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A Brief Assessment of the Lds Book of Abraham by Robert F. Smith


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5 hours ago, stemelbow said:

...............................

Light and knowledge.  I somehow forgot about the verbiage used to suggest others haven't received God countenance and some such stuff.

Yes, and Bruce McConkie used that very phrase in 1978, after the revelatory experience he and others had in concert with the First Presidency.  He denounced his own previous opinions, along with those of Brother Brigham, et al., as having been wrong.  Why?  McConkie was explicit that it was because they spoke without "light and knowledge."  The verbiage is esoteric (temple) verbiage, and McConkie was applying it to himself and to other prophets, seers, and revelators.  Strong stuff, and everyone so easily forgets about it.

5 hours ago, stemelbow said:

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We're not talking God, religious belief.  We're talking about the viability of the BoA having been Abraham's experience, found on ancient writings from Egypt.

Correct.  Which is why I did not base my assessment on belief in any sort of religion.  I bracketed such belief.  An evaluation of the BofA solely upon scholarly intellectual grounds seemed adequate to me.  Each reader must, however, make up his own mind on whether I was successful in such a non-apologetic presentation.  Most of the details of my presentation were made on this board some years ago, and it did not convince @Chris Smith (no relation).

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9 hours ago, Fair Dinkum said:

Scribd offers a free membership allowing just enough time to download the paper and then cancel the scribd membership, which is what I did.  Roberts paper assumes a belief in Biblical stories such as a belief in Noah through which Egyptus came and Abraham whom many view as a figurative character,  the Great Tower (babel) or a Divine Christ.  This is what I was referring to when I stated that his paper requires a belief in God. thsoe who do not hold to a belief in biblical charactors would not find Roberts arguments convincing since they wouldn't be able to work past his dependence on this biblical foundation.

I too would like to sidestep getting a Scribd membership, so this is good advice. Thanks! 

I came away from Robert's paper with the impression that he was referencing the Bible stories as traditions, not necessarily historical facts. So I think it might be somewhat applicable even for those who don't take the biblical stories literally. But your general point remains valid: those who don't approach the study from a believing perspective will likely find it less instinctively agreeable than those who do approach it from an already-believing perspective. 

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10 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Yes, and Bruce McConkie used that very phrase in 1978, after the revelatory experience he and others had in concert with the First Presidency.  He denounced his own previous opinions, along with those of Brother Brigham, et al., as having been wrong.  Why?  McConkie was explicit that it was because they spoke without "light and knowledge."  The verbiage is esoteric (temple) verbiage, and McConkie was applying it to himself and to other prophets, seers, and revelators.  Strong stuff, and everyone so easily forgets about it.

Yes.  It appears even he forgot about that strong stuff...didin't his book get republished with that same tripe included as before after the ban?  Or am I mistaken?  Unfortunately for him and the rest of the inspired Mormon elite, that which was new light and knowledge to them was already light and knowledge to others.  Unfortunately for years they fought the light and knowledge others had until, it seemed, they simply couldn't fight it longer.  

Ah well....a brief sway down a rabbit trail.  Thanks for the reminder though.  

10 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Correct.  Which is why I did not base my assessment on belief in any sort of religion.  I bracketed such belief.  An evaluation of the BofA solely upon scholarly intellectual grounds seemed adequate to me.  Each reader must, however, make up his own mind on whether I was successful in such a non-apologetic presentation.  Most of the details of my presentation were made on this board some years ago, and it did not convince @Chris Smith (no relation).

I honestly think I remember that a little bit...but by remember I mean to say, I certainly can't recite the details of all the back and forth.  If you've vindicated the BoA's historicity...great.  It would be quite a feat.  

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16 hours ago, stemelbow said:

I"m open to it.  I"m just not sure it's adding any value. 

Well, okay.  You can lead a horse to water...

16 hours ago, stemelbow said:

It seems to skip over the need of a burden.  "Well sure its possible therefore that's my answer to the burden put upon me for my claim."  

I don't think this is a fair or accurate characterization of the essay.

16 hours ago, stemelbow said:

Light and knowledge.  I somehow forgot about the verbiage used to suggest others haven't received God countenance and some such stuff.  

It was not intended to offend.  We believe "light and knowledge" is available through revelation, to all those who seek it.  Those who don't seek it, who don't want it, don't get it.

The Church is not some exclusive club.  We want everyone to seek and obtain "light and knowledge" from God.

