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Book of Mormon Historicity


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7 hours ago, Meadowchik said:

Also, @Bernard Gui, we're talking about accepting something as an authoritative message of Truth of the Universe and all Time and everything. The standard being high is a matter of respecting that Capital-letter Potentiality and respecting other people, too, since such conclusions tend to deeply impact our relationships with them.

I think you hit the nail on the head.  If we believe that much, then we also have to respect the fact that physical evidence alone can never be enough to prove or disprove it.  We can't divorce an authoritative message of the Truth of the Universe and all Time and everything from the Authority that gives it, the Creator of Truth.

But unfortunately that's what a lot of people want to do; they want science to prove that it's true before they will believe. 

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3 minutes ago, bluebell said:

I think you hit the nail on the head.  If we believe that much, then we also have to respect the fact that physical evidence alone can never be enough to prove or disprove it.  We can't divorce an authoritative message of the Truth of the Universe and all Time and everything from the Authority that gives it, the Creator of Truth.

But unfortunately that's what a lot of people want to do; they want science to prove that it's true before they will believe. 

I haven't finished, but started listening to this podcast: https://www.athoughtfulfaith.org/341-a-community-of-christ-view-of-the-book-of-mormon-elray-henriksen/

And Elray mentioned something I'd like to put forth on your thread if you don't mind. He said, "What is the message of the Book of Mormon?". I thought it a good question! Maybe that is the important part! Because I quite like the message if it means not to be capitalists, elites, emperors etc. He mentions that Joseph Smith might have been sending messages according to his surroundings. I know Joseph grew up with a grandparent that was a Universalist, so wondering if that seeped in. Also, the new country was beginning and Elray mentioned that there is a possibility that Joseph read a school book called, "The Late War". And then he asks, if you take Jesus Christ out of the BoM, what do you get? It may be what was happening in the 19th century basically. 

All I know, is this podcast gave me some hope in being able to pick the BoM back up and read that message!

Also, he mentions Joseph Smith being inspired as well. I can definitely go along with that! 

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20 minutes ago, Bernard Gui said:

How about a reasoned rebuttal? Just dismissing it as “sharpshooting” is hardly convincing.

Well it depends on the convo when one decides to argue a point. I was simply stating my opinion, not arguing for it then.

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8 hours ago, Meadowchik said:

Also, @Bernard Gui, we're talking about accepting something as an authoritative message of Truth of the Universe and all Time and everything. The standard being high is a matter of respecting that Capital-letter Potentiality and respecting other people, too, since such conclusions tend to deeply impact our relationships with them.

Too bad there is no Alma 42:42. It would probably satisfy everyone’s thirst for proof.

What kind of evidence would meet your Potentiality Standard? Must such evidence be irrefutable before it is acceptable? (If such is even possible). 

The only evidence I have found to be irrefutable is that which I obtained alone in a classroom in the Language Training Mission in the late hours of the night on Friday, October 14, 1966. That ever-enduring evidence has had more profound impact on my relationship with every person I have met since then than chiasmus, Nahom, geography, and all the rest. I find those things exciting, interesting, and worthwhile, but as far as evidence for me they are window dressings. 

Edited by Bernard Gui
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14 minutes ago, Tacenda said:

I haven't finished, but started listening to this podcast: https://www.athoughtfulfaith.org/341-a-community-of-christ-view-of-the-book-of-mormon-elray-henriksen/

And Elray mentioned something I'd like to put forth on your thread if you don't mind. He said, "What is the message of the Book of Mormon?". I thought it a good question! Maybe that is the important part! Because I quite like the message if it means not to be capitalists, elites, emperors etc. He mentions that Joseph Smith might have been sending messages according to his surroundings. I know Joseph grew up with a grandparent that was a Universalist, so wondering if that seeped in. Also, the new country was beginning and Elray mentioned that there is a possibility that Joseph read a school book called, "The Late War". And then he asks, if you take Jesus Christ out of the BoM, what do you get? It may be what was happening in the 19th century basically. 

All I know, is this podcast gave me some hope in being able to pick the BoM back up and read that message!

Also, he mentions Joseph Smith being inspired as well. I can definitely go along with that! 

That is interesting.  From my perspective, if you take Christ out of the book, then what is left isn't worth much.

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8 minutes ago, Calm said:

Not the Book of Mormon.

If you take eggs out of a custard, it is no longer a custard.  The presence and purpose of Christ is too integral to the Book of Mormon to consider its context as a whole without Christ as part of that context. 

Very, very true!!! I believe what he is saying is that Joseph took his surroundings and put in what he believed about Jesus. And who knows, it might have been fed to him by Jesus/God.

