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Most compelling evidence for/against the Book of Mormon?


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6 minutes ago, churchistrue said:

This is an example of the "can't have your cake and eat it too" apologetics that those who want to preserve historicity employ.  The best apologetics for why we have NT phrases, Deutero-Isaiah, Sermon on the Mount, and KJV language and Old English in general, is that the Book of Mormon was meant to be a companion to the Bible, integrated in its text and language.  Every page of the BOM has some kind of grammar style, phrase, idea, or direct quote from the KJV.  The reference to the great tower is very clear and obvious reference to the Tower of Babel.  To argue against that, is to totally reject this well established notion that the BOM is referencing the KJV text so often.  If you want to argue against the Tower of Babel, I think you need to identify which tower they're talking about.  Because without any other evidence, it's pretty clear to everyone that it's the Tower of Babel.

 

This kind of ad hoc reasoning is what led me to believe that the church is not what it claims.  I don't blame the apologists though because it is not them, it is the church claims that cannot be justified that are to blame.

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21 hours ago, boblloyd91 said:

Thanks for your contribution! I am aware of those wonderful resources. I was asking more people's personal opinions and I would certainly include spiritual experiences 

I had a very strong spiritual experience shortly after I returned from my mission.  For me, it "sealed the deal."  I'd rather not share it here, though.

As far as secondary/supplemental evidences, my top four would probably be as follows (in no particular order):

1. Evidence pertaining to Nahom and Bountiful (see also here).

2. The reality of the Plates and the testimonial evidence pertaining thereto from the Witnesses (see here, here, and here).

3. The existence of the text itself.  That is, textual evidences in The Book of Mormon (Hebraisms, chiasmus . . . too many to list here, but see here).

4. The absence of a coherent, reasonable, countervailing explanation for The Book of Mormon is, to me, quite interesting.  This was a favorite theme of Hugh Nibley (see here for some quotes).  Try as they might, critics and dissidents simply cannot formulate a coherent alternative explanation for where the text came from.  Joseph Smith could not have done it.  Conspiracy theories about Joseph Smith collaborating with unknown others don't work, either.  It is very interesting to me that we are coming up on 200 years of critical scrutiny of The Book of Mormon, and yet nobody has been able to present a coherent explanation that accounts for the existence of the text, the complexity and internal consistency of the narrative, the extremely short time period in which it was "written," the textual evidences that were simply unknown/unknowable to Joseph Smith and his fellows (Nahom/Bountiful is an excellent example of this), the reality of the Gold Plates and the testimony of the witnesses, and so on.

Daniel Peterson addresses this phenomenon here:

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The most serious contemporary criticisms of the Book of Mormon and of Mormonism more broadly tend to come not from self-proclaimed orthodox (i.e., usually Evangelical) Christians, but from self-identified atheistic materialists or naturalists. The Utah-based historian Dale Morgan, largely forgotten today but still much admired in certain small contemporary circles, wrote a 1945 letter to the believing Latter-day Saint historian Juanita Brooks. In it, he identifies the fundamental issue with unusual candor:

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With my point of view on God, I am incapable of accepting the claims of Joseph Smith and the Mormons, be they however so convincing. If God does not exist, how can Joseph Smith’s story have any possible validity? I will look everywhere for explanations except to the ONE explanation that is the position of the church.

 

I have seen this same attitude demonstrated by people who profess membership in the Church, but who reject some of its most important doctrines of the Restored Gospel (centering principally on The Book of Mormon), and who instead have settled on . . . well, anything as long as it is not "the ONE explanation that is the position of the church."   Personally, I don't think they have any coherent countervailing theory.  I don't think they have thought their position through.  I hope they have a change of heart at some point.

A few more salient remarks by Dr. P:

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In Risen Indeed, Stephen Davis remarks that

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believers point to something of an embarrassment in the position of those who do not believe in the [Page xix]resurrection: their inability to offer an acceptable alternative explanation of the known facts surrounding the resurrection of Jesus. The old nineteenth-century rationalistic explanations (hallucination, swoon theory, stolen body, wrong tomb, etc.) all seem to collapse of their own weight once spelled out, and no strong new theory has emerged as the consensus of scholars who deny that the resurrection occurred.

A similar situation obtains, in my judgment, with regard to the Book of Mormon and certain other elements of the Restoration. While, for instance, this or that aspect of the Book of Mormon can, hypothetically, be accounted for by means of something within Joseph Smith’s early nineteenth-century information environment, a fully comprehensive counterexplanation for Joseph’s claims remains promised but manifestly unprovided. Critics have disagreed over the nearly two centuries since the First Vision about whether Joseph was brilliant or stupid, whether he was sincerely hallucinating or cunningly conscious of his fraud, whether he concocted the Book of Mormon alone or with co-conspirators (their own identity either hotly debated or completely unknown), whether he was a cynical atheist or a pious fraud defending Christianity, and so forth.

...

In an exchange with a vocal atheist ex-Mormon quite a few years ago, my friend and colleague William Hamblin asked what I regard as a basic and, in the end, unavoidable question: Assuming, for the sake of the argument, that Joseph Smith never had any golden plates pertaining to the Book of Mormon — which was that particular atheist’s position — did Joseph understand that he didn’t have any plates, or did he imagine that he did?

The two options seem to me to exhaust the possibilities. I cannot see, for example, how the approach of the non-Mormon historian Ann Taves to what she terms “the contentious issue of the materiality of the golden plates” can ultimately sustain itself. “The golden plates,” she correctly observes, “take us straight into one of the most interesting challenges: taking the whole range of evidence and views on contentious claims into account and making our way through them as scholars in as transparent a fashion as possible.” “I am setting up the ‘puzzle’ of the golden plates,” explains Professor Taves, “with a claim that each ‘side’ holds dear — that is, that Joseph Smith was not a deceiver or deluded and that there were no ancient golden plates. Setting it up that way provides an intellectual challenge, but one that reflects a religious studies approach at its best.”  Unfortunately for her enterprise, though, if I understand it correctly, it’s not even slightly likely that the two opposing claims can be coherently reconciled. Any truce on the matter is very unlikely to prove stable. Those who deny the existence of the plates will have to posit that he was either detached from reality or a fraud. And those disposed to deny that he was mad or a liar will feel obliged — as they should — to respond.

