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Book of Mormon Historicity


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1 hour ago, OGHoosier said:

The Book of Mormon manuscript is manifestly a dictation, which makes no sense if Cowdery and Whitmer are already in on it.

I have no problem with the "Joseph as sole translator" approach. I've argued for it myself in cycles. But even, if we allow Joseph as sole author/translator dictating the text to a handful of scribes, this is not evidence of historicity.

1 hour ago, OGHoosier said:

A reflexive dismissal of "too far away" deserves additional scrutiny, sure. But this question has been researched for decades. I think enough surveying of the material has been done to give us relative confidence. 

Plenty more research to do on what was known and accessible in Sharon, Lebanon, Hanover, Palmyra, Manchester and Harmony Township.

I've looked in detail at only two texts in the Manchester Library, Hannah Adam's Dictionary of Religions and Chevalier Ramsay's Travels of Cyrus. Those two texts alone are enough material for a healthy discussion and I'd guess that most Mormon historians haven't even heard of these books, let alone opened them. I know of only one Mormon historian that has written about Travels of Cyrus.

1 hour ago, OGHoosier said:

Aside from access issues, I think that Nikkum wouldn't give much information away unless Joseph knew about Hebrew hard H's and when they were applicable, and he hadn't learned Hebrew yet. Furthermore, if he had been going for a phonetic Hebrew representation in the BoM, he could have put it Nachom, which indicates that the issue wasn't on his radar. 

I don't know, but Nikkum sounds a lot like Nahum, the book in the Bible.

I've always found NHM to be the most convincing evidence for Book of Mormon historicity, and I remain absolutely open to the possibility that the Book of Mormon is a historical account of some people some where. Those on this board that endured my ramblings know that if evidence is found, I would be thrilled. I just don't see strong evidence for it, yet. I only want to find an answer that I'm comfortable with before I croak.

In any case, this NHM discussion keeps getting recycled so I'll leave it. 

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50 minutes ago, Rajah Manchou said:

I don't know, but Nikkum sounds a lot like Nahum, the book in the Bible.

I've always found NHM to be the most convincing evidence for Book of Mormon historicity, and I remain absolutely open to the possibility that the Book of Mormon is a historical account of some people some where. Those on this board that endured my ramblings know that if evidence is found, I would be thrilled. I just don't see strong evidence for it, yet. I only want to find an answer that I'm comfortable with before I croak.

In any case, this NHM discussion keeps getting recycled so I'll leave it. 

I can respect that. It was an interesting conversation and you've put me on a new research topic, so thank you! I've seen you around the board but never actually engaged with you, so I'm glad I got the chance. 

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6 hours ago, Rajah Manchou said:

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. The likelihood of a dependency increases when we allow for inputs from Cowdery, Whitmer or any number of people that were in that circle in the 1820s.

Since the Jenkins/Hamblin debate I have been in communication with Jenkins to discuss my hypothesis that Smith and Cowdery were drawing from popular speculation about the migrations of Israelite tribes while the Smiths were living near Dartmouth. In particular, I was looking at an ancient Indian text from 1765 printed in London that I suspected Smith was drawing from. Jenkins knew of the translator of this text, a well-known British diplomat, and suggested I do more leg work. I poked around in Mormon circles for a few years and was told several times that there was no possible way that Smith had access to this text because it was 'minutiae' and too distant. Then three days ago, while looking through the books available in the Manchester Library, I found that Hannah Adams had summarized that text in her "Dictionary of All Religions and Religious Denominations".

If Nehhm was on Neibuhr’s map dating to 1792 and Nikkum was on Morse's map listed in Manchester Library (four miles from Smith), the most likely explanation for its appearance in the Book of Mormon is that one of the participants to the translation of the Book of Mormon saw it on a map.

Were such maps available in 1540, or otherwise in the EModE era?  Were any of the Jewish accounts of their people living in Yemen available in European languages?  Seems to me these are far more relevant questions.

