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Musings Re: Historicity and the Book of Mormon


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19 hours ago, Benjamin McGuire said:

For us to discuss the historicity of the Book of Mormon as a narrative text, we have to discuss the real existence of the people in the text and the events that are described within a specific historical context. That is what historicity means. If you can connect individuals in the Book of Mormon narrative to an external reference and argue that they represent the same people - that would be an argument for historicity.

Assuming you're familiar with the varied attempts to connect the text to specific historical contexts and external references, do you find any of them convincing?

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18 hours ago, Nevo said:

I, for one, don't presume that Joseph Smith would have known that the King James Bible is dominated by personal that. Especially since one of the most famous lines from the King James Bible conspicuously uses which: "Our Father which art in heaven." The genealogy of Jesus in Luke 3:23–38 has 75 examples of personal which in just 16 verses, so I don't think it would have necessarily been clear to a nineteenth-century person that dominant personal which "went against biblical usage." Personal which also shows up in the Testimony of the Three Witnesses: "the people of Jared which came from the tower."

So, while interesting, I don't think this observation rules out a nineteenth-century origin for the Book of Mormon.

Well, it doesn't matter one bit that Joseph Smith didn't consciously know that the King James Bible was dominant in personal that (over 80%; we must not target only the usage of a limited number of short passages that give us a desired result). All that matters is that according to your approach (espoused by many others), Joseph must have subconsciously internalized King James idiom to such a degree as to be able to expertly interweave biblical phraseology throughout the text. And from that follows internalizing various biblical syntactic patterns, including personal that, and mixing it with his own preferred pattern (personal who(m)), as some pseudobiblical authors did. Anyway, your hypothesis falls flat in the absence of pseudobiblical support, so we first need to find support from a longer pseudobiblical text to give legs to the hypothesis. I've compiled all the major pseudobiblical texts currently known (consulting Eran Shalev and others), and they don't even approach the Book of Mormon's pattern. There are texts that do, however, and most of them are in the late 1500s.

On 3-witness language: its wording might be specifically revealed. That's how Skousen takes it, and I agree. (Even the 8-witness statement might have been revealed word for word. Skousen doesn't think it was [see NOL], but I don't think we can be sure about the matter given the limited data.) Even if the 3-witness statement wasn't revealed word for word, we can't be sure that it wasn't, so of course we must not use it as evidence. Moreover, the dataset of the 3-witness statement is quite small, and this particular which could have been taken from the original language of the Book of Mormon title page, etc.

The Book of Mormon has a large amount of syntax that supports genuine archaism rather than pseudoarchaism, which I won't get into here. (I mentioned a couple of these above.) Sticking only with PRP usage, the Book of Mormon also has subpatterns that were quite unlikely for Joseph Smith to have produced as part of a pseudobiblical effort. The most important one is probably the Book of Mormon's divergent preference for "he that" and "they which", a divergence in PRP usage that isn't (pseudo)biblical. First, the Book of Mormon's relatively heavy use of "he/they <relative pronoun>" marks the text as archaic (i.e., "he that/who" dropped sharply after the 1600s and "those who" was modern 18c and early 19c usage, not "they which"). Second, the 3sg that / 3pl which divergence is found almost entirely in the middle of the early modern period.

Edited by champatsch
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17 minutes ago, champatsch said:

Well, it doesn't matter one bit that Joseph Smith didn't consciously know that the King James Bible was dominant in personal that (over 80%; we must not target only the usage of a limited number of short passages that give us a desired result). All that matters is that according to your approach (espoused by many others), Joseph must have subconsciously internalized King James idiom to such a degree as to be able to expertly interweave biblical phraseology throughout the text. And from that follows internalizing various biblical syntactic patterns, including personal that, and mixing it with his own preferred pattern (personal who(m)), as some pseudobiblical authors did. Anyway, your hypothesis falls flat in the absence of pseudobiblical support, so we first need to find support from a longer pseudobiblical text to give legs to the hypothesis. I've compiled all the major pseudobiblical texts currently known (consulting Eran Shalev and others), and they don't even approach the Book of Mormon's pattern. There are texts that do, however, and most of them are in the late 1500s.

I am not sure what would be gained by finding support from a longer contemporary pseudobiblical text. Wouldn't you just be asking the same questions about the impossibility of that author  creating such a text? Someone would of done it first and, if I understand you correctly, that is impossible.

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I'm not sure I understand.

What I've been trying to get across is that we need to find a pseudobiblical text fairly close to the Book of Mormon in PRP usage (with enough examples to establish a usage pattern we can have confidence in, statistically speaking) in order to show that Joseph Smith was likely to produce the Book of Mormon pattern as a pseudobiblical linguistic effort.

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I wrote some about Universalism and the Book of Mormon back in 1995 in Paradigms Crossed.

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Vogel's main argument requires that we see Alma as using anti-Universalist rhetoric against Corianton in relation to the main
anti-Universalist issue regarding the endless duration of future punishment for mortal sin . Yet, Alma 's own teachings plainly
affinn the notion of temporally limited punishment. Alma's own "eternal torment" (Mosiah 27:29) in an "everlasting burning"
(Mosiah 27:28), when encircled about by the "everl asting chains of death," lasted for three days (Alma 36: 16, 18).168 Likewise,
Zeezrom experiences " the pains of hell " (Alma 14:6) for a limited time.


