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First Of A Series Of Tough Issues Tackled By Lds.org


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Read a bit more carefully. It's a matter of applying the advice in 2 Nephi 25:1-5 on learning the cultural backgrounds of the Jews at Jerusalem around 600 BCE in order to understand better what they are talking about. The issue is not Lehi's understanding based on the visions he received, but of our learning to understanding those visions the way Lehi and subsequent Book of Mormon prophets did. Once we do that, we are less likely to make the mistakes that "presentist" approaches can cause in reading the Book of Mormon. It also has the added benefit of showing how nicely First Temple theology fits with Mormonism. It provides a context for understanding why "In our current version "the Son" was added before "mother of God", "Eternal Father", "Everlasting God", and "Eternal Father". (There are other places where changes were not made.) The 19th Century readers thought they had to add the Son, and why ancient readers would have known that it made no difference to meaning to them. El Elyon was seen as the Father of Yahweh and other heavenly beings. Yahweh was seen as God and as the Father of humans through covenant, as is very clear in Benjamin's discourse. Divine titles go with divine roles. If a divine being fills a role associated with a title, the title belongs. I'm both a father and a son, and a son to both earthly and heavenly parents. For some reason, this does not cause theological trauma. Each title is merited and makes sense given a context. Brant is providing context.

FWIW

Kevin Christensen

Pittsburgh, PA

 

 

is there anything you don't know?!

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In the specific context of this thread,* the reason why this discussion is important is because the charge has been made that Joseph lied when he recorded his experiences in the Grove. The supposed evidence for this deceit is (1) the existence of differing accounts of the First Vision and (2) especially no unambiguous mention of both Father and Son in the earliest version. People sympathetic to the message of the Restoration can positively spin this accusation by relabelling it an evolution of Joseph's understanding, but the simple reality is that, if young Joseph did not really see two Persons in vision but later claimed to have, then he lied.

This is certainly one interpretation of the data, but it is not the only historically valid one. And that's a point very much worth making. Because our enemies are trying their damnedest to convince people that the data demand a single interpretation (theirs) and that therefore this interpretation is the 'true history' that the Church has been attempting to hide from its members and everyone else. Within this paradigm, anyone who continues to accept the reality of the First Vision as Joseph explained it of necessity must be ignorant, must be engaged in self-deceit (for a whole host of convoluted motivations), or must be naive when it comes to history.

And this is simply not true. The data do not demand a certain interpretation, pro or con. In fact, as I've attempted to demonstrate throughout this thread, Joseph's varying accounts of the First Vision appear very much like other historical accounts of a single event recorded by the same author, and therefore the only reason for people to be questioning the veracity of them is because they possess an a priori distrust of Joseph and/or his claims. That, or they've been taken in by the very vocal crowd who are loudly crowing in other fora that their interpretation of the data is the only true interpretation, the rejection of which is a denial of 'true history'.

The fact is that the 'true history' crowd are standing on very shaky ground when it comes to issues of historical methodology, and not pointing this fact out will allow others potentially to be taken in by their arguments.

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*The other reason why it is important is to extend to other Christians the courtesy we so often request for ourselves: If one is going to disagree, at least understand the other person's actual position first. Do we have significant disagreements with the Nicene and other post-apostolic creeds? Absolutely. Perhaps the biggest area of disagreement is when we insist that like the Son, we are of 'one substance' with Father, Who is also physical like us -- this physicality not limiting His divinity or His eternal nature. But we don't disagree on the number of Persons in the Godhead.

That's not the only issue with the 1832 version. As I showed a couple of pages ago, he says that at the age of about 12 he had already reached the conclusion that all churches were wrong and not based on the gospel of Jesus before the vision and doesn't an doesn't ask which to join during his vision experience.

In 1838 he says that the though that they could all be wrong had never occurred to him and that he had gone to the grove assuming one must be right and was asking which to join.

That's both an inconsistency and perhaps a contradiction (unless you do mental gymnastics around the fact that in 1838 he thought they were all wrong like he said in 1832, but goes in the hope that one of them must be and he just hasn't realised it yet. That's not what he says in 1838, but one could make it mean that if one needed to).

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Another possibility...mental gymnastics if you see it that way...he could have originally been referring to those denominations he had experience with, he had proved those wrong in his mind, but he hadn't applied the same reasoning to faiths he wasn't familiar with because how could he?

12 year olds can be sure of themselves, but surely Joseph must have been aware that there were faiths out there he didn't know well enough to judge.

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Another possibility...mental gymnastics if you see it that way...he could have originally been referring to those denominations he had experience with, he had proved those wrong in his mind, but he hadn't applied the same reasoning to faiths he wasn't familiar with because how could he?

12 year olds can be sure of themselves, but surely Joseph must have been aware that there were faiths out there he didn't know well enough to judge.

