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Claim the Book of Mormon is “inspired fiction” & still be exalted to Celestial Kingdom?


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38 members have voted

  1. 1. Grant Hardy (FAIR Presentation)

    • I’m LDS and I believe Grant Hardy is WRONG—among other things, one must affirm belief in historical “Nephites” to inherit the Celestial Kingdom
      4
    • I’m LDS and I believe Grant Hardy is RIGHT—one can believe the Book of Mormon contents to be “inspired fiction” and still inherit the Celestial Kingdom
      19
    • I’m LDS & and this poll makes me uncomfortable and/or I think the pollster is incompetent, doesn't understand Mormonism, etc.
      7
    • I’m not LDS
      8


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7 minutes ago, Gray said:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is very cynical stuff, Smac. But I don't think you're treating the idea with maximum charity. Rather you seem to be looking for the worst version of it possible. 

I'll walk you through a scenario:

  • Joseph Smith spends his young years studying the Bible and attending revival camps.
  • He is inspired with spiritual insights about the nature of Jesus and the gospel.
  • In a superstitious time in rural New York, he comes to believe that he has the ability to find hidden treasure by using a stone and picturing the treasure in his mind.
  • Eventually he comes to believe he can restore ancient histories by the same means. The process is similar - he uses a stone and "studies out" the words that come to his mind. 
  • Joseph has visions or dreams of an ancient Native American named Moroni
  • He sets out to restore the history of Moroni's people. The history itself is not inspired by God, but the doctrines that Joseph received earlier are. 
  • Anxious about being seen as credible, Joseph constructs a prop to help bolster the credibility of the history he is seeking to restore. Joseph does this on his own. A youthful mistake. 
  • The prop is for the most part kept hidden, or covered with a cloth. Probably it would not be very impressive if examined closely.
  • Joseph completes the translation. The story itself was created by Joseph Smith, who believed he was writing real history.
  • The doctrines in the book are the same doctrines that God revealed to Joseph. 

 

This is merely a hypothetical scenario, of course. But it's a plausible one that does not fit the cynical vision you seem to have of it. 

 

 

The Taves "materialization" theory also has some merit.  http://www.churchistrue.com/blog/gold-plates-ann-taves-naturalistic-theory/

 

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9 minutes ago, churchistrue said:

Smac, it's probably impossible to do this, but please try.  Imagine you somehow came to believe that the BOM was not historical.  

I can't imagine the conclusion without having some conception of the path I took to get there.  

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You had irrefutable evidence.  

I'm not particularly interested in such extreme hypotheticals.

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Maybe the Holy Ghost also confirmed it to you.  Whatever.  Just imagine that.  

I cannot.  I lack the capacity.  I would need to understand how I arrived at that conclusion.

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But nothing else about your belief in Mormonism changed.  

You're right.  This is impossible.

I cannot conceptualize having a "testimony" of "Mormonism" without a belief in Jesus Christ.  I also cannot conceptualize having a "testimony" of "Mormonism" without a belief in the words of the prophets that lead me to Christ: the scriptures.

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You still believed all the spiritual truths of the BOM.  

How so?  How do I believe in God being perfect in every respect, while also believing that He founded His Church on a massive web of lies and deceit?  

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You still believed the other revelations that came through Joseph.  

How would I do that?  If Joseph Smith lied or was deluded about the "keystone of our religion," why bother with believing any of the other "revelations" that came through him?  What set of rules, what logic would you use to differentiate spurious revelations from real ones?  

For the record, I use the Standard Works, but your proposal would make those almost entirely suspect.

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You still believed God was in the Mormon church.  

Why would I believe that?  Why would I believe that God founded the LDS Church on a web of lies and deceit?

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You still believed your temple covenants were real.  You still believed everything else.  What would you do?

I have no idea.  

Let me illustrate my perspective with a metaphor:

Let's say that my parents gave me a beautiful car for graduation from college, which I then start using to get to my work at my new job each day.  But after a while I start to have some problems with it.  It has some dings in the hood.  It's a funny color, so my neighbors have teased me a bit.  And then the engine starts acting up, so I take the engine out to see if I can sort it out.  I can't figure out the problem, though, and after a while I just haul the engine to a scrap yard.  Then I take off the tires and give them away.  Then I dismantle the steering column and melt down its component parts, just for kicks.  I also pull out the back seat and give it to a friend to use in his latest art project.

And then, having gutted the car, having deliberately disposed its core components, having destroyed everything about it that enables it to get me from Point A to Point B, having left it as a mere shell, with no real utility except perhaps being a place where I can rest my tuckus, I start thinking about what I've done and what I should do moving forward.

What would happen then?  Have I made appropriate use of the car?  I can use it to listen to the radio, I suppose.  Or to take naps in.  But if I am honest with myself, I must admit that although I can sit in it all day long, it will never, ever get me from Point A to Point B.  It had the capacity to do that when it was given to me, but no more.  I hollowed it out and destroyed its capacity to perform its core function.  So my options are stark:

  • Option 1: I can change my expectations about the car.  I would dispense with the idea that I can use it for the purposes which my parents had in mind when they gave it to me.  I would think of the car not as a means of getting from Point A to Point B.  Instead, I would just let it sit in the garage.  I won't pay much attention to it.  I probably won't spend much time or effort on improving it.  What would be the point of that?  It's just a hollowed out hulk of metal, after all.  In fact, at some point I may just get rid of it altogether.  What's the point of keeping it around if it can't do what it is intended to do?

