Jump to content

Spalding: The Dead Horse that Won't Die


4truth

Recommended Posts

So on the "Is the BOM Homogeneous?" thread Ben & Chris & I were going at it again regarding the Spalding/Rigdon theory.

My position is that the S/R theory best explains the BOM.

Chris's theory is that Joseph Smith produced the BOM.

And, best as I can tell, Ben believes ancient Nephites were real, the BOM is an authentically ancient compilation of books, translated into English by Joseph Smith in 1829... but he does not wish to defend the BOM from that perspective, rather, when it comes to debates with skeptics (or at least this skeptic), he seems to take Chris's position when pressed to offer a credible alternative. So for the purpose of this discussion, I think Ben would simply adopt Chris's position as his own leaving a vacancy when it comes to defending the official version.

If I have mischaracterized any of that, Ben, please do correct it, but I think that is an accurate assessment. I think it's also fair to insist that we do take a position of some sort to defend and the reason is that the Book of Mormon is real. It exists. So it had to come from somewhere. The debate then is which explanation best explains it's existence and it's generally much easier to poke holes in somebody else's explanation than to defend your own. I will not get into any debate in which I am required to defend S/R but can offer no criticism or raise no question about the alternative theories.

Again, my contention is that when all the evidence is taken into consideration and weighed in terms of pros and cons for each of the three main competing theories represented by Ben's perspective (the official account); Chris's perspective (Smith alone) and my perspective (S/R) then, in my opinion, the Spalding/Rigdon theory best explains the data.

So, if we're willing to discuss the matter on those terms, then let's have some fun.

First, I am not, nor have I ever been a scholar. My arguments are common sense and little else. I run a business so I do not have time to go chasing down homework assignments or following endless links to various articles. No amount of cajoling will change that. If someone else wants to and has the time, fine by me.

On the other thread, in response to me, Ben writes:

You're right, we've been down this road before. Holley notes something quite unusual (actually this is just one example of several unusual somethings between the two works) and you pull up your favorite quotes critical of parallel hunters in renaissance plays. You highlight the (expected and explainable) differences as though they somehow totally negate the similarities. You seem to want the same story reprinted word for word before you will accept it as something unusual.

Not at all. I want something reasonable. The problem is that for you, what you have is reasonable. It cannot be coincidence you say - but, you have nothing to base it on. Merely your own intuition. What you have is a methodological house of cards.

First, in my opinion, what you demand is unreasonable.

Second, yes, I do think what I have is reasonable.

Third, "it cannot be coincidence" is NOT what I say. Instead I am asking you to tell me what it is. I am saying that it appears to me that the only reasonable explanation you can give is coincidence. (Correct me if I am wrong, please.) Further, I am agreeing, yes, it can be coincidence, but I am pointing out that in the absence of a better explanation, coincidence seems unlikely. However, if you can give a better explanation, I am all ears.

Fourth, no, I am not merely going off my intuition, although that does enter the equation. Instead, I am considering the bigger picture... I am considering the parallels in a way you refuse to... I take into consideration the allegations made by credible witnesses in 1833, coupled with further allegations made later, coupled with the initial reaction of S/R critics (like you) in 1884, coupled with subsequent observations by Holley, Broadhurst and others, coupled with the Jockers data and now finally including Bruce's PC chart and now Dale's charts. I take all of that context into consideration as I look at the specific set of parallels that prompted this discussion.

Fifth, if what I "have is a methodological house of cards" so be it. I have a brain that usually serves me well. I can see parallels and know what they are just like I can see obscenity and know what it is. In effect, you're trying to tell me the obscenity I know I am seeing is really not that bad and you've got experts to back you up. Forgive me if I choose to go with what my eyes are telling me.

If it were simply this one set of parallels, your case against the broader comparison of Spalding to the BOM would be reasonable. If it were simply a few obscure observations of similar shared phrases, we could all agree that there's not much here to go on. Of course, it's merely my subjective opinion, but, IMHO your best attempts to paint each independent component as "bad evidence" fail which, in turn, dooms your larger point that the resulting combination is therefore worthless.

But all it is is a set of parallels. There is no other evidence Roger.

As I just pointed out, there is a lot of other evidence. What you mean is that there is no other evidence you are willing to consider. That's your prerogative, but there is additional evidence.

You have built a monument of speculation without a shred of evidence. Every time I have asked you to present some formal methodology (and there are certainly several out there), you simply opt out. You aren't interested in making a reasonable argument - you merely want to continue asserting the same thing over and over again. And, to be honest, it simply doesn't work.

You mean it doesn't work for you. I am not a scholar. If I were, then developing some "formal methodology" might be a reasonable demand. As it is, it simply isn't. My common sense arguments are reasonable. You may disagree with them all you wish, but that doesn't mean they are unreasonable.

Regardless, it is apparent that no matter how detailed the parallels get, you will focus on the differences and then claim those differences cancel out the similarities.

This is easy for you to say, but, you have NEVER given me any significant details. This list of eleven parallels is not detailed. It seems to be attempting (as I point out) to reduce the two narratives to very common denominators just to make the theory stick.

The interesting thing in what you just stated is this: "reduce the two narratives to very common denominators"

I note that if those "very common denominators" were not present in both texts we could not reduce them to those elements and the theory would crash. So thanks for emphasizing that important point.

And never have you attempted to deal with the actual differences that occur - difference which are plainly obvious to anyone who reads the texts in context. The stories are not the same - only in creating soundbites of them can you even begin to argue that they are like each other - only in the most general terms.

First no one denies that there are differences. And I think we can all agree that to demand the same story in both texts is an absurd demand. So the question is raised, what would it take to raise your eyebrow? You tell me. How much more similar would Alma 43 have to be to the Oberlin Manuscript for you to take notice and at the very least admit there was something unusual here? What is YOUR standard? (It would be really nice if you could sum it up briefly in your own words rather than quoting someone else's long list). And by the way I am asking with regard to the specific set of parallels I mentioned on the other thread that you commented on. What I am asking, is how much closer would the texts have to have been before you would even be open to the idea of common authorship?

Now with regard to my explanation for the differences... simple...

1. The Oberlin Manuscript was the original idea. Alma probably represents an expanding on the original idea.

2. Rigdon may have added details.

3. Smith may have added details.

4. Cowdery may have added details.

I'm guessing you will not react positively to those possibilities but they are valid and reasonable possibilities just the same.

We try to get more detailed and we end up with what I posted. What I see here is denial - you suggest that I won't care how detailed you get - but lets try it once, shall we?

We just did. I listed Holley's parallels, most of which are sequential and you blow them off like they are nothing.

Why don't you try dealing with my concerns in a detailed fashion. Use the texts. Show me how my analysis of the parallels is inappropriate. Because personally, I think that you are simply blowing smoke here.

Could be that we're both blowing some smoke. I am going to admit something I shouldn't... but I am going to anyway. I do not have a paper copy of the Oberlin Manuscript. The only one I have access to is online and it is cumbersome to try to look stuff up that way. I intended to copy and print Dale's online version at some point, but there are a lot of pages and I have not accomplished that yet. So a large part of what I have to go on at this point is what Holley writes. I probably should just bite the bullet, stock up on ink and paper and print it.