ETA: Ran out of posts, so if you need any feedback, it will be in a day or so. 

Edited by Tacenda
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33 minutes ago, bluebell said:

I think you hit the nail on the head.  If we believe that much, then we also have to respect the fact that physical evidence alone can never be enough to prove or disprove it.  We can't divorce an authoritative message of the Truth of the Universe and all Time and everything from the Authority that gives it, the Creator of Truth.

But unfortunately that's what a lot of people want to do; they want science to prove that it's true before they will believe. 

Personally I don't think that science, including reason, can prove the existence of God, but it can help in the journey of searching. 

I would think that truth from the the Creator would be evinced in all Creation, or truths of the Universe evinced in all things. I shrink from the idea that only esoteric sources can tell about it or have some special authority on it. 

Wanting science to support it may not be the final decider for all belief, but it may be the beginning of good belief. Thus those who seek that minimum of support are in my opinion wise and blameless in that goal.

Edited by Meadowchik
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7 minutes ago, Bernard Gui said:

Too bad there is no Alma 42:42. It would probably satisfy everyone’s thirst for proof.

What kind of evidence would meet your Potentiality Standard? Must such evidence be irrefutable before it is acceptable? (If such is even possible). 

The only evidence I have found to be irrefutable is that which I obtained alone in a classroom in the Language Training Mission in the late hours of the night on Friday, October 14, 1966. That ever-enduring evidence has had more deeply profound impact on my relationship with every person I have met since then than chiasmus, Nahom, geography, and all the rest. I find those things exciting, interesting, and worthwhile, but as far as evidence for me they are window dressings. 

I don't think big-g God is provable, but it might be supportable. I think that good beliefs are supported by evidence.

For instance, being kind cannot be proven to be the best approach to others in general, but there is a lot of evidence supporting it as a general principle.

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51 minutes ago, Kevin Christensen said:

What I learned from that exchange is that Jenkins basically wanted to examine the case based on his rules, his methods, his problem field, his standards for evidence, his orthodoxy, and his judges.  He was willing to play the game only if it could be rigged in his favor in every possible way and if we could counted on to ignore how and why this was done.  The problem is that "all data is theory-laden" (as N. R. Hanson put in in The Logic of Scientific Discovery).   The notion of perfectly objective disinterested judges in practice is nonsense, but in rhetoric, is a useful shield to ward off dangerous opinions.  Any investigation of the Book of Mormon is influenced by the preconceptions of the investigator.  ("Do you preach the orthodox religion?"  "Have any of the rulers or of the pharisees believed on him?" "Is he one of us?")  Jenkins wanted his preconceptions not to just influence, but control the discussion.  But the existence of the Book of Mormon is a standing challenge to existing paradigms.  So the question is not whether the Book of Mormon can be explained by an existing paradigm (Joseph did it "somehow"), but whether that paradigm can provide the best explanation, when the ways that we measure "best" are often paradigm-dependent.  It happens that there are criteria for weighing "best" that are not paradigm dependent, (for these, read The Structure of Scientific Revolutions and Alma 32) but these can be best applied by those who conciously recognize the need to apply that sort of criteria.

For instance, Joseph did it "somehow."  According to Kuhn, the most telling values to apply in paradigm debate are testability, accuracy of key predictions, comprehensiveness and coherence (that is breadth, and depth, and consistency between different fields of knowledge), fruitfulness (that is, what emerges from one paradigm that is completely unsuspected and overlooked by another), simplicity and aesthetics, and future promise (that is, which paradigm seems to offer the best chance of solving problems that neither paradigm can solve at the moment).   How does "Joseph did it somehow?" measure up?  What testable predictions does it make?  How comprehensively does that makes sense of the contents of the book?   What about the kinds of evidence that critics tend not to discover or even mention?

I prefer John Welch's discussion of the various kinds of evidence.

https://rsc.byu.edu/no-weapon-shall-prosper/role-evidence-religious-discussion

FWIW,

Kevin Christensen

Canonsburg, PA

 If Joseph was inspired by God and wrote that which he otherwise could not, it does not provide evidence that the Nephites lived.  That is to suggest even if we decide that Joseph must have been inspired because there is no other reason that works best, it does not mean the Book or the stories in it are based on the history of any people who have ever lived.  

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4 hours ago, Meadowchik said:

The most obvious would be to start with the original object, the plates Joseph Smith claimed to translate from. Yet the fact that those are not available removes that opportunity. 

In fact this may well be considered the greatest, most profound evidence that The Book of Mormon is not to be evaluated scientifically, being that the plates were intentionally withheld, either by the translator or some more mysterious power. Either Joseph Smith, or God, or whoever else, etc..., did not intend it to be examined by any means other than the spiritual.

