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Book of Mormon Historicity


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16 hours ago, Kevin Christensen said:

stemmelbow asked

Whenever I see this line of thought, I can't help but think of this passage from John 7:48:

What's interesting is the supposition that LDS experts cannot be trusted unless validated from outside (nevermind that the most impressive LDS experts got their Ph.D.s from outside institutions and publish regularly in professional journals without controversy), whereas, whatever anyone from the outside says must be correct since as professionals, they must be totally objective and omniscient, even if, in many cases, they demonstrate that they don't know much about the Book of Mormon and LDS scholarship, even when they have read it (Coe, for instance), or make their pronouncements without having read it (McMurrin and Bloom).

THat's not really the position.  If linguistics is supposed to carry weight in the argument that it's an ancient record, one must ask, how so?  If the argument seems to rely on many assumptions, then its fair to wonder if any experts in the field can verify the methods and analysis.  If it can't be verified, then one must wonder if the argument fails.  

16 hours ago, Kevin Christensen said:

In Myths, Models, and Paradigms: A Comparative Study of Science and Religion, Barbour talks about the debate on the existence of God like this:

Coming from the Positivist/Empiricist tradition, in the 1950s Anthony Flew argued that there must be falsifying conditions.

Barbour makes a case that this sort of thinking doesn't hold up:

https://www.religion-online.org/book-chapter/chapter-1-introduction-3/

Further, there is the issue of thinking of the problem in terms of a philosophical discussion about whether or not there was once a garden in a particular spot. In that model, nothing is at stake.  Whether or not there was a garden doesn't matter as much as whether Joseph Smith really did receive real inspiration, if, for instance, Moroni was a real resurrected being who came to Joseph Smith with an authentic account.  If so, it calls for wholesale changes to a person's life and society.  So, treating one set of commentators as though they must be wrong because everything is at stake for them, and another set  as correct because nothing is at stake except social ostracism if they take Joseph Smith seriously, overlooks the reality that the ongoing stakes heighten the need to get things right.  Barbour refers to a rival parable of "The Partisan" in which setting is WWII in the Resistance, rather than philosophers discussing a garden, and the stakes about who to trust involve life and death.  A similar conflict and similar stakes arise in the Harry Potter books around Dumbledore's declaration that "I trust Severus Snape" and Harry's ongoing experience and grounds for mistrust (even, counting instances where the mistrust seems to have been dead wrong, as in the first book). Does Harry's experience mean Dumbledore is wrong, or does Dumbledore know something that Harry does not?  Is Professor Lupin wrong to say, "I trust Dumbledore?" when Lupin doesn't know everything Dumbledore knows, based on his experiences.

Again I think you're confusing the concept of peer review.  It's in place specifically to make sure scholarly research isn't formed to mislead or misrepresent.  If on the fringes the specialty fields are being used to argue for something like linguistics verifies the BoM is of ancient origins, then the arguments and methods simply have to be verified by actual historical linguists, at least if we are to take the arguments seriously.  

16 hours ago, Kevin Christensen said:

Can I decide who to trust in the absence of absolute certainty and in the absence of all the information that I might want?  The thing is, I must decide, and I have to be open to the possibility that I might have more to learn.  So faith goes with the territory.  And over the years, I manage to learn a lot more about the territory from the inside, taking a faith position, than I would if I left, and had just let Brodie, or the Tanners, or Dehlin, or Metcalfe, or Vogel, or Runnells, or whomever, tell what they see as most significant about the Book of Mormon.

Again:

So Barbour says, and Alma 32 agrees.   While we might have all of the information we want, I have continually found the search fruitful, surprising, enlightening, and frankly, more than enough to justify my continuing commitment. And it's nice that while I have crawled around a bit on my own, there are shoulders of giants that I can climb to, and stand on, and see further than I could on my own.  There are many of them now, with talents unimagined in Joseph's day, and it's interesting when the different kinds of expertise not only reveal much that I would not find on my own, but as they begin to intersect, and provide mutual illumination.  Sorenson and Poulson and Gardner and Wright, meeting Stubbs, and Grover and Welch and Nibley, and Peterson and Goff and Tvedtnes and Hardy, and McGuire and even Barker.  I don't feel forced, but the invitation is wonderfully attractive.

FWIW

Kevin Christensen

Canonsburg, PA

Good for you. I'm simply asking for one example of evidence verifying the historicity claim of the BoM.  I don't think it's been met, with a possible exception that this linguist argument might carry weight.  

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I'm definitely not a linguist, but life experience has shown me that language is naturally mimicked and adopted by humans. Apart from my personal experience, it is well-known that some people are much more adept at natural language acquisition, and this skill would certainly apply to different norms of speaking within the same general language. I see children switch dialects and languages with ease.

For instance, I know that more than once in my life I have inadvertently used Book of Mormon speech in conversation.

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1 hour ago, stemelbow said:

Why the Americas?  Don't we have a believer among us right now who advocates for a south Asian location for the BOM?  

And his theory is fascinating to me.  But it still has the problem of getting the plates from south Asia to Europe and this 16th century person would need the expertise to translate this old language.  Kind of the same issues with an American text.

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Unfortunaely, if Joseph Smith created the english BoM in the fashion he claimed, it is simply an oral history.  There is no direct tie to the plates, and the witnesses suggest he didn't ocnsult the plates when he dictated the words.  Perhaps the stories that we call the BoM weren't written down until the 1820s something, to begin with.  

Yes, well.  we have zero amount of the BoM we can depend on now.  We simply either accept it on faith or reject it on reason.  That's not to say, of course, that there aren't people who fall in between somewhere, but that's where we are, it seems to me.  All this linguistics claims by Gardner and Smith notwithstanding.  