 

or...

  • Option 2: I can reconsider what I have done.  I can look at the car from my parents' perspective.  I can perhaps feel regret for neglecting/misusing the gift they had given me.  I can apologize to my parents, then start working on restoring the things I had taken out of the car.  New engine, new tires, new steering column, new back seat.  It would take a lot of effort, far more than if I had not gutted the car in the first place.  But in the end, this option would enable me to restore the car to its proper form and function.  I could then use it the ways my parents intended.

I really believe the Gospel is what it claims to be.  It really can get us from Point A to Point B, but not if we gut it and discard its essential components.

Thanks,

-Smac

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45 minutes ago, Nevo said:

Classy, Smac.

So much for the whole  "with no malice in my heart" more-in-sorrow-than-anger act.

I don't understand.  I have not attacked or disparaged anyone.  No malice.  No ill will.

I'm just not buying into the guilt trip.  I am critiquing an idea, not a person.  I am not disparaging anyone's character.  I am not questioning anyone's honesty or integrity.  

Thanks,

-Smac

Edited by smac97
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2 minutes ago, smac97 said:

I don't understand.  I have not attacked or disparaged anyone.  No malice.  No ill will.

Thanks,

-Smac

It reads as an attack on those who are promoting this position, implying (imo if it is not intentional, it sure reads that way) that those who are promoting it are trying to convert those who swallow it to the position of faithlessness.

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4 hours ago, Gray said:

I don't think the opinions  expressed on this board are necessarily indicative of any trends in the church as a whole. 

It is a given that the opinions here are not necessarily indicative of a church wide trend. But it would be strange if the opinions expressed here by a majority of the LDS are necessarily not indicative of a church wide trend. I don't want to have a Chapel Mormon vs. Internet Mormon discussion. My only point was that "if" these views about the Book of Mormon as fiction were to be adopted by the church as a whole, it would have consequences that might be unanticipated. I suggest that most of those consequences would be negative, except for Mormons whose faith is flagging (understandably from my point of view) while they are still hoping to remain Mormon. I sympathize but inspired fiction is not the way to remove problems with being LDS.

Have the proponents of the inspired fiction theory considered how this will appear to non-LDS? I actually started to read the Book of Mormon once as inspired history. I didn't finish. I am sure I prayed, but I am afraid I got bored. Obviously, with all due respect to faithful LDS, I became comfortable about rejecting LDS claims at the time about the Book of Mormon. If this new view did catch on, the missionaries, unless they try to cover up the past, are going to have come to us and explain that people like me were right all along about the historical veracity while the LDS Church was wrong about its own book. Its too late for that now. You all can't send missionaries out with that kind of "ammo". And I don't think they would go if you ever try.

Have the proponents of the inspired fiction theory considered how it will appear to the upcoming generation? Will it make Mormon young people more inclined to follow the faith of their parents, or less inclined? The problem is not that inspired fiction in a vacuum is untenable. The problem is that there hasn't been a vacuum. The problem is that if the Church was exactly wrong for its entire existence about its own book, what authority can be attached to the claim that the Church is right when it claims the Gospel needed to be restored? If the Church has been for its entire existence wrong about its own book, what authority can be attached to its claim that there ever was a Gospel in the first place?

The Book of Mormon as inspired fiction? Only in a vacuum, not in real life.

Edited by 3DOP
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19 minutes ago, Calm said:

It reads as an attack on those who are promoting this position, implying (imo if it is not intentional, it sure reads that way) that those who are promoting it are trying to convert those who swallow it to the position of faithlessness.

Okay.  But what position is being advocated, then?  Faith?  In what?  In a version of the Gospel that requires all sorts of horrible conclusions about Joseph Smith, The Book of Mormon, the Three Witnesses, the Eight Witnesses, and even the very nature and character of God Himself?

There is a quote from J. Reuben Clark that is sometimes bandied about by critics and dissidents of the Church (and also, ironically enough, by HappyJackWagon): “If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.”  Well, here I am, "investigating" the Inspired Fiction theory.

Here's another quote used by HappyJackwagon (same link as above):

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"Only error fears freedom of expression… Neither fear of consequence nor any kind of coercion should ever be used to secure uniformity of thought in the church.

…we should also be unafraid to dissent - if we are informed. Thoughts and expressions compete in the marketplace of thought, and in that competition truth emerges triumphant.

Hugh B. Brown (1988) The Abundant Life: The Memoirs of Hugh B. Brown, ed. Edwin B. Firmage (Salt Lake City: Signature Books). Pp. 137-139

Well, here I am, dissenting from the Inspired Fiction theory.  In a "marketplace of thought," no less.  

Nevertheless, I value your judgment, Calm.  I'll tone things down.  Perhaps I should even bow out for a while.

Thanks,

-Smac

Edited by smac97
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21 minutes ago, smac97 said:

I don't understand.  I have not attacked or disparaged anyone.  No malice.  No ill will.

I'm just not buying into the guilt trip.  I am critiquing an idea, not a person.  I am not disparaging anyone's character.  I am not questioning anyone's honesty or integrity.  

Accusing someone of "faithlessness" comes across as an attack on their character and integrity. Consider the possibility that some people who take the position that the Book of Mormon is not historical may in fact do so in good faith.