 

I suppose there's this:

 

In the midst of this war of words, and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself, what  is to be done? Who of all these parties are right? Or are they all wrong together? and  if any one of them be right which is it? And how shall I know it?

 

 

No mental gymnastics needed I guess (and apologies, it's an inflammatory phrase unnecessarily used).  

http://josephsmithpapers.org/paperSummary/history-circa-june-1839-circa-1841-draft-2?p=2

Edited by canard78
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I suppose there's this:

 

 

No mental gymnastics needed I guess (and apologies, it's an inflammatory phrase unnecessarily used).  

http://josephsmithpapers.org/paperSummary/history-circa-june-1839-circa-1841-draft-2?p=2

 

Compared to the 1832 version:

what I found contain ed in that sacred depository this was a grief to  my Soul thus from the age of twelve years  to fifteen I pondered many things in my heart  concerning the sittuation of the world of mankind  the contentions and divi[si]ons the wicke[d]ness and  abominations and the darkness which pervaded the of the minds of mankind my mind become  excedingly distressed for I become convicted of my  sins and by searching the scriptures I found  that mand <mankind> did not come unto the Lord but that  they had apostatised from the true and liveing  faith and there was no society or denomination  that built upon the gospel of Jesus Christ as  recorded in the new testament

 

http://josephsmithpapers.org/paperSummary/history-circa-summer-1832?dm=image-and-text&zm=zoom-inner&tm=expanded&p=2&s=undefined&sm=none

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What does "one substance", or "homoousia" mean?

 

"We can have our theological cake and eat it too." 

 

"It means anything you want it to mean, except for what the Mormons teach."

 

Let's see -- the egg is composed of three separate elements (egg white, yoke, shell), but it is "one substance".

 

"Not my will but thy will be done" makes perfect sense within homoousia.

 

Hopefully that clarifies it for you ==>> It is a device that easily explains all contradictions and paradoxes regarding the Godhead.  God is a Spirit, and Christ has a resurrected body, no problem.  homoousia!

 

Basically, it was devised at the Council of Nicea to deal with the tricky issue on whether Christ is a created being, and still be God.

Edited by cdowis
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is there anything you don't know?!

Oh yes... it's being very much aware of my vast ignorance that leads to questions, books by people who know more that I do, and mental celebration when I learn something important.

 

Kevin Christensen

Bethel Park, PA

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I suppose there's this:

No mental gymnastics needed I guess (and apologies, it's an inflammatory phrase unnecessarily used).

http://josephsmithpapers.org/paperSummary/history-circa-june-1839-circa-1841-draft-2?p=2

It was that quote from JS which does support Cal's supposition. JS is specifically speaking about "those parties" he had experience with.
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Oh yes... it's being very much aware of my vast ignorance that leads to questions, books by people who know more that I do, and mental celebration when I learn something important.

 

Kevin Christensen

Bethel Park, PA

 

 

well, I love your posts!

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"We can have our theological cake and eat it too." 

 

"It means anything you want it to mean, except for what the Mormons teach."

 

Let's see -- the egg is composed of three separate elements (egg white, yoke, shell), but it is "one substance".

 

"Not my will but thy will be done" makes perfect sense within homoousia.

 

Hopefully that clarifies it for you ==>> It is a device that easily explains all contradictions and paradoxes regarding the Godhead.  God is a Spirit, and Christ has a resurrected body, no problem.  homoousia!

 

Basically, it was devised at the Council of Nicea to deal with the tricky issue on whether Christ is a created being, and still be God.

 

 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church no. 262 attempts to simplify the notion of homoousios

"The Incarnation of God's Son reveals that God is the eternal Father and that the Son is consubstantial with the Father, which means that, in the Father and with the Father the Son is one and the same God."

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The problem is that John 17:19-23 tells us that the faithful disciples will be one with the Father, in the same way that ("even as") Christ is one with the Father.

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For my part, while I think the 1832 and 1838 accounts can be reconciled (in Procrustean fashion), I am not persuaded that the harmonizing explanations (e.g., the Two Lords theory) are correct. So I live with the dissonance. That said, I do think Joseph had a vision of God when he was 14 wherein he received forgiveness for his sins.

 

I'm happy for you to live in dissonance if that's your preference, but I maintain that there is nothing uniquely or tellingly dissonant about the various First Vision accounts. Consider the following hypothetical (inspired by my own research):

  • In 1562 a Jesuit missionary reports that upon having visited a remote Pacific Island he met the ruler of the island in a palace set on 18 poles; the ruler told him that he was happy to have the priest in his island.
  • In 1565 the missionary reports that upon having visited this same Pacific Island he met first one and then another ruler of the island in a palace set on 18 poles; a number of local chiefs were also present during this audience.
  • In 1568 the missionary reports that upon having visited this same Pacific Island he met the queen and king of the island in a palace set on 18 poles; the king told him that he hadn't been particularly impressed with the Muslim traders who had been visiting his island.
  • In 1572 the missionary reports that upon having visited this same Pacific Island he met the rulers of the island in a palace set on 18 poles; the rulers told him that they hadn't been particularly impressed with the Muslim traders who had been visiting their island.