Vogel claims that the Book of Mormon argues for a doctrine of endless duration since punishment is "as eternal as the life of
the soul " (Alma 42:16; p. 44). Yet this passage can be understood as referring to the existence of just punishment and blessing
through eternity, rather than the infinite and endless application of such.


Vogel cites Book of Mormon references (pp. 36, 45) that indicate the wicked "shall go away into everlasting fire and their torment is as a lake of fire and brimstone. whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever and has no end" (2 Nephi 9: 16).169 Vogel quotes Hosea Ballou's Universalist argument against traditional interpretations to the effect that "the never ending fire was 'a state of great trouble of mind, in consequence
of conscientious guilt'  (p. 45). Vogel fails to observe that Alma agrees and makes it very clear that the imagery symbolizes the torment that comes from a personal sense of guilt (Alma 12: 14-
15: 36: 17; also Jacob 6:9; Mosiah 3:25).


Ironically, Vogel pits Alma against Elhanan Winchester ( 175 1- 1797), the leader of the "Restorationist" faction of Universalism, who opposed Murray's radical Universalism (p. 42).
But rather than being anti-Universalist, Alma's teachings seem more consistent with Winchester's restorationist position. Some parallels should be natural because both Alma and Winchester
draw on biblical precedents. Additionally, Winchester had been innuenced by Benneville's near-death vision, which again would tend to supply certain parallels to Alma. 

https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1253&context=msr

I discuss this sort of thing for five pages, 202 to 207.  And don't neglect passages like this in the Book of Mormon:

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Now my brethren, we see that God is amindful of every bpeople, whatsoever land they may be in; yea, he numbereth his people, and his bowels of mercy are over all the earth. (Alma 26:37)

This and others like it, never get cited in claims that the Book of Mormon is an anti-Universalist document.

Nevo says:

Quote

Sermons, books, pamphlets, and newspapers attacking and defending the doctrine of universal salvation proliferated. Proponents of Universalism emphasized God’s love and mercy and rejected the notion of endless punishment for the wicked, maintaining that God would save everyone. Defenders of the orthodox position, on the other hand, argued that sin against an infinite being required an infinite punishment, and that the demands of justice could not be abrogated. "By the second and third decades of the [nineteenth] century, attacks on Universalism almost invariably invoked considerations of justice to condemn the faith" (Ann Lee Bressler, The Universalist Movement in America, 38).

This notion that "sin against an infinite being required an infinite punishment" is definitely NOT the Book of Mormon theory of atonement, which is rooted in Temple Theology, and speaks of "that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal, And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentence." (Alma 34:14-15.)  Notice that the at-one-ment teaches Jesus things about us, gives him the insight and empathy and awaress he needs to judge us and to offer a path to healing for us.  (That is the thrust of my talk at BYU last year.)  There is nothing here about infinite punishment, but rather infinite sacrifice, which is something quite different.  This also can be seen as a difference between Greek thinking in Absolutes contrasted with Lehi's "opposition in all things."   There is a potent line in Nibley's The Unsolved Loyalty Problem about in the fourth Century "the cruelty of the times, say Alfoldi," cannot be fully explained by the corruption of the age...  The victory of abstract ways of thinking, the universal triumph of theory, knows no half measures; punishment, like everything else, must be a hundred percent, but even this seems inadequate."  (See The Ancient State, pages 211-212 for the flavor of the thinking, which helps to show the distinctive contrast in Lehi and the Book of Mormon.

In order to see the important nuance and difference of Atonement more clearly, I would recomment this essay by Loren Hansen, which makes clear just how distinctive the Book of Mormon theory of Atonement is compared to the five main Christian theories up to the publication of the Book of Mormon.

https://www.dialoguejournal.com/articles/the-moral-atonement-as-a-mormon-interpretation/

This line of thinking was a big influence on the approach I gave in my talk one At-One-ment at the BYU Conference on the Gospel of Hebrews.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BlltxS152uk

As is this essay by Margaret Barker on the Atonement, approached in light of the temple.

http://www.margaretbarker.com/Papers/Atonement.pdf

Elsewhere, she says, 

Quote

When I preach at Good Friday services, I find that people are much more able to relate to this Temple understanding of atonement, where Jesus’s self-sacrifice is not substitutionary — it’s the real thing. For practical reasons in the Temple, animals represented the high priest; so the symbolism was that the covenant bonds were healed and restored by self-sacrifice, not by other people doing it for you — which people rightly see as unjust. Romans 12.1, “offer yourselves as a living sacrifice”, is the basis of Christian ethics. We’ve simply lost that. The natural order is maintained by self-sacrifice. That’s the message we need today in a materialistic, consumer society.