Edited by Nevo
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5 minutes ago, Nevo said:

Accusing someone of "faithlessness" certainly comes across as an attack on their character and integrity.

I did not think I was accusing anyone of faithlessness.  I just think faithlessness (in the Restored Gospel) is a core attribute of the Inspired Fiction concept.

Nevertheless, I will concede the point.  I retract the statement and apologize to those whom I have offended.

Thanks,

-Smac

Edited by smac97
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The Book of Mormon teaches that in the day it was written, those who baptized infants held to the view that unbaptized infants who pass from this world were understood to be enduring the torments of a fiery hell. Fine, insofar as infant baptism was being practised in the New World. I cannot think of a single old world religion that ever believed that. On the contrary, it has been received as the perennial Catholic Tradition that it is impossible that an infant, who is incapable of actual sin, could suffer the sense pains of hell. I can prove this if necessary. 

While disbelieving in the veracity of the history of the Book of Mormon, and suspecting that Joseph Smith was ignorant about the doctrines of infant baptsm, I have provided my own answer as to how a faithful LDS could explain the apparent misrepresentation of what pedobaptists really believe. But the only way for it to work is if there really were New World pedobaptists who really did believe that dead unbaptized babies experienced fiery torments. If the harsh comments against infant baptism have no application to any New World religion, neither is there an application to Old World religion.

Muhammad makes an argument in the Koran against the deity of Christ because Jesus grew weary, slept, and ate food. He either misrepresented or misunderstood how Christianity teaches that Christ was also man. His "argument" only works with those who are ignorant of the nuances of Christian teaching. I don't accuse either Muhammed or Joseph of being liars. But as much as they might be otherwise admirable characters, I find it difficult to believe in any prophet that doesn't even understand the religion he claims to replace. If the Book of Mormon is only inspired fiction and not historical, the "prophet" who wrote it surely didn't understand what he wanted to replace with respect to the criticism of infant baptism.  

Edited by 3DOP
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7 minutes ago, 3DOP said:

I find it difficult to believe in any "prophet" that doesn't even understand the religion he claims to replace. If the Book of Mormon is only inspired fiction and not historical, the "prophet" who wrote it surely didn't understand what he wanted to replace with respect to the criticism of infant baptism.  

Well, to Joseph's credit, he did eventually come around. In his 1844 "Sermon in the Grove," he is reported to have said "[the] old Catholic Church is worth more than all" (Ehat and Cook, Words of Joseph Smith, 381–382).

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28 minutes ago, 3DOP said:

The Book of Mormon teaches that in the day it was written, those who baptized infants held to the view that unbaptized infants who pass from this world were understood to be enduring the torments of a fiery hell. Fine, insofar as infant baptism was being practised in the New World. I cannot think of a single old world religion that ever believed that. On the contrary, it has been received as the perennial Catholic Tradition that it is impossible that an infant, who is incapable of actual sin, could suffer the sense pains of hell. I can prove this if necessary. 

I would be interested in that

From a Vatican website:

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1.3. The Latin Fathers

15. The fate of unbaptised infants first became the subject of sustained theological reflection in the West during the anti-Pelagian controversies of the early 5th century. St. Augustine addressed the question because Pelagius was teaching that infants could be saved without Baptism. Pelagius questioned whether St. Paul's letter to the Romans really taught that all human beings sinned “in Adam” (Rom 5:12) and that concupiscence, suffering, and death were a consequence of the Fall.[22] Since he denied that Adam's sin was transmitted to his descendants, he regarded newborn infants as innocent. Pelagius promised infants who died unbaptised entry into “eternal life” (not, however, into the “Kingdom of God” [Jn 3:5]), reasoning that God would not condemn to hell those who were not personally guilty of sin.[23]

16. In countering Pelagius, Augustine was led to state that infants who die without Baptism are consigned to hell.[24] He appealed to the Lord's precept, John 3:5, and to the Church's liturgical practice. Why are little children brought to the baptismal font, especially infants in danger of death, if not to assure them entrance into the Kingdom of God? Why are they subjected to exorcisms and exsufflations if they do not have to be delivered from the devil?[25] Why are they born again if they do not need to be made new? Liturgical practice confirms the Church's belief that all inherit Adam's sin and must be transferred from the power of darkness into the kingdom of light (Col 1:13).[26]There is only one Baptism, the same for infants and adults, and it is for the forgiveness of sins.[27] If little children are baptized, then, it is because they are sinners. Although they clearly are not guilty of personal sin, according to Romans 5:12 (in the Latin translation available to Augustine), they have sinned “in Adam”.[28] “Why did Christ die for them if they are not guilty?”[29] All need Christ as their Saviour.

17. In Augustine's judgement, Pelagius undermined belief in Jesus Christ, the one Mediator (1 Tim 2:5), and in the need for the saving grace he won for us on the Cross. Christ came to save sinners. He is the “Great Physician” who offers even infants the medicine of Baptism to save them from the inherited sin of Adam.[30]The sole remedy for the sin of Adam, passed on to everyone through human generation, is Baptism. Those who are not baptized cannot enter the Kingdom of God. At the judgement, those who do not enter the Kingdom (Mt 25:34) will be condemned to hell (Mt 25:41). There is no “middle ground” between heaven and hell. “There is no middle place left, where you can put babies”.[31] Anyone “who is not with Christ must be with the devil”.[32]...

....