If I were to present the above in a seminar and express concern over the dissonance caused thereby, I would be met with quizzical, probably embarrassed looks. And yet these hypothetical accounts parallel the supposedly difficult-to-reconcile differences in the First Vision accounts.

Edited by Hamba Tuhan
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The circumstances in which he recalled his vision seems to have played a role.

 

Precisely. Which is just another way of saying that each retelling of an event serves a different narrative purpose based upon the immediate context of the retelling. (The very reason we talk about the past is because doing so serves a present function.) Which is exactly what historians find when consulting less controversial textual artefacts.

Edited by Hamba Tuhan
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Precisely. Which is just another way of saying that each retelling of an event serves a different narrative purpose based upon the immediate context of the retelling. (The very reason we talk about the past is because doing so serves a present function.) Which is exactly what historians find when consulting less controversial textual artefacts.

 

But peoples' memories don't get better with time.  Our memories of events change and get influenced by outside sources.  At the very least, the earliest account of the First Vision should be the canonized one.

 

 

Most people have so-called flashbulb memories of where they were and what they were doing when something momentous happened: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, say, or the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. (Unfortunately, staggeringly terrible news seems to come out of the blue more often than staggeringly good news.) But as clear and detailed as these memories feel, psychologists find they are surprisingly inaccurate.

 

Nader, now a neuroscientist at McGill University in Montreal, says his memory of the World Trade Center attack has played a few tricks on him. He recalled seeing television footage on September 11 of the first plane hitting the north tower of the World Trade Center. But he was surprised to learn that such footage aired for the first time the following day. Apparently he wasn’t alone: a 2003 study of 569 college students found that 73 percent shared this misperception.

 

Nader believes he may have an explanation for such quirks of memory. His ideas are unconventional within neuroscience, and they have caused researchers to reconsider some of their most basic assumptions about how memory works. In short, Nader believes that the very act of remembering can change our memories.

Much of his research is on rats, but he says the same basic principles apply to human memory as well. In fact, he says, it may be impossible for humans or any other animal to bring a memory to mind without altering it in some way. Nader thinks it’s likely that some types of memory, such as a flashbulb memory, are more susceptible to change than others. Memories surrounding a major event like September 11 might be especially susceptible, he says, because we tend to replay them over and over in our minds and in conversation with others—with each repetition having the potential to alter them.

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/How-Our-Brains-Make-Memories.html#ixzz2mTJYHGb0

 

 

So, whatever happened to Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove, it's not likely that Joseph's accounts are entirely accurate, and that the changes to the account over time aren't him recalling the same event in different ways, but are him recalling the event as it was formed in his mind at that time.

In other words, if we insist that the First Vision was an actual physical event for which there is an objective reality, then we have to admit that while Joseph's retellings of the event are the best that we have, but they still are not a totally accurate description.

Edited by cinepro
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But peoples' memories don't get better with time.

But this isn't really about memory.

 

So, whatever happened to Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove, it's not likely that Joseph's accounts are entirely accurate, and that the changes to the account over time aren't him recalling the same event in different ways, but are him recalling the event as it was formed in his mind at that time.

 

This is one possible explanation, and obviously it appeals to people who approach the issue with certain predispositions, but as I've attempted to demonstrate, it's not the only or even the most historically valid explanation of the differences (not 'changes'). People really do retell the same event in different ways all the time, and they do so because narrative purposes shift. I've had a number of significant experiences in my life that I've told only parts of depending on the need, and no doubt so have you. In fact, as José Ortega y Gasset pointed out, communication is possible only because, out of the literally infinite number of things that could be said, we choose to say only a few of them.

 

In other words, if we insist that the First Vision was an actual physical event for which there is an objective reality, then we have to admit that while Joseph's retellings of the event are the best that we have, but they still are not a totally accurate description.

 

If it serves your needs to go all 'meta', we can safely state that no retelling of an event is a totally accurate description. And then we can just ignore the past full-stop. But those people who enjoy getting others all worked up over the 'true history' of the Church are not going to be served by your lobbing a postmodern A-bomb at the entire historical project.

Edited by Hamba Tuhan
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If it serves your needs to go all 'meta', we can safely state that no retelling of an event is a totally accurate description. And then we can just ignore the past full-stop. But those people who enjoy getting others all worked up over the 'true history' of the Church are not going to be served by your lobbing a postmodern A-bomb at the entire historical project.