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24 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Were such maps available in 1540, or otherwise in the EModE era?  Were any of the Jewish accounts of their people living in Yemen available in European languages?  Seems to me these are far more relevant questions.

Or 1640? There were some very good maps of the Arabian Peninsula by the early 1600's. But I haven't found any with NHM.

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10 hours ago, bluebell said:

Heaven (or even just the existence of the spirit/life after death) is a spiritual concept that is not supported by science.

Thanks. That is THE biggie of beliefs, I'd say.

As a refresher for this convo,

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15 hours 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.

 

which was a reply to me saying  

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15 hours 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'm more interested in discussing the benefit of combining science with unprovable beliefs, than debating one versus the other. I think that the common scientific process is very clear on its own limitations, and I see that as an advantage rather than a flaw. On the other hand,  religious scholarship, what is claimed as revelation or spirituality, and the act of faith in its varying forms, are not so self-aware or self-limiting, thus creating many a hazard for those who embrace them. However, both types of study together can, in my opinion, create a very rich synthesis. 

And so, a very serious problem with The Book of Mormon and its claims, of which historicity is a part, is where it is lacking in self-awareness as a spiritual and intellectual object. To be clear, I  mean that it seeks to stake claim to pieces of knowledge without sufficient evidence. I think the sermon on faith is much better than Moroni's promise, and alot of what I am saying is very like the sermon faith and the interplay of faith and knowledge.  I would say that the sermon on faith would be quite complete with a fuller, clearer appreciation of science and reason. On the other hand, Moroni's promise tends to a very lopsided reliance on feelings, which of course can be extremely faulty, much moreso than science and reasoned study of all kinds.

And so, although an affirmative physical evidence would not be enough (since it obviously cannot confirm claims of a supernatural nature), it is still integral to good belief. You may not need science to believe in an afterlife, but I am going to assume you use science to great benefit, including in your attempts to live a life that would be closer to the Giver of Eternal Life. Is that assumption wrong?

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14 hours ago, Bernard Gui said:

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.

 

Thanks, Brother Gui! I respond to this and to the original of Bluebell's here.

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7 hours ago, Rajah Manchou said:

 

Since the Jenkins/Hamblin debate I have been in communication with Jenkins to discuss my hypothesis that Smith and Cowdery were drawing from popular speculation about the migrations of Israelite tribes while the Smiths were living near Dartmouth. In particular, I was looking at an ancient Indian text from 1765 printed in London that I suspected Smith was drawing from.

 

Rajah, are you making reference to John Zephaniah Holwel?  You've mentioned him before.  I dived into what little I could find of his work, very interesting stuff.  Pure speculation on my part but his thesis sprouts more legs once one considers the Sundaland Hypothesis and considers a branching of Shaivism and El-ism along geographic lines. 

Bringing those two lines together someplace might result in the kind of seeming muddle of things Egyptian, Hebrew, and Israelite that was found a number of years ago in southwestern Arabia (Yemen basically) and along the greater part of the Red Sea coast of western Saudi Arabia. 

Just for giggles and grins....I hear that the word Rahman can be used to refer to Yemen and that Muhammad did so.  Also that Muhammad had considered calling Allah by the name Rahman instead.  Don't know  exactly what was behind that!  

Anyway, I think there is enough material about place names in western and southwestern Arabia to throw at places like Malaysia and the areas roundabout.  Could also shed light on Bengal's  unique linguistic characteristics as well. 

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7 hours ago, Rajah Manchou said:

And what data we have might tell different stories? 

Again, data do not tell stories; we do. The best stories include the data in ways that seem reasonable, so there may not be an infinite number of good stories to be told, but there are definitely different ones.

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What evidence is there that the BOM is a historical record?  Is there any evidence?

That entirely depends on how we choose to interpret the data.