The bolded is false.  Joseph Smith claimed to receive the translation of the plates by revelation.  So it isn't "simply an oral history".  But that is beside the point of what I'm asking.  If someone accepts the historicity of the Book of Mormon but doesn't believe in God and angels, they already have to ignore everything Joseph Smith said about the Book of Mormon since his method is chock full of God and angels.  And once you throw out Joseph Smith, you have even less to work with.  That's why I think it is practically impossible to accept the historicity of the Book of Mormon and disbelieve in God and angels.  So discussing the historicity of the Book of Mormon is always going to include God and angels.  The two basically go together.

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11 minutes ago, webbles said:

And his theory is fascinating to me.  But it still has the problem of getting the plates from south Asia to Europe and this 16th century person would need the expertise to translate this old language.  Kind of the same issues with an American text.

For all we know the plates had absolutely nothing to do with the BoM story.  The plates were a prop, if nothing more.  They lay hidden and covered as Joseph spouted off the words of the BoM to his scribe--at least that's what we get from those who witnessed and were scribes.  

11 minutes ago, webbles said:

The bolded is false.  Joseph Smith claimed to receive the translation of the plates by revelation.  So it isn't "simply an oral history".

So you say he "translated" in the traditional sense of translated?  That seems to contradict the popular apologetic of today--that to Joseph translated was something other than taking writing in one language and conveying the meaning in another.  I just got done listening to the Muhlestein interview by Givens.  That was their point--Joseph didn't translate like we like to say he did.  He din't translate, for instance, the Bible when he claimed translate.  

11 minutes ago, webbles said:

  But that is beside the point of what I'm asking.  If someone accepts the historicity of the Book of Mormon but doesn't believe in God and angels, they already have to ignore everything Joseph Smith said about the Book of Mormon since his method is chock full of God and angels.  And once you throw out Joseph Smith, you have even less to work with.  That's why I think it is practically impossible to accept the historicity of the Book of Mormon and disbelieve in God and angels.  So discussing the historicity of the Book of Mormon is always going to include God and angels.  The two basically go together.

A little too black and white for everyone's thinking.  After all even atheists can accept the concept of something being inspired. 

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9 hours ago, smac97 said:

I still don't understand.  We're speaking of "evidence," not "certainty."

I asked: "Could you clarify how this is a 'problem with NHM as evidence?' I'm not sure I understand your point."

Is it your position that "evidence" only qualifies as such if it results in unassailable "certainty?"

If I'm reading you correctly, you are saying that Nahom in the Book of Mormon is evidence for historicity because NHM was inscribed on an altar dating to around 600 BC in the path of the Lehites.

Let's go a little further along the path of the Lehites.

About 5000 miles due east, directly in the path of the Lehites, there's an Iron-age civilization that was founded by a warrior named Maroni (bullseye #1). The nation Maroni founded was called, alternatively, Rahma (bullseye #2) and Komara (bullseye #3). The founding of that civilization dates to within 5 years of the the Lehites passing through (bullseye #4). The region matches the internal geography of the Book of Mormon 100% (bullseye #5).

Joseph Smith surely didn't know any of this, no more than he would have known about NHM. Are these matching names in the right time period sitting directly in the path of the Lehites evidence that the Book of Mormon is a historical account of the people of Southeast Asia? If your answer is no, then there is a problem with NHM as evidence.

Edited by Rajah Manchou
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Just now, Rajah Manchou said:

If I'm reading you correctly, you are saying that Nahom in the Book of Mormon is eveidence for historicity because NHM was inscribed on an altar dating to around 600 BC in the path of the Lehites.

Let's go a little further along the path of the Lehites.

About 5000 miles due east, in the path of Lehites, there's a nation state that was founded by a warrior named Maroni (bullseye #1). The nation Maroni founded was called, alternatively, Rahma (bullseye #2) and Komara (bullseye #3). The founding of that civilization dates to within 5 years of the the Lehites passing through (bullseye #4). The region matches the internal geography of the Book of Mormon 100% (bullseye #5).

Joseph Smith surely didn't know any of this, no more than he would have known about NHM. Are these matching names in the right time period sitting directly in the path of the Lehites evidence that the Book of Mormon is a historical account of the people of Southeast Asia? If your answer is no, then there is a problem with NHM as evidence.

What a beautiful example of how the parallels found in the BoM and ancient places can be tenuous connections at best, not providing evidence of historicity.  One must first assume location before these parallels carry meaning.  As it turns out, you can find similar sounding parallels in other places, anciently on this planet.  These parallels simply can't be considered evidence of historicity.  These parallels are evidence that connections can be made if we try hard enough and squint just right.  

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18 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

What a beautiful example of how the parallels found in the BoM and ancient places can be tenuous connections at best, not providing evidence of historicity.  One must first assume location before these parallels carry meaning.  As it turns out, you can find similar sounding parallels in other places, anciently on this planet.  These parallels simply can't be considered evidence of historicity.  These parallels are evidence that connections can be made if we try hard enough and squint just right.  

Well, its not as easy as just squinting, otherwise we'd have found the Book of Mormon in New York long ago. IMO one interpretation is that someone was writing a text about Asia, not America. Almost every contemporary of Joseph Smith from Solomon Spaulding, to Rafinesque to Samuel Mitchill to Ethan Smith was carrying the Native Americans across Asia first, and then America. This could be evidence that the Book of Mormon, like Spaulding's Manuscript Found, was an account of Israelites in Asia, before they crossed over. But you might be right too. I'm also not ruling out evidence of historicity. 

It's data, your mileage may vary.