20. So great was Augustine's authority in the West, however, that the Latin Fathers (e.g., Jerome, Fulgentius, Avitus of Vienne, and Gregory the Great) did adopt his opinion. Gregory the Great asserts that God condemns even those with only original sin on their souls; even infants who have never sinned by their own will must go to “everlasting torments”. He cites Job 14:4-5 (LXX), John 3:5, and Ephesians 2:3 on our condition at birth as “children of wrath”.[42]

http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/cti_documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20070419_un-baptised-infants_en.html

Edited by mfbukowski
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Setting aside the idea that the alternatives from which to choose are between inspired "fiction" and literal history, where it seems the common ground all believing Mormons share is in holding the Book of Mormon sacred. It is in sacredness that a person finds meaning. Perhaps those who are willing to acknowledge how the Judeo-Christian canon's mythologized origin narrative is also likely a-historical yet the scripture no less considered sacred by many who accept this, is in a position to to acknowledge as God has done before so He does today. Perhaps the more rigid minded would argue the same, also asserting as God has done before, so does He today. But they do so in the face of evidence that undermines fundamentalist views of scripture.

We see parallels in the debate around the stories of Genesis (global flood v. local flood v. borrowed mythology for example). Would some be inclined to excommunicate someone because they don't believe in a global flood, or that the scientific narrative for the creation of the world as supported by physical evidence must be taken into account when interpreting the stories of creation and Adama and Eve in Genesis? The problems for those with such rigid views about scripture become legion and are not limited to just the Book of Mormon or other Mormon scriptural writings.

I suspect that Robert Price, in his "Joseph Smith, Inspired Author of the Book of Mormon", does one of the more easily accessible jobs of illustrating this using the story of the finding of Deuteronomy and comparing it to the Book of Mormon. I quote liberally from the link below for those not inclined or able to read the original themselves.

http://www.robertmprice.mindvendor.com/art_josmith.htm

 

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In 2 Kings chapter 22 , we witness a pivotal scene for the history of the ancient Kingdom of Judah, one with far-reaching echoes which continue to sound in the present day. Two particular notes in this echo will concern us here. The scene is a familiar one to lovers of the Scriptures. The priest Hilkiah sends word to Josiah the King, words simple but heavy with omen: "I have found a book." At the king's direction he had been busy locating certain funds to be used to compensate the crews of workmen hired to refurbish the temple, when suddenly the shrouding dust and shadows disclosed a surprising secret, a moldering scroll. Perhaps thinking at first it might be an old parish ledger, a record of the money he is seeking, he opens up the volume and scans a page or two. A gasp signals the others present that their task has turned out to be anything but mundane; what seemed but an extensive spring cleaning proves to be an excavation. For the old book is nothing less than the Book of the Covenant, or what we today refer to as the Book of Deuteronomy (or at least the core of it, chapters 4-33). Hilkiah knows at once it is something the king must see.

When the young sovereign hears the contents read, he is stunned. Perhaps tempted to doze during the long sections of tort law and ritual etiquette, Josiah is rudely jolted awake by the litanies of blessings and curses which give Deuteronomy its unique theology. He hears the words like a death sentence, for up till his reign Judah has been ruled by a sorry succession of perverts and apostates, whose outrages have been catalogued in the preceding chapters of 2 Kings. Josiah recognizes in the lists of banned and interdicted deeds a virtual resume of his predecessors. Eager though he is to make amends before God, he is told by Huldah the Prophetess that it is too little too late, though he himself will be spared seeing the sad ending. Josiah might well have spoken the words latter attributed to Louis XIV of France: "After me, the deluge!"

The passage is important for many reasons, not the least of which is that it provides priceless information about the emergence of the Book of Deuteronomy. We only wish we had such revealing clues at other points in the history of the biblical canon. We may suppose, however, that the story of Josiah, Hilkiah, and the Book strikes deeper resonances for Latter Day Saints than for any other Christian group. This is because of the similarity to the conditions in which the Book of Mormon came to light. It, too, is said to be an ancient scripture long buried in a time of religious and national crisis, only to resurface long afterward, when its forgotten message should be heard anew.

...

One of the chief points of contention and division between the Mormon Church and its "separated brethren" also, ironically, harks back to the discovery of the lost Book of Deuteronomy in 2 Kings 22, for today, virtually all critical scholars are agreed that the tale of Josiah and Hilkiah tries to hide the very thing it hints at: that the Book was not discovered and dusted off, but actually created by Hilkiah, Huldah, Jeremiah, and others of the "Deuteronomic School" who thus sought to win the impressionable young king to their religious agenda. What is set forth in 2 Kings as reactionary (restoring the past) was really revolutionary (pressing on into a new future). Though it no doubt contained much traditional material, both from Israel in the north and from Judah in the south, Deuteronomy was essentially a new book, a "modern" revision and updating of previous laws collected in the Yahvist Epic (the "J Source") and Elohist Epic (the "E Source"). On the basis of a platform of a newly stream-lined monotheism (or at least monolatry) and a humanitarian regard for slaves, animals and employees, Hilkiah, Huldah, and the others hoped to avert God's wrath for the abuses they had witnessed with increasing disgust for far too long. Thus they penned the book in secret, much like the framers of the United States Constitution, delegates commissioned for one purpose (strengthening the Articles of Confederation) who in fact accomplished another (creating the Constitution).