I challenge anyone to find a biblical basis for penal substitution. We’ve created a culture of dependence rather than human beings as the image of God (page 1 of the Bible) acting in self-sacrifice.

https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2017/20-january/features/interviews/interview-margaret-barker-theologian

FWIW,

Kevin Christensen

Canonsburg, PA

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In view of the discussion that has taken place here I thought these passages from Leonard Arrington's diaries might be of interest:

 

A key stage in my own reconciliation of modern learning with religious belief came with reading George Santayana, The Life of Reason: Reason in Religion.2 The book was published in 1936 by Charles Scribner’s Sons, and I apparently bought it in 1937 and read most of it very carefully and appreciatively.3 The book was very influential for me; it helped me to see that one might be a sincere believer in Mormonism and at the same time accept the findings of the brightest intellects, whether in philosophy, or science, or the humanities. (Of course, Santayana says nothing about Mormonism as such, and quite possibly had no knowledge of it.) In particular, Reason and Religion helped me to understand that it isn’t important whether certain religious or theological affirmations are truths in a literal sense, or whether they are true in a symbolic or poetic sense. And while religious doctrines may be right symbolically, they should not be substituted for scientific truth. At the same time, those who accept scientific truth as the only truth, as the final truth, end up substituting inadequate personal symbols which are unsatisfying and unedifying. Santayana introduced me to the idea of “myth”—to “mythical truth,”—which is a very satisfying concept. Religion may contain a symbolic, not a literal, representation of truth and life. And for this reason one has no difficulty in trying to harmonize religious assertions with scientific “truth.” In the Christian Epic, one may believe in the Virgin Birth in a symbolic sense, without worrying about the literal truth of it or whether such a thing was possible in the real world. In the Mormon Epic, one may believe in the First Vision without worrying unduly as to whether God and Jesus literally appeared in person to Joseph Smith, or whether he thought he saw them in a mystical sense. Did the plates of the Book of Mormon exist in a concrete literal sense or did they exist in a symbolic sense? I feel comfortable either way. I was stimulated to make this diary entry by reading Scott Kenney’s article “A Defense of the Christian Faith,” which is in the Sunstone which just came out today.4 The following fit right into the thoughts to which Santayana turned me to[,] back in 1937 or 1938: The Scriptures are not themselves divine revelation. They are merely the human testimonies of divine revelation. Modern man does not live only by abstract reasoning, but also by stories and images. We should not exorcize the pictorial, mythical, symbolical elements from religion as if men had only ears and not eyes, as if being stirred could ever be replaced by intellectual comprehension. Truth is not simply facticity. A newspaper report of a traveler attacked on the way from Jerusalem to Jericho would perhaps leave us quite cold, even if it were truth, historically true. On the other hand, the invented story of the Good Samaritan on the same road stirs us immediately, since it contains more truth. Many Mormons miss the power of the Restoration message by attempting to abstract its teachings from their historical context. The ultimate criterion of a person’s Christian spirit is not theory but practice: not how he thinks of teachings, dogmas, interpretations, but how he acts in ordinary life.

 

Bergera, Gary James. Confessions of a Mormon Historian: The Diaries of Leonard J. Arrington, 1971–1997, Volume 2, Centrifugal Forces, 1975–80 . Signature Books. Kindle Edition.

 

One’s testimony of the Gospel is an intensely personal thing. Arguing with it is like arguing with his or her choice of a spouse, his or her taste in art, his or her preference for Verdi over Wagner.

—July 9, 1985

Bergera, Gary James. Confessions of a Mormon Historian: The Diaries of Leonard J. Arrington, 1971–1997, Volume 3, Exile, 1980–97 . Signature Books. Kindle Edition.

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31 minutes ago, Steve Thompson said:

In view of the discussion that has taken place here I thought these passages from Leonard Arrington's diaries might be of interest:

 

A key stage in my own reconciliation of modern learning with religious belief came with reading George Santayana, The Life of Reason: Reason in Religion.2 The book was published in 1936 by Charles Scribner’s Sons, and I apparently bought it in 1937 and read most of it very carefully and appreciatively.3 The book was very influential for me; it helped me to see that one might be a sincere believer in Mormonism and at the same time accept the findings of the brightest intellects, whether in philosophy, or science, or the humanities. (Of course, Santayana says nothing about Mormonism as such, and quite possibly had no knowledge of it.) In particular, Reason and Religion helped me to understand that it isn’t important whether certain religious or theological affirmations are truths in a literal sense, or whether they are true in a symbolic or poetic sense. And while religious doctrines may be right symbolically, they should not be substituted for scientific truth. At the same time, those who accept scientific truth as the only truth, as the final truth, end up substituting inadequate personal symbols which are unsatisfying and unedifying. Santayana introduced me to the idea of “myth”—to “mythical truth,”—which is a very satisfying concept. Religion may contain a symbolic, not a literal, representation of truth and life. And for this reason one has no difficulty in trying to harmonize religious assertions with scientific “truth.” In the Christian Epic, one may believe in the Virgin Birth in a symbolic sense, without worrying about the literal truth of it or whether such a thing was possible in the real world. In the Mormon Epic, one may believe in the First Vision without worrying unduly as to whether God and Jesus literally appeared in person to Joseph Smith, or whether he thought he saw them in a mystical sense. Did the plates of the Book of Mormon exist in a concrete literal sense or did they exist in a symbolic sense? I feel comfortable either way. I was stimulated to make this diary entry by reading Scott Kenney’s article “A Defense of the Christian Faith,” which is in the Sunstone which just came out today.4 The following fit right into the thoughts to which Santayana turned me to[,] back in 1937 or 1938: The Scriptures are not themselves divine revelation. They are merely the human testimonies of divine revelation. Modern man does not live only by abstract reasoning, but also by stories and images. We should not exorcize the pictorial, mythical, symbolical elements from religion as if men had only ears and not eyes, as if being stirred could ever be replaced by intellectual comprehension. Truth is not simply facticity. A newspaper report of a traveler attacked on the way from Jerusalem to Jericho would perhaps leave us quite cold, even if it were truth, historically true. On the other hand, the invented story of the Good Samaritan on the same road stirs us immediately, since it contains more truth. Many Mormons miss the power of the Restoration message by attempting to abstract its teachings from their historical context. The ultimate criterion of a person’s Christian spirit is not theory but practice: not how he thinks of teachings, dogmas, interpretations, but how he acts in ordinary life.