To sum up your criticism, if I might, you seem to be saying that the parallels Holley lists are not as flashy as he presents them when you break them down. I think it's equally unimpressive to simply dismiss them as though they are nothing. Again, there has to be something there in order for us to be able to "reduce the two narratives to very common denominators." Those common denominators have to be there or we wouldn't even be having this discussion.

Any truly objective observer can see the similarities exist. Heck, even biased observers can see them. So they either exist because of coincidence or dependence.

Any objective observer can find similarities between any two texts. It doesn't matter what the texts are. Give me two texts and I can tabulate similarities between them. I have already demonstrated this.

I don't care about any two texts. I care about whether or not there is a connection of some sort between the BOM and Spalding.

That isn't the issue here. The issue is whether those similarities come even close to establishing a claim that one text is reliant on another, or that one text was at least in part authored by a particular individual. That is the question here.

Agreed. So then let me ask you this... with a straight face, can you tell me, based on all we know about the whole controversy, that Spalding could not possibly have contributed any text that eventually made it's way into the BOM?

...continued...

Link to comment

...continuing...

I have never alleged that parallels didn't exist. I have consistently alleged that they are contrived.

No, I said critics like yourself--meaning critics of S/R (in 1884) who believed the BOM is what it claims to be.

Holley and Broadhurst both present nothing more than parallelomania. I have yet to see a defense against that charge.

That's because it's a ridiculous charge. Consider this... neither Holley or Broadhurst are responsible for what is written in either the BOM or the Oberlin manuscript. All they are doing is pointing out similarities already there that--once they point them out--anyone can see. There is no "mania" there other than perhaps your overreaction to it. If you think everything they point out is there by coincidence, then just say so. If you have a better explanation, we are all ears. But constantly exclaiming "parallelomania" does nothing.

There is no question that the kind of approach involving two columns displaying parallels is easy to make, is convenient - it even looks good. There is also no doubt that in the academy, such presentations are nearly universally considered deceptive - and consequently not useful as evidence for the claims that are being made.

Forgive me Ben but...... I'm just not buying it. Putting the texts side by side is deceptive?? Come on.

And yet, now we have critics on the other side (like Chris Smith) who suggests it was these and other similarities that led the Conneaut witnesses to conclude there was indeed a connection between the two works!

Yes, funny that.

That's it? Funny that??? What I stated is the truth--unless Chris wants to change his opinion or explain how I mischaracterized it. My understanding is that Chris concedes there are parallels there Ben and from that he concludes the Conneaut witnesses made their "false" connection. So what we have, in effect, then, is two critics of the S/R theory arriving at contradictory conclusions about whether there are actually parallels there that are significant enough for people to make a connection.

You insist that these parallels imply some kind of biological connection in the case of the Book of Mormon and Spalding, but you insist that there is no reason to make that same assertion for the much better parallels in the letters that Hurlbut collected. Why is this?

Really? I do that? When?

Was the Book of Mormon a source used by the translator of Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days? If not, then why can I find similar connections between it and the Book of Mormon as Dale finds between the Spalding text and the Book of Mormon?

Alright then, let's issue a challenge based on that. Pull your best set of sequential parallels from Verne to the BOM and let's have a look. To qualify, they will need to take place within the span of approximately two chapters from each work.

Its not that the connection between the Verne book and the Book of Mormon is very strong, its that the connection between the Spalding text and the Book of Mormon is quite weak. The problem is that you have never looked at any other texts - you have never compared them (Dale hasn't either). If you compared the Book of Mormon in such a detailed fashion to the rest of early 19th century literature, you would find this to be the case. At best, the Spalding connection is typical.

Well then... my expectations are raised that much higher. Good luck.

Even though they claim to have read about Nephi and Lehi (etc.), we know they were actually exposed to the Oberlin Manuscript (because no other manuscript exists and it's irrational to think that if it ever did it wouldn't now) and came to their false memories because, by george, there are some parallels there after all!

The way that you would come up with a good argument for the Hurlbut texts is to show details in the Hurlbut documents that aren't attested elsewhere. There isn't a single one of those documents that actually requires exposure to any Spalding manuscript. Every one of the details in them can be accounted for in published material about the Book of Mormon.

Okay, let's run with that. So then... your point is that Hurlbut implanted everything that has anything to do with the BOM into their brains using published material?

They all recognize Nephi and Lehi (but where is Zerahemnah? Or even Lobaska or Hadokam?)

Great point. So from that, we can conclude that they actually read about Nephi and Lehi and were telling the truth, or they actually read about Lobaska and Hadokam and were lying or or they actually read about Lobaska and Hadokam and yet they thought they were telling the truth. Which explanation do you choose?

We get this wonderful geographic connection where Zarahemla is placed relative to real world locations - only to discover that quite some time earlier, Pratt had already been teaching this geography model (and we find it published in local newspapers).

And Jockers now tells us Pratt was in on the details before publication--even possibly contributing some the text! If Pratt was exposed to Spalding's manuscript or a reworked ms by Sidney Rigdon, that would explain why it is Pratt we find lecturing about BOM locations not even Joseph is supposed to know about!

Its not that your theory isn't demonstrable - its that you simply haven't done it. You keep repeating this litany of how no one will accept your position because of a prior bias.

When did I say that? I simply say that your bias presents a barrier to you giving the evidence even a fair shake. I never said the rest of the world has the same problem.

My rejection is the fault of a bias - its a rejection of your presentation of the theory. There is no evidence for it.

Should I be thanking Freud for the above admission? ;)

....okay so now I remember another reason I don't like posting here... there is a limit on quote numbers! I am simply trying to respond to your post and yet at this late hour run into another road block. I'm getting too tired to try to figure out a solution... I will try this

It's not just a detailed set of parallels in Alma 37 as this thread illustrates. I merely brought that one example up in response to your challenge to Dale to come up with something uniquely "Spaldingish."

Then you completely misunderstood my use of the phrase. What makes something Spaldingish isn't that Spalding uses it.

Of course I realize that. My assertion is that at some point sequential parallels become unique.

We expect that Spalding himself plagiarized as much as anyone else does (as William Inge once wrote: "What is originality? Undetected plagiarism. This is probably itself a plagiarism, but I cannot remember who said it before me.") Spaldingish language is the things that occur in Spalding that don't occur elsewhere. Your list of 11 parallels doesn't even begin to approach something Spaldingish.

.....

If this was just an example, then bring me more. I can tear them all apart - its not hard, because its not detailed. I am certainly willing to look at them - but perhaps instead you would be willing to respond to the detailed analysis I provided above. I think it would be a good place for you to start.

So 9-11 parallels that follow a sequential order "doesn't even begin to approach something" unique? How many does it take to get your attention?

.....

I've responded to quite a bit, but I have to admit I'm getting tired at this point.

Of course it's merely my opinion, but to blatantly plagiarize, I'm beginning to conclude that S/R critics "do not, as a rule, set out to be truthful and impartial. They are hell-bent on proving a point."

Ah yes. Well let me leave you with the final remarks that that particular author made at the conclusion of his nine vices (and before I do, I want to point out that I am in fact using recognized scholarship on the subject - and you are using .... what?):

LOL. Actually I'm not surprised what I use slipped your mind... it's called common sense. :P

All the best!