Again, virtually all critical scholars agree that Joseph Smith did not discover the Book of Mormon but rather created it. His goal would have been as analogous to that of Hilkiah as his methods had been: in the face of confusion over which nineteenth-century version of Christianity to embrace, none seeming to have any particular advantage over the others, all seeming to be severely in want of something, Joseph Smith tried to make a clean break with the recent past and to go on into a new future by invoking a more distant past. And in so doing he had created something new, an imaginary Sacred Past, the way it should have been.

...

Seen this way, the roots of the Latter Day Saint movement among the Campbellite Restoration movement makes new sense. When the other Campbellite sects blazed a trail "back to the Bible," i.e., to the early church of the New Testament, they were unwittingly retrojecting onto the past their own ideas of how the church ought to be. Obviously Alexander Campbell and the others had derived their ideals from a selective reading of the New Testament documents (noticing certain things and ignoring others), so it was not as if they had created their scriptural prototype of Christianity out of thin air. And, by the same token, neither had Joseph Smith. Assuming he was the author of the Book of Mormon, Smith's fabricated picture of a pristine ("Nephite"[="neophyte"?]) American Christianity was in fact his own biblically-informed ideal of what American Christianity in his own day ought to become. And, for a great many Americans, it did. Joseph's Smith's creation and retrojection of an artificial, superior biblical past is thus seen to be simply the most dramatic and thorough-going of all "restorationist" creations.

Thus far we have suggested that, if Joseph Smith is to be considered, not the excavator and translator, but the author of the Book of Mormon, the situation is far removed from that of some crude hoax or practical joke. The creative fabrication of a supposedly ancient document is in natural continuity with the process of historical reconstruction. Just as the latter is an attempt to move from ancient evidence to a new product synthesizing (some of that) evidence, so is the former. The difference between them is important, but only in some senses, not in others. In the one case, the pseudepigraphist understands that he is fashioning a version of events that almost certainly never actually occurred. It would be the wildest stroke of luck if he had chanced upon ancient reality, and he would never be able to know that he had. But, really, how much different is the position of the historian? He, too, is exercising historical imagination in an attempt to paint a plausible picture of what might have happened in the past. True, he is bound to the extant evidence more closely than the pseudepigraphical writer who feels free to imagine new characters and events. But the historian, too, may posit characters of which he knows nothing, but who are likely enough to be equivalent to real characters, who must have played analogous roles, even though no specific evidence of them happens to survive. Surely Napoleon had various advisers. If no evidence of their identities and words happens to survive (there is no real reason it should), then may we not sketch out such characters and assign them names? Journalists do this all the time. Granted, the historian may not feel entitled to do it, but historical novelists do. And, the further we go into the past, the smaller the gap stretches between historians and historical novelists. But, granted, the analogy between Joseph Smith and historical critics eventually runs thin and peters out. But that it extends so far is the surprising thing.

Narrative Worlds Without End

And where that analogy ends another, even closer, begins. We have already referred to the analogy between the Books of Deuteronomy and of Mormon, both being judged by modern critics as unhistorical pseudepigrapha (i.e., scriptural texts penned under the name of an ancient author). What Joseph Smith did, as historical critics understand the matter, is exactly what all ancient pseudepigraphists did, and he belongs to an illustrious company. Smith belongs among the authors of the Book of Daniel, the Book of Deuteronomy, the Book of Zohar; the Pastoral Epistles (1 and 2 Timothy, Titus), not to mention a greater or lesser number of other Epistles attributed to Paul; 1 and 2 Peter; 1, 2, and 3 Enoch; 1, 2, and 3 Baruch; the Apocalypse of Moses, Madame Blavatsky's Book of Dzyan, and a number of "rediscovered" Tibetan Buddhist texts.6 But is this group a company of saints or rather perhaps a rogues' gallery? Traditionally apologist and polemicist alike have equated "pseudepigraphist" with "fraud" or "liar." And there is a trivial sense in which such a characterization is correct.

It is that same sense in which a fiction writer is a liar and a deceiver. That is, even though the book jacket be labeled "Fiction," the writer strives to woo the reader into that state of "temporary willing suspension of disbelief" that Coleridge called "poetic faith." For the time being, the reader of a novel, the viewer of a play, allows himself or herself to be drawn into the events of a fiction, to be moved by the fortunes and misfortunes of the characters, etc. One enters a fictive world, a narrative world, in order to feel and experience things one would never otherwise experience. We now recognize, as Aristotle did, the wholesome and edifying function of temporarily suspending disbelief. But it has not always been so. Shakespeare and others were obliged to reassure their audiences that what they were about to see or read was "The True History of Richard III," or whomever.7 Some were not able to understand the difference between fiction and lying. The problem was that of "bifurcation," the reduction of a complex choice to an over-simple one. One's alternatives are not either "fact or deception," "hoax or history." Were the parables of Jesus either factual or deceptive? Did he intend anyone to think he was talking about the case of a real prodigal son of whose improbable homecoming he had yesterday read in The Galilee Gazette? Of course not; he knew that his audience knew he was making it up as he went, as an illustration. And this is pretty much the same kind of "deception" practiced by the scriptural pseudepigraphist, whether ancient or modern.