Edited by Rajah Manchou
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10 minutes ago, Rajah Manchou said:

Well, its not as easy as just squinting, otherwise we'd have found the Book of Mormon in New York long ago. IMO one interpretation is that someone was writing a text about Asia, not America. Almost every contemporary of Joseph Smith from Solomon Spaulding, to Rafinesque to Samuel Mitchill to Ethan Smith was carrying the Native Americans across Asia first, and then America. This could be evidence that the Book of Mormon, like Spaulding's Manuscript Found, was an account of Israelites in Asia, before they crossed over. But you might be right too. I'm also not ruling out evidence of historicity. 

It's data, your mileage may vary.

If people put as much effort in to finding the ancient BoM in ancient Africa, Japan, Italy, Australia, they too might find many similar sounding coincidences, as those touted by apologists regarding the BoM in Guatemala or North America, or South America, for that matter.  That is precisely the problem when it comes to the claim of historicity.  

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5 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

If people put as much effort in to finding the ancient BoM in ancient Africa, Japan, Italy, Australia, they too might find many similar sounding coincidences, as those touted by apologists regarding the BoM in Guatemala or North America, or South America, for that matter.  That is precisely the problem when it comes to the claim of historicity.  

I half agree with you. Toponyms and ethnonyms, yes. Those are easy to squint at. Geography, no. You can't make any place in the world fit the internal geography of the Book of Mormon. I've tried exactly everywhere. There's only one place that fits.

Edited by Rajah Manchou
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31 minutes ago, Rajah Manchou said:
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I still don't understand.  We're speaking of "evidence," not "certainty."

I asked: "Could you clarify how this is a 'problem with NHM as evidence?' I'm not sure I understand your point."

Is it your position that "evidence" only qualifies as such if it results in unassailable "certainty?"

If I'm reading you correctly, you are saying that Nahom in the Book of Mormon is evidence for historicity because NHM was inscribed on an altar dating to around 600 BC in the path of the Lehites.

That's not the sum total of how NHM functions as evidence for historicity.

Also, my point is that you seem to be disqualifying any "evidence" as such unless it results in unassailble "certainty."  That's now how evidence works.  It's not an all-or-nothing proposition.  It's not a mathematical formula.  Consider how the Federal Rules of Evidence define "relevant evidence":

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Evidence is relevant if:

(a) it has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence; and

(b) the fact is of consequence in determining the action.

"Has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence" covers a huge swath.  You seem to be conflating "evidence" with what is sometimes called "direct evidence," which is generally understood as something that "supports the truth of an assertion (in criminal law, an assertion of guilt or of innocence) directly, i.e., without an intervening inference."  Most evidence about historical/religious issues will never come close to being "direct evidence."  There will pretty much always be a need for inference, interpretation, assessment of credibility, assessment of probative weight, and so on.

Your position, however, seems to be that "evidence" is only "evidence" if it provides 100% certainty as to the truth or falsity of an assertion.  I submit that this is not correct.  There are all sorts of evidence that has a "tendency to make a fact or or less probable than it would be without the evidence."

31 minutes ago, Rajah Manchou said:

Let's go a little further along the path of the Lehites.

About 5000 miles due east, directly in the path of the Lehites, there's an Iron-age civilization that was founded by a warrior named Maroni (bullseye #1).

Moroni = "Maroni?"  This is a "Bullseye?"  This "certainty?"

31 minutes ago, Rajah Manchou said:

The nation Maroni founded was called, alternatively, Rahma (bullseye #2) and Komara (bullseye #3). The founding of that civilization dates to within 5 years of the the Lehites passing through (bullseye #4). The region matches the internal geography of the Book of Mormon 100% (bullseye #5).

100%  Are you sure?  How do you account for JS-H 1:34 ("He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang.")?

I think your approach to what constitutes "evidence" could use further study.  

31 minutes ago, Rajah Manchou said:

Joseph Smith surely didn't know any of this, no more than he would have known about NHM.

Okay.

31 minutes ago, Rajah Manchou said:

Are these matching names in the right time period sitting directly in the path of the Lehites evidence that the Book of Mormon is a historical account of the people of Southeast Asia?

Not really.  The "matches" don't really work.  I will need to spend more time examining these things, but at first blush they don't seem to have a "tendency to make a fact or or less probable than it would be without the evidence."

31 minutes ago, Rajah Manchou said:

If your answer is no, then there is a problem with NHM as evidence.

I don't understand.

Thanks,

-Smac

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32 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

For all we know the plates had absolutely nothing to do with the BoM story.  The plates were a prop, if nothing more.  They lay hidden and covered as Joseph spouted off the words of the BoM to his scribe--at least that's what we get from those who witnessed and were scribes. 

I'm not talking about the plates that Joseph Smith said he had.  I'm talking about the plates that the Book of Mormon itself talks about.  See Mormon 6:6.  If we accept that the Book of Mormon is historical, then Mormon existed and he wrote Mormon 6:6 which means he gave actual plates to Moroni.  And then Moroni took these plates and hid them somewhere.  So if a 16th person translated it, he had to have either gotten access to the plates or access to a copy of it.

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So you say he "translated" in the traditional sense of translated?  That seems to contradict the popular apologetic of today--that to Joseph translated was something other than taking writing in one language and conveying the meaning in another.  I just got done listening to the Muhlestein interview by Givens.  That was their point--Joseph didn't translate like we like to say he did.  He din't translate, for instance, the Bible when he claimed translate.  

How he "translated" it is beside the point.  If you believe in the historicity of the Book of Mormon and don't believe in God or angels, then Joseph Smith' statements on translation has to be ignored.  The only way for the Book of Mormon to be historical without God or angels around is for him (or one of the other people involved) to have found an English text of a pre-translated ancient artifact.  He couldn't have translated the ancient artifact nor any of the other involved because they didn't have any knowledge in translating.