...

In Professor Hamblin’s case — assuming that Joseph Smith had no golden plates, was he or was he not aware that he didn’t? — his discussion partner responded rather indignantly [Page xxii]that he refused to be imprisoned within such simplistic and juvenile thinking. But, offended dignity aside, the question does eventually need to be answered by anybody who purports to offer an alternative account of the rise of Mormonism.

...

Latter-day Saints, too, need to resist the transformation of the faith that moved their spiritual ancestors from New York to Ohio, from Ohio to Missouri, from Missouri to Illinois, from Illinois to the Great Basin West, and from the Great Basin West around the world into mere metaphor, analogy, or parable. The materiality of the golden plates, brute fact, was, I think, partly intended to defend against precisely that.

Thanks,

-Smac

Edited by smac97
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11 minutes ago, smac97 said:

I had very strong spiritual experience shortly after I returned from my mission.  For me, it "sealed the deal."  I'd rather not share it here, though.

As far as secondary/supplemental evidences, my top five would probably be as follows (in no particular order):

1. Evidence pertaining to Nahom and Bountiful (see also here).

2. The reality of the Plates and the testimonial evidence pertaining thereto from the Witnesses (see here, here, and here).

3. Textual evidences in The Book of Mormon (Hebraisms, chiasmus . . . too many to list here, but see here).

4. The absence of a coherent, reasonable, countervailing explanation for The Book of Mormon is, to me, quite interesting.  This was a favorite theme of Hugh Nibley (see here for some quotes).  Try as they might, critics and dissidents simply cannot formulate a coherent alternative explanation for where the text came from.  Joseph Smith could not have done it.  Conspiracy theories about Joseph Smith collaborating with unknown others don't work, either.  It is very interesting to me that we are coming up on 200 years of critical scrutiny of The Book of Mormon, and yet nobody has been able to present a coherent explanation that accounts for the existence of the text, the complexity and internal consistency of the narrative, the extremely short time period in which it was "written," the textual evidences that were simply unknown/unknowable to Joseph Smith and his fellows (Nahom/Bountiful is an excellent example of this), the reality of the Gold Plates and the testimony of the witnesses, and so on.

Daniel Peterson addresses this phenomenon here:

I have seen this same attitude demonstrated by people who profess membership in the Church, but who reject some of its most important doctrines of the Restored Gospel (centering principally on The Book of Mormon), and who instead have settled on . . . well, anything as long as it is not "the ONE explanation that is the position of the church."   Personally, I don't think they have any coherent countervailing theory.  I don't think they have thought their position through.  I hope they have a change of heart at some point.

A few more salient remarks by Dr. P:

Thanks,

-Smac

Isn't it the church's burden to prove its claims?  Isn't requiring an explanation for the book of mormon origin from critics simply a burden shifting ploy akin to asking someone to prove a negative? 

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48 minutes ago, churchistrue said:

This is an example of the "can't have your cake and eat it too" apologetics that those who want to preserve historicity employ.  The best apologetics for why we have NT phrases, Deutero-Isaiah, Sermon on the Mount, and KJV language and Old English in general, is that the Book of Mormon was meant to be a companion to the Bible, integrated in its text and language.  Every page of the BOM has some kind of grammar style, phrase, idea, or direct quote from the KJV.  The reference to the great tower is very clear and obvious reference to the Tower of Babel.  To argue against that, is to totally reject this well established notion that the BOM is referencing the KJV text so often.  If you want to argue against the Tower of Babel, I think you need to identify which tower they're talking about.  Because without any other evidence, it's pretty clear to everyone that it's the Tower of Babel.

What is clear is that you and Honorentheos are confused about the "Tower of Babel," a term we get from the post-Lehi biblical period, when the Jews were exiled in Babylon.  Use of the term "Babel" is a dead giveaway that the reader doesn't know the actual history of Mesopotamia, and has substituted assumption for fact.  Of course there was a Great Tower, but it was not at Babel, which is a late insertion (glosse) in the biblical text -- put in during the Babylonian Exile of the Jews.  Because the Jaredite text is authentically ancient, it leaves out the term "Babel," something Joseph Smith would not have thought about at all.  Thus, the very ancient tradition of a Great Tower and the Confusion of Tongues must be placed much earlier.  And, voila, we actually have a very archaic Sumerian confusion of tongues story, along with many temple towers (ziggurats) built in ancient Mesopotamia.  All of this has become clear only since the time of Joseph Smith.

Hating so-called "apologists" will not make such ignorant assumptions go away, but becoming better informed might help.

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1 minute ago, Robert F. Smith said:

What is clear is that you and Honorentheos are confused about the "Tower of Babel," a term we get from the post-Lehi biblical period, when the Jews were exiled in Babylon.  Use of the term "Babel" is a dead giveaway that the reader doesn't know the actual history of Mesopotamia, and has substituted assumption for fact.  Of course there was a Great Tower, but it was not at Babel, which is a late insertion (glosse) in the biblical text -- put in during the Babylonian Exile of the Jews.  Because the Jaredite text is authentically ancient, it leaves out the term "Babel," something Joseph Smith would not have thought about at all.  Thus, the very ancient tradition of a Great Tower and the Confusion of Tongues must be placed much earlier.  And, voila, we actually have a very archaic Sumerian confusion of tongues story, along with many temple towers (ziggurats) built in ancient Mesopotamia.  All of this has become clear only since the time of Joseph Smith.

Hating so-called "apologists" will not make such ignorant assumptions go away, but becoming better informed might help.

Couple things.  

1. I don't think this resolves the issue KC is arguing against.  The key point here is that the BOM mistakenly makes the case for linguistic diversity beginning at a great Tower due to the Lord confounding their language, regardless of whether that tower is Babel or not.

