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Visions in a Seer Stone: Joseph Smith and the Making of the Book of Mormon by Dr. William L. Davis


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3 hours ago, InCognitus said:

I have two editions of Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, by D. Michael Quinn, but I can't comment on the book being discussed in this thread since I haven't read it.  ...........

.......... His treatment of the Jupiter Talisman is a perfect example of how a whole case can be manufactured out of one suspicious second hand claim.   And he didn't add anything in his second edition to really help that case.   I think it's totally fair and helpful to understand the culture and mindset of the people who lived in the early 1800's and I know Joseph Smith wouldn't be excluded from participating in that environment.  But I don't think it's helpful when modern writers make assertions about specific items and practices and impose them on a historical person with little or misconstrued evidence. ...................

Since Quinn cites me on the Jupiter Talisman, and plagiarizes me elsewhere in the book (without attribution), I probably ought to mention a source I have since made available on that talisman:  https://qr.ae/TfJiYo

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1 hour ago, Nevo said:

How would you know? You've never even looked at his work. You're just making wild assertions.

Here's something to get you started, from the book's preface:.................

I'm just a tired old man, Nevo, who has been looking at this sort of repetitious fluff now for many decades.  Those prefatory remarks you quoted and the glaringly false statements cited by Fair Dinkum in the OP are just more of the same nonsense attacked by those evangelical scholars I cited above.  The Roman Catholic scholar Massimo Introvigne took the same view of standard anti-Mormon analysis (https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/jbms/vol5/iss2/1/ ).  I don't mind at all a solid critique of the BofM, or of any other LDS Scripture, or socio-political practice.  You are welcome to submit my own scholarship to third party review to see whether in fact I engage in "wild assertions."

Calm already cited reviews of Davis for anyone who wonders whether he is worth their time.  I am genuinely saddened when an LDS writer or an anti-Mormon writer comes up with a dud.  I fervently hope that I can find books or articles out there which actually say something meaningful, pro or con.  At least then I learn something new.

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22 hours ago, Calm said:

Interestingly enough, Davis has responded briefly to Hales' review here. Since it is a brief response I will quote Davis' response. 

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I am William L. Davis, the author of "Visions in a Seer Stone: Joseph Smith and the Making of the Book of Mormon." The text offered for sale here, "Theories and Assumptions," is Brian C. Hales's review of my book.

Potential readers should be aware that Hales's review does not provide an accurate description of my research. His critique contains numerous misinterpretations and faulty inferences.

If readers want to know what I actually said, I would invite you to go directly to the source and read the book for yourself.

 

 

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22 minutes ago, CA Steve said:

Interestingly enough, Davis has responded briefly to Hales' review here. Since it is a brief response I will quote Davis' response. 

 

 

Davis's response sounds amazingly similar to something I said dozens of times on my mission. "Don't believe what someone else wrote about the book. You need to read it yourself to know if it's true!"

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55 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Since Quinn cites me on the Jupiter Talisman, and plagiarizes me elsewhere in the book (without attribution), I probably ought to mention a source I have since made available on that talisman:  https://qr.ae/TfJiYo

Thanks.  That sums it up nicely.

The problem I have with Quinn's argument (and this is also documented from your source) is that Joseph Smith's alleged possession of the talisman is based entirely on the statement of a single individual: Charles Bidamon, (illegitimate son of Lewis C. Bidamon and Nancy Abercrombie, and a stepson of Emma Smith.  Emma took four-year-old Charles Bidamon into her own home to raise at Nancy Abercrombie's request).  And Bidamon's statement about Joseph's possession of the talisman contradicts a key historical source, one that Quinn tries hard to get around in his book with some rather creative and counter-historical assumptions in my opinion.  There don't seem to be any sources contemporary to Joseph Smith, or any later sources to substantiate Bidamon's claim that Joseph possessed the talisman.  And that, combined with the historical evidence contradicting Bidamon's claim, is why I find Bidamon's statement suspicious. It just seems like a strained argument to support Quinn's thesis.

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5 hours ago, InCognitus said:

I have two editions of Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, by D. Michael Quinn, but I can't comment on the book being discussed in this thread since I haven't read it.  But I'm curious about why you are interested in these books.

The reason I have two editions of Quinn's book is because I wanted to see how much he changed between the two.  His 1987 edition came out shortly after Mark Hofmann was exposed as a forger of early church history documents, and apparently Quinn had relied on some of Hofmann's forged documents and salamander letter as primary support for the arguments put forth in his book.  Fortunately Quinn's book wasn't published until after the documents were deemed to be forgeries and he had some time to revise his book before publication, but it ripped the guts out of his case.  Without those documents his case is very weak in my opinion.  His treatment of the Jupiter Talisman is a perfect example of how a whole case can be manufactured out of one suspicious second hand claim.   And he didn't add anything in his second edition to really help that case.   I think it's totally fair and helpful to understand the culture and mindset of the people who lived in the early 1800's and I know Joseph Smith wouldn't be excluded from participating in that environment.  But I don't think it's helpful when modern writers make assertions about specific items and practices and impose them on a historical person with little or misconstrued evidence. 

