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How did Deutero-Isaiah get on the Brass Plates?


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This may be kicking a dead horse...but of the many problems I personally find in forming a belief paradigm in Mormonism...this particular difficulty is at or near the top of a very very deep pile of perceived problems.

Dr David Bokovoy, makes a compelling argument for why this is a significant problem for believers in the Book of Mormon as a literal history...of course if one considers the BoM as inspired scripture allegory just not a literal historical document...then the problem of Deutero Isaiah being found  in the BoM disappears.  It just creates other problems.

So how exactly do believer's resolve this difficulty? Ignore it,  buy into some magical solution or is there some other workaround that you've found that resolves this dilemma?

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/davidbokovoy/2014/04/deutero-isaiah-in-the-book-of-mormon-a-literary-analysis-pt-1/

 

Just want to add...that an inspired fictional scripture as a foundation for belief is not satisfactory to me...so Bokovoy's argument...confirms my reasons for non-believe...but leaves me with a path to belief that does not work for me.  I should also add that anyone who proposes that the Biblical scholars are wrong and that the proof is in the fact that the Book of Mormon its self is proof that Deutero Isaiah was written before Lehi left Jerusalem because of the fact that it is in the Book of Mormon and thus must have been on the Brass Plates...sorry that dog won't hunt.

 

 

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7 minutes ago, Johnnie Cake said:

This may be kicking a dead horse...but of the many problems I personally find in forming a belief paradigm in Mormonism...this particular difficulty is at or near the top of a very very deep pile of perceived problems.

Dr David Bokovoy, makes a compelling argument for why this is a significant problem for believers in the Book of Mormon as a literal history...of course if one considers the BoM as inspired scripture allegory just not a literal historical document...then the problem of Deutero Isaiah being found  in the BoM disappears.  It just creates other problems.

So how exactly do believer's resolve this difficulty? Ignore it,  buy into some magical solution or is there some other workaround that you've found that resolves this dilemma?

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/davidbokovoy/2014/04/deutero-isaiah-in-the-book-of-mormon-a-literary-analysis-pt-1/

 

Just want to add...that an inspired fictional scripture as a foundation for belief is not satisfactory to me...so Bokovoy's argument...confirms my reasons for non-believe...but leaves me with a path to belief that does not work for me.  I should also add that anyone who proposes that the Biblical scholars are wrong and that the proof is in the fact that the Book of Mormon its self is proof that Deutero Isaiah was written before Lehi left Jerusalem because of the fact that it is in the Book of Mormon and thus must have been on the Brass Plates...sorry that dog won't hunt.

 

 

Well I've read statements by LDS that say if the church isn't true, it's still a good way to live and raise a family. Maybe that's how people will handle the BoM not being historical, if it isn't.

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3 minutes ago, Johnnie Cake said:

So how exactly do believer's resolve this difficulty? . . .

I should also add that anyone who proposes that the Biblical scholars are wrong and that the proof is in the fact that the Book of Mormon its self is proof that Deutero Isaiah was written before Lehi left Jerusalem because of the fact that it is in the Book of Mormon and thus must have been on the Brass Plates...sorry that dog won't hunt.

Sounds like you answered your own question. Most members of the Church don't put much stock in the opinions of biblical scholars (unless, of course, they happen to say something that favors LDS claims). 

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Trying to do actual work and address this so don't shoot me if my responses aren't immediately complete.

 

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Since the publication of the Book of Mormon, scholars of the world have attempted to prove that it was the work of the modern mind of Joseph Smith. Looking, not with great care, for loopholes in the Book of Mormon, they have emphasized the Isaiah passages. With some ridicule they have assumed that these passages were lifted en masse from the King James version of the Bible. They support their claims by their own speculation on the biblical text. Showing that some of the Book of Mormon Isaiah passages are from the Deutero-Isaiah portions of the Bible, which according to their own hypothesis did not exist at the time that Lehi left Jerusalem, they conclude that the Book of Mormon is false. Yet I think, as Nibley points out, that in order to understand the Isaiah passages of the Book of Mormon we should start with the Bible. The criteria that are used to substantiate the claim that there is a Deutero-Isaiah impress me as false to begin with. Our focus of attention then should not be the Book of Mormon, but the Bible and whether there is such a thing as a Deutero-Isaiah. If there was only one Isaiah and no Deutero-Isaiah, the problem ceases to exist. The answer that Nibley gives deserves to be looked into for perhaps he has found the answer.