16 hours ago, stemelbow said:

If you say so. I'm just not sure it works in this case.  That is to say, one question raised by the BoA is not whether it can fit if the restored gospel is true, but whether it can be presented as evidence that the restored gospel holds merit.  If the BoA doesn't support that latter notion, then it simply means the burden has yet to be met.  

I don't know what this means.  The "merit" of the Restored Gospel is not really contingent on the Book of Abraham.  We learn some things about the pre-existence, but otherwise it does not add a significant amount of doctrine to what we have.  The bulk of online discussions about it center not on its religious/moral/doctrinal precepts, but on the technicalities and logistics of how we came to have it.

And again, you keep using this "burden" reference as if there is some objective way to define it and whether it has or has not been satisfied.  I don't think that's the case.

16 hours ago, stemelbow said:

We're not talking God, religious belief.  We're talking about the viability of the BoA having been Abraham's experience, found on ancient writings from Egypt.

A fair point.  If we bracket the miraculous elements of the transmission of the text (including Joseph Smith's role, I suppose), and just look at the text to see if it contains "Abraham's experience," then several very interesting items arise.  

Thanks,

-Smac

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17 hours ago, Fair Dinkum said:

I thought I made myself clear that Robert's essay has value.

You did.  I was expanding on that a bit is all.

Thanks,

-Smac

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2 hours ago, smac97 said:

Well, okay.  You can lead a horse to water...

I don't think this is a fair or accurate characterization of the essay.

It was not intended to offend.  We believe "light and knowledge" is available through revelation, to all those who seek it.  Those who don't seek it, who don't want it, don't get it.

The Church is not some exclusive club.  We want everyone to seek and obtain "light and knowledge" from God.

I don't know what this means.  The "merit" of the Restored Gospel is not really contingent on the Book of Abraham.  We learn some things about the pre-existence, but otherwise it does not add a significant amount of doctrine to what we have.  The bulk of online discussions about it center not on its religious/moral/doctrinal precepts, but on the technicalities and logistics of how we came to have it.

And again, you keep using this "burden" reference as if there is some objective way to define it and whether it has or has not been satisfied.  I don't think that's the case.

So you think the burden has been met?  Ok.  

2 hours ago, smac97 said:

A fair point.  If we bracket the miraculous elements of the transmission of the text (including Joseph Smith's role, I suppose), and just look at the text to see if it contains "Abraham's experience," then several very interesting items arise.  

Thanks,

-Smac

Well I'd hate to response with a "like what" and see the same things that aren't really interesting.  So I'll just say, i'm glad you can find it interesting.  

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54 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

So you think the burden has been met?  Ok.  

So you think "the burden" is an objective, empirically testable thing?  Ok.

4f6vv1.jpg

;) 

54 minutes ago, stemelbow said:
Quote

If we bracket the miraculous elements of the transmission of the text (including Joseph Smith's role, I suppose), and just look at the text to see if it contains "Abraham's experience," then several very interesting items arise.  

Well I'd hate to response with a "like what" and see the same things that aren't really interesting.  So I'll just say, i'm glad you can find it interesting.  

I'm okay with that.  Again, the BOA is very much a "downstream" issue for me.

Thanks,

-Smac

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2 minutes ago, smac97 said:

So you think "the burden" is an objective, empirically testable thing?  Ok.

4f6vv1.jpg

;) 

I'm okay with that.  Again, the BOA is very much a "downstream" issue for me.

Thanks,

-Smac

cool. It certainly should be very much a downstream issue for you.  

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16 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

 

The focus of those who think that the BofA has something profound to say is usually on the concept of "intelligence," which has nothing to do with IQ or smartness, but is instead related to our very ground of being -- as entities coeternal with God.  Entities which have no beginning and will have no end.  Entities which can neither be created nor destroyed.  This is a concept so fundamental that it is revolutionary as a religious concept, affecting all the other religious concepts which are a part of LDS theology.  Not that the average LDS member has a grasp on the theological or philosophical issues which are engendered.  In that sense, the BofA may be the most important of the LDS Scriptures.

Why didn't Abraham let us know the fundamental particles like up and down quarks, leptons, bosons etc?  And what category does "intelligence" fall into?  Considering these fundamental pieces one must wonder where is god?  And what added insight does the BoA offer?  

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43 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

The focus of those who think that the BofA has something profound to say is usually on the concept of "intelligence," which has nothing to do with IQ or smartness, but is instead related to our very ground of being -- as entities coeternal with God.  Entities which have no beginning and will have no end.  Entities which can neither be created nor destroyed.  This is a concept so fundamental that it is revolutionary as a religious concept, affecting all the other religious concepts which are a part of LDS theology.  Not that the average LDS member has a grasp on the theological or philosophical issues which are engendered.  In that sense, the BofA may be the most important of the LDS Scriptures.