Huh.  I'm reminded of how Will Bagley's Blood of the Prophets was predicated on what he said was "'troubling new evidence' to prove that President Brigham Young and Apostle George A. Smith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were accessories before the fact to commit the massacre."  See here:

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In 2003, Robert D. Crockett reviewed Bagley's Blood of the Prophets and scrutinized Bagley's claim of "'troubling new evidence' to prove that President Brigham Young and Apostle George A. Smith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were accessories before the fact to commit the massacre."

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Bagley's "troubling new evidence," which separates his work from Brooks's, is simply a diary entry, dated 1 September 1857, in which Indian interpreter Dimick Huntington describes a meeting purportedly held between himself, Brigham Young, and twelve Indian chiefs:

Kanosh the Pahvant Chief[,] Ammon & wife (Walkers Brother) & 11 Pahvants came into see B & D & find out about the soldiers. Tutseygubbit a Piede chief over 6 Piedes Bands Youngwuols another Piede chief & I gave them all the cattle that had gone to Cal[.] the southa rout[.] it made them open their eyes[.] they sayed that you have told us not to steal[.] so I have but now they have come to fight us & you for when they kill us then they will kill you[.] they sayed the[y] was afraid to fight the Americans & so would raise grain & we might fight.9 (cf. p. 114)

For Bagley this cryptic entry proves that "the atrocity was not a tragedy but a premeditated criminal act initiated in Great Salt Lake City" (p. 378). Blood of the Prophets tells us that "if any court in the American West (excepting, of course, one of Utah's probate courts) had seen the evidence [the Dimick Huntington diary] contained, the only debate among the jurors would have been when, where, and how high to hang Brigham Young" (p. 425 n. 42).

In footnote 9, Crocket observes: "Bagley interpolates 'allies' where 'grain' should be used. I think Bagley's conclusion is wrong. See Lawrence Coates, review of Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows, by Will Bagley, BYU Studies 42/1 (2003): 153."

Coates' review (available here) leaves Bagley little room to argue that interpolating "allies" for "grain" was just justified or a whoopsy-daisy:

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Serious errors in historical scholarship, however, severely undermine the fundamental arguments in his book. First, there are several important primary sources that he did not use accurately. Historians must verify the facts they use and avoid misusing information to support their interpretations. Bagley fails on both counts, because he seems to be driven by his passion to blame Brigham Young for this tragic event. For example, Bagley sees Young's offer to give the Piedes, a band of the Paiutes, "all the cattle that had gone to Cal[ifornia] the south rout" as the formation of an alliance (114). To make this point, Bagley quotes D. B. Huntington, Brigham Young's interpreter, as saying that the Piedes were "afraid to fight the americans & so would raise [allies]" (114). Instead, Huntington's journal for September 1 1857 says the Piedes "would raise grai"1 (fig. 1). Replacing the word "grain" with "allies" substantially changes the meaning, but most readers will not be aware of Bagley s changing these words.

According to Bagley, this entry (read with "allies" interpolated into it) proves that "the atrocity was not a tragedy but a premeditated criminal act initiated in Great Salt Lake City" (p. 378), and that "if any court in the American West (excepting, of course, one of Utah's probate courts) had seen the evidence [the Dimick Huntington diary] contained, the only debate among the jurors would have been when, where, and how high to hang Brigham Young" (p. 425 n. 42). Bagley goes on to argue that these Indian chiefs then traveled from the meeting (in Salt Lake City) to Cedar City and participated in the massacre.

Bagley's critics have made three basic arguments against Bagley's thesis:

A. Bagley Interpolated "Allies" for "Grain" When Quoting Huntington's Journal. Coates notes that "[in] the context of the rest of the entry grain makes sense: the Piedes would raise grain rather than take the cattle." But Bagley's interpolation, read without context, suggests that the Indians wanted to on the warpath (that they wanted to "raise allies").

B. The Timing of the Meeting Made it Unlikely or Impossible for the Indians who Participated in the Meeting to Have Been Present for the Massacre. Crocket observed that "Bagley's chronology is problematic to the point of impossibility. Tutsegabit and Youngwuds did not have time to get from Salt Lake City to Mountain Meadows and return to Salt Lake City by 16 September 1857 or, as Huntington says, by 10 September 1857."

C. The Meeting was a Discussion About the Indians Going After the Army's cattle, not the Fancher Party's cattle. (See Crocket's review for a detailed explanation).

As to the first point above (interpolating "allies" for "grain"), there seems to be no legitimate dispute that Bagley was flat-out wrong. ... {It} even Bagley appears to have backtracked on his interpolation. BOTP was first published in 2002. It was reviewed by Crocket and Coates in 2003. It was published in paperback in 2004. What is interesting, however, is that the 2004 edition "interpolates" the word "grain" instead of "allies." The interpolation is odd because

 

A) the reader is apparently given no indication that the text of the book has been altered from the original edition,

B) interpolating "grain" is unnecessary because that word is actually in the text of Huntington's journal, and

C) Bagley "corrected" the faulty interpolation, but left his conclusions - that Huntington's journal was evidence of Brigham Young's complicity in the massacre - intact.

