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Rob Bowman

Multiple attestation lacking for the core LDS events

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All,

Kolipoki09 and I exchanged some thoughts on another thread that I think merit separate discussion. I had stated that any new revelation, to be accepted by Christians, ought to cohere with previous, already established revelations (i.e., the Bible) and have cogent evidence supporting them. Kolipoki asked me what I meant by cogent evidence. I replied:

"Cogent evidence" would include, for starters, multiple, independent witnesses to any major, dispensation-changing, religiously revolutionary events of the order of magnitude of the resurrection of Christ. This is something we just don't have for the major events on which the LDS Church's claims rest. I would be happy to elaborate on this observation if you're interested.

Kolipoki responded:

We have multiple accounts of several witnesses (particularly in the cases of the Kirtland Temple Dedication and the Transfiguration of Brigham Young) that testify of the Resurrected Lord and the prophetic callings of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. I would love for you to elaborate on how the LDS Church consistently lacks revolutionary events and independent witnesses. The story of Moses and the burning bush is based on only the testimony of Moses which is later reaffirmed by others to whom he told the story. Are multiple, independent witnesses required to validate all truth? I would agree that in the mouth of two or three witnesses that every truth should be established, and were this the case, almost every significant theological event in the History of the LDS Church has been in fact validated. Just a few thoughts. I could elaborate if you're interested as well.

It is this issue of what I described as

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Do you have cogent evidence for the revelation at Sinai?

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Wait a minute. Who besides Saul/Paul allegedly saw or heard the Master?

There's no witness besides him, and the "circumstantial evidence" is only how his alleged experience affected him.

JSJr, as a relatively young man, saw the very strong parallels between his own experience and that of Saul/Paul. He even wrote about how these parallels struck him.

BTW: I'm not very impressed with your taxonomy.

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Do you have cogent evidence for the revelation at Sinai?

Or how about the calling of Isaiah? or Jerimiah? or Jonah?

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You said, " Israel was supposed to believe Moses on the strength of the wonders that God did through him and because what Moses said and did fulfilled God

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Actually, many or most of the revelatory experiences of the establishment of Mormonism are witnessed -- the plates, Peter, James & John, John the Baptist, at least one appearance of Jesus in Kirtland, and so forth.

As with the Hebrew Bible, some are witnessed and some are not. Who was a witness to the Adam & Eve story in the Garden of Eden? Does it improve upon the Bible that two, and not just one, were involved there? Who was a witness to God's dealing with Cain? In fact, I wonder how the Cain story even got in the Bible; did Cain report what happened to him to some prophet of God? I doubt it. How do we know about God's dealing with Ishmael and his mother? These are pretty important stories.

On the other hand, many saw the miracles of Moses, but as one pointed out, none saw God appear to Moses on Sinai. So, the revelatory experience encompasses many different types.

Mormonism teaches that the Book of Mormon is a witness to the ministry of Joseph Smith, and there were eyewitnesses to the plates as well as a spiritual witness.

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While I understand the good intentions, I believe we humans get ourselves into spiritual trouble when we take it upon ourselves to dictate the basis upon which God's revelations will be generally accepted and considered "true", rather than leaving that up to God, himself.

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

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Likewise, the apostle Paul did not go around saying, "Jesus appeared to me and made me an apostle; trust me, I was there!" Instead, while telling his story, he also cited circumstantial evidence supporting the likelihood of his story being true. This evidence included his previous persecution of the church, his subsequent persecutions by Jewish and pagan authorities for preaching the gospel, his sacrificial lifestyle, the miracles that God performed through his ministry, and the witness of Jesus

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Volgadon,

You wrote:

Do you have cogent evidence for the revelation at Sinai?

Good question. For the specific event of God speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, no. For the Exodus event -- the complex of occurrences involving a series of calamities that came upon Egypt and the escape of the Israelites into the wilderness -- the answer is Yes. Contrary to the conventional wisdom among historians, I maintain (and I'm not alone) that there is abundant evidence for the Exodus. Most historians are looking in the wrong archaeological level of dirt for corroborating evidence.