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A little too black and white for everyone's thinking.  After all even atheists can accept the concept of something being inspired. 

So, an atheist would believe that someone was inspired to write a historical document of people that lived a thousand years before him?  I'd like to meet that atheist :)  I'm not talking about if the Book of Mormon is inspired.  I can understand people who say that the Book of Mormon is inspired and has valuable lessons in it.  I'm talking about whether a person can believe that the Book of Mormon is historical, an actual real-life document written by ancient people, and not believe in God and angels.

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7 hours ago, Meadowchik said:

On the contrary, the bolded is obvious. The Book of Mormon makes a great many claims for which it does not provide evidence. 

There's a difference between providing no evidence and providing no evidence that you find compelling.  I think you are confusing the two.  The BOM does provide evidence, both spiritual and physical.  That you don't find it compelling doesn't mean no one does.  It's your opinion, it's not a fact.

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As I said earlier to Calm, there is also something very problematic in the fact that the plates were never made available for public scrutiny and were quickly removed from us ever since.

Again though, this is your opinion, it's not a fact.  There are many millions of people that don't find it problematic. 

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It would be a very discouraging behavior if Joseph Smith hid away the plates and said that God took them.

Yes, if JS was lying it would be very discouraging.

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Even worse is if some supernatural power did take them, while then asking us to make do with what was left behind.Neither scenario inspires confidence, and neither seems consistent. 

According to you (not saying that snarkily, just emphasizing my point).  Like I said, we all have our own personal beliefs and opinions and I'm fine with your's but that's all it is, opinion.  It doesn't deserve more weight than that.  Millions of people disagree with you.  I personally find it extremely consistent with how God operates.

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The Book of Mormon itself is supposed to be a vital record of a people obtaining and maintaining a vital record of their spiritual ancestry! And yet, here we are, without either sets of plates.

Yes, faith can be hard.  I agree that religion and spiritual things would seem much easier if that wasn't the case.

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38 minutes ago, Rajah Manchou said:

I half agree with you. Toponyms and ethnonyms, yes. Those are easy to squint at. Geography, no. You can't make any place in the world fit the internal geography of the Book of Mormon. I've tried exactly everywhere. There's only one place that fits.

Where is that?

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1 hour ago, smac97 said:

That's not the sum total of how NHM functions as evidence for historicity.

Now I don't understand. Can you explain how NHM is functionally different as evidence in relation to the toponyms I've listed above? 

1 hour ago, smac97 said:

Also, my point is that you seem to be disqualifying any "evidence" as such unless it results in unassailble "certainty."  That's now how evidence works.  It's not an all-or-nothing proposition.  It's not a mathematical formula.  Consider how the Federal Rules of Evidence define "relevant evidence":

1 hour ago, smac97 said:

Your position, however, seems to be that "evidence" is only "evidence" if it provides 100% certainty as to the truth or falsity of an assertion.  I submit that this is not correct.  There are all sorts of evidence that has a "tendency to make a fact or or less probable than it would be without the evidence."

You've misunderstood me. I haven't disqualified it. I said earlier in the thread that NHM is the only convincing 'mainstream' evidence I've seen for Book of Mormon historicity. But having encountered so many similar "bullseyes" in my readings, I'm cautious to count NHM as unassailable evidence. (1) It's too easy to find matching toponyms in the "right place" and (2) there were maps with variations of NHM predating the Book of Mormon. This will always be the problem with NHM as evidence.

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Moroni = "Maroni?"  This is a "Bullseye?"  This "certainty?"

Joseph Smith's scribes, if not Joseph himself, spelled Moroni as Maroni in several different documents here here here here here. So it is compelling evidence.

1 hour ago, smac97 said:

100%  Are you sure?  How do you account for JS-H 1:34 ("He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang.")? I think your approach to what constitutes "evidence" could use further study.  

We're talking about evidences for Book of Mormon historicity. No need to account for JS-H 1:34.

1 hour ago, smac97 said:

Not really.  The "matches" don't really work.  I will need to spend more time examining these things, but at first blush they don't seem to have a "tendency to make a fact or or less probable than it would be without the evidence."

If found in Mesoamerica, would you say these matches don't really work?

This is what I find most frustrating about this exercise. If a warrior named Maroni of Komara was found in the heart of Guatemala dating to the Book of Mormon time period, there would be no end to the books and seminars. Can you help me understand why they don't really work in this case? 

Edited by Rajah Manchou
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8 minutes ago, Rajah Manchou said:

Rajah, does your theory actually have the Book of Mormon being historically based in that location?  Or is it just that someone who knew about the area wrote a book of the ancient inhabitants using various myths and legends?

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3 minutes ago, webbles said:

Rajah, does your theory actually have the Book of Mormon being historically based in that location?  Or is it just that someone who knew about the area wrote a book of the ancient inhabitants using various myths and legends?

I don't know, the data can be interpreted either way, or it could be some colossal coincidence.

  1. Worst case scenario is that it is all a coincidence, and that would completely wreck the methodology used by Heartland and Mesoamerican modellers.
  2. Best case scenario is that it is evidence of a civilization that matches the Book of Mormon in almost every way, except for where Joseph said we should find them.
  3. More probable, it's evidence that someone knew about the area, and was writing a "history". I can't identify who that person could be though.
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1 hour ago, Rajah Manchou said:
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That's not the sum total of how NHM functions as evidence for historicity.

Now I don't understand. Can you explain how NHM is functionally different as evidence in relation to the toponyms I've listed above? 

First, again, what you presented was not the sum total of how NHM functions as evidence for historicity.