2. This is kind of a tangent argument.  But back to my initial assertion.  The text of the KJV is all through the BOM in anachronistic fashion.  Isn't it easier/better to just go with a modern expansion type theory to explain that, like what Grant Hardy makes (and if historicity is a concern than do an Ostler hybrid historical/modern thing like Hardy and others are doing), then to try to preserve complete historicity and go with tortured explanations of all these anachronisms?    

 

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2 hours ago, Honorentheos said:

I admit, I did not expect such a clear example of both conditions I mentioned to be offered. The cultural appropriation that the Book of Mormon imposes on Native American culture is egregiously scrubbed away by modern anthropology and archeology, and generally LDS Book of Mormon apologetics focus on find a place for the Nephite and Lamanite traditions among the pre-existing and rather sophisticated inhabitants. Yet we get to see both the relic of the 19th century view in your post, even offering to tie it to biblical heritage tied to an approach that interlaces the appropriated culture narrative with acknowledgement of at least one sophisticated non-Biblical culture. One need not look far in LDS writings among the Saints of the early period of LDS history to find example upon example of their describing the remains of Native American cultures as that of the Book of Mormon peoples not directly attributable to the ancestors of the then-present day Native American tribes. So, thank you. :)

As to the rest, the body of liguists are not going to affirm the story of the Tower of Babel central to the Book of Ether, nor are they going to affirm derivation of Native American languages from Hebrew from the 7-6 Century BCE. One is not going to find cultural anthropology confirming the likelihood of pre-Columbian proto-Christians in the Americas, nor will you find archaeologists confirm evidence of success old world technologies (agricultural, military, engineering, or theological) brought over by some 2500 years ago which successfully supported a distinctive cultural presence in the Americas. One will not find the science that fills in the Nephite-shaped hole anywhere in any setting or time proposed for the Book of Mormon stories. The sciences aren't moving in those directions. The apologetics over the years have been moving at pace towards distancing the Book of Mormon from the original sin of cultural appropriation and to find ways to align the text with the science.

So, I guess I'm irrational. ;) 

Either irrational, or simply intent on some Orwellian form of doublespeak and doublethink, which can be made to serve virtually any preconceived notion or position.  Evidence is obviously not required, and, if adduced, it is merely turned against the bringer -- in order to effecively cloud the subject.  Basically, an unending game of chaos and meaninglessness.

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31 minutes ago, James Tunney said:

Isn't it the church's burden to prove its claims?  Isn't requiring an explanation for the book of mormon origin from critics simply a burden shifting ploy akin to asking someone to prove a negative? 

The LDS Church has never required an origin theory from the anti-Mormons, and that "burden-shifting ploy" which you claim is basically non-existent.  Indeed, the LDS Church has been quite happy with the one explanation which Joseph Smith gave, that it was done by the gift and power of God.  As for proof, the LDS Church has always taken the view that proof comes from the testimony of the Holy Spirit, and that no better proof exists.

However, those of us who are interested in scientific and logical discussion can certainly take the discussion in any direction we wish.  Right?  A conversation tends to go both ways, and has for many years, even if the two sides are somewhat intransigent.  Or do you object, James?

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2 hours ago, Buckeye said:

..............................................

That said, if you want the strongest possible evidence of historicity that doesn't yet exist, I would love to see a non-LDS archeologist stumble across an jar in Israel containing the verbatim writings of Zenos that are found in Jacob 5 (a reference to Zenock in the same jar would also be great). Historical evidence in the new world has the fundamental problem of interpretation; e.g., we wouldn't know how to read a sign saying "this way to Zarahemla" even if we found one. But the non-LDS world could read and agree on hebraic writings of Zenos.

Actually, we already have a tight summation of Jacob 5 in an ancient account from Pseudo-Philo 28:4, attributed to a Zenez or Kenaz:

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My father,..commanded me, saying, "These words you will say to the sons of Israel, '...And I would plant a great vineyard, and from it I would choose a plant; and I would care for it and call it by my name, and it would be mine forever..., nevertheless my plant that was called by my name did not recognize me as its planter, but it destroyed its own fruit and did not yield up its fruit to me'."

Moreover, non-Mormon scholars such as Margaret Barker have already taken stock of the BofM and noted that it fits into the world of 600 BC.

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13 hours ago, Honorentheos said:

It would be difficult to point out a single, conclusive argument that alone compels someone to reconsider their view. Since seeing this thread, I've thought about it and if it's possible to answer it in such a concise manner?

To offer perhaps a meager point but in the vein of attempting to not throw open an entire book of arguments, I would first contextualize the question as contrasting one of two theories. The faithful position being that the Book of Mormon is of ancient origin. The counter position being that it is of the 19th Century.

My meager first point would be that at it's very core the premise of the Book of Mormon is built on an incredibly unfortunate prejudice from the 19th century. That being, when the newly minted Americans looked to their frontiers and found artifacts of native american cultures around them, they could not imagine that the Native Americas or their ancestors were capable of such civilization. The mythology that arose and predates the LDS church regarding members of the lost tribes settling in the Americas is built on this biased perspective. 

In contrast, and with time, even the faithful apologetic explanations for the Book of Mormon have had to move away from this as it becomes more and more clear how independently sophisticated the pre-Columbian inhabitants of the Americas were and have direct ancestry to the tribes present in the 19th century and today. Yet the content of the Book of Mormon contains this 19th century prejudice at it's core.

Just a start, anyway. From there, I suppose it's difficult to see any branch of any science that is moving towards the Book of Mormon's traditional explanations for history while it's easy to see the movement away from the earliest views among the saints towards the state of the science. I guess I'm a sucker for such simplistic explanations over nuanced arguments like potential parallels found in obscure middle eastern legends if squinted at just so. I'm kinda irrational like that, I know. ;)

I think out of all the arguments against an ancient origin for the BoM, the 19th century influences is the strongest and most compelling to me personally.  The Christian theology of the BoM is heavily 19th century, and represents an evolution from the early Christian thinking. 