Although I do not have any way of directly corroborating the specific event of God speaking to Moses on Sinai, the evidence for the Exodus complex of events strongly confirms the reliability of the account in the book of Exodus as well as the prophetic office of Moses. (Who would question Sinai, once convinced of the ten plagues and the crossing of the Red Sea?) Furthermore, the original "witnesses" to the event on Sinai were in the thousands. Moses brought down tablets from Sinai that anyone who wished at the time could see. The Israelites all saw the pillar of fire and cloud that led them through the wilderness. They all witnessed the terrifying judgments that came on many of them when they sinned (e.g., in the incident of the golden calf). These events were passed down from one generation to the next as the core of the Israelite nation's historical consciousness. For the Jews, these events had "multiple attestation" in the extreme.

As a Christian, I view the event of God speaking to Moses on Sinai as a crucial element in the OT narrative, but it is debatable whether it is a level-one event for Christianity. The level-one events for Christianity are the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Those are the foundational historical events of the Christian faith.

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USU78,

You wrote:

I'm not very impressed with your taxonomy.

That's okay. I'm not very impressed with your objection to it. dirol.gif

I will respond to your question about Saul in a separate post, since others have expanded on that issue.

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Vance,

You wrote:

Or how about the calling of Isaiah? or Jerimiah? or Jonah?

Irrelevant, since these events are all at best second-level events and arguably are all third-level events, since they were private revelations to those men. Christianity does not stand or fall on those men's personal experiences.

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Charity,

Thanks for your response. I am unaware of any wonders that God did through Joseph Smith that would be even somewhat comparable to the wonders God did through Moses. I am also unaware of anything Joseph Smith did in clear fulfillment of God's promises.

You said, " Israel was supposed to believe Moses on the strength of the wonders that God did through him and because what Moses said and did fulfilled God

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rcrocket,

Thanks for your comments, but perhaps you did not follow some of the points I made in my opening post. None of the events you mentioned are first-level events, either those in Mormonism or those in the Old Testament. The fact that there were eyewitnesses to the existence of some metal plates is specifically addressed in my post.

Actually, many or most of the revelatory experiences of the establishment of Mormonism are witnessed -- the plates, Peter, James & John, John the Baptist, at least one appearance of Jesus in Kirtland, and so forth.

As with the Hebrew Bible, some are witnessed and some are not. Who was a witness to the Adam & Eve story in the Garden of Eden? Does it improve upon the Bible that two, and not just one, were involved there? Who was a witness to God's dealing with Cain? In fact, I wonder how the Cain story even got in the Bible; did Cain report what happened to him to some prophet of God? I doubt it. How do we know about God's dealing with Ishmael and his mother? These are pretty important stories.

On the other hand, many saw the miracles of Moses, but as one pointed out, none saw God appear to Moses on Sinai. So, the revelatory experience encompasses many different types.

Mormonism teaches that the Book of Mormon is a witness to the ministry of Joseph Smith, and there were eyewitnesses to the plates as well as a spiritual witness.

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That's okay. I'm not very impressed with your objection to it. dirol.gif

:P

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Wade,

I am in fact leaving it up to God to tell us on what basis we should accept revelations as being from God. I explained in my opening post that God has told us in the Bible repeatedly to look for multiple witnesses. My other stipulation, that any new revelations must cohere with what we know God has already revealed, also has support from God himself in the Bible.

Where we humans really get ourselves into spiritual trouble is when we ignore what God has already said, and what God has already demonstrated is true, in order to hold on to what we have chosen to believe.

While I understand the good intentions, I believe we humans get ourselves into spiritual trouble when we take it upon ourselves to dictate the basis upon which God's revelations will be generally accepted and considered "true", rather than leaving that up to God, himself.