 

Bergera, Gary James. Confessions of a Mormon Historian: The Diaries of Leonard J. Arrington, 1971–1997, Volume 2, Centrifugal Forces, 1975–80 . Signature Books. Kindle Edition.

 

One’s testimony of the Gospel is an intensely personal thing. Arguing with it is like arguing with his or her choice of a spouse, his or her taste in art, his or her preference for Verdi over Wagner.

—July 9, 1985

Bergera, Gary James. Confessions of a Mormon Historian: The Diaries of Leonard J. Arrington, 1971–1997, Volume 3, Exile, 1980–97 . Signature Books. Kindle Edition.

Thanks for this!

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5 hours ago, Kevin Christensen said:

I wrote some about Universalism and the Book of Mormon back in 1995 in Paradigms Crossed.

https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1253&context=msr

I discuss this sort of thing for five pages, 202 to 207.

And don't neglect passages like this in the Book of Mormon:

This and others like it, never get cited in claims that the Book of Mormon is an anti-Universalist document.

I disagree that "Alma 's own teachings plainly affirm the notion of temporally limited punishment." I don't see that at all. You write: "Alma's own 'eternal torment' (Mosiah 27:29) in an 'everlasting burning' (Mosiah 27:28), when encircled about by the 'everlasting chains of death,' lasted for three days (Alma 36:16, 18)." His suffering lasted only three days because he repented and called on Jesus Christ for deliverance. He says that "after repenting nigh unto death, the Lord in mercy hath seen fit to snatch me out of an everlasting burning" (Mosiah 27:28). The inference is that he would have remained there he not been saved and born of God. Like Zeezrom, he experienced a foretaste of hell to teach him that he "was like to be cast off" (v. 27) if he did not repent.

Here's a pretty representative sampling of Alma's statements about the future awaiting the unrepentant:

  • "at the last day...shall they confess who live without God in world that the judgment of an everlasting punishment is just upon them" (Mosiah 27:31) 
  • "an everlasting destruction did await them" (Alma 5:7)
  • "every tree that bringeth forth good fruit shall be hewn down and cast into the fire, yea, a fire which cannot be consumed, even an unquenchable fire" (Alma 5:52)
  • "if it had not been for [God's] matchless power and his mercy, and his long-suffering towards us, we should unavoidably have been cut off from the face of the earth long before this period of time, and perhaps been consigned to a state of endless misery and woe" (Alma 9:11)
  • "... that he might chain you down to everlasting destruction, according to the power of his captivity" (Alma 12:6)
  • "they shall be chained down to an everlasting destruction, according to the power and captivity of Satan" (Alma 12:17)
  • "your iniquity provoketh him that he sendeth down his wrath upon you as in the first provocation ... to the everlasting destruction of your souls" (Alma 12:36; cf. Alma 13:30)
  • "all things shall be restored to their proper order ... raised to endless happiness to inherit the kingdom of God, or to endless misery to inherit the kingdom of the devil" (Alma 41:4)
  •  "that endless night of darkness" (Alma 41:7)
  • "all mankind were fallen, and were in the grasp of justice; yea, the justice of God, which consigned them forever to be cut off from his presence" (Alma 42:14)
  • "repentance could not come unto men except there were a punishment, which also was eternal as the life of the soul should be" (Alma 42:16)

I take Alma's repeated descriptions of future punishment using adjectives like "everlasting," "endless," and "forever" to mean that he didn't think it would be temporally limited. But I suppose reasonable minds can disagree ;)  In any case, none of the statements cited above are inconsistent with an anti-Universalist reading. Nor is Alma 26:37.

That said, D&C 19 comes along the same month the Book of Mormon is published and seems to take Hosea Ballou's side. So who knows what's going on.

Edited by Nevo
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12 hours ago, Nevo said:

"repentance could not come unto men except there were a punishment, which also was eternal as the life of the soul should be" (Alma 42:16)

As a side note, the parsing of this passage is probably the following:

Now repentance could not come unto men except there were a punishment — which also was as eternal as the life of the soul —
should be affixed opposite to the plan of happiness — which was as eternal also as the life of the soul.

The standard punctuation leads us to wrongly read that the "life of the soul should be eternal". Instead, it's "there was a punishment [that] should be affixed opposite to the plan of happiness" (ellipsis of a relative, either which or that).