Other arguments add to the picture, the lack of archaeological evidence, the anachronisms, the DNA evidence.  All of those are compelling in their own right, but the 19th century influences on the ideas present in the text, I haven't found any compelling apologetic arguments that can even approach that subject. 

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3 hours ago, James Tunney said:

Isn't it the church's burden to prove its claims? 

I think it is the Church's burden to present its teachings, which it does.  A lot.  

I also think it is the Church's duty to encourage people to evaluate the "evidence," both in the form of seeking a confirmation from the Spirit, and also through study and pondering and research:

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Doctrine and Covenants 109:7

7 And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom, seek learning even by study and also by faith;

Doctrine and Covenants 109:14

14 And do thou grant, Holy Father, that all those who shall worship in this house may be taught words of wisdom out of the best books, and that they may seek learning even by study, and also by faith, as thou hast said;

Doctrine and Covenants 88:118

118 And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.

The Church has a vast Seminaries and Institutes program.  And institutions of higher learning.  And vast numbers of publications that are intended to facilitate rigorous study of The Book of Mormon.  And members of the Church have, on their own, published vast amounts of materials on The Book of Mormon (FAIR, Jeff Lindsay, The Interpreter, etc.).

So I think the Church and many of its constituent members have made tremendous efforts to provide information about The Book of Mormon, including analysis of its origins and explanations as to its claims.

In contrast, we have countervailing views from people who have rejected the Church's teachings about the origins of The Book of Mormon.  That is certainly their prerogative.  But at that point they are the ones making a claim.  They are the ones asserting that the Church's teachings about the origins of the book are factually false.  They are the ones making assertions about naturalistic or quasi-religious-but-still-rejecting-the-Church's-position explanations for The Book of Mormon.  The "Inspired Fiction" theory is an example of such countervailing explanations for the existence and content of the text, as is the Spaulding-Rigdon Theory (and other "multiple author" theories), the "Joseph Smith as the sole author" theory, the "View of the Hebrews" theory, Grant Palmer's "The Golden Pot" theory,  "The Late War" theory, and so on.

I have found these countervailing theories to be very flawed in, to the extent such things exist, their reasoning, their assessment of relevant evidence, and so on.  Conjecture and evidence-free speculation predominate.  For example, some of the "Inspired Fiction" folks positively twist themselves up in knots trying to explain how Joseph Smith was a "pious fraud" who was inspired by God to write the plates, but who also fabricated a fake set of plates, who lied to or colluded with the Witnesses about presenting false testimonies about these plates, who spent the rest of his life lying about the plates and the origins of The Book of Mormon, and also about how Joseph Smith was alternatively insane or profoundly mentally ill when he did all of these things (hence the "pious fraud" moniker), and also about how all the prophets and apostles from Joseph Smith to now have either been complicit in perpetuating this massive fraud or else have been collectively and uniformly duped and deceived by it, and that God is somehow the author and instigator of this massive web of lies and deceit.

So yes, when the Church presents claims about The Book of Mormon, then the Church has duty to substantiate its position on that issue.  In this I think the Church and its members have done a tremendous job.

Likewise, when critics and dissidents present alternative claims about The Book of Mormon, then it is their duty to substantiate their positions on that issue.  In this I think they have . . . not done very well at all.

Back to you:

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Isn't requiring an explanation for the book of mormon origin from critics simply a burden shifting ploy akin to asking someone to prove a negative? 

Nope.  The text of The Book of Mormon exists.  The LDS Church has presented an explanation as to how that text came to exist.  

Meanwhile, critics and dissidents have presented alternative explanations as to the origins of the text.  I have found these countervailing explanations to be quite problematic in assessing the evidence, mutually contradictory, speculative, and reactionary (as Dale Morgan put it, "I will look everywhere for explanations except to the ONE explanation that is the position of the church").

So nobody is asking critics and dissidents to "prove a negative."  We are asking them to present a coherent counter-theory regarding the origins of The Book of Mormon.  I think the critics and dissidents have done a very poor job of explaining the basis for their position.

Again, the text of The Book of Mormon exists.  It should be accounted for.  In 2004 Daniel Peterson wrote an excellent article on this issue: "'In the Hope that Something Will Stick': Changing Explanations for The Book of Mormon".  Some excerpts:

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In the “Editors’ Introduction” to their 2002 anthology American Apocrypha, Dan Vogel and Brent Metcalfe declare, “Had the Book of Mormon been what Joseph Smith said—not an allegory with spiritual import but a literal history of Hebrew immigrants to America—this should have been verified by now.”

It is a strange statement. For example, one wonders when, exactly, the deadline for verification passed. Was it in 2000? 1990? 1950?  1880? How was the date chosen? Who set it? In what would “verification” consist? Would such verification still allow for the exercise of religious faith?

Perhaps more significantly, though, one wonders why the statement could not just as easily be turned on its head: “Were the Book of Mormon false, this should have been verified by now.” One could, with at least equal justification, announce that “Had the Book of Mormon been a fraud, its critics should by now have been able to agree on an explanation as to how, why, and by whom it was created.”

The Church's position is that The Book of Mormon is a translation, through divine means, of an ancient historical text.

The critics' position is that The Book of Mormon is a fraud, that it is not a translation of an ancient historical text.  Well critics, if that's your position, then defend it.  Explain why you think it's a fraud.  And yet they have done a very poor job of this so far, IMO.

DCP's article above goes on to summarize the various countervailing theories of The Book of Mormon: Joseph Smith wrote it because he was an unlearned fool and idiot, Joseph Smith wrote it because he was, as Fawn Brodie described him, "a mythmaker of prodigious talent," Joseph Smith wrote it because he was mentally ill, a cabal of unknown conspiricists wrote it, it was based on another text, and so on.  From DCP's article:

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“Thus,” summarized Kirkham, surveying the scene in the early 1940s, “Joseph Smith is first a money digger, then an ignoramus, then a deluded fanatic, then a vile deceiver, a fraud, then an epileptic, a paranoiac, then a myth maker of prodigious talents. Finally he is not an ignoramus, he is not a deceiver, rather a person with a dissociated personality.”