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

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Irrelevant, since these events are all at best second-level events and arguably are all third-level events, since they were private revelations to those men. Christianity does not stand or fall on those men's personal experiences.

Theophonies on behalf of all Israel, or Judah, are "personal experiences"? Please explain.

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cks,

Thanks for your comments.

You wrote:

First, I'm on your side in this debate. I believe the account of Paul's vision describes an historical event.

Cool.

You wrote:

(I would also hold that it is likely that Joseph Smith experienced something in the grove.)

This is probably a subject for a separate thread, but I don't see why this is likely. Joseph never said anything about it to anyone, so far as we can tell, for at least twelve years after it supposedly happened, and then only in a written document seen by a scribe in 1832 and promptly put in a drawer somewhere, remaining unknown until the 1960s. The first account of Joseph seeing anyone specifically in the grove in 1820 was composed in 1838 or 1839, 18 or 19 years after it allegedly happened. As far as I can tell, the founding of the LDS Church happened without any knowledge or assumption of the occurrence of the First Vision, and if Joseph Smith had never told the story, it would have made little difference. Yet the LDS Church has elevated that story into the foundational event of the Restoration and predicated the truth of Mormonism on its historical occurrence.

You wrote:

But, it does seem that, per your elucidation, Paul's visionary experience can be classed as an event without multiple attestation. Surely, we have no evidence that Luke's account of it fulfills the requirements of multiple attestation. Circumstantial evidence adduced in favor of the event cannot count as a second or third independent witness of the event itself. It may make the event more likely, but only while assuming a single source of attestation. That is, we have no textual evidence that Luke was not completely dependent upon Paul's recounting of the event. It would seem that Paul's visionary experience would be a second-level event in your taxonomy. Am I misreading you at this point?

More or less, yes. Paul's specific experience of seeing Christ was in and of itself a second-level event. Christianity would be true if this had happened or if it had not happened, but it provides some supplemental evidence for the truth of Christianity. In this case, however, this supplemental evidence is directly relevant to the first-level event of the Resurrection.

That having been said, what you call "circumstantial evidence" is very strong evidence supporting Paul's testimony. That he was an opponent of the church was known to the apostles and other Christians. That he had some sort of dramatic conversion was a fact. That he personally saw the risen Jesus, however, is something for which we do not have independent testimony--but that in no way matters.

Look at it this way. The first-level event in question is the resurrection of Jesus. For this event we have several independent witnesses, namely, each person who saw Jesus alive after his death and burial and who reported that encounter. For each of these individuals, their own experience was their own experience. Paul experienced his encounter with Jesus; Peter experienced his; James experienced his; Mary Magdalene experienced hers. Evidently these four individuals each had a one-on-one encounter with the risen Jesus. Yet every time this issue of multiple witnesses comes up, people invoke the experience of Paul as if it counted against the principle. Why? Our faith is not in Paul, but in the risen Jesus, to the fact of which Paul is just one of many witnesses.

Paul never said, "If Christ did not appear to me, our faith is in vain." Rather, he said, "If Christ has not been raised, our faith is in vain." On the other hand, LDS Church presidents and other leaders have repeatedly said that if God the Father and Jesus Christ did not appear specifically to Joseph Smith, then the LDS faith is in vain. The difference is that Joseph Smith is himself personally important to Mormonism because without him there is no Restoration.

USU78 mentioned that Joseph Smith actually compared his experience to that of Paul. The comparison actually creates problems for the LDS claim, because Paul's witness to the risen Christ was just one of many, whereas Smith's witness to the foundational event of the Restoration was a solitary witness with no supporting or corroborating witnesses.

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USU78,

The theophanies experienced by Isaiah and other OT prophets were experiences of intense importance to them personally, but those prophets never predicated the truth of their messages on those events. Isaiah never said anything like, "And thou shalt believe all that I tell you, because verily, Jehovah did appear to me." The prophets based the truth of their messages on God's prior revelation (especially the covenant that God made with Israel through Moses) and on the facts (especially the facts about Israel's violation of the commandments that were part of that covenant).