Roger

Link to comment

Roger writes:

And, best as I can tell, Ben believes ancient Nephites were real, the BOM is an authentically ancient compilation of books, translated into English by Joseph Smith in 1829... but he does not wish to defend the BOM from that perspective, rather, when it comes to debates with skeptics (or at least this skeptic), he seems to take Chris's position when pressed to offer a credible alternative. So for the purpose of this discussion, I think Ben would simply adopt Chris's position as his own leaving a vacancy when it comes to defending the official version.
Actually, what I think is that any proposal of authorship of the Book of Mormon needs to be considered on its own merits and not as a reflection of comparison (i.e. my theory makes more sense than theory X). There doesn't need to be a "credible alternative" to discover that any particular theory is bad. Just as we shouldn't have to make the argument that theory X is good by comparison to theory Y.

However, in making any argument, you ought to be able to deal with various other arguments and their claims. I simply do not choose to defend the orthodox version of the Book of Mormon's origins. Not because I don't think it is possible, but because there seems to be no value to it in these specific discussions. Inevitably (and it has never happened otherwise) the argument is reduced to the angel question. And since that seems to be the barrier beyond which reasonable discussion with the critics falls apart, there simply is no incentive to go there.

If I have mischaracterized any of that, Ben, please do correct it, but I think that is an accurate assessment. I think it's also fair to insist that we do take a position of some sort to defend and the reason is that the Book of Mormon is real. It exists. So it had to come from somewhere. The debate then is which explanation best explains it's existence and it's generally much easier to poke holes in somebody else's explanation than to defend your own. I will not get into any debate in which I am required to defend S/R but can offer no criticism or raise no question about the alternative theories.
With regard to this comment, my position has consistently been that those who want to attribute authorship of the Book of Mormon in some way to a particular individual or set of individuals or even to a process, and so on need to use widely recognized methodology in their claims. This would go for those who believe that the record is authentic. Whether it is scripture or not, it is still a text - it is a work of literature, and standard rules and observations about texts still apply. Thus the lengthy discussion on methodology applied to the Book of Mormon in my recent paper for the Maxwell Institute dealing with the literary allusion in 1 Nephi 3-4. The formal methodology I adopted are widely accepted. I detailed my discovery following those rules, and the literary allusion seems rather solidly identified. That it occurs is of course not an obstacle to either modern translation or modern authorship (although its discovery does say something about the authoring of the text). The problem with you assertion about debate in this case is that you are asserting that you can only defend the Spalding theory in comparison. And this simply is inappropriate. Either the Spalding theory is sufficient to warrant investigation or a defense on its own, or it isn't. And if it isn't, simply being better than an even worse alternative doesn't actually provide any real support. If you believe that the orthodox narrative is impossible because of the angel, then any Spalding theory, no matter how bad or unlikely it seems, would automatically be given credibility under your model. This isn't a tolerable position for discourse either. Now, you are certainly welcome to raise questions about other theories - but raising these questions cannot be used as a defense for your own argument. In a sense you assume that all of the arguments involved represents all the possible solutions to the authorship question. And without providing evidence for this claim, that kind of assertion doesn't work either.
Again, my contention is that when all the evidence is taken into consideration and weighed in terms of pros and cons for each of the three main competing theories represented by Ben's perspective (the official account); Chris's perspective (Smith alone) and my perspective (S/R) then, in my opinion, the Spalding/Rigdon theory best explains the data.
And I patently reject this kind of approach. Particularly when you are simply placing rather subjective pro's and con's on each theory. I suspect that you place (for example) zero probability on an angel. And that means that despite any other factor, the official narrative is simply excluded as a possibility. In a sense, this is the critic calling angel. For them, any theory is better than the official version. But this doesn't actually help you assign any kind of likelihood to the Spalding theory. In your view here, all you have to do to win is not to create a viable argument on your own, but to simply find some way to discredit all the other 'viable' theories (which in this case you have limited to two other options). In the real world, things don't really work like this.
First, I am not, nor have I ever been a scholar. My arguments are common sense and little else. I run a business so I do not have time to go chasing down homework assignments or following endless links to various articles. No amount of cajoling will change that. If someone else wants to and has the time, fine by me.
And this is kind of a defense for doing something right. There is a down side to this. Not only am I willing to do the homework, I have done the homework. I have read thousands and thousands of pages on the subject. I am presenting expert opinions and established views. The problem is that this becomes a one-sided discussion. If you aren't willing to look at the information that I present that doesn't challenge your conclusions but challenges your methods - and then proceed to insist that your methods are just fine, there is an impasse. You claim not to be a scholar, but that doesn't mean that you can simply avoid centuries of work in comparative literature and simply ignore the scholarship that exists because it doesn't favor your personal approach. At some point, you have to accept the fact that your presentation doesn't meet any kind of standard for evidence.
First, in my opinion, what you demand is unreasonable.

Second, yes, I do think what I have is reasonable.

What you have is not reasonable - and you have nothing to compare it to, to suggest that it is. And what I demand is not unreasonable. It is only unreasonable because you believe that scholarship apparently has no viable contribution to questions of authorship (unless apparently, that scholarship seems to support your case - as in, for example, the Jockers study). What is frustrating for me is that not only do you not have any scholarship to back you up, you don't actually offer any authorities which I can use to contest your position. All I have is your personal perspective that it is reasonable - and I simply don't see the case.
Third, "it cannot be coincidence" is NOT what I say. Instead I am asking you to tell me what it is. I am saying that it appears to me that the only reasonable explanation you can give is coincidence. (Correct me if I am wrong, please.) Further, I am agreeing, yes, it can be coincidence, but I am pointing out that in the absence of a better explanation, coincidence seems unlikely. However, if you can give a better explanation, I am all ears.
Let me provide you with a little example used some time ago in a book on writing history. The book is titled The Methods of Historical Study. It was published in London by Edward A. Freeman in 1886. Here is an excerpt from pages 138-9:
I have often thought how easily two important reigns in our own history might be dealt with in the way that I have spoken of, how easily the later reign mught be judged to be a mere repetition of the former, if we knew no more of them than we know of some other parts of history. Let us suppose that the reigns of Henry the First and Henry the Second were known to us only in the same meagre way that we know the reigns of some of the ancient potentates of the East. In short and dry annals they might easily be told so as to look like the same story. Each king bears the same name; each reigns the same number of years; each comes to the crown in a way other than succession from father to son; each restores order after a time of confusion; each improves his political position by his marriage; each is hailed as a restorer of the old native kingship; each loses his eldest son' each gives his daughter Matilda to a Henry in Germany; each has a controversy which his archbishop; each wages war with France; each dies in his continental dominions; each, if our supposed meagre annals can be supposed to tell us of such points, shows himself a great lawgiver and administrator, and each, to some extent, displays the same personal qualities, good and bad. Now when we come really to study the two reigns, we see that the details of all these supposed points of likeness are utterly different; but I am supposing very meagre annals, such as very often are all that we can get, and, in such annals, the two tales would very likely be so told that a master of higher criticism might cast aside Henry the Second and his acts as a mere double of his grandfather and his acts. We know how very far wrong such a judgment would be; and this should make us be cautious in applying a rule which, though often very useful, is always dangerous in cases where we may get utterly wrong without knowing it.
Now, truth be told this seems to bear a lot of resemblance to what is going on here. You reduce these texts to a rather simplistic formula designed to highlight similarities and reduce differences. And suddenly they appear identical. But, we look at the details and we realize that they are utterly different. But, I think that in your perspective, having been convinced for other reasons (i.e. you have already rejected the only other two theories that could possibly - in your opinion - explain the text of the Book of Mormon) you simply assume that they are good and useful. This points to two problems. The first is that you have already come to a predetermined conclusion. The second is that because of that conclusion you have a pre-determined interpretation of the evidence - and because of this, you have got it "utterly wrong without knowing it". And your evidence becomes a circular problem.