It may help at this point to remind ourselves of the distinction between the author of a story and the narrator of the story. The author is the actual person composing and producing the text. Let Herman Melville serve as an example. The narrator, on the other hand, is one of the characters in the story, chosen by the author as the one from whose viewpoint the story is to be related to the reader. So the textual self-designation "I" refers not to the author but to the narrator. "My name is Ishmael." Does this mean that Melville is trying to deceive us as to what his name is? No, of course not. We are once again temporarily suspending disbelief, entering into a narrative world. While inside it, we are listening to the narrator, a fictive construct of the author. For the meantime, the author is forgotten in favor of the narrator. "Ishmael is certainly a tough old salt!" one reader may remark to another. But when they have both laid the finished novel aside, they will begin to speak of Melville's, not Ishmael's, strengths and weaknesses as a writer. Accordingly, we ought to realize that for Joseph Smith to be the author of the Book of Mormon, with Moroni and Mormon as narrators inside the text's narrative world, makes moot the old debates over whether Smith was a hoaxer or charlatan.

 


 

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16 minutes ago, Honorentheos said:

Setting aside the idea that the alternatives from which to choose are between inspired "fiction" and literal history, where it seems the common ground all believing Mormons share is in holding the Book of Mormon sacred. It is in sacredness that a person finds meaning. Perhaps those who are willing to acknowledge how the Judeo-Christian canon's mythologized origin narrative is also likely a-historical yet the scripture no less considered sacred by many who accept this, is in a position to to acknowledge as God has done before so He does today. Perhaps the more rigid minded would argue the same, also asserting as God has done before, so does He today. But they do so in the face of evidence that undermines fundamentalist views of scripture.

We see parallels in the debate around the stories of Genesis (global flood v. local flood v. borrowed mythology for example). Would some be inclined to excommunicate someone because they don't believe in a global flood, or that the scientific narrative for the creation of the world as supported by physical evidence must be taken into account when interpreting the stories of creation and Adama and Eve in Genesis? The problems for those with such rigid views about scripture become legion and are not limited to just the Book of Mormon or other Mormon scriptural writings.

I suspect that Robert Price, in his "Joseph Smith, Inspired Author of the Book of Mormon", does one of the more easily accessible jobs of illustrating this using the story of the finding of Deuteronomy and comparing it to the Book of Mormon. I quote liberally from the link below for those not inclined or able to read the original themselves.

http://www.robertmprice.mindvendor.com/art_josmith.htm

 


 

Hey!

Welcome back- this guy is brilliant- I had never heard of him

Thanks for the post!

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2 minutes ago, mfbukowski said:

Hey!

Welcome back- this guy is brilliant- I had never heard of him

Thanks for the post!

Thanks!

 

Price was a recommendation to me years ago and one I enjoy revisiting. Glad to pay the favor forward.

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Hi Mark, I thought someone might bring up St Augustine. St. Augustine disagrees with the Eastern Fathers, the Schoolmen, and a few popes, when he goes further and insists that those who commit no actual sin suffer sense pain. The Old World Hell is not necessarily a place of sense pain. 

Augustine mitigated some of his earlier writings by saying that the sense pain for those who never committed actual sin was very mild, (mitissima omnium poena; Enchiridion #93). St. Thos. Aquinas affirmed that a "condition of natural bliss is compatible" with the "damnation" associated with original sin unaccompanied by actual sin. (De Malo, Question 5, article 3, available in English online for about 19 bucks for a month subscription) Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) taught that "the punishment of original sin is deprivation of the vision of God" (Denz. 410).

(I put "damnation" in quotes for the non-Catholics because most non-Catholic concepts of heaven seem less to do with eternally contemplating the vision of God, and more like a "condition of natural bliss". I think a lot of people would be pretty content to live eternally in a condition of natural bliss and to call it damnation can be misleading to someone like that. This is because they ascribe to a vision of hell which overemphasizes sense pain and barely takes note of missing out on the beatific vision.)

My recollection was that an assumption has prevailed among LDS, presumably springing from the Book of Mormon, that infant baptizers necessarily propose a burning fire for the unbaptized who never even committed an actual sin. However, in re-reading Moroni 8 tonight, I see that the author only affirms that the condition of the unbaptized baby would be eternal. Perhaps my memory was faulty, unless there is another text that speaks more of fiery punishment for the babies. I may need to reevaluate this argument as it pertains to Book of Mormon historicity.

Anyway, I don't wish to distract from the issue I raised which is about whether or not Book of Mormon historicity can be abandoned without making a mess. They give a date of 400-420 AD for the writings in Moroni. Interestingly, this would make the writing contemporary with the writings of Augustine. I would like that if I were LDS a lot better than if Moroni was written in the backdrop of a more developed 19th Century pedobaptism in which no one that I know of, no Catholics anyway, believed in Augustine's mild sense pain in the absence of actual sin. 

 

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14 hours ago, 3DOP said:

The Book of Mormon teaches that in the day it was written, those who baptized infants held to the view that unbaptized infants who pass from this world were understood to be enduring the torments of a fiery hell. Fine, insofar as infant baptism was being practised in the New World. I cannot think of a single old world religion that ever believed that. On the contrary, it has been received as the perennial Catholic Tradition that it is impossible that an infant, who is incapable of actual sin, could suffer the sense pains of hell. I can prove this if necessary. 

While disbelieving in the veracity of the history of the Book of Mormon, and suspecting that Joseph Smith was ignorant about the doctrines of infant baptsm, I have provided my own answer as to how a faithful LDS could explain the apparent misrepresentation of what pedobaptists really believe. But the only way for it to work is if there really were New World pedobaptists who really did believe that dead unbaptized babies experienced fiery torments. If the harsh comments against infant baptism have no application to any New World religion, neither is there an application to Old World religion.