Theophonies on behalf of all Israel, or Judah, are "personal experiences"? Please explain.

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The fact that there were eyewitnesses to the existence of some metal plates is specifically addressed in my post.

Three of the eleven witnesses, in addition to Joseph Smith who makes twelve, saw an angel as well. Said angel told them that the Book of Mormon was a divine work. http://en.fairmormon.org/Three_Witnesses http://www.lightplanet.com/mormons/book_of_mormon/witnesses.html

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Good question. For the specific event of God speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, no. For the Exodus event -- the complex of occurrences involving a series of calamities that came upon Egypt and the escape of the Israelites into the wilderness -- the answer is Yes. Contrary to the conventional wisdom among historians, I maintain (and I'm not alone) that there is abundant evidence for the Exodus. Most historians are looking in the wrong archaeological level of dirt for corroborating evidence.

Please elaborate. You appear to be relying on evidence even weaker than that for LDS truth claims.

Although I do not have any way of directly corroborating the specific event of God speaking to Moses on Sinai, the evidence for the Exodus complex of events strongly confirms the reliability of the account in the book of Exodus as well as the prophetic office of Moses. (Who would question Sinai, once convinced of the ten plagues and the crossing of the Red Sea?) Furthermore, the original "witnesses" to the event on Sinai were in the thousands. Moses brought down tablets from Sinai that anyone who wished at the time could see. The Israelites all saw the pillar of fire and cloud that led them through the wilderness. They all witnessed the terrifying judgments that came on many of them when they sinned (e.g., in the incident of the golden calf). These events were passed down from one generation to the next as the core of the Israelite nation's historical consciousness. For the Jews, these events had "multiple attestation" in the extreme.

So no cogent evidence after all.

Events in LDS sacred history were also passed down from one generation to the next, so?

With no cogent evidence, we don't actuall know that there were witnesses, or what it was they witnessed.

As a Christian, I view the event of God speaking to Moses on Sinai as a crucial element in the OT narrative, but it is debatable whether it is a level-one event for Christianity. The level-one events for Christianity are the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Those are the foundational historical events of the Christian faith.

I would say it is pretty important, becauuse Christianity holds itself as the successor to Judaism, does it not?

If we take away such a level-one event for the OT, then doesn't the NT crumble because of building on it?

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In order to accept your premsie, we have to ignore the witnesses of those who were with Joseph when:

The Witnesses of the Book of Mormon saw the plates and Angel

The Aaronic Priesthood was restored

The Melchesidek Priesthood was restored

The Appearance of Moses, Elias, and Elijah to restore the keys to the Priesthood Orders

The Vision of the Three Degrees of Glory

The Appearance of the Father and the Son to the School of the Prophets

The visions at the Kirtland Temple dedication

The day of healing in Nauvoo

You are seriously going to argue that there were no witnesses? good luck

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The theophanies experienced by Isaiah and other OT prophets were experiences of intense importance to them personally, but those prophets never predicated the truth of their messages on those events. Isaiah never said anything like, "And thou shalt believe all that I tell you, because verily, Jehovah did appear to me." The prophets based the truth of their messages on God's prior revelation (especially the covenant that God made with Israel through Moses) and on the facts (especially the facts about Israel's violation of the commandments that were part of that covenant).

I'm looking around for the rabbit with the waistcoat and pocket watch.

In Isaiah 13, Isaiah delivers a specific message from G-d to Babylon, presumably both the people and the rulers. No prior revelation bore much on the "burden" Isaiah unloaded on them. It wouldn't matter a d@mn what had been previously written by Moses or Enoch or Methusaleh or anybody else, since the specific message was delivered to Isaiah either by G-d Himself or a messenger on G-d's behalf for further delivery to Israel's ancient enemy.