Second, Nahom has a number of data points in its favor:

  • Right place (this is a biggie).
  • Right time.
  • Right purpose (relative to BOM narrative)
  • Plausible etymology (relative to BOM narrative)
  • Altars
  • Correlation of location with Bountiful
  • Pre-existed Lehi
  • Date/location of Niebuhr's map and d'Anville's book

Third, NHM fits the narrative of the Church, whereas the Book of Mormon in Asia does not.  Joseph Smith said the record was about the inhabitants of "this continent."  Daisy-chaining toponyms have a passing similarity to a unrelated words in the Book of Mormon does not work well.  Moroni (the correlative to "Maroni") did not found a nation.  "Ramah" (the correlative to "Rahma") was a hill, not a civilization.  Same with Cumorah/"Komara."  I haven't reviewed the video about the geography, but I have substantial doubts about it matching up "100%" with the BOM geography.

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You've misunderstood me. I haven't disqualified it.

You said:

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This will always be the problem with NHM as evidence. There were maps that predated the publication of the Book of Mormon and there is a possiblity, as you say, that Smith was exposed.

Followed by this:

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Could you clarify how this is a "problem with NHM as evidence?"  I'm not sure I understand your point.

Because there were several maps and books that predated the publication of the Book of Mormon with variations of NHM in the location where the Book of Mormon locates Nahom. 

Sure Joseph may not have had access to maps and books, but we aren't certain Joseph was the sole author/translator.

Nobody has suggested that NHM makes us "certain" about the origins of the Book of Mormon.  Rather, we are saying that NHM constitutes evidence in favor of the its claim to historicity.  

You seemed to be disqualifying NHM as "evidence" because it is not definitive.  Because it does not yield "certainty" as to the ultimate issue.

Now, if you are saying something like "NHM is 'evidence,' but I don't find it very probative because...", then I could understand that position.

But if you are saying something like "NHM is not 'evidence' because several maps and books that predated the publication of the Book of Mormon with variations of NHM in the location where the Book of Mormon locates Nahom, such that we can't be 'certain' that Joseph did not avail himself to these maps/books," then I find that line of reasoning problematic.

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I said earlier in the thread that NHM is the only convincing evidence I've seen for Book of Mormon historicity.

Ah.  I missed that.

I have found a number of evidences to have substantial probative value when examining the issue of historicity.

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But having encountered so many similar "bullseyes" in my readings, I'm cautious to count NHM as unassailable evidence.

Again, you seem to be overstating things.  Nobody is saying it is "unassailable evidence."

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(1) It's too easy to find matching toponyms in the "right place" and (2) there were maps with variations of NHM predating the Book of Mormon. This will always be the problem with NHM as evidence.

In legal parlance, your objection goes to the weight of NHM as evidence, rather than to its admissibiltiy as "evidence."

We seem to agree that it is evidence favoring historicity.  We may differ as to its overall probative value.  That's more a question of degree than kind.

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Joseph Smith's scribes, if not Joseph himself, spelled Moroni as Maroni in several different documents here here here here here. So it is compelling evidence.

One letter = "compelling evidence?"

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We're talking about evidences for Book of Mormon historicity. No need to account for JS-H 1:34.

Well, yes, we do.  You are proffering the BOM-in-Asia theory as an alternative explanation.  It seems to fail right out of the gate because of JS-H 1:34.  You are pointing to it as significant and probative, but you are not able or willing to address the implications for it in JS-H 1:34.

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If found in Mesoamerica, right in the heart of Guatemala, would you say these matches don't really work?

What matches are you referencing here?

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This is what I find most frustrating about this exercise. If a warrior named Maroni of Komara was found in the heart of Guatemala during the Book of Mormon time period, there would be no end to the books and seminars. Can you help me understand why they don't really work in this case? 

Well, JS-H 1:34 is a pretty big obstacle. 

"Moroni" was not the founder of the "Cumorah" civilization.  

"Cumorah" was a hill, not a civilization.

I think you are engaging in "parallelomania," which is broadly described as "a phenomenon (mania) where authors perceive apparent similarities and construct parallels and analogies without historical basis."  Apologists and scholars in the Church have discussed and cautioned against this sort of thing:

Nevertheless, Nahom seems to be pretty good.  From Robert Boylan:

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{I}n the past few decades Latter-day Saint scholars have gathered enough data to fashion a plausible picture of Lehi’s route through Arabia as recounted in 1 Nephi.   One result is that “the place which was called Nahom” (1 Nephi 16:34) has been more securely linked to southern Arabia since the discovery of limestone altars near Sanaʿa, Yemen.  These altars carry inscriptions containing the Arabian name NHM, referring to the Nihm tribe.   This discovery from the right time period (independently dated to the seventh and sixth centuries bc) and in the right location (south-southeast of Jerusalem; compare 1 Nephi 16:13) is impressive archaeological evidence in support of the historicity of the Book of Mormon.  Furthermore, an eastward turn from the Nihm tribal area (a direction of travel matching what is described in 1 Nephi 17:1) leads one to the Arabian coast and the vicinity of Wadi Sayq, which some Latter-day Saint researchers see as a strong candidate for Nephi’s Bountiful (1 Nephi 17:5). Wadi Sayq and other rare, fertile locales in the Dhofar region of Oman match Nephi’s description of Bountiful rather well. And evidence for a valley fitting the description of the river Laman and the Valley of Lemuel (1 Nephi 2:5–8) has also come to light.  

Thanks,

-Smac

Edited by smac97
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3 hours ago, Rajah Manchou said:

Joseph Smith surely didn't know any of this, no more than he would have known about NHM. Are these matching names in the right time period sitting directly in the path of the Lehites evidence that the Book of Mormon is a historical account of the people of Southeast Asia? If your answer is no, then there is a problem with NHM as evidence.