The only way that I see for us to break out of this issue is to break you away from the view that there are only three viable options. Once we manage to get past that and start to examine the merits of the Spalding theory on its own without the distraction of other theories it becomes an entirely new issue. You are crippled by the very rules you want to make.

Fourth, no, I am not merely going off my intuition, although that does enter the equation. Instead, I am considering the bigger picture... I am considering the parallels in a way you refuse to... I take into consideration the allegations made by credible witnesses in 1833, coupled with further allegations made later, coupled with the initial reaction of S/R critics (like you) in 1884, coupled with subsequent observations by Holley, Broadhurst and others, coupled with the Jockers data and now finally including Bruce's PC chart and now Dale's charts. I take all of that context into consideration as I look at the specific set of parallels that prompted this discussion.

There are a few issues here. First, the witnesses in 1833 simply were not credible. I dealt with this issue already in the other thread, but I will do so again here. There testimony is not conclusive - it describes only the Book of Mormon and not Spalding's work. The later allegations, of course, generally had to back pedal - because a Spalding manuscript had been found that really did not resemble the Book of Mormon - there was no Nephi, or Lehi in it. There was no city of Zarahemla. It became quite clear when that manuscript was found that it could not be the source of the Book of Mormon. This is a disconnect that the Spalding theorists have not dealt with very well. The only response they could effectively mount was that Spalding must have written a second book. And it contained those details, but because it was stolen, it is gone forever. But we don't actually have any quotes from that second book. There is nothing in any statement which can be attributed to that second book. The best that can be done is try and create a profile for Spalding from his existing book. Dale has tried to do this - but, his attempt fails because his process of producing that profile creates something that is far too similar to other contemporary authors to be useful. (In fact, there have been some interesting studies on this issue correlating certain kinds of these similarities to the date of the author's birth - but it hasn't won over a huge audience). I demonstrated this on the other forum when I took another text and applied the same rules as Dale uses and got even better correlations on those 10 chapters in Alma than his Spalding author did. Do you remember that? This was to me an indicator that either his modeling technique was bad, or that his method was bad, or both. This isn't to say that the process isn't useful - I fully expect that it could tell us much more than it does if we found a way to create a tighter profile for Spalding. What Dale never did was a negative check. He never looked at the results of his kind of comparison when using other authors and other works. If he had, he would have realized that what he was discovering was not by itself all that interesting. The same kinds of results can be generated elsewhere. This is why there was a problem with Dale providing that marked up page from the Book of Mormon - since I had already managed to meet that requirement that he asked of Bruce on the other forum.

Holley's arguments are no better. I dismantled them. Dale's arguments are such that he effectively agreed with me (he is welcome to correct me) that their value was apparently severely limited once I demonstrated that they were similar to other comparisons. Your comments on Bruce's PCA chart indicates that you really have no idea what they mean. They don't support Spalding authorship. Bruce's charts reject it. But because you have taken the time to do some homework and understand what the charts mean, you don't realize this. As a side note, suppose that Bruce publishes a paper in the same peer reviewed journal that Jockers published in, in which the Jockers conclusions are overturned. Would you accept that as a rejection of the Jockers study?

Fifth, if what I "have is a methodological house of cards" so be it. I have a brain that usually serves me well. I can see parallels and know what they are just like I can see obscenity and know what it is. In effect, you're trying to tell me the obscenity I know I am seeing is really not that bad and you've got experts to back you up. Forgive me if I choose to go with what my eyes are telling me.
The problem consistently is that the scholars and experts in literary comparison have uniformly stated that comparing parallels in this way is deceptive. Your response is like every other person who makes this claim - "I know it when I see it" - and yet, the problem is that you are only looking in one place at a single issue. And you don't realize that these kinds of claims can be made about any two texts in any circumstance. This was why the academy rejected this kind of use of parallels a century ago. I am telling you that you only think you know what you are seeing. And I will keep asserting that - and until you take some time to do some research, you won't have any basis even to understand how you can be "utterly wrong without knowing it".

Continued

Link to comment

LOL. Actually I'm not surprised what I use slipped your mind... it's called common sense.

All the best!

Roger

Roger, let's do an exercise in common sense. you have stated that you are a business man and I will accept your word on that, and go so far as to assume that your business is profitable.

Now I have this scenario for you. You walk away from your business lock stock and barrel, then take a scheme to an uneducated underage boy with no business experience and convince him to be a front man for another, very risky business. There will be no signed contracts, nothing with your name on them. You will have no protection whatsoever.

Sounds good???? :P

Glenn

Link to comment

Roger writes:

As I just pointed out, there is a lot of other evidence. What you mean is that there is no other evidence you are willing to consider. That's your prerogative, but there is additional evidence.
No, its not evidence. And I have certainly considered it. This is going to be a fundamental problem. When you present statements that on the surface support your theory - but then don't actually provide any basis, it isn't evidence. Anyone can claim that someone else plagiarized a text. It happens all the time. In particular it happens when people want money. We can google all sorts of cases. The problem is that the courts rarely find plagiarism because in particular two-column parallel comparisons are not effective evidence. The one book I previously mentioned - Plagiarism and Originality was written by an attorney. Here is a bit more:
John Smith is an unknown. He writes a play. He puts into it all he has of brains and heart. When it's finished, he has a tough time placing it. Somehow he gets hold of a theatrical producer who promises, unenthusiastically to read it.

Smith waits. He waits for weeks, months. He writes to the producer, at first politely, then firmly, and at last angrily. Still no response. He finally calls for his play, which has been gathering dust on a shelf all the time, forgotten and unread.

Smith is bitter, as he has reason to be. Not bitter enough, though, to abandon hope. He has heard about the trials of neophytes. He'll lick the game yet. He casts about for another producer.

The first producer then puts on a play which bears some resemblance to Smith's. Smith is incensed He does not know that his script was never looked at, and nothing in the world can convince him that it wasn't. The producer, he clamors, could have read it, could have copied it, could have shown it to the other playwright. And so out of indignation and frustration, another plagiarism claim is born.

It may take years of litigation to convince Smith-if indeed he can ever be convinced-that shuch a claim cannot be sustained unless substantial copying is proved, and that access, even when coupled with similarity, is not conclusive evidence of copying.

The predisposition of the average man to cry "Thief!" on the basis of similarity alone has been responsible for many plagiarism suits.