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13 hours ago, Nevo said:

I disagree that "Alma 's own teachings plainly affirm the notion of temporally limited punishment." I don't see that at all. You write: "Alma's own 'eternal torment' (Mosiah 27:29) in an 'everlasting burning' (Mosiah 27:28), when encircled about by the 'everlasting chains of death,' lasted for three days (Alma 36:16, 18)." His suffering lasted only three days because he repented and called on Jesus Christ for deliverance. He says that "after repenting nigh unto death, the Lord in mercy hath seen fit to snatch me out of an everlasting burning" (Mosiah 27:28). The inference is that he would have remained there he not been saved and born of God. Like Zeezrom, he experienced a foretaste of hell to teach him that he "was like to be cast off" (v. 27) if he did not repent.

Here's a pretty representative sampling of Alma's statements about the future awaiting the unrepentant:

  • "at the last day...shall they confess who live without God in world that the judgment of an everlasting punishment is just upon them" (Mosiah 27:31) 
  • "an everlasting destruction did await them" (Alma 5:7)
  • "every tree that bringeth forth good fruit shall be hewn down and cast into the fire, yea, a fire which cannot be consumed, even an unquenchable fire" (Alma 5:52)
  • "if it had not been for [God's] matchless power and his mercy, and his long-suffering towards us, we should unavoidably have been cut off from the face of the earth long before this period of time, and perhaps been consigned to a state of endless misery and woe" (Alma 9:11)
  • "... that he might chain you down to everlasting destruction, according to the power of his captivity" (Alma 12:6)
  • "they shall be chained down to an everlasting destruction, according to the power and captivity of Satan" (Alma 12:17)
  • "your iniquity provoketh him that he sendeth down his wrath upon you as in the first provocation ... to the everlasting destruction of your souls" (Alma 12:36; cf. Alma 13:30)
  • "all things shall be restored to their proper order ... raised to endless happiness to inherit the kingdom of God, or to endless misery to inherit the kingdom of the devil" (Alma 41:4)
  •  "that endless night of darkness" (Alma 41:7)
  • "all mankind were fallen, and were in the grasp of justice; yea, the justice of God, which consigned them forever to be cut off from his presence" (Alma 42:14)
  • "repentance could not come unto men except there were a punishment, which also was eternal as the life of the soul should be" (Alma 42:16)

I take Alma's repeated descriptions of future punishment using adjectives like "everlasting," "endless," and "forever" to mean that he didn't think it would be temporally limited. But I suppose reasonable minds can disagree ;)  In any case, none of the statements cited above are inconsistent with an anti-Universalist reading. Nor is Alma 26:37.

That said, D&C 19 comes along the same month the Book of Mormon is published and seems to take Hosea Ballou's side. So who knows what's going on.

What brought me around and what Alma meant by "eternal torment"  (and what Zeezrom and Lamoni experienced) was the research that led to my "Nigh Unto Death: NDE Research and the Book of Mormon essay", especially this from Stanislav and Christina Grof, Beyond Death. 

Quote

Stanislav and Christina Grof, in Beyond Death, elaborate on three themes from hellish experience that also stand out in Alma's accounts: 

• the polarities of the hellish and heavenly experience

• the subjective sense of eternal torment infinite duration

• the use of "rebirth" imagery

...[SNIP Alma's conversion]

In the Grofs' discussion, the process of psychological death and rebirth "bears a striking similarity to the events described through the ages in shamanistic initiation, rites of passage, temple mysteries, and in the ecstatic religions of many ancient and preliterate cultures."12 They identify the first of three stages as cosmic engulfment, related to the onset of biological delivery, beginning with "an overwhelming feeling of anxiety and an awareness of a vital threat."l3 This corresponds to Alma's shock at seeing the angel. The second stage is no exit, related to "the second stage of delivery in which uterine contractions encroach on the foetus, but the cervix is closed." Subjectively, "the situation is inescapable and eternal. There is no hope and no way out either in space or in time."l4 Notice how Alma describes a longing for annihilation while he felt "racked with eternal torment," being "encircled about by the everlasting chains of death" (Alma 36: 12, 18). Concerning "the ordeal of hell," the Grofs write: The feeling that suffering is eternal is an essential, experimental attribute of hell. The endlessness of this state does not consist in an extreme extension of linear time, but in its transcendence. The individual undergoes tortures beyond any imagining which at that point are the only available reality; since the sense of the linear flow of time is lost, there appears to be no way out. It is only when this situation is fully accepted that one has experienced hell, and the journey can continue.15

In Alma's account of his torment, the terms "everlasting" and "eternal" do not refer to duration, but to quality. Alma reports that his "eternal torment" lasted for three days (cf. D&C 19: 1-21). The third stage is the death-rebirth struggle. Again, the Grofs' description illuminates Alma's experience.

"The "death and rebirth" phase represents the termination and resolution of the "death-rebirth struggle." Suffering and agony culminate in an experience of total annihilation on all levels-physical, emotional, intellectual, moral, and transcendental. ... Such annihilation is often followed by visions of blinding white or golden light and a sense of liberating decompression and expansion. The universe is perceived as indescribably beautiful and radiant; subjects feel themselves cleansed and purged, and speak of redemption, salvation, moksha, or samadhi. Numerous images of emerging into light from darkness, glorious opening of the heavens, revelation of the divine ... and the final victory of the pure religious impulse, express this state of consciousness . . . . In death and rebirth mythologies, the correspondence is with the revival and resurrection of the sacrificed god." 16

https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1015&context=jbms

All of that is also consistent with D&C 19.  And my point about Alma's consistency with the Restorationist faction of Universalism as influenced by a near death account remains.