Perhaps not. Apples with apples. While traveling on land the cardinal point directions are given so the route can be ascertained with reasonable accuracy. Once they sail into the ocean, not so much.

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1 hour ago, smac97 said:

Now, if you are saying something like "NHM is 'evidence,' but I don't find it very probative because...", then I could understand that position.

This. I think we agree, NHM is evidence, but not strong evidence.

1 hour ago, smac97 said:

Third, NHM fits the narrative of the Church, whereas the Book of Mormon in Asia does not.

This is where discussions of Book of Mormon historicity goes off the rails. We're looking for evidence of Book of Mormon historicity, not evidence that the Church is true or that Joseph really spoke with angels or even that he translated the Book of Mormon. We'll get nowhere fast trying to untie all those knots at once.

I'm looking solely at the question, is there evidence for the Book of Mormon as a historical text? What so and so said about the Book of Mormon, or whether or not it fits this or that particular narrative, isn't the question in the OP.

1 hour ago, smac97 said:

Daisy-chaining toponyms have a passing similarity to a unrelated words in the Book of Mormon does not work well.  

I've acknowledged earlier that matching toponyms are weak sauce. This is why I find NHM to be problematic. 

But the geography, that is impossible to fudge. Ignore the toponyms, look at the geography. About three years ago I opened a challenge for anybody to find an inconsistency in the geography here. That challenge still stands.

If this is all parallelomania, then you should have no trouble debunking this geography, should only take a few minutes.

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Moroni (the correlative to "Maroni") did not found a nation.  

Moroni established all the cities on the east coast. But this is where this model is even more convincing. The historical accounts identify three different founders of the civilization:

  1. An exiled prince from the Near East;
  2. A merchant, who after receiving a divine vision of a new land, boarded a ship that was guided by divine winds to rule over that land;
  3. A warrior named Maroni. 

These all fit the Book of Mormon narrative far better than what we find in the King Lists of Mesoamerica.

Quote

I haven't reviewed the video about the geography, but I have substantial doubts about it matching up "100%" with the BOM geography.

Wait, weren't we just bemoaning the fact that skeptics like Jenkins doubt before they even consider the evidence? It is ironic that Philip Jenkins is the only person to ever give this geography a fair shake. Asking sincere questions before dismissing. I can certainly understand why you may not be interested enough to take the time to watch a 2 minute video, but certainly you can then understand why non-Mormon scholars aren't interested in reading Sorenson's 500 page book on Mesoamerican evidences for the Book of Mormon.

1 hour ago, smac97 said:

One letter = "compelling evidence?"

It's not just one letter, it's the exact same word with the exact same meaning. A title given to warriors.

1 hour ago, smac97 said:

Well, yes, we do.  You are proffering the BOM-in-Asia theory as an alternative explanation.  It seems to fail right out of the gate because of JS-H 1:34.  You are pointing to it as significant and probative, but you are not able or willing to address the implications for it in JS-H 1:34.

I'm proposing an Asian geography for the Book of Mormon. I'm not going to touch whether or not an angel talked to Joseph Smith. These are different questions, different categories.

1 hour ago, smac97 said:

"Moroni" was not the founder of the "Cumorah" civilization.  "Cumorah" was a hill, not a civilization.

 Again, Moroni established all the cities on the east coast. And the Hill Cumorah was in the Land of Cumorah. I don't think you'd have these nitpicks if you found these toponyms in Mexico.

1 hour ago, smac97 said:

I think you are engaging in "parallelomania," which is broadly described as "a phenomenon (mania) where authors perceive apparent similarities and construct parallels and analogies without historical basis."  Apologists and scholars in the Church have discussed and cautioned against this sort of thing:

You didn't answer my question, if a warrior named Maroni of Komara was found in the heart of Guatemala, dating to the Book of Mormon time period, would you consider that evidence or parallelomania?

Edited by Rajah Manchou
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5 minutes ago, Rajah Manchou said:

This. I think we agree, NHM is evidence, but not strong evidence.

I think NHM is pretty good evidence of historicity.  It's not a smoking gun, but it's quite good.

5 minutes ago, Rajah Manchou said:

This is where discussions of Book of Mormon historicity goes off the rails. We're looking for evidence of Book of Mormon historicity, not evidence that the Church is true or that Joseph really spoke with angels or even that he translated the Book of Mormon. We'll get nowhere fast trying to untie all those knots at once.

I disagree.  I think historicity of the Book of Mormon, if established, functions as evidence that the Church is what it claims to be.  See here:

Quote
Quote

I'm a Christian, but I think a person would be a fool to waste any time "engaging the evidence" that Jesus rose from the dead, unless they were already persuaded on other grounds that the Resurrection was plausible.

But isn't that what Latter-day Saints are doing?  Looking at "evidence" to buttress (not supplant) faith?  Being "already persuaded on other grounds" as to the truthfulness of The Restoration?

I think there may be a bit more of a need for this exercise for Latter-day Saints than for other Christians.  "Evidence" pertaining to the resurrection is just not forthcoming.  It happened, or purportudly happened, two thousand years ago.  Accepting the reality of it is pretty much purely an exercise in faith, simply because there is no "evidence" to engage.