Edited by Hamba Tuhan
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16 hours ago, Brant Gardner said:

There are multiple ways to answer historical questions. Simplest is to have a text that tells you what you want to know. We don't have that for the Book of Mormon, and it is highly unlikely that we will every have it. That doesn't mean that we don't have ways of taking a text and determining historicity based on the text. It simply says that archaeological proof of a text is the wrong methodology. Saying that archaeology doesn't match the text is something that is already known. I saw a study done of the Codex Xolotl many years back (I've lost the reference, darn). They have this text that deals with history, and they know where to look. The archaeology doesn't give support to the text. Mostly because the text isn't speaking of things that could easily be found in an archaeological dig.

I hope you aren't suggesting that I think that there is no evidence for the Book of Mormon's historicity. I believe there is. I also understand that when people suggest that there is no archaeological evidence, it is typically the result of not understanding the nature of archaeological data, and particular the relationship of that type of data and a text.

Thank you sir.  I have just asked for one piece of evidence not specifying whether it is archaeological or not.  When you say there is evidence for historicity what si that evidence?

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5 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

Thank you sir.  I have just asked for one piece of evidence not specifying whether it is archaeological or not.  When you say there is evidence for historicity what si that evidence?

Again, asked and answered (by me and a number of others).

The Dale Morgan-esque dogmatism behind the "there is no evidence for the Book of Mormon" is on display here, methinks.

Thanks,

-Smac

Edited by smac97
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On 8/10/2020 at 1:59 PM, smac97 said:

Putting aside "evidence" from the Spirit, I would first point to the text overall.  Its origins need to be accounted for.  I don't think Joseph Smith could have written it at all, let alone in the timeframe involved.

Since I'm asking for one, I'll start with the first, Smac.  I'm curious how this comes off as evidence for the historicity of the BOM, in your view.  I mean he could have been inspired to write it, or find the text elsewhere, and it still not be history.  So how do you account for this being evidence for the historicity?

Also, would you also suggest that people who surprise others by being capable of writing a book, by writing a book, that that means that the author was inspired by God writing scripture?  

 

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I wonder what kind of predicament the apologists for the church feel they're in when they disagree with one another. For a member that most their life hadn't heard anything like it, what side do they take? Would be nice if the prophet of the church could straighten it all out. Poor apologists.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1RtU2Ph-04s

 

Edited by Tacenda
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1 minute ago, Tacenda said:

I wonder what kind of predicament the apologists for the church feel they're in when they disagree with one another. For a member that most their life hadn't heard anything like it, what side do they take? Would be nice if the prophet of the church could straighten it all out. Poor apologists

Probably no different than scientists or people from any other discipline when they disagree. 

Seriously, I don't understand the rhetoric around the word "apologist" which so many seem to have internalized. It seems like many people think of "the apologist" as some sort of monolithic genus of subhuman creature, chained to a wheel which he perpetually pushes in slavery to the defense of a narrative. This is flatly untrue. There's apologists of all shapes, stripes, levels of orthodoxy, and clashing opinions, just like in any discipline. 

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1 hour ago, Tacenda said:

wonder what kind of predicament the apologists for the church feel they're in when they disagree with one another.

If you consider differences of opinions among FM members to be an example, there is some friendly debate and it can get intense at times (among other things, there are differences of opinion on geography and historicity, nature of agency and God’s foreknowledge, as well as political beliefs that influence interpretation), but for the most part everyone is quite capable of giving the other the space to believe their own interpretations without insisting others believe as they do....though there are basic requirements of belief in sustaining the prophets, committed to group mission, etc for group membership. What significant conflict there is occurs when someone undermines the group’s work or inflates their own opinion as needing to be the official position or a variation on that....or brings in politics as a measure.
 

In a very few cases have members been asked to leave, I can think of only three.  Others chose to leave when they felt their goals didn’t align with ours anymore as is the intelligent way to approach it rather than demanding everyone else change, including the mission of the organization. 

IOW, I don’t see there needing to be much of a predicament when disagreements occur as long as someone doesn’t start labeling the other as a liar or their work as abhorrent. 

Edited by Calm
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Just now, Calm said:

other as a liar or their work as abhorrent.

cough like someone we know cough

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8 hours ago, JarMan said:

Or 1640? There were some very good maps of the Arabian Peninsula by the early 1600's. But I haven't found any with NHM.