Nibley spends some time on the problem of "Higher Criticism," and I cannot but agree with his remarks. There is no doubt in my mind as I read the Hebrews or Greek texts of the Bible that there are many problems in the text. Yet I cannot believe that anything is solved by subdividing books and multiplying authors. For as I read the text, I come to the same conclusion as Nibley, that there is a deep unity of the text, a unity that could not be accomplished had there been many authors for each book. W. F. Albright has pointed out that "our Hebrew text has suffered much more from losses than from glosses" (p. 26). Nibley goes on to show that the "misunderstanding of the scripture is not due to corruptions of the text but rather to serious omissions and deletions" (p. 26). It is not difficult to prove that the Isaiah passages in the Book of Mormon are not lifted en masse from the Bible, and that they do indeed correct many of the mistakes that are found in our present-day Bible. Nibley so well points out, "We have discovered that the Book of Mormon is actually way out in front in proclaiming the unity and explaining the diversity of scripture in general and Isaiah in particular" (p. 152).

 - William G. Dyer

 

 

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Most LDS haven't given it any thought and are unaware of the issues. I would say that most LDS who have thought about the issue and are familiar with the literature still come down on the "Sperry" side (there was one Isaiah, and his writings were in the brass plates), so for them, there is no "Isaiah Problem" in the Book of Mormon. I think the "Isaiah Problem" is the primary reason why theologically liberal LDS choose to believe the higher critical approaches to scripture. To me (and I think, to many other active LDS) the higher criticism robs the scriptures of much of their meaning and vitality. As Lou Midgley often said (maybe still says), stories are much more powerful and important to LDS than theology. If the stories actually end up being made-up stories that didn't really happen, then a lot of LDS's vitality and excitement for the scriptures and the Restoration, for that matter, would dissolve. I know I would continue to consider the scriptures to be literal, even if the Church tried to thread the needle with a nuanced essay intended to disarm the higher critical challenges.

I think the theologically liberal LDS whom Bokovoy's theory (i.e., higher criticism) appeals to are in a small minority. I have no problem with people believing what works for them, but I think most active LDS view the scriptures as historical (meaning that the people, events, and places really existed and happened) and would reject these theories if they knew about them. A majority of active members believe in a global flood, for instance, and this is in large part because the only things available on the flood from the Church itself support a global flood only. There haven't been any Gospel Topic Essays giving nuance and disavowal of such deep-seated, literal, fundamentalist things as the global flood. And I think it would be problematic for the Church if it did try to thread that needle. 

I have read quite a bit of higher criticism, and I don't find it to be compelling. I readily admit that much of this stems from what I want to believe, and I think that, at heart, the same is the case for theological liberals. They try to frame it as a case of them, just objectively going where the evidence leads, while "we" cling desperately to the way we want it to be. In reality, both do, in my view.

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1 hour ago, Nevo said:

Sounds like you answered your own question. Most members of the Church don't put much stock in the opinions of biblical scholars (unless, of course, they happen to say something that favors LDS claims). 

I try to be even more skeptical when they back LDS claims. I am more credulous when they do and there are a lot of loose interpretations of the Bible in LDS circles. I have gotten burned enough to make me suspicious.

I doubt biblical scholars in general. I have seen the problems Deutero-Isaiah seeks to solve but do not buy the accepted solution.