It's not "postmodernism" to recognize the nature (and limitations) of our memories. Just ask Julius Ruffin.

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That's not the only issue with the 1832 version. As I showed a couple of pages ago, he says that at the age of about 12 he had already reached the conclusion that all churches were wrong and not based on the gospel of Jesus before the vision and doesn't an doesn't ask which to join during his vision experience.

In 1838 he says that the though that they could all be wrong had never occurred to him and that he had gone to the grove assuming one must be right and was asking which to join.

That's both an inconsistency and perhaps a contradiction (unless you do mental gymnastics around the fact that in 1838 he thought they were all wrong like he said in 1832, but goes in the hope that one of them must be and he just hasn't realised it yet. That's not what he says in 1838, but one could make it mean that if one needed to).

 

Canard,

 

You are absolutely correct -- this appears to be an inconsistency and perhaps even a contradiction.

 

Now what?  

 

Do you see the possibility that he actually held both views simultaneously.  Is it a possibility that a young teenager can contradict himself from one day to the next.

Edited by cdowis
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Canard,

 

You are absolutely correct -- this appears to be an inconsistency and perhaps even a contradiction.

 

Now what?  

 

Do you see the possibility that he actually held both views simultaneously.  Is it a possibility that a young teenager can contradict himself from one day to the next.

 

I posted something from the 1838 account which shows he had considered the possibility that there must be at least one right... or maybe all wrong. But later in the account says it hadn't occured to him they were all wrong (after in the vision he's told they are). He didn't write any of these when he was a teenager. It's the writings of a 20-something man recalling one incident I'm interested in. And those have inconsistencies.

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I posted something from the 1838 account which shows he had considered the possibility that there must be at least one right... or maybe all wrong. But later in the account says it hadn't occured to him they were all wrong (after in the vision he's told they are). He didn't write any of these when he was a teenager. It's the writings of a 20-something man recalling one incident I'm interested in. And those have inconsistencies.

 

Have you come to any specific conclusion, or is this just chaff. 

 

My personal conclusion has been that one version is wrong, or both of them are right.  I think that I can somehow live with that.

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One issue that is interesting is the timing of the members of the Smith family joined the local Presbyterian church. The official account says 1820. The Oliver Cowdery account says around 1823-24. William Smith said Smith Snr declined to join because the preacher said his son Alvin had gone to hell. Alvin died in 1823. The West Palmyra church record has been missing since 1930 (LDS Centennial). This would have shown the correct date. See Footnote No 30 page 570 in RSR for Bushman's take on the matter..

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Have you come to any specific conclusion, or is this just chaff. 

 

My personal conclusion has been that one version is wrong, or both of them are right.  I think that I can somehow live with that.

 

Probably just chaff.

 

Conclusion? One day. Hopefully. I tend to be perennially unconcluded. 

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For what it's worth, here is how BYU historian Steven Harper reconciles the apparent discrepancy:

Thanks for posting this.

 

In light of Harper's perspective, the phrasing Joseph chose is quite meaningful. He could have said  it had not yet entered his mind that all the sects were wrong. He didn't. He said "heart."

 

There is quite a difference.

 

The heart is metaphorically viewed as the seat of personal feeling and belief, while the mind is looked upon as the seat of factual learning and understanding.

 

I really do believe Harper is onto something here. (And I say that with my mind and my heart. ;)  )

Edited by Scott Lloyd
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    • By kiwi57
      In a now-defunct thread, I pointed out that the only evidence for the accusation that anyone had ever tried to "hide" the 1832 First Vision account was the mere fact that it hadn't been published. I argued from this that there was an implicit assumption on the part of the accusers that non-publication was always intentional, and that "hiding" was the intention that drove it.
      In reality, non-publication is rarely intentional at all; it is the default. Most written accounts never get published. But that is by the way.
      In response, my interlocutor claimed that there were all kinds of reasons why the 1832 account needed to be hidden. Now this isn't really a response to my argument. The fact that in the opinion of some person A some document might be problematic, doesn't even begin to approach evidence that some other person B either agrees, or if s/he does, finds the problems sufficient motivation to "hide" the document. It's rather like saying that since in my opinion Trump shouldn't grope women, Trump must not have actually ever done so.
      Thus, the argument as it stands is settled. The question at had is whether there is any evidence, apart from mere non-publication (and a garbled hearsay story, heavily larded with speculation, about what Joseph Fielding Smith may or may not have done with it) that anyone tried to "hide" the 1832 account; and the answer is no. Whether one person believes (or wishes) that the 1832 account creates problems for the Church's truth claims is not evidence of any kind about another person's actions.
      With that out of the way, though, the question is an interesting one: Does the 1832 account create problem for the Church's truth claims?
      I don't think it does, but I'd be interested to know what others think.
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