It doesn't much affect Isaiah other than, I suppose, in the nature of the effect on Jonah of his "burden" to be delivered to the Assyrians in Ninevah. To call it intensely important to Isaiah, but not for Babylon or, indirectly, to the Israelites who were, like us today, spectators, is to do great damage to the text.

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Examples of level-one events include the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

There is not a single witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ; i.e., no one actually saw him rise from the tomb. We only have third and fourth-hand accounts, written many decades after the fact, which contradict each other regarding who was there afterward, what they saw and what was said.

You might say that two people are testifying (you and I), but that would not be

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RB - I'll play from a former atheist position for part of this. Point is based on all 3 levels that you propose as viable evidence can support any physical or personal view of Christs existence. There is not one shred of physical and historical independent accounting of Christs existence. You only have hearsay stories written 100 years after the supposed death of Christ. Told by supposedly personal witnesses close to Christ. This in essence fits with the same rhetoric proclaimed by LDS of the witnesses accounts concerning the BoM. There is no Roman or Greek records showing his birth or death. Nothing from Pilate, Augustus, Caiaphas, etc....

Let's look at the disciples. We have none regarding Peter, Simon, etc... We only have hearsay stories from writers born after the supposed time of Christ. However I know that you will in turn cite these sources as true and credible witnesses, but in turn I will disprove their existence and so forth.

Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Mormonism, etc... all rely on testimony of proposed witnesses. It is not on historical fact, but it is on faith on what words were written. It is on faith that what the writer is citing credible witnesses. It is about faith and a matter of perspective of how you choose to interpret a scripture and what it means to you. There will never be in any religion who is truer or better because that is how the Lord has presented his word.

As Christ expounded:

Luke 12:51-53

51 Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division:

52 For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three.

53 The father shall be divided against the son, and the son againstthe father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.

Gospel of Thomas:

16. Jesus said, "Perhaps people think that I have come to cast peace upon the world. They do not know that I have come to cast conflicts upon the earth: fire, sword, war.

For there will be five in a house: there'll be three against two and two against three, father against son and son against father, and they will stand alone."

Now why did I quote a Scripture from the Gospel of Thomas? It is in demonstration that other books existed. It too was written at the supposed time of Christ. I'm sure you know it's history. It is one of many books tossed out by the Council of Nicea as deemed not having viable witnesses. However we also know that it actually conflicts with the views of men who could not comprehend such teachings, and found it conflicting to their ultimate purpose of having one true church.

It all comes down to faith in that a modern prophet can exist. Not cogent evidence as proposed by yourself. Otherwise you must assert that Muslims are false also. As Muhammad could not exist as a prophet. It all ended with Christ. You must also conclude that Catholicism is false as Popes cannot receive prophetic revelations in regard to Christian counseling. You must also conclude based on cogent evidence that Martin Luther had prophetic revelations to which you cannot sustain. I hope I getting my point across.

Joseph Smith had a prophetic revelation. Moses summed it up best.

Num 11:25-30

25 And the Lord came down in a acloud, and spake unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy b: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they c, and did not cease.

26 But there remained two of the men in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad: and the spirit rested upon them; and they were of them that were written, but went not out unto the tabernacle: and they prophesied in the camp.

27 And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp.

28 And aJoshua the son of b, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them.

29 And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord

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In order to accept your premsie, we have to ignore the witnesses of those who were with Joseph when:

The Witnesses of the Book of Mormon saw the plates and Angel

The Aaronic Priesthood was restored

The Melchesidek Priesthood was restored

The Appearance of Moses, Elias, and Elijah to restore the keys to the Priesthood Orders

The Vision of the Three Degrees of Glory

The Appearance of the Father and the Son to the School of the Prophets

The visions at the Kirtland Temple dedication

The day of healing in Nauvoo

You are seriously going to argue that there were no witnesses? good luck

I gathered from his OP that he is looking for viable witnesses that are independent of never knowing Joseph Smith.

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