FWIW,

Kevin Christensen

Canonsburg, PA

Edited by Kevin Christensen
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Ryan Dahle writes:

Quote

I would suggest, though, that the very unique circumstances surrounding the discovery and translation of the Book of Mormon turn any sort of strong evidence of verisimilitude into pretty good circumstantial evidence for historicity. 

No. That's the point of all this. The one cannot be evidence (circumstantial or otherwise) of the other. We can argue that all of these things are evidence (circumstantial or otherwise) for the historic authenticity of the text. But this isn't historicity. And you can't simply substitute the one for the other.

Consider, for example the difference in the way that we can discuss Mormon from the end of the text and the way that we can discuss Zedekiah from its beginning. Here is something of an overly simplistic history of Zedekiah. Zedekiah was named Mattaniah when he was born. He was renamed Zedekiah when Nebuchadnezzar placed him on the throne of Judah after the death of Jehoiakim. A few years into his reign, Zedekiah stopped paying tribute to the Babylonians. At the same time, Zedekiah began negotiating with the Egyptians for support against Nebuchadnezzar should he attempt to reassert sovereignty over Judah. When the Babylonians returned, they laid siege to Jerusalem. Subsequently, Pharoah Apries sent an army to Jerusalem, forcing the Babylonians to lift their siege. Unfortunately intrigue at home caused the Egyptians to leave, and Jerusalem fell. Sometime during this period - either after Zedekiah withheld tribute but before the Babylonians show up, or in the brief period when the siege was lifted, Lehi departs from Jerusalem. We know all sorts of details about this person who is mentioned in the Book of Mormon. We can place him, and provide dates for him, and so on - from contemporary sources external to the text.

What can we say about Mormon?

Yes, you could say that Mormon's son, Moroni, appearing to Joseph Smith could be used to argue that Mormon must be a real historical figure. But that's not giving the account of Mormon in the Book of Mormon historicity.

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5 hours ago, Benjamin McGuire said:

No. That's the point of all this. The one cannot be evidence (circumstantial or otherwise) of the other. We can argue that all of these things are evidence (circumstantial or otherwise) for the historic authenticity of the text. But this isn't historicity. And you can't simply substitute the one for the other.

Consider, for example the difference in the way that we can discuss Mormon from the end of the text and the way that we can discuss Zedekiah from its beginning. Here is something of an overly simplistic history of Zedekiah. Zedekiah was named Mattaniah when he was born. He was renamed Zedekiah when Nebuchadnezzar placed him on the throne of Judah after the death of Jehoiakim. A few years into his reign, Zedekiah stopped paying tribute to the Babylonians. At the same time, Zedekiah began negotiating with the Egyptians for support against Nebuchadnezzar should he attempt to reassert sovereignty over Judah. When the Babylonians returned, they laid siege to Jerusalem. Subsequently, Pharoah Apries sent an army to Jerusalem, forcing the Babylonians to lift their siege. Unfortunately intrigue at home caused the Egyptians to leave, and Jerusalem fell. Sometime during this period - either after Zedekiah withheld tribute but before the Babylonians show up, or in the brief period when the siege was lifted, Lehi departs from Jerusalem. We know all sorts of details about this person who is mentioned in the Book of Mormon. We can place him, and provide dates for him, and so on - from contemporary sources external to the text.

What can we say about Mormon?

Yes, you could say that Mormon's son, Moroni, appearing to Joseph Smith could be used to argue that Mormon must be a real historical figure. But that's not giving the account of Mormon in the Book of Mormon historicity.

I guess what I am saying is that the text's verisimilitude is part of what helps me, on a logical level, to believe in its historicity. It helpfully opens the door for rational belief in historicity by demonstrating that the text's reported events and details are generally believable in their purported ancient context, even if the specific narrative details and characters in the text can't yet be corroborated by external evidence. I don't see how that isn't relevant circumstantial evidence. 

Let's use a different example. Let's say, for the sake of analogy, that my friend tells me his now deceased father could bench press 400 pounds when he was a younger man. No one else ever witnessed this feat but my friend. And there is no way to directly verify his claims. And lets say I was quite skeptical of this claim for years, until one day my friend found a picture of him and his dad in his attic, from when his father was at his prime. And lets say that the photo showed that his father was indeed a man of very large stature, and that his arms were absolutely enormous. He looked very much like the type of man that could bench press 400 pounds. 

Is that or isn't it circumstantial evidence in favor of my friend's claim? The piece of information, although not direct "proof," makes the claim in question much more plausible, much more believable. That is how circumstantial evidence works, isn't it? It indirectly lends support or increases the plausibility or probability of an assertion being true.  

Maybe Smac 97 (it won't let me tag you and post for some reason) can tell me if and where I'm wrong.

If I am correct, then it seems natural that people would marshal evidence of strong verisimilitude to help defend or promote belief in Book of Mormon historicity. And that, in turn, helps explain Smac97's line of reasoning and why these concepts (verisimilitude and historicity) so often go hand in hand in such discussions without distinction and qualification. It is just assumed, and I think rightly so, that evidence for one increases the plausibility or believability of the other--at least in this particular context.

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Posted (edited)
13 hours ago, Ryan Dahle said:

I guess what I am saying is that the text's verisimilitude is part of what helps me, on a logical level, to believe in its historicity. 