Things are a bit different for The Book of Mormon.  It was published two hundred years ago.  It's much closer to us in space and time.  We have the translated text of The Book of Mormon, and the statements from the Witnesses, and plenty of information about the Witnesses.  These things are, to some extent, testable.  They are "evidence."  Certainly not unequivocal evidence, but the closer we get to establishing The Book of Mormon as historical, the closer we get to establishing its spiritual claims.  Consider the Bible, and how it is situated differently from The Book of Mormon.  Skeptics aren't persuaded that the Bible's historical pedigree or archaeological finds, like the Pool of Siloam that was discovered a few years ago.  Such discoveries still don't really "move the needs" regarding the religious truth claims of the Bible because because such discoveries are discernible and explainable without looking to God for an explanation.  We already know that the Bible is "ancient," so evidence corroborating that isn't that big a deal.  We can also discern the historical pedigree and/or archaeological verification of The Odyssey, the Epic of Gilgamesh, etc., but doing so doesn't lend credence to any claims of divinity associated with those texts.  As one fellow put it to me years ago: "The only thing all those ancient bible sites prove is {that} the Bible is a really old fraud."

In contrast, The Book of Mormon is differently situated from the Bible.  There is a built-in gap in its historical transmission, consisting of some 1,400 years from when Moroni buried the plates to 1823, when the plates were re-discovered by Joseph Smith, Jr.  This “transmission gap” effectively precludes a naturalistic explanation of the text’s antiquity.   Consequently, if we someday discover persuasive archaeological or other evidence for the antiquity of The Book of Mormon, such evidence would have a far more persuasive impact on the veracity of the book's truth claims than would archaeological evidence for the Bible impact that book's truth claims.  Put another way, the antiquity and truth claims of The Book of Mormon are intertwined, such that evidence of the former may  simultaneously be evidence of the latter.

So that, I think, is perhaps why LDS scholars are attempting (with some real success, in my  view) to place The Book of Mormon in an ancient historical context.  Evidence of historicity can become evidence of divinity.  Not definitive evidence, mind you.  Not proof.  But evidence nonetheless.  Evidence that can be used to strengthen our faith.

The vexing issues of faith and choice could forever be set aside if God had provided "proof" of Jesus Christ's divine sonship, of Joseph Smith's prophetic mantle, and so on.  Every knee would bow and every tongue confess if that were to happen.  But that does not seem to be part of the Plan.

So we walk by faith.  I think what the LDS Church teaches is the best "method" out there for examining the Book of Mormon.  It allows us room to make a decision.  A choice.  The day will come when "every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess" the things that we can now accept and declare through the exercise of agency.  And faith.  And hope.

5 minutes ago, Rajah Manchou said:

I'm looking solely at the question, is there evidence for the Book of Mormon as a historical text? 

Yes.

5 minutes ago, Rajah Manchou said:

What so and so said about the Book of Mormon, or whether or not it fits this or that particular narrative, isn't the question in the OP.

You seem to have an unusual approach to discussing "evidence."  You seem to want a smoking gun.  I don't think that's a reasonable approach.

5 minutes ago, Rajah Manchou said:

I've acknowledged earlier that matching toponyms are weak sauce. This is why I find NHM to be problematic. 

NHM is about much more than "matching toponyms."

5 minutes ago, Rajah Manchou said:

But the geography, that is impossible to fudge. Ignore the toponyms, look at the geography. About three years ago I opened a challenge for anybody to find an inconsistency in the geography here. That challenge still stands. 

A "challenge" involving a video purportedly showing a "map of the Book of Mormon superimposed over Peninsular Siam?"  With no explanation or audio?

You haven't provided anything substantive to "challenge."  Why not write a paper on this?

5 minutes ago, Rajah Manchou said:

Wait, weren't we just bemoaning the fact that skeptics like Jenkins doubt before they even consider the evidence? It is ironic that Philip Jenkins is the only person to ever give this geography a fair shake.

He did?  Where?

5 minutes ago, Rajah Manchou said:

Asking sincere questions before dismissing. I can certainly understand why you may not be interested enough to take the time to watch a 2 minute video,

I watched it.  I didn't understand it.  It doesn't explain anything.  It doesn't present evidence or reasoning.

5 minutes ago, Rajah Manchou said:

but certainly you can then understand why non-Mormon scholars aren't interested in reading Sorenson's 500 page book on Mesoamerican evidences for the Book of Mormon.

I think there is a substantial difference between your 2-minute video and Sorenson's magnum opus.

5 minutes ago, Rajah Manchou said:

It's not just one letter, it's the exact same word with the exact same meaning. A title given to warriors.

So "Maroni" is a title?  It's not a personal name (as it is in the Book of Mormon)?

"Maroni" as "a title given to warriors" has "the exact same meaning" as "Moroni" as the personal name of two individuals in the Book of Mormon (both "warriors," I suppose)?

5 minutes ago, Rajah Manchou said:

I'm proposing an Asian geography for the Book of Mormon.

JS-H 1:34 seems like a pretty big obstacle.

5 minutes ago, Rajah Manchou said:

I'm not going to touch whether or not an angel talked to Joseph Smith. These are different questions, different categories.

Okay.  

5 minutes ago, Rajah Manchou said:

Again, Moroni established all the cities on the east coast. And the Hill Cumorah was in the Land of Cumorah. I don't think you'd have these nitpicks if you found these toponyms in Mexico.

Okay.

5 minutes ago, Rajah Manchou said:

You didn't answer my question, if a warrior named Maroni of Komara was found in the heart of Guatemala, dating to the Book of Mormon time period, would you consider that evidence or parallelomania?

Dunno.  I'd have to see it in context.

Are you familiar with Izapa Stela 5?  

Thanks,

-Smac

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1 hour ago, smac97 said:

I think historicity of the Book of Mormon, if established, functions as evidence that the Church is what it claims to be.

I used to struggle with this too.

Quote

I think there is a substantial difference between your 2-minute video and Sorenson's magnum opus.

The main difference is Sorenson knew he had an audience of at least 10 million. You can see from the comments here and below that video that Alternative Book of Mormon Geographies is one of those topics that offends both sides of the TBM-Anti spectrum equally.

