jesus Christ.

That was a major milestone, I believe. Milton paved the way for others to

seemingly quote "new" communications from God and Christ, which need not be

immediately attacked as blasphemy. So, after Milton, we find a few examples,

here and there, where writers have dared to put words in Jesus' mouth, and

submit those concoctions for publication.

You might be interested in looking at one example from your own Pittsburgh,

published in 1827, by Sidney Rigdon's successor in the pastorate of the

First Baptist Church in Pittsburgh:

http://www.sidneyrigdon.com/1827Grtk.htm

Elder Greatrake was not particularly successful with his Harp of Zion.

It never made the best-sellers book-lists. But he was not taken out to be

tarred and feathered, for inventing sentences supposedly spoken by Jesus.

Did Sidney Rigdon read Harp of Zion in 1827? Possibly so -- at least

people who knew Sidney must have read it. And Sidney knew full well that

Elder Greatrake was attacking him personally in other Pittsburgh publications.

So, I think that Sidney knew that the reading public would pass over the

phony words of Jesus, presented in imitation of Milton's epic poetry.

What would the reading public's response been, had the 3rd Nephi Christophany

been published, as fiction, in 1827? First of all, I seriously doubt that

any book printer would have agreed to put such an account before the public.

Presenting such a story, as a fictionalized account of Jesus in America,

would have raised up angry mobs -- in letters to editors, if not on the

doorsteps of the writer and publisher.

No -- the 3rd Nephi narrative could ONLY have been put before the reading public

as a purported revelation from God. And that is exactly what happened in 1830.

I think that articles such as the Anderson piece you point out help us to

understand what elements in 3rd Nephi distinguish it from known fictional accounts

of Jesus' preaching/ministry and from the early Christian apocrypha.

That's a useful to know.

UD

Link to comment

...

That kind of reading gives insight into how important OC and SR might have believed the BOM was.

...

Of course I was not there at Oliver's bedside when he died and I cannot know how

accurate reports of his deathbed confession/profession may have been. I trust

David Whitmer enough to conclude that Oliver said something along the lines of

the book being true and David's witness of it being important.

Beyond that, we are left with the question directed to Craig Criddle at the end

of his recent Spalding-Rigdon theory lecture: "Could the writers of the book have

been sincere?" Criddle credits Cowdery among that small set of writers, and his

answer was that perhaps Cowdery really did believe it was all Divine revelation.

Have there ever been any other promoters of purported "scripture" who believed

its message was true, while keeping secret the actual details of fraud involved

in its preparation and publication?

I think before Criddle can make a case for Oliver being a sincere fraud, he must

first of all present us with some other examples of that phenomenon. And I do not

think that James J. Strang will serve as such an example. I think he knew that his

purported latter day scriptures were false, and promoted them to gain personal power.

If Criddle is correct, I'd like to see some verified examples of sincere religious

frauds.

Uncle Dale

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...