I agree with this.  

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It helpfully opens the door for rational belief in historicity by demonstrating that the text's reported events and details are generally believable in their purported ancient context, even if the specific narrative details and characters in the text can't yet be corroborated by external evidence. I don't see how that isn't relevant circumstantial evidence. 

I agree with this as well.

And evidence of verisimilitude is not the only available evidence.  Eyewitness testimony of the Gold Plates.  Textual evidences of antiquity.  

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Let's use a different example. Let's say, for the sake of analogy, that my friend tells me his now deceased father could bench press 400 pounds when he was a younger man. No one else ever witnessed this feat but my friend. And there is no way to directly verify his claims. And lets say I was quite skeptical of this claim for years, until one day my friend found a picture of him and his dad in his attic, from when his father was at his prime. And lets say that the photo showed that his father was indeed a man of very large stature, and that his arms were absolutely enormous. He looked very much like the type of man that could bench press 400 pounds. 

The photo would be corroborative circumstantial evidence making your friend's claim more plausible.

Quote

Is that or isn't it circumstantial evidence in favor of my friend's claim? The piece of information, although not direct "proof," makes the claim in question much more plausible, much more believable. That is how circumstantial evidence works, isn't it? It indirectly lends support or increases the plausibility or probability of an assertion being true.  

Maybe Smac 97 (it won't let me tag you and post for some reason) can tell me if and where I'm wrong.

We seem to be taking the same approach.

Quote

If I am correct, then it seems natural that people would marshal evidence of strong verisimilitude to help defend or promote belief in Book of Mormon historicity.

I agree with this.  "Verisimilitude" simply means "the appearance or semblance of truth; likelihood; probability."  In the U.S. legal system, evidence is "relevant" if "it has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence; and the fact is of consequence in determining the action."

The apparent antiquity of the text is, in my view, relevant.  It is relevant to what the text claims to be, what Joseph Smith claimed it to be, what the witnesses claimed, and so on.  The truth claims of the Church are based on Joseph Smith's status as a prophet.  His credibility pertaining to the Book of Mormon, the restoration of the priesthood, and his other theophanies and revelations are extremely important.  To reject the historicity of the text is to reject Joseph Smith's narrative of theophanies with Moroni, finding the plates, translating the plates, and so on.  If we reject those, it is but a few brief steps to likewise reject his narrative about the First Vision, the theophanies restoring the priesthood, and so on.

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And that, in turn, helps explain Smac97's line of reasoning and why these concepts (verisimilitude and historicity) so often go hand in hand in such discussions without distinction and qualification. It is just assumed, and I think rightly so, that evidence for one increases the plausibility or believability of the other--at least in this particular context.

I think the verisimilitude is pretty important.  It would be pretty hard for me to be a Latter-day Saint if we had a fourteenth verse in the Articles of Faith stating "We believe that the earth is not spherical in shape, and instead is a flat disc."  That precept carries no "verismilitude."  It is empirically testable and falsifiable.

The "verismilitude" of the Restored Gospel go a very long way in greasing the skids for me to accept it.  The narrative makes sense.  It's plausible.  It still takes a lot of faith, and must be accepted principally via spiritual confirmation, but plausibility goes a long way.

Going back to the OP: I provided a picture of a clay jar.  I provided my father's explanation for its provenance.  I provided some evidence that corroborates my father's explanation.  That makes his explanation more plausible.  The objective was not only to provide "the appearance or semblance of truth; likelihood; probability" as to the origins of the jar (verisimilitude), but also substantiate the historical authenticity of origins of the jar (historicity).  As you say, these two concepts "often go hand in hand."

Thanks,

-Smac

Edited by smac97
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3 hours ago, smac97 said:

To reject the historicity of the text is to reject Joseph Smith's narrative of theophanies with Moroni, finding the plates, translating the plates, and so on.  If we reject those, it is but a few brief steps to likewise reject his narrative about the First Vision, the theophanies restoring the priesthood, and so on.

No testimony.

That's the problem.  You are trying to establish a historical basis for Spiritual truth.

That is doomed to failure. 

It's like using the rules of basketball to determine the nature of the universe.

It's a huge logical error called a category mistake.

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/category-mistakes/

Edited by mfbukowski
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6 minutes ago, mfbukowski said:
Quote

To reject the historicity of the text is to reject Joseph Smith's narrative of theophanies with Moroni, finding the plates, translating the plates, and so on.  If we reject those, it is but a few brief steps to likewise reject his narrative about the First Vision, the theophanies restoring the priesthood, and so on.

No testimony.

I don't know what this means.

Quote

That's the problem.  You are trying to establish a historical basis for Spiritual truth.

With respect, I reject the distinction.  Jesus Christ as the Son of God is both a "historical" and "spiritual" truth. 

Similarly, I think Joseph Smith's discovery, possession, and translation of the Gold Plates are also both "historical" and "spiritual" truths.

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That is doomed to failure. 

I quite disagree.

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It's like using the rules of basketball to determine the nature of the universe.

This is not self-evident.  

Quote

It's a huge logical error called a category mistake.

A "category mistake" is defined as "the error of assigning to something a quality or action that can properly be assigned to things only of another category, for example, treating abstract concepts as though they had a physical location." 