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My understanding is that the concept of a deutero-Isaiah came about primarily because the book of Isaiah mentions Cyrus, who was born after Isaiah died, the thought being, "How could someone know about someone else that would live in the future before that person is even born?" So the first problem is not really with The Book of Mormon, but with someone thinking that there could never be any such a thing as an inspired prophecy. Yet, bizarrely, utterly bizarrely, this is twisted into an attack on The Book of Mormon, when the reality is that the people espousing this concept are attacking the Bible itself but somehow don't realize this is what they're doing, or they don't care. "Sure the Bible says the Lord doeth nothing save he revealeth his secrets to his servants the prophets, but we don't believe stuff like that really happens. But we don't mind that the Bible says it happens. But we do mind that The Book of Mormon says it happens."

Soooooo... if you are proceeding on the basis that something like prophecy could not possibly occur why in the world is deutero-Isaiah being used to paint The Book of Mormon as some sort of deceitful lie yet somehow the Bible remains as this highly noble, venerable book? The deutero-Isaiah theory actually puts both books on a level playing field. And if you say, "Well, the Bible isn't meant to be taken as an inerringly historically accurate book, but it contains great principles for us to live by," then why couldn't the same thing be said about The Book of Mormon? We've got people who don't care if Moses was real or not but that still believe there are lessons to be learned from the story of the Exodus, but who feel that if Alma and Nephi and Teancum and others weren't real then that's proof that Joseph Smith is a pernicious liar and that The Book of Mormon should be ignored. So, the same standards aren't getting applied.

Edited by CMZ
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14 minutes ago, CMZ said:

My understanding is that the concept of a deutero-Isaiah came about primarily because the book of Isaiah mentions Cyrus, who was born after Isaiah died, the thought being, "How could someone know about someone else that would live in the future before that person is even born?" So the first problem is not really with The Book of Mormon, but with someone thinking that there could never be any such a thing as an inspired prophecy.

I think you're right that anyone who believes in the Book of Mormon as ancient scripture isn't going sweat the idea of a prophet perfectly forecasting events hundreds of years in the future. The Book of Mormon is full of that sort of thing.

14 minutes ago, CMZ said:

We've got people who don't care if Moses was real or not but that still believe there are lessons to be learned from the story of the Exodus, but who feel that if Alma and Nephi and Teancum and others weren't real then that's proof that Joseph Smith is a pernicious liar and that The Book of Mormon should be ignored. So, the same standards aren't getting applied.

There are plenty of people who don't consider either the Bible or the Book of Mormon to be trustworthy historical accounts but still think they have spiritual value. But if there were no Nephites—and therefore no Moroni and no gold plates—it's hard to see how Joseph Smith wasn't either deluded or a fraud in some sense. 

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18 minutes ago, Nevo said:

But if there were no Nephites—and therefore no Moroni and no gold plates—it's hard to see how Joseph Smith wasn't either deluded or a fraud in some sense. 

Of course there's people that believe that. But there's also people that believe it about the Bible, that it was concocted by some crazed religious freaks who made up stories about the earth getting created by God, about the Red Sea parting, about Jesus raising people from the dead, etc. The Bible doesn't somehow get a free pass here. This thread isn't about people who don't believe in anything supernatural at all. It is about the deutero-Isaiah theory. And I am saying that if you have someone who believes in the Bible who believes in the deutero-Isaiah theory that then uses it to attack The Book of Mormon then they need to be aware that the same theory also attacks the validity of the Bible.

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I should add I neglected to discuss the one passage that does seem a problem, Isaiah 52:1-2 which Bokovoy mentioned in that link. Whether you see it as problematic in terms of dating rather than perhaps a pre-existing poem that was edited into Isaiah will of course depend upon your presuppositions. In terms of the poem itself, I think it could easily fit the context of Lehi where Jerusalem has already been sacked and the prophets are telling Zedekiah to stop his political scheming with Egypt. Note that Zedekiah was himself put in place by Nebuchadnezzar II after the seige of 597. Jeremiah then condemns Zedekiah in Jeremiah 52:2-3. So this could easily be a text composed by an other prophet between 597 and 608 that Lehi had access to. Indeed in my opinion it reads better for that context than the exile or post-exilic period.

The problem of course is Nephi says this is Isaiah (2 Nephi 6:4). In addition it's presented as a full text of Isaiah 50-52:2 with the exception of the oddity at the end of 2 Nephi 6 which reads like a text that isn't our Isaiah except for Isaiah 49:22-26.