Having surveyed all of these varying and conflicting counter-explanations, DCP makes a cogent point:

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{M}utually contradictory accounts {regarding the origins of The Book of Mormon} are not mutually reinforcing. Quite the contrary. They weaken each other.

Imagine a murder case in which one witness for the prosecution definitively states that he clearly saw the defendant, Mr. John Jones, who was wearing his characteristic Stetson cowboy hat, empty a sixshooter into the head of the victim, Miss Roberta Smith, at point-blank range, as she stood by the hot dog stand on the beach. A second prosecution witness declares that he saw the defendant, Mrs. Joanna Jones, striding briskly out of the twenty-seventh floor restaurant where the murder took place, with a fashionable black beret on her head. The prosecution’s forensic pathologist, meanwhile, announces his expert verdict that, from the marks on Mr. Robert Smith’s throat, the victim died of strangulation.

No reasonable person would conclude from such testimony that, with three such witnesses for the state, the guilt of the defendant had been established beyond reasonable doubt. Indeed, equipped only with evidence of that character, the prosecution wouldn’t even bother to seek an indictment and could never in its remotest fantasies dream of conviction.

Sage words, methinks.

Thanks,

-Smac

Edited by smac97
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27 minutes ago, churchistrue said:

Couple things.  

1. I don't think this resolves the issue KC is arguing against.  The key point here is that the BOM mistakenly makes the case for linguistic diversity beginning at a great Tower due to the Lord confounding their language, regardless of whether that tower is Babel or not.

2. This is kind of a tangent argument.  But back to my initial assertion.  The text of the KJV is all through the BOM in anachronistic fashion.  Isn't it easier/better to just go with a modern expansion type theory to explain that, like what Grant Hardy makes (and if historicity is a concern than do an Ostler hybrid historical/modern thing like Hardy and others are doing), then to try to preserve complete historicity and go with tortured explanations of all these anachronisms?  

I was addressing you and Honorentheos, not Kevin.

1.  Now, of course, if both Bible and BofM "mistakenly" (in your view) include a just-so story about linguistic diversity, that tells us no more than that such archaic legends inhabit a number of ancient accounts which predate the Bible and BofM.  It tells us nothing about their ultimate origin or authenticity.  That is how etiological stories work.

2.  It would help if we could focus on just one issue at a time.  For you, the presence of KJV language and quotations is "anachronistic," while for scholars it is precisely what one should expect in any such vaunted translation then.  Dr Rob Bowman (non-Mormon), for example, sees it as perfectly normal.  He is more concerned with the overall arrangement of particular passages/pericopes.  I respect Bowman's approach, as well as that of Grant & Heather Hardy, and do not believe that tortuous explanations are required -- even if there was indeed some degree of midrashic expansion of the text (the limited way it occurs in Jewish targums, for example).

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1 hour ago, churchistrue said:

Couple things.  

1. I don't think this resolves the issue KC is arguing against.  The key point here is that the BOM mistakenly makes the case for linguistic diversity beginning at a great Tower due to the Lord confounding their language, regardless of whether that tower is Babel or not.

2. This is kind of a tangent argument.  But back to my initial assertion.  The text of the KJV is all through the BOM in anachronistic fashion.  Isn't it easier/better to just go with a modern expansion type theory to explain that, like what Grant Hardy makes (and if historicity is a concern than do an Ostler hybrid historical/modern thing like Hardy and others are doing), then to try to preserve complete historicity and go with tortured explanations of all these anachronisms?    

 

I think that is exactly the issue KC was arguing against.  And of course, I am in a position to know, don't you think?  I was going on Nibley's discussion in The World of the Jaredites, and Robert Smith's having previously made the same point he affirms here.  Nibley, in The World of the Jaredites:

Quote

There was no point in having Jared’s language unconfounded if there was to be no one he could talk to, and his brother cried to the Lord that his friends might also retain the language. The same, however, would apply to any other language: If every individual were to speak a tongue all of his own and so go off entirely by himself, the races would have been not merely scattered but quite annihilated.1 We must not fall into the old vice of reading into the scripture things that are not there. There is nothing said in our text about every man suddenly speaking a new language. We are told in the book of Ether that languages were confounded with and by the “confounding” of the people: “Cry unto the Lord,” says Jared (Ether 1:34), “that he will not confound us that we may not understand our words” (italics added). The statement is significant for more than one thing. How can it possibly be said that “we may not understand our words”? Words we cannot understand may be nonsense syllables or may be in some foreign language, but in either case they are not our words. The only way we can fail to understand our own words is to have words that are actually ours change their meaning among us. That is exactly what happens when people, and hence languages, are either “confounded,” that is, mixed up, or scattered. In Ether’s account, the confounding of people is not to be separated from the confounding of their languages; they are, and have always been, one and the same process: the Lord, we are told (Ether 1:35—37), “did not confound the language of Jared; and Jared and his brother were not confounded . . . and the Lord had compassion upon their friends and their families also, that they were not confounded.” That “confound” as used in the book of Ether is meant to have its true and proper meaning of “to pour together,” “to mix up together,” is clear from the prophecy in Ether 13:8, that “the remnant of the house of Joseph shall be built upon this land; . . . and they shall no more be confounded,” the word here meaning mixed up with other people, culturally, linguistically, or otherwise.