Joseph Smith declared that he experienced theophanies that resulted in him locating actual, physical, ancient gold plates buried in a hill in upstate New York.  He did not treat the plates as "abstract concepts."  Nor did the Witnesses, nor have any of the prophets and apostles who have followed him.  

See also here:

Quote

A category mistake, or category error, or categorical mistake, or mistake of category, is a semantic or ontological error in which things belonging to a particular category are presented as if they belong to a different category, or, alternatively, a property is ascribed to a thing that could not possibly have that property. An example is the metaphor "time crawled", which if taken literally is not just false but a category mistake. To show that a category mistake has been committed one must typically show that once the phenomenon in question is properly understood, it becomes clear that the claim being made about it could not possibly be true.

Good luck establishing that the narrative about the Gold Plates presented by Joseph Smith, the Witnesses and the Church "could not possibly be true."

Thanks,

-Smac

Edited by smac97
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2 minutes ago, smac97 said:

Gold Plates presented by Joseph Smith, the Witnesses and the Church "could not possibly be true."

Twisting.

I never said anything remotely like that.

Never.  Them's fighting words

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18 minutes ago, mfbukowski said:
Quote

Gold Plates presented by Joseph Smith, the Witnesses and the Church "could not possibly be true."

Twisting.

I'm applying the concept you presented ("category mistake") to the subject matter.  

18 minutes ago, mfbukowski said:

I never said anything remotely like that.

Never.  Them's fighting words

And still spoiling for a fight, I see.

You and I just don't seem to get along well.  Why don't we just agree to disagree and stop interacting with each other?

Thanks,

-Smac

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https://www.mormondialogue.org/topic/72961-musings-re-historicity-and-the-book-of-mormon/?do=findComment&comment=1209979748

Let the record show you "quoted me" with words I never said 

Edited by mfbukowski
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Posted (edited)
On 7/1/2020 at 3:49 PM, mfbukowski said:

Well, let's see:

Quote

1. {Smac}

Quote

To reject the historicity of the text is to reject Joseph Smith's narrative of theophanies with Moroni, finding the plates, translating the plates, and so on.  If we reject those, it is but a few brief steps to likewise reject his narrative about the First Vision, the theophanies restoring the priesthood, and so on.

2. {MFB}

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Quote

To reject the historicity of the text is to reject Joseph Smith's narrative of theophanies with Moroni, finding the plates, translating the plates, and so on.  If we reject those, it is but a few brief steps to likewise reject his narrative about the First Vision, the theophanies restoring the priesthood, and so on.

...
You are trying to establish a historical basis for Spiritual truth.
... 
It's a huge logical error called a category mistake.

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/category-mistakes/

3. {Smac}

Quote
Quote

It's a huge logical error called a category mistake.

A "category mistake" is defined as "the error of assigning to something a quality or action that can properly be assigned to things only of another category, for example, treating abstract concepts as though they had a physical location." 

Joseph Smith declared that he experienced theophanies that resulted in him locating actual, physical, ancient gold plates buried in a hill in upstate New York.  He did not treat the plates as "abstract concepts."  Nor did the Witnesses, nor have any of the prophets and apostles who have followed him.  

See also here:

Quote

A category mistake, or category error, or categorical mistake, or mistake of category, is a semantic or ontological error in which things belonging to a particular category are presented as if they belong to a different category, or, alternatively, a property is ascribed to a thing that could not possibly have that property. An example is the metaphor "time crawled", which if taken literally is not just false but a category mistake. To show that a category mistake has been committed one must typically show that once the phenomenon in question is properly understood, it becomes clear that the claim being made about it could not possibly be true.

Good luck establishing that the narrative about the Gold Plates presented by Joseph Smith, the Witnesses and the Church "could not possibly be true."

4. {MFB}

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Quote

{Good luck establishing that the narrative about the} Gold Plates presented by Joseph Smith, the Witnesses and the Church "could not possibly be true."

Twisting.

I never said anything remotely like that.

Never.  Them's fighting words

5. {Smac}:

Quote
Quote

Twisting.

I'm applying the concept you presented ("category mistake") to the subject matter.  

6. {MFB}:

Quote

 

I spoke of historicity in relation to Joseph Smith's narrative, including the Gold Plates.  My comments arose in relation to the "Inspired Fiction" concept, which purports to reject Joseph Smith's narrative relative to the origins of the Book of Mormon, but which still holds that Joseph Smith was a prophet in some sense.  My comment was that rejecting Joseph Smith's narrative as to (A) (pertaining to the physical reality of ancient plates) is not far removed from (B) (pertaining to the First Vision, theophanies restoring priesthood authority, etc.).

You responded by calling these comments a "category mistake."

I responded by citing to the definition of "category mistake" (which in part states that showing such a mistake requires the person asserting its existence - that would be you - must "show that once the phenomenon in question is properly understood, it becomes clear that the claim being made about it could not possibly be true") and applied that definition to the subject at hand: Joseph Smith's narrative about the plates ("Good luck establishing that the narrative about the Gold Plates presented by Joseph Smith, the Witnesses and the Church 'could not possibly be true'").

You are now complaining that I quoted you with words you "never used."

My "good luck" comment was not quoting you.  I was quoting the cited definition of "category mistake," a concept you invoked in this discussion.

Thanks,

-Smac

Edited by smac97
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