Quote

So "Maroni" is a title?  It's not a personal name (as it is in the Book of Mormon)? "Maroni" as "a title given to warriors" has "the exact same meaning" as "Moroni" as the personal name of two individuals in the Book of Mormon (both "warriors," I suppose)?

Both, a personal name that became a title.

Quote

JS-H 1:34 seems like a pretty big obstacle.

It seems to be in this discussion at least.

If you insist that Book of Mormon historicity is dependent on Joseph Smith's history, then I don't see how the Book of Mormon could be a historical text. No matter how it is interpreted, the data shows that "the former inhabitants of [the American] continent" did not come from Jerusalem. The only possible way the Book of Mormon could be a historical text is if you place the Book of Mormon in a location where Israelites migrated in 600 BC. There are only a few locations that qualify. America is not one of those locations.

So you're right, in your scenario, JS-H 1:34 is a tough one to reconcile. 

Edited by Rajah Manchou
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4 minutes ago, Rajah Manchou said:
Quote

I think historicity of the Book of Mormon, if established, functions as evidence that the Church is what it claims to be.

I used to struggle with this too.

I don't really "struggle" with it.  I have found the arguments favoring historicity to be both substantive and probative, and a very helpful ancillary support for my religious convictions about the origins of the text.

4 minutes ago, Rajah Manchou said:
Quote

I think there is a substantial difference between your 2-minute video and Sorenson's magnum opus.

The main difference is Sorenson knew he had an audience of at least 10 million. You can see from the comments here and below that video that alternative Book of Mormon geographies is one of those topics that offends both sides of the TBM-Anti spectrum equally.

It doesn't really "offend."  It doesn't do much of anything.  There's not a lot there.

4 minutes ago, Rajah Manchou said:
Quote

So "Maroni" is a title?  It's not a personal name (as it is in the Book of Mormon)? "Maroni" as "a title given to warriors" has "the exact same meaning" as "Moroni" as the personal name of two individuals in the Book of Mormon (both "warriors," I suppose)?

Both, a personal name that became a title.

And the evidence that the Book of Mormon used "Moroni" as a title is ...?

4 minutes ago, Rajah Manchou said:
Quote

JS-H 1:34 seems like a pretty big obstacle.

It seems to be in this discussion at least.

JS-H 1:34 places the BOM narrative in the Americas.  Your theory puts the BOM narrative in Asia.  That seems like a pretty big obstacle.

4 minutes ago, Rajah Manchou said:

If you insist that Book of Mormon historicity is dependent on Joseph Smith's history,

BOM historicity is supported by a number of evidences, not just "Joseph Smith's history."

4 minutes ago, Rajah Manchou said:

then I don't see how the Book of Mormon could be a historical text.

Okay.  I can.  I encourage you to keep studying.

4 minutes ago, Rajah Manchou said:

No matter how it is interpreted, the data shows that "the former inhabitants of [the American] continent" did not come from Jerusalem.

That is not a correct statement.  "The data" are inconclusive, and can neither prove nor disprove the BOM narrative.

4 minutes ago, Rajah Manchou said:

The only possible way the Book of Mormon could be a historical text is if you place the Book of Mormon in a location where Israelites migrated in 600 BC.

Yes.  And Central America is a plausible location for this.

4 minutes ago, Rajah Manchou said:

There are only a few locations that qualify. America is not one of those locations.

Central America is.

4 minutes ago, Rajah Manchou said:

So you're right, JS-H 1:34 is a tough one to reconcile. 

With your theory, yes.  It's not really an issue for the LGT/Mesoamerican model postulated by Sorenseon, Gardner, Roper, etc.

Thanks,

-Smac

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4 hours ago, webbles said:

I'm not talking about the plates that Joseph Smith said he had.  I'm talking about the plates that the Book of Mormon itself talks about.  See Mormon 6:6.  If we accept that the Book of Mormon is historical, then Mormon existed and he wrote Mormon 6:6 which means he gave actual plates to Moroni.  And then Moroni took these plates and hid them somewhere.  So if a 16th person translated it, he had to have either gotten access to the plates or access to a copy of it.

Well any plates could do.  If inspired, the plates need not contain the story found in the BoM.  I thought we were disagreeing whether the story in the BoM could be historical if one does not believe in God?  Or am I missing something?  

4 hours ago, webbles said:

How he "translated" it is beside the point.  If you believe in the historicity of the Book of Mormon and don't believe in God or angels, then Joseph Smith' statements on translation has to be ignored. 

No they don't.  They can be considered but also seen, kind of like many apologists do at times with his view, as Joseph didn't really know if it was God or if God was imagined.  Since no God it's likely its imagined even if inspired.  

4 hours ago, webbles said:

The only way for the Book of Mormon to be historical without God or angels around is for him (or one of the other people involved) to have found an English text of a pre-translated ancient artifact.  He couldn't have translated the ancient artifact nor any of the other involved because they didn't have any knowledge in translating.

That's a lack of imagination it seems to me.  Inspiration need not be limited to coming from God.  

4 hours ago, webbles said:

So, an atheist would believe that someone was inspired to write a historical document of people that lived a thousand years before him?  I'd like to meet that atheist :) I'm not talking about if the Book of Mormon is inspired.  I can understand people who say that the Book of Mormon is inspired and has valuable lessons in it.  I'm talking about whether a person can believe that the Book of Mormon is historical, an actual real-life document written by ancient people, and not believe in God and angels.

That's the point.  Anything is possible.  Atheist simply means one is not convinced there is a God.  

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19 minutes ago, smac97 said:

That is not a correct statement.  "The data" are inconclusive, and can neither prove nor disprove the BOM narrative.

We went the long way around, but we finally do agree.

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