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Saints Unscripted - The Witnesses and "Trilemma" Analysis


smac97

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I've previously talked about C.S. Lewis' formulation of a "trilemma" pertaining to Jesus Christ:

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Lewis's trilemma is an apologetic argument traditionally used to argue for the divinity of Jesus by arguing that the only alternatives were that he was evil or deluded. (Strictly speaking, Lewis is not trying to prove the divinity of Christ but is merely arguing that one cannot simultaneously affirm that Jesus was a great moral teacher and not divine.) One version was popularised by University of Oxford literary scholar and writer C. S. Lewis in a BBC radio talk and in his writings. It is sometimes described as the "Lunatic, Liar, or Lord", or "Mad, Bad, or God" argument. It takes the form of a trilemma — a choice among three options, each of which is in some way difficult to accept.

My previous thread applied this concept to the Book of Mormon.  

Saints Unscripted has just posted a pretty decent video that touches on this concept: Were the Book of Mormon witnesses lying, tricked, or telling the truth?

The vid sums up 6 theories to explain the Witnesses:

  • 1. They conspired with Co-Conspirators
  • 2. Duped by Joseph ("Victims" "duped by Joseph's hypnotic powers")
  • 3. Religious fanaticism (by the witnesses)
  • 4. Duped by Joseph (forged plates)
  • 5. Combination (of 1-4).
  • 6. Telling the truth.

They walk through each of these.

Again, Saints Unscripted is doing very well in presenting content in an engaging, entertaining, substantive, faithful way.  I encourage you to watch it.

Thanks,

-Smac

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Concerning #4 on the list, at the 4:35 mark, it says there is no evidence that Joseph had the ability to make plates. I think there is a plausible way he could have made them in the family's cooper shop.

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44 minutes ago, Tacenda said:

Concerning #4 on the list, at the 4:35 mark, it says there is no evidence that Joseph had the ability to make plates. I think there is a plausible way he could have made them in the family's cooper shop.

I've always thought of cooperage as the skill of making barrels, buckets, etc. out of wood.  Metal may or may not be used in the manufacture of such things.  The Smith Family did have a "cooper's shop" on their farm, which was ransacked by thieves who were apparently looking for the Plates:

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The gold plates which had first been placed in a locked wooden box, and later hid under the the fireplace hearth in the Smith home, were next hid in the loft of the cooper's shop.  Lucy Mack Smith wrote:  "In a short time Joseph received another intimation of the approach of a mob, also of the necessity of removing the Record and breast-plate from the place wherein they were secreted, consequently he took them out of the box in which they were placed, and wrapping them in clothes, carried them across the road to a cooper's shop and laid them in a quantity of flax which was stowed in the shop loft. After which he nailed up the box again, then tore up the floor of the shop and put it under the same.

"As soon as night came, the mob came also and commenced ransacking the place. They rummaged round the house and all over the premises, but did not come into the house. After making satisfactory search, they went away.

"The next morning we found the floor of the cooper's shop torn up and the box which was laid under it shivered in pieces.

"In a few days afterwards we learned the cause of this last move--why their curiosity led them in the direction of the cooper's shop. A young woman by the name of Chase, sister to Willard Chase, found a green glass through which she could see many very wonderful things, and among her great discoveries she said that she saw the precise place where "Joe Smith kept his gold Bible hid," and obedient to her directions, the mob gathered their forces and laid siege to the cooper's shop.

"Notwithstanding their disappointment in not finding the plates in the shop, their confidence was not in the least shaken in Miss Chase, for they still went from place to place by her direction, determined to get, if possible, the much desired object of their search." (History of Joseph Smith, p.113)

As long as we're speculating about the cooper's shop, wouldn't the "mob" have likely found evidence of Joseph's efforts to fabricate the plates in it? 

Also, Martin Harris described the plates as follows:

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While at Mr. Smith's I hefted the plates, and I knew from the heft that they were lead or gold, and I knew that Joseph had not credit enough to buy so much lead.

Is working with iron (as part of the cooper's skill set) comparable to working with lead?  

In any event, the YouTube video is substantively correct in stating that there is no evidence that Joseph had the ability to make plates.  Speculation?  Sure.  But no evidence.

Thanks,

-Smac

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2 hours ago, smac97 said:

I've always thought of cooperage as the skill of making barrels, buckets, etc. out of wood.  Metal may or may not be used in the manufacture of such things.  The Smith Family did have a "cooper's shop" on their farm, which was ransacked by thieves who were apparently looking for the Plates:

As long as we're speculating about the cooper's shop, wouldn't the "mob" have likely found evidence of Joseph's efforts to fabricate the plates in it? 

Also, Martin Harris described the plates as follows:

Is working with iron (as part of the cooper's skill set) comparable to working with lead?  

In any event, the YouTube video is substantively correct in stating that there is no evidence that Joseph had the ability to make plates.  Speculation?  Sure.  But no evidence.

Thanks,

-Smac

I don't know of any way to make lead or iron appear golden or greenish, so I don't think that lead can satisfy witness descriptions even if it is comparable to ironworking. Coopers did use iron to make the bands for barrels, but the plates would require considerably more craftsmanship and probably a specialized set of tools. A basic forge and a hammer won't do it, you'd need specialized molds. Furthermore I think iron would be too tough to engrave the fine characters observed on the plates, and it would be too light to match descriptions of the plates. 

Edited by OGHoosier
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1 minute ago, OGHoosier said:

I don't know of any way to make lead or iron appear golden or greenish, so I don't think that lead can satisfy witness descriptions even if it is comparable to ironworking. Coopers did use iron to make the bands for barrels, but the plates would require considerably more craftsmanship and probably a specialized set of tools. Furthermore I think iron would be too tough to engrave the fine characters observed on the plates, and it would be too light to match descriptions of the plates. 

Good points.  Thank you for sharing.

Thanks,

-Smac

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There's also the question of whether or not Joseph had the coopering skills necessary. I don't know of any source from later in life that has Joseph working as a cooper, which would be an obvious choice of profession if he had the training and financial need, and he clearly had the latter. 

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Good video. I do wonder, however, why the plates were never seen by anyone who was skeptical of Joseph Smith's claims. Everyone who saw them already believed they existed and that Joseph Smith was receiving divine revelations and speaking with angels.

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2 hours ago, Nevo said:

Good video. I do wonder, however, why the plates were never seen by anyone who was skeptical of Joseph Smith's claims. Everyone who saw them already believed they existed and that Joseph Smith was receiving divine revelations and speaking with angels.

Note: This is not an argument for a non-physical, "metaphorical" existence of the plates.  I believe in their actual, literal, physical reality.  That having been said, what one sees (or, perhaps better said, how one perceives or interprets what one sees) can be, and often is, affected by what one expects to see.  I think that's at least part of the reason why members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are taught that miracles don't create faith; rather, faith "creates" miracles.  My $0.02, actual value, as always, much less.  I wish you well. :)

Edited by Kenngo1969
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