Muhammad makes an argument in the Koran against the deity of Christ because Jesus grew weary, slept, and ate food. He either misrepresented or misunderstood how Christianity teaches that Christ was also man. His "argument" only works with those who are ignorant of the nuances of Christian teaching. I don't accuse either Muhammed or Joseph of being liars. But as much as they might be otherwise admirable characters, I find it difficult to believe in any prophet that doesn't even understand the religion he claims to replace. If the Book of Mormon is only inspired fiction and not historical, the "prophet" who wrote it surely didn't understand what he wanted to replace with respect to the criticism of infant baptism.  

Most LDS apologetics has focused on defending the many physical anachronisms described in the Book of Mormon (e.g., horses/tapirs).  But you remind us the book contains theological anachronisms as well.  My personal favorite is the Zoramites who make parody of Reformed theology/predestination--a full century before the New Testament (wherein the word "predestined" appears) began to be written.   

;0)

--Erik

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In my view, Joseph Smith sincerely believed the Book of Mormon was historical. His letter to Emma Smith while he was marching as part of Zion's Camp, dated June 4, 1834, seems to indicated two things:

  1. Joseph sincerely believed that the Book of Mormon peoples had been in the Ohio Valley and their remains were visible for Zion's Camp to see. This entails an expanded geology model as opposed to the currently accepted, limited, Mesoamerican model.
  2. Joseph sincerely believed he had translated a record of real people.

Here is the important quote from Joseph to Emma:

Quote

The whole of our journey, in the midst of so large a company of  social honest men and sincere men, wandering over the plains of the Nephites, recounting occasionaly the history of the Book of Mormon, roving over the mounds of that once  beloved people of the Lord, picking up their skulls & their bones, as a proof of its  divine authenticity, and gazing upon a country the fertility, the splendour and  the goodness so indescribable, all serves to pass away time unnoticed, and in  short were it not at every now and then our thoughts linger with inexpressible  anxiety for our wives and our children our kindred according to the flesh who  are entwined around our hearts...

You can read the entire letter at the Joseph Smith Papers project.

If one has spent time reading the letters between Joseph and Emma, it is logical to conclude that Joseph had no need to bamboozle Emma as part of his fraud. Instead, the sincerity of their correspondence on the topic lends me to believe that they both sincerely believed that Joseph had translated an historical record. Whether that record was, in fact, historical, is irrelevant to Joseph's thinking, because he clearly believed it was.

The evidence of the Book of Abraham, to me, seems to corroborate this theory. Could Joseph have not fully understood the mechanics of his translation gift? Perhaps he received the translation through miraculous means and, after having received the translation, assumed that the actual text (which he couldn't read) was what he translated? I think the same process could have attended the translation of the Book of Mormon.

Nevertheless, I think this indicates that Joseph could have been in error about specific conclusions resulting from his sincere belief he translated the Book of Mormon. If he was in error about the Ohio Valley being the land of the Nephites, does it matter? He understood the message of the Book of Mormon, which is that we all can approach the veil in faith, rend the veil, and be redeemed personally by God.

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39 minutes ago, orangganjil said:

In my view, Joseph Smith sincerely believed the Book of Mormon was historical.

What are your thoughts about whether Joseph Smith thought the physical artifact he referred to as the "plates?"  Do you think he thought those were historical as well?

Quote

If one has spent time reading the letters between Joseph and Emma, it is logical to conclude that Joseph had no need to bamboozle Emma as part of his fraud. Instead, the sincerity of their correspondence on the topic lends me to believe that they both sincerely believed that Joseph had translated an historical record.

What is your theory about the origins of the physical artifact of which both Joseph and Emma spoke?  From whence do you think it came?

Quote

The evidence of the Book of Abraham, to me, seems to corroborate this theory. Could Joseph have not fully understood the mechanics of his translation gift? Perhaps he received the translation through miraculous means and, after having received the translation, assumed that the actual text (which he couldn't read) was what he translated? I think the same process could have attended the translation of the Book of Mormon.

Translation of what, though?  You just called what Joseph did a "fraud."  So what do you think was the original source for what we now have as The Book of Mormon?

Thanks,

-Smac

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To try and demand a particular Book of Mormon claim be taken one way by someone with whom a person disagrees based on one particular piece of evidence is an example of trying to force others into a false binary choice.

If one is into predominant paradigms, as has been brought up elsewhere I noticed, one is obligated to contend with the predominant paradigm of the various sciences that intersect with the Book of Mormon's claims for setting, people, history, theology, etc., etc., which all swing heavily in the direction of the Book of Mormon being a 19th century work. The distance from where we are today and then combine with minutia regarding a lack of undeniable explanations for, say, the plates and witness testimonies, don't out weigh this. The scale and scope of those challenges make arguments over if Joseph had physical plates or not seem a bit off-mark.

A person who finds the Book of Mormon scriptural but not historical is not obligated to have a fool-proof explanation for every possible demand to get back in the conforming box of the "historical or fraud" dichotomy as the person in that dichotomy expects. Because that person in that dichotomy demanding historicity for the Book of Mormon is doing so with their back turned to the overwhelming consensus in the disciplines of science that confirm that dichotomy has been decided.