Now again to be fair there are places in this text one can point to as problematic such as Isaiah 49:9. 

 

 

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31 minutes ago, Nevo said:

I think you're right that anyone who believes in the Book of Mormon as ancient scripture isn't going sweat the idea of a prophet perfectly forecasting events hundreds of years in the future. The Book of Mormon is full of that sort of thing.

Note the main arguments against an early date for deutero-Isaiah is not that there is prophecy but that the text presupposes it's audience has experienced certain things. 

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30 minutes ago, Nevo said:

There are plenty of people who don't consider either the Bible or the Book of Mormon to be trustworthy historical accounts but still think they have spiritual value.

Yes, there are. 

But if there were no Nephites—and therefore no Moroni and no gold plates—it's hard to see how Joseph Smith wasn't either deluded or a fraud in some sense.

This cuts to the crux of the matter. Mormons are tied to historicity in a way that other churches aren't, because of the Book of Mormon. Evangelicals and fundamentalist Christians feel similarly about the Bible, but Moroni, gold plates, etc. make the stake even higher for Mormons. 

I get the feeling that Bokovoy, et. al. don't think there were gold plates and that Moroni didn't really visit Joseph Smith (because there wasn't really a Moroni). While there are people who believe that the Book of Mormon has spiritual value despite not being what it says it is, that view will never dominate in the Church. And if it did, the Church would cease being the Church in any meaningful sense. 

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14 minutes ago, rongo said:

Yes, there are. 

 

 

This cuts to the crux of the matter. Mormons are tied to historicity in a way that other churches aren't, because of the Book of Mormon. Evangelicals and fundamentalist Christians feel similarly about the Bible, but Moroni, gold plates, etc. make the stake even higher for Mormons. 

I get the feeling that Bokovoy, et. al. don't think there were gold plates and that Moroni didn't really visit Joseph Smith (because there wasn't really a Moroni). While there are people who believe that the Book of Mormon has spiritual value despite not being what it says it is, that view will never dominate in the Church. And if it did, the Church would cease being the Church in any meaningful sense. 

I question the value of the plates as it relates to the product that is the book of Mormon, for one.  I think he did get plates, I just don't know that what we have as the Book of Mormon is what was found on the plates--at least not in any exhaustive or accurate way.  It is said Joseph couldn't translate the Reformed Egyptian but by the gift and power of God was the translation accomplished.  One witness, I believe, suggested there was a phrase in reformed Egyptian that appeared to Joseph with the English underneath it, but since Joseph didn't refer to the plates, didn't seem to be following along, he wouldn't have known that the reformed Egyptian, if it really did appear, was what was found on the plates, nor did he know whether the English represented phrases in the plates.  In other words, there's really no possible way for us to tie the plates to the Book of Mormon.  Not only is Deutero-Isaiah a good question to raise here, but there are other anachronisms that appear--making it seem like whoever or whatever produced the Book of Mormon they weren't really concerned about revealing to us actual events, at least not concerned enough to be precise nor accurate.  I think as some of this gets to more brains in the Church more and more will start to see the value of biblical criticism and will learn that such approaches do not take away from scripture but adds to it's value, after all what value is it to have an untenable view of something if that view is wrong?  

With that said, it's possible there did live a Moroni and Nephi in the era that the Book of Mormon is set.  It's just that what we have in the Book of Mormon is not very good and reprenting their side.  It's much better at representing what Joseph was able to determine was their side of things.  If so, the Book doesn't do well with historicity.  But again, that doesn't mean there was nothing or no one that it is based on. 

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Keep in mind that after the translation that Moroni appeared to the three witnesses to show them the plates and to be present as the voice of God testified that the translation was true. If Moroni felt he wasn't being represented very well in the English translation it seems that those events may have gone differently.

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And we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true.

https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/three?lang=eng

 

 

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When we're done talking about Deutero Isaiah, we should figure out how much brass it would take to write down all the stuff that the Book of Mormon says was in the Brass Plates.