Now, you want to talk about evidence, you need to present evidence. You need to show that Rigdon in fact stole Spalding's unknown text. Not that he was in a place and time to be able to do so (that's not evidence - there are potentially thousands of people who may have had the opportunity). The 1833 statements? Not evidence. The don't show a familiarity with anything but the Book of Mormon and published accounts of it. There is nothing in them that can be traced to Spalding's unknown text.

And this brings up the other issue. You have indisputably chosen sides as to who you think is lying. The 1833 accounts become "evidence" - Joseph/Rigdon/who knows how many others are all lying. This isn't evidence. This is merely preference to support a theory you have already determined by excluding what you see as all the possible alternatives (both of them).

You mean it doesn't work for you. I am not a scholar. If I were, then developing some "formal methodology" might be a reasonable demand. As it is, it simply isn't. My common sense arguments are reasonable. You may disagree with them all you wish, but that doesn't mean they are unreasonable.
They are in fact unreasonable. Every scholar I read tells me that your common sense arguments are highly deceptive and misleading. So, what do you think I am supposed to believe?
The interesting thing in what you just stated is this: "reduce the two narratives to very common denominators"

I note that if those "very common denominators" were not present in both texts we could not reduce them to those elements and the theory would crash. So thanks for emphasizing that important point.

Of course - and as the one author I already quoted said -
4. Parallel-hunting is predicated on the use of lowest common denominators. Virtually all literature, even the most original, can be reduced to such terms, and thereby shown to be unoriginal. So viewed, Mark Twain's The Prince and the Pauper plagiarizes ****ens' David Copperfield. Both deal with England, both describe the slums of London, both see their hero exalted beyond his original station. To regard any two books in this light, however, is to ignore every factor that differentiates one man's thoughts, reactions and literary expression from another's.
Reducing things to lowest common denominators merely creates the perception of parallels - but, once examined in detail, they aren't parallels at all. You can reduce any two books to common denominators. Why should I think that there is anything special about Holley having actually done so. This is what seems to have escaped your attention. You pick two books, I can describe the similarities. It won't mean anything, but I can do it.
First no one denies that there are differences. And I think we can all agree that to demand the same story in both texts is an absurd demand. So the question is raised, what would it take to raise your eyebrow? You tell me. How much more similar would Alma 43 have to be to the Oberlin Manuscript for you to take notice and at the very least admit there was something unusual here? What is YOUR standard? (It would be really nice if you could sum it up briefly in your own words rather than quoting someone else's long list). And by the way I am asking with regard to the specific set of parallels I mentioned on the other thread that you commented on. What I am asking, is how much closer would the texts have to have been before you would even be open to the idea of common authorship?
I think I am very much interested in citing someone else's list. Primarily because then it means that you can't accuse me of self serving methodology. I am in the process of preparing a lengthy article on the subject at the moment. Once I finish it, I will be providing the world with my personal take on that question. Until then, I think a list from someone else is fine. We don't have to go with a long list. Byrne's five "golden rules" are good enough. The question isn't so much which set of criteria you use as that you actually use criteria. Holley doesn't mention criteria. Dale does - but his way of extracting significant phrases gives us a list that is mostly shared with many other 19th century writers (which is why other authors compare favorably using his method). In this case, I would certainly take 11 real (and not imagined) parallels in consecutive order as significant. I certainly used a similar criteria in my published article on the Book of Mormon reliance on 2 Samuel in 1 Nephi 3-4. But, from you, there is absolutely no discussion of the parallels - merely presentation. There is no mention of differences - differences are down played. So, we have absolutely nothing to work with - and no evidence that you have even ever considered that the differences might just be significant to throw your identification into question.
Now with regard to my explanation for the differences... simple...

1. The Oberlin Manuscript was the original idea. Alma probably represents an expanding on the original idea.

2. Rigdon may have added details.

3. Smith may have added details.

4. Cowdery may have added details.

I'm guessing you will not react positively to those possibilities but they are valid and reasonable possibilities just the same.

And you create a clearly unfalsifiable argument. The problem with this is that how do you distinguish from something that was intentionally borrowed and something that was a coincidence? I don't think you know how to answer this question. It causes you problems when dealing with the 1833 statements doesn't it - where you want to deny that the similarities indicate a common source but here, the less specific and less concrete examples are proof of borrowing (although it must have gone through three additional sets of changes before the final product - which explains why it is so different).

The real problem behind this set of assertions though is in fact the 1833 statements. Where is Nephi in the Oberlin Manuscript? Where is Lehi? Where is Zarahemla? And yet those witnesses all assert that they remember hearing those names from the Spalding manuscript that was used to make the Book of Mormon. Its not a very coherent argument. And it becomes even more problematic since I doubt that you have any way of distinguishing what came from the Oberlin Manuscript, what came from Rigdon, what came from Smith and what came from Cowdery. Rather this seems merely a way of obfuscating the claim - making it cover any possible scenario. But its not evidence.

We just did. I listed Holley's parallels, most of which are sequential and you blow them off like they are nothing.
They are nothing. I didn't just 'blow them off' - I provided a fairly detailed explanation as to why his list of parallels was meaningless - and just as importantly why your added assertion that they were sequential was simply wrong.
To sum up your criticism, if I might, you seem to be saying that the parallels Holley lists are not as flashy as he presents them when you break them down. I think it's equally unimpressive to simply dismiss them as though they are nothing. Again, there has to be something there in order for us to be able to "reduce the two narratives to very common denominators." Those common denominators have to be there or we wouldn't even be having this discussion.
And I am going to respond by asserting that any two texts can be compared in this way. The common denominator is the language itself and the stock phrases and ideas found in the language as well as historical realities that are used in every text. There are common shared fundamental notions. When we have wars, we have opponents, and one side is usually larger than the other. This is not an uncommon theme. To suggest that any two texts share this theme is evidence for some kind of biological relationship between the two texts isn't a sustainable position. On the other point, here is another quick statement from Lindey's book referring to parallels: "But the narrow nature of their function must never be lost sight of. They must not be allowed to becloud or eclipse the paramount canon that the crucial test of plagiarism is and must be a reading of the rival works themselves in their entirety."
I don't care about any two texts. I care about whether or not there is a connection of some sort between the BOM and Spalding.
Yes, but if the same process you use can be used on any two texts to make the same argument, there is something severely wrong with your process.
Agreed. So then let me ask you this... with a straight face, can you tell me, based on all we know about the whole controversy, that Spalding could not possibly have contributed any text that eventually made it's way into the BOM?
Spalding contributed absolutely nothing to the Book of Mormon. Said with a straight face. It is incredibly unlikely from several different points of view. Among other things, I have to ask why you think that the Oberlin Manuscript was even necessary for the idea?

Ben M,

Link to comment

It seems to me that anyone who wants to convince us that the Book of Mormon is a 19th century production has to deal with all of this.

http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/books/?bookid=60&chapid=

http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/books/?bookid=110&chapid=

http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/books/?bookid=59&chapid=

http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/books/?bookid=74&chapid=

And a lot of other stuff. Unfortunately, I am late getting to class right now. If there is interest, I will post more.

Link to comment

Roger, let's do an exercise in common sense. you have stated that you are a business man and I will accept your word on that, and go so far as to assume that your business is profitable.

Now I have this scenario for you. You walk away from your business lock stock and barrel, then take a scheme to an uneducated underage boy with no business experience and convince him to be a front man for another, very risky business. There will be no signed contracts, nothing with your name on them. You will have no protection whatsoever.