Yet another important biblical expression receives welcome elucidation from our text: though Ether says nothing about “the whole earth” being “of one language and one speech” (Genesis 11:1), he does give us an interesting hint as to how those words may be taken. Just as “son” and “descendant” are the same word in Hebrew and so may easily be confused by translators (who in fact have no way of knowing, save from the context, in which sense the word is to be understood), so “earth” and “land” are the same word, the well-known eretz. In view of the fact that the book of Ether, speaking only of the Jaredites, notes that “there were none of the fair sons and daughters upon the face of the whole earth who repented of their sins” (Ether 13:17), it would seem that the common “whole earth” (kol ha-aretz) of the Old Testament need not always be taken to mean the entire globe. Certainly it is quite as legitimate to think of the days of Peleg as the time when, as the old Jewish writers describe it, “the children of Noah began to divide the earth among themselves,” 2 as, without the least authority, to visualize the drifting of the continents or the rending apart of the terrestrial globe. A reader’s first reaction to an ancient and fragmentary text usually becomes a lifelong credo, though research and revelation have combined in latter days to discredit this obvious and easy solution of the mysteries. The book of Ether, like First Nephi, is, when we come to examine it, heavily weighted in the direction of sober and factual history and was never meant to be a springboard for the imagination; for example, our record does not attribute the scattering of the people, as one might innocently suppose it does, to the confusion of tongues. After the brother of Jared had been assured that he and his people and their language would not be confounded, the question of whether they would be driven out of the land still remained to be answered: That was another issue, and it is obvious that the language they spoke had as little to do with driving them out of the land as it did with determining their destination. It was something else that drove the reluctant Jaredites from their homes.

http://publications.mi.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=1106&index=11

So, in my view, a close reading of the Ether story makes claims quite unexpectedly distinct from a pop culture reading of the Babel story, though it is quite reasonable to assume that both the Babel story and the story in Ether go back to an original tradition.

And while I quite liked Blake Ostler's 1987 essay when I first read it, I have also noticed that most of his proposed expansions involve the Book of Mormon seeming "too Christian before Christ," something that Alexander Campbell had pounced on in 1831.  I just happen to think that Margaret Barker's work undermines that whole argument, beginning with the publication of her first book in 1987, The Older Testament.   And Margaret Barker herself does not object to my reading.  She even collaborated with me on an essay on that topic, published by Oxford University Press.

And if the Book of Mormon is a translation into English, an English in which the single most important and influential text is the KJV, I would be amazed and surprised not to find KJV language quotation in the Book of Mormon.  The only way to not have anachronistic English would be not to translate.  Just leave the book untranslated so that no one will get tripped up on translation artifacts.  And that would also mean we would not have to fret about different readings of the text on grounds that no one could read it.

Not useful, I would think.

FWIW

Kevin Christensen

Canonsburg, PA

Edited by Kevin Christensen
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36 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Actually, we already have a tight summation of Jacob 5 in an ancient account from Pseudo-Philo 28:4, attributed to a Zenez or Kenaz:

Moreover, non-Mormon scholars such as Margaret Barker have already taken stock of the BofM and noted that it fits into the world of 600 BC.

That's nice, but no where close to the bulls-eye I envision. I'm thinking of a pre-babylonian text that matches Jacob 5 to a similar degree that Isaiah's writings match 2nd Nephi. That would be something.

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3 hours ago, churchistrue said:

It helps to carefully read what people say so that you can respond to the specific case they are making, rather than the case that you think they are making.  Stubbs explains:

Quote

Then in 2015, I produced Exploring the Explanatory Power of Semitic and Egyptian in Uto-Aztecan, which demonstrated with over 1500 cognate matches that UA descends from whatever else plus a substantial Semitic-Egyptian infusion of some kind. 

http://www.fairmormon.org/perspectives/fair-conferences/2016-fairmormon-conference/changes-languages-nephi-now

Influence on pre-existing languages is a very different claim than of "derivation of Native American languages from Hebrew from the 7-6 Century BCE."   Careful reading and listening leads to better understanding and communication.

FWIW

Kevin Christensen

Canonsburg, PA

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1 hour ago, Robert F. Smith said:

The LDS Church has never required an origin theory from the anti-Mormons, and that "burden-shifting ploy" which you claim is basically non-existent.  Indeed, the LDS Church has been quite happy with the one explanation which Joseph Smith gave, that it was done by the gift and power of God.  As for proof, the LDS Church has always taken the view that proof comes from the testimony of the Holy Spirit, and that no better proof exists.

However, those of us who are interested in scientific and logical discussion can certainly take the discussion in any direction we wish.  Right?  A conversation tends to go both ways, and has for many years, even if the two sides are somewhat intransigent.  Or do you object, James?

Of course one is entitled to say and believe whatever. However, my objection is to believing a claim because the critic doesn't prove a negative to the adherent's satisfaction.

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18 minutes ago, James Tunney said:

Of course one is entitled to say and believe whatever. However, my objection is to believing a claim because the critic doesn't prove a negative to the adherent's satisfaction.

I don't think the LDS Church and its adherents have ever said anything like "Please accept The Book of Mormon as scripture because its critics have not been able to formulate a coherent counter-theory as to its origins."  We advocate studying, pondering, prayer, etc. to obtain a witness from the Spirit.  We are also encouraged to continue to strengthen our faith through continued study, right conduct, and so on.

So the "claim" at issue is not the Church's, it's the critics'.  If the critics want to present a naturalistic explanation for The Book of Mormon, then they take upon themselves an obligation to present the reasoning and evidentiary basis for that explanation.

Thanks,

-Smac

Edited by smac97
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1 hour ago, smac97 said:

I don't think the LDS Church and its adherents have ever said anything like "Please accept The Book of Mormon as scripture because its critics have not been able to formulate a coherent counter-theory as to its origins."  We advocate studying, pondering, prayer, etc. to obtain a witness from the Spirit.  We are also encouraged to continue to strengthen our faith through continued study, right conduct, and so on.

So the "claim" at issue is not the Church's, it's the critics'.  If the critics want to present a naturalistic explanation for The Book of Mormon, then they take upon themselves an obligation to present the reasoning and evidentiary basis for that explanation.

Thanks,

-Smac

Didn't you say earloer on this thread that the absence of a coherent book of mormon origin theory from critics was your number 4 secondary evidence? I never said it was the church that says that. It was you that said it.