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4 hours ago, Johnnie Cake said:

This may be kicking a dead horse...but of the many problems I personally find in forming a belief paradigm in Mormonism...this particular difficulty is at or near the top of a very very deep pile of perceived problems.

Dr David Bokovoy, makes a compelling argument for why this is a significant problem for believers in the Book of Mormon as a literal history...of course if one considers the BoM as inspired scripture allegory just not a literal historical document...then the problem of Deutero Isaiah being found  in the BoM disappears.  It just creates other problems.

So how exactly do believer's resolve this difficulty? Ignore it,  buy into some magical solution or is there some other workaround that you've found that resolves this dilemma?

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/davidbokovoy/2014/04/deutero-isaiah-in-the-book-of-mormon-a-literary-analysis-pt-1/

 

Just want to add...that an inspired fictional scripture as a foundation for belief is not satisfactory to me...so Bokovoy's argument...confirms my reasons for non-believe...but leaves me with a path to belief that does not work for me.  I should also add that anyone who proposes that the Biblical scholars are wrong and that the proof is in the fact that the Book of Mormon its self is proof that Deutero Isaiah was written before Lehi left Jerusalem because of the fact that it is in the Book of Mormon and thus must have been on the Brass Plates...sorry that dog won't hunt.

It mainly boils down to this problem: scholars have difficulty believing in prophecy - not only do they not believe Isaiah was written by the hand of Isaiah, but the same holds true for Daniel and much of the NT. You see they don't even believe Jesus prophesied the destruction of the temple, and therefore conclude the gospels had to be written after the apostles died. They also date Daniel  to have been written around 300 BC, but I have pointed out at least two large problems with textual analysis which give such a date. So if you don't believe scholars are smarter than God, then believing that Isaiah prophesied a name rather than Isaiah was written after this person lived is not a problem, and the Deutero-Isaiah "problem" is no longer a problem. Scholarly textual analysis is often just plain wrong in its conclusions, and is definitely not a reason to lose faith in what the spirit has revealed to you.

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17 minutes ago, cinepro said:

When we're done talking about Deutero Isaiah, we should figure out how much brass it would take to write down all the stuff that the Book of Mormon says was in the Brass Plates.

We don't know what was on them or even whether they were a codex or more akin to the Copper Scroll in the Dead Sea Scrolls (which is basically plates but linked to make more like a scroll). I think some estimates are that they'd be around 60 - 80 pounds assuming they were really brass (which does have the problem of tarnishing) You also have the problem that if they were pounded very thin that you could only write on a single side. So you're probably talking on the order of 4" - 6" thick depending upon what texts were on it.

Of course there may have been a collection of plates that made up the brass plates. We tend to assume they were a single codex due to art of the Book of Mormon. But I'm not sure the brass plates necessarily were put together the way the Book of Mormon is described. That's just an assumption we leap to without evidence. So the brass plates might well have been scrolls made out of some copper alloy with each scroll representing a book. As I mentioned in the post on deutero-Isaiah there is a theory that commentary and related texts might have been on the same scroll.  So you might have a single metal scroll being called Isaiah but actually being a collection of Isaiah related poems, commentary and related stuff. 

Edited by clarkgoble
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8 minutes ago, RevTestament said:

It mainly boils down to this problem: scholars have difficulty believing in prophecy - not only do they not believe Isaiah was written by the hand of Isaiah, but the same holds true for Daniel and much of the NT. You see they don't even believe Jesus prophesied the destruction of the temple, and therefore conclude the gospels had to be written after the apostles died. They also date Daniel  to have been written around 300 BC, but I have pointed out at least two large problems with textual analysis which give such a date. So if you don't believe scholars are smarter than God, then believing that Isaiah prophesied a name rather than Isaiah was written after this person lived is not a problem, and the Deutero-Isaiah "problem" is no longer a problem. Scholarly textual analysis is often just plain wrong in its conclusions, and is definitely not a reason to lose faith in what the spirit has revealed to you.