Sounds good???? :P

Glenn

Even as a 23 year old (the same age as Joseph when he translated most of Book of Mormon) I doubt if any of my coworkers would be willing to invest thousands of dollars of their own money in a proposition so ridiculous. There had to be more to it, and I'm willing to believe it was divine intervention. The Book of Mormon (if I'm informed correctly) was often sold to investigators by missionaries, but only at a price to cover the cost of printing, not to mention the copies that were given away for free. I have a difficult time buying into the notion that Martin Harris and others would be motivated by the hope of monetary gain. They wouldn't be making any money to begin with. And if for some reason Joseph Smith WAS motivated by the notion that he'd make a frontier-fiction best seller, I still don't see why Harris and others with invest so much of their time, money, and interest. This is one of the issues I believe Dan Vogel, Fawn Brodie, and Grant Palmer have failed to adequately explain.

I think the internal structure of the Book of Mormon is complex enough that Joseph Smith could not have written it alone, but would have needed many more people to produce it. I think Tolkein might have been able to pull it off, or perhaps Shakespeare, but not Joseph or anyone else really. But that's just me.

Link to comment
That's because it's a ridiculous charge. Consider this... neither Holley or Broadhurst are responsible for what is written in either the BOM or the Oberlin manuscript. All they are doing is pointing out similarities already there that--once they point them out--anyone can see. There is no "mania" there other than perhaps your overreaction to it. If you think everything they point out is there by coincidence, then just say so. If you have a better explanation, we are all ears. But constantly exclaiming "parallelomania" does nothing.
The common term at the time would have been parallel-hunter. And they are not well considered. There is a "mania" here - it is the excessive presentation of parallels.
Forgive me Ben but...... I'm just not buying it. Putting the texts side by side is deceptive?? Come on.
Its not just me saying this. It is practically everyone who has written on the subject in the last hundred years. So whether or not you buy it is to some extent irrelevant. You would realize this if you took even a bit of time to read up on the subject - something I have been encouraging for a long time now. Something that you are apparently quite adamant about. If you think its common sense when everyone else calls it deceptive, where do you think the problem is?
Alright then, let's issue a challenge based on that. Pull your best set of sequential parallels from Verne to the BOM and let's have a look. To qualify, they will need to take place within the span of approximately two chapters from each work.
Ok. So I spent about 20 minutes working this up this morning. Here is the list (following the pattern you used in the other thread). For my sources, I am using 1 Nephi 17-18 and Around the World in 80 Days chapters 17 and 18 also. Both texts I took from Gutenberg. I ended up with 15 sequential parallels in the two chapters in my rather cursory examination.

1. Both narratives detail a journey. 2. During this journey, the travelers stop at a place filled with fruits and 3. near the seashore. 4. Gathering up many of these fruits, the travelers 5. board a ship and set sail. 6. During the first part of the voyage, there was a constant wind. 7. The wind develops into a storm, called a

Link to comment

...

what I think is that any proposal of authorship of the Book of Mormon needs

to be considered on its own merits and not as a reflection of comparison

...

A Roman Catholic scholastic, writing during the Middle Ages, might have

begun his defense of the "Donation of Constantine" with just that sort

of rhetoric.

----> We should consider the probability that Constantine ceded

civil authority to the Church in a document authored by himself,

without any "reflection of comparison" to proposed alternatives. <---

Obviously the Roman Empire gave civil power to the Church, and

the Papal States, Vatican City, the Inquisition, etc. were valid.

What else could that Churchman assert?

That perhaps his Church and the Pope were wrong?

Mormons constantly have told me that they can look at the claims

for 19th century authorship "objectively;" and that by doing so,

they have eliminated the possibility that Smith, Cowdery, Pratt,

Rigdon, etc. might have contributed material to the Nephite Record.

But, the only ones who have laid their testimonies at the doorstep,

and entered into a truly objective examination of the subject, have

concluded that Nephites are a fiction, unsupported by scientific

investigation and unsupported by scholars not already burdened with

the testimony that the "book is true."

There is no getting past that supernatural roadblock to objective

study. Science and rational thought do not employ supernatural

explanations as a reliable methodology --- unless the so-called

"rational thinker" is Aquinas defending the source and integrity

of the bogus "Donation of Constantine," because his Church demands it.

UD

Link to comment

You know Dale - taking a single statement out of its context is really a poor way to treat my position. You have completely misrepresented me. Perhaps I should suggest that you are mired by the same issues. Is it too difficult for you to defend the Spalding theory on its own merits? Is the only way to win the argument by first setting up the only possible alternatives and then knocking them down so that you win by default without ever having had to defend your position? Your criticism is both misdirected and flawed.

Ben M.

Link to comment

...

Your criticism is both misdirected and flawed.

...

Perhaps so -- but it is addressed to a wider audience

than just yourself. That is why we deem these postings

as being open discussions.

I encountered exactly the same mindset among my own people

years ago, when it came to the controversy over leadership

of the Church after 1844.

My Graceland College (now University) friends agreed with

me that we should study the issue objectively -- that we

should consider all possibilities. And then, half-way into

any such discussion, they would tell me that they "knew beyond

a shadow of a doubt" that the Church Presidency must be kept

within the Smith family -- and that the RLDS "Church is true."

There was no disguising that prejudice. No matter how much

my friends pleaded "science" and "rational thinking," their

minds could only be truly opened, for inquiry, AFTER they

had laid their testimonies at the doorstep.

Any Mormon who admits to the 19th century authorship explanations

will eventually lose his TR -- probably his calling -- and perhaps

even his membership. Ergo: No Mormon will objectively consider

such possibilities, even if he has managed to convince himself that

he is an open-minded, rational thinker.

Postscript --- One day the RLDS Church abandoned its doctrine of

Smith family primacy and ordained Grant McMurray to its highest

office. Suddenly my old opponents CHANGED their testimonies. Why?

Because they felt God had spoken to them through the prophetic

leadership of the Church, and that they now knew "beyond a shadow

of a doubt" that our President need not be a Smith.

So much for supernatural testimonies masquerading as objectivity...

UD

Link to comment

Nathair writes:

It seems to me that anyone who wants to convince us that the Book of Mormon is a 19th century production has to deal with all of this.
I think that it should be patently obvious to everyone that the Book of Mormon is a 19th century production. There shouldn't be any disagreement over this. The question is whether it is dependent on an ancient Nephite source (as a translation), was authored wholly by a 19th century author, or whether it is based on some earlier (but not ancient) work, or a composite work involving one or more of these options. This is an important distinction in my opinion.

Ben M.

Link to comment

Dale writes:

Any Mormon who admits to the 19th century authorship explanations will eventually lose his TR -- probably his calling -- and perhaps even his membership. Ergo: No Mormon will objectively consider such possibilities, even if he has managed to convince himself that he is an open-minded, rational thinker.
I disagree with you Dale. Van Hale is perhaps the most prominent public example pointing out that these are not necessarily direct responses to this perspective. Van Hale and I have talked about this more than once in the past (although it has been some years now).