A person can know they are touched by the Book of Mormon's message, by something said in the writings it contains. No one knows how it was actually written, who was involved, if there were physical plates, if the witnesses were complicit or sincere in belief of a heavenly visitation, etc. The space grants a lot of room of pet theories to flourish on both sides. There's far less space for explaining how the Book of Mormon describes a culture, setting, and people that is not found in the archaeological record, the genetic record, the anthropological evidence, and demands one take certain stories from Genesis as accurate portrayals of history as well that are inconsistent with multiple branches of the sciences.

So, one should be embracing in brotherhood/sisterhood those who at least share the common ground of inspiration, IMO.

Edited by Honorentheos
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4 hours ago, smac97 said:

What are your thoughts about whether Joseph Smith thought the physical artifact he referred to as the "plates?"  Do you think he thought those were historical as well?

What is your theory about the origins of the physical artifact of which both Joseph and Emma spoke?  From whence do you think it came?

Translation of what, though?  You just called what Joseph did a "fraud."  So what do you think was the original source for what we now have as The Book of Mormon?

Thanks,

-Smac

I think Joseph believed his claims of angelic visitation and that he believed the physical artifacts (plates) were legit. Whether his experiences actually happened, I do not know for sure, but I accept his witness that they did occur, and I believe that, at the very least, to him they occurred.

I must have been less clear than I could have been. I did not mean to call what Joseph did a fraud. I don't believe it was a fraud and I believe he was sincere in his beliefs. I was trying to demonstrate that Joseph's sincere comments in a private letter to Emma seem to refute the claim by some that it was a fraud, because he seems to truly believe what he is saying. It seems to indicated that he sincerely believed in the historicity of the Book of Mormon.

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5 hours ago, orangganjil said:

In my view, Joseph Smith sincerely believed the Book of Mormon was historical. His letter to Emma Smith while he was marching as part of Zion's Camp, dated June 4, 1834, seems to indicated two things:

  1. Joseph sincerely believed that the Book of Mormon peoples had been in the Ohio Valley and their remains were visible for Zion's Camp to see. This entails an expanded geology model as opposed to the currently accepted, limited, Mesoamerican model.
  2. Joseph sincerely believed he had translated a record of real people.

Here is the important quote from Joseph to Emma:

You can read the entire letter at the Joseph Smith Papers project.

If one has spent time reading the letters between Joseph and Emma, it is logical to conclude that Joseph had no need to bamboozle Emma as part of his fraud. Instead, the sincerity of their correspondence on the topic lends me to believe that they both sincerely believed that Joseph had translated an historical record. Whether that record was, in fact, historical, is irrelevant to Joseph's thinking, because he clearly believed it was.

The evidence of the Book of Abraham, to me, seems to corroborate this theory. Could Joseph have not fully understood the mechanics of his translation gift? Perhaps he received the translation through miraculous means and, after having received the translation, assumed that the actual text (which he couldn't read) was what he translated? I think the same process could have attended the translation of the Book of Mormon.

Nevertheless, I think this indicates that Joseph could have been in error about specific conclusions resulting from his sincere belief he translated the Book of Mormon. If he was in error about the Ohio Valley being the land of the Nephites, does it matter? He understood the message of the Book of Mormon, which is that we all can approach the veil in faith, rend the veil, and be redeemed personally by God.

Did you realize that the private letter was written by a scribe?

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19 hours ago, Five Solas said:

Most LDS apologetics has focused on defending the many physical anachronisms described in the Book of Mormon (e.g., horses/tapirs).  But you remind us the book contains theological anachronisms as well.  My personal favorite is the Zoramites who make parody of Reformed theology/predestination--a full century before the New Testament (wherein the word "predestined" appears) began to be written.   

;0)

--Erik

I guess one sees what one wants to see; but if you have seen the word "predestined" in the Book of Mormon, you're imagining things.  If you're referring to the Zoramites' unique form of worship as described in Alma 31, it seems less a "parody" of Reformed theology, than a distortion of Old Testament teachings regarding elect or chosen people.

Edited by Okrahomer
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On 8/21/2016 at 2:08 AM, Okrahomer said:

I guess one sees what one wants to see; but if you have seen the word "predestined" in the Book of Mormon, you're imagining things.  If you're referring to the Zoramites' unique form of worship as described in Alma 31, it seems less a "parody" of Reformed theology, than a distortion of Old Testament teachings regarding elect or chosen people.

I want to see what you see, Okrahomer.

:0)

So kindly, where might we find such Old Testament teaching that could reasonably (if erroneously) be understood to infer election to heaven and separately, election to hell (a.k.a., "double predestination"--as taught by some in the Reformed tradition)?  Chapters and verses, please!  (Seriously, for once I'd like to see someone make this argument without resorting to Romans 9.) 

And i suspect you'll dismiss this as coincidence too, but Joseph Smith even labeled the Zoramites "dissenters" who were familiar with the word of God (v. 8).  Interesting choice of word, that one.  Who might have been these Reformed "Dissenters?"  Let Wikipedia be your friend, right here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_Dissenters

Their ranks included John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim's Progress.  Yes, Joseph Smith would certainly have known of this famous work (it was published in numbers second only to the Bible in Joseph Smith's day) and this movement in the Protestant Church.  

But again, it's all just coincidence, right?  The real true right answer must be in the Old Testament, somewhere, so it fits BoM chronology, somehow....

;0)

--Erik

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