Good thoughts.  Thank you for sharing.

-Smac

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47 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

Considering these fundamental pieces one must wonder where is god? 

Science once didn't know about cells.  They thought organs were fundamental pieces.  We later learned about cells, then molecules and atoms, then other even smaller particles...  Science doesn't know what science doesn't know.  

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18 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Yes, and Bruce McConkie used that very phrase in 1978, after the revelatory experience he and others had in concert with the First Presidency.  He denounced his own previous opinions, along with those of Brother Brigham, et al., as having been wrong.  Why?  McConkie was explicit that it was because they spoke without "light and knowledge."  The verbiage is esoteric (temple) verbiage, and McConkie was applying it to himself and to other prophets, seers, and revelators.  Strong stuff, and everyone so easily forgets about it.

Correct.  Which is why I did not base my assessment on belief in any sort of religion.  I bracketed such belief.  An evaluation of the BofA solely upon scholarly intellectual grounds seemed adequate to me.  Each reader must, however, make up his own mind on whether I was successful in such a non-apologetic presentation.  Most of the details of my presentation were made on this board some years ago, and it did not convince @Chris Smith (no relation).

I miss Chris Smith.

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1 hour ago, pogi said:

Science once didn't know about cells.  They thought organs were fundamental pieces.  We later learned about cells, then molecules and atoms, then other even smaller particles...  Science doesn't know what science doesn't know.  

That is the beauty of it.  We don't have to rely on dogma which contradicts knowledge.  

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This isn't meant to be a snarky question but is there any evidence to support Abraham, himself, being familiar with the text of the BoA or is the BoA better suited to be viewed as pseudepigrapha via the "red headed step child's cousin's uncle twice removed" sort of idea. Again, no disrespect.

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14 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

That is the beauty of it.  We don't have to rely on dogma which contradicts knowledge.  

Scientific inquiry is only one approach to epistemological knowledge. 

Contradiction of knowledge and absence of it are two different things, by the way. 

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32 minutes ago, Damien the Leper said:

This isn't meant to be a snarky question but is there any evidence to support Abraham, himself, being familiar with the text of the BoA or is the BoA better suited to be viewed as pseudepigrapha via the "red headed step child's cousin's uncle twice removed" sort of idea. Again, no disrespect.

I'm not sure there's any way to determine whether or not Abraham himself would have been familiar with it, since all we have about Abraham is pseudepigraphic or written by a later prophet. There's no control to compare to. 

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17 hours ago, pogi said:

Scientific inquiry is only one approach to epistemological knowledge. 

Contradiction of knowledge and absence of it are two different things, by the way. 

Not sure what you're driving at.  My point was simply to suggest, dogma--or truth claims without evidence or reason--particularly as it relates to religion, has time and again been shown to be wrong.  I'm certainly not suggesting dogmatic claims of religion are made with evidence.  But it's more along the lines of they often contradict evidence, even though the claims themselves often are made before we have much evidence.  

Edited by stemelbow
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15 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Well, the notion that something may neither be created nor destroyed is one of the key laws of science:  The Law of Conservation of Matter & Energy.  It was discovered before the birth of Joseph Smith, but has only been rigorously verified in modern times.  Intelligence is even more elemental than ordinary matter and energy, and even more elemental than spiritual matter and energy.  We simply do not comprehend it.

In any case, understanding the nature of some subatomic particles has not yet revealed to us the nature of Dark Energy or Dark Matter, which compose around 96% of everything in the universe -- yet we do not know what it is; we cannot see it or taste it.  We know of it only by extension or extrapolation from known laws and particles, and the huge deficit that leaves in our actual knowledge.

Thanks Robert.  I think you offer a good though.  If "intelligence" can be said to be the groupings known to us as the fundamental particles that are fundamental to everything, then what does that mean?  People are simply compositions of these particles, and so are rocks, trees, clouds, air...and the like.  Dark matter is something we don't know.  Is it unformed intelligence, or is it something else since it's not made for this world?  Or something?  

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22 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

Not sure what you're driving at.  My point was simply to suggest, dogma--or truth claims without evidence or reason--particularly as it relates to religion, has time and again been shown to be wrong. 