Maimonides wrote his "Yemen Epistle" in the 12th century, and the Yemeni Jewish community was well-known to other Jews.

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17 hours ago, Brant Gardner said:

You are incorrect. I believe the case is Iceland where there are excellent records of the earliest settlers and there are many who claim descendance from those earliest settlers. The DNA remaining is from an actually rather small number of the original settlers. The rest has been lost. This is a known process. You are misusing or misunderstanding the nature of historical DNA studies. Any scientist in the field will tell you that they study what remains, and have no way to discern what was lost. Those studies are reductive, following either the single male or female line, which necessarily involves not knowing anything about any other relative. 

Think of a reverse genealogical tree. You have 16 great-grandparents. If you trace your mother's mitochondria, you miss the information from 15 of those great-grandparents. Loss happens all of the time.

Ok.  I'd like to read about the iceland lost dna if you could provide a cite, etc.  I'm not a geneticist and so don't understand all the ins and outs of the science.  My experience was an undergraduate in biology.  Anyway, sure, the dna could have disappeared, I guess.  It's just disappointing that there isn't much by way of proof that the Nephites/Lamanites existed.  The answers are basically, what do you expect when a small population mixes with a large population?  Where is the archeological evidence?  What do you expect to find is the answer to that question.  They supposedly controlled the government if one believes in the book of mormon as recounting actual events.  Nephites led armies and Lamanites did too.  However, there isn't anything to point to, that we can tell our skeptical family members and friends that it really happened.  I looked hard at the evidence and have read many apologetic cites, mostly fairmormon, and have been saddened at the lack of support.  So, I decided a while back to not worry about it too much and rely on my spiritual witness to the book of mormon.  I can't deny that despite the lack of evidence.  

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25 minutes ago, Tacenda said:

I wonder what kind of predicament the apologists for the church feel they're in when they disagree with one another. For a member that most their life hadn't heard anything like it, what side do they take? Would be nice if the prophet of the church could straighten it all out. Poor apologists.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1RtU2Ph-04s

This is exactly what takes place among Protestant Christians.  They frequently disagree with one another on basic tenets of their faith.  Denominational differences often express that, but it also occurs among scholars.  It is quite a natural feature of those who do not believe that some particular person is infallible.  What always has me worried is when everyone is in lockstep and agreeing with one another.  That tells me that there is something wrong.  Just the opposite of your approach, Tacenda, you should appreciate and respect disagreements.

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1 minute ago, Robert F. Smith said:

This is exactly what takes place among Protestant Christians.  They frequently disagree with one another on basic tenets of their faith.  Denominational differences often express that, but it also occurs among scholars.  It is quite a natural feature of those who do not believe that some particular person is infallible.  What always has me worried is when everyone is in lockstep and agreeing with one another.  That tells me that there is something wrong.  Just the opposite of your approach, Tacenda, you should appreciate and respect disagreements.

Oh I do, makes me feel like I'm okay to disagree, haha!

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2 hours ago, stemelbow said:

Since I'm asking for one, I'll start with the first, Smac.  I'm curious how this comes off as evidence for the historicity of the BOM, in your view.  I mean he could have been inspired to write it, or find the text elsewhere, and it still not be history.  So how do you account for this being evidence for the historicity?

"He could have been inspired to write it" contravenes Joseph's own narrative.  The evidence from Joseph is that he did not write it, that he instead received angelic visitations, was led by an angel to an ancient record buried in the earth, that he eventually took possession of the plates and other artifacts, that he translated their contents "by the gift and power of God," and so on.  It also contravenes the statement of the Three Witnesses, at least.  It also contravenes evidence as to Joseph's limited writing abilities.

Evidence needs to be considered and evaluated in context.  "He could have been inspired to write it" is not a feasible postulation given other evidence (Joseph's narrative, the statements of the witnesses, Joseph's limited writing abilities, etc.).