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2 minutes ago, James Tunney said:

Didn't you say earloer on this thread that the absence of a coherent book of mormon origin theory from critics was your number 4 secondary evidence?

Well, perhaps I should have been clearer.  Here are my thoughts:

1. We are coming up on 200 years of The Book of Mormon being subjected to every sort of vigorous critical scrutiny.

2. The Book of Mormon is a substantial and complex book, with extensive indications of ties to the ancient Near East.  See, e.g., this observation by Hugh Nibley: 

Quote

The book itself declares that it is an authentic product of the Near East. It gives a full and circumstantial account of its own origin. It declares that it is but one of many, many such books that have been produced in the course of history and may be hidden in sundry places at this day. It places itself in about the middle of a long list of sacred writings, beginning with the patriarchs and continuing down to the end of human history. It cites now-lost prophetic writings of prime importance, giving the names of their authors. It traces its own cultural roots in all directions, emphasizing the immense breadth and complexity of such connections in the world. It belongs to the same class of literature as the Bible, but, along with a sharper and clearer statement of biblical teachings, contains a formidable mass of historical material unknown to biblical writers but well within the range of modern comparative study since it insists on deriving its whole cultural tradition, even in details, directly from a specific time and place in the Old World.

3. During those 200 years there have been various countervailing explanations for the origins of The Book of Mormon.

4. In my view, none of these countervailing theories has come close to presenting a coherent, evidence-based explanation for the origins of The Book of Mormon.  

5. The durability of The Book of Mormon in the face of 200 years of such intense scrutiny is - to me - "interesting" as a secondary/supplemental indicator that The Book of Mormon is what it claims to be.  Hugh Nibly put it well:

Quote

The Book of Mormon is tough. It thrives on investigation. You may kick it around like a football, as many have done; and I promise you it will wear you out long before you ever make a dent in it.

I think this is a reasonable assessment.

Back to you:

Quote

I never said it was the church that says that. It was you that said it.

I said it in the context of it being one of numerous secondary/supplemental evidences, and which I find to be "interesting."  

Quoth Sherlock Holmes:

Quote

How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?

I've never really bought into this logic, as I think it's predicate ("eliminat{ing} the impossible") is too subjective, too difficult to ascertain based on finite information.  But in a sense, I think it has some utility as far as contrasting the competing explanations for the origins of The Book of Mormon.  In my view, and to date, I have not seen a counter-theory for The Book of Mormon that holds up to much scrutiny, which leaves me with "whatever remains," which although may be seen as "improbable," is in my view "the truth."

I hope that clears things up.

Thanks,

-Smac

 

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9 minutes ago, smac97 said:

Well, perhaps I should have been clearer.  Here are my thoughts:

1. We are coming up on 200 years of The Book of Mormon being subjected to every sort of vigorous critical scrutiny.

2. The Book of Mormon is a substantial and complex book, with extensive indications of ties to the ancient Near East.  See, e.g., this observation by Hugh Nibley: 

3. During those 200 years there have been various countervailing explanations for the origins of The Book of Mormon.

4. In my view, none of these countervailing theories has come close to presenting a coherent, evidence-based explanation for the origins of The Book of Mormon.  

5. The durability of The Book of Mormon in the face of 200 years of such intense scrutiny is - to me - "interesting" as a secondary/supplemental indicator that The Book of Mormon is what it claims to be.  Hugh Nibly put it well:

I think this is a reasonable assessment.

Back to you:

I said it in the context of it being one of numerous secondary/supplemental evidences, and which I find to be "interesting."  

Quoth Sherlock Holmes:

I've never really bought into this logic, as I think it's predicate ("eliminat{ing} the impossible") is too subjective, too difficult to ascertain based on finite information.  But in a sense, I think it has some utility as far as contrasting the competing explanations for the origins of The Book of Mormon.  In my view, and to date, I have not seen a counter-theory for The Book of Mormon that holds up to much scrutiny, which leaves me with "whatever remains," which although may be seen as "improbable," is in my view "the truth."

I hope that clears things up.

Thanks,

-Smac

 

Thanks. I think I'm at a loss as to why you believe as you do but that is your choice. To me there is not much if anything to point toward historicity and too much pointing toward a 19th century invention. But to each his own.

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11 minutes ago, James Tunney said:

Thanks. I think I'm at a loss as to why you believe as you do but that is your choice.

Well, short of getting down to brass tacks, I guess we'll have to agree to disagree about the competency of the evidence favoring the claims of the LDS Church.  

Quote

To me there is not much if anything to point toward historicity and too much pointing toward a 19th century invention. But to each his own.

We'll also have to disagree about the assessment of evidence favoring a naturalistic explanation.  I am not "at a loss as to why you believe as you do."  I could see how a person could reach your conclusion.

In any event, let us agree to disagree, and part cordially.

Thanks,

-Smac

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7 hours ago, Buckeye said:

I'm unclear what you're asking. Do want the best evidence of the book's message, of its historicity, or something else?

If you want evidence of the message, the best I can offer is the lived experience of those who read and follow it. Most all of the book's teachings make people better. Christ's, Benjamin's and Nephi's teachings in particular. The book does have some erroneous teachings as well, such as racism, but they are in the clear minority.

On the other hand, if you want evidence of the book's historicity, the best I could offer would that the book is far too complex for Joseph to have written on his own, and there simply is not a strong counter-narrative to the book's creation that Joseph as author/dictator. I don't think it worthwhile to tick through points such as Nahom and Sheum because (i) they are are open to interpretation and disagreement, and (ii) there are at least as many counter-proofs such as horses and steel. Personally, that's why I've chose to be agnostic on the issue. I just don't get any value out of arguing the issue of historicity. 

That said, if you want the strongest possible evidence of historicity that doesn't yet exist, I would love to see a non-LDS archeologist stumble across an jar in Israel containing the verbatim writings of Zenos that are found in Jacob 5 (a reference to Zenock in the same jar would also be great). Historical evidence in the new world has the fundamental problem of interpretation; e.g., we wouldn't know how to read a sign saying "this way to Zarahemla" even if we found one. But the non-LDS world could read and agree on hebraic writings of Zenos.