First, "dogma" is not really defined as "truth claims without evidence or reason."  Instead, it means "an official system of principles or tenets concerning faith, morals, behavior, etc., as of a church," "an official system of principles or tenets concerning faith, morals, behavior, etc., as of a church," "prescribed doctrine proclaimed as unquestionably true by a particular group," "a settled or established opinion, belief, or principle."

Second, it seems quite an overgeneralization to claim that religious "truth claims" have been "shown to be wrong."

Third, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints doesn't really do "dogmas" or "creeds."  See here:

Quote

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has no creed, as that term is understood in traditional theology. Truth and the things of God are comprehended by study, faith, reason, science, experience, personal revelation, and revelation received through the prophets of God. Creeds, on the other hand, tend to delimit this process.

From the beginning of the Church until the present, its view has always been that such formulas are incompatible with the gospel's inclusive commitment to truth and continual revelation. The Doctrine and Covenants states, "He that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day" (D&C 50:24). In his first vision in 1820, the young Prophet Joseph Smith was told that the creeds of the competing churches around him "were an abomination in [God's] sight" (HC 1:19). These sweeping words were clarified in his Wentworth Letter (1842): "all were teaching incorrect doctrines." During the April 1843 conference of the Church, the Prophet said: "It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine" (HC 5:340), and later he elaborated: "I cannot believe in any of the creeds of the different denominations, though all of them have some truth. I want to come up into the presence of God, and learn all things, but the creeds set up stakes, and say, "Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further,' which I cannot subscribe to" (HC 6:67).

Since Joseph Smith's day, the Christian world has moved in this direction by acknowledging that creeds are "historically conditioned," and that confessions of faith are to be seen as "guidelines" rather than as final pronouncements.

Authoritative statements found in LDS literature are not viewed as elements in a creed. For example, although its thirteen Articles of Faith are scriptural, they are open-ended. One of them says, "We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God" (A of F 9).

And here:

Quote

The Articles of Faith gained more notoriety with James E. Talmage's publication of Articles of Faith in 1899—a series of elaborations on these fundamental truths within our religion. While Talmage held the highest degree of reverence for these simple and sacred statements of belief, he acknowledged that Latter-day Saints "announce no such creed as a complete code of faith; for they accept the principle of continuous revelation as an essential feature of their belief" (Articles of Faith).

This statement provides one of the most beautiful and profound recognitions of the Articles of Faith—that they provide a unifying understanding of our basic beliefs while still allowing for growth and for our own personal convictions received through revelation.

Fourth, the Church has never espoused acceptance of "truth claims without evidence or reason."  Quite the contrary, in fact.  We are constantly exhorted to study, ponder, and pray, to seek wisdome from the "best books," and so on.

Thanks,

-Smac

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1 hour ago, stemelbow said:

Thanks Robert.  I think you offer a good though.  If "intelligence" can be said to be the groupings known to us as the fundamental particles that are fundamental to everything, then what does that mean?  People are simply compositions of these particles, and so are rocks, trees, clouds, air...and the like.  Dark matter is something we don't know.  Is it unformed intelligence, or is it something else since it's not made for this world?  Or something?  

I don't think that Dark Matter and Dark Energy have anything to do with intelligence, nor do all the other subatomic particles which you mentioned.  Orson Pratt did argue that all living things have intelligence (The Seer).  Intelligence need not be fundamental to everything, and may simply be a discrete element of life.  We just don't know what it is.  Without a spiritual body, intelligence cannot advance or become an active participant in agency.

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1 hour ago, smac97 said:

First, "dogma" is not really defined as "truth claims without evidence or reason."  Instead, it means "an official system of principles or tenets concerning faith, morals, behavior, etc., as of a church," "an official system of principles or tenets concerning faith, morals, behavior, etc., as of a church," "prescribed doctrine proclaimed as unquestionably true by a particular group," "a settled or established opinion, belief, or principle."

Second, it seems quite an overgeneralization to claim that religious "truth claims" have been "shown to be wrong."

Third, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints doesn't really do "dogmas" or "creeds."  See here:

And here:

Fourth, the Church has never espoused acceptance of "truth claims without evidence or reason."  Quite the contrary, in fact.  We are constantly exhorted to study, ponder, and pray, to seek wisdome from the "best books," and so on.

Thanks,

-Smac

If true, then the Church would drop it's dependence on things like BoM historicity, and BoA for that matter.  But alas, the Church is stuck in the dogma it set up all the way up until the point it simply can't survive with such dogma.  It has always been so with religion and will likely always be so.  

I know the definition of dogma, its just that it turns out the result of prescribed doctrine proclaimed as unquestionably true is truth claims without evidence or reason.  

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