The text exists.  Its authorship needs to be accounted for.  Alternative theories abound, but all are sheer, evidence-free guesswork.  

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Also, would you also suggest that people who surprise others by being capable of writing a book, by writing a book, that that means that the author was inspired by God writing scripture?  

I don't understand the question.

Thank you,

-Smac

Edited by smac97
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18 minutes ago, smac97 said:

"He could have been inspired to write it" contravenes Joseph's own narrative.  The evidence from Joseph is that he did not write it, that he instead received angelic visitations, was led by an angel to an ancient record buried in the earth, that he eventually took possession of the plates and other artifacts, that he translated their contents "by the gift and power of God," and so on.  It also contravenes the statement of the Three Witnesses, at least.  It also contravenes evidence as to Joseph's limited writing abilities.

huh?  Again, how is the notion that you don't think JOseph could have written it supply evidence for the Historicity of the BoM?  If Joseph was inspired to spout out the words that he did, then I see no reason to see that as evidence for historicity.  How could that possibly be evidence?  

18 minutes ago, smac97 said:

Evidence needs to be considered and evaluated in context.  "He could have been inspired to write it" is not a feasible postulation given other evidence (Joseph's narrative, the statements of the witnesses, Joseph's limited writing abilities, etc.).

I feel tricked by a word game.  Exchange write with dictate--"he could have been inspired to dictate it".  It's no different, as I see it.  He could have been inspired, by God, by the human spirit to accomplish...anything.  But that doesn't give one iota of evidence for historicity, as I see it.  How does it provide such evidence for you?  

18 minutes ago, smac97 said:

The text exists.  Its authorship needs to be accounted for.  Alternative theories abound, but all are sheer, evidence-free guesswork.  

I don't understand the question.

Thank you,

-Smac

No problem, in regards to not understanding.  We can move on:

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Second, I would point to the statements of the Witnesses, and to the credbility of those witnesses

As evidence for historicity?  So what in those statements supply evidence for historicity?  Are you saying anyone who claims to have heard from God shows evidence that God has spoken to them?  

 

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2 hours ago, Robert J Anderson said:

Ok.  I'd like to read about the iceland lost dna if you could provide a cite, etc.  I'm not a geneticist and so don't understand all the ins and outs of the science.  My experience was an undergraduate in biology.  Anyway, sure, the dna could have disappeared, I guess.  It's just disappointing that there isn't much by way of proof that the Nephites/Lamanites existed.  The answers are basically, what do you expect when a small population mixes with a large population?  Where is the archeological evidence?  What do you expect to find is the answer to that question.  They supposedly controlled the government if one believes in the book of mormon as recounting actual events.  Nephites led armies and Lamanites did too.  However, there isn't anything to point to, that we can tell our skeptical family members and friends that it really happened.  I looked hard at the evidence and have read many apologetic cites, mostly fairmormon, and have been saddened at the lack of support.  So, I decided a while back to not worry about it too much and rely on my spiritual witness to the book of mormon.  I can't deny that despite the lack of evidence.  

We don't have the lineage of Alma, Nephihah, Helaman, or Moroni.  How do we know that they are pure-blooded descendants of Nephi?  If the original Lehites mixed with a larger group, then it is possible that Alma, Nephihah, Helaman, Moroni, etc might be descendants of mostly the the large population with little or no actual ancestry back to the original Lehites/Mulekites.  So, the people in charge of the government would have been cultural Nephites and Lamanites, not pure-blooded descendants.

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19 hours ago, Brant Gardner said:

 Any scientist in the field will tell you that they study what remains, and have no way to discern what was lost. Those studies are reductive, following either the single male or female line, which necessarily involves not knowing anything about any other relative. 

 

Ummm. You are aware (I assume) that we have the technology to analyze the autosomal DNA now. Gone are the days that we have to rely on mtdna and Y chromosome DNA which only trace a maternal and paternal single line. This technology, along with the ability to analyze DNA on ancient remains gives us an astronomically better chance of finding those rare lines from small founding populations.

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