Why would the producer of The Book of Mormon (whoever brought it forth to our modern attention)  then remove it from our access if they want it to be examined scientifically as a historical artifact? I think that anyone who is asked to evaluate its historicity is wise to turn their decision on this point.  Furthermore, if someone other than Joseph Smith like some unidentified mysterious power withheld it, why would that entity thus merit our serious consideration of it as producing to us a historical artifact? 

True, but through the power of the Holy Ghost we can know the truth of ALL things, including the truth that the Book of Mormon was written as its writers said it was.

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3 hours ago, stemelbow said:

Wait...after skimming the thread, I'm curious.  Is anyone declaring they can meet the challenge offered by Phillip Jenkins some years back?  Where he and Bill Hamblin argued back and forth about whether there could even possibly be evidence for the BoM historicity?  If so, what is just one example of evidence?  

I figured we learned from that little exchange that there really is no evidence, no?  

No.  Through the power of the Holy Ghost we can know the truth of all things, including the truth about what the Book of Mormon is.

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13 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

 If Joseph was inspired by God and wrote that which he otherwise could not, it does not provide evidence that the Nephites lived.  That is to suggest even if we decide that Joseph must have been inspired because there is no other reason that works best, it does not mean the Book or the stories in it are based on the history of any people who have ever lived.  

It seems to me that Mr. Welch's article wouldn't be necessary if there were evidence like there is that the Romans existed and were all over Europe around the same time as the Nephites/Lamanites supposedly were in the Americas.  I think in the end, emphasis on the spiritual witness should be the key and one shouldn't worry about what archeologists cannot find or the pretzel logic some employ to "save" historicity.  It'll only lead people out.

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1 hour ago, Kevin Christensen said:

What I learned from that exchange is that Jenkins basically wanted to examine the case based on his rules, his methods, his problem field, his standards for evidence, his orthodoxy, and his judges.  He was willing to play the game only if it could be rigged in his favor in every possible way and if we could counted on to ignore how and why this was done.  The problem is that "all data is theory-laden" (as N. R. Hanson put in in The Logic of Scientific Discovery).   The notion of perfectly objective disinterested judges in practice is nonsense, but in rhetoric, is a useful shield to ward off dangerous opinions.  Any investigation of the Book of Mormon is influenced by the preconceptions of the investigator.  ("Do you preach the orthodox religion?"  "Have any of the rulers or of the pharisees believed on him?" "Is he one of us?")  Jenkins wanted his preconceptions not to just influence, but control the discussion.  But the existence of the Book of Mormon is a standing challenge to existing paradigms.  So the question is not whether the Book of Mormon can be explained by an existing paradigm (Joseph did it "somehow"), but whether that paradigm can provide the best explanation, when the ways that we measure "best" are often paradigm-dependent.  It happens that there are criteria for weighing "best" that are not paradigm dependent, (for these, read The Structure of Scientific Revolutions and Alma 32) but these can be best applied by those who conciously recognize the need to apply that sort of criteria.

For instance, Joseph did it "somehow."  According to Kuhn, the most telling values to apply in paradigm debate are testability, accuracy of key predictions, comprehensiveness and coherence (that is breadth, and depth, and consistency between different fields of knowledge), fruitfulness (that is, what emerges from one paradigm that is completely unsuspected and overlooked by another), simplicity and aesthetics, and future promise (that is, which paradigm seems to offer the best chance of solving problems that neither paradigm can solve at the moment).   How does "Joseph did it somehow?" measure up?  What testable predictions does it make?  How comprehensively does that makes sense of the contents of the book?   What about the kinds of evidence that critics tend not to discover or even mention?

I prefer John Welch's discussion of the various kinds of evidence.

https://rsc.byu.edu/no-weapon-shall-prosper/role-evidence-religious-discussion

FWIW,

Kevin Christensen

Canonsburg, PA

I don't read the exchange between Jenkins and Hamblin that way.  Dr. Jenkins merely asked for one piece of evidence, an inscription, a piece of pottery, etc and Dr. Hamblin discussed the meaning of evidence, instead of providing any.  It was pretty telling regarding the state of historicity.  Even so, the spiritual witness is more important anyway.

Regarding Kuhn, couldn't a critic use what you say to show that the paradigm should be one of 19th century construction, given the lack of the evidence Dr. Jenkins requested?  What testable predictions are you alluding to that bolster historicity?  Why couldn't one do the same with any fiction?

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26 minutes ago, Meadowchik said:

Personally I don't think that science, including reason, can prove the existence of God, but it can help in the journey of searching. 