Did you really take down a whole discipline that many continue to give their life to by showing two instances where someone might be wrong about Daniel?  Wow.  I wonder if they know this.  

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2 hours ago, clarkgoble said:

Note the main arguments against an early date for deutero-Isaiah is not that there is prophecy but that the text presupposes it's audience has experienced certain things. 

True, but again, LDS are perfectly comfortable with scripture written for a future audience.

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39 minutes ago, Gray said:

Attacking the Deutero-Isaiah theory is a non-starter unless you're completely throwing the idea out on applying scholarship to scriptures. Even conservative scholars accept that Isaiah has multiple authors. 

But why reject scholarship when it comes to scriptures and not medicine or physics? I don't think we're served well by an anti-intellectual approach to anything. Leave that kind of thing to the young earth crowd. 

The difference is that with physics and medicine if you get it wrong it usually becomes obvious in testing. The plane does not fly, the collider does not collide, and the patient dies.

Writing and speculating and reaching conclusions about the machinations of long-dead authors and their motivations and timeframes gives the benefit of (absent new discoveries) never being crudely proven wrong. Isaiah is unlikely to show up at a conference of Bible scholars to clarify the issues and if he did that would probably not be the point of discussion in any case.

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14 minutes ago, Gray said:

Attacking the Deutero-Isaiah theory is a non-starter unless you're completely throwing the idea out on applying scholarship to scriptures. Even conservative scholars accept that Isaiah has multiple authors. 

You're assuming that all scholarship monolithically and unanimously accepts multiple-Isaiah authorship. I know when Sperry wrote on it (a long time ago, admittedly), he listed many prominent scholars who rejected that.

http://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1100&context=jbms

Sperry quotes Charles C. Torrey's (who vigorously defended one Isaiah) survey of the situation:

We have here a good example of that which has happened not a few times, in the history of literary criticism, where scholars have felt obliged to pare down a writing to make it fit a mistaken theory. The paring process, begun with a penknife, is continued with a hatchet, until the book has been chopped into hopeless chunks.

 

What drives me nuts about higher criticism, whether it be of Homer, or Isaiah, or whomever, is this tendency to whittle down what higher critics accept as being from the "genuine author" to a minute fraction of the whole. And not on very compelling evidence, in my view. Sperry writes: "Only about 262 verses of a total of 1292 in Isaiah are considered to be the genuine product of Isaiah by the higher critics" (including the Trito-Isaiah camp). Higher critics, every single time, without fail, will inevitably disallow the vast majority of a given work as being from the historical author. And, while textual evidence is offered, in the case of scripture it is always backed by the underlying assumption that actual predictive prophecy is impossible. That lies at the heart of multiple Isaiah theories: since predictive prophecy is actually a fiction, anything connected with that must be dated after the author could have known about it in retrospect. In some cases, anachronisms are assumed that have assumptions that aren't demonstrated in my view (e.g., cultural contacts, etc.). The literary evidence is even weaker. It is assumed that the real Isaiah could only have one mood or tone, so sections that are deemed too joyful (looking at the 2nd Coming and Millennium) or too somber (Babylonian captivity, consequences for disobedience, etc.) had to have been from someone else. This, of course, overlaps with the primary assumption that prophets actually can't see into the future. 

But why reject scholarship when it comes to scriptures and not medicine or physics? I don't think we're served well by an anti-intellectual approach to

anything. Leave that kind of thing to the young earth crowd.

I don't think that rejecting a certain type of scholarship with a certain agenda equates to rejecting scholarship altogether. Nor do I consider it to be anti-intellectual. I have read a lot of higher criticism. The Interpreter's Bible is full of it, and that took me about 10 years to read and take notes on. 

Another thing I've noticed is that higher critics in the Church, in my experience, always actually reject the actual existence of gold or brass plates. Every single one, every single time. I think that is what actually lies at the heart of their acceptance of higher criticism, not that the evidence is so compelling that it demands it. They don't believe that the Book of Mormon peoples actually existed, and higher criticism allows them, in their way, to claim belief in Mormonism in some way while rejecting the historicity of the scriptures. 

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