The version of BOTP currently on Amazon is searchable using Amason's "Look Inside!" feature. As presently published, page 114 of BOTP no longer carries the interpolation of "allies," and instead quotes Huntington's journal as talking about "grain." However, on page 378, Bagley discusses - and deems incorrect - Juanita Brooks' analysis of the massacre ("that unfortunate circumstance played a part in the fate of the emigrants"). Bagley states:

Quote

Brooks never saw Dimick Huntington's journal and its evidence that the atrocity was not a tragedy but a premeditated criminal act initiated in Great Salt Lake City. Although she lacked the documentation presented here that links Brigham Young to facilitating the murders...

In sum:

1. Bagley committed historical malpractice by "rigging" the evidence. He interpolated "allies" for "grain" in an attempt to implicate Brigham Young.

2. Bagley presented this dishonest interpolation as "troubling new evidence," that this "evidence" showed that the massacre "was not a tragedy but a premeditated criminal act initiated in Great Salt Lake City," and that this evidence "links Brigham Young to facilitating the murders."

3. Crocket and Coates caught on to Bagley's dishonest interpolation.

4. Bagley, apparently without admitting or acknowledging his having been caught in rigging the evidence, tweaked the most recent published form of Blood of the Prophets to take out the interpolation of "allies" and replace it with the word that actually appeared in the text ("grain").

5. However, even though Bagley has technically and quietly retracted his dishonest interpolation, he has left intact the conclusions he drew from that dishonest interpolation (that it is "troubling new evidence," that this "evidence" showed that the massacre "was not a tragedy but a premeditated criminal act initiated in Great Salt Lake City," and that this evidence "links Brigham Young to facilitating the murders").

Thanks,

-Smac

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23 hours ago, Hamba Tuhan said:

The problem is that highly unlikely things happen quite regularly. Joseph Smith as fabricator of the Book of Mormon is certainly problematic, but I personally find it less problematic than an explanation that involves angels, transoceanic voyages, buried records, etc. That is, until having my own experiences with highly unlikely things like angels. That changes everything!

Well, from that point of view, sure.

The thing about angels, though, is that seeing what I can see of the universe from my little telescope, angels are much less surprising than the scope and breadth of the universe. Where did it all come from?  Hawking and other physicists console themselves with the idea that it all came about randomly.  I don't buy it. The visible universe is amazingly improbable. It's easier to believe it was created purposely.

But your mileage may differ.

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On 2/18/2021 at 3:50 PM, Kenngo1969 said:

Would you hate me if I'm not convinced? ;):D

 

On 2/18/2021 at 4:00 PM, Fair Dinkum said:

I would be more surprised if it had.

I'm glad that I didn't disappoint you, then!  I would hate it if I did that! ;):D

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1 hour ago, Stargazer said:

Well, from that point of view, sure.

The thing about angels, though, is that seeing what I can see of the universe from my little telescope, angels are much less surprising than the scope and breadth of the universe. Where did it all come from?  Hawking and other physicists console themselves with the idea that it all came about randomly.  I don't buy it. The visible universe is amazingly improbable. It's easier to believe it was created purposely.

But your mileage may differ.

Saying God did it has no explanatory value. It just kicks the can down the road until you then ask who or what made God. 

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2 hours ago, SeekingUnderstanding said:

Saying God did it has no explanatory value. It just kicks the can down the road until you then ask who or what made God. 

Saying that it just happened by accident kicks the can down the road until you ask how many accidents happened until our current universe happened?

 

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10 hours ago, SeekingUnderstanding said:

Saying God did it has no explanatory value. It just kicks the can down the road until you then ask who or what made God. 

No argument there. It wasn't an explanation, anyway. It's an assertion. But it's as non-explanatory as saying random chance did it.

And both arguments are non-falsifiable, so both are unscientific. Yet scientists use the latter argument and ironically feel superior to believers thereby.

But I might be putting words in Hawking's mouth. What he actually said was:

"I think the universe was spontaneously created out of nothing, according to the laws of science."

To which I would have to ask: which particular laws are those, Professor Hawking? Alas, he cannot answer, since he has departed the building, as it were.

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Davis's point about the Book of Mormon being dictated orally leads us to consider a similar production, Pearl Curran's Sorry Tale (1917). Syntactically speaking, these two lengthy texts (very close in number of original words) are quite different. The Book of Mormon presents as genuinely archaic, the Sorry Tale presents as pseudoarchaic. Because the Book of Mormon appears to be genuinely archaic in a hundred different ways, very often nonbiblically, we can tell that Joseph didn't author it. The syntactic and lexical evidence is stronger evidence than anything Davis considers, and it is in fact the strongest evidence on the authorship question. So Davis could write a million words and all the evidence he might bring to bear on the question of authorship would still pale in importance compared to the fundamental linguistic evidence.

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