I would think that truth from the the Creator would be evinced in all Creation, or truths of the Universe evinced in all things. I shrink from the idea that only esoteric sources can tell about it or have some special authority on it. 

Wanting science to support it may not be the final decider for all belief, but it may be the beginning of good belief. Thus those who seek that minimum of support are in my opinion wise and blameless in that goal.

I agree with the bold, and both the bible and the BOM teach that all creation testifies to the truth of God. 

But science, as amazing and necessary and able as it is, is still a flawed field of study (like all fields of study), shaped by biases and ignorance, full of unknowns (because so much of this world and the truths in it are un-testable and un-repeatable, something science can't deal with), and ultimately fallible, able to theorize about much and prove very little.  Seeking the minimum support (scholarship or science alone), when the full support is available (scholarship, revelation, and faith), doesn't seem all that wise.  It seems like an obviously flawed approach to understanding spiritual truth.

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58 minutes ago, Meadowchik said:

I would think that truth from the the Creator would be evinced in all Creation, or truths of the Universe evinced in all things.

It is, even in us, and even when we do not know it.

58 minutes ago, Meadowchik said:

I shrink from the idea that only esoteric sources can tell about it or have some special authority on it. 

esoteric - intended for or likely to be understood by only a small number of people with a specialized knowledge or interest.  

We can all find the truth if the truth is what we want to find.  With prayer and through the power of the Holy Ghost.

 

58 minutes ago, Meadowchik said:

Wanting science to support it may not be the final decider for all belief, but it may be the beginning of good belief. Thus those who seek that minimum of support are in my opinion wise and blameless in that goal.

Poppycock. Science is not the best tool for finding the truth and only an idiot would think it is.  I will now excuse myself from this thread.

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3 minutes ago, Robert J Anderson said:

I don't read the exchange between Jenkins and Hamblin that way.  Dr. Jenkins merely asked for one piece of evidence, an inscription, a piece of pottery, etc and Dr. Hamblin discussed the meaning of evidence, instead of providing any.  It was pretty telling regarding the state of historicity.  Even so, the spiritual witness is more important anyway.

Regarding Kuhn, couldn't a critic use what you say to show that the paradigm should be one of 19th century construction, given the lack of the evidence Dr. Jenkins requested?  What testable predictions are you alluding to that bolster historicity?  Why couldn't one do the same with any fiction?

What would a piece of pottery owned by a Nephite look like exactly?  How would it be distinguishable?  What about inscriptions?  How would a Nephite inscription or symbol be shown to be Nephite?  

FairMormon and Dr. Hamblin point out:  "Understanding what archaeologists look for in historical evidence, and that a written record (epigraphic or iconographic) is necessary for building context, what do we find when we turn to the records of the ancient Americas? (Remember that the time period covered by the Book of Mormon ended in about 400 A.D., so we need to look at evidence from before that time.)

Of the approximately half dozen known written language systems in the New World (all of which are located in Mesoamerica), only the Mayan language can be fully read with confidence. Scholars can understand some basic structure of some of the other languages, but they cannot fully understand what the ancients were saying. In other words, there is a problem with deciphering the epigraphic record. According to the experts, “the pronunciation of the actual names of the earliest Maya kings and other name-glyphs from other writing systems is not known with certainty.”3

For the time period in which the Nephites lived, scholars are aware of only a very limited number of inscriptions from the entire ancient New World that can be read with some degree of certainty. Even with these fragments, however, scholars are still uncertain from these inscriptions just how the ancients pronounced the proper names and place names (toponyms). Four of these readable inscriptions merely give dates or a king’s name–a very limited cultural context. Another five inscriptions contain historical information and proper names–the mention of the cities Tikal and Uaxactun (for which the ancient pronunciation remain uncertain) and five kings from these two cities (whom we know by iconographic symbols and whose ancient pronunciation remains uncertain).4

With such sparse epigraphic information, how could we possibly recognize, under current conditions, the location of cities we know as Bountiful and Zarahemla, or if the religious rulers were actually named Nephi or Moroni? The critics like to claim that there is no archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon, but the truth is that there is scant archaeological data to tell us anything about the names of ancient New World inhabitants or locations–and names are the only means by which we could archaeologically identify whether there were Nephites in ancient America."

 

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12 minutes ago, bluebell said:

I agree with the bold, and both the bible and the BOM teach that all creation testifies to the truth of God. 