 

I'm asking for any compelling reason, spiritual or temporal, doesn't matter

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10 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

What is clear is that you and Honorentheos are confused about the "Tower of Babel," a term we get from the post-Lehi biblical period, when the Jews were exiled in Babylon.  Use of the term "Babel" is a dead giveaway that the reader doesn't know the actual history of Mesopotamia, and has substituted assumption for fact.  Of course there was a Great Tower, but it was not at Babel, which is a late insertion (glosse) in the biblical text -- put in during the Babylonian Exile of the Jews.  Because the Jaredite text is authentically ancient, it leaves out the term "Babel," something Joseph Smith would not have thought about at all.  Thus, the very ancient tradition of a Great Tower and the Confusion of Tongues must be placed much earlier.  And, voila, we actually have a very archaic Sumerian confusion of tongues story, along with many temple towers (ziggurats) built in ancient Mesopotamia.  All of this has become clear only since the time of Joseph Smith.

Hating so-called "apologists" will not make such ignorant assumptions go away, but becoming better informed might help.

It's understandable that one would wish to relocate the Book of Mormon out of it's 19th Century context and into a narrative compatible with the 21st Century. It's not as understandable why you might say things like you do above, knowing full well as you must that the heading to Ether 1 uses the term Tower of Babel, and the church uses this understanding in it's own teaching materials. So...I guess voila, we have a confusion of faithful views perhaps. And it's only become more murky since the time of Joseph Smith.

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10 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Either irrational, or simply intent on some Orwellian form of doublespeak and doublethink, which can be made to serve virtually any preconceived notion or position.  Evidence is obviously not required, and, if adduced, it is merely turned against the bringer -- in order to effecively cloud the subject.  Basically, an unending game of chaos and meaninglessness.

Hi Robert F. Smith,

I appreciate your passionate defense of the Book of Mormon. I do. But it is hard to not find your point above amusing when I don't think we've yet to point out a single discipline of science that has taken on the original views expressed in the Book of Mormon and it's early adopting believers. It's simple, in that regard. There are conspiracy theory like attempts to find ways to align it with modern understandings, but the don't exert meaningful gravity on the state of secular science-based thinking. And that's unfortunate if one demands that the Book of Mormon be taken as in harmony with such disciplines because one is left to either become inherently in opposition to said sciences (biology being an easy to point to example, where belief in a literal Adam and Eve cause people to simply choose to ignore the state of the science because they can't accept the theory of evolution as it pertains to the natural selection of species); or it leads one to take on the thinking of the conspiracy theorist who misuses the evidence and science to attempt to defend the indefensible. Convincing the world that there were proto-Christians in the new world prior to the arrival of Columbus is not far removed from trying to convince the world the moon landings were faked or that 9/11 was an inside job.

Why should an otherwise rational person take on this burden when the evidence, seen in perspective, is simply for the Book of Mormon being a work of the 19th Century? Because we don't know exactly how it was written? Why the witnesses might say what they do if it isn't true? My credulity gets strained to far at that point.

We have claims that Bountiful/NHM are compelling evidence for the Book of Mormon. I'd argue the Book of Mormon text alone is compelling evidence against the Lehite party going in the direction of the well traveled trade route to a wadi that lacked wood suited for building ships. One doesn't even have to wonder how probable it is that the three letters N-H-M might appear somewhere in the Arabian Peninsula having been placed sometime consistent with a potential migration from Jerusalem right before the Babylonians captured it. The text describes one thing, the reality is another. One sends the Lehites into the wilderness. The theory sends them along a well traveled route. One has the Lehite party being led by diving providence to the best places in the desert with water and chance for supply. Natural history puts those places along that route to modern Yemen along a well traveled trade route. See the pattern? It's just not compelling as arguments go while suggesting the person who wrote the information down had a view different from one on the ground. I know, there are arguments to the nth degree over this. Sufficient is it to know it doesn't mean much to those not invested in trying to place the Book of Mormon in a historical ancient setting.

The theology is from the 19th Century. The material information from the Book of Mormon bears no close resemblance to the ancient Americas. Had the Nephites successfully brought the technologies just described in Nephi 1 and 2 to the Americas, it strains credulity to imagine we wouldn't find cultural evidence of this having impacted the Native Americans of that time. Archeologists see cultural evidence through trade wares throughout the actual record. It's not sufficient to say we wouldn't recognize a Nephite artifact if we had one because the artifacts we do have are placed rather compellingly in a narrative where the Book of Mormon is irrelevant as a guide.

I'm sorry. It's just not there.

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On 8/22/2016 at 2:26 PM, James Tunney said:

Thanks. I think I'm at a loss as to why you believe as you do but that is your choice. To me there is not much if anything to point toward historicity and too much pointing toward a 19th century invention. But to each his own.

I usually hear this from people who are not really familiar with both sides of the argument, and who come from a powerful apriori set of beliefs which prejudice their appraisal.  Of course that can happen with any pro- or anti-Mormon person or position.  I always hope that we can get past the hardened sets of preconceptions to real discussion of the substantive arguments.

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On 8/22/2016 at 8:31 PM, Honorentheos said:

It's understandable that one would wish to relocate the Book of Mormon out of it's 19th Century context and into a narrative compatible with the 21st Century. It's not as understandable why you might say things like you do above, knowing full well as you must that the heading to Ether 1 uses the term Tower of Babel, and the church uses this understanding in it's own teaching materials. So...I guess voila, we have a confusion of faithful views perhaps. And it's only become more murky since the time of Joseph Smith.

You know full well that the headings are not part of the text, but rather the summaries created by people who likely know nothing about biblical criticism or the historical critical method.  Hiding behind that sort of camouflage doesn't become you, Honorentheos.  You might just as well play with straw men.  Anytime you are ready for a real discussion, let me know.

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