In many ways though, this is a rather insulting position for you to take. It is offensive. You are suggesting that I cannot be objective on this issue. Your basis for that is not in my discussion but in your perspective on my beliefs - which in many ways you know very little about. You are suggesting that even if I am an open-minded, rational thinker, I can't possibly be one. Because, for me to be rational, I would have done what you did. And this is simply not true. I see this as a distraction. You are redirecting the conversation away from questions about evidence and questions about methodology to questions about the messenger. And it is inappropriate. You seem to think that I can only arrive at one conclusion - but then we run into this problem that I make arguments about evidence to back up my position. It seems to me that you want me to respond to the Spalding theory - not by questioning the theory itself but by falling back on the traditional view offered by my faith of an angel, of plates, and a translation. You want this instead of my going after the Spalding theory on the basis that your work of parallels and similarity doesn't stand up to recognized scholarly scrutiny. Perhaps you are suggesting that if I really knew that there was no angel, I would of course adopt the Spalding theory. But, my experience is that the kind of evidence you offer puts the Spalding theory at the bottom of the list of options. Not because I need to keep my faith intact - but because it isn't a good theory. I am sorry if this offends you. My objectivity is not a testimony behind a mask. And for you to say this as opposed to actually responding is nothing more than a thinly veiled insult.

Ben M.

Link to comment

...

I think that it should be patently obvious to everyone that the

Book of Mormon is a 19th century production

...

It certainly wasn't so obvious to the Whitmerites of the late 19th '

and early 20th centuries. Read their serial publication The Return.

The only "19th century" impact upon the Nephite Record was that it had

to be printed upon 19th century paper, using 19th century ink, and

thus subjected to the errors introduced by a 19th century printer.

How was the Nephite Record preserved? -- Buried in the earth, safely

away from the deleterious designs of the Great and Abominable Church.

Where was the original? -- Safely preserved upon unalterable plates

of gold -- so that any attempted alterations could be recognized.

How was it "Englished"? -- On a word-for-word basis, with God supplying

the exact words upon the surface of the urim and thummim. Only when

the true and correct Divine translation had been written down correctly

by the scribe, did the next English word of the record come into view.

I can still locate and line up 100 Reorganized Saints, at any major

gathering, who will testify to roughly the same thing as stated above.

That is not surprising, since the Reorganization eventually absorbed the

Whitmerites and much of David Whitmer's point of view/testimony.

I suspect that I could round up 1000 Mormons at General Conference

(or a Meldrum symposium) who would also agree with David Whitmer.

Not everybody reads Sorenson, you know.

UD

Link to comment

Dale writes:

The only "19th century" impact upon the Nephite Record was that it had to be printed upon 19th century paper, using 19th century ink, and thus subjected to the errors introduced by a 19th century printer.
And of course that it was translated into 19th century English. Which means, that the paper, the ink, the printing process and the words can all be found at home in the 19th century - and that makes it a 19th century production.

Most people don't read Kristeva, or Searle, or Goffman - and they may not care to differentiate as I do the differences, but that does not mean that the differences do not exist. While those individuals you refer to might well agree with David Whitmer, were I to explain the nuances of my position to them, I bet they would all agree with me as well. They might think that such a distinction has little point, but it can be made without upsetting the masses.

Ben M.

Link to comment

...

In many ways though, this is a rather insulting position for you to take. It is offensive...

I do not wish to offend.

But how might have I countered the medieval schoolman

who argued the RCC position, without offending him.

Controversy in religion automatically creates offense.

Even Uniterian-Universalists get offended, when we tell

them that they are too liberal and tolerant.

However, there may be individual Mormons who both accept

the 19th century authorship explanations and yet manage

to retain their TRs. the late Peggy Rogers was one such

member. Luckily she had a home teacher and bishop who

"latitudinarian" in their outlooks.

Peggy could not express her views openly, of course. She

tried to do so in the "Folks on the Fringe" and the

"New Order Mormons" groups --- but her lack of a testimony

in the historicity of the Book of Mormon was noticed in

her local ward. In fact, I attended Sunday services with

her and her family in Murray one day, and noticed a slight,

but significant reference to her "lack of faith" there.

I hope you do not take offense at the truth. Or, if you do

today, that next week or next year, that you mellow out and

understand what it is like to be in my shoes -- or Peggy's shoes.

UD

Link to comment

...there may be individual Mormons who both accept

the 19th century authorship explanations and yet manage

to retain their TRs.

...

This seems to have been the case for Roberts, Fergusson, and

other LDS scholars in the past.

It may possibly be the case for Ben, now, or in the future.

It is not my objective to press such matters -- only to call

our attention to the problems they present.

At one time I taught a Scriptures class in my local branch,

before it went over to Community of Christ. I began by stating

openly that I did not propose to support the Church's position,

that the Joseph Smith Translation was God's own correction of

the Bible, which rectified the changes made by the Great and

Abominable Church.

I neither affirmed nor denied the Church's doctrine. I said that

I was willing to consider various explanations for the JST, and

that our class could at least superficially explore some of those.

The majority of the participants glared at me, opened their

RLDS Three-in-Ones, and consulted the Preface to the JST --

which formed the basis for their testimonies.

The class continued on for several weeks, and we considered

the Church's doctrine, along with alternative explanations.

However, my statement -- that I was willing to leave my testimony

at the doorstep, and hold open the possibility that God had NOT

restored to Bible to its pristine perfection under Joseph's hands,

forever set me apart from the rest of the congregation -- and,

by "set apart," I do not mean being sustained in a higher calling.

Live and learn.

UD

Link to comment

My Graceland College (now University) friends agreed with

me that we should study the issue objectively -- that we

should consider all possibilities.

All possibilities except, obviously, Ben's. Consider the issue regarding assessing the significance of parallels, except going as far as grappling seriously with his critical tools and his evidence. Not objective, in this discourse means, "not us."

There was no disguising that prejudice. No matter how much

my friends pleaded "science" and "rational thinking," their

minds could only be truly opened, for inquiry, AFTER they

had laid their testimonies at the doorstep.

In a post Kuhn/Derrida world, there is no disguising anyone's prejudice. "All data is theory laden," including all of yours. The question should be not "Who is objective?" (i.e., uncritically agrees with us), but, as Kuhn shows, who presents rational arguments that permit puzzle formulation and solution, that provide accurate predictions on key issues, that are comprehensive and coherent, that are fruitful, guiding investigators to results would never have been imagined otherwise, that are simple and aesthetically attractive, parsimonious rather than laden with ad hoc rationalizations and blanket dismissals of whatever does not fit, and what has the most future promise?

Paradigms are established by means of standard examples. Fine. Here is a paradigmatic story of individual resistance to a community official "truth" belatedly vindicating the forward thinker who dared to set aside his testimony and who boldly faced the possibilities. What I do not see is how that story applies in anyway to the thinking and evidence that Ben has demonstrated. It seems to be an article of faith that Book of Mormon parallels to Spaulding battle accounts "Must!" be significant, and that any approach that undermines that conclusion cannot be objective. So far, this has been an assertion unaccompanied by serious grappling with Ben's logic and methods.

Kuhn does write about how allegiance to a paradigm permits its possibilities to be fully explored. Fine. Maybe someone, somewhere will effectively and decisively respond to Ben. But what I see here is a retreat to your personal testimony of conviction and conversion. Ironic, all things considered.

Ergo: No Mormon will objectively consider

such possibilities, even if he has managed to convince himself that

he is an open-minded, rational thinker.

If objectivity is impossible for anyone, this should not be taken as a put down, but an acceptance of reality. Appeals to objectivity, open-mindedness, etc. here, come across as desperate and irrational. What I do not see is any serious attempt to grapple with the issues that Ben has raised for assessing parallels. He's providing some potent insights.

So much for supernatural testimonies masquerading as objectivity...

Ben McGuire has demonstrated mastery of the critical tools involved in the questions of assessing the significance of parallels, and he shows a willingness to deal with the questions and evidence in a rational, comprehensive, coherent, and fruitful way. That is not a masquerade. He's not basing his arguments on his testimony, nor pretending that his testimony is irrelevant to his commitments. According to Peter Novick's talk on "Why the Old Mormon Historians were More Objective Than the New" at Sunstone several years ago, the only meangingful way to view "objectivity" comes out of a community reliance on shared rules that permits adherents to come up with, more or less, the same key answers. The community of scholars that Ben has been citing have worked out just such a set of tools. But the choice to use those shared rules, to become part of the community that shares them, is not an objective choice. It is not necessarily irrational, but is value-based. And Kuhn talks a lot about the values involved. It is in light of those values that I see Ben's arguments as particularly impressive and personally persuasive.

Bushman here:

http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/books/?bookid=107&chapid=1202

We live at a moment in history when the Enlightenment dream of scientific scholarship has been eaten away by doubts about the possibility of scholarly objectivity. A host of thinkers, many of them French, have called into question the very possibility of dispassionate inquiry. They are arguing not merely that objectivity is an impossible achievement for human beings, who can never detach their minds from the rest of their being, but that the pretense of objectivity is an exercise in self-aggrandizement. Objectivity disguises a play for power by those who pretend to the authority of objective scholarship when they are every bit as self-interested in the outcome as any religious apologist. The scientific authorities of an era, according to current theory, claim to speak only for truth against error, when in actuality they stand to benefit by promoting their particular truth and vanquishing all others. No truth, not even the most rigorously scientific, is objective. All truth is colored by personal interest of some sort.

Kevin Christensen

Pittsburgh, PA

Link to comment

...

If objectivity is impossible for anyone, this should not be taken

as a put down, but an acceptance of reality.

...

Indeed. I am an American and no matter how the North Korean might

argue with me, I will never accept their economic nor political

doctrine. I am up front about such things.

On the other hand, a North Korean might manage to convince me

of my math error, when I say that 6-4=3.

Going one step beyond that, the same North Korean might also

manage to convince me that he was born in the year 1977 and

that the height of a certain flagpole is four meters.

But then we get into the "gray area" of deduction, and that

same North Korean tries to convince me that Karl Marx had

a better understanding of a section of the US Constitution,

than did, say, the present Chief Justice Roberts.

My profession as an American patriot would almost certainly

preclude my accepting the North Korean's argument. Even if he

was able to score a few "technical points," I have already

concluded that Karl Marx could never have understood such matters.

But, hey -- political testimonies may change. On my deathbed

I may admit that the North Korean was correct about a few more

of his argumentative points. But I still die a US patriot.

A God-given testimony is something altogether different. If God

has personally assured me that the Book of Isaiah is "true;"

then nothing on earth will ever change my testimony. I might

patiently listen to the North Korean, while he presents his

atheistic arguments. I might agree on a few minor points ---

but I already know he is wrong about his basic argument.

Why?

Because God Himself has told me that the Book of Isaiah is true.

As Mormons and non-Mormons we may learn some things through discussion.

But we should never say (or imply) that we are ready, willing and able

to accept the opponents' point(s) of view ----- unless we really are.

I am ready to do that -- up front -- on several important points:

I lay my testimony at the doorstep, and agree to these possibilities:

1. That the RLDS Church may not be "true."

2. That Joseph Smith III may not have been a true prophet.

3. That the JST is not a return to the original biblical text.

4. That Joseph Smith may indeed have written the BoM largely by himself.

5. That Sidney Rigon may not have met Joseph Smith before Dec. 1830.

Can a Mormon respectively do the same?

Answer: We should not expect that he can -- but we should still attempt

to understand his "faithful" point of view, and learn any new facts he

might be able to present.

Correct?

UD

Link to comment
I lay my testimony at the doorstep, and agree to these possibilities:

1. That the RLDS Church may not be "true."

2. That Joseph Smith III may not have been a true prophet.

3. That the JST is not a return to the original biblical text.

4. That Joseph Smith may indeed have written the BoM largely by himself.

5. That Sidney Rigon may not have met Joseph Smith before Dec. 1830.

i thought that was your position anyway. Kind of like someone who hates velveeta and the like giving up mac&cheese for Lent.

Link to comment

i thought that was your position anyway. Kind of like someone who hates velveeta and the like giving up mac&cheese for Lent.

This is not a thread about me -- so I won't get into details.

But, rest assured that there are some RLDS branches, the members

of which would not even let me through their front door, if they

heard me make such a statement, in order to dialogue with a Gentile

or a Mormon "objectively."

Worse than that -- there are some Spalding enthusiasts who would

never speak to me again, if I mentioned that I am open to believing

practically everything that Dan Vogel ever said -- if only he will

present better evidence.

None of that changes the fact, that when a Mormon begins to discuss

19th century authorship explanations for the Book of Mormon, he has

already testified in F&T Sunday meetings, that he knows beyond a

shadow of a doubt that the book is true --- and therefore, any evidence

fundamentally supporting the Spalding-Rigdon claims must either be false,

or be something misused to further falsehood.

That's OK. We can still discuss minor details.

I think that Matt Roper is now open to the possibility that

witness Josiah Spalding saw an earlier draft of the Oberlin MS,

and not the exact same document now preserved in Ohio. I treasure

such rare convergence of scholarly conclusions ---- they help

establish what little common ground he have, in discussing such

a basic religious/historical controversy, as scriptural validity.

UD

Link to comment

Nah, I think we prefer to discuss why the spalding theory fails from even a secular POV.

Does the entire consideration of 19th century

authorship for the BoM also "fail, from even a

secular POV?"

For all I know, there may be honest, objective

scholars out there who do not believe in Nephites,

but who also do not accept that Smith could have

written such a book.

We should invite such a voice into our discussions --

if only to hear something different for a change.

UD

Link to comment

I think that it should be patently obvious to everyone that the Book of Mormon is a 19th century production. There shouldn't be any disagreement over this. The question is whether it is dependent on an ancient Nephite source (as a translation), was authored wholly by a 19th century author, or whether it is based on some earlier (but not ancient) work, or a composite work involving one or more of these options. This is an important distinction in my opinion.

Ben M.

I probably presented that wrong. I was thinking of a dichotomy between an original text composed in the 19th century as opposed to an ancient text translated in the 19th century. That's probably still not clear. If someone wishes to convince us that it is not " dependent on an ancient Nephite source (as a translation)" then the information in my links needs to be either demonstrated to be invalid or they need to show how it can be valid and the Book of Mormon still not be what it claims to be.

Yours under the muddled oaks,

Nathair /|\

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...