But science, as amazing and necessary and able as it is, is still a flawed field of study (like all fields of study), shaped by biases and ignorance, full of unknowns (because so much of this world and the truths in it are un-testable and un-repeatable, something science can't deal with), and ultimately fallible, able to theorize about much and prove very little.  Seeking the minimum support (scholarship or science alone), when the full support is available (scholarship, revelation, and faith), doesn't seem all that wise.  It seems like an obviously flawed approach to understanding spiritual truth.

I'm not sure what you mean. Can you give an example of a spiritual concept you believe in that is not supported by science?

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44 minutes ago, Ahab said:

No.  Through the power of the Holy Ghost we can know the truth of all things, including the truth about what the Book of Mormon is.

And if the Holy Ghost is not really there?  It's all just kind of internal mechanisms making it appear as if there is a Holy Ghost?  Does that mean that which you "know" because of the Holy Ghost is real?  

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22 minutes ago, Meadowchik said:

I'm not sure what you mean. Can you give an example of a spiritual concept you believe in that is not supported by science?

Life after death.

Resurrection.

A man who is also God suffered and atoned  for the sins of all other men/women.

Forgiveness.

Faith.

Prayer.

All people are children of a God whose sole reason for being is to help them become like him.

My wife and our family are sealed together with our ancestors for eternity.

 

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20 minutes ago, bluebell said:

What would a piece of pottery owned by a Nephite look like exactly?  How would it be distinguishable?  What about inscriptions?  How would a Nephite inscription or symbol be shown to be Nephite?  

FairMormon and Dr. Hamblin point out:  "Understanding what archaeologists look for in historical evidence, and that a written record (epigraphic or iconographic) is necessary for building context, what do we find when we turn to the records of the ancient Americas? (Remember that the time period covered by the Book of Mormon ended in about 400 A.D., so we need to look at evidence from before that time.)

Of the approximately half dozen known written language systems in the New World (all of which are located in Mesoamerica), only the Mayan language can be fully read with confidence. Scholars can understand some basic structure of some of the other languages, but they cannot fully understand what the ancients were saying. In other words, there is a problem with deciphering the epigraphic record. According to the experts, “the pronunciation of the actual names of the earliest Maya kings and other name-glyphs from other writing systems is not known with certainty.”3

For the time period in which the Nephites lived, scholars are aware of only a very limited number of inscriptions from the entire ancient New World that can be read with some degree of certainty. Even with these fragments, however, scholars are still uncertain from these inscriptions just how the ancients pronounced the proper names and place names (toponyms). Four of these readable inscriptions merely give dates or a king’s name–a very limited cultural context. Another five inscriptions contain historical information and proper names–the mention of the cities Tikal and Uaxactun (for which the ancient pronunciation remain uncertain) and five kings from these two cities (whom we know by iconographic symbols and whose ancient pronunciation remains uncertain).4

With such sparse epigraphic information, how could we possibly recognize, under current conditions, the location of cities we know as Bountiful and Zarahemla, or if the religious rulers were actually named Nephi or Moroni? The critics like to claim that there is no archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon, but the truth is that there is scant archaeological data to tell us anything about the names of ancient New World inhabitants or locations–and names are the only means by which we could archaeologically identify whether there were Nephites in ancient America."

 

Dr. Hamblin was evading the question about evidence.  What Dr. Jenkins was asking for was something that ties the middle east circa 600 BC to the new world.  That could be a piece of pottery that had the same style as pottery from 600 BC jerusalem or it could be some egyptian inscription in the new world that matches an inscription from 600 BC found in Egypt.  When police are investigating a murder crime scene and find victim blood and blood from some unknown person, then find a match with that unknown person's DNA with DNA in the FBI's database, one can be pretty sure that the unknown person is either a witness or the perpetrator.  Resorting to how could we ever know like you do seems to be admitting without admitting the lack of historicity evidence.  This can cause a lot of problems with certain members, when historicity is the bridge to die on, especially when they look at the twisted logic put forward by some of the apologists to cover for the lack of evidence for historicity.  The better approach is to focus on the spiritual and not the historical.  There isn't much evidence to show that Moses existed or Abraham or that the children of Israel wandered in the desert for 40 years.  Yet, faith continues.  Perhaps it's time to go to an inspired fiction model?

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25 minutes ago, Meadowchik said:

I'm not sure what you mean. Can you give an example of a spiritual concept you believe in that is not supported by science?

What truth is.

What God is.

What we are. 

Where we came from before we got here.

Where we are going after we die.

What life is all about.

What love is.

 

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8 minutes ago, Robert J Anderson said:

Perhaps it's time to go to an inspired fiction model?

There is no good reason for anyone to assume that anything written in the Book of Mormon is fiction.  Perhaps its time for you to find out what the